December 20, 2019

Reflections on the first U.S. Holodomor Forum

More

Dear Editor:

Like any other attendee who was not involved in the planning of the Forum, I arrived not knowing what to expect. The informal “Meet and Greet” on Friday night gave me an inkling. As I re-connected with cherished colleagues from Canada and elsewhere, and met the remarkable and dynamic group from Michigan among other new faces from throughout North America, I could see energy and the desire for action flowing as freely as the wine. Saturday’s workshops (please see Forum write-up in the November 17 issue of The Ukrainian Weekly); the screening of the short documentary, “When we Starve” by Dr. Borys Buniak; the remarks of the evening’s honoree, retired U.S. Congressman Sander Levin; and Sunday’s speaker Brian Whitmore, all exceeded expectations.

Every panelist, moderator and speaker was well-prepared with substantive presentations. Every segment had more people eager to discuss with practical questions or related experiences and insights than there was time allotted.

As I realized by the end of the event, the unstated but underlying theme of the presentations was about “telling our story.” The concluding speaker, Brian Whitmore aptly if unknowingly summarized that theme in his opening quotation, to the effect that civilization would not exist without our telling stories.

Think about it: the emphasis was on stories, not information.

The point, of course, was not to downplay the significance of verifiable knowledge, but to emphasize the unique ability of connecting with people at both the intellectual and the emotional level through the stories we share. Interesting stories deal with our humanity, our common needs and experiences – or attempt to present our uncommon experiences by means of feelings most of us share: like love and fear, hope and desires. As another panelist mentioned, so often our stories have tended to begin in the midst of a person’s worst suffering. We haven’t had the opportunity to connect emotionally with that person and his or her life and dreams before they were shattered.

We heard numerous other suggestions on telling our stories and getting them out there effectively. Also, particularly during the Education Workshop, detailed strategies (and stories) of getting the Holodomor into the curriculum of individual states were shared.

Congratulations and a big thank you to the U.S. National Holodomor Committee and to all those who presented at the event.

Since the forum, I have seen accounts on social media and through personal communications about innovative and successful Holodomor awareness events presented in the Rochester, N.Y., area, Naples, Fla., and elsewhere in recent weeks. It is so important to share and learn from these experiences.

I put out, on an irregular basis, a Holodomor Educators Newsletter, where we can share news and events to inform, discuss, and inspire. Please contact me at lybabij@cox.net if you would like to be on the mailing list. And, of course, stay tuned to The Ukrainian Weekly.

Lana Babij
Manchester, Conn.