NP-UN Western Bureau.
Members of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta and representative of East European Communities gathered to commemorate Black Ribbon Day at the Legislature’s Rotunda, August 23.
The event marked the 80th anniversary of the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact which directly led to World War II.
Under this agreement, also known as the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact after the respective foreign ministers, Vyacheslav Molotov and Joachim von Ribbentrop, Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia agreed not to attack each other in the upcoming conflict and to divide the territory of inter-war Poland between themselves.
One week later, On September 1, Nazi Dictator Adolph Hitler invaded Poland with Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin following suit on September 17 and annexing western Ukraine and Belarus. The following year Hitler invaded Norway, the Benelux countries and France, while Stalin turned his attention to the Baltic states and Finland.
“This pact contributed to the displacement and deaths of millions of people and, ultimately, the start of the Second World War,” said Alberta Deputy Speaker Angela Pitt, who hosted the event on behalf of Speaker Nathan Cooper.
“Many refugees, thousands of whom settled right here in Alberta, fled Europe for Canadian shores and the promise of a better life. Over half a million people living in Alberta today have ethnic ties to Hungary, Lithuania, Poland or Ukraine, four of the nations affected by the pact.
“Today we pay tribute to those who suffered at the hands of Stalin and Hitler, and we stand firmly against all forms of totalitarianism,” she added.
Speaking for the Government of Alberta, Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu said that today, Europe is still haunted by the atrocities of Stalinism and Nazism.
“Names and places still resonate with the horrors.
“The Holocaust – six million Jews and other minorities slaughtered.
“The Holodomor – many millions of Ukrainians starved to death.
“Other victims died in slave labour camps and gulags, in factories and collective farms, in once peaceful villages, towns and cities turned into charnel houses by Soviets and Nazis.
“Even as the passage of time and the progress of western civilization mends these wounds, we remember.
“Because Stalinism and Nazism didn’t come to power by accident.
“They seized control through lies and hatred, and through intimidation and violence.
“To remember what they did is to know evil, to know its face, and to know how to stop it from rising again,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of the Official Opposition, Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Rakhi Pancholi said:
“Soviet and Nazi regimes trampled on national and personal freedoms. They subjected millions of people in central and eastern European countries to countless atrocities, including mass deportations and executions. Many European Canadians experienced these horrific acts first-hand or have descendants who did…The organizations and individuals that have brought us together today to commemorate Black Ribbon Day remind us that we must be ever vigilant in our defence of human rights and freedoms for all people throughout the world.”
Oleksandr Danyleiko, Edmonton’s Consul-General of Ukraine said that these days Europe is again under the threat.
“For some countries and totalitarian leaders those historical lessons, death and suffering of people mean nothing. In 21st century they continue trying to divide Europe, to draw new borders. They invade sovereign states, annex their territory, kill and torture peaceful people for the sake of their imperial ambitions. If we won’t stop them, they can blow up the whole world.
“First of all, I mean Putin’s regime. But how we can stop them?
“We tried all legal methods under international laws to stop Russia invading our territory, supplying weapons to armed separatists, to de-occupy Crimea, to stop Russia killing our people. We appealed to all international organizations. All of them condemn Russian actions but can do practically nothing.”
Danyleiko added that If we let Russians act as they do “they won’t stop in Ukraine, Georgia or Moldova, they can tear apart all Europe, as they did it once together with Nazis 80 years ago.”
“Today, on Black Ribbon Day, we say – we never forget the crimes of totalitarian regimes and their victims!
“Today we say – never again!” he concluded.
Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Alberta Provincial Council President Olesia Luciw-Andryjowycz also raised the spectre of the Russian threat.
“Today, the tyrannical spectre of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact lives on in Putin’s Russia – which wages wars of aggression against neighbouring states, tries to redraw the boundaries of Europe through force and seeks to distort history and whitewash the crimes of the Soviet Union. We must recall the lessons of history to ensure that the crimes of Nazism and Communism are never repeated.
“The Ukrainian Canadian Congress stands with people of conscience in Canada and abroad to pay tribute to the millions who were victimized and died at the hands of Communist and Nazi regimes. We mark this day to help ensure that such misery will not be visited on future generations,” she said.
Remarks were also delivered by Dr. Gergely Bodnar, Consul of the Embassy of Hungary in Ottawa; John Szumlas, Honorary Consul of the Republic of Poland; Anna Szenthe, President, Canadian Hungarian Heritage Council, and Hungarian Diaspora Council; and John Tomczak, National President, Canadian Polish Congress.
The Invocation was delivered by Reverend Father Adam Lech, Moderator of the Curia, Archdiocese of Edmonton, and musical interludes were performed by Maya Budzinski.
Black Ribbon Day was sponsored by: Szumlas; Alexander Szenthe, Honorary Consul of Hungary; Maryla Hasek, President, Canadian Polish Congress Alberta Society; Andor Takats, Vice President, Canadian Hungarian Cultural Society of Edmonton; Anna Szenthe, President, Canadian Hungarian Heritage Council, and Hungarian Diaspora Council; and Luciw-Andryjowycz.