Roma Dzerowicz, Toronto
The Holodomor Mobile Classroom (HMC) is officially on the road, spreading awareness about the man-made Famine of 1932-33 in which millions of Ukrainians were starved to death.
The HMC visited six Ontario high schools and three Ukrainian Saturday schools in March and April, reaching more than 650 students with up to four lessons per day being given in the HMC. Mark Melnyk, the Department Head of History for the York Region District School Board, called it “one of the coolest, most immersive learning experiences we have been fortunate to share with our students,” adding that “its use of state-of-the-art technology is captivating for a generation of students that are often hard to impress.”
The HMC has visited Weston Collegiate in Toronto, Markville Secondary in Markham, North Park Secondary in Brampton, North Albion Collegiate in Toronto, Bishop Alexander Carter Catholic Secondary School in Sudbury, and O’Gorman High School in Timmins. Ukrainian Saturday school students at Yuri Lypa, H. Skovoroda, and Tsiopa Palijiw have also benefited from visits of the HMC. In addition, Ontario Ministry of Education staff in Toronto have had an opportunity to experience the HMC.
The bus makes for a striking sight as it rolls down the highway and pulls up at high schools. The words “Holodomor – The Ukrainian Genocide” are emblazoned across its forty-foot length on a background of blue sky and wheat fields.
The HMC is the centerpiece of the Holodomor National Awareness Tour, a project of the Canada-Ukraine Foundation, developed in partnership with the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium (HREC), the Ukrainian Canadian Research and Documentation Centre and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. The project is funded through a $1.5 million grant from the Canadian federal government, $750,000 from the Ontario provincial government, as well as a contribution from the government of Manitoba and private donations.
An hour-long interactive lesson for the HMC was developed by Valentina Kuryliw, Director of Education for HREC, who has more than 30 years of experience teaching history. Students learn to investigate sources and analyze artifacts such as documents, photos, newspaper articles, letters, and survivor accounts through material loaded on individual iPads and displayed on a 28-foot video wall. The HMC experience underscores the consequences of hate, oppression and discrimination and the importance of tolerance, human rights and the rule of law.
The HMC can accommodate up to 33 visitors at a time. It is also visiting community and public gatherings such as festivals and fairs. About 420 members of the general public have boarded the HMC at events such as the unveiling of the Holodomor Monument in Washington, DC, the Toronto and Ottawa ribbon-cutting of the Holodomor National Awareness Tour project at Queen’s Park and Parliament Hill, and at the Holodomor Commemoration Ceremony at St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Mississauga. The HMC will take part in the Ukrainian pavilion (St. Mary’s Ukrainian Church, 3625 Cawthra Road, Mississauga) during the Carassauga Festival in Mississauga, Ontario, at the end of May and will visit Ottawa and Oshawa before a swing to Dauphin, Manitoba and Western Canadian provinces this summer.