Marco Levytsky, Western Bureau Chief.
The 90th anniversary of the Holodomor was commemorated by Members of the Alberta Legislature and the Ukrainian community at the Legislature Building in Edmonton, November 21.
Hosted by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Alberta Provincial Council (UCC – APC) in partnership with Nathan Cooper, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, this is an event held each year since the passage of the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act in 2008.
“Holodomor means death by starvation, specifically, the deaths of millions of men, women and children between 1932 and 1933. But their deaths were not the result of a bad harvest brought on by drought or flood. Rather, they were carefully orchestrated genocide by the Soviet Union.
“Mass starvation through state-imposed food requisitions by the Soviet government was disguised as collectivization, but much more than food was stolen from the Ukrainian people.
“The Soviet regime repressed and persecuted Ukraine’s religious and political leaders and scholars. It forbade Ukrainian education, language and cultural expression. Its goal was to eliminate Ukrainian culture,” said Cooper in opening the ceremony.
Referring to the 2008 Holodomor Act, Premier Danielle Smith said “it was a unanimous decision where MLAs of all political leanings stood shoulder-to-shoulder to ensure this murderous act would never be forgotten, and the millions who died would always be remembered.
“It was also a way to honour the many generations of Ukrainians who call Alberta home and contribute so much – and in so many ways – to our province” including those Ukrainians who have fled the Russian invasion.
“Today we stand with our Ukrainian friends, neighbours, and relatives to support them in this more recent act of violence and to also say out loud what their descendants could not: Holodomor was an unconscionable act of cruelty and a crime against humanity. And we will remain vigilant to ensure it does not happen again,” she added.
Speaking for the Opposition, NDP Deputy Leader Sarah Hoffman said Holodomor brought great suffering to so many Ukrainian people “and we know that there are so many Ukrainians that are suffering today. Bishop Motiuk reminded me that every seven minutes somebody in Ukraine is dying right now in the conflict that is continuing.”
But the Russians have not succeeded in destroying Ukrainians as a people. “We are strong we are here we are resilient, but we always must remember. Vichnaya pamiat,” she added.
UCC – APC President Orysia Boychuk said the importance of Holodomor commemorations is that they carry even more significance today as Russia continues to deny this genocide.
“The irony today is that Russia wages a barbaric war on Ukraine committing heinous crimes against humanity and continues to perpetuate genocide on Ukraine by randomly bombing civilians and purposely destroying infrastructure cutting off of electricity and water as the world watches. Russia is creating yet another genocide in Ukraine. We will continue to speak and advocate to the world about Ukraine’s losses just as we have been doing about the Holodomor of 1932-33. We will not be silent about this genocide,” she added.
Greta Derus, President of the Canadian Polish Congress Alberta Society said “the Ukrainian people have displayed in the past and continue to exhibit unbelievable strength, stellar courage, resilience and heroism as they today defend freedom, human rights and democracy for themselves and for us all.”
“On behalf of the Canadian Polish Congress Alberta Society, we stand proudly together with Ukraine commemorating past historical periods such as Holodomor and acknowledging present atrocities taking place in Ukraine by Russian aggressors.
“We are honored to call you our Slavic brothers and sisters.
“May Ukraine be triumphant in her fight for freedom, truth and glory,” added Derus.
Holodomor survivor Leonid Korownyk who has written many moving poems about the experienced recited one of his English-language ones.
The event also featured St. Martin School Choir and St. Matthew School Choir, who sang the national anthems. Later in the program St. Matthew School Choir sang a special song “Give us Hope”, composed and conducted by Natalia Onyshcuk.
Towards the end, St. Martin Ukrainian Children’s Strings Society performed a haunting version of “Vichnaya Pamiat” (Eternal Memory) conducted by Karyn Dacyshyn while Korownyk, Smith and Boychuk lit candles in memoriam.
In his closing remarks, Cooper referred to the current war in Ukraine stating “Russian aggression that requires each of us to come together and stand firmly against those who don’t believe in freedom and democracy.”