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'History is repeating itself': Calgarians commemorate Holodomor as war continues in Ukraine

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Calgarians gathered Saturday to commemorate  the 90th anniversary of the Holodomor, known as the terror-famine in the Soviet Union that killed millions of Ukrainians from 1932 to 1933.

The day of remembrance comes just over nine months after Russia invaded Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Catholic Church Counci's Christine Moussienko said this year is more emotional than ever as she compared Stalin’s atrocities to the acts of current Russian president Vladimir Putin.

“History is repeating itself," Moussiendo said. "It’s been very emotional and the Ukrainian people are now in a genocide once again."

“I mean you can’t imagine what happened with the famine, but now with the war in Ukraine and what's happening, we’re having people come here now, it’s just like we're living through it.”

Moussienko added that food in Ukrainian culture has been cherished ever since the Holodomor.

“To this day, we still do things like kiss our bread before we eat it just out of respect that we have it and that others unfortunately didn’t.”

SPECIAL CEREMONY

A few hundred people packed into the cultural centre at St. Vladimir’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church for a special Holodomor ceremony.

Anna-Mariya Zagirska sang and danced in honour of the millions of victims alongside members of the local Ukrainian Youth Association.

The 18-year-old moved to Calgary from Ukraine just a few years ago and worries now for the safety of her relatives back home.

“It’s just terrifying to hear the news that my friends are sick, they’re without electricity, no water in some places and they don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” she said.

“The Holodomor has left a mark on our history, our culture and our country and it’s especially difficult with what’s happening now as we gather here today.”

Several other recent evacuees from Ukraine also attended the event and are still in the process of adjusting to a new life.

Ihor Chernov just moved to Calgary from Ukraine seven months ago with his wife and daughter. He said he has nothing but respect and love for his family and friends back home.

“They are such brave people, those who fight for the freedom of Ukraine,” said Chernov.

“We were hiding in the cellars, in the bomb shelters before we left. I hope that it’s all going to end in the next six months, but I’m not actually sure because I didn’t believe Russia would start this in the first place.”

INTERSECTION OF 'UNTHINKABLE' AND 'UNSPEAKABLE'

Among the speakers at the Holodomor commemoration included Bohdan Romaniuk, a local Ukrainian activist who called this year’s anniversary, a day of "mixed emotions and cognitive dissonance."

He spoke about more than half of Ukraine’s population now displaced from their homes, while those who remain in the country face Russian bombings and the threat of freezing to death without heat during the winter months.

“We're at the intersection of the unthinkable and the unspeakable,” said Romaniuk.

“The unthinkable was the starvation of millions upon millions of peasants almost 90 years ago. These kinds of things had never happened, not on that scale in history, not with such ferocity, not with such predetermination, such malice and aforethought. The unspeakable is what's happening today.”

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek also attended the event alongside Member of Parliament George Chahal and Alberta Minister of Justice, Tyler Shandro.

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