Students learn about Ukrainian genocide

Today, students at a Regina high school learned about the Holodomor, a massive famine that killed millions of Ukrainians in the 1930s.

Millions perished during 1932-33 food famine

Holodomor Awareness bus tour comes to Regina (Dean Gutheil/CBC)

 Ayden Mack and his fellow students at Regina's Leboldus High School had a history lesson today.

At times, it was painful to hear and watch.

"It's kinda scary to think about something that happened this recently and it's related to me," said the 16-year-old student.

Today, Mack and other students came to the Holodomor display in front of the Saskatchewan Legislature. The display is currently on a cross-country tour to educate students about the Ukrainian genocide in 1932 and 1933.

Millions died during the artificial famine imposed by Joseph Stalin's regime on Soviet Ukraine.

Students watched a video and then discussed the Holodomor.

A monument to the Holodomor near the Saskatchewan Legislative Building.

Three of Mack's grandparents have Ukrainian roots. However, he's not strongly connected to his Ukrainian heritage and knew nothing about the Holodomor until now.

"I knew about the Holocaust but not this," said Mack.

That's something Valentina Kuryliw is determined to correct. Her parents were Holodomor survivors, and she created the students' lesson inside the National Awareness Tour bus.

"This a genocide that had been covered up for decades," said Kuryliw, a member of the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium. "The Soviets denied it right up until the 1980's.Putin denies it today. That it did not occur as far as he's concerned."

Kuryliw uses the example of bullying as a thread to discuss genocide.

"Bullying is the first step to genocide. Your identification of one person that you don't like can extend to more people," said Kuryliw. "If the government gets involved, you can legislate and you can wipe out a huge group of people — a nation."

Saskatchewan Education Minister Don Morgan also visited the Holodomor bus. Given Saskatchewan's Ukrainian roots, the province may examine the education of the Holodomor in schools.

"Whether we mandate it as an essential part of curriculum is something we may want to discuss," said Morgan. "Holodomor is something of significance to us so it certainly should be looked at."

 Ayden Mack says his brief Holodomor history lesson was something worth learning.

"I think knowing about what happened in the past is a good way to prevent that from happening in the future."