By the late 1920s, Oshawa was home to a large number of Ukrainian immigrants. The Ukrainian community had grown so much that, by 1928, newspaper articles were referring to the “large Ukrainian colony” in the city and quoting Mayor Preston as praising the more than 1,000 Ukrainians in Oshawa.
There were three phases of mass immigration from Ukraine to Canada. The first phase was from around 1891 to the start of WWI. The second phase from WWI to WWII. The final large-scale phase of immigration was post-WWII when large numbers of Ukrainian refugees, or displaced persons, arrived in Oshawa as the world faced a mass movement of human beings on a scale never before seen.
The Ukrainian community in Oshawa did not receive many immigrants during the second period of immigration, between WWI and WWII and the reason for this is examined in an upcoming traveling exhibit focused on the Holodomor.
What is the Holodomor? The word Holodomor refers to the genocide of Ukrainian citizens by forced starvation between 1932 and 1933. During this period, Ukrainian villages were forced to provide mass quantities of grain to the Soviet State. The quotas were set so high that there was nothing left for those who lived in the villages. When villages were no longer to meet the quotas, they were fined. The fines took the form of confiscating meat and potatoes, leaving the villagers with nothing for themselves. These policies resulted in the death of millions of Ukrainians as they were not permitted to leave and thus were forced to remain to starve to death. The Holodomor is referred to as a “man-made famine” and is considered a response by Stalin to a growing democratic movement amongst Ukrainians.
It has been difficult to determine just how many Ukrainians died in the period between 1932 and 1933; however, estimates have placed the number at 3.3 million. Some scholars feel that number is low.
Canada was one of the first countries to officially recognize the Holodomor as genocide. This official recognition was due, in large part, to the ongoing efforts of Canada’s Ukrainian community. Ukrainian Canadians struggled and advocated to have this dark period in their history recognized for what it was and to have it remembered. In May 2008 the Federal Government, along with the provinces of Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, proclaimed the fourth Saturday of each November to be Holodomor Remembrance Day. The Holodomor National Awareness Tour exhibit is an important part of that work to create awareness of this history.
The exhibit makes use of archival film footage and photographs, along with oral history accounts of survivors, to tell this history. It is a difficult exhibit but it also an important exhibit.
Learn more about the Holodomor on Thursday, July 12 when the Holodomor National Awareness Tour stops in Lakeview Park.