Understanding genocide: Point Grey students learn about Ukrainian holocaust from travelling classroom

Schools & Students

It was only the second day of school, but students at Point Grey Secondary learned a huge lesson about how genocide can begin, its effects, and how they could play a role in preventing another genocide from taking place.

Thanks to a mobile classroom – a converted RV that is visiting schools across Canada – students from grades 9-12 in Point Grey Mini School learned about the Holodomor (Ukrainian for “inflicted death by starvation”), the genocidal starvation of millions of Ukrainians in 1932–33 by Soviet Communist policy in order to destroy a sprouting democratic movement in Ukraine.

“The Holodomor lesson really dovetails well with so much that we are doing in social studies generally and in our new Humanities 10 course specifically,” says Mori Hamilton, co-head teacher at Point Grey Mini School who brought the Holodomor Tour to the school. “This fall we are looking at the Russian Revolution, Animal Farm, disinformation, censorship and propaganda in the creation of dictatorships and authoritarian governments.”

In the bus classroom, students find a technological interactive experience. The award-winning lesson begins with a short introduction to genocide followed by a documentary film on the Holodomor. Then students become ‘detectives’ working in small groups using tablet computers to explore resources on the history of the Holodomor. Led by the facilitator, the class then discusses their findings and their understanding of the Holodomor and its effects on the Ukraine.

“Before, I only had a vague idea of what genocide was,” says Grade 10 student Lyndsey Bryden. “The workshop gave a very clear and terrifying explanation. The session made me feel incredibly sad, because the things that happened in Ukraine during the ‘30s were so horrific. It also made me really angry that a government can do such a thing without meeting much resistance.” 

Hamilton hopes the student understand the historical context of the Holodomor, the horrific scope of it, and how the rest of the world didn’t stop it. He also wants them to see the role played by disinformation and censorship,

“I hope they see the parallels between this and not only the Holocaust, but also how residential schooling and other similar efforts of colonization around the world have been used to destroy people and their culture,” adds Hamilton.

“It definitely makes me feel thankful to be born in a time when things like this are rare, and are met with resistance,” notes Bryden.

The Holodomor National Awareness Tour is a project of the Canada-Ukraine Foundation. Learn more at https://www.holodomortour.ca

Holodomor Tour visits Point Grey