Intense hunger had driven the Neufeld family in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine to the brink. Every grinding day brought an overwhelming need to find something to fill their stomachs. Jacob Neufeld was born during those awful times of the Holodomor in 1933. That year, and the year before, a Soviet-created famine likely killed between seven million and 10 million people in the Ukraine. People on Soviet-controlled collective farms starved and died as food was confiscated and exported from the region. Countless others were executed or exiled to the Gulags for food possession, private land owning or farming crimes and trumped-up political charges. It is an atrocity, recounted by Neufeld’s late parents Jacob and Helen, that the St. Catharines resident will never forget. “It all led to an unbelievable path of misery and suffering,” said Neufeld, whose Mennonite German family were longtime inhabitants of that part of Ukraine. “Men, women, children all died by the millions.”
Public committee urges teachers to hold Holodomor memory lessons
in face of official sabotage
The public committee to promote the memory about the 1932-33 man-made famine in Ukraine, Holodomor, has appealed to Ukrainian school teachers to continue the tradition of holding Holodomor memory lessons on Nov. 22-26 ahead of the national Holodomor victims remembrance day on Nov. 27, our correspondent reported Nov. 19.
EDMONTON – Emotions ran high at city hall Saturday as several hundred Edmontonians gathered to commemorate the Ukrainian genocide of 1932-33 and urge others to keep the memory of the event alive and accurate.
Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky choked back tears as he read the text of the act he worked so hard to see passed in the Alberta legislature in 2008.
He paused several times to compose himself, saying, “ten years it took me,” referring to the amount of time he spent researching, composing and then advocating to see Bill 37 passed, which proclaims every fourth Saturday in November “Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day.”
The Ukrainian word “Holodomor” means “extermination by means of starvation,” Zwozdesky told the crowd, his voice cracking with emotion. The famine that killed millions of Ukrainians in those years was orchestrated by Soviet leader Josef Stalin as a means to subdue the independence-minded Ukrainian people. But the Soviet regime insisted the deaths were caused by a naturally occurring famine, and for years, survivors and their descendants have fought for recognition of, and education about, the true nature of that genocide.
I witnessed an odd event recently. A statesman stood hallowing a genocide’s victims in the country where it occurred while its president ignored the ceremony, insisting there was no genocide.
Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, showed respect for Ukraine’s dead. Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s president, did not. Reportedly, he has never entered the Kyiv museum to the Holodomor, the Great Famine of 1932-1933 in Soviet Ukraine.
Yet Yanukovych’s behaviour was all but ignored while Harper’s words became the story. When he said “almost” 10 million people starved, roughly Canada’s population in 1933, his critics accused him of poppycock. Scything several million off the death toll, they insisted only a few million perished — a lesser booboo.
Scholarly estimates of Holodomor-related deaths do vary. A credible study by Jacques Vallin, one of France’s leading demographers, concluded that 2.6 million died of hunger. To this he added a crisis birth deficit of 1.1 million and about a million more transported to the Gulag — 4.6-million lives lost to Soviet Ukraine over a year. Even this conservative figure places the Holodomor alongside the Shoah as one of history’s greatest crimes against humanity.