Montreal community recalls Famine-Genocide of 65 years ago

by Fran Ponomarenko
The Ukrainian Weekly, June 14, 1998,
No. 24, Vol. LXVI

MONTREAL - This city's Ukrainian community recently set in motion a series of events commemorating the 65th anniversary of the Famine-Genocide of 1933 in Ukraine.

On Saturday, May 9, at 1 p.m. more than 500 people gathered at the Roddick Gates of McGill University for the Memorial March organized by the Montreal section of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. Under grey skies and intermittent drizzle, the march left the university gates. It went along Sherbrooke Street, one of Montreal's main boulevards, then turned down Peel Street through the commercial center of the city and finally came to the cenotaph of the Unknown Soldier at Place du Canada.

At the head of the march was a wide banner with the words "Famine-Genocide Ukraine 1933." In the procession one could see a white wooden willow cross with a small black wreath and two black ribbons. Three flag bearers carried the flags of Ukraine, Canada and Quebec. Marchers carried several dozen placards with messages in French, English and Ukrainian, and some marchers carried placards with enlargements of famine photos. These posters and placards were designed by Orest and Darka Hummeny.

Children from schools of Ukrainian studies and youth organizations carried flowers. In attendance at the march were famine survivors, their children and grandchildren, five priests from the Ukrainian Orthodox and Catholic Churches, Ukrainian veterans of various military formations, representatives of Ukrainian organizations and members of the Ukrainian community at large. There were also a number of non-Ukrainians who learned about the march from friends or from the media.

At the cenotaph, a wreath-laying ceremony was conducted by Hryhoriy Kostiuk. One wreath was laid by Ukraine's ambassador to Canada and the other by the president of the local Ukrainian Canadian Congress. A panakhyda (memorial service), officiated by the five priests and accompanied by singers from various Ukrainian church choirs, followed. An address in three languages by the president of UCC, Evhen Cholij, and another one in Ukrainian by Ambassador Furkalo followed.

A eulogy in honor of the famine victims was read by two recent immigrants from Ukraine, Lesia Bobyk and Taras Koval. Montreal famine survivors and their children who were in attendance were called out by name. The ceremony ended with the singing of the Ukrainian anthem and the laying of flowers by the children and the rest of the community.

On May 1 an exhibit of photographs and books about the three famines in Soviet Ukraine (1921-1933, 1932-1933, 1946-1947) opened in the Patriarch Josyf Slipyj Ukrainian Museum. Among the dignitaries representing the Ukrainian Embassy at the opening were Taras Malashevsky, Ihor Zahlada and his wife, Alina, as well as Natalka Skorobohata, secretary to Ambassador Volodymyr Furkalo. Representatives of Ukrainian community organizations and churches also were present.

During the evening Tania Nosko-Oboroniw and Valentyna Vasyliva, a recent immigrant from Ukraine, gave descriptions of what their families endured during the Famine-Genocide. The exhibit was open for the entire month of May.

Media coverage was extensive on the eve of the opening of the photo and book exhibit. It began on April 30 in La Presse, Montreal's largest French daily and intensified on the Thursday and Friday preceding the march, with interviews on both English and French radio and TV stations. There was also an article in Info-Bulletin, a biweekly published by recent Russian-speaking immigrants.

TV crews from Radio Canada and CTV and Global stayed for most of the Memorial March, interviewed survivors and commentators, and aired reports on the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. news programs. On Sunday, May 10, two articles with photos appeared in the Montreal Gazette and La Presse.

Although Global news confused the reasons for the Famine-Genocide, most of the other media noted that the famine was man-made and the result of the deliberate policy of the Communist regime, and that it occurred after Soviet Ukraine had been dekulakized and collectivized.

The news media were most interested in interviewing survivors and there were at least four present: Michael Hayduk, Ms. Nosko-Oboroniw, Olha Humeniuk and Mr. Zahoruyko. Although there are still a few other famine survivors in Montreal, they were not able to attend as they are elderly and frail.

The success of these events was due entirely to the indefatigable efforts of the organizing committee members who contacted all the mainstream Montreal media, including suburban newspapers, organized buses for the children and the elderly, wrote brochures and fliers, and did a host of other jobs that were required in order for the march to work smoothly.

Members of the organizing committee were: Roman Serbyn (chairman), Zorianna Hrycenko-Luhova (media coodinator), Donald Ivanski, Maria Putko, Mr. Kostiuk, Orest Pawliw, Khrystia Sukhotska, laroslav Lytvinski, Bill Pawlowsky, Yarema Kelebay and others.

Every Saturday for several weeks prior to the commemorative march, the Ukrainian Radio Station in Montreal played segments about the famine, such as excerpts from memoirs, and literary and historical documents. Special classes were conducted in Ukrainian schools to teach children about the genocide.

Other ongoing remembrance activities included a lecture delivered by Prof. Serbyn at McGill University. This lecture was presented on March 25 and was part of the second annual conference on 20th century genocides organized by Armenian students at McGill University. The film "Harvest of Despair," made by Yurij Luhovy and Slavko Nowytski, was shown at that time.

Other events planned for Montreal this year include two illustrated lectures on the three Ukrainian famines. These will be presented at the museum; one talk will be in French and the other in English. A book exhibit on the 1933 famine is slated for September at the Université du Québec à Montréal.

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, June 14, 1998, No. 24, Vol. LXVI