Edmonton’s Ukrainian community gathered at city hall Saturday to mark the 79th anniversary of Holodomor, a deliberate famine/genocide imposed in the Ukraine in 1932-33, that left millions dead.

Natalia Talanchuk is a Holodomor survivor. She was just eight years old when the famine was imposed by the Joseph Stalin-led communist Soviet Union regime during the 1930s.

“I can’t sleep at night sometimes thinking about it because it haunts me,” Talanchuk said.

She recalls her mother having to sell jewelry in exchange for food, but remembers didn’t have jewelry to help them get by.

“They were eating anything. The cats were eaten, the horses were eaten, they were hungry so they went into garbages,” Talanchuk said. “Lots of them died.”

Talanchuk says her mother used to forbid her from looking out the window of their home.

At the time she didn’t understand why, but later, she learned.

“Dead people were sitting in front until the horse and buggy picked them up,” she said.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress says nearly 10 million Ukrainian men, women and children were starved to death during the famine.

“People were dying by masses,” said Steve Romaniuk, former president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Edmonton chapter.

“In some villages, there was hardly anybody left.”

Holodomor is marked each year on the last Saturday of November.

The service at city hall honoured Holodomor victims, recognized survivors, and included a wreath-laying ceremony.

Romaniuk said it’s important to remember and educate others on the famine, which he says Ukrainians have never fully recovered from.

“We still haven’t revived to full capacity because so many people died,” he said.

And while Talanchuk marks Holodomor each year, she says memories from those years, starving, struggling, with her mother, never truly leave her mind.

“I cannot throw out a piece of bread at all in the garbage, ever,” Talanchuk said.

“I give it to the crows (or) to the squirrels outside if there are leftovers. I never can because I always remember.”