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Winnipeg Free Press | 06Mar2012 | Bill Redekop

Let museum tell of Holodomor: prof

A prime chance to recognize Ukraine's great tragedy, he says

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights presents a tremendous opportunity to give prominent recognition to the Holodomor, in which millions of Ukrainians were starved to death by the former Soviet Union, says a university professor.

The Holodomor took place in the same vicinity of Europe as the Holocaust, which will have a permanent exhibit at the museum, and within the same time frame -- within a decade -- of that cataclysmic event for Jewish people, said Myroslav Shkandrij, professor of Slavic Studies at the University of Manitoba.

And with so many Ukrainian people living in this part of the world today and having contributed so much to Canada, the museum in Winnipeg could give international recognition to an event that Ukrainian people have struggled to make known despite denials, government suppression and destruction of evidence. Just last year, a large rural newspaper in Manitoba ran a lengthy letter to the editor that claimed the Holodomor never happened.

"The full story of Jewish and Ukrainian suffering needs to be universally recognized," Shkandrij said.

He was part of a U of M lecture series on issues pertaining to the human rights museum, scheduled to open in 2014. Catherine Chatterley, of the Canadian Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism, was also scheduled to speak but had to miss it for medical reasons.

[W.Z. It is interesting that Lady Chatterley and her lovers combatting Anti-Satanism could not attend.]

Controversy erupted last year when the Ukrainian Canadian Congress argued for giving the Holodomor a permanent presence in the museum. Museum officials only plan a temporary exhibit.

Shkandrij allowed there are "hidden reefs" when Ukrainians and Jews talk about their intertwined pasts.

He wouldn't give an opinion on whether a Holodomor exhibit should be permanent, but he said he has difficulty understanding why museum officials don't see the golden opportunity presented them.

"Politically, (the issue of the Holodomor) has not been handled well at all," he said.

More than 3.5 million Ukrainians starved to death in the Holodomor in 1932-33, Shkandrij said. The total is close to 10 million when starvation campaigns in neighbouring jurisdictions are included.

The suffering of those Ukrainians is not widely understood. Only 36 photographs of the Holodomor survived, as the Soviet Union viciously suppressed any records and imprisoned anyone found with a camera.

Shkandrij said Soviet dictator Josef Stalin campaigned to dehumanize Ukrainian people to make it easier for Russian people to justify the mass starvation.

Agreeing with a member of the audience, Shkandrij said the human rights museum might focus on what allowed the evil and madness of Hitler and Stalin to flourish in Europe, so those atrocities aren't repeated.

What also makes the Holomodor timely for the museum is archive documentation is finally becoming public since the collapse of the Soviet Union, although Russia is still not releasing much of its material.

The seminar was called Holodomor and Holocaust: Taboos in Ukrainian-Jewish Relations.

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 6, 2012 B2