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.
October 16-31, 1933
On October 16, Svoboda published a news item datelined Moscow, which stated that yet another purge of the Ukrainian SSR Communist Party had taken place, reducing the party membership by 30 percent.
The following day, a news item datelined Kolomyia appeared in Svoboda. It stated that the community had scheduled a public meeting protesting Soviet persecution and the famine in Soviet Ukraine. The meeting, planned for October 1, attracted hundreds of peasants and community leaders, but when the participants reached the meeting hall, Polish officials banned them from holding the protest.
That same day, Svoboda carried a news report stating that many Ukrainians from Galicia, who had resettled in Soviet Ukraine years ago, were fleeing the area because of the Soviet persecution. The people going back to western Ukraine reported the tragic situation in Soviet Ukraine, the starvation, and the persecution to newspapers in western Ukraine.
Also on October 17, a famine eyewitness from New York, Marta Kozak, who had recently returned from a trip visiting relatives in Soviet Ukraine, reported on her experiences on the pages of Svoboda. In Soviet Ukraine, the woman and her husband, who once were staunch Bolshevik supporters, witnessed the mass murder of innocent people by starvation. Seeing these horrible scenes, she vowed to spend the rest of her life speaking against the Soviet regime. She spoke to a full-house audience at the Ukrainian National Home. This public meeting collected over $287 in donations, and was one of the first of many planned New York demonstrations against the Soviet regime in Ukraine.
That same day Svoboda carried a news item about a local wedding of two Ukrainians. During the wedding, a collection was taken for the famine victims in Ukraine, underlining the fact that brothers and sisters in Ukraine were not forgotten in America.
The famine in Ukraine was a frequent topic in the Czechoslovak press, according to a commentary in Svoboda on October 18. One reason for this was because many Czechs had settled in Ukraine after World War I, looking for work, the article stated. During this time the Czechoslovak political parties were waging their own war against the Communists, and the "Soviet paradise," the article said.
On October 19, Svoboda printed news from Lviv that a day in late October would be designated as a Day of National Mourning in that city. According to the article in Svoboda, all churches in western Ukraine would hold liturgies for the Ukrainians in Soviet-occupied lands; this would be followed by the reading of reports on the current situation in Ukraine. No meetings or business negotiations were to take place on that day.
On October 20 Svoboda printed news from Vienna, which noted that the International Committee to Help the Hungry in Ukraine held a meeting. The committee, representing four religious groups (Greek-Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical and Jewish) and people of nine countries (Germans, Ukrainians, Russians, Greeks, Serbs, Poles, Armenians, Hungarians and Czechoslovaks), met in the archbishop's palace in Vienna, and resolved to broadcast an appeal throughout the world to aid the starving people in Ukraine. Special emphasis was to be given to the fact that while millions were starving in Ukraine, the world had more grain than it could use.
The headline in Svoboda on October 23 read: "Even Grandmothers Flee Ukraine." The story related the case of a 70-year-old woman who sought refuge at her daughter's in Riga, Latvia. She told the press that she had to flee by night to avoid being caught, and that the famine in Ukraine was so horrible that she felt she could no longer survive there. The only way she made it to Riga was thanks to the good-hearted people who saw her suffering and gave her pieces of bread to eat, she wrote.
On October 24, Svoboda published a commentary titled "The Famine in Ukraine and World Opinion," which praised the work of Cardinal Theodore Innitzer of Vienna and the efforts of the Red Cross in Geneva.
On October 27, Svoboda printed a news report from Paris, which stated that American journalist Harry Lang, having just returned from a few months' stay in the Soviet Union, confirmed that there was a famine in Ukraine. In his articles, Mr. Lang said he saw swollen people, and stated that cannibalism was a daily occurrence.
Mr. Lang said that he left the Soviet Union after the harvests, and although the Soviet press wrote that better times were ahead, he did not see this to be true.
