Taras Hukalo was born in Canada. His grandfather and grandmother were among the first wave of immigrants to Canada from Ukraine. Taras has not forgotten his ties to his native land, and as a result became a filmmaker producing documentary films, which uncover the most painful pages of Ukraine’s history.
The films were produced at a time when the Soviet Union still existed -- when not only in the Soviet Union, but also in the West, few spoke of the Holodomor of 1932–1933 as a deliberate politically planned genocide of the Ukrainian people. During his talk with the students, Taras Hukalo indicated the extreme difficulties he experienced in working on the film due to a dearth in availability of information, and in finding survivors willing to talk on film. The film “The Unknown Famine” became the first documentary film in the world about the tragic events of 1932-1933 in Ukraine.
This documentary includes eye witness accounts of survivors as well as commentaries of intellectuals who researched the Ukrainian Holodomor, particularly the comments of Dr. James Mace, Doctor of Historical Studies and, at the time, a Harvard University researcher, whose contribution to the recognition of the famine of 1932-1933 as a genocide against the people of Ukraine cannot be overestimated.
Taras Hukalo also showed students a film about the well known Canadian artist of Ukrainian decent, Vasyl Kurelek, whose work today adorns the walls of the Canadian Parliament. The film reveals the drama of Kurelek’s genius in his search for his roots through his creativity.
This meeting with Taras Hukalo can be included with those that are unifying factors between Ukraine and the Ukrainian diaspora, which help one another understand each other better. Over all, Taras’s creativity and the films he has produced significantly facilitate the building of bridges of communication between Ukraine and Canada.
On his next visit to the Ostroh Academy, Taras Hukalo has promised to show the students yet another documentary film he produced, this one about the “Shedtydesiatnyky” – the life and activity of Ukrainian human rights activists of the 1960’s.
The “Ostroh Academy” National University
Photographs by Victor E. Glasko