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 March 2, Svoboda reported on a meeting of the Polish Parliament in Warsaw, during which the president of the Ukrainian Club spoke out against the abusive treatment of Ukrainians under Soviet rule as well as in territories under Polish occupation. He stated that in Soviet-occupied Ukraine, famine ravaged the countryside. To date, he reported, over 5 million people had died.
According to news printed in Svoboda on the same day, a special commission was being formed in Kiev to prepare the city for its new role as capital of Soviet Ukraine. Over 20,000 people would be thrown out of buildings which were scheduled to become government facilities, the reports said. The Soviet reports stated that the government would resettle Soviet citizens from the north in Kiev, thereby reducing the Ukrainian nationalistic flavor of the city.
In the March 5 issue of Svoboda, a news item datelined Berlin appeared. According to the story, over 140,000 Germans in Ukraine had died of starvation in 1933.
On March 9, Svoboda printed a news item datelined Moscow. According to the story, much of the harvested grain had not been ground, and, therefore, there was no bread to be distributed to the people.
On March 10, a story about hunger in Ukraine appeared on the pages of Svoboda. The article which was translated into Ukrainian, was written by Whiting Williams, an American journalist who had spent time in Ukraine observing the famine. He said that in the course of 20 months, famine has engulfed Ukraine. People had fallen like flies; they were dying in a country which was once known as one of the richest lands of Europe.
The journalist stated that at the beginning, when he first heard such stories of famine, he thought they had to be fantasy and lies. Yet he came and saw for himself that all the horror stories he heard were indeed true.
On March 15 Svoboda published a news brief about a recently released French-language brochure about the famine. The news came from Brussels. The brochure was printed by the European United Ukrainian Organizations and featured many protests and appeals about the famine.
Svoboda printed news from London on March 17. Many English organizations were joining an action to help the hungry in Ukraine, among them, the Society of Friends - Quakers, Save the Children Fund and the Federation of Jewish Relief Organizations. Individual donations were also very generous in this campaign.
On March 23, a headline in Svoboda read "Lavish Dinners in the Famine Country." According to a story by The New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty, the Soviets hosted an extraordinary party for members of United Press and Associated Press, complete with champagne, making it difficult to believe there was a famine in the country.
A news report from Manchukuo was printed in the March 26 issue of Svoboda. It stated that in the January demonstration against the Soviets the Japanese, Manchurians and Ukrainians of the area protested against the Soviet regime. Slogans carried on posterboards during the demonstrations included: "Where there are Soviets, there is death and famine!," "Get out Red Dogs" and "Unite against the Soviets."
That same day, Svoboda reported on news from Komsomolska Pravda, which stated that many "farm social clubs" in Soviet Ukraine existed only on paper.
Also on March 26, Svoboda reported that once again, as happens every year, the Soviets reported to the world that the spring harvest promised to be better. That same day, under the column heading "Press Reports on Ukraine and Ukrainians," Svoboda quoted the Whiting Williams article previously mentioned:
"I saw with my own eyes the victims of famine. Men and women who were literally dying of hunger in the gutter. Have you ever seen a human being in the last stages of starvation? If you have done so once, you can never mistake the signs. The swollen faces and ankles which follow the breakdown of the body's normal functioning set the final seal of famine upon the emaciation of long-continued want.
"'With good luck I hope to get through the coming winter,' a Donetske railway laborer told me. 'But in my village, just over that hill, I have often seen my neighbors lying dead in the streets. I've counted 25 of them in one morning.'
"Dead people in the streets! I found it difficult to believe. At last I mentioned it to a young woman who had given me information on other subjects.
"'They make one last effort to get outside,' she explained, 'in the hope of finding or being given a crumb of bread. And then they are too weak and just drop.'
"A day or so later I saw an old man lying in the road on the outskirts of one of the steel towns. I have sufficient medical knowledge to know that he was dying, and that there was nothing which I, or anyone else, could do for him. But the worst memory I have brought out of Russia is the children. There was one youngster I saw in Kharkiv. Half naked, he had sunk, exhausted, on the carriage-way, with the curbstone as a pillow, and his pipe-stem legs sprawled out, regardless of danger from passing wheels."
On March 27, Svoboda printed news about the Ukrainian Aid Committee in London. The committee's actions were to gather money and send it to aid the needy in Ukraine and in other parts of the Soviet Union. The appeal was signed by a few notable Englishmen.
On March 31, Svoboda printed an article headlined: "Ukraine Continues its Struggle Against Moscow." It related the terms Pavel Postyshev used in describing Ukrainians, including the "class enemy of the Soviets." He stated that counterrevolutionaries, the nationalists that would work against the Soviet plan, were still active in Ukraine.
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Around the world:
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt urged shortening the work week and raising the workers' pay.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, October 30, 1983, No. 44, Vol. LI
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