She is sitting on a sofa in her house and unraveling one thread after another. She has poor sight and hearing, but Lyubov Yarosh is full of energy and tirelessly weaves camouflage nets for the Ukrainian soldiers who are fighting for their country because of Russia’s war of aggression. The 102-year-old lives in the village of Khodorkiv. She was born in the distant 1920 in the neighboring village of Pustelnyky, Zhytomyr Region.

At that time, Lyubov’s family was considered to be quite prosperous, because they had chickens, pigs, cows and horses. But then the cattle and all household items were confiscated by the communist regime of the Soviet Union and taken to the kolkhoz created at that time. This is what the large agricultural enterprises in the Soviet Union were called, which were to be managed by the “socialist collective” of the members.

When the Holodomor began, Lyubov was only 13 years old. The artificially induced mass starvation in Ukraine was organized by the Soviet leadership in 1932-33 with the aim of forcing Ukrainian peasants into collective farms and at the same time finally crushing the national resistance movement.

As early as 1931, tens of thousands of intellectuals were deported to Siberia, including the country’s most important poets, writers and artists. An open debate about that persecution and the Holodomor could only begin in Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. In 2006, the Ukrainian parliament classified the Holodomor as a genocide against the Ukrainian people.

On November 30, the German Bundestag recognized the Holodomor as genocide at the request of four parliamentary groups. According to Ukrainian historians, almost four million people died in Ukraine in the 1930s as a result of the Holodomor.

“The old bread was not enough and there was a lack of new. Those who had potatoes peeled them so that sprouts remained on the skins. These shells were then planted for there to be potatoes. So we tried to grow potatoes,” Lyubov Yarosh recalls sadly and says: “There was nothing to eat.”

In order to survive, people picked linden blossoms and nettles, ground them and made cookies from them. And tea was made from turnips. “We would grind up some wheat and make a thin soup out of it, just sipping to have something to eat and lying down again,” she says.

Constant malnutrition caused Lyubov’s hands and feet to swell. “I had bad, painful wounds and couldn’t walk. My father carried me outside,” says the 102-year-old. At night she had delusions and her parents feared she would not survive.

The eyewitness Lyubov reports that many children starved to death at the time: “Children died in the houses. Men who still had some strength went from house to house and saw that some of them were lying on the stove, some somewhere else. They gathered them up, put them on a wagon, then dug a big hole. There were ten or more children. They were all buried that way.”

Lyubov Yarosh grew up with five siblings. Her older brother Mykhailo was caught by a patrol and beaten to death when he went to another village to look for turnips for his family. And her younger sister Olya died of starvation. Lyubov’s father had to bury his children alone.

“We had a cemetery very close by. My father brought his eldest son there and buried him,” says Lyubov, adding with tears that her brother and four-year-old sister were buried naked and without a coffin. “My mother then found a cloth to wrap Olya in,” says Lyubov.

According to her, at that time all the cows in the kolkhozes died because no one could take them to the pastures and feed them. But the flesh of the dead cattle was not allowed to be eaten by the people. It was even deliberately poisoned by the communists, says Lyubov: “It (the poison, ed.) was in bottles and was called Creolin. They slashed the cows and poured it over them.”

For decades, people in Ukraine did not dare to talk about all these horrors for fear, as Lyubov says, of ending up behind bars.

Lyubov survived the Holodomor and also World War II. The Nazis tried twice to take her to Germany for forced labor. But the young woman managed to escape every time.

“They took me to Germany, but I ran away. When they wanted to take me away from home, I took a knife, wounded my hands and chest, and sprinkled salt on it. I had inflicted such wounds on myself,” reports Lyubov. With these injuries she was not taken away by the Nazis.

When World War II began, Lyubov Yarosh was a young woman. She worked on a collective farm, in a sawmill and even learned how to till a field with a tractor, because at that time men in the Soviet Union were being drafted for the war against Nazi Germany. Now, at a very old age, Lyubov has to experience another war – the war of Russia against Ukraine. “This is the worst war. God forbid, nobody would wish for a war like that,” says Lyubov.

Three of Lyubov Yarosh’s grandsons are currently serving at the front. They all volunteered. Meanwhile, her grandmother is weaving camouflage nets. Together with her daughter, she has already handed over nine to the Ukrainian military. “The boys should hide underneath so that nobody hits them,” she says.

The 102-year-old listens to the news every day and hopes that all the soldiers will return home alive. She also hopes to see Ukraine win. “We’ve been through so much – hunger and cold. And we still have to suffer. We’re still waiting for a win, but I still want to experience this win,” says Lyubov.

Adaptation from the Ukrainian: Markian Ostapchuk

Author: Iryna Ukhina

The original of this post “I still want to experience the victory of Ukraine” comes from Deutsche Welle.