Regina Leader Post | 11Aug2009 | News Staff

Remembering the victims of genocide in Ukraine
Saskatchewan has played its part in focusing attention on the starvation of millions of Ukrainians at the hands of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in the 1930s

More than a century ago, Ukrainian immigrants began bringing their unmatched work ethic and agricultural expertise to Saskatchewan.

Throw in a rich heritage of music and dance and a lusty cuisine that included cabbage rolls and perogies and it was the start -- if we can borrow a line from the movie Casablanca -- "of a beautiful friendship".

From their first recorded settlement at Grenfell in the 1890s, Ukrainians came to this province in increasing numbers in the decade before the First World War and then in the 1920s, after the beginning of Soviet oppression of Eastern Europe.

In the 2006 census, more than 129,000 Saskatchewan residents (13.6 per cent) reported Ukrainian ancestry, the sixth-largest ethnic group in the province.

Though now firmly rooted in Saskatchewan, Ukrainian Canadians have never forgotten their homeland, in particular the terrible famine of 1932-33, in which as many as 10 million Ukrainians -- a quarter of the population -- starved to death.

The Holodomor ("death by hunger") was no ordinary famine caused by drought, but calculated genocide carried out by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

In order to crush opposition to the imposition of state control of the farms and their produce, Stalin's forces seized the harvest and all other food they could find, leaving millions to starve. Stalin's secret police also murdered untold numbers of Ukrainians who tried to resist.

Though long overshadowed by the Nazi Holocaust, in which as many as six million Jews were systematically murdered between 1939-45, the Holodomor has gained international recognition in recent years as a comparable crime against humanity.

Among those spreading the word is Saskatchewan's deputy premier Ken Krawetz, who last year introduced legislation that remembers the victims of the Holodomor on the fourth Saturday of each November. Saskatchewan was the first province to pass such a law. The Canadian Parliament passed similar legislation in 2008.

Krawetz's efforts have been recognized by the Ukrainian government, which will next month award him the highest honour that a non-citizen of Ukraine can receive. And at the weekend, Krawetz received an "Award of Excellence" from the Ukrainian Self-Reliance League of Canada for spreading the word about the Holodomor.

Of Ukrainian descent himself, Krawetz makes the point that "the world doesn't know" about the Holodomor -- and it should.

Shining the light of remembrance on such evil honours the dead . . . and sends a cautionary message to the living.

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