Marco Levytsky, Western Bureau Chief.
November 19-25 marks National Holodomor Awareness Week in Canada. This has been organized and coordinated by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) in order to bring awareness to one of the most heinous crimes in the history of mankind.
The Holodomor was the result of a deliberate political strategy masterminded by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and his totalitarian communist regime.
The week culminates with the official Holodomor Memorial Day around the world – the fourth Saturday of November, which this year falls on November 24.
Many events have been held and will be held prior to this event, which this year takes on a special significance as it marks the 85th anniversary of this genocide.
One such commemorative campaign, which has been ongoing since September 1, is the international action “Light a candle of remembrance!”, which was launched by the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC) together with its partners, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance and National Museum “Holodomor Victims Memorial”.
Throughout the 85 days preceding November 24, a candle has been lit daily in a different part of the world uniting Ukrainians and friends of Ukraine in remembrance of the innocent victims of the genocidal policy of the Stalin regime, while raising awareness of the issues of human rights, respect and tolerance.
Another project, this one launched by the UCC National Holodomor Awareness Committee in conjunction with the Ukrainian Students’ Union of Canada (SUSK), is the Journalism Mentoring Project, which aims to produce articles and op-eds on the topic of the Holodomor for publication by local media outlets during National Holodomor Awareness Week.
The short-term goal is to produce a pool of articles and op-eds that can be submitted to local media outlets for publication prior to Holodomor commemorations on November 24.
Long-term objectives are to broaden the base of writers in the community who can regularly contribute articles for publication in the mainstream Canadian media on issues related directly to the Ukrainian community in Canada and worldwide. UCC National Holodomor Awareness Committee is providing mentors who will edit, support and guide interested writers.
Among the principal points that are to be stressed in this project are that:
- Holodomor was a genocide of the Ukrainian people;
- Holodomor remains relevant today, 85 years after the fact – it is not merely a historical fact;
- Disinformation played a key role in the successful implementation and historical cover-up of the genocidal policy.
Many of these points have been raised in some of our previous editorials, but deserve to be reiterated.
First is the question of genocide. It has been described as such by Raphael Lemkin, the man most responsible for the UN Convention on Genocide. He termed it a genocide because it was a four-pronged attack on the Ukrainian nation.
- Step one: Strike at the intelligentsia, the national brain. Tens of thousands of Ukrainian teachers, writers, artists, thinkers, political leaders were liquidated, imprisoned or deported;
- Step two: Attack the independent Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church by liquidating its leadership and clergy;
- Step three: Starve the farmers, the repository of the tradition, folklore and music, national language and literature, and national spirit of Ukraine;
- Step four: Dilute the ethnic Ukrainian population;
Villagers from other parts of the Soviet Union, mostly ethnic Russians, were brought in to replace those Ukrainians who died from starvation during the Holodomor. Meanwhile, the Soviet regime carried out a policy of Russification, suppressing the Ukrainian language and culture. Speaking about the Holodomor was prohibited. As a result, some survivors Russified their names and declared their ethnicity as Russian instead of Ukrainian in subsequent censuses, many of their descendants abandoned the Ukrainian language and avoided all mention of what their families had witnessed and endured during the Holodomor lest they be imprisoned or exiled to Siberia.
That’s what makes it so relevant today. Because today, Russian President Vladimir Putin claims he is defending Russian speakers as a pretext for his invasion of Ukraine. And as massive Russian-Soviet disinformation kept awareness of the Holodomor limited both while it was happening and in the decades afterwards, so Putin continues this same campaign of disinformation as part of the never-ending Russian assault against the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine and her people.
What is also very relevant is that famine continues to be used as a weapon of mass murder today. Among the conflict areas where this is the case are Syria, Yemen and South Sudan. Not surprisingly, Russian proxies are involved in all these conflicts.
Obviously the “Never Again!” message of the Holodomor is not getting through.
Thus, one of the slogans of the UCC awareness campaign, “Break the cycle – share the story” is so relevant.
Because that’s precisely what we have to do in order to make the international community heed the lessons of the Holodomor for the sake of freedom, peace and global security.
That’s why we urge our readers to come out to the Holodomor commemorations in your locality and do whatever you can to break the cycle by sharing the story.
For more information about Holodomor commemorations in your community, please visit the UCC’s website (ucc.ca).