Edmonton Holodomor Events - Nov. 2008

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Holodomor Awareness Week 16-23 November 2008

Most Ukrainian communities around the world are planning events to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor -- the Ukrainian Famine-Genocide of 1932-1933 -- during the week of 16-23 November, 2008. All churches are expected to perform a Panakhyda for the 10 million victims on Sunday, November 23, 2008.

Please make an extra effort to attend these events and encourage your extended family and friends to do so. When we pray for the souls of the 10 million dead, we are also nurturing our own souls, as well as the souls of the Ukrainian people and all of humanity.

In Edmonton, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Edmonton Branch, is sponsoring two events as follows:

Panel Discussion on Holodomor Denial  [jpg Poster] [pdf USS Poster]
4:30 PM, Thursday, 20Nov2008
University of Alberta, Student Union Building “Stage”, Edmonton.
(Convenient parking at 87 Ave. – 116 St. Parkade)

Natalia Talanchuk: Holodomor Survivor
Andriy Semotiuk: Legal Expert
Marko Tymchak: University Student Activist
William Zuzak: Moderator

Holodomor Memorial Service [pdf Poster]
12:30 PM, Saturday, 22Nov2008
St. John’s Orthodox Cathedral, 10951 – 107 St., Edmonton
Panakhyda: Multiple clergy officiating with Dnipro choir
Keynote address: Andriy Semotiuk on the legal aspects of genocide (in adjoining Cultural Centre)
Laying of wreaths: at Holodomor Monument on south side of City Hall, 104 Ave. – 100 St., Edmonton. (Limited busing available.)

Ukrainian Canadian Congress - Edmonton Branch
Luba Feduschak, President
Phone: 780-464-6480,  Email: [email protected]

B. Edmonton Examiner article

C. Report: Panel Discussion on Holodomor Denial  [jpg photo]
About 80 people -- clustered around tables in an informal cafeteria-style setting --  attended the event hosted by the Ukrainian Students' Society (USS) at the University of Alberta. After the formal presentations -- lasting some 40 minutes --  there were many questions from both students and adults in the audience directed to the various panelists.

At the conclusion, video excerpts of the film documentary being produced by Ms. Tomkiw in Los Angeles were shown, while the USS distributed pizza and chicken wings to the students who had participated in the 33 hour Holodomor "fast" as part of Holodomor Awareness Week on Campus.

A CBC cameraman briefly appeared and the event was reported on CBC television.

The presentations of the moderator and panelists are summarized below:

William Zuzak (moderator):
The purpose of this panel discussion is to examine the various aspects of the term “Holodomor Denial”.

The word “denial” has several meanings. In my dictionary, definition #6 states: “a psychological defense mechanism in which confrontation with a personal problem or with reality is avoided by denying the existence of the problem or reality.”

The Holodomor was a very traumatic experience for millions of Ukrainians -- for the victims, the survivors, the bystanders and the perpetrators. In the former Soviet Union, it was extremely dangerous to write or even talk about the Famine-Genocide of 1932-33. It was much safer -- and better for your health -- to pretend or even believe that the Holodomor never happened.

The late James Mace, who spent the last years of his life in Ukraine studying the Holodomor, developed the term “post-genocidal society” to describe the effects of this phenomenon on present-day Ukrainian society. To survive, you were forced to live a lie. It is not easy to confront and overcome habits and beliefs from the past.

I suggest that this term “post-genocidal” could also be applied to Ukrainian communities in Canada and the rest of the Diaspora around the world -- on the macro level, as well as on the micro level of each person of Ukrainian origin.

One could apply the term “Holodomor denial“ to people who:
(1) - deny that the Holodomor ever took place;
(2) - deny that the Holodomor was deliberate;
(3) - deny or quibble about the total number of deaths; and
(4) - admit that the Famine-Genocide of 1932-33 was a deliberate and horrific crime against humanity, but deny that it was a genocidal act against the Ukrainian people.

Since 1933, we seem to have made considerable progress on these four categories. Virtually all countries now recognize that the Holodomor was a deliberate crime against humanity perpetrated by Stalin and the Soviet regime. Several countries, including Canada and three provinces, recognize that it was also genocide.

However, there are several organizations and countries that have declined to recognize the Holodomor as genocide. These include the Russian Federation, Britain and Israel. It would be interesting to analyze the reasons for this reluctance.

