February 26, 1984



By 1935, news of the Great Famine no longer occupied the pages of Svoboda and The Ukrainian Weekly. Instead, the pages of the two newspapers were filled with reports on other forms of Stalinist terror: purges, trials, mass executions, etc.

To be sure, some Western publications did write about the famine in 1935 – two years after the height of the famine – reporting on what was “old news” to the free world’s Ukrainian community which had tried so desperately to make the existence of the famine known to the world at large and to save their kin.

Many in the Ukrainian community, including The Ukrainian Weekly in a January 11, 1935, editorial, were left with the nagging question: “Why?” Why was the world indifferent to Ukraine’s plight in 1932-33? Below are excerpts from that editorial.

* * *

“It is a pleasure to see how our American Ukrainian youth is beginning to react towards the efforts of those influences that seek to obscure the Ukrainian cause in the eyes of the American public.

“At the present time this reaction has taken on a rather efficient form, namely: letters sent by our young people for publication in the American press. These letters are beginning to lift a bit that haze of ignorance and misunderstanding that has surrounded the Ukrainian cause for so long here in America.

“For-example, these letters… help to embarrass the highly-touted Soviet propaganda machine that strives to hide the existence of the present reign of terror in the Soviet Union, particularly in Ukraine, and that also seeks to hide from world view the terrible human toll taken by the famine in Ukraine, deliberately fostered by Soviet authorities in an effort to break the backbone of Ukrainian peasantry’s opposition towards Soviet rule and policies.

“In this work our youth finds a great many obstacles that hinder it. And one of the greatest of these is the general indifference of the American press and public towards these shocking conditions in Ukraine. This indifference amazes our young people. They ask in wonder why… well-authenticated news reports of people dying by the millions in Ukraine as a result of a deliberately Soviet-fostered famine get but scant attention? Why is it, they ask, that this press and public that so severely condemns the concentration camps in Germany raises no protest against the infinitely worse forced-labor camps in northern Russia, wherein hundreds of thousands political dissidents labor under unbelievably terrible conditions and die like flies? Why is it, as William H. Chamberlin, the well-known American journalist asks in the October issue of the Fortnightly Review, that the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti several years ago caused a veritable storm of protest to arise from all the radicals, liberals and humanitarians, and yet the present mass starvation and reign of terror in Ukraine hardly raises a peep from hem? This is indeed a sad commentary, that such unparalleled cruelty and terrorism as exists in the Soviet Union today cannot even call out a fraction of the worldwide protest aroused by the execution of two obscure anarchists in Boston!

“Avoiding other pertinent reasons, we can partly answer these questions by pointing to the rigid Soviet censorship, impossible in any other country, that permits hardly anything but praise for the Soviet regime to emanate from the country. Also the Soviet worldwide propaganda, helped along by some foolish and misguided intellectuals, who dream of a paradise in hell!

“Occasionally, of course, this rigid censorship is evaded by some courageous journalist, who leaving the Soviet Union exposes the true conditions therein. But journalists made of such stuff are few and far between. But they do help, however, the thinking public to regard with skepticism the opinions of such world figures as Bernard Shaw and Edouard Herriot, who see Russia on carefully conducted tours, are wined and dined, and come back home with rhapsodical praise of all that they saw – rather what they were permitted to see.

“Just now it would be interesting to know how all these ‘progressives,’ socialists and ‘humanitarians’ feel toward the latest phase of Soviet terrorism, the recent mass executions that took place in the Soviet Union without the slightest semblance of a fair trial.”