Ukrainian Calgarians commemorated the Holodomor — meaning “death by hunger” in the language — on Saturday, honouring victims and raising awareness about the famine-genocide.
People sporting masks, including Mayor Jyoti Gondek, gathered inside St. Vladimir’s Ukrainian Orthodox Sobor in Calgary to pay their respects.
During 1932-3, millions died from a manmade famine after policy decisions by Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin. Historians put the death toll between 3.3 and 3.9 million Ukrainians, according to the New York Times. Alexander Iwasyk, president of the University of Calgary’s Ukrainian Students Society, said there is no precise death toll because of “Soviet censorship of media at the time.”
Stalin’s collectivism policy involved exporting food further into the Soviet Union, Iwasyk said.
He said the policy led to famine because “there weren’t any farmers in these agricultural areas. They either died or they were deported to work further in the Soviet Union.”
“There wasn’t any food, so people starved. This was really a part of Stalin’s five-year plan to industrialize the Soviet Union,” Iwasyk said.
“I think this is really a deliberate act by the Soviet Union, by Stalin and his henchmen to stamp out Ukraine identity in eastern Ukraine.”
Iwasyk said the Holodomor is “ingrained” in his cultural identity.
“We actually have direct descendants that suffered through this genocide, and it’s really a big part of our community,” he said.
“It’s something that really brings us together. It really strengthens our communities. It’s something that means a lot more than just a commemoration every year. It’s part of us. So many millions of us have been impacted.”
Holodomor Memorial Day is recognized nationally on the fourth Saturday of November.