REGINA — Holomodor, death by starvation, was inflicted on the Ukrainian people about the same time as the Great Depression and the Dirty ’30s hit the rest of the world, but few people knew about it. That level of ignorance of a genocidal action that killed an estimated 10,000,000 people in Ukraine was still evident as late as the 1970s.
The Holomodor Bus tour aims to educate not only students but the general population as well. “It was hidden and denied,” said Roma Dzerowicz, executive director of the tour. “Not much was known about it outside the Soviet Union, and not much information was available about it.”
The Great Soviet Famine, as it was sometimes known, was perpetrated by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. He ordered all grains and foodstuffs to be taken out of Ukraine and no food to be available. Borders were closed and anyone trying to get out or found with food were summarily shot.
A few reporters did gain entrance and saw what was happening, but as freelancers, their stories were not believed. The real story of what happened became known after the collapse of the Soviet Union and archives were opened, said Dzerowicz.
The Holomodor bus stopped for a day in front of the Saskatchewan Legislative Building where it was visited by students and the general public. It stopped for a day on Sept. 28 at O’Neill Catholic High School. Students took part in an interactive session and were shown a video of people who suffered and died, and some who survived described on the video what their life was like.
Grade 12 student Rachel Evan’s great grandparents came to Canada around 1902 - 03 and she had heard a little about the famine from her family, but not the details she saw in the video.
“It makes me sick because so many people hear about the Holocaust and how horrible that was and then no one new much about the Ukraine which was much worse because people never knew about it and it was over a short period of time.”
Madison Sutter’s grandmother came from Ukraine but the Grade 12 student knew nothing about Holomodor until recently. “I thought about my grandma and my great grandma. My great grandma witnessed it. I thought it was horrible. I was so upset for all the people that it happened to.”
The bus was in town as part of Ukraine week in Saskatchewan and to attend the Ukrainian Congress which happens every three years. This is the first time the congress was held in Saskatchewan. The congress featured cultural performances by several groups over three days.