Copyright © 2004-2013

Commemoration - 2001


Famine-Genocide: Through the Eyes of a Child

By Lesia Korobaylo

Through the Eyes of a Child
Children's art exhibit display sign (by art educator Halia Dmytryshyn)

TORONTO - In order to promote public awareness about the unprecedented and tragic Famine-

Genocide in Soviet occupied Ukraine 1933, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Toronto Branch organized and sponsored a commemorative week from November 17 to 25, 2001, focusing on educational programs for students. 

Over 370 elementary and high school students actively participated in these educational programs, which took place in the Ukrainian Canadian Art Foundation (UCAF). 

Displayed throughout the Foundation's Gallery was a children's art exhibit entitled Famine-Genocide Through the Eyes of a Child. This exhibit was composed of 210 paintings produced last year by Toronto area students, during art workshops created and conducted by art educator Halia Dmytryshyn. The broad spectrum of these dramatic and colourful paintings depicted life in Ukraine from the prosperous years before the Famine-Genocide to the paintings representing the brutal Soviet campaign of all food confiscations, destruction of property, terror and murder. 

Famine-Genocide survivor and teacher Nicholas Latyshko retold his desperate survival story to spellbound students. Mr. Latyshko emphasized that the Famine was not the result of climatic conditions or poor harvest, but was deliberately perpetrated on the Ukrainian people by the Soviet regime. 

Famine survivor Kateryna Scherban recounting the terror of the famine to her "granddaughter" at the Memorial Service
Photo: Ivan Terefenko

Education consultant Valentina Kuryliw and educator Marika Szkambara provided historical lessons; art teacher Halia Dmytryshyn covered the elements of art related to the children's art exhibit. Information kits included a Famine-Genocide booklet featuring an extensive bibliography, current articles, quotes, facts, as well as questionnaires for students. 

Of paramount importance were the presentations by students Oleksa Rewa and Mykhaylo Reay. Oleksa is a University of Toronto student double majoring in Life Sciences and Biology with a minor in Ukrainian Studies. Two years ago while simultaneously completing his International Baccalaureate and his OAC (grade 13) at the Toronto French School he wrote a major essay, entitled "The Ukrainian Famine of 1932-1933" for which he earned an A+. Mykhaylo who is currently an OAC student at St. Michael's College wrote a major independent study essay this year about the Famine-Genocide for his Modern Western Civilization course and for which he also received an A+. His premise was to prove that this was not just a famine but that in fact it was genocide. Both students are very active members in various Ukrainian youth organizations. 

In their presentations to the students, Oleksa and Mykhaylo outlined their research methods, referred to the wealth of information available on the internet, recommended obtaining key information from the Ukrainian Canadian Research and Documentation Centre, read excerpts from their essays and encouraged the students to also write about this genocidal famine.

It is worth noting that in this fourth year of educational programs presented by the Toronto Ukrainian Canadian Congress, an increasing number of students are not only learning but additionally are writing about the Famine-Genocide for their school assignments. Hopefully this will provide additional impetus for the educators who are continually striving to incorporate this genocide into the school curriculum.


A Vision TV production team documented an entire educational program, which resulted in a ten-minute segment that effectively and movingly reflected the Famine-Genocide story. This segment was recently televised four times on Vision TV channels across Canada. 


A memorial program on Sunday November 18 at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre began with a dramatic presentation by Famine survivor Kateryna Scherban, followed by an Ecumenical Service concelebrated by members of the Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox clergy, which was accompanied by the Opera Ensemble - M. Lysenko. Representing the youth of the community, Meelena and Yvan Oleksiuk-Baker presented heart-wrenching quotes about the Famine; Oresta Babiuk recited Famine 1933; the Polyphonia Children's Choir and the Golden Strings Bandura Ensemble performed solemn musical pieces. Toronto City Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby presented statements to the audience. 

Guest speaker Professor Roman Serbyn from the University of Quebec at Montreal who was introduced by Professor Edward Burstynsky, spoke on the "Famine 1932-33: Problems of Historical Memory". Professor Serbyn indicated that the 1933 Famine was part of a wider campaign against the Ukrainian nation, destroying the national elites, repopulating the emptied Ukrainian villages with Russian colonists. Thus the demographic composition of the Ukrainian countryside was changed by this artificially engineered Famine-Genocide. 


Professor Roman Serbyn prior to his keynote speech at the Memorial Service
Photo: Ivan Terefenko

Harvard University professor Dr. Terry Martin, who was introduced by Professor Olga Andriewsky from Trent University, delivered a significant lecture entitled "Stalin and the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-33: New Findings" to a capacity audience at the University of Toronto. Based on recently declassified documents, Professor Martin's lecture outlined various political and economic parameters that resulted in this tragedy. The Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, the Centre for Russian and East European Studies as well as the Toronto Ukrainian Canadian Congress cosponsored this Annual Ukrainian Famine Lecture.


A round table panel discussion entitled "Ukraine's Famines Why and How to Foster their Memory?" took place on Wednesday November 21 at UCAF. This discussion provided new perspectives on the historical value of remembering and commemorating the Holodomor. It was moderated by Professor Ivan Wynnyckyj; participants included: Professor Wasyl Janischewskyj, President of Ukrainian Canadian Research and Documentation Centre; Valentina Kuryliw Education consultant and author of a teacher's guide about the Famine; Vasyl Kolomatski member of UWC Commission on Human and Civil Rights; Ivan Franko, Architect and Marko Shumelda, University of Toronto student.


On Thursday November 22, leading off the afternoon session of the Ontario Provincial Parliament at Queen's Park, Gerard Kennedy member of the provincial parliament, read a commemorative proclamation which is now part of official record of the Provincial Legislature in Hansard. Mr. Kennedy highlighted that all of us need to remember this unprecedented loss of 7 to 10 million Ukrainians who were starved to death by the occupying Soviet regime. 

The Famine-Genocide Commemorative Committee members of the Toronto Ukrainian Canadian Congress include: Halia Dmytryshyn, Lesya Jones, Lesia Korobaylo, Marika Szkambara and chair Eugene Yakovitch.


Famine survivor Nicholas Latyshko talks to students about the genocidal famine. 
Photo: L. Korobaylo
Mykhaylo Reay speaks about his Famine-Genocide essay.
Photo: L. Korobaylo

Oleksa Rewa speaks about his Famine-Genocide essay.
Photo: L. Korobaylo


L to R: Marika Szkambara, Pres. UCC, Toronto; Prof. Terry Martin, Harvard University; Prof. Olga Andriewsky, Trent University; Eugene Yakovitch, Chair of F-G Commemorative Committee. 
Photo: L. Korobaylo
Students examining children's art exhibit.
Photo: H. Dmytryshyn


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The Ukrainian Weekly, Dec. 23 , 2001
Reprinted with permission.
For extensive coverage and excellent editorials about the Famine-Genocide, please click on The Ukrainian Weekly

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