CHRONOLOGY OF THE FAMINE YEARS
This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of history's most horrifying cases of genocide - the Soviet-made Great Famine of 1932-33, in which some 7 million Ukrainians perished.
Relying on news from Svoboda and, later, The Ukrainian Weekly (which began publication in October 1933), this column hopes to remind and inform Americans and Canadians of this terrible crime against humanity.
By bringing other events worldwide into the picture as well, the column hopes to give a perspective on the state of the world in the years of Ukraine's Great Famine.
On May 25, 1932, Svoboda received a lengthy letter from Hnat Porokhivsky, a man in Bucharest who had made contact with many of the refugees who had escaped to Rumania from Ukraine. He also collected news items from the Rumanian press about the peasant refugees who made it over to Bessarabia.
In his letter, Mr. Porokhivsky says he had the opportunity to travel to the border near the Dnister. He cites the reasons Ukrainian peasants escaped to Rumania, on the basis of his talks with them.
He writes that, according to the Rumanian press, which dutifully covered any news about Ukrainian refugees in the period between January 1 and March 13, it was recorded that the following number of people made it from Soviet-occupied Ukraine to Rumania: 315 men, 234 women, 283 boys and 223 girls. All were either Ukrainian or Rumanian.
Quoting Rumanian newspapers, Mr. Porokhivsky writes: "On the night of February 5-6, Bolshevik guards saw five men and one woman trying to make it across the Dnister. The woman was killed, the men made it to the Rumanian border. The corpse of the woman was left on the spot for crows to peck at."
Another news account in the Rumanian press included this brief. On the night of March 21-22, all the residents of Skutary, who were threatened with deportation to Siberia, tried to escape to the Rumanian side. They were surrounded by border guards. For the next three hours all that was heard was screaming and shots ringing out as people were killed.
A common characteristic in all these escapes, says Mr. Porokhivsky is that all of the people who flee know that they will be shot at, or even killed, by Soviet border guards, but they say that they would rather take this chance than live in "Soviet hell."
Mr. Porokhivsky writes: "All the materials I have collected serve as evidence of the hardships of life in Ukraine, the terror that reigns, the persecution of the Ukrainian population by the Soviets, the robbing of the people and the overworking of the laborers."
The Soviet government's indiscriminate pursuit of grain quotas went to all lengths, and the peasants were threatened if they did not perform the work expected of them by the authorities. This, in turn, caused many peasants to flee in order to save their lives and avoid being sent off to Solovky or Siberia.
Mr. Porokhivsky traveled to the Bessarabian-Ukrainian border and spoke to various people who had escaped to Rumania. Following are quotes from some Ukrainians who escaped to Bessarabia.
Eighteen-year-old Volodymyr Hrytskiv of the village of Nezavertaylivka, said: "I escaped because my mother was sent to Solovky for not meeting her grain quota. I ran away to save myself from a famine death."
Ivan Myroshnychenko, 23, from a village in the Donbas region fled to Rumania on January 6, 1932, because "all of our stored grain and livestock was taken from us for we did not meet the government's grain quota. Everyone was threatened with Solovky."
Sophia Kohut, 18, of the village of Khoroshivka, said: "They wanted me to join the Communist Party. I did not want to; they did not let me live."
Fedir Horodnyk, 23, of Chornobyl in the Kiev region told Mr. Porokhivsky: "I could not serve the Communists who ruined my family."
Mr. Porokhivsky talked to 20 different people and got the same type of response from all. He gives his own explanation based on the news briefs he read and the refugees he interviewed. He says that the Soviet government planned to collect a certain amount of grain in 1931-32. The government did not take into consideration whether a village could meet this quota and sent the peasants to jails or to Siberia, and it even shot at or killed the ones who spoke up. Mr. Porokhivsky ends his letter to Svoboda by saying that the physical existence of the Ukrainian people is threatened by the greatest danger they have ever had to experience.
A story datelined Moscow that appeared in Svoboda on May 17, 1932, reported that, despite the Soviet government's issued statements and planting campaigns, the peasants do not meet the quotas issued. According to the five-year plan, 200 million acres of land should have been planted - only one-fourth of the quota.
* * *
In the month of May 1932 the body of Charles Lindbergh's baby son, who had been missing for two months, was found in a forest.
Amelia Earhart Putnam, an American aviator, also made world headlines as she became the first woman to make a solo flight across the Atlantic, exactly five years after Mr. Lindbergh's son fight.
The Japanese-Chinese battle raged on, with the Japanese troops moving through Manchuria toward Khabarovsk.
In the Soviet Union, all talk was centered on war with Japan. Newspapers in the Soviet Union reported rumors that America would help the USSR if indeed it came to war between the two countries.
In Japan, people were so absorbed by war talk that they took little interest in the funeral of Ki Inukai, the 77-year-old prime minister of Japan and leader of Japanese nationalists, who was assassinated by young officers who broke into his apartment.
In France, a Russian emigre shot and killed the president of France, 75-year-old Paul Doumer. The president was succeeded by Albert Lebrun.
In Western Ukraine, which was then under Polish rule, mass arrests and trials of members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists continued.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, March 13, 1983, No. 11, Vol. LI
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