Natalia Talanchuk (Holodomor survivor):
Mrs. Talanchuk was born in Dnipropetrovsk in 1925, just in time to witness the Holodomor of 1932-33, the Great Terror of 1937-38 and to be sent to Germany as a slave labourer or Ostarbeiter in 1943. There, in a DP camp in 1945, she met and married Constantyn Talanchuk, who had been incarcerated in Auschwitz as a political prisoner by the Nazis in 1943, subsequently transferred to Buchenwald and freed at the end of WWII. They immigrated to Canada in 1949.

Her earliest memories were of her father waking her up to say goodbye as he was arrested by the OGPU in 1928 and incarcerated until 1934. He was subsequently re-arrested in 1938, sentenced to the Gulags for 10 years "without the right to correspondence" and vanished from her life forever. She related ...
- her mother forbid her to look out the window to view dead bodies slumped against their fence,
- carts driving through the village to gather such dead bodies,
- the "Torgsin" stores where you could buy food only for gold or diamonds,
- rumours that red meat suddenly appearing in the village was really human flesh,
- watchtowers manned by the militia with rifles at the borders of Kolhosp land.

Andriy J. Semotiuk (legal expert):
Mr. Semotiuk is an attorney practicing in the area of international law specializing in immigration. He is a member of the bars of California and New York in the United States and Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia in Canada. A former United Nations correspondent stationed in New York, Mr. Semotiuk has written articles for Southam News Services and other newspapers in the United States and Canada. Mr. Semotiuk is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club and of the law firm of Hansma, Bristow & Finlay in Edmonton and Manning and Marder in Los Angeles.

He presented a condensed version of his presentation prepared for the Holodomor Memorial Service on 22Nov2008. This included ...
- the wording of the of the UN Convention on genocide with the key legal components to the definition -- the actus reus and the mens rea.

- As for the actus reus, in 1932 - 1933 the Communist Party of the Soviet Union under the leadership of Joseph Stalin turned the entire country of Ukraine into one big concentration camp. They sealed the borders refusing to allow anyone out and any assistance in. They then requisitioned all the grain and food stock the peasants in Ukraine had. On the Ukrainian side of the border people starved to death. On the Russian side there was food to eat. These were the essential ingredients of the genocide.

- In terms of the mens rea, one has to identify not only the intention to kill, but also the intention to target a specific nationality. The discussions in 1943 between Stalin and Churchill and the admission of Duranty to British consular officials that as many as 10 million people perished
 were reliable "admissions against interest" that went a long way towards establishing the immensity of the genocide.

- A reference to the recently uncovered 1953 writings of Raphael Lemkin, the father of the Genocide Convention and his conclusion that the 1932-1933 events amounted to a genocide because they consisted of an attack on the intelligentsia, on the cultural leadership, on the Ukrainian churches and on the peasants.

Marko Tymchak (University student activist):
Mr. Tymchak is in the third year of a degree in Physics at the University of Alberta and is very active in Ukrainian affairs and the Ukrainian Students’ Society. He presented the youth perspective --  categorizing the Holodomor amongst the various genocides throughout the centuries, exploring the views of typical students on the subject and proposing the appropriate position that youth, in general, and Ukrainian Canadian youth, in particular, should take on the Holodomor.

- He stressed the idea that youth should understand the indignance, grief, and anger that exists about the Holodomor, but to continue the memory of Holodomor by moving towards respect, commemoration, and equal attention to crimes around the globe. In this way, Ukrainians can begin to stop feeling that because they were once victims they will always be victims. By coming to terms with the event, which means neither forgiving nor forgetting, we strengthen respect for and energy towards our culture.

-Holodomor should be the spark that ignites a flame of refusal to ignore any crimes against humanity -- past, present or future.

D.  Report: Holodomor Memorial Service
St. John's Cathedral was filled to overflowing for the "panakhyda" at which some 20 priests of the Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox churches officiated. Both Bishops Ilarion (Orthodox, speaking Ukrainian) and David (Catholic, speaking English) spoke on the Holodomor after the service.

There was standing room only in the Cultural Centre, where the official program included greetings/speeches  from dignitaries including MLA Gene Zwozdesky and Mayor Stephen Mandel. The keynote speaker, Andriy Semotiuk spoke on the legal aspects of the Holodomor as a genocide. (See summary above.)

A large fraction of the attending public travelled to the Holodomor monument at Edmonton City Hall for the wreath-laying ceremony.

CTV filmed the event and interviewed Holodomor survivor Natalia Talanchuk which was broadcast that evening as a lead story. Unfortunately, the video clip no longer seems to be available on their website.