Mr. Lang stated that he was in Kiev during former French Prime Minister Herriot's visit. He described the "comedy" staged to cover up what was really going on. According to the reporter, the entire city's population was mobilized to clean the streets for the visit; the beggars were forbidden to venture out into the streets; no lines were permitted in front of stores. Police on well-groomed horses patrolled the streets, to keep everyone in line. Mr. Lang stated that it was no wonder Herriott had come back to Paris and reported he saw no signs of famine.
On October 30, Svoboda published a memorandum to the President Franklin D. Roosevelt, written by United Ukrainian Organizations of the United States concerning the recognition of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics. The text, which follows, appeared on the front page.
"The time has come when you shall decide one of the most important problems of America's foreign policy: the question of the official recognition by the United States of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics.
"Hitherto this question of recognition has been decided negatively, for the United States government had no desire to have any official connection with a state whose rule over the Russian people, as well as over its subjugated and enslaved peoples such as the Ukrainians, was based upon direct force alone. We have grown accustomed to regard the Soviet republic as a state whose main purpose is the wholesale destruction throughout the entire world of those principles of democracy upon which our Constitution is based. We have come to regard the Soviet republic as a state, which through the medium of its subservient tool, the Third International, disseminates Bolshevist propaganda throughout the United States for the purpose of overthrowing by violent means our democratic institutions and our social order.
"The truth of this assertion has been repeatedly confirmed by the investigations of our government. It has been the motivating cause of the recent resolution of the American Legion - a body whose members fought to defend our democratic institutions - to oppose the recognition of the Soviet republic by the United States government.
"The American Federation of Labor has recently also expressed its opposition to this proposed recognition, basing its action upon the ground that in no other country in the world is the laboring class so mercilessly exploited as in Soviet Russia. The federation has repeatedly pointed out that the recognition of Soviet Russia by America would give the former an unprecedented opportunity of gaining American credit and loans by means of which Soviet trade would greatly increase, as a result of the further and greater exploitation of their enslaved workers, and the underselling of their competitors, including America. And finally, as the American Federation of Labor points out, the recognition of the Soviets by America would automatically open America's door to the hordes of Bolshevik propagandists who, as already has been proven, would stoop to any means to create dissensions and troubles among the American workers, seek to dominate the labor unions, and thus retard the progress of American reconstruction and make impossible the cooperation between capital and labor, towards which goal the National Recovery Administration is striving today.
"And it is because of these reasons that we, American citizens of Ukrainian descent are also strongly and unequivocally opposed to the recognition of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics by the United States government.
"And in addition to these very pertinent reasons as brought out by the American Legion and by the American Federation of Labor, we beg leave to add one more, to wit:
"During the past year several millions of the inhabitants of Soviet Ukraine, the land of our ancestors, have died from starvation. The existence of this terrible famine in Ukraine has been repeatedly proven by the leading European and American press. It is impossible to give the exact figures as to the total number of deaths from this great famine principally because of the rigid censorship in Soviet Russia. Just recently the Associated Press correspondent during his interview in Kharkiv with Alexander Asatkin, a Moscow political overlord in Ukraine, managed to obtain some official figures as to the numbers of famine victims in Ukraine, only to have those figures, which were considerably lower than reported in the outside world, refused transmission to America by the censor in Moscow.
"It will be sufficient for us, however, to affirm the well-authenticated reports of impartial American and European newspaper correspondents that during the past year several millions inhabitants of Ukraine have died a terrible death from starvation, and that even cannibalism was discovered in several sections of the country; all of this in a land which is regarded as one of the most fertile in the world.
"As to the cause of this terrible famine in Ukraine, even the foreign correspondents in Soviet Russia do not attempt to hide the fact any longer that the famine is a result of Soviet policy. They regard the famine as another step taken by Moscow directed towards the breaking down of the opposition of the Ukrainian peasantry, which at all times was and still is, uncompromisingly hostile to the Communistic system, as well as to the occupation of Ukraine by Moscovschyna (Russia proper).
