By July 1932, reports about the tragic situation in Soviet-occupied Ukraine were seen on the pages of Svoboda on a more frequent basis. On July 11, 1932, a person named I. Sulyma wrote an article about the “breadbasket of Europe,” titled “Famine in Soviet Ukraine.” The author wrote about the history of famines on Ukrainian lands. He included the famine of 1651-53 under Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky and the famine in western Ukraine in 1847. In the year 1932, he wrote, famine was first observed in the regions of the Carpathian Mountains. This, according to the author, was caused by a drought.
In eastern Ukraine, however, the famine began with the Russian occupation, he said. The situation in 1921-22 was also catastrophic, the author noted. He quoted from a book published in New York in 1927, in which Prof. H. Fisher wrote: “The Soviets did not allow Americans or, more specifically, the American Relief Administration, to send food parcels or help the people in Ukraine.”
Mr. Sulyma wrote: “It has been 10 years since the famine of 1922. And once again tragic news comes from Ukraine. Although the Soviet government reports that 1931 produced a good harvest, famine still rules in Ukraine.” The author noted that people perished trying to cross the Dnister River. “The Red Moscow wants to turn Ukraine into a wasteland. Moscow Bolsheviks want to ruin our nation from the Zbruch to the Caucasus. The Bolsheviks are even trying to make money on the famine by charging tax on any parcels that come into Ukraine,” he said.
That same day a letter from a Ukrainian worker in the Don oblast appeared in Svoboda. The person wrote that the price of corn flour rose from eight to 50 rubles. The only subject talked about is bread, he noted.
A second letter received by Svoboda talked about the terrible hunger and the need for food. Although the 1931 harvest was good, the letter said, all the farm animals died for there is nothing to feed them. The family had received some weeks-old bread, and tried to swallow it with water. The person wrote that she feels the end of her life is nearing. “We have no fat, no milk, and there will be none. Everyone has trouble; everything good is gone, only misfortune reigns.”
On July 15, Svoboda printed an article headlined: “Stalin admits to the difficult situation of agriculture in Ukraine.” According to the story, Stalin sent his right-hand man, Premier Vyacheslav Molotov to do an overhaul of the Communist Party in Ukraine. This assignment was given after a specially appointed commission reviewed the agricultural situation in Ukraine. According to the story, peasants began their spring planting but conducted it chaotically and without a specific plan. The Communist Party regarded this as sabotage by the peasants.
An editor’s note following the news brief stated that news from Moscow shows the regime has admitted that the situation in Ukraine has reached catastrophic proportions.
On the next day, July 16, Molotov, who was attending a Communist Party conference in Kharkiv, criticized the party for planning industrialization and neglecting agriculture. He stated that buildings and factories stand empty and the economic situation in Ukraine deteriorates. In his speech to the conference participants, Molotov stated that the peasants go hungry: “Communists have got to mend their relations with the peasants in Ukraine, and not allow the enemies of the Soviet government to propagandize against it.”
Thus, he said, the improvement of the agricultural situation in Ukraine will not only alleviate the economic situation in Ukraine, but the political situation as well. He added that the Jewish population is moving into the towns from the villages to find food.
In a July 18 article titled “Famine in Soviet Ukraine and its Main Reason,” the author stated that he had received news of the tragic situation in Ukraine. He wrote: “The horrible paradox of the situation is that the breadbasket is suffering from hunger.”
The author noted that this is political-economic exploitation of the people perpetrated by the Soviet regime. It follows the pattern of the famine of 1921-22, when all the available food was exported out of Ukraine into the distant Volga regions.
In 1928-29 a similar famine, although on a lesser scale, once again invaded Ukraine. Reasons for this famine included the requisition of all grains from the peasants as well as a terrible drought.
There are no natural causes for the famine of 1932, the author wrote. “The harvest of 1931 was plentiful, but the government took such harsh measures with the peasants that they were forced to give up 70 percent of everything harvested. Collectivization has forced the peasants to pay up to 31 percent in taxes although they make up only 19 percent of the total population of the Soviet Union. The government also did not deliver the seeds to be planted in Ukraine, thus most of the land stands barren this year,” he wrote.
The author ended his article by stating: “The real reason for these politics is known only to those who know and understand the existence of the Soviet government in Ukraine, its true character and goals. Famine is the most certain political ally of the regime which now occupies Ukraine, but this ally can also become the most dangerous enemy of that government – because every stick has two ends.”
On July 22 an article translated and reprinted from the Italian press was also published in Svoboda. It dealt with the agricultural situation in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Bureau in London printed an English report about the percentage of land sown and the crops yielded. After visiting Ukraine, a Sunday Times correspondent, A. T. Cholerton, wrote: “Everybody speaks only about bread.”
On July 28, an article headlined “Letter from Ukraine,” found its way to Svoboda. Written by a Jewish woman, it first appeared in the Ottawa Hebrew News. The names of the people and places were omitted to protect the family. Excerpts of the letter follow:
“Dear Sister, We are starving and beg you to send some food. I know that you are having hard times yourself to make ends meet, but there would be a blessing on you if you could send me some money at least to buy food. If you like, you may send it to Kiev, where there is a food agency, and they will forward me the food. I appealed to our brother, but he writes to me that in that part of Russia conditions, as far as food is concerned, are better, but there is a severe penalty for anyone caught sending food.
“…Conditions are terrible here and one dare not trust the other. The family that lives next door to us was attacked by the Cheka and the son was taken to prison. The Cheka released him when his uncle from America sent him $200. I shouldn’t write about such things, for it may mean prison and even something worse; but I have lost hope and don’t care what happens.”
* * *
In July 1932, around the world:
Franklin Delano Roosevelt won the Democratic bid for presidential candidate as the Democratic convention ended in Chicago.
A fire in Coney Island sent thousands home and caused $5 million of damage, destroying four square blocks of buildings.
The Russian emigre, Gorgylov, who assassinated French president Paul Doumer, was sentenced to death.
In Lausanne, Switzerland, Germany and France reached an agreement as to Germany’s war debt, which later that month resulted in Germany’s insistence on negating sections of the Treaty of Versailles.
German Chancellor von Papen, who also served as commissioner for Prussia suspended the Prussian Parliament and ousted Social Democrat Otto Braun, who had been premier since 1920.