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.
September 16-30, 1933
On September 16, Svoboda printed a news item, datelined Moscow, which revealed that the Soviet regime was sending children, age 6 to 16, as well as the elderly, age 60 to 80 to harvest the crops. The regime mentioned that the elderly would act as grain inspectors.
News reports from Kharkiv were printed in Svoboda on September 18. According of The New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty, the Soviet regime had broken the resistance of the peasants. Now, he wrote, the grain elevators were overflowing with wheat; along the railroad tracks, one could find seeds, spilled over from the transport cars. The Soviets had to organize town dwellers to come out and pick the crops, he stated. Mobilization was needed, Duranty wrote, because the Ukrainian population had been decimated by the Soviet regime. Many peasants had died of hunger, many were exiled, many set out on food searches. He commented that everyone knew that the peasants did not leave their land and flee when they could still live off it. The reason for the famine, Duranty wrote, was that the Soviet regime took away too much wheat from the peasants. He stated that the peasants who had left their lands because of the famine were now returning to work in the fields.
Duranty ended his dispatch with the message that the Soviet regime had taught the Ukrainian peasants a lesson: Those who do not work, do not eat. (This slogan had been printed on the Soviet buildings in Moscow.)
On September 19, news reports from the Ukrainian Bureau in London were printed in Svoboda. The items stated that the Soviet regime would not allow English correspondents and correspondents of "newspapers unwanted by the regime," to travel through the Soviet Union. Correspondents of The Manchester Guardian and the Christian Science Monitor, who often traveled through Ukraine in the past, were now forbidden to set foot there. Moscow was allowing only foreign correspondents who had gained the trust of the Soviet regime to travel to Ukraine.
That same day Svoboda ran a news item datelined Kharkiv, from New York Times correspondent Duranty. Writing about Kharkiv, "Russia," he stated that he had not seen hungry people in this region. On the contrary, he said, both young and old looked well-fed. He stressed several times that in Ukraine there was no more opposition to Moscow.
A report from the Ukrainian Bureau in London again appeared in Svoboda on September 19. The report stated that all the English newspapers had written the truth about the famine in Ukraine. English newspapers carrying the truth about the famine included: The London Times, The Manchester Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Morning Post, Western Mail, The Guardian, Catholic Times and others.
That same day, a news report datelined Kiev, then relayed to Lviv and on to Svoboda, stated that Moscow's commissars continued to "purge the All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, imprisoning or exiling all Ukrainian academicians," calling them "class enemies, nationalists, opportunists and counterrevolutionaries."
On September 20, Svoboda published an appeal (written in English) issued by the Ukrainian Bishops of the Galician Church Province on behalf of the starving population of Soviet Ukraine. It read in part:
"Ukraine is in the clutches of death. Her population is dying of starvation. Built up on injustice, fraud, godlessness and unrighteousness, the present regime has brought this formerly rich country to complete ruin. Three years ago, the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Pius XI, protested energetically against everything in Bolshevism which was contrary to Christianity, God and human nature; warning the whole Catholic world against the results of such crimes. We also joined in that protest. Today we see the situation resulting from Bolshevik action growing worse from day to day. The enemies of God and humanity have thrown aside religion, the basis of social order, have suppressed liberty, the greatest benefit for mankind; and have made slaves of the peasants and cannot feed them.
"In the face of these crimes, human nature revolts. Unable to give our dying brethren any material help, we appeal to all of you to do what you can, and if there is no possibility of human help on this earth, by prayers, fastings, general mourning and sacrifices to obtain divine justice. Before the whole world raise a mighty protest against the persecution of the little ones, the poor, the weak, and the innocent.
"The oppressors we accuse before the throne of the Almighty. The blood of workmen who, starving, toiled the black soil of Ukraine cries for revenge to heaven and the voice of the hungry reapers reaches our Almighty God. We beg all the Christian World, everybody who believes in God, and especially all workers and peasants, and above all our compatriots, to join us in our protests and carry it to the remotest countries of the globe. We beg all radio stations to inform the world about our appeal. Maybe it will reach the poor cottages where the peasants are dying. May it be at least some consolation for those who stand facing the terrible death from starvation, to know that their brethren have heard about their despair and are praying for them."
The appeal ended with the words, "Our hope is in God," and was signed by Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, Bishop Gregory Khomyshyn of Stanislav, Bishop Josaphat Kotsylovsky of Peremyshl, Bishop Nicetas Budka of Patar, Auxiliary Bishop Gregory Lakota of Peremyshl, Auxiliary Bishop Ivan Buchko of Lviv, and Auxiliary Bishop Ivan Latyshevsky of Stanislav. It was issued on St. Olha's feast day, July 24.
Also on September 20, news from Bern, Switzerland, was printed in Svoboda. The Congress of European Minorities blamed the Soviet regime for the famine in Ukraine, and passed a resolution to that effect.
Also on that day, a committee formed in Lviv to help save the hungry in Ukraine, reported that it had begun a united protest action around the world to help its brothers and sisters in Ukraine.
On September 21, Duranty reported that the Soviet regime had won its struggle with the Ukrainian people. Writing from Kharkiv, he stated that he had traveled freely around the countryside for 10 days. He added that there was a lot of work to be done to accomplish all of the Soviet regime's plans.
