August 1-15, 1932
On August 3, 1932, Svoboda received news from Rivne in the Volhynia region, then under Polish rule, that peasants in Soviet-occupied eastern Ukraine were dying of starvation.
The news predicted that the number of deaths would increase in the fall. It reported that the Soviet government had even admitted that there would not be enough grain to feed the peasants because only half of the land had been sown. Besides this, the last harvest had been poor and in some villages people had not seen bread since January.
The news said that, instead of bread, the peasants ate straw, dried weeds, potatoes and all kinds of chaff. They ground this mixture up and used it as bread.
According to the news, the Ukrainian peasants refused to continue to plant any grain because of collectivization and the fact that the government took almost all the harvested wheat away from private farms as well as “kolhospy” (collective farms).
According to the report from Rivne: “The Bolshevik regime feels unsure of itself in villages, and even the Cheka does not trouble the peasants with arrests and various provocations. (Although this is not the case in towns and cities, where they continued to arrest Ukrainians)”.
All the grain reserves were shipped out to Russia, to the raions which did not have a starving population.
On August 5, news from Paris reached Svoboda that the coal miners of the Donetsk Basin were leaving the area because they could not obtain food and were not getting paid on time for their work.
It was reported that in earlier months, the government had caught up with the runaways and sent them back to work, but at the present time the situation was so difficult that once the escaping workers were caught and sent back to the mines, there was nothing to feed them. Also, so much manpower was needed to chase after these people that the government had stopped this practice.
Another factor that contributed to the discontentment of the workers included the fact that they were required to pay severe penalties if they damaged any of the instruments used in the mines. The men, therefore, did not bring any money home because the government deducted money for the damage done to its property. The wives and children, in the meantime, became bloated from hunger.
In order to ease the situation in this region, the government announced that it would allow peasants to sell their food. The irony of this was that there was no food to sell, and if a person managed to find some, there were hundreds of buyers for a glass of milk and almost as many for an egg. Prices were high, yet there was nothing to sell.
On August 9, Svoboda received news from Berlin that the famine in Ukraine was getting worse day by day. It had come to the point that in August 1932, many of the peasants’ farm animals were dying of malnutrition. They caught various diseases, among them glanders (a contagious disease which can be transmitted to other animals as well as man).
The government advised the peasants to shoot the animals that caught this disease. However, the peasants were so desperate for food that they dug up the dead animals and ate them. It was reported that out of their mad hunger, peasants were known to attack the local government workers and members of Cheka and kill them.
That same day, Svoboda wrote about the results of the five-year-plan, as reported by Moscow. For the month of July, only 45.5 percent of the grain was harvested, production fell 33 percent since April; mining production fell 12 percent, and the loading and shipping of coal fell 20 percent.
The Soviet government issued a decree stating that anyone found hiding food products or produced materials would be shot, especially if these items were stolen from collective farms or government agencies.
On August 9 news from Warsaw stated that the Soviet government had set fire to Ukrainian villages along the border of Poland and Ukraine, and sent the peasants into the depths of northern Russia. According to the Warsaw report, the villages were being burned, and the Soviets were building towers along the boundaries in order to guard against Ukrainians escaping to Poland.
On August 11, news from Berlin said that in the city of Mykolayiv, near the Boh River, the workers staged a rebellion, since from that city the Soviet government was exporting meat, fish and dried fruit products to other countries in order to obtain foreign currency. This was done without any regard for its own citizens who were dying of hunger.
About 3,000 workers, with their wives and children, assembled near the shipyard to prevent the foodstuffs from leaving their city. Cheka members stood guard over the food, but the workers responded by saying: “Beat us, beat us to death, but we will not allow you to send our food.” Even the “Chekisty” were touched by these remarks, for they saw that the workers were ready to risk death to get a few crumbs of food. Finally they reached a compromise, promising to leave 35 percent of all the goods with the stores in the city.
The newspaper also reported that workers’ uprisings such as the one described above were also visible in towns in Russia, which, according to the paper, stemmed from the workers’ protests against being treated like slaves.
The Communists were having so much trouble with the workers in Ukraine that they began to purge the Soviet Ukrainian government of Ukrainians.
Such was the situation in Soviet Ukraine. In Polish-occupied western Ukraine, especially in the Boyko region, Ukrainians also experienced hunger. Svoboda reported: “Famine is also evident here, as peasants are seen roaming the pastures, looking for grass and weeds to eat.” This famine was due to drought, the newspaper in Lviv reported, but the Polish government had not lifted a finger to help the people.
* * *
Around the world:
The 1932 summer Olympic games began in Los Angeles, and a reported 2,000 athletes from 39 countries were to compete in the sports events.
Times were hard in the United States, as William Green, president of the American Federation of Labor reported on the rising number of unemployed in the country. The total had reached close to 12 million.
Japan continued its war with China, and moved into the northern lands of the country, capturing a strip of Chinese territory. The Japanese said that they captured the northern section to protect their own citizens living there.
Results of the July 31 elections in Germany came in. Chancellor von Papen had dissolved the Reichstag, and in the new election Hitler’s National Socialist Party secured more than a third of the total number of seats in the parliament.