Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 22.10.2018
“It was a horrific man-made famine that resulted in millions of Ukrainian lives lost. … It’s been 85 years since the Holodomor and today thousands have gathered to remember that dark period in history.” This is how CityNews television introduced its segment about the October 21 unveiling of a memorial to the Holodomor at Exhibition Place in Toronto.
The memorial features a statue of an emaciated girl, clinging to a few shafts of wheat. It is called “Bitter Memories of Childhood” and it is a work by Ukrainian artist Petro Drozdowsky. The Holodomor Memorial is in a prime location in downtown Toronto – Exhibition Place can see as many as four million visitors a year, mostly in summer. The Holodomor Memorial was constructed at an estimated cost of 1.2 million Canadian dollars (920 thousand US dollars).
The Holodomor was deliberately planned and executed by the Soviet regime under Joseph Stalin to systematically destroy the Ukrainian people’s aspirations for a free and independent Ukraine, and subsequently caused the death of millions of Ukrainians in 1932 and 1933. Canada officially recognizes the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-33 as an act of genocide, under the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (“Holodomor”) Memorial Day Act assented to on 29 May 2008.
Mykola Latyshko, was seven years old and living with his family in Ukraine during the Holodomor. Now 91 years old, this survivor spoke at the unveiling in Toronto on October 21. Mr. Latyshko spoke passionately, saying “witnesses, like me and others, were telling the truth about the Holodomor … how many millions starved to death. I certainly hope that the future generations, by learning of this previous atrocity – terror – will not experience what we have experienced.”
Canada’s Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland, attended the unveiling of Toronto’s Holodomor Memorial. Writing on Twitter, Minister Freeland said: “A somber tribute to the millions of Ukrainians who died in this dark chapter that we must never forget.”
The Mayor of Toronto, John Tory, was there. Taking to Twitter, he wrote: “Honoured to join Toronto’s Ukrainian community to unveil the Holodomor Memorial. This memorial recognizes the millions of innocent lives lost in Ukraine from the Holodomor & helps us to remember our history to ensure such injustices are not repeated in the future.”
Stepan Kubiv is First Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine and the Minister of Economic Development and Trade. He represented the Ukrainian government and people at the Holodomor Memorial unveiling in Toronto. Earlier in the week, on October 18, Minister Kubiv met in Ottawa with MPs who belong to the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group. They discussed the possibility of further sanctions by Canada on Russian individuals and entities for constructing the illegal Kerch bridge, for conducting an illegal Russian presidential election in Ukrainian Crimea, for committing crimes against humanity against Ukrainian political prisoners, and for continuing the Russian Federation’s warfare against Ukraine in Donbas.
The Holodomor Memorial in Toronto was paid for primarily by Ukrainian Canadians. The Holodomor National Awareness Tour is a mobile classroom/interactive digital learning environment that goes to schools and events throughout Canada to teach about the Holodomor – it is a specially-prepared bus paid for primarily by Ukrainian Canadians. Speaking at the unveiling of the Holodomor Memorial in Toronto, Chrystia Freeland said that it was Canada that kept the dark memory of Holodomor alive, and it was Canada brought it back to Ukraine when the time was right – which was when Ukraine restored its independence. But the Holodomor Memorial in Toronto and the Holodomor education bus going across Canada unfortunately highlight that relatively little is being done in Ukraine to raise awareness about the famine-genocide of 1932-33. It's not that Ukrainians need the help of Canadians to do that – they just need the political will to get the job done on their own. By rights, the 85th anniversary of the Holodomor should be more notable in Ukraine than it is in Canada. Canada can contribute, but Ukraine should lead the world in proclaiming that the genocide of the Ukrainian people carried out by the Russian occupation regime happened, and that it must never happen again.