On September 22, the headline in Svoboda read: "Bolsheviks Throw Out All Ukrainians from Party." According to the news received from Lviv, the Soviets were purging the party of Ukrainians, whom they considered separatists. Even the founder of the Ukrainian Communist Party had been purged from the party.
"The Famine Continues in Ukraine," the headline in Svoboda read on September 25. A correspondent for the New York Sun reported that the Soviets had exaggerated the productivity of the 1933 harvest in Ukraine. He reported that the year's harvest was comparable to the one in 1930. News of famine in Ukraine was varied, the correspondent reported. One reporter said that anywhere from 4 to 7 million people had perished.
The New York Sun correspondent reported that only 40 percent of the grain picked had been of good quality. The rest had rotted away. The article also stated that the Soviet ruble value was such that two rubles equalled an American dollar, and on the black market, a dollar could be sold for 50 rubles.
News from London was printed in Svoboda on September 26. According to a correspondent for the Morning Post, the 1933 famine was much, much worse than the one in 1921-23 during which 5.5 million people died. The difference between the two famines was that in 1921 the Bolsheviks had admitted the existence of a famine, while in 1933 they tried to cover it up to save their prestige, because the existing famine was the result of the failure of the five-year plan, which was never mentioned anymore, he said.
Although the coming winter would be very difficult for the people, the Soviets continued to export grain to obtain ham and pork for themselves, he noted.
On September 27, Svoboda printed news from the Ukrainian Bureau in London, which outlined what the English press had written about the famine. The Daily Telegraph stated that one town which in 1932 had a population of 3,500 now had 2,000 residents. Another village, which at one time had 700 people now had five families.
The Yorkshire Observer reported: "When one wants to know what it means to be persecuted, one should travel to Ukraine, to see the 'Red terror' do its work."
The French press also wrote about the famine in Ukraine, and Svoboda reported this on September 27. A correspondent for Le Matin reported that he interviewed a Ukrainian woman (a Mrs. Stebalo) who since 1913 had lived in America. In 1933, she went back to visit family in Ukraine. She told the correspondent: "In Moscow, one does not feel a famine." Then she and her husband took off to Kiev, where she noticed: "The city itself had changed little. However, the people, they were swollen from hunger. The worst came during our trip to the village. First we went to visit my husband's native village. How shocked we were to see - instead of the joyful, pretty villages - ruin. Not one flower, fences broken, in disrepair, trees without leaves. One could not hear the barking of dogs, nor the squawking of chickens. Everywhere the silence of death."
The couple met with Mr. Stebalo's mother, who hardly recognized her son. She stated that for over a year already she had not received any of the packages or money her son had sent her. Many of the peasants in the village had survived by eating the leaves and bark of trees and grass. After this journey, Mr. and Mrs. Stebalo went to Mrs. Stebalo's village, Pysarivka. However, all of her relatives had died. Of the 800 people in the village, 150 had died in the last two months, she was told.
Mr. and Mrs. Stebalo asked about reports they had heard of cannibalism, and were told by their hosts not to go out at night for precisely that reason. People, gone mad from hunger, would often attack humans at night, murder and then eat them.
The people relayed a story of a grandmother who had gone to visit her 7-year-old-grandson. Arriving at the house, she could not find him and asked the parents where her grandson was. They led her to the pantry where she found salted pieces of a child's body.
That same day Svoboda reported that the Ukrainian community in Berlin had gathered on Sunday, September 11, to celebrate a liturgy for the Ukrainians dying of hunger in eastern Ukraine. After the liturgical service, the people gathered to pass a resolution to help their brothers in Ukraine and collected donations for them.
On September 29, the United Ukrainian Organizations of Newark, N.J., wrote to Svoboda to report on actions taken to help their brothers and sisters in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian community in the Newark area also protested against U.S. government intentions of recognizing the Bolshevik regime in Russia.
The people, gathered at the Ukrainian Sitch Hall, solemnly declared: "The Soviet, or the Bolshevik government, as a matter of act, is not a real government of Ukraine, nor of its people. On the contrary, it is a dictatorship forcibly and violently imposed on the Ukrainian people against their will and wishes."
The appeal went on to say that the Soviet plan is a "deliberate withholding of food from the Ukrainian people by the Bolsheviks with the result that over 5 million Ukrainians have starved to death during the past year."
The organization asked that the United States send a special mission to investigate the famine; it appealed to the U.S. government to establish a Red Cross base in Ukraine to help the population. The appeal was published in the Newark Evening News and the Newark Star Eagle.
On September 30, Svoboda printed news from the Daily Mail in London. According to the correspondent, the attitude of the peasants was hostile toward the regime. Pravda reported that saboteurs and bandits continued to undermine the regime and steal wheat.
* * *
Around the world:
Ukrainians under Polish-occupied lands continued to be put on trial and persecuted.
Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss's followers demonstrated against Hitler's followers (members of the Austrian National Socialist Party) in Graz, Austria. These National Socialists were seen as the chief threat to the Dollfuss regime and to Austrian independence.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, August 28, 1983, No. 35, Vol. LI
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