Manitoba commemorates 85th anniversary of Holodomor

file photo - Peter J. Manastyrsky/For Postmedia

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The Manitoba government is commemorating the 85th anniversary of the end of the Holodomor November 24, a famine genocide that claimed millions of lives in Ukraine between 1932 and 1933, Sport, Culture and Heritage Minister Cathy Cox announced this week.

“We must continue to honour the memories of the lives so senselessly lost and keep shining a light on this very dark chapter in human history,” Cox said. “It is only by remembering the past that we can ensure atrocities such as this are never repeated.”

Manitoba is among jurisdictions around the world that formally commemorate the Holodomor annually on the fourth Saturday of November, known in Manitoba as Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day.

“I remember my mother grinding up dried corn cobs and husks, and using that to make soup broth for her children to survive,” said Luba Semaniuk, a Holodomor survivor living in Winnipeg, who was a young girl in Ukraine when the famine began. “Even though that was all we had, my mother told me to take some broth over to our neighbours, only to find the mother and her two young sons, dead of starvation. These are things that should not be seen or experienced by anyone, especially a six-year-old girl.

“I will always remember and never forget.”

On Thursday, Cox hosted a commemoration of the Holodomor at the Legislative Building, which included a gathering on the building grounds at the Bitter Memories of Childhood monument. The statue depicts a starving girl holding five stalks of wheat, symbolizing the Soviet law that imposed death or imprisonment for anyone caught picking grain from collective farm fields, which led to mass arrests and executions as hungry Ukrainians searched for food.

“After many years of suppression and even denial, the truth surrounding the Holodomor is finally being publicly recognized,” said Joan Lewandosky, president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Manitoba Provincial Council. “Our organization strives to ensure the enduring memories of the millions of men, women and children who were forcibly and senselessly starved to death in Ukraine in 1932 and 1933. We thank the Manitoba government for its efforts in raising public awareness of the Holodomor.

This year, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress has set up a photography exhibit at the Legislative Building dedicated to the 85th anniversary of the Holodomor. The exhibit, by Norbert K. Iwan, is on display in the Rotunda until November 27 and may be viewed free of charge.

Stalks of wheat, tied with a black ribbon, were placed on the desk of every member of the legislative assembly along with a bookmark with a photo of wheat and a candle which reads: “to remember and honour the innocent souls of Holodomor.”