UKEMONDE BLOG IN MONTREAL                                         

Holodomor 1932-33

Okradena Zemlya
Canadian documentary film
by: Montreal filmmaker Yurij Luhovy

Montreal (UCC) On May 20, over 300 people at the Ukrainian Youth Centre attended the Montreal Premiere of the Ukrainian-language film “Okradena Zemlya”, a newly released documentary on the Holodomor 1932-33 Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine. The screening event was co-presented by Montreal’s Ukrainian Youth Association, the Shevchenko Scientific Society, the Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Business Association and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Montreal Branch. The evening was opened by Orest Humennyj who introduced the film’s producer and director, Yurij Luhovy, and mentioned that the idea of the documentary project sparked when Yurij realised that no new Canadian documentary on the Famine-Genocide was being planned by the community in Canada to mark the 75th Anniversary of the Holodomor.

Yurij Luhovy continued by giving a background to how the film was made under difficult conditions and how the entire film crew worked intensively during their shoot in Eastern Ukraine. He thanked the many Ukrainian organizations that contributed to the making of the documentary. He added, it was exactly one year to the day that he first flew to the former famine-stricken areas of Ukraine to begin work on “Okradena Zemlya”. The Montreal community’s start-up funds permitted the film project to begin in May 2008, with pre-production done earlier in February 2008.

From the moment “Okradena Zemlya” began, silence permeated the room.  The story of the Famine-Genocide unfolded, weaving through the various political events of the time, based on recently uncovered documents on the subject, culminating with the Famine-Genocide and its inescapable tragic result, including its aftermath.  Tension grew as the film progressed, uncovering a deliberate plan to curtail any effort of Ukrainians to secure an independent country from Stalin’s grip.

As the credits were rolling over the film score’s music, silence continued.  Slowly, clapping started, increasing to a prolonged standing ovation. The faces in the audience showed the emotional effect the film’s story had on them and appreciation that the film being was made. Many in the audience were survivors of the Holodomor.

Orest Hummenyj then congratulated Luhovy on the moving and powerful documentary, one, that he emphasized is much needed for schools and the general public for greater understanding of the Famine as genocide. He called it a chef d’oeuvre, achieved by the filmmaker’s sensitivity and ability to grasp the subject matter, combined with his thirty-five years of experience in filmmaking. With over 40 hours of material, editing to a one hour and fifteen minute documentary required difficult choices.

Following the film’s showing, Luhovy Yurij was called to speak when he then thanked many of those who helped in the production of the documentary and asked those present to stand-up including: Andrij Mazepa for his graphic design; camerawoman Adriana Luhovy; cameraman Istan Rozumnyj, who just arrived from Kyiv; Luba Demko for transcriptions; Oksana Rozumna as co-writer; Artem Luhovy and Bohdan Paska for technical support; Dr. Hennadij Boriak of Kyiv, represented by his sister Lilli Boriak; and for the assistance of Serhij Savchenko and Pavlo Showhaniuk of “Zustrich”; Marika Putko, President of UCC Montreal and Simon Kouklewsky of Ukrainian Time Radio.

In particular, Luhovy especially thanked the late Prof. Yarema Kelebay and Evhen Czolij for standing by the project from its pre-production stage in February 2008, as well as, Canadian consultant Prof. Jaroslav Rozumnyj.  Luhovy also acknowledged the work of the film’s narrator Bohdan Beniuk and music score composer Roman Luhovy.

He then asked Famine survivors and children of survivors to stand up, among them being Mychailo Hayduk, Anna Lencko, Tetiana Sydorenko, Tetiana Oboroniw, Vira Wusata.

Closing remarks were given by Evhen Czolij, President of the Ukrainian World Congress.  He emphasized the importance of this new documentary, made at a time when efforts are still continuing to re-write and distort the historical truth.  He congratulated Luhovy for his determination to produce the documentary and called upon for continued support to help cover production expenses and to help make an English-language version as quickly as possible.

A reception followed, where it was further evident how touched people were after seeing “Okradena Zemlya”. Many commented on the use of amazing archival film footage, photos and documents. Professor Roman Serbyn stated: “It is the best documentary recently made on the Holodomor”, and Valentina Hayduk, the daughter of a Famine survivor, mentioned how the film increased her historical understanding of the tragedy, despite growing up hearing first-hand detailed accounts about the unimaginable.

To arrange for a film showing of “Okradena Zemlya” in your city, or to support financially the making of the documentary’s English-language version, please call
514 481 5871,
e-mail Yurij Luhovy at:
or write to 2330 avenue Beaconsfield, Montreal, Quebec H4A 2G8.

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