Ukrainians in Newfoundland and Labrador gathered at the Basilica of St. John the Baptist in St. John's on Saturday afternoon to mark a grim anniversary.
The event commemorated the victims of the Holodomor, the man-made famine in Ukraine in 1932 and 1933, created by sanctions imposed by the Stalin-led government on the Soviet republic of Ukraine.
Millions of Ukrainians died as a result.
While the Soviet government originally denied that the Holodomor had occurred, a number of countries — including Canada — now recognize it as an act of genocide. The Russian government has not made that recognition.
The first of its kind
As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, Bruce Lilly, president of the Ukrainian Cultural Organization of Newfoundland and Labrador, says it is more important now than ever before to remember what happened.
"Really, the Holodomor was about erasing Ukrainians," said Lilly.
"That's what is being attempted again, so it's got a special tinge to it this year."
The Holodomor is marked on the fourth Saturday of November, and Lilly said given the rise in the Ukrainian population in the province, it was important to get the community to come together to honour those who were lost.
"Ukrainians' population in Newfoundland and Labrador has more than doubled in the last nine months," said Lilly.
"There was more urgency toward commemorating this in Newfoundland. This is the first time it's been done."
History repeating itself
Brian Cherwick, a Ukrainian-Canadian musician and member of the Kubasonics, was on hand for Saturday's ceremony. He explained that just as the Soviets were "trying to break the will of the people" by confiscating food in the region, the same thing is happening right now.
"It's even more significant for these people here because the same thing is happening to them today," said Cherwick.
"The same region that was affected by the Holodomor, by the famine in the 30s, is the same region where the fiercest fighting is happening today."
Cherwick pointed out that the grain that Ukraine provides to most of the world is being held up by Russian ships, adding that farmers are working under fear of rocket attacks.
As for the family and friends still in the region, Cherwick said communities in Newfoundland and Labrador welcoming newcomers is an encouraging thing for the future.
"It was one of Mr. Putin's goals, was to have the world divided," said Cherwick.
"Fortunately, we've come together and provided a lot of support for Ukraine. I hope that continues.… The people in Ukraine appreciate that."