ST. PAUL -- Kira Tsarehradsky, 87, is living in St. Paul today largely thanks to a Doberman pinscher.
Tsarehradsky said the Doberman, named Hector, was a born watchdog. So much so that he was registered in the Soviet Union's military and received food rations during the 1930s Ukrainian genocide by famine perpetrated by Joseph Stalin. The period -- known as the Holodomor -- resulted in the death of millions.
The rest of Tsarehradsky's family in Ukraine was subject to starvation but they were able to survive on Hector's food.
“(Hector) got a piece of meat from an unborn calf. Can you imagine? My father got only one-fourth of a kilogram of bread. And we had my grandmother, who got nothing,” Tsarehradsky said. "A dog saved our family."
Around 16,000 Minnesotans of Ukrainian descent have family who are survivors or victims of the famine-genocide.
Several hundred Ukrainian-Americans will gather at Minneapolis’ Ukrainian American Community Center from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday to observe the 85th anniversary of the Holodomor. St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter has named Sunday "Ukraine Genocide Remembrance Day."
Because of health concerns, Tsarehradsky will speak to the crowd via video. Sophia Isajiw, a Holodomor researcher from Toronto, will deliver a keynote speech.
The event will include a candlelight memorial service and a wall of remembrance featuring names of victims with relatives in the Twin Cities Ukrainian community.
“It’s a way to connect the past and present and make sense of and find a way to speak about what's unspeakable,” said event chair Zina Gutmanis.
Also on Sunday will be the announcement of a Minnesota Historical Society-funded oral history project on Holodomor. The project will include commissioned interviews with survivors and descendants of survivors.
For Tsarehradsky, who moved with her mother to displaced-persons camps in Europe before fleeing to Paraguay and eventually coming to Minnesota in 1961, the anniversary is significant.
“Not many people survived because not many people had a Doberman pinscher who was in the military (and) who got a ration of food,” Tsarehradsky said. “We survived with God’s blessing.”