Holodomor, or death by hunger, is the name attached to the famine genocide in 1932 and '33 under the regime of dictator Joseph Stalin. Millions of Ukrainians were starved to death when Soviet authorities confiscated all their sources of food.
And like the recounting of all genocides and their atrocities, Kachmarska's recollections are beyond shocking.
One day, when her mother had her check on a neighbour and his daughter, "I saw a man eating his daughter's leg because she was already dead," she said in her Hamilton apartment on Monday.
"For us … we were already in shock. Dying was no big deal," she adds through interpreter Luba Petlura of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress's Hamilton branch. "We would see people dead along the road, but what could we do, because we were barely walking ourselves."
Kachmarska is one of five Hamilton residents featured in a 30-minute educational documentary called "Holodomor: Voices of Survivors." It will be shown in Hamilton on Sunday in advance of April, which in some areas is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month, according to Petlura. The film is a gripping account told through the eyes of almost two dozen survivors across Canada and with the use of rare archival footage.
The film includes comments from one teenager who says her grandfather "had to eat his pets, which I find terrifying because I have my own pets."
Most of the people Kachmarska knew back then in her countryside village near Kyiv either died or seemed to carry on in a trance.
Kachmarska, her mother and her siblings survived only because her mother dug a hole in the ground before the Russians had taken everything and hid potatoes in it. Her father had earlier been taken prisoner. At night, Kachmarska, the middle of five children, was sent down the hole to retrieve a few potatoes and pass them up to her mother and older brother.
When snow covered the ground in winter, the family ate grass seed and dried tree leaves that her mother hid in the ceiling of their house. They suffered swollen stomachs but survived.
"We were all half dead. Nobody ever suspected anything (about us having potatoes)."
Her mother's strength through it all saved them, says Kachmarska. The hidden potatoes also saved the families of Kachmarska's uncle and aunt.
When Kachmarska, whose maiden name was Bortnick, arrived in Canada years later in 1948, she says, "I thought I came to paradise. When I saw all the milk and bread, I was so happy."