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Ukrainians in Sask. gather to commemorate 90 years since the Holodomor

The Saskatchewan Legislative Building was host to a special service Tuesday – focused on remembering the millions of Ukrainians that died during the Holodomor.

Translating to “death by hunger” in English – the Holodomor was a man-made famine engineered by the Soviet government from 1932 to 1933.

The crisis was driven by the collectivization of farming in the Soviet Union in 1929 by Joseph Stalin.

“Also it was meant as a response to the quest for cultural autonomy by Ukraine's intellectuals who were opposed to Russification and Sovietisation,” said Nadya Foty-Oneschuk, the director of the prairie centre for the study of Ukrainian heritage.

The process forced peasants to relinquish their land and personal property – leading to many rebellions and armed uprisings.

“So they instituted a set of policies,” Foty-Oneschuk added. “It began first with absurd grain quotas, and that eventually came the complete seizure of grain, both from collective reserves and from personal reserves from people's homes. They sealed Ukraine's borders, and then intentionally starved the population with the express goal of exterminating them.”

According to the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies – 40 per cent of the harvest in Ukraine was handed over to the government in 1932 – leaving little for farming families to survive.

It’s estimated that anywhere from four to seven million Ukrainians perished during the famine.

The true number may never be known.

“The Soviets were very good at destroying the evidence and paper trails and then even going so far as manipulating the data of the next census in 1937,” Foty-Oneschuk explained.

A commemoration at the provincial legislature was held in solidarity with Holodomor Memorial Week in Saskatchewan.

A memorial candle was lit and will remain lit throughout the week – representing unity around the world marking the Holodomor genocide.

The tragedy is permanently commemorated by a reproduction of the statue “Bitter Memories of Childhood,” by Preto Drozdowsky.

The sculpture depicts a young, starving peasant girl clutching a wheat sheaf. It stands southeast of the legislature near Wascana Lake on Lakeshore Drive.

The original stands in the National Museum of the Holodomor Genocide in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Regina's Holodomor memorial is a reproduction of the statue “Bitter Memories of Childhood,” by Preto Drozdowsky. The original is located in Kyiv. (Katy Syrota/CTV News)

According to the province, Saskatchewan was the first jurisdiction in North America to recognize the genocide with the passing of The Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act in 2008.

International Holodomor Day is recognized on the fourth Saturday of November.

Elena Krueger – the president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress of Saskatchewan – attended the event at the legislature on Tuesday.

She compared Ukraine’s current predicament to the tragedies it endured 90 years ago.

“We need to continue to support Ukraine. Many of the atrocities that took place in 1932 and 1933, we are seeing echoes again how as the Russian aggressors attack Ukraine and its people,” she said.

“We see the people continue to suffer and we see their culture, heritage, language and their very identity and existence under threat again.”

With files from CTV Morning Live. Top Stories

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