Monday, 30 July 2012

Lest We Forget - The Ukrainian Holodomor

What a wonderful Calgary summer weekend for a walk beside the Bow River! 

While trimming the hedge in my front yard this afternoon, my Italian neighbor Vic stopped to chat.  He's not used to walking, nor stopping to chat, but today he was just so excited to tell me about his day!  Leaving his car for repairs downtown, he spent the day marvelling at the beautiful restorations of our Calgary downtown.  His favorite view today was the tree lined road that has such an interesting story to tell!  Welcome to Memorial Drive!

We were amazed to find parking right on Memorial Drive, where there were lots of people cycling or walking east or west. City crews are busy completing the landscaping, and beyond the blooming yellow daylilies you can see the old caragana bushes, century old sentinels and new oak trees between yourself, the glacial fed waters of the Bow River and Calgary's Prince's Island.

Walking in Calgary's Sunnyside community, along Memorial Drive is actually steppng into a living testament honoring Canadian citizens who died for Queen and Country in World War 1. With the passage of time, the service duty of those original trees called for release and retirement - so in 2004 the "Landscape of Memory" Project began its important work revitalizing the nine kilometre road vista. 

Hearing Vic's enthusiasm, taking the time to walk the Calgary Memorial Drive, seeing fellow Calgarians, it also makes me so very proud of our common Canadian citizenship!  That Canadian communities work together to protect the weak, to stand on guard against tyranny, violence and inhumanity, and choose to make "beautiful"  happen, just makes my heart swell. Many Canadians have emigrated here bearing the scars and ancestral memory of horrible deeds done against their people, their culture, and language. Acting together as one free and principled nation, our citizens have the right to memorialize, and bear witness, lead by example and teach the world to do better.

An example of this teaching work is hidden at the east end of Memorial Drive near Edmonton Trail, where there is a small park hosting the Holodomor Monument. Memorializing the unprecidented peace time genocidal restriction of food by the Soviet Regime in Ukraine during 1932-33, this monument to the Holodomor (killing by starvation) actually serves as a point in contrast with Calgary's goodwill - the shelter for homeless people, just across the Edmonton Trail Bridge. Where Calgarians share their goodwill (food, clothing and shelter) the Holodomor memorial ceremonies in late November provide a glimpse into the horrific conditions underwhich millions of people starved in Ukraine - a famine inspired "meal" of thin broth and dry bread.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) and the Memorial in Commemoration of Famines' Victims in Ukraine earlier in July 2012 signed a memorandum of understanding that will see organizational collaboration to promote human rights through education and example.  (KYIV, UKRAINE, Jul 04, 2012 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX)

"The Canadian Museum for Human Rights will strive to enhance understanding of human rights issues, not only in Canada, but internationally. Working with excellent institutions like the Memorial is one way for us to meet this noble mandate," said Stuart Murray. "By raising awareness of the Holodomor, the genocide-famine created by the Soviet Union in Ukraine in 1932-33, we hope to remind people the importance of breaking the silence on human rights issues. Denial and suppression only compound the violations that occur. This partnership will help bring the story of the Holodomor to a wider audience, to the benefit of generations to come."

Victor Didenko of the Memorial said, "During the famine of 1932-1933, Ukraine lost at least 4 million people. This number is shocking. The reasons of those events, the scale, and the consequences should be thoroughly investigated, studied, analyzed and reported to the world. The international community should realize that famine is the most terrible and powerful weapon of mass destruction. By means of hunger and the lack of food, tyrants conquered millions of people in the past; they suppressed their freedom and dignity and turned them into slaves. International cooperation with the CMHR will facilitate the comprehensive and objective study of famine as a phenomenon that will prevent such tragedies in the future."

If you have the time, take a moment to hear the words of Gareth Jones, the Holodomor Exposer on BBC Documentary Tonight.  The words of an eyewitness who couldn't bear to hide the truth!

I hope you take the time to walk Memorial Drive soon!  This impressive "Landscape of Memory" is also accessible from downtown via the new Peace Bridge (designed by Santiago Calatrava) across the Bow River which gives you a vista of the impressive Memorial Drive beautification project bordering Sunnyside Community. Calgary is indeed exploring new and traditional ideas about memorializing within the context of an urban setting.


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