The announcement of $1.5 million in federal support for a memorial to victims of communism has brought the project, which has been long in the works, one step closer to fruition.
The funding was announced on Aug 23, Black Ribbon Day—a day set aside to pay tribute to the memory of European victims of tyranny under the Communist and Nazi regimes of the last century.
“Once completed, this memorial will teach future generations how millions lost their lives and suffered in inhumane conditions at the hands of communist regimes,” Employment and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney said in a statement.
Ludwik Klimkowski, chair of Tribute to Liberty, the group that is spearheading the project, says the new funding means they are now over halfway to meeting their $4 million fundraising goal. About $1 million of monies raised to date has been donated by private individuals.
The memorial, to be built near Parliament Hill in Ottawa, will help victims and their families heal and educate future generations about the reality of life under communist rule, Klimkowski says.
Several decades have passed since historic events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall, the fall of Saigon in Vietnam, and the Tiananmen Square massacre, he notes, which means younger generations are removed from these events and may not understand the true human toll of communism.
“We have at least two generations of people who don’t really understand what communism was all about, and what it still is in many countries around the globe,” he says, adding that this is one of the many reasons why a memorial is timely.
“[The memorial is] a kind of a giving-back time for all of us, for all the immigrants who found a safe harbour in Canada. But it’s also an educational tool.”
In his announcement, Kenney said the memorial will “serve as a reminder to all Canadians that glorifying Communist symbols insults the memory of these victims”—something that resonates with Klimkowski.
He says it is “absolutely acceptable” in today’s popular culture to casually display an image of the hammer and sickle or the face of communist leaders Lenin and Mao, which leads him to believe that people do not truly understand the loss of life connected to those symbols.
“The red flag of the hammer and sickle—frankly, red flags were soaked in the blood of the 100 million people who were killed by communists,” he says.
Tribute to Liberty will work closely with the National Capital Commission and Public Works and Government Services Canada on the design and development of the memorial, which will be called A Memorial to Victims of Communism. It is expected to be completed in late 2014.
The design of the memorial has not yet been finalized but Klimkowski says it will act as common ground for people from all backgrounds to heal and support each other over a shared tragedy.
“It has to be a unifying monument, a unifying holy ground for all of us. We need to make sure that this is given a pristine location that properly represents the suffering [of victims] and the beacon of freedom that Canada has given to us,” he said.