There are only about 200 Crimean Tatars in Toronto. But like Crimean Tatars everywhere, on the 18th of May they gathered to commemorate the date when Stalin deported them from their homeland. This year, which marks the 70th anniversary, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress joined them, offered the Ukrainian National Federation’s Trident Hall for the event.
So many people came that the organizers had to keep adding chairs. Politicians from different political parties and levels of government spoke, as did the Consul General of Ukraine and Turkey, various community leaders, children of survivors. 75 year old Eldar Muradov, who was filming the event, was introduced as a deportee.
It was a solemn occasion. Many tears could be seen as a clip from the film Haytarma showed a re-enactment of the deportation. But there were children running around, enjoying the Crimean Tatar food that was on offer, giggling, playing. 8 year old Arsen Patapov came up when he saw me taking photos and announced, “I can speak Ukrainian!” He had recently arrived in Toronto from Crimea.
As did Elvira Maksudova, who gave a wonderful rendition of Guzel Qirim to the accompaniment of a violin.