August 1-15, 1933 A brief commentary on the situation in Ukraine was printed on the pages of Svoboda on August 1. Written by O. Snovyda, it was titled “The End of a Comedy,” and it referred to the suicide of Mykola Skrypnyk, minister of education in Soviet Ukraine and an advocate of Ukrainianization policies. The author stated that the suicide should serve as a “reminder to Ukrainians” that Moscow, whether it be Red or White, wishes only to destroy Ukraine. The author also said that no Ukrainian should ever think that Moscow wants to work together with Ukraine, or work toward some kind of compromise, adding that all Moscow wants to do is wipe Ukraine off the map of Europe. That same day, news from a French newspaper was printed in Svoboda.
(The Ukrainian Weekly, July 31, 1983, No. 31, Vol. LI)
The history of the Ukrainian people has been marked by times of fame and greatness as well as by periods of fall and ruin. The times of peace and affluence gave way to times of unrest and insufficiency, well-known battles and victories were followed by defeats and failures, and the years of cultural boom and the flourishing of the sciences and arts were followed by their stagnation and decline. After the fall of its independent state, the Ukrainian people fell victim to robbery, national and religious persecution, economic exploitation and cultural oppression and harassment.
Freedom at Issue NEW YORK – The Great Famine in Ukraine (1932-33) and its causes was the subject of an article by Alexander Motyl in the July-August issue of Freedom at Issue, a publication of Freedom House, a national human-rights organization. Mr. Motyl, who is the author of “The Turn to the Right,” a study of Ukrainian nationalism in the 1920s, wrote that the famine was a direct outgrowth of Stalin’s collectivization policies, which served the dual purpose of establishing party control over an independent peasantry and smashing the powerful national movement among the peasants. “The key was to extract, proportionately, far more grain from the Ukrainians than from the other peasants,” wrote Mr. Motyl. Citing available statistics, the author noted that in 1930, 38 percent of the USSR’s grain was extracted from Ukraine, although it produced only 27 percent of all harvested grain. With collectivization causing a sharp drop in grain production, government quotas remained high.
July 16-31 On July 17, Svoboda reported a news item carried by the Communist newspaper Pravda. The reports stated that Pavlo Postyshev, newly appointed second secretary of the Communist Party in Ukraine and first secretary of the Metropolitan Kharkiv Party Provincial Committee, has recently made a speech about the “mistakes” Mykola Skrypnyk had made as commissar of education in Ukraine. According to Postyshev’s report, Skrypnyk had been too lenient in his dealings with Ukrainians, allowing them too much freedom. Three days after this report (July 7) Skrypnyk committed suicide. The news speculated that Skrypnyk felt “threatened after he learned that his fate was going to be similar to those who spread the bourgeois culture of Dontsov, Yefremov and Hrushevsky in Ukraine.”
Wall Street Journal NEW YORK – The Great Famine in Ukraine (1932-33) was the subject of an op-ed article by Adrian Karatnycky published in the July 7 issue of the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Karatnycky began his article with an extended quote from Malcolm Muggeridge describing the death and destruction resulting from the famine. Mr. Muggeridge, who, as a reporter for the Manchester Guardian, was one of the few journalists to accurately convey the scope and severity of the tragedy, said the fertile fields of Ukraine were transformed into a “desert” peopled by starving peasants. “The devastation Mr. Muggeridge described wasn’t caused by any natural catastrophe,” wrote Mr. Karatnycky. “It was an entirely new phenomenon – history’s first artificial famine: a consequence of Stalin’s effort to collectivize agriculture and crush the nationally conscious Ukrainian peasantry.”
July 1-15, 1933 A July 1 story in Svoboda datelined Moscow stated that the Communist regime had issued an order which disbanded the autonomous court system in the republics of the Soviet Union. Svoboda commented that Ukraine had been deprived of even more of what little “independence” it had from Moscow. That same day Svoboda printed news from Kharkiv which reported that the Donbas had not met its coal quota. A commissar, who was currently supervising production there, reported that this lack of production was due to workers’ sabotage. On July 10 Svoboda carried an item received from Finland which reported that many people had escaped from Russia and fled to Finland to escape hunger.
March 1933 On March 1, 1933, Svoboda reported on a news story filed by The New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty. He wrote that, despite efforts on the part of the Communist Party and the Soviet government, the peasants refused to sow grain for the spring planting. Mr. Duranty believed that the reason for this was because the peasants had planted last season’s crop and it was taken away from them; the government had not left them enough to eat and they were not ready for a repeat of this. According to the news, the Soviets were planning to collect all the grain they needed from Ukraine, the Caucasus and lower Volga regions. However, they would be faced with difficulties because the peasantry refused to plant the grain, thereby sabotaging Soviet plans.
June 1933 In mid-1933, Svoboda received eyewitness reports about the famine in Ukraine. On June 3, Svoboda printed a news item from Warsaw; it related the experiences of visitors to southern Ukraine and the Crimean region. The news stated that the people fleeing the famine would wait at train stations for weeks, trying to find room on the trains passing through their villages. The stations were overcrowded with people dying from hunger, or suffering from typhoid and physical exhaustion. The eyewitnesses reported they saw corpses of dead children lying on the station platforms.
According to the reports from Poland; the desperate circumstances led to wide-scale banditry, to the point that it was unsafe to be outside after 7 p.m. Cases of cannibalism were also reported, according to the eyewitness accounts.
(The Ukrainian Weekly, July 10, 1983, No. 28, Vol. LI)
The following eyewitness accounts were first published in the second volume of “The Black Deeds of the Kremlin: A White Book,” published in 1955 by the Democratic Organization of Ukrainians Formerly Persecuted by the Soviet Regime. The first volume appeared in 1953. The acronym NKVD used in many of the accounts refers to the Soviet secret police as it was known before it became the KGB.
Gwiazda Polarna STEVENS POINT, Wis. – A letter to the editor of Gwiazda Polarna, a Polish-language newspaper published here, revealed the horror of the famine as seen by an eyewitness. The letter, by Ludwika Czerska of Stevens Point, was published in the May 7 issue of the newspaper. It was written in response to Gwiazda Polarna’s front-page article on the Great Famine of 1932-33. The full text of Ms. Czerska’s letter (in English translation) follows.