Torontonians Sponsor Commemorations of Great Famine of 1932-33 


by Lesya Jones

TORONTO - The Toronto Branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress in November 2000 sponsored commemorations of the victims of the 1933 genocidal famine in Soviet Ukraine. This year's theme was "The Famine-Genocide of 1933 as Seen Through the Eyes of Children ." 

The commemorative service was held at the St. Volodymyr Orthodox Cathedral. After the service there was a solemn program conducted by journalist Valentina Rodak and the president of St. Volodymyr Brotherhood, Petro Jurczak. 

Cathedral member Leonid Lishchyna was the main speaker. In his erudite and moving speech Mr. Lishchyna reviewed other genocides of the 20th century. Particularly touching was the testimony of survivor Kateryna Shcherban. Mrs. Shcherban recalled how her teacher tried to revive her pupils, exhausted from starvation and cold, by telling them that there existed a school warm and cheerful, where happy children sang, played and had wonderful and plentiful lunches every day. 

"Where, where is this school? We'll go there right away," cried the children. 

"In Moscow," replied the teacher. If any other children survived, surely they remember the lesson of that day for the rest of their lives, Mrs. Shcherban noted. 

The president of the UCC Toronto Branch, Marika Szkambara, greeted the solemn gathering and announced that at the founding congress of the Association of Ukrainian Journalists of Canada and the United States, held in Toronto on November 18, 2000, a resolution was passed to make every effort to get journalist Walter Duranty's Pulitzer Prize rescinded posthumously. As The Moscow correspondent of The New York Times, Mr. Duranty wrote the following: "And here are the facts ... there is no actual starvation or death from starvation, but there is widespread mortality from disease due to malnutrition ... these conditions are bad, but there is no famine." (The New York Times, March 31, 1933, page 13). Meanwhile, unofficially he conceded that it was quite possible that as many as 10 million people had died. 

On November 19-24, a Famine-Genocide Art Exhibit was displayed in the Toronto City Hall Rotunda. The drawings were produced by students attending various Toronto area schools. For an entire month, a dedicated teacher, Halia Dmytryshyn visited the schools and taught the students about the 1933 genocidal famine. Their moving art work was the result of her lessons. The UCC Toronto Branch's objective is to keep this art collection intact so that it may serve as an inspiration to other teachers and students to emulate in the future.

On November 22 at 7 p.m. the Toronto City Hall Rotunda was the site of the launch of a children's book titled "Enough" authored by Marsha Forchuk-Skrypuch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko. The author is well-known for her book about the Armenian genocide, which earned wide dissemination and appreciation for Mrs. Forchuk-Skrypuch from the Armenian community. 

Upon arrival, survivors handed participants husks of wheat tied with a black ribbon. Bishop Cornelius opened the ceremony with a prayer. Survivors Benjamin Chmilenko, Paul Makohon and Valentyna Podasz, who in past years took an active part in the annual commemorations, were honored. The program was conducted by Michael Luchka. 

Mrs. Forchuk-Skrypuch read selections from her book and welcomed questions and comments. On display that evening were the original illustrations of the book. Mr. Martchenko showed slides of his illustrations and explained the process of their development. It was heartening to watch the keen interest expressed by the students. Even the youngest asked questions. 

At the end of the program students were presented by the author and the illustrator with autographed copies of "Enough ." 

Among the guests were the consul of Ukraine, Anatoli Olijnyk, and a newly re-elected member of the City Council, Gloria Lindsay Luby. It was evident from her speech that Ms. Luby was deeply moved by the event. 

And finally, on November 30, there was an academic lecture, "Revisiting the Ukrainian Famine 1932-1933," by Ian Hunter, professor of law. The lecture was held at the University of Toronto, Munk Center. Prof. Hunter is perhaps best known for his biography of the intrepid journalist Malcolm Muggeridge who risked his life and career by writing the truth about the Famine-Genocide, as well as for serving as general counsel to the International Commission of Jurists' Inquiry into the 1932-1933 Famine in Ukraine. 

[A complete report on Prof. Hunter's presentation appeared in The Ukrainian Weekly on January 7, 2001.] 

The Ukrainian Weekly, January 21, 2001 p. 5+

Reprinted with permission.
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