Holodomor is a word which translated literally means death by starvation. The word comes from the Ukrainian words holod, ‘hunger’, and mor, ‘plague’ possibly from the expression moryty holodom, ‘to inflict death by hunger’ (Source: Wikipedia). The Ukrainians use it more commonly to refer to a literal event which occurred in the early 1930’s when Stalin’s government created a famine. The intentional policies of his government led to the death of millions of Ukrainians from starvation and subsequent disease. Although the final tally of deaths varies, it ranks with the Holocaust as one of the worst tragedies of this century. Bitter Harvest is the first Western feature film to portray this historical event onscreen.
Yuri and Natalka are childhood sweethearts who have grown up together in a small Ukranian village. They have come of age in a time where the ruling Russian monarchy has been ousted and Communism has become a popular governing concept. It is a chaotic time, particularly as the Ukraine has taken advantage of Russia’s political instability to assert their own claim to national identity and independence…and failed.
Yuri and Natalka lives remain relatively untouched by the turmoil. Their biggest concerns are more personal. Yuri (Max Irons) is an artist who struggles to live up to the reputation of his famous warrior grandfather. Natalka (Samantha Barks) worries that her illegitimate birth will taint Yuri’s reputation if they marry. But the outside world soon crashes in on their simple life. Orders from Moscow have sent Russian soldiers to the Ukrainian heartland to confiscate the wealth and property of this area. These soldiers are cruel and violent as they force collectivization on formerly free landowners and peasants. But Stalin needs the grain from this Eastern breadbasket to fuel his army.
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