Ukrainian Canadian Congress
On December 9, 2015 the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the Embassy of Ukraine in Canada held a solemn commemoration to mark the 82nd anniversary the 1932-33 Holodomor in Ukraine on Parliament Hill. The Holodomor, which means death by starvation, refers to the 1932-33 Famine-Genocide, where millions of Ukrainians were deliberately starved to death by the Communist regime of Joseph Stalin in an attempt to destroy the Ukrainian nation. For more than half a century the truth about this genocide was concealed, in the hope that its memory would be extinguished forever.
Rising in the House of Commons to mark the anniversary of the Holodomor, Member of Parliament Borys Wrzesnewskyj stated, “Behind barbed wire, Ukraine became a Hell on earth. Her lush countryside denuded of leaves and grasses as people ate anything that grew. It became a land where no fields rustled and no birds sang, where the deathly silence in villages was only broken by the sounds of wagons picking up the dead. One by one, thousand after thousand, million after million laid their skin and bone bodies down onto Ukraine’s fertile black soil and became one with their land.”
At the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill, the Holodomor National Awareness Tour mobile classroom was inaugurated by assembled Members of Parliament and leaders of the Ukrainian Canadian community. The mobile classroom, a 40-ft RV which will travel across Canada, was toured by Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Hon. Mélanie Joly, and Members of Parliament in attendance.
The Holodomor Mobile Classroom will provide students with an innovative learning experience about social justice, human rights and democratic values in relation to the genocide by famine which killed millions of Ukrainians.
“The Holodomor National Awareness Tour will encourage Canadians to examine the consequences of hate, oppression and discrimination while promoting the values of human dignity, tolerance and truth as fundamental to a democratic society,” stated Bob Onyschuk of the Canada Ukraine Foundation, which heads the Holodomor National Awareness Tour project.
The Government of Canada, through Inter-Action, Canada’s multiculturalism grants and contributions program, has provided a three-year grant valued at $1.5 million to support this project.
Following the inauguration of the Holodomor National Awareness Tour mobile classroom, a solemn commemoration was held in the Centre Block of the House of Commons, hosted by the Hon. Geoff Regan, Speaker of the House of Commons. The ceremony was led by Master of Ceremonies Borys Wrzesnewskyj, MP, who offered dignified and heartfelt remarks. The prayer in memory of the victims of the Holodomor was led by Rev. Fr. Ihor Okhrimtchouk and Rev. Fr. Peter Galadza and those in attendance sang Eternal Memory (Vichnaya Pamyat).
“Canadians recognize the Holodomor as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people. The systemic killing of millions of Ukrainians was one of the darkest chapters in human history,” stated the Hon. Mélanie Joly. “Innocent people starved and were executed for nothing more than trying to speak their language, maintain their culture, keep their land, and live in peace.”
The Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Minister of International Trade, stated, “I’m honoured to represent the Government of Canada at this year’s national Holodomor commemoration ceremony on Parliament Hill. We must never forget the Holodomor and we must always remember the victims and shed light on this dark chapter of human history. I’m very proud that Canada has officially recognized the Holodomor as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people. Canada will always stand with the people of Ukraine.”
Speakers at the event included the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Rona Ambrose; the Leader of the NDP, the Hon. Thomas Mulcair; Marko Shevchenko, Charge d’Affaires, Embassy of Ukraine in Canada; and Paul Grod, National President of the UCC.
Speaking on behalf of the Ukrainian Canadian community, Grod stated, “Unfortunately more than 80 years later, the Holodomor has more relevance to the people of Ukraine and the world than it has ever had before. Ukraine today is under military, economic and political attack by the Putin regime, much like it was under Stalin over 80 years ago. Ukrainians have learned their lesson from the Holodomor and will not roll-over to the Putin’s attempt to eradicate the Ukrainian nation. Around the world Ukrainian communities are working in their respective countries to gain support for the plight of the Ukrainian people that desire nothing more than to live in a country that is free from foreign aggression and respects the human dignity of its people.”
The commemoration was attended by dozens of Members of Parliament from all parties. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress would like to express its heartfelt gratitude to all those who attended the National Holodomor commemoration ceremony at the Parliament of Canada.
May the Memory of the Victims Be Eternal. Вічная Пам’ять!