MONTREAL – Montreal was the final stop for Olesia Stasiuk, the director of the National Holodomor Museum of Kyiv, who traveled across Canada with a presentation about the museum. Her two-day visit to Montreal was organized by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC), Montreal branch.
Ms. Stasiuk arrived from Ottawa, following her presentation there, together with Irka Balan of Winnipeg, Manitoba, who is vice-chair of the UCC National Holodomor Awareness Committee, and with her husband, Stepan Stasiuk.
On May 3, Ms. Stasiuk had two meetings in Montreal before her departure to Kyiv, both held at the Ukrainian Youth Center.
The first was a roundtable discussion with members of the Montreal community who have been working on aspects of the Famine-Genocide for over 40 years in Montreal. The 16 participants touched upon their efforts and projects undertaken to help further Holodomor understanding and awareness. This gave Ms. Stasiuk an opportunity to learn first-hand about the work in the diaspora. Speaking at this meeting, Ms. Balan, who helped coordinate her visit, gave a summary of Ms. Stasiuk’s many discussions and presentations across Canada.
The museum director’s visit to Canada in April coincided with the month designated for international genocide awareness and action against genocide. Ms. Balan stressed how beneficial this visit was for both Ms. Stasiuk and many Ukrainian communities. Closer cooperation and coordination between Canada and Ukraine has been strengthened in the area of Holodomor work in the future.
The roundtable meeting was followed by a second meeting in the evening with the general public. Zorianna Hrycenko-Luhova, head of UCC Montreal’s Holodomor organizing committee, gave opening remarks. The evening was chaired by Prof. Roman Serbyn, who began with brief remarks emphasizing how crucial it is to place the Holodomor in a broader context – that of the multi-pronged government policy of genocide conducted against the Ukrainian nation over the decades, using Raphael Lemkin’s definition. Lemkin is the father of the United Nations Genocide Convention.
Ms. Stasiuk’s informative and compelling PowerPoint presentation was preceded by a 13-minute film on the Holodomor made together with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg and the National Holodomor Museum in Kyiv. The film set the tone for her talk.
Ms. Stasiuk outlined current expansion plans for Kyiv’s Holodomor museum and continued research being done on the 1932-1933 Famine-Genocide. She mentioned that, with the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine, valuable archives that were uncovered about the Holodomor prior to the war in Luhansk and other areas were targeted and destroyed.
Regarding statistics, Ms. Stasiuk noted that researchers in Ukraine continue to uncover new documents, leading them to discard the lower figure of 4 million that perished in the Holodomor that is being cited by some researchers.
Regarding recent polling conducted about increased Holodomor awareness throughout Ukraine, she pointed out that, ironically, eastern Ukraine – where the Holodomor took place – has the lowest percentage of the population, compared to all areas in Ukraine, that believe the Famine was an act of genocide.
A question and answer period followed. Thank-you gifts were presented on behalf of UCC Montreal by Olena Kulishova and Hryhorij Kowryha, whose family members were victims in the Holodomor.
The following day, Ms. Stasiuk was shown extensive files organized by Volodymyr Hayduk regarding major activities and projects undertaken in Montreal on the Holodomor. This included information on the First International Symposium on the 1933 Famine held in Montreal in 1983, with the tapes of its speakers currently being saved and restored; the successful re-publishing in Montreal of an early book on the Holodomor by Dr. Ewald Ammende; the numerous feature and educational documentary films produced by Yurij Luhovy on the Famine-Genocide; interviews filmed in early 1980s with Montreal survivors; and information on UCC Montreal’s successful work in securing the Quebec government’s unanimous recognition of the Holodomor as genocide.
The UCC Montreal organizing committee included Mr. Hayduk, Mr. Luhovy, Prof. Serbyn, Maria Surzycia, Marika Putko, Ms. Kulishova, Mr. Kowryha, Wolodymyr Zelenko, Valia Hayduk and then-President of UCC-Montreal Halia Holowka.
The two-day visit was sponsored by Caisse Populaire Desjardins Ukrainienne and the Ukrainian National Federation, Montreal branch, and supported by the Ukrainian Time and Trembita radio programs. Numerous projects are under way this year in Montreal and worldwide to mark the 85th anniversary of the Holodomor.
The newly elected president for 2018-2019, who was chosen at the UCC Montreal annual general meeting held on June 2, is the Very Rev. Dr. Ihor Kutash. To contact the Montreal branch of the UCC, readers may call 514-945-7162.