Press Release from the Holodomor National Awareness Tour
At a School or Community Near You
TORONTO – May 2, 2016 – The Holodomor Mobile Classroom (HMC) is officially on the road, spreading awareness about the man-made Famine of 1932-33 in which millions of Ukrainians were starved to death.
The HMC visited six Ontario high schools and three Ukrainian Saturday schools in March and April, reaching more than 650 students with up to four lessons per day being given in the HMC. Mark Melnyk, the Department Head of History for the York Region District School Board, called it “one of the coolest, most immersive learning experiences we have been fortunate to share with our students,” adding that “its use of state-of-the-art technology is captivating for a generation of students that are often hard to impress.”
The HMC has visited Weston Collegiate in Toronto, Markville Secondary in Markham, North Park Secondary in Brampton, North Albion Collegiate in Toronto, Bishop Alexander Carter Catholic Secondary School in Sudbury, and O’Gorman High School in Timmins. Ukrainian Saturday school students at Yuri Lypa, H. Skovoroda, and Tsiopa Palijiw have also benefited from visits of the HMC. In addition, Ontario Ministry of Education staff in Toronto have had an opportunity to experience the HMC.
The bus makes for a striking sight as it rolls down the highway and pulls up at high schools. The words “Holodomor – The Ukrainian Genocide” are emblazoned across its forty-foot length on a background of blue sky and wheat fields.
The HMC is the centerpiece of the Holodomor National Awareness Tour, a project of the Canada-Ukraine Foundation, developed in partnership with the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium (HREC), the Ukrainian Canadian Research and Documentation Centre and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. The project is funded through a $1.5 million grant from the Canadian federal government, $750,000 from the Ontario provincial government, as well as a contribution from the government of Manitoba and private donations.
An hour-long interactive lesson for the HMC was developed by Valentina Kuryliw, Director of Education for HREC, who has more than 30 years of experience teaching history. Students learn to investigate sources and analyze artifacts such as documents, photos, newspaper articles, letters, and survivor accounts through material loaded on individual iPads and displayed on a 28-foot video wall. The HMC experience underscores the consequences of hate, oppression and discrimination and the importance of tolerance, human rights and the rule of law.
The HMC can accommodate up to 33 visitors at a time. It is also visiting community and public gatherings such as festivals and fairs. About 420 members of the general public have boarded the HMC at events such as the unveiling of the Holodomor Monument in Washington, DC, the Toronto and Ottawa ribbon-cutting of the Holodomor National Awareness Tour project at Queen’s Park and Parliament Hill, and at the Holodomor Commemoration Ceremony at St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Mississauga. The HMC will take part in the Ukrainian pavilion (St. Mary’s Ukrainian Church, 3625 Cawthra Road, Mississauga) during the Carassauga Festival in Mississauga, Ontario, at the end of May and will visit Ottawa and Oshawa before a swing to Dauphin, Manitoba and Western Canadian provinces this summer.
FACTS ABOUT THE HOLODOMOR
What is the Holodomor?
Holodomor is a Ukrainian word that translates as “murder by starvation.” It refers to the genocide that Soviet authorities, led by Joseph Stalin, carried out against Ukrainians in the early 1930s. In what was known as the breadbasket of Europe, millions of Ukrainians were subjected to agonizing deaths by starvation. The fourth Saturday in November is the international day of remembrance for the Ukrainians who perished. It is also National Holodomor Memorial Day as legislated by the Government of Canada.
Why did the Soviet authorities starve Ukrainians?
Ukraine was forcefully incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1921 after a brief period of independence. To gain popular support, Soviet officials allowed some cultural autonomy, but by the end of the 1920s, Stalin decreed that “Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism” had gone too far and set in motion the arrest, deportation and execution of Ukrainian cultural, religious and political leaders in order to decapitate the Ukrainian nation.
The Communist authorities of the USSR were determined to eliminate Ukrainian aspirations for independence and the sense of a unique Ukrainian identity that stood in the way of creating “Homus Sovieticus.”
In the early 1930s, Stalin ordered the collectivization of agriculture. When Ukrainian farmers resisted the seizure of their property, they were forced into government collective farms; and when that did not work, Stalin and his cadres carried out the Holodomor to punish the Ukrainian farmers and to eradicate opposition to collectivization and Soviet rule.
How was the Holodomor carried out?
Stalin and his cohorts set exorbitant grain quotas that it claimed Ukrainian farmers, the majority of Ukrainians at the time, owed the state. Soviet authorities confiscated the grain from the countryside, even seed grain for planting. Communist activists and troops were sent to
search house to house, seizing not only grain but basics such as potatoes, leaving the people to starve. The Soviet Union sold millions of tons of wheat in Western markets at the height of the Holodomor.
The Soviet authorities sealed the borders of Ukraine (then a republic of the USSR), so the starving could not leave, and villagers were forbidden from entering cities in search of food.
What was the impact of the Holodomor?
Ukrainians were dying at the rate of 28,000 per day in June 1933. One in six Ukrainians perished in the Ukrainian countryside. Demographers estimate that over four million Ukrainians died of hunger in the Ukrainian SSR and still more in territory inhabited by Ukrainians outside of the republic. When the 1937 Soviet census revealed a sharp decrease in the Ukrainian population, those who conducted the census were shot and the results were suppressed.
The Soviet Union denied the Holodomor for more than 50 years until its demise, and despite its acknowledgement in the Yeltsin years, the Russian government today engages in disinformation campaigns to deny the truth again.
Holodomor National Awareness Tour Fact Sheet
The Holodomor National Awareness Tour is a project to raise awareness of the Holodomor, the genocidal famine carried out in 1932-33 by the Soviet Union led by Joseph Stalin, which resulted in the deaths of millions of Ukrainians.
The centerpiece is the Holodomor Mobile Classroom (HMC), a 40-foot RV customized to educate and engage students and the public about the Holodomor. In this state-of-the-art learning space, visitors will:
- Learn about the Holodomor through digital media;
- Appreciate how history shapes our world today;
- Become inspired by personal stories of Holodomor survivors;
- Leave empowered to protect Canadian values of freedom and democracy.
Students participate in a 60-minute, facilitator-led educational experience featuring audio-visual presentations on a 28-foot video wall and complementary learning activities on tablets. Lessons underscore the importance of multiculturalism, human rights, and the rule of law, as well as the concept of genocide.
The HMC will travel to small towns and large cities, visiting schools and community centres, and participate in special events across the country.
Features of the Holodomor Mobile Classroom
- The HMC accommodates up to 34 visitors at a time.
- The HMC features interactive lessons that build students’ critical thinking skills and encourage social responsibility.
- The Province of Ontario has committed $750,000 to bring the Holodomor learning experience to publicly funded schools throughout the province.
- The Government of Canada has pledged a three-year grant valued at $1.5 million to ensure access for students and all Canadians across the country.
- The HMC is modeled on The Governor General of Canada’s traveling exhibit “It’s an Honour” focused on our national honours and the Canadians who receive them.
- The HMC debuted in the Toronto Ukrainian Festival parade in September and traveled to the Holodomor Memorial dedication in Washington, D.C. in November.
The Holodomor National Awareness Tour is a project of the Canada-Ukraine Foundation (project lead), the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, the Ukrainian Canadian Research and Documentation Centre, and the Holodomor Research and Educational Consortium of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Alberta.