Millions of candles were lit on Saturday in Ukraine to commemorate at least 3.9 million compatriots who died in the artificial famine, orchestrated by the Soviet Union in 1932-1933 in what was considered “the breadbasket of Europe.”

At least 75 kamikaze drones attacked the capital kyiv on the same day and another winter of massive attacks on the country’s infrastructure is expected. Strange parallels are therefore drawn between the so-called Holodomor and the ongoing defense against invasion, underlining how much is at stake.

“Just like 90 years ago, the Russians have a simple objective. They want to destroy Ukraine, the Ukrainians and everything related to Ukraine,” Igor Kulyk, director of the National Archive of Memory of Ukraine, told Efe.

Ukrainian accounts of the Holodomor speak of entire villages dying of hunger and multiple cases of cannibalism. Bodies piled up as trains carrying Ukrainian grain headed west for export, with the revenue needed to finance the Soviet industrialization program.

Armed soldiers and communists carried out extensive home searches to meet the oversized targets of forced grain collection from individual farmers set by the Soviet authorities.

However, not only grain was confiscated but all food, as well as seeds that farmers could use to plant the next crop.

“There were five children in the family. Only I survived,” says Lubov Lishita, from the village of Kovtunivka, Chernihiv region, in a testimony collected by the NGO “Hvylia’91”.

She remembers how the “communists” came to take away a cow, the only property of the family. Although five small children tried to hold on to her the armed men finally took it from her. The family’s fate was then decided.

Volodimirr Kozachenko, from the Odessa region, remembers how the communists overturned the cauldron where he was preparing beet soup, ending all hope for his family. Everything inside the house was turned upside down because they took all the food, even “the last bean.”

Meanwhile, under the “five spikelets” law, the death penalty was applied to anyone who gathered the slightest amount of grain from fields owned by Soviet-favored collective farms.

Some tried to leave and look for food in more urbanized areas, but Ukrainians were deliberately prohibited from leaving their villages, Kulyk emphasizes, pointing to the artificial nature of the famine.

“The Soviet totalitarian regime simply couldn’t think of any other way to break Ukrainians’ love of freedom,” he explains.

Although Ukraine’s attempt at independence was crushed in 1921 and political and intellectual elites were exterminated or co-opted, the main mass of Ukrainians, living in the countryside, resisted the Soviet policy of collectivization, Kulyk explains.

Various insurgencies were on the rise and Stalin and his clique chose physical destruction on an industrial scale as the solution.

All mentions of the Holodomor were subsequently banned during Soviet rule, while Russia never acknowledged its responsibility. In the occupied Ukrainian territories, multiple monuments to their victims have recently been dismantled.

In the rest of Ukraine, the commemoration of the Holodomor became another opportunity to express determination to prevent something similar from happening again.

President Volodymyr Zelensky attended the commemoration mass with his wife, Olena Zelenska, on Saturday and noted that Ukraine will never forget the millions of murdered compatriots.

In the speech to Ukrainians, he also stressed the continuity between the Moscow-organized famine and the ongoing Russian invasion. “The evil was not stopped, it was not expiated. Now we are stopping it,” he stressed.

The Ukrainian president thanked all states that officially recognized the Holodomor as a crime against the people. “The world must unite and condemn the crimes of the past. The world must unite and stop the crimes of today,” Zelensky said.