(Memorial to Holodomor victims in Kyiv, Ukraine/Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The University of Victoria is hosting their first commemoration of the 20th century Ukrainian genocide during Holodomor Awareness Week.

The UVic Ukrainian Students’ Society is hosting a variety of free educational and commemorative events to honour Holodomor Awareness Week between November 25th and 30th.

This week of remembrance follows the timely unanimous passing of Bill M225 or the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act in October. This act declares the fourth Saturday of November as Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day. 

It was introduced by B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver and the Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology, Bruce Ralston. Green’s grandfather was a survivor of the Holodomor who moved to Canada after the Second World War.

Last year, the Victoria branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress hosted a candle-lighting ceremony in Centennial Square to commemorate the anniversary of this tragic historical event.

Members of the public gathered together to call on the BC government to recognize the Holodomor as a genocide of the Ukrainian people – a call that came to fruition this year.

Schedule for Ukrainian Holodomor Commemoration Week events

  • Monday, November 25 – Holodomor Education Tent, UVic Quad, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Tuesday, November 26 – Hunger For Truth Documentary Screening with Introduction by Dr. Serhy Yekelchyk, UVic Elliott Building – Room 167, 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, November 27 – Holodomor Education Tent, UVic Quad, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Thursday, November 28 – Interactive Holodomor Survival “Food” Tasting, UVic Quad, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, November 30 – Holodomor Commemoration Ceremony and Hungry Lunch, Ukrainian Cultural Centre (3277 Douglas Street), 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.

“We are anticipating our Interactive Holodomor Survival Food Tasting event the most because it will be the most immersive, interactive learning experience we are offering this week,” says Devon Goldie, a member of the UVic Ukrainian Students’ Society.

That event will feature samplings of what Ukrainians living through the Holodomor ate in order to survive, including pancakes made out of hay, tea made from roots, and bark chips.

What is the Ukrainian Holodomor?

The Ukrainian Holodomor was a catastrophic famine in the 1930s whose effects were exacerbated by genocidal policies undertaken by Stalin’s regime to punish Ukrainians who resisted attempts at collectivization. This punishment resulted in the death of millions of people.

“Ukrainians have always remembered the Holodomor, even if it could not be commemorated openly until Ukraine’s independence in 1991, because the Soviet Union had denied that the famine ever occurred,” says Dr. Serhy Yekelchyk, UVic professor of Ukrainian history.

“The Ukrainian Canadian community spearheaded the worldwide drive to acknowledge the genocidal nature of this state-engineered famine. In the last decade, lighting candles in the windows and on major squares became a popular commemorative ritual in Ukraine and among the Ukrainian abroad.”

Canada is one of the 17 countries in the world that recognizes the Holodomor as an act of genocide perpetrated by the Soviet Union, and British Columbia is the last province to follow suit.