The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine (Holodomor)

Famine-Genocide Program in Toronto, Canada Focuses on Educating
Students, Featured Children's Art Exhibit, Memorial Program, Personal

By Lesia Korobaylo, The Ukrainian Weekly
December 23, 2001


TORONTO - In order to promote public awareness about the unprecedented and tragic Famine-Genocide in Soviet-occupied Ukraine during 1932-1933, the Toronto Branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress organized and sponsored a commemorative week whose focus was educational programs for students.

Over 370 elementary and high school students actively participated in these educational programs, which took place at the Ukrainian Canadian Art Foundation (UCAF) during the week of November 17-25.

Displayed throughout the foundation's gallery was a children's art exhibit titled "Famine-Genocide Through the Eyes of a Child." This exhibit comprised 210 paintings produced last year by Toronto area students during art workshops created and conducted by art educator Halia Dmytryshyn. The broad spectrum of these dramatic and colorful paintings depicted life in Ukraine from the prosperous years before the Famine-Genocide to the paintings representing the brutal Soviet campaign of food confiscations, destruction of property, terror and murder.

Famine-Genocide survivor and teacher Nicholas Latyshko retold his desperate survival story to the spellbound students. Mr. Latyshko emphasized that the Famine was not the result of climatic conditions or poor harvest, but was deliberately perpetrated on the Ukrainian people by the Soviet regime.

Education consultant Valentina Kuryliw and educator Marika Szkambara provided historical lessons; Ms. Dmytryshyn covered the elements of art related to the children's art exhibit. Information kits included a Famine-Genocide booklet featuring an extensive bibliography, current articles, quotes, facts, as well as questionnaires for students.

Of paramount importance were the presentations by students Oleksa Rewa and Mykhaylo Reay, both very active members in various Ukrainian youth organizations. Mr. Rewa is a University of Toronto student majoring in Life Sciences with a minor in Ukrainian Studies. Two years ago while simultaneously completing his International Baccalaureate and his OAC (grade 13) at the Toronto French School he wrote a major essay, entitled "The Ukrainian Famine of 1932-1933" for which he earned an A+. Mr. Reay, who is currently an OAC student at St. Michael's College, wrote a major independent study essay this year about the Famine-Genocide for his Modern Western Civilization course and for which he also received an A+. His premise was to prove that this was not just a famine but that in fact it was genocide.

In their presentations to the students, Messrs. Rewa and Reay outlined their research methods, referred to the wealth of information available on the Internet, recommended obtaining key information from the Ukrainian Canadian Research and Documentation Center, read excerpts from their essays and encouraged the students to also write about this genocidal famine.

It is worth noting that in this fourth year of educational programs presented by the Toronto Ukrainian Canadian Congress, an increasing number of students are not only learning but are writing about the Famine-Genocide for their school assignments. The hope is that this will provide additional impetus for educators striving to incorporate study of this genocide into the school curriculum.

A Vision TV production team documented the entire educational program, which resulted in a 10-minute segment that effectively and movingly reflected the Famine-Genocide story. This segment was recently televised four times on Vision TV channels across Canada.

Memorial program

A memorial program on Sunday, November 18 at the Ukrainian Cultural Center began with a dramatic presentation by Famine survivor Kateryna Scherban, followed by an ecumenical service concelebrated by members of the Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox clergy, which was accompanied by the Lysenko Opera Ensemble. Representing the youth of the community, Meelena and Yvan Oleksiuk-Baker presented heart-wrenching quotes about the Famine; Oresta Babiuk recited "Famine 1933"; and the Polyphonia Children's Choir and the Golden Strings Bandura Ensemble performed solemn musical pieces. Toronto City Councilor Gloria Lindsay Luby presented statements to the audience.

The guest speaker, Prof. Roman Serbyn from the University of Quebec at Montreal, who was introduced by Prof. Edward Burstynsky, spoke on the topic "Famine 1932-1933: Problems of Historical Memory." Prof. Serbyn indicated that the 1933 Famine was part of a wider campaign against the Ukrainian nation, destroying its national elite and repopulating emptied Ukrainian villages with Russian colonists. Thus, the demographic composition of the Ukrainian countryside was changed by this artificially engineered Famine-Genocide.

Harvard University professor Dr. Terry Martin, who was introduced by Prof. Olga Andriewsky of Trent University, delivered a significant lecture titled "Stalin and the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-1933: New Findings" to a capacity audience at the University of Toronto.

Based on recently declassified documents, Prof. Martin's lecture outlined various political and economic parameters that resulted in this tragedy. The Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, the Center for Russian and East European Studies, and the Toronto UCC co-sponsored the Annual Ukrainian Famine Lecture. (See story on page 9.)

A roundtable discussion titled "Ukraine's Famines: Why and How to Foster their Memory?" took place on Wednesday, November 21 at the Ukrainian Canadian Art Foundation. This discussion provided new perspectives on the historical value of remembering and commemorating the "holodomor." Moderated by Prof. Ivan Wynnyckyj, its participants included: Prof. Wasyl Janischewskyj, president of Ukrainian Canadian Research and Documentation Center; Valentina Kuryliw, education consultant and author of a teachers' guide about the Famine; Vasyl Kolomatski, member of UWC Commission on Human and Civil Rights; Ivan Franko, architect; and Marko Shumelda, University of Toronto student.

On Thursday, November 22, leading off the afternoon session of the Ontario Provincial Parliament at Queen's Park, Gerard Kennedy, member of the Provincial Parliament, read a commemorative proclamation which is now part of the official record. Mr. Kennedy underscored that all need to remember this unprecedented loss of 7 million to 10 million Ukrainians who were starved to death by the Soviet regime.

The Toronto UCC's Famine-Genocide Commemorative Committee comprises: Ms. Dmytryshyn, Lesya Jones, Lesia Korobaylo, Ms. Szkambara and Eugene Yakovitch, chair.

Ukrainian Weekly, December 23, 2001, No. 51, Vol. LXIX
For personal and academic use only