Citizen Historian of the Month: Mykhaylo Palahitskyy
Tell History relies upon a network of dedicated citizen historians to collect important memories–stories that are all around us, but need to be collected, preserved and shared. Every month we recognize one of our amazing citizen historians who makes the effort to save stories and fill the gaps in history.
This month, we celebrate Mykhaylo Palahitskyy as our Citizen Historian of the Month. As a teacher, historian and journalist he has been collecting stories about the Holodomor genocide in Ukraine. This is an incredible and rich area of history that in some cases is only now coming to light and being remembered. We interviewed the 27 year old as part of our recognizing him as our Citizen Historian monthly profiles.
Where does your interest in history come from and what inspired you to go deeper into it as a subject?
The first recollection of my interest in history was in a Viennese Gymnasium, when I was 15 years old. My history teacher was able to pass his inspiration for history to me and many other classmates. Later, I even decided to take a major in history in my undergrad. In particular, I was keen to learn about Central and Eastern European history, the Alpine region as well as Canadian history. I discovered history not only as a collection of exciting and entertaining stories from the past that help to understand the present, but also as a science that provides valuable transferable skills in communications, creative writing and critical thinking.
You’ve been contributing to Tell History with some amazing stories — where does this motivation come from?
I believe, Tell History a revolutionary project that might improve the general perception of historical science, raise public interest and awareness about the significance of the past. The short interviews on the website can make any history class more interactive and lively. Tell History has a very proper principle in its video interviews – one story at a time. I think it helps the viewer to organize its thoughts and independently reflect on the historical links to other events.
In particular you’ve been collecting stories about Holodomor, why did you choose to collect these? What has been the impact on you collecting them?
Holodomor is a major tragedy of Ukrainian people that took between 2,5 to 7,5 million lives in 1932-1933. This horrible man-made famine had a major impact on the development on the entire Eastern Europe. There are plenty of interviews with survivors of Holodomor, however, there are not too many interviews with the second and third generation of Ukrainians whose ancestors survived the tragedy. This aspect of the Holodomor history doesn’t get enough attention. I think, it is crucially important to fill this gap and to research how the collective memory on Holodomor is being passed between generations. My starting question is always: “What did your grandma tell you about her experience of Holodomor?” You will recognize from my interviews that Holodomor still has an impact on daily lives today, even the catastrophe happened over 80 years ago. In this regard, I would like to invite you to watch a few stories and reflect on it.
What do you think have been the impact on you collecting them, do you think you have you learned anything new or striking?
Several Holodomor stories impressed me very much. Especially, stories that reveal new eating habits in families with Holodomor survivors are of great interest to me. Those families usually cannot throw away any food remains after having heard about Holodomor from her grandparents. In my family we have a very same tradition not to throw away any foods. Even though the region where my ancestors come from was not part of Ukraine in 1930s and, therefore, was not affected by Holodomor. However, we still give the food a high value. This is due to our grandparents’ experience of hunger during the WWII. Therefore, the conclusion is that food crises have a very strong effect on peoples’ eating habits and last for quite a long period of time in the collective memory.
What stories would you like to collect, but have not been able to so far?
One of my favorite stories on Tell History is “My granddad came to America…” . I think especially during the current major migration flows we need more real stories that inspire migrants and refugees to follow their personal and professional dreams in their new countries and serve as a role model for integration. At the same time, such stories bring to light contributions that migrants make to the well-being of their new countries. I believe, such stories make a contribution to a better social cohesion and I would be very willing to make public more such stories in the future.
What would you say to someone who was thinking about becoming a citizen historian? Do you have any advice for getting started?
I think everyone has a chance to become a citizen historian. Tellhistory.com makes it very easy and its team would help in such endeavors. Beside some exciting stories, you need also a camera and a microphone on your smartphone. Basically, that’s it!
Thank you! We appreciate all your work and the new voices you are giving a chance to be heard by the world!