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The story behind why Halyna Hrushetsky's family fled Soviet Ukraine for the U.S.

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Today from StoryCorps, a piece about Ukrainian history, which may not be widely known. In the early 1930s, several million Ukrainian men, women and children starved in the Holodomor, a genocide inflicted through Soviet agricultural policies. Growing up as an immigrant in France, Halyna Hrushetsky had no idea her parents had survived this. At StoryCorps, she told her daughter Oryna about her family's past.

HALYNA HRUSHETSKY: My mother, she was always very, very protective. And she always wanted to tell me a story. But I felt in her voice that it was tragic, and I didn't want to hear. But finally, she started telling me that I had five siblings. And during the genocide in 1932, '33, the little one, Halynka, died because they had nothing to eat. And she named me by her name. I was carrying that child's name. It was very shocking to me. But it was the first time that at least I heard a bit of the story that my parents lived through. And we as a family came to the United States in the fall of 1956. And at age 19, as I was learning English, I started to learn all about Ukraine. And it has changed my life to find out who I was. I am still bound. This is - it's my blood running there, too.

ORYNA HRUSHETSKY-SCHIFFMAN: What part of Ukrainian culture and the Ukrainian experience would you most like your children and grandchildren to preserve?

HRUSHETSKY: Love - in its beauty, its music. This is what I want the most for them to preserve and to pass along. This is how you bound the children to your culture is the traditions.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PLYVE KACHA PO TYSYNI")

PIKKARDIYSKA TERTSIYA: (Singing in non-English language).

MARTINEZ: That was Halyna Hrushetsky with her daughter Oryna Hrushetsky-Schiffman at StoryCorps in Chicago.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PLYVE KACHA PO TYSYNI")

PIKKARDIYSKA TERTSIYA: (Singing in non-English language). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jasmyn Morris
Max Jungreis