On the long-term health effects of war and humanitarian crises

The Holodomor and Health Heritage

Russia’s deliberate war strategy in Ukraine has disrupted agriculture and food storage and distribution systems to hinder food supplies to the population. The war has created an immediate health and humanitarian crisis of catastrophic proportions inside and outside Ukraine. Furthermore, research on past wars and conflicts points out that the current crisis could have long-term health repercussions. Tonight, experts will discuss this “health heritage” by taking the case study of the Holodomor, the 1932-1934 period of extreme famine in Soviet Ukraine.

From 1932 to 1934, Soviet Ukraine was exposed to extreme famine as used as a weapon of terror by the Soviets. The period is called Holodomor, or death by hunger. Famine losses nationwide were as high as 341/1,000 population during the famine peak in June 1933. Tonight’s speakers have examined the long-term health effects of this period. Fundamentally, they found that the risk for diabetes was highest for births in provinces with the highest famine severity. Therefore, they expect the Ukraine war to have lasting health effects over the lifetime among men and women who survive the immediate losses. These and other questions of health heritage will be dealt with in tonight’s panel discussion.

About the speakers

Nataliia Levchuck is Senior Researcher at the Ptoukha Institute of Demography and Social Studies, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Kyiv. She was a Fellow Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, and the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, Boston. She has published extensively on regional differences in 1932-34 Holodomor mortality at the oblast as well as raion level.

Oleh Wolowyna is a research fellow at the Center for Slavic, Eurasian and Eastern European Studies, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and Director of the Center for Demographic and Socioeconomic Research on Ukrainians in the United States, Shevchenko Scientific Society, New York. He has published extensively on the 1932–34 famine in Ukraine and on Ukrainians in the United States and Canada.

L.H. Lumey is Professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University Medical Center, New York and a visiting Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences NIAS in Amsterdam. He has published extensively on the immediate and long term impact of the Ukraine famine, the Dutch Hunger Winter famine of 1944-45 and the Chinese Great Leap forward famine of 1959-61.

Anne-Lise Bobeldijk (moderator) is a post-doctoral researcher at Wageningen University and Research, where she takes part in the NWA Heritages of Hunger-project. Her current research project considers the (political) use and misuse of history and famine legacies in the Soviet Union, Ukraine and Russia. In her doctoral research at the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies and the University of Amsterdam, she analyzed the history and memory of violence prior, during and after the Holocaust and the Second World War in Belarus.

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