NP-UN Western Bureau.
Alberta parliamentarians and members of the Ukrainian community gathered at the provincial legislature, November 19 to commemorate the 11th anniversary of the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act, introduced by former Minister and Speaker, the late Gene Zwozdesky and passed unanimously.
“How is it that for generations the Holodomor went largely unreported, leaving millions upon millions of victims forsaken by the rest of the world?” noted current Speaker Nathan Cooper.
“How can an atrocity of this magnitude, with so many victims, be kept quiet for so long? When we consider that the Soviet government went as far as falsifying census reports to cover up their horrific actions, the picture starts to become clear and the evidence is undeniable. In the region often referred to as the breadbasket of Europe, where the richest of black soil nurtured bountiful crops for as far as the eye could see, how could millions have starved to death?
“Through forced collectivization programs, through the confiscation of every last morsel of food, through the blockade of borders to prevent escape from the devastation and through the incarceration or murder of those who secretly maintained food reserves, the Soviet government managed the unimaginable, the systematic starvation of an entire population during a time of relative bounty.
“Today we are gathered to commemorate a point in history that will forever be defined by immense suffering, so much suffering, in fact, that it seems only natural that humanity would like to forget. Fortunately, our humanity is what prevents us from sweeping this under the rug. Our collective conscience recognizes that this tragedy is an important chapter in our world’s history because it serves as a caution for the entire world,” he added.
Representing the Government of Alberta, Health Minister Tyler Shandro stated:
“Whether you’re Ukrainian or not, it’s important that we pause to remember events like the Holodomor, so the horrific actions of a totalitarian regime driven by murderous ideology will never be forgotten or repeated.
“Eternal vigilance truly is the price of liberty, and the menace of authoritarianism haunts humanity still, from the streets of Hong Kong to the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
“Thus, it’s more important than ever to protect and celebrate the rule of law, democratic freedoms and human rights that we hold dear.
“It’s important that we say, “Never again.”
Speaking on behalf of the Official Opposition, Edmonton-Beverly MLA Deron Bilous said that “from the darkness of the Holodomor came hope.”
“We are here as proof that hope somehow surfaced from the depths of despair of the Holodomor, and the spirit of the Ukrainian people was not broken.
“Generations later that spirit is alive and thriving. It lives within the over 365,000 people of Ukrainian descent in Alberta and millions across the world.
“That hope is what we see through the eyes of these Ukrainian bilingual students who are here with us today,” referring to students from St. Matthew School who performed the sing “Dry Tears”, written about the Holodomor.
Orysia Boychuk, President of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Alberta Provincial Council noted that The Holodomor “is not simply a case of mass murder. It is a case of genocide, of the destruction, not of individuals only, but of a culture and a nation.” However, Ukraine’s culture, its beliefs, its common ideas, which have guided it and given it a soul has endured. It is important to note that at the height of the Holodomor, Ukrainians were dying at the rate of 25,000 per day or 1,000 per hour or 17 per minute.”
“The importance of commemorations such as today is that now they carry even greater significance. As Russia continues to deny this genocide and suggest that the Holodomor was just the result of difficult circumstances, it’s events like today will serve as reminders that the world, that Canadians and that Albertans know differently. Historical realities, which are well-documented, and events like today help to educate in order to ensure that such genocides are no longer a part of world history on any continent,” she added.
Ukrainian historian and political activist Volodymyr Viatrovych stated that the memory of the Holodomor “is our revenge for the millions killed.
“It makes us stronger as they come to life in our memories and stand by us in our current struggle.
“That is why the heirs of the murderers of that time are still trying to erase our memory. They tried to rewrite history books in Ukraine, they closed archives, and they spread lies about the Holodomor in the world.
“But the truth turned out to be stronger, and the memory insurmountable. And this memory has made us stronger.
“The hands of the child who twenty years ago first lit a candle of memory have become the hands of soldiers holding guns, protecting their parents.
“The eyes, washed with tears listening the story of a grandmother about the experiences of 1932-1933, are now looking at the enemy through a rifle scope.
“A nation that united to commemorate those who died of hunger in the past, is now united to protect its future, and has created a powerful army. Our grief over our slain ancestors gives us the strength to protect ourselves and our children.
“We remember! We are strong!” he concluded.