WASHINGTON – The dedication of the Ukrainian Holodomor Memorial in Washington on Saturday, November 7, was not a single-day event in front of the U.S. capital’s Union Station and the nearby memorial site. It was accompanied by several noteworthy related events: a large informative exhibit about the Holodomor, special liturgies in local Ukrainian churches, two receptions and a grand concert in one of Washington’s leading concert halls.
The commemoration of this historic tragedy began on November 1 with the opening of a two-week-long exhibit inside the main hall of Union Station. Titled “National Holodomor – Genocide by Famine,” it enlightened visitors about how Stalin brought about this horrendous crime against the Ukrainian people and humanity.
Organized by Andrij Chornodolskyj, and with the help of a number of volunteer guides, visitors deepened their knowledge about this barbaric crime by studying the informative texts and photographs on some 50 large panels placed in the center of the station’s entrance hall. The exhibit materials, as Mr. Chornodolskyj pointed out, came from earlier Holodomor exhibits in New York and Canada.
The exhibit also showed a collection of books and pamphlets about the Holodomor – including Robert Conquest’s “Harvest of Sorrow” – and a video of Slavko Nowytski’s documentary film “Harvest of Despair.”
To help fund the exhibit, there was a benefit reception at the Union Station’s Columbus Hall on the evening before the memorial dedication. Several hundred generous donors from around the United States and Canada attending the event had a chance to listen to Philadelphia’s Prometheus Ukrainian Male Chorus and personally meet with and listen to Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, who was instrumental in getting Congress to pass legislation allowing the building of the memorial in Washington.
Following Saturday’s main memorial dedication ceremony, there was another reception, this time at the Embassy of Ukraine, attended by Ukraine’s First Lady Maryna Poroshenko – the prime dignitary at the dedication – and invited guests.
On Sunday morning, Mrs. Poroshenko also attended the special Holodomor memorial liturgies in two local Ukrainian churches – St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral and the Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family, where Patriarch Sviatoslav of the Ukrainian Catholic Church bestowed the Order of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky on the artistic designer of the Holodomor Memorial, Larysa Kurylas, and Michael Sawkiw, the head of the Holodomor Memorial committee.
The memorial weekend concluded on Sunday afternoon, November 8, in the 1,500-seat Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University, with “An Artistic Tribute” to the Holodomor. The concert featured such long-renowned choral and musical ensembles as Detroit’s Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus and New York’s Dumka Chorus, other choral, instrumental and dance groups, and instrumental and vocal soloists performing emotionally moving compositions by Ukrainian and other composers that carried a special meaning in the context of the Holodomor. The performances repeatedly brought members of the audience to their feet and tears to their eyes.
Beginning with the Chicago-based Hromovytsia Dance Ensemble’s interpretative performance of “We Shall Never Forget,” the concert continued with soprano Marta Zaliznyak-Derzhko singing “Mother, I Shall Soon Perish,” an excerpt from the “Holodomor Memorial Requiem.”
The youthful Kobzarska Sich Bandura Ensemble followed with its rendition of “The Wind in the Grove” and “Harvest”; baritone Oleh Chmyr sang the “The Sycamore above the Water,” “The Boundless Field” and “Woe and Anguish”; and Ms. Zaliznyak-Derzhko sang “Under Your Protection.”
The Dumka Chorus (Vasyl Hrechynsky conducting) concluded the 90-minute first half of the program with Myroslav Skoryk’s “Candle” and four religious songs.
The Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus (Oleh Malay conducting) led off after intermission with eight emotionally moving songs, among them “My Testament,” “Tilled Black Soil,” “March of the Fallen,” “Why Have You Blackened, O Green Fields” and “The Gathering Clouds.”
And after violinist Solomiya Ivakhiv’s and pianist Angelina Gadeliya’s rendition of Yevhen Stankovych’s “Angel’s Touch,” the three-and-one-half-hour memorial concert concluded with the all the choruses, ensembles and soloists on stage singing Mr. Hrechynsky’s “My Country” and – with the audience joining in – Mykola Lysenko’s prayer “Almighty God” (Bozhe Velykyi Yedynyi).
The emotional theme of the Holodomor commemorative concert was intensified with stage lighting changes on the performers and background. And the somber theme was not interrupted when the curtain was brought down to set the stage for the next performers: the auditorium remained dark, as the audience listened to voice-over narrations about the Holodomor by Natalya Turchyn.
The commemorative concert was sponsored by the Selfreliance Ukrainian American Federal Credit Union and its foundation, and the Ukrainian Institute of America.