Out this month: Mr Jones

mr. jones is a 2019 drama film directed by agnieszka holland. soviet union ussr ukraine stalin's genocide holodomor in ukraine movie poster

Historical film Mr Jones – about a Welsh journalist who risked his life to tell the truth about Stalin’s 1930s genocide in Ukraine – is out this month, beginning with a premiere at the Berlin Film Festival.

Unlike the Holocaust, the Kremlin’s forced famine genocide – known as the Holodomor – escaped the world’s notice mostly because Western journalists, many of them advocates of communism, spent decades denying it.

Conservative estimates of the death toll put it on par with the Holocaust, while others place the numbers much higher; up to ten-million Ukrainians killed between 1932 and 1933. The numbers vary so much because, unlike the Germans who documented every aspect of the Holocaust, the Russian authorities have done everything in their power to hide their crimes.

(It should be noted that the Kremlin committed another genocide, in Kazakhstan, at the same time, killing 42% of their population.)

Gareth Jones, played in the movie by English actor James Norton, saw the Holodomor firsthand, and went against the lead of Stalin-friendly journalists like The New York Times’ Walter Duranty to try and get the truth out beyond the Iron Curtain.

Jones was only twenty-nine when he was murdered, one day shy of his thirtieth birthday.

This film seems incredibly important in this day and age, with people once again reacting to rising fascism by identifying as communists and sympathising with Russia. As this Variety article points out, we live in a similar age to the 1930s, with propaganda and “fake news” dominating much of the press, and most of the world turning a blind eye to atrocities being committed by the Kremlin, and by the regimes in countries like Syria.

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The Genocide Nobody Knows About

The Western world is largely ignorant about pretty much everything to do with the countries of the former Soviet Union.

This year it is eighty years since Stalin began one of the deadliest genocides in history: the Holodomor. Forcing a famine on the Ukrainian people, conservative estimates of fatalities hover around 10 million, running from 1932 – 1933.

The Western world largely chose to ignore the Holodomor for their own political interests, and then after World War Two, everyone was so horrified by Hitler’s activities, Soviet atrocities were all but forgotten.

Tonight at 7:30 people around the world are lighting candles in their windows to honour the millions of Ukrainians killed in this genocide. The – quite frankly, puny and pathetic – genocide memorial in Kyiv will be the centre of commemorations.

I visited the site last year, and will again next year. It stands in front of the rebuilt St. Michael’s Monastery, one of many structures destroyed by the Soviets. Rebuilt, it is a truly spectacular sight.