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Holodomor commemorations at the Legislature

Special ceremony, which remembers the millions who perished in the 1932-33 famine, happens in 2022 in the shadow of the current world events

REGINA - The Legislative Building was the scene Tuesday as a special ceremony was held to commemorate those who lost their lives during the Holodomor.

Members of the Ukrainian community along with government leaders were on hand for the service to commemorate an event the Saskatchewan government has recognized as a genocide. 

The Holodomor was the great famine that took place in the Ukraine in 1932-33.  The event was a man-made famine created by policies of the former Soviet Union, with four million people losing their lives. The word Holodomor is Ukrainian for "extermination by hunger."

The Saskatchewan Legislature was the first province to recognize the famine as a genocide on May 7, 2008, followed later that month by the Government of Canada.

The service at the Legislature coincides with Holodomor Memorial Week with a memorial candle to remain lit throughout the week. It was held in advance of International Holodomor day which is this Saturday, Nov. 26.

The ceremonies included the lighting of the candle, a symbolic act in memory of the lives lost. 

That was followed by the laying of wreaths and flowers outside at the “Bitter Memories of Childhood” Holodomor statue to the east of the Legislature.

Government leaders at the ceremony included Premier Scott Moe and MLA Terry Dennis, Legislative Secretary responsible for Saskatchewan-Ukraine Relations, as well as several other MLAs.

The ceremony included addresses from Dennis as well as Elena Krueger, President of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress of Saskatchewan.

They also heard an address from Anastasiia Vasylieva, who was recently displaced from Bakhmut, Ukraine and now lives in Saskatchewan, through her interpreter Oleg Kovalchuk.

The ceremony was a reminder to people of the Holodomor tragedy of 90 years earlier, but it also came at a time when Ukraine was under siege following the invasion by Russia this year. 

In speaking to reporters Vasylieva pointed to the current state of affairs as a reason this day was important to her.

“Today I feel myself more or less very comfortable,” she said. “It is very important for me to tell what is actually happening over there.”

The ceremony also took place one day before the latest flight of displaced Ukrainians to Saskatchewan was set to land in Saskatoon.

Dennis told reporters that this ceremony was “very important, especially in light of what is going on in Ukraine right now with all the war and devastation. Having a madman like Putin back on the scene here again, it’s important we don’t forget the horror that happened in 1932-33 and the millions of people that were starved, and just keep in our memory that we should never forget these people.”