Holodomor (Ukrainian Famine of 1933 Memorial)
Ludmilla Temertey // 1983
Painted aluminum and granite
The first public monument to the Holodomor was erected and dedicated in 1983 outside City Hall in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, to mark the 50th anniversary of the famine-genocide.
The sculpture of a large broken circle of cold grey metal emblazoned with skeletal hands memorializes the anonymous victims of the Soviet engineered genocide. “The twisted and fractured circle represents the life cycle being torn apart by an unnatural force: emaciated hands resist, grasp and then beg for an end to their inhuman condition,” states the inscription.
Termerty’s sculpture symbolizes the scar on humanity left by authoritarian political regimes, and more specifically on the Ukrainian people by Josef Stalin. It was commissioned by the Canadian Ukrainian Committee to commemorate the lives lost and acknowledge a little known and poorly understood event in world history.
The genocidal famine was enacted to punish farmers for resisting the collectivization of agricultural production. The death of the greatest number of civilians during peacetime occurred when food, livestock and seed grain was removed from the country and the borders were sealed. Following the forced famine of millions of people, the russification of Ukraine saw the extermination of religious, academic, and cultural leaders. Until the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, any record of the genocide was suppressed and those who spoke of it were silenced by the Soviet government.
The public unveiling in 1983 by then Mayor Laurence Decore boldly proclaimed the existence of the event and spoke of the connection to the Ukrainian community in Edmonton. Beginning in the 1890s, successive waves of Ukrainian settlers came to the Edmonton area to build homesteads, representing a large portion of the population.
The sculpture invites examination of the histories constructed by Soviet Russia and allows members of the larger community to show solidarity against injustices committed against humankind. On the base of the artwork is inscribed, “Let us all stand on guard against tyranny, violence and inhumanity”.
Nonetheless, the sculpture later became a target for contention between cultures. Twice the monument was defaced by graffiti that cried “lies” and “nazi lies”.