June 30, 2017

Making the Holodomor known


“Holodomor 1932-1933. Famine-Genocide in Ukraine. In memory of the millions of innocent victims of a man-made famine in Ukraine engineered and implemented by Stalin’s totalitarian regime.” That’s the text on the Holodomor Memorial in Washington. That this evocative memorial was erected in 2015 warks a huge accomplishment and a significant step toward raising public awareness. The hope is, of course, that seeing the memorial will move visitors to read up on the Holodomor.

To that end, there are a number of noteworthy initiatives in North America that strive to make the Ukrainian genocide known to the public.

In 2012, Bohdan Klid and Alexander J. Motyl compiled and edited “The Holodomor Reader: A Sourcebook on the Famine of 1932-1933 in Ukraine,” which presents evidence that the Holodomor was genocide and includes research findings, legal assessments, eyewitness accounts, documents and excerpts of literary works. Reviewing the book in this newspaper, Lana Babij wrote: “This is a book that belongs in every medium to large public or academic library. It belongs in every Ukrainian school. It is recommended for the personal library of any individual who wishes to speak with some authority on the subject, or simply wants to learn more about this immense tragedy for the Ukrainian people.”

A former librarian, Ms. Babij herself is involved in promoting knowledge about the Holodomor, especially in her role as content manager for www.holodomorct.org, an easily accessible online guide to Holodomor resources that, she notes, “are authentic, comprehensible to the general public and students of varying ages and backgrounds, that meet today’s educational standards.” The website was demonstrated at the 2014 conference of the National Council for the Social Studies in Boston at the exhibit booth of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute. As a result, it was listed in the NCSS newsletter.

At the conference, HURI hosted an exhibition table to inform educators – elementary, secondary and college-level teachers – about the Holodomor, curriculum materials geared to students and teachers, Ukraine in the context of genocide studies and Ukraine in general. Also involved were several dedicated community activists, including Ms. Babij of Connecticut and Maria Walzer of Massachusetts, who is active in a campaign to make Holodomor studies part of the school curriculum. (Recently, readers may recall, Paul Rabchenuk, who chairs the Greater Boston Committee for the Remembrance of the Ukrainian Famine Genocide of 1932-1933, wrote a letter urging community members to attend a hearing on the Massachusetts Genocide Education Bill to offer their support for requiring the study of genocides, including the Holodomor in the state’s public schools.)

Among the lesson plans and curriculum guides presented at the NCSS conference was “The Unknown Genocide – Ukrainian Holodomor 1932-1933” (Toronto, 2008) developed by Valentina Kuryliw for Grades 10 through 12. Which brings us to mention the major initiative based in Canada: the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Alberta. In May the consortium, in cooperation with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, held its second Holodomor Education Conference (for details, see our June 25 issue). In attendance were 120 educators of diverse backgrounds who teach students from kindergarten to university. The focus was on new approaches in teaching human rights, social justice and the Holodomor. Among the comments from teachers: “…very important to me as the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor to be able to share the Holodomor and the importance of discussing genocides in my Grade 9-12 social studies classes in Northern Manitoba.”

Thus, these and other activists and organizations are laudably fulfilling our sacred duty to the millions of victims of the Holodomor to remember them and to make their story known to the world.