Edmonton Examiner | 19Nov2008 | Kevin Maimann

Ukrainian community remembers famine-genocide
Memorial service marks Holodomor's 75th anniversary

Seventy-five years have passed since millions of Ukrainians lost their lives in the Holodomor famine-genocide, and Luba Feduschak, president of the Edmonton branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, says that the tragedy is still very often overlooked.

The annual Holodomor Memorial Service will take place this Saturday, Nov. 22, 2008 in St. John's Orthodox Cathedral (10951 107 St.) at 12:30 p.m.

The Holodomor -- the term translates as "death by starvation" -- ravaged the population of Soviet Ukraine in 1932 and '33 as Josef Stalin imposed strict measures on peasant farmers to fulfill the goals of the collectivisation program he'd been struggling to implement since 1928 in the face of widespread Ukrainian opposition.
While many believe the famine was an act of genocide directly caused by Soviet policies meant to attack Ukrainian nationalism, some scholars and politicians still argue that it was largely an unintended consequence of questionable economic decisions.

Canada is among the many nations that have officially recognized the Holodomor as a genocide.

People like Feduschak have fought hard to raise awareness of the tragedy. Given that it was forbidden to even mention the Holodomor in the Soviet Union before its breakup in 1991, that hasn't been an easy fight.

"It was behind the Iron Curtain, it wasn't acknowledged, it wasn't in the Western presses, so people weren't aware that this had happened over there," she says.

During the famine, the Stalin regime violently seized crops from the rural peasants to meet its grain quotas and sealed borders to prevent citizens from acquiring  food in nearby Russia and Belarus.

Estimates of total casualties have ranged from two million to 10 million.

Aside from the deaths, reports say cannibalism was rampant amongst the starving masses, and many rural parents took their children into large cities and abandoned them in hopes that they would be found and fed.

"Since then, other genocides have happened ... but those are already in the books, and this one, we're struggling to have the world acknowledge that it did happen," Feduschak says. "The country of Ukraine remembers it happening, and it's just important to get the history books straight."

Feduschak says 13 known Holodomor survivors are living in Edmonton but they are quickly dying off. She hopes younger generations will keep the memories alive.

The Ukrainian Students' Society is hosting a Holodomor panel discussion at the University of Alberta's SUB Stage on Nov. 20, 2008 at 4:30 p.m. and Feduschak says it's "very, very heartwarming" to see students getting involved.

She feels it is important that people are aware of tragedies like the Holodomor so that we can learn from them as a society.

"As civilized people, we have to stop doing things like this, be it the Holodomor of 1932-33 or things more current like, say,  the genocide in Rwanda,'" she says. "I have this horrible feeling that we haven't learned anything from it.

"By bringing it back to the forefront and reminding people, maybe somewhere (along the line) people will stop killing each other or bringing this onto their fellow humans. It probably won't be in my lifetime, but one can always hope."

The week of Nov. 16 to 23 is nationally recognized as Holodomor Awareness Week.

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