Calgary Herald | 18Nov2010 | Mario Toneguzzi

A nearly forgotten genocide

The monument stands in a small green space just outside the downtown, along two busy roadways.

It's small, but it carries a big message. And it's something we should all pay attention to and reflect upon.

Just off of Memorial Drive and Edmonton Trail is the Holodomor Monument, which pays tribute to the millions of innocent victims of an event in history that is a black mark on our humanity.

Between 1932 and 1933 an estimated 10 million Ukrainians died due to a genocide under the rule of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

The Calgary monument is where the local Ukrainian community gathers each year on the fourth Saturday of November -- as people of Ukrainian descent do around the world -- to reflect on the tragedy in their homeland, and on the stain of evil that overwhelmed a generation many decades ago.

"We want to ensure that people remember the suffering that took place in Ukraine in the early 1930s," says Michael Ilnycky, president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Calgary branch.

"We also want to draw attention to the fact that hate continues to contribute to human misery," Ilnycky says.

Each time I pass that monument, whether by foot or by car, I am reminded of that sad fact.

Everyone knows about the Holocaust, when millions of Jews perished at the hands of Nazis during the Second World War. But the Ukrainian genocide is not as well known.

On Nov. 27, 2010, the local community will mark Holodomor Memorial Day. Holodomor combines the Ukrainian word for hunger, "holod," with "mor" (plague) and "mordovate," which means to torture.

Stalin did this by withholding grain and livestock from Ukrainians during that period, causing mass starvation.

Several events will be held in Calgary during National Holodomor Awareness Week:

-An exhibit in the City Hall Atrium will be on display Nov. 23 to 26, 2010;

-A candlelight vigil will take place at 7 p.m. on Nov. 26, 2010 at the Holodomor Monument;

-The 2010 Commemoration of the Holodomor takes place at St. Vladimir's Ukrainian Cultural Centre, 404 Meredith Rd. N.E., at 11 a.m. on Nov. 27, 2010;

-A moment of silence will happen at 7:32 p.m. (19:32-19:33 hrs) on the Saturday during a Ukrainian school concert at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Parish. A reading of a list of victims from the Vynnytsia region will take place with the tolling of the church bells;

-A prayer service is also scheduled for 11 a.m. Nov. 28, 2010 at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Parish.

When I think of what happened 77 years ago, I am deeply moved and saddened. It's important that we take the time to remember and reflect on history. After all, society does tend to repeat history if it does not learn from its past.

So if you're Ukrainian or not, please take a moment on Nov. 27, 2010 -- perhaps even participate in one of the scheduled events -- and reflect on man's inhumanity to man and how society and individuals can prevent current and future human misery.