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         Holodomor Commemoration, Perth WA

Sunday, November 27, 2016  

It has now become a firm tradition in Western Australia for both Catholic and Orthodox Parishes to join together to commemorate the Holodomor of 1932-1933. This year Perth’s Holodomor Commemoration was concelebrated by Rev Fr Walentyn Mowtschan and Fr Ihor Holovko in the Catholic Church. 

Every one contributed to a memorable and dignified Commemoration, Father Ihor made some very delicate statements which focussed upon the event;  Fr Walentyn Mowtschan in closing spoke of the  unity of our community,  The Church Choir led by Suzanna Prushynsky sang beautifully; Luba Valega made a special wreath and floral arrangements, Gabby Mowczan for arranging artefacts and placement of memorial items,  Andrij Lozyk for the CD of bandura music, Mykola Mowczan for hanging the Holodomor paintings, the loan of his bandura and for the closing words.

This year the Kobzars,the Banduristy and story tellers who perished during the Holodomor were also remembered in the prayers during the Commemoration.  


The mostly blind or crippled minstrels and story tellers who wandered from village to village singing of Ukraine’s glorious history was a threat to the spread of socialism and the bolsheviks had already commenced the persecution of the Kobzari. In 1918 minstrel Joseph Lirnyk was killed. In 1919 (in Ekaterinodar) Ivan Litvinenko, Andrew Slidyuk and Fedor Dubrava and in 1920, Anton Mitya, Svyryd Sotnychenko, Peter Skydan were murdered.  Many more blind and disabled Kobzari, many nameless (and without passports) died at the hands of the barbaric bolsheviks in the ensuing years.

In December 1930 a congress of Ukrainian minstrels and storytellers was arranged which was attended by 337 delegates. The goal of the Congress was to involve the folk singers to glorify the building of the socialist state. After the Congress the blind Kobzari and singers were taken to a railway station on the outskirts of Kharkiv called “Kozacha Lopan”. They were told they would be catching a train to go to Moscow to a larger rally with other minstrels of the USSR. However late in the evening the complete contingent of Kobzari were taken to a nearby forest. The blind and disabled banduristy, kobzars and storytellers along with their guides were lined up and shot. Their bodies were thrown into a pre-dug trench, covered with lime and interned and their musical instruments were burned alongside them.

The annihilation of the Kobzari continued during the Holodomor period because the Bolsheviks venomously hated what they stood for.  The Kobzari were considered to be a threat to the communist mentality for they were revered by the villagers as they kept alive Ukrainian culture, romance and the history of the Zaporizhian Cossack Sich and most importantly, Ukrainian nationalism.

Dr Lesa Melnyczuk recalled the beautiful and moving 2010 evening service with candles up the stairs to the church and many of our elderly and survivors in attendance. (It is now appropriate to have the Holodomor service indoors and during the day as it is almost impossible to get our older people out at night and standing for any length of time.  The evening candle service of 2010 was to be the largest gathering of the Holodomor survivors in Western Australia.)

Dr Lesa Melnyczuk will always remember Mrs Zagwocki’s face with a soft candle light glow on her face listening intently to the choir singing. Mrs Zagwocki is Luba Valega’s mother.  Dr Lesa reflected,“Her photograph is on the cover of my book “Silent Memories – Traumatic Lives”. Of the 42 Ukrainian Holodomor survivors whom I interviewed in 2004, there are only 4 surviving. I remember every one of them and their stories. We only had 2 with us at the service yesterday.

“It is Central and Eastern Ukraine’s and the Orthodox Church’s tragedy. Father Mowtschan’s parents were survivors. It was tragic for them.  Our Greek Catholics from the west were more fortunate,” Dr Lesa Melnyczuk said.



Special reference and thanks to the Ukrainian Youth Association (CYM) of Kharkiv who uncovered the history of the Kobzars, Banduristy and storytellers who were murdered in Kharkiv in December 1930.  Based on the testimony of local residents, a research group from the CYM’ivtsi has established the approximate place of execution of the Kobzari. After the legal registration of the relevant documents, CYM Kharkiv intends to initiate the exhumation and identification of bodies of the murdered Kobzari.


Event Foto’s: (for facebook followers)

Further reading: 

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© 2022  by Ukrainian Association of WA  Inc.

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