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.
November 1 -15, 1933
In Rohatyn, a Committee to Save the Hungry in Ukraine received a letter written by a girl to her mother, describing the family's living conditions. The letter was forwarded to Svoboda and reprinted on November 2. The text follows.
"By the time we received your last package, we practically died. For 11 days all we ate were cucumbers. Dearest Mother, we didn't even have any water to drink. Death was so close, yet we could not die. Ah, such is the irony of fate. You send us $10 and death escapes us; so, endlessly we continue this suffering, this torment and punishment. It would have been better if your package had come 10 days later. We would have ended it all. But now it starts all over. Mother, we have resigned from life, we have no desire to live, death would bring us our freedom."
On November 6, Svoboda printed news it had received from the Ukrainian Bureau in London, which stated that between October 17 and 22, the Manchester Guardian had printed a series of articles about conditions in Ukraine and the Kuban. The series was written by the Manchester Guardian's correspondent in Moscow. Svoboda reported that the correspondent said he did indeed see famine, and translated a few of the more poignant stories for its readers. In the following days Svoboda reprinted the series in English.
On November 6, Svoboda printed news about Ukrainian Canadians in Oshawa, Ont., who had held a meeting to protest against the Soviet government.
On November 7, Svoboda printed press reports on Ukraine and Ukrainians from the following newspapers: The New York Times, The Wilmington (Del.) Evening Journal and the Ambridge (Pa.) Daily Citizen. The New York Times story, dated November 4, reported that the United Ukrainian Organizations of America states in a resolution that they were unanimously opposed to the recognition of the Soviet government by the United States until the Soviet Union guaranteed the cultural entities of subjugated peoples living within its borders. The Ukrainian group also specifically noted the Soviet government's failure to aid or permit outside aid to the starving population in Ukraine. The resolution designated the month of November as a month of protest by Americans of Ukrainian descent against the brutal treatment of Ukrainians under Soviet rule, and set aside Sunday, November 19, for memorial services for the victims of the famine.
On November 8, Svoboda reported news from Bucharest that once again Ukrainians were attempting to make their way over to Rumania, fearing for their lives because of famine. The story noted that many residents of Moldavian villages were being resettled in Siberia.
News reports from Chernivtsi, published on November 8, stated that the district committee was encouraging towns and villages in the Bukovina area to form their own aid committees to help the famine victims in Ukraine.
According to a commentary in Svoboda, which also appeared on November 8, Cardinal Theodore Innitzer of Vienna, along with his Committee to Save the Hungry in Ukraine, met with representatives of various organizations on October 16 to begin more concrete aid actions.
The cardinal stated that the immediate plan of action had no political overtones; the group was acting strictly out of humanitarian concerns, he said.
Also on November 8, a copy of a speech delivered by Fedir Lutsiv of the University of Dubuque was published in Svoboda. Mr. Lutsiv gave a brief history of Ukraine and explained the current situation in both eastern and western Ukraine to his audience.
On November 9, the front page of Svoboda carried news that the Polish government would not allow Ukrainians to protest on October 29 against the famine in Ukraine. The motive for this decision was the recent assassination attempt on an official from the Soviet Consulate in Lviv, the Polish press said.
The same day Svoboda printed news from Lviv that the Polish press had totally ignored the famine situation in Ukraine. This fact was noted in two Polish publications.
On November 10, across the top of the front page, Svoboda published the following slogan: "We Must Protest Against the Starving of Ukrainians by the Soviets." The slogan ran in the paper every day of that week.
A news item datelined Lviv stated that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Episcopate, headed by Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, would hold a national day of mourning and protest on October 29, on behalf of the Ukrainians in Soviet Ukraine.
That day, according to the episcopate, would be marked by solemn liturgies.
Directly underneath that article, another item appeared. This one, also datelined Lviv, was headlined: "Ukrainians May Not Protest" and explained that Polish officials had banned any type of protest meetings and any passing of resolutions in western Ukraine protesting the hunger in Soviet Ukraine.
On page 2 of Svoboda, a slogan ran across the page which said: "It is a Ukrainian and human responsibility to take part in demonstrations and marches to protest the starvation of millions of Ukrainians by the Soviets."
That same day Svoboda also published the text of a speech delivered by Prof. Robert E. Ireton at the University of Detroit at the Ukrainian protest meeting.
In that same issue, Svoboda published an article, written by the representatives of the National Women's Council, which appealed to mothers around the world to help the starving children in Ukraine.
Svoboda printed news from Vienna on November 11. An Austrian newspaper, Neue Freie Presse, stated that its Moscow correspondent reported that bread was now available in Ukraine, although it could only be purchased for large sums of money.
That same day, news datelined London was printed in Svoboda. A correspondent for The Morning Post stated that there would be even greater famine in 1934.
Also on November 11, Svoboda printed the text of the pastoral letter-appeal issued by the bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church on October 17, 1933. It was signed by Metropolitan Sheptytsky and the following bishops: Hryhoriy Khomyshyn of Stanislav, Yosafat Kociolowsky of Peremyshl, Hryhoriy Lakota, auxiliary bishop of Peremyshl; Ivan Liatyshevsky, auxiliary bishop of Stanislav; and Ivan Buchko, auxiliary bishop of Lviv.
