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On Saturday, November 24, Canada commemorated Holodomor Memorial Day. In 1932-33, millions of Ukrainians – children, women and men – were murdered by the Soviet regime of Joseph Stalin. This year, we solemnly commemorate the 85th anniversary of this genocide of the Ukrainian people.
In 1932-33, the totalitarian Soviet Communist regime of dictator Joseph Stalin sentenced the Ukrainian nation to death by starvation. The borders of Ukraine were sealed, all grain and food was confiscated, and the Ukrainian people starved. Those who resisted were executed or sent to hard labour in the Gulag. To break the resistance of the Ukrainian people to Soviet rule, the totalitarian Communist regime turned food into a weapon. In one of history’s greatest crimes, the Soviet regime committed genocide against a nation of grain growers who sought to live free on their own land. Millions of children, women and men were condemned to death because of the Ukrainian peoples’ aspiration for independence, their desire to speak their language and maintain their culture and traditions.
The UCC was honoured to welcome Holodomor Survivors Dr. Julia Woychyshyn and Halyna Zelem, who lit the ceremonial candle at the beginning of the ceremony on Parliament Hill yesterday.
The Master of Ceremonies of the commemoration was Borys Wrzesnewskyj, MP, Chair of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group. Reverend Father Andrew Onuferko led the Opening Prayer.
The Honourable Harjit Sajjan delivered remarks on behalf of the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, followed by Senator Raynell Andreychuk on behalf of the Leader of Opposition, the Honourable Andrew Scheer, followed by Member of Parliament Guy Caron on behalf of the leader of the NDP Jagmeet Singh.
His Excellency Andriy Shevchenko, Ambassador of Ukraine to Canada, delivered moving remarks on behalf of the Government of Ukraine, and Ihor Michalchyshyn, UCC CEO, spoke on behalf of the Ukrainian community in Canada.
Members of Ottawa-based Ukrainian choirs gathered to lead the singing of Вічная Пам’ять (Eternal Memory) and Reverend Father Andrew Onuferko led the assembled guests in the Closing Prayer.
Earlier in the day, Members of Parliament and guests to Parliament Hill had the opportunity to visit the Holodomor National Awareness Tour Mobile Classroom.
The mobile classroom, a 40-ft RV, which has been travelling across Canada, provides 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 Government of Canada, through InterAction, Canada’s multiculturalism grants and contributions program, has provided a three-year grant valued at $1.5 million to support this project.
Despite the Soviet attempts to destroy the Ukrainian nation, the Ukrainian people persevered and, decades later, won their independence.
Today, that independence is again under threat from Russia’s tyranny. The people of Ukraine are once more forced to defend their homeland against Russian imperialism. In Ukraine’s east, Russia wages a brutal war of aggression, seeking again to subjugate Ukraine to Moscow’s rule. A generation of Ukrainians again takes up arms in courageous defence of their freedom and right to self-determination. With God’s help, they will be victorious.
International Holodomor Memorial Day is on Saturday, November 24. We gather in our communities to pay tribute to the memory of the millions of innocent victims of the Holodomor Famine-Genocide 1932-33. We honour the survivors of the Holodomor, whose courage in sharing their story has educated the world about this genocide. We strengthen our commitment to ensuring that crimes such as the Holodomor never happen again. And we pray that peace soon returns to Ukraine.
At 7:32 p.m. (19.32) local time Canadians paused for a moment of silence and honour the memory of the victims by lighting a candle of remembrance in your home. UCC calls on all community members to post photos of their candles on social media.
More information on Holodomor Awareness Week is available here.