A black ribbon and a wheat sheaf – both symbols of the great famine of 1932-1933 in soviet Ukraine known as the Holodomor.

“The stalks of wheat that people are holding, refers to a rule, a law, that was introduced by Stalin during the height of the Holodomor, where if you were caught in possession of anything more than three stalks of wheat, this was regarded as a criminal act and you could actually be executed for hoarding grain,” said Ostap Skyrpnyk with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Manitoba branch.

Holodomor commemoration Winnipeg City Hall

In the years 1932-33, Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin ordered the seizures of food aimed at starving out the pro-Ukrainian peasantry, killing millions of Ukrainians.

On the fourth Saturday of November, Ukrainians worldwide mark Ukrainian Famine and Genocide Memorial Day.

Here in Winnipeg, the UCC Manitoba branch holds a short panakhyda – a mass in memory of the lives lost in the genocide - outside city hall, every year.

“We owe it to everybody in the entire world, not just to Ukrainians, but to everybody, to commemorate, to remember these events so they never happen again,” said Skyrpnyk. “We should never allow for this to happen again.”

On Nov. 26, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged the Holodomor and the contributions Canadian Ukrainians have made across the country.

“Today, we commemorate one of the darkest chapters in human history: the forced starvation of millions of Ukrainians by the tyrannical regime of Joseph Stalin in the early 1930s. This genocidal act was designed to destroy the identity and will of the Ukrainian people,” his statement on the government’s website read.

The Prime Minister also reaffirmed Canada’s continuous support for Ukraine.

“Canada stands firm with the Ukrainian people in condemning the atrocities of the Holodomor, and ensuring that its victims are not forgotten,” the statement said. “We also remain committed to supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as the important steps taken by the Ukrainian government to bring greater security, prosperity, and economic independence to their people.”

Holodomor statue

A life-size statue of the young girl clutching a handful of wheat stands in Winnipeg’s Canadian Museum for Human Rights as a representation of the human loss of the Holodomor. The girl also stands on the Manitoba’s legislative grounds.

The trailer for a Canadian movie, “Bitter Harvest” was recently released, telling the story of love in the midst of the violent events of the Holodomor.