Ukrainians unite for Somali famine relief. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress donated $100,000 to Somali relief on Thursday. Making the presentation (from the left) are Jim Temerty, Chairman of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress National Advisory Council, Stephan Horlatsch a survivor of the Holomodor, Hassan Adan, Relief co-ordinator ARAN Somali Canadian Relief, and Paul Grod UCC National President. Staff photo/IAN KELSO
Memories of the 10-million lives lost in their country’s own genocidal famine in 1933 has moved Ukrainian Canadians to launch a campaign with more than $100,000 to potentially save more than one million Somalis from a similar fate.
The famine crisis gripping Somalia resonates with Ukrainians who remember the world standing silent while the Stalin-led Holodomor killed 25,000 Ukrainians a day in 1933.
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress pledged the funds and kick-started its African famine relief campaign Friday morning at the International Muslims Organization of Toronto on Rexdale Boulevard.
“When a famine-starved child expires its last breath, there is no sound. There is silence,” former Etobicoke Centre MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj, who is leading the Ukrainian Canadian Congress’s (UCC) Somali relief project, said Friday, Aug. 19 at the north Etobicoke mosque.
“Today, as it has been for too many days, approximately 500 children in Somalia will lay their skin-and-bone bodies onto the arid soils of Somalia and become one with the Somali earth. In thousands of Somali villages where there should be the resonance, the beautiful, happy sounds of children playing, laughing, instead there is the sound of silence.”
Stefan Horlatsch survived the Holodomor as a 12-year-old boy.
Horlatsch’s family had their land in the Zaporizhia region of eastern Ukraine, livestock and grain forcibly seized by Soviet authorities during the famine-genocide. Eleven members of his family perished.
The retired teacher from High Park pleaded for the world to offer its compassion in the form of immediate relief aid to Somalia.
“Ten-million Ukrainians perished. Ten million,” Horlatsch said. “That is the population of Canada at the time. As a survivor, I say to the world: ‘Be kind. Save Somalia.'”
Jim Temerty, chairman of the UCC national advisor council, is the “catalyst” and major donor behind the UCC’s joint fundraising campaign with the Canadian Somali community in support of African famine relief.
“Jim called me and said, ‘We need to do something about this. Stalin tried to execute Ukrainian people by famine,'” said UCC national president Paul Grod.
The Congress campaign is eligible for the federal government’s fund matching for all donations made until Sept. 16. Donations marked ‘African Famine Relief’ may be made at www.ucc.ca or mailed to the UCC head office in Winnipeg, Man. at 952 Main St., Suite 203, Winnipeg, Man., R2W 3P4.
“Not only are we trying to raise funds, we’re also trying to raise awareness,” Grod said of the humanitarian crisis that is causing 3.7-million Somalis to go hungry. “As Canadians, we cannot sit silent as this famine rages in Somalia. Our community knows firsthand the devastating effects of starvation by famine having lost millions of Ukrainians to the Holodomor where Stalin tried to eradicate the Ukrainian people.”
Project Aran for Horn of Africa Relief is a Toronto-based Somali youth-led project facilitating the distribution of aid in Somali for international relief organizations.
“International aid organizations say Somalia is so complex,” said Project Aran relief co-ordinator Hassan Adan. “We can facilitate for them. We have the language, the culture, the religion. Use us to make a difference.
“If the international community and aid organizations have a vision and a mission, there are no obstacles. If there is a will, there is a way.”
Dr. Mohamed Gilao, a leader in the Etobicoke Somali community who heads the International Society for the Horn of Africa Relief and Development Operations (ISHARDO), recognized Wrzesnewskyj as the only Canadian MP to visit Somalia since the country descended into civil war in 1991.
ISHARDO is partnering with Woodbridge-based Himilo International Civic Development agency to deliver aid including food to hundreds of Somali families living in IDP (internally displaced persons) camps in and around the Somali capital of Mogadishu.
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Gilao fundraised in Canada to reconstruct the Daynile General Hospital in Mogadishu in 2004.
“From 2006 to now is absolute war in Somalia,” Gilao said, crediting Medicins Sans Frontiers France with the continued operation of the hospital in Somalia’s capital rocked for years by gunfire and bombs. Al Shabab, Islamic extremists linked to Al Qaeda, has held Mogadishu hostage for years and has also hindered famine relief efforts.
Gilao credits Medicins Sans Frontiers France with keeping the Daynile hospital operating in the midst of Al Shabab’s grip on the area.