The memory and experiences of survivors of the Holodomor - the Ukrainian famine/genocide in 1932 and 1933 – were commemorated on Tuesday, November 24, 2009 on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in an evening ceremony dedicated to remembering those who both perished and survived the man-made tragedy.
His Excellency Ihor Ostash, Ambassador of Ukraine to Canada and Mark Warawa, Member of Parliament and Chair of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group, co-hosted the Holodomor Commemoration Ceremony on behalf of the Embassy of Ukraine and the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group.
Senator Raynell Andreychuk, Vice-Chair of the Friendship Group and Master of Ceremony for the service, reminded guests that the evening would be centred around heightening awareness of the forgotten Famine/Genocide as well as promoting international recognition of this deliberate attempt to exterminate a nation.
The Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, who spoke on behalf of the Government of Canada, reinforced the government`s dedication to “remain committed to remembering the victims and promoting international awareness of this genocide.” The Minister also reminded guests that in 2008, Canada was the first G8 nation to recognize Holodomor as an act of genocide.
Members of the Ukrainian Canadian clergy, Senators, Members of Parliament and representatives from over twenty nations were present to show their support alongside a strong contingent of members from the Ukrainian community who travelled from across Canada and Ukraine to share in the sombre celebration.
Ukrainian Canadian Congress President Mr. Paul Grod was among the speakers along with all parties as Bloc Quebecois MP Bernard Bigras, Liberal MP Bonnie Crombie, NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis, and Conservative MP Mark Warawa each spoke passionately about different aspects of the atrocities that occurred during the Famine/Genocide. This demonstration of non-partisanship is very admirable, and much appreciated.
The themes of education and awareness were prominent during the evening ceremony as MP James Bezan, alongside representatives from the Canadian Friends of Ukraine, Canad Inns, and The League of Ukrainian Canadians, presented educational Holodomor materials; a Limited Edition Commemorative Stamp Collection, a commemorative historical film and a comprehensive collection of educational tools known as an “Exhibit in a Box,” respectively, to Ms. Lynn Brodie, Director General, Information and Document Services of the Library of Parliament so that future generations will never forget.
The evening’s most poignant moment came when Mrs. Halyna Zelem, a Holodomor survivor, who was only six years old at the time, shared her story. She spoke about her family’s struggles during the Famine/Genocide. Many in the audience were moved to tears as she recounted her story of how her father did all he could to provide for his family.
“He was taken away and we never heard from him again. We never learned what happened to him. He was labelled an enemy of the state. The only thing he was guilty of was providing for his family.”
MP Mark Warawa closed the evening with a statement of hope and a clear message to everyone:
“I am pleased the Library of Parliament now holds important Ukrainian educational material that will help Canadians and the world learn about Holodomor. I hope all countries join Canada in recognizing Holodomor as what it truly was—a genocide.
"Vichnaya Pamyat’ — in eternal memory to the Ukrainians who perished in the Holodomor.”