Iryna Shyroka (UCC – Vancouver)
November is the month of Remembrance and we are again reminded of the Holodomor — the political act of the Genocide by Famine perpetrated by Joseph Stalin and his Soviet regime in Ukraine in the years of 1932-33. The death by starvation of millions of people, especially children, has left its mark on survivors and their descendants both in Canada and in Ukraine.
On Sunday, November 27th, 2016 more than a hundred people gathered together to commemorate the victims of Holodomor at the Ukrainian Hall of the Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral in Vancouver. The event was organized by Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) Vancouver Branch and BC Provincial Council.
The event started with Ecumencial Memorial Service, jointly with catholic priests. Welcoming speech was introduced by UCC BC President Natalia Jatskevich.
It was a genuine moment for one of Canadian Members of Parliament – Mark Warawa (MP for Langley-Aldergrove). He is of Ukrainian descents and this topic is especially sensitive for him. Being born and raised in Canada Mr. Warawa mentioned that not everyone with Ukrainian background knows about Holodomor. He is doing a great job in the Canadian Parliament promoting awareness of these horrible events. He also mentioned that there will be an official commemoration of Holodomor victims organized by Ukrainian Canadian Congress on the Hill on Tuesday, November 29th .
Another honorable guest came to support the Ukrainian community. Bruce Ralston, MLA for Surrey-Whalley, assured that Ukrainians are not along in this issue. “It’s like a scar in their history, it’s a part of their culture now”.
This year’s Holodomor commemoration was different from others in the past. The Government of Canada recognized the Holodomor in May 2008 with an Act declaring the famine an act of genocide and establishing a national Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day.
Similar legislation has been passed by the provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. All these years we have been trying to be heard and have Government of BC to officially recognize the Holodomor.
We have been acknowledged this year by having Andrew Wilkinson – the Minister of Advanced Education in BC, come and mourn with us. Mr. Wilkinson mentioned that he grew up in Alberta, where third of the population was of Ukrainian descent. But very few of those knew about the Genocide by Famine in 1932-33. “The Soviets did a great job hiding this horrible crime”.
Our last speaker Mr. Walter Pylypchuk, head of the parish, concluded the event with very sincere remark – “if we were to build a wall, let it be between humanity and inhumanity”.
The speeches were followed by screening of a documentary “Genocide Revealed” directed by Yurij Lyhovy.
As we gather this year to pray for the victims of the Genocide by Famine in Ukraine, let us also remember the victims of today’s Russian aggression against Ukraine, including the lives that have been sacrificed for the right of every Ukrainian to live in freedom with dignity on Ukrainian soil on which rule of law prevails and fundamental human rights are respected.