The appeal slated October 29 as a day of national mourning, a day to unite in love for the suffering Ukrainian brothers and sisters. The appeal expressed deep gratitude to Cardinal Innitzer for his work. It also referred to the Youth in Christ participants who had marched through the streets of Lviv in May. The appeal asked the youths to pray, for much can be achieved through prayer.
On November 13, Svoboda carried a news report about the famine in the Kuban territories. Written by a corespondent for the Manchester Guardian, the report stated that an extraordinary number of deaths had occurred in the region during the last year.
On that same day Svoboda reprinted reports in English from the Manchester Guardian about the situation in Ukraine. Following are excerpts from the text, which was printed in series form on November 13, 14 and 16. It had appeared in the Manchester Guardian on October 17-21:
"During the present year the resident of Moscow has heard what seemed to be contradictory reports from the villages: private, unofficial stories of hunger unknown since the great famine of 1921-22 in the rural areas of Southern and Southeastern Russia, and official claims of improved labor discipline and morale on the collective farm, and of an excellent harvest.
"It was with a view to learning the actual facts of the situation that your correspondent has just undertaken a visit of two weeks to three substantially separated regions, one in the North Caucasus and two in Ukraine."
According to the correspondent's reports, he found cases of hunger and quite abnormal mortality rates in both the Northern Caucasus and in Ukraine. He wrote:
"It is only after one leaves the railway line and visits this typical Cossack 'stanitsa,' picturesquely located on a high bluff overlooking the Kuban River, that one begins to realize the fierceness of the class struggle that has raged around the issue of collectivization in this region and that gives to the naturally rich and fertile Kuban Valley today a somewhat desolate impression. I had traveled fairly extensively in the Kuban region in 1924, and was immediately struck now by certain visual contrasts. Gone were the rich loaves of wheaten bread and the delicious slices of lamb that were freely offered for sale everywhere in that year. Immense numbers of the sheep and other livestock had been slaughtered as a result of the rage despair of the kulaks (a much larger part of the peasant population in this rich and comparatively sparsely settled territory than in most other parts of Russia) when the authorities went to the policy of 'liquidating' them."
Of his trip to Ukraine the correspondent wrote:
"A visit to the Poltava market, where townsmen chaffered with kerchiefed peasant women over the prices of eggs and milk and vegetables, afforded a concrete illustration of two important features of Soviet agricultural life - the Soviet control over the supply of staple foodstuffs and the tremendous decline in livestock which is perhaps the most unfavorable feature of Soviet agricultural life today.
"'What is the truth of rumors about food shortage in the Poltava district last winter and spring?' I inquired (in the Poltava executive committee office).
"'Elements of hunger there were,' replied Mr. Mezhuev, president of the local Soviet Executive Committee, weighing his words carefully. 'There were deaths from hunger. But the stories in the emigre press about wholesale starvation are nonsense. The best refutation is our successful spring planting and our good harvest.'
"The president of the executive committee then outlined interesting details of the relief work which had been organized in the district. Two thousand homeless peasant children had been picked up; 1,500 of these were distributed among families which were willing to care for them in the collective farms, while 500 were organized in a children's commune. This, of course, went far to explain the non-appearance of waifs, of whom there were so many after the civil war and the famine of 1921. Six thousand collective farm members had been sent to the coal-mines of the Donets Basin where they could find bread and work; 2,400 persons suffering from acute malnutrition were treated at central medical points; of these about 10 percent died. These establishments did not, as Mr. Mezhuev declared, reach every case, and my own observation in traveling about the district was that relief was decidedly more accessible to the 12,000 peasant families of the district which are now organized in collective farms than to the 2,500 families which still maintained individual farming."
On November 14, Svoboda also carried news about the Ukrainian community in the Boston area, which marched in protest against the famine in Ukraine.
The following appeal was issued by United Ukrainian Organizations of America in the November 10 issue of The Ukrainian Weekly:
"In order to call the civilized world's attention to the unprecedented reign of terror in Ukraine instituted by the Soviet dictatorship and, furthermore, to the barbaric and unheard of destruction of the Ukrainian population by means of Moscow's deliberately planned and fostered famine, which has resulted in millions of Ukrainians having died a terrible death from starvation during the past year, the 'Obiednannia' at its congress last week, proclaimed the whole month of November as a Month of Protest, and Sunday, November 19, 1933, as a National Day of Mourning for the Millions of Ukrainian Victims of Bolshevik Ferocity."
* * *
Around the world:
The sixth congress of the United Ukrainian Organizations of America was held in New York.
New Yorkers elected Fiorello LaGuardia mayor, toppling the Tammany Hall politicians. He was a member of the Fusion party.
President Roosevelt met with Maxim Litvinov to discuss compromises in the United States' recognition of the Soviet Union.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, September 18, 1983, No. 38, Vol. LI
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