OTTAWA—A Canadian memorial to those who suffered and died under the yoke of communism came a step closer to fruition with the unveiling of the winning design for the monument on May 17.
The winner, titled Arc of Memory, was created by Toronto architect and artist Paul Raff and his team.
The $3 million cost of the memorial, whose full name is the Memorial to the Victims of Communism – Canada, a Land of Refuge, will be shared between the federal government and Tribute to Liberty, the charity spearheading the project.
The chair of the group, Ludwik Klimkowski, said in an interview that finally having a design decided on is “a major step forward” and he’s pleased with the jury’s choice, calling it “intriguing and interesting.” He himself was one of the judges.
Canada has been shaped significantly by communist repression, Klimkowski noted. In particular, Canada opened its arms to people from around the world “seeking refuge from the pain and suffering inflicted by evil communist regimes.”
“As many as eight million immigrants, descendants of immigrants, came from countries oppressed by communism,” he said.
Raff said that approximately 100 million people worldwide lost their lives and suffered under communist regimes.
“There have been murders, there have been rapes, there have been people stripped of their possessions, their privacy, security, liberty, their communications, and freedom—this is not something we accept,” he said.
“This is something we need to commemorate, recognize, and call it for what it is. We have an opportunity and we are doing it now through a creative vision and a physical memorial to express that, and that our heart goes out to the victims.”
Consisting of 4,000 bronze rods configured into a gigantic arc, the winning design is intended as “a dynamic living calendar that would commemorate moments of suffering and injustice that eventually resolve into reflection and gratitude,” according to a Canadian Heritage press release.
It features two curving wall-like metal frames totalling 21 metres in length and almost 4 metres in height. The walls support the bronze rods, which are densely arranged along 365 steel fins, each pointing at a unique angle of the sun to denote every hour of every day over the span of a year.
“There are more than 4,000 daylight hours in a year, and so every moment the entire calendar year is made visible and tangible, is given a sort of form, so that any moment in history, the anniversary of that can be identified,” Raff explains.
“This is the moment that the Berlin Wall fell, this is the moment that tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square, on this day in history. That is when it happened. Through anniversaries, that is how it keeps these memories alive.”
The winner was chosen from a shortlist of five designs, the theme being the flight from oppressive regimes to the openness and democracy of Canada.
The announcement of the winning design was made at the Canadian Museum of History by Arif Virani, parliamentary secretary to Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly.
“I am confident that this design will honour the millions of Canadians who fled injustice and suffered under repressive communist regimes. This memorial will be a tribute both to those who fled and to the Canadians who welcomed them into our beautiful country,” Virani said.
The memorial will be built on a site on the west side of the Garden of the Provinces and Territories in downtown Ottawa. Construction will begin this year and is scheduled to be completed sometime in 2018.
“This being the year Canada celebrates its 150th birthday, it’s a fitting time for construction to start on the memorial,” Klimkowski said.
“For a lot of immigrants like myself who came to this country, the Memorial to the Victims of Communism gives them an opportunity to say thank you to their fellow Canadians, especially during this year, the 150th birthday of Canadian history.”
Raff said the memorial will serve as a reminder to future generations of the crimes of communism.
“To commemorate the victims is to carry forward a message to future generations about the reality, the historical reality, of what’s happened and what continues to happen, in a way that is striking and emotionally compelling—striking for them, for future generations.”