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Hamilton Spectator | 19Nov2011 | unknown

Hamilton Ukrainians commemorate 1932 genocide

Hamilton Ukrainians are commemorating a 1932 tragedy in their native land with a week of local public events.

The tragedy is a large-scale imposed famine Ukrainians call a genocide in which six million to 10 million people were starved to death by the Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin regime in 1932 and ’33.

Olya Sheweli, Hamilton branch president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress says the genocide 78 years ago is on the same tragic scale as the Holocaust.

Ukrainians have succeeded in getting the UN and countries, including Canada, to recognize the famine was genocide. But they want present-day Russia to acknowledge it, too, and to offer compensation, Sheweli said. “They just say it was a famine, that neighbouring countries experienced it as well -- which is revisionist history.”

An acknowledgment, she said, would go a long way to restoring historical justice. Hamilton, with about 14,000 Ukrainians, has Canada’s sixth or seventh largest Ukrainian population and has 13 famine survivors still living according to Sheweli.

Sheweli, born in Ukraine, heard first-hand accounts of the genocide from her mother and grandmother. They and the other children survived by eating mushrooms and other edibles in the forest, as well as soups made of forest greens.

Hamilton’s week-long observances are necessary to educate people about the genocide, Sheweli said.

The Soviets caused the famine by imposing exorbitant grain quotas and, in some cases, confiscating supplies down to the last seed, according a Ukrainian Canadian Congress booklet.

“In 1932, Stalin decided to vanquish the Ukrainian farmers by means of starvation and thus break the Ukrainian national revival that had begun in the 1920s and was rekindling Ukrainian aspirations for an independent state,” it states.

“The territory of Soviet Ukraine and the predominantly Kuban region of Northern Caucasus (Soviet Russia) were isolated by army units, so that people could not go in search of food to the neighbouring Soviet regions where it was more readily available. The result was the Ukrainian genocide of 1932-33 known in Ukrainian as the Holodomor, or extermination by famine.”

Hamilton Holodomor Awareness Week events:

Monday — Friday

Display of 33 flags at Bay Street federal building, City Hall, the Stoney Creek Civic Centre, and Hamilton and Burlington Ukrainian churches, to symbolize the 1932-33 famine-genocide.

21Nov 2011 Monday, 7 p.m.

Genocide Revealed film screening. Ukrainian Cultural Centre, 241 Kenilworth Ave. N.

23Nov2011 Wednesday

First Holodomor Canadian museum opens to the public. Metropolitan Wasyly Learning Centre, Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Vladimir, 855 Barton St. E., Hamilton. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Town hall meeting with Roman Krutsyk, Kiev City Memorial Society president and author of The People’s War on the insurgency movements in Soviet Ukraine from 1919 to 1933. 5:30 p.m.

25Nov2011 Friday

Daylong Holodomor display, Genocide Revealed screening and food drive organized by the McMaster Ukrainian Student Association. McMaster University Student Centre

26Nov2011 Saturday

International Holodomor Memorial Day

27Nov2011 Sunday

Holodomor commemoration, 3 p.m. at Hamilton City Hall