The Charger Blog

University Hosts Remembrance to Honor Ukraine's Past and Present

The University's Holodomor Remembrance and Concert for Ukraine enabled members of the University and local communities to learn about one of the most egregious targeted killings in modern times and how that relates to the current war in Ukraine.

March 2, 2023

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Holodomor remembrance statue
A Holodomor remembrance statue.

Galen Kasznay '23 recently had the opportunity to be a part of an event at the University that helped him better understand the current conflict in Ukraine while learning more about the country's at times painful history. The event was one he found to be not only enjoyable, but particularly poignant.

Kasznay, who recently completed his bachelor's degree in music and sound recording, was in charge of production for the University's Holodomor Remembrance Day and Concert for Ukraine. Hosted by the Department of Music, it was a meaningful way to bring together the University and local communities to share music and a sense of connection.

"I found the concert to be a wonderful display of the music and the talents of our faculty," he said. "I thoroughly enjoyed the music and learning about both the history of Ukrainian struggles, and what is currently happening there because of the war with Russia. It was super important for the University to hold this event, not just for the campus community but also for the community in the area. It was a great way to educate people about what's going on in the world."

'We must never forget'
Galen Kasznay '23.
Galen Kasznay '23.

Hosted to show support for Ukraine following the Russian invasion, it was also a remembrance of Holodomor, which was a genocide of millions of Ukrainians from 1932 to 1933. The event was an important way for the audience to learn more about Ukraine's past and present and for faculty members to share their own stories and expertise.

For Bradley Woodworth, Ph.D., an associate professor of history who moderated the event, this was personal. Dr. Woodworth, who first visited Russia and Ukraine in 1985, has extensively studied the lands and the peoples of the former Soviet Union for four decades. He and his late wife, both historians of this region, visited Lviv, Ukraine, together in 1990.

"Universities are places where we all can widen our horizons, where we learn about people and times that might otherwise seem like they have nothing to do with us," said Dr. Woodworth. "Universities are places where we can become better citizens, which is one of the central purposes of becoming an educated person. This means being a citizen not only of our local towns, the state we live in and the country overall, but also being a citizen of the world and seeing how we carry, in some part, responsibility for helping to improve the quality of people's lives in other parts of the world."

Dr. Woodworth says Holodomor is the largest targeted killing (killing through famine) of a people in modern times. The tragedy resulted in the deaths of more than four million men, women, and children. Dr. Woodworth and his fellow educators at the University hope the past can inform the present, and that students and other attendees continue to learn from what happened and apply it to the current tragedy in Ukraine.

"The Holodomor is the greatest atrocity you've never heard of," said David Schroeder, Ph.D., associate dean of the Lee College who attended the event. "It is for this reason we need events like this memorial to keep the light of education shining brightly on genocide, wherever and whenever is occurs. As a University with such a deep commitment to public service, we are uniquely suited to use this history, especially in light of the current war against the people of Ukraine, as a tool for understanding how to prevent such atrocities in the future. We must never forget that this happened and how this happened."

'Truth and justice must prevail'

In his address at the event, Victor Markiw, D.M.A., a distinguished lecturer of music who organized the music and speaking segments of the event, illustrated the rich history of the region, detailing the devastating impact of human rights atrocities past and present. This Holodomor Remembrance, the fourth at the University, focused heavily on today's war.

In an effort to spotlight victims of the present war, Dr. Markiw chose with great care appropriate music selections that would reflect certain themes or highlight the stories of victims. Attendees listened to music by composers such as Barvinsky, Chopin, Liszt, Lysenko, Peterson, and Skoryk, which Dr. Markiw performed on the piano.

"Music heals physical, spiritual, social, and psychological wounds and enables the capacity to potentiate human creativity in all spheres from the humanities to the sciences," he said. "This concert also featured Ukrainian composers."

"I hope students understand there are issues in the world, and that they should do their best to help foster change" Galen Kasznay '23

For Dr. Markiw, this event was also immensely personal. His own family comes from Ukraine, and they have also been victims of the Holodomor and the great terror. Dr. Markiw, whose wife hails from Ukraine, still has family there.

In his remarks at the event, Dr. Markiw urged attendees to support Ukraine, telling them that if everyone plays a small role, "humanity will be better." He challenged them not to simply be bystanders, but to choose to "see" genocide. He hopes the event inspired everyone to learn and play an active role in supporting the people of Ukraine.

"For many, Holodomor is something they may have not heard about, so I hope this event brought knowledge and awareness and galvanized attendees to be proactive and play a role in ending these atrocities that Ukrainians are once again facing," he said. "I believe it is very important because the truth and justice must prevail. Awareness aids this process."

'Help change this'

While offered free of charge, the event raised money via donations for those in Ukraine – in particular, via St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church in New Haven, Conn. The church is accepting monetary donations, as well as foodstuffs, to send to the people of Ukraine.

The event made an impact on Kasznay, the recent music and sound recording grad. It left him feeling inspired, and he hopes it had the same effect on his fellow Chargers.

"I hope students understand there are issues in the world, and that they should do their best to help foster change," he said. "Sitting idly by can contribute to the problem. Even just donating to the Ukrainian relief fund is a help, because the money goes to real people who are having huge problems and struggling just to survive, all because someone decided that they did not deserve basic rights."