Sofiya Kominko, University of Ottawa – November 20th, 2014
Every year, November 17th-23rd marks National Holodomor Awareness Week where thousands of Ukrainians remember those who perished in the man-made famine known as Holodomor. In 1932-1933, under Stalin’s command, Soviet authorities robbed Ukrainian households of all livestock and forced many to give up their land, resulting in mass starvation. Scholars estimate that approximately 7 million people were starved to death in a country, which at the time was known to be the breadbasket of Europe.
On Thursday, November 20th, the University of Ottawa’s Ukrainian Students’ Club (OUSC) hosted a commemorative evening to mark the 81st anniversary of Holodomor. The event included a screening of the award-winning Hollywood film “Holodomor: Genocide Revealed” and remarks by special guests, MP James Bezan and Dr. Roman Serbyn. In 2008, James Bezan received one of Ukraine’s highest awards for his private member’s bill that recognized the Soviet-imposed Holodomor as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people. Being of Ukrainian background himself, MP Bezan delivered a heartfelt address on Thursday, reiterating how important it is for Canada to stay united with Ukraine especially during today’s turbulent times.
The evening welcomed many students, professors, and community members, many of whom still have relatives and friends in Ukraine today. Dr. Roman Serbyn—professor emeritus of Eastern and Central European studies from the Université du Quebec à Montréal spoke about his research surrounding Holodomor. Dr. Serbyn is an expert in Ukrainian history and his book “Soviet Genocide in Ukraine” has been translated into 28 languages. Despite all the work that has been done to date, Dr. Serbyn remarked that there is a long road ahead and many facts still need to be set straight, especially in the international community. Nevertheless, Ukrainians are making great progress in educating the public about this dark period of history.
As a gratitude to their contributions, OUSC proudly awarded Mr. Bezan and Professor Serbyn with medals “For outstanding contribution in recognizing Holodomor as Ukrainian genocide”. The talks and movie screening were followed by a moving vocal tribute performance by Ms. Olesya Shevchenko and the “Akord” choir of Ottawa. Ms. Shevchenko beautifully delivered two well-known Ukrainian compositions: “Svicha” (Ukrainian for “candle”) and “Plyva Kacha”. Her performance left the audience in awe.
To conclude the evening, Father Ihor Okhrimtchouk from Ukrainian Orthodox church in Ottawa lead the joint singing of a song for deceased “Vichnaya pamyat” (Ukrainian for “eternal memory”). Donations from the evening totalled $2100 and went directly to the “Friends of Ukraine Defense Forces Fund” administered by Buduchnist Credit Union.
Buduchnist Credit Union and Dr. Markian Shulakewych are the generous platinum financial sponsors of this movie screening evening. Official co-sponsors include Ukrainian Canadian Congres National, Ukrainian Canadian Students’ Union (SUSK), League of Ukrainian Canadians, UNF Ottawa-Gatineau and UCPBA Ottawa.
The evening brought together many individuals to whom the history and fate of Ukraine is of grave importance. The University of Ottawa Ukrainian Students’ Club looks forward to planning more cultural events in the Ottawa region in the future. Given the successes, the students are eager about spreading awareness on issues of importance to the Ukrainian community as well as promoting the Ukrainian heritage.
Photo credit: Mr. Orest Reshitnyk