"The American Ukrainian press is filled with reprinted letters from Ukraine which somehow managed to elude the strict Soviet censorship, and which contain pathetic appeals for help against this terrible foe - hunger. They implore us and others to appeal to the American sense of humanity and justice and have America aid the stricken Ukraine once more, as it did back in 1921.
"All of these foregoing reasons have led us to send a delegation to the president of the United States, in order to inform the United States government of our opinion concerning the recognition of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics by the United States government. We regard this task of expressing our unprejudiced opinion on this most important problem as our patriotic duty and because of the reasons already cited, we respectfully commend to the president to conduct any further necessary negotiations with the Soviets on the subject of the recognition only on the condition that the Soviet republic permits the sending of an impartial special American mission to Soviet Russia, particularly to Ukraine, for the purpose of investigating the conditions therein, and to ascertain the direct cause of this terrible famine which during the past year mowed down millions of victims in Ukraine.
"We are firmly convinced that the famine in Ukraine is not a result of poor crops or drought, but on the contrary, is a result of the political and cultural conflict between Ukrainian nationalistic aspirations and Moscow's imperialistic and centralizing designs; and also because of the Ukrainian peasants' opposition to Moscow's economic exploitation of Ukraine and to its forcibly imposed collectivization and other Communistic experiments practiced upon the Ukrainian people. The famine is the culmination of that unremitting and ferocious persecution of the Ukrainian people by Moscow dictatorship, which beginning back in 1918 - when the Bolsheviks forcibly seized Ukraine which in accordance with the will of its inhabitants and their desire of self-determination had been formed into the Ukrainian National Republic - has continued with unbated force to this day.
"The Bolshevik dictatorship over Ukraine, from its very beginning up to the present time, has always and without any interruptions whatsoever been maintained by brutal force alone against the will and wishes of the Ukrainian people. And in order to break the opposition, and to quell forever the unceasing struggle of the Ukrainian people to free themselves, the Soviets fostered during the past year this famine which has taken such a terrible toll of human life.
"And, therefore, in view of all of these circumstances, we believe that at least from the standpoint of humanity an investigation of these terrible conditions in Ukraine under the Soviets be immediately undertaken by this proposed special American mission.
"Only after a thorough investigation of these conditions - as enunciated by the American Legion and American Federation of Labor, and finally by Ukrainian people - can the question of the official recognition of the Union of Socialist Republics by the United States government be finally decided in accordance with the world renowned American principles of justice and humanity.
"In view of the fact that the Ukrainian people have repeatedly declared, through their legal representatives, that they do not recognize the Russian occupation of Ukraine nor treaties and obligations entered into by the Moscow government concerning Ukrainian territories;
"And in view of the fact that under present Soviet Russian oppression the Ukrainian people are unable to express themselves freely upon questions vitally affecting them;
"We owe it to the American government as loyal citizens to call its attention to those facts."
The memorandum was signed by representatives of the following Ukrainian organizations: United Ukrainian Organizations of the United States, the Ukrainian National Association, the Providence Association of Ukrainian Catholics in America, the Ukrainian National Aid Association and the United Ukrainian-American Democratic Clubs of the State of New York.
The headline in Svoboda on October 31, read "Soviet Propaganda about the Hunger in Ukraine." Datelined London, the news report stated that the Soviets had begun a campaign in the British press denying reports of the millions of people dying in Ukraine because of the hunger. Joan Beauchamp, a London journalist, who was a Communist sympathizer, wrote in the Manchester Guardian that the harvest had not been this good for 35 years, and that the peasants were smiling in the streets.
In the October 27 issue of The Ukrainian Weekly, the world appeal, issued in Vienna and already mentioned in Svoboda, was reprinted. That day, a commentary, written by Theodore Lutwiniak, stated that Ukrainians should "do their part" in spreading the word about the conditions in Ukraine.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, September 11, 1983, No. 37, Vol. LI
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