EDMONTON, Alberta – Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan once said that “a genocide begins with the killing of one man – not for what he has done, but because of who he is.” This concept reflects the tragic truth of all genocides and the Holodomor is no exception.
The Edmonton branch of the League of Ukrainian Canadian Women (LUCW) established a Holodomor Essay contest in 2020 to help young adults develop a deeper understanding of the Holodomor – the Ukrainian Famine Genocide of 1932-1933. The Contest encouraged junior and senior high school students in Ukrainian-English bilingual programs in the Edmonton area and the Ivan Franko School of Ukrainian Studies to learn more about the Holodomor, to honor the victims and to understand why it is important to remember this particular historical event in 2020.
As a result, the Edmonton branch of the LUCW recently announced the winners of the 2020 Holodomor Essay Contest. In the junior high school category, all the winners were grade 9 students in the English-Ukrainian Bilingual Program and attend Archbishop Jordan Catholic High School in Sherwood Park, Alberta. Marya Stelmach won first place, Teanna Mackney won second place, Amelia Brown took third place and Thomas Blades won fourth place.
In the high school category, Tetyana Shelevach won first place. Ms. Shelevach is a student in the 10th grade at the Tempo School in Edmonton. She also attends the Ivan Franko School of Ukrainian Studies. Khrystyna Kornylo won second place. Ms. Kornylo is a student in the 11th grade in the English-Ukrainian Bilingual Program at Austin O’Brien Catholic High School in Edmonton.
The first-place winners received $250, while second place winners received $200, third place winners received $150 and fourth place received $100.
The LUCW was delighted to have three respected professionals as judges for the essay contest. Rena Hanchuk is a graduate of the University of Alberta where she earned her bachelor of arts and master of arts degrees in Ukrainian Language and Folklore. She taught Ukrainian in the English-Ukrainian bilingual program, as well as at the university level. Later, she taught social studies and history at the high school level for the Edmonton Catholic School Board. Marco Levytsky, the second judge, is Western Bureau Chief for The New Pathway-Ukrainian News, as well as a long-serving member of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress National Holodomor Committee and an award-winning professional journalist. Boris Radyo taught various subjects at the elementary, junior and senior high levels and also served as principal at several schools in Edmonton. His most recent position was assistant superintendent for educational planning with the Edmonton Catholic School District, a position he held for 11 years before retiring in 2018.
The Edmonton branch of the LUCW was established in 1953. Over the decades, the branch has engaged in political advocacy, cultural and educational programming for youth and families, as well as various charitable works. The Edmonton branch is extremely proud of its work advocating for the recognition of the Holodomor as genocide – in 2008, the Legislative Assembly of Alberta unanimously passed bill 37, “Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act.” Other recent projects supported by the branch include The Pier 21 project at the Canadian Museum of Immigration, as well as the Guardian Angels Ukraine Project, which supports medical treatment for and rehabilitation and social re-integration of soldiers wounded in the war in eastern Ukraine.
The Edmonton Branch of the LUCW congratulated all the participants and winners of the 2020 Holodomor Essay Contest and thanked the contest judges for their enthusiasm and willingness to volunteer their time to assess the essays and provide personalized comments to each entrant. The organization also thanked the Brotherhood of Ukrainian Catholics, Alberta branch, who provided generous financial support for the administrative costs of running the essay contest.
Plans are already underway for the 2021 Holodomor Essay Contest. Given that the Holodomor is a subject in the Alberta curriculum, the Edmonton Branch of the LUCW is considering opening up the contest to all junior and senior high school students in the Edmonton area.
Lidia M. Wasylyn is a member of the League of Ukrainian Canadian Women, Edmonton branch.