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Memo on Holodomor fails to quell concern

Ukrainians worry about museum space

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There have been handshakes and a memo of co-operation between Ukrainians and the human rights museum, but a Canadian-Ukrainian group remains skeptical about what it means for the museum's floor plan.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights signed a memorandum of understanding last week with the Memorial in Commemoration of Famines' Victims in Kyiv. The museum said the agreement would help them better understand the Holodomor, the 1932-33 forced starvation in Soviet Ukraine that killed millions.

"Ultimately, there will be more research and education," said Stuart Murray, the museum's president. "When you look back there's great history between Ukraine and Canada... When you look at the history of (the Holodomor), the first country to recognize this as a genocide was Canada."

However, the Ukrainian Civil Liberties Association isn't sure the agreement will result in more of the museum's square footage dedicated to the Holodomor.

"This is a positive thing, but the bottom line is 'Where is it going to go?'" said Lubomyr Luciuk, director of research for the association. "What's that actually going to mean in terms of square metres and number of exhibits?"

The association has criticized the museum, saying it will highlight the Holocaust above other atrocities, and says all genocides recognized by Canada should get equal prominence in the museum. "A publicly funded museum shouldn't raise the suffering of one community above all others," Luciuk said.

How the agreement will translate into exhibits is still being hammered out, Angela Cassie, the museum's director of communications said. But there will possibly be collaboration on exhibits, creating films and sharing artifacts and artwork, for instance.

"There's not as much research or as much information for us," said Cassie. "It will help us in terms of how to represent the Holodomor."

Murray said they are reaching out to other genocide museums and memorials for more information, but this is the first agreement.

"It's the right thing to do to reach out to other institutions," said Myroslav Shkandrij, professor of Slavic studies at the University of Manitoba, whose studies include the Holodomor. "There's a desperate need to voice this experience in its fullness."

There has been controversy over whether the Holodomor should receive a more prominent exhibit at the museum, and how much space the other four Canada-recognized genocides will get compared with the Holocaust.

In late 2010, the museum announced its content would be divided into 12 zones. One each would be dedicated to the Holocaust and to indigenous rights. The Holodomor is to be included in a gallery dedicated to mass atrocities.

The largest part of the museum, Murray said, will still be dedicated to the Canadian human rights journey.

Museum officials spent time in Berlin last week visiting museums such as the Ethnological Museum of Berlin and the Jewish Museum Berlin.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 10, 2012 B4

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