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Calgarians mark 90th anniversary of Holodomor genocide as war continues in Ukraine

Click to play video: 'Calgarians mark 90th anniversary of Holodomor genocide'
Calgarians mark 90th anniversary of Holodomor genocide
People across the world and in Calgary gathered on Saturday to remember the millions of people who died during the Holodomor famine in Ukraine. Ninety years later, and after almost two years since Russia launched a war against Ukraine, those who have fled to Calgary to escape the violence are drawing parallels between Russia's offensive and the Soviet-imposed famine. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports – Nov 25, 2023

As the war with Russia continues in Ukraine, hundreds of people attended a service at St. Vladimir’s Ukrainian Orthodox Cultural Centre in Calgary on Saturday to remember the millions of people who died in the Holodomor famine.

In 1932-33 millions of people were deliberately starved to death in Soviet-ruled Ukraine.

Tetiana Usenko was one of the people laying a wreath in memory of those who died and those who survived.

She told Global News her grandmother shared heartbreaking stories; she was born in 1914 to a family of nine children, but only four survived.

Usenko said her parents moved to Calgary when the Russian invasion of Ukraine started from their home in Kryvyi Rih. For them, what is happening in Ukraine is like history repeating.

“They remember what happened 90 years ago and now it’s happened again, and you’re living through it all over again because of what’s happening in Ukraine,” Usenko said.

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Click to play video: 'Ukrainians fear history repeating itself as millions honoured during Holodomor'
Ukrainians fear history repeating itself as millions honoured during Holodomor

Under Joseph Stalin, harsh policies were imposed on Ukraine, including those that led to a  deliberate famine that killed millions of innocent people. On Feb. 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine in an escalation of conflict that began in 2014.

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The Ukrainian government says Russia has destroyed almost 300,000 metric tons of grain since July 2023 in attacks on port facilities and ships as well as grain infrastructure.

Calgary is now home to many people who have fled the current war in Ukraine. Some say the challenge is to get the world to recognize the war against Ukraine is genocide once again being conducted by an aggressor.

“It’s important for me and my family to be here today to commemorate this event because of what is happening in Ukraine now and for the world to know what  happened in the past and what’s happening now,” said Sofiia Zozuliak who moved to Calgary last year from Ternopil.

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Click to play video: 'Russia says coexistence with Ukraine impossible, Zelenskyy vows to protect freedom'
Russia says coexistence with Ukraine impossible, Zelenskyy vows to protect freedom

“They are dealing with a lot of pain right now,” said Calgary mayor Jyoti Gondek at the event. “This community is suffering as well and I think commemorating Holodomor and remembering that there is violence in Ukraine right now, is an important thing to be doing today,” Gondek said.

While Ukraine continues to defend itself against Russia, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement that Canada will continue to support Ukraine “for as long as it takes.”

Trudeau’s comment was echoed by officials in Alberta.

“I haven’t seen any indication support is wavering,” said Ric McIver, minister of municipal affairs, at the Holodomor event in Calgary.

“I think we need to hold strong. First of all, it’s the right thing to do and Ukrainian people are our sisters and brothers, and second, who’s next?  I think we need to be strong as ever in support of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people,” McIver said.

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Ukraine declared its independence in 1991. Canada was the first Western country to recognize Ukraine’s sovereignty.

The White House also reaffirmed its commitment to Ukraine in a statement on Saturday marking the anniversary of Holodomor, drawing parallels between Russia’s offensive and the Soviet-imposed famine.

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