August 16-31, 1932
The headlines in the August 16, 1932 Svoboda read: “Famine in Ukraine Drives People to Death.” Reports from Bucharest reached Svoboda telling of the peasants’ attempts to escape hunger. They fled to Rumania, but while trying to cross the Dnister River many were shot and killed by Soviet border guards.
On August 17, news from Moscow revealed that 25,000 miners in the Donetske Oblast coal basin left their jobs. Moscow gave three reasons for the workers leaving their jobs: there was nothing for them to eat, they did not have all the working materials they needed, they received no money for their labor.
The general food situation had gotten so bad that the Soviet government had even decreased the availability of food from special Soviet foodstores for its foreign workers. The only people who did not have a food allowance, but were able to obtain all the food they wanted, were foreign newspaper correspondents.
On August 22, Svoboda published an article describing a conversation between a person from the Soviet wire service in Ukraine and Gregory I. Petrovsky, then chairman of the Soviet Ukrainian Communist Party. The introduction to the conversation, which was published in Svoboda, included the following: “The entire world is aware that in the Soviet Union, in Ukraine, people are dying of hunger because of the Bolshevik industrialization of farming. Because of this, there was much land that lay unsown, barren. The Bolsheviks continue to assure the world that everything is fine.”
The news agency conducted an interview with Petrovsky and published it in the Kharkiv newspaper, Kommunist. Petrovsky’s observations follow: “On the collective farms there is a lot of machinery, but the success of the machinery depends on the continual use of this process in every aspect of farming. The main problem is that many farmers do not know how to assemble and use the machines to their fullest capacity.”
Petrovsky also mentioned that “after visiting several raiony, I have noticed that the collective farm workers are increasing their work; their working atmosphere is good, all that is lacking is that they need more work and this will come with better organization.” He also blamed the kulaks for the failure of the harvest, saying that they exploit the hired labor.
Refugees from Soviet Ukraine continued to tell of their tragic plight. On the pages of Svoboda on August 23, a 12-year-old, Phillip, told the story of his escape to Bessarabia. His father, who was a landowner and cantor in the church had his taxes increased yearly, until it was almost impossible for him to make payments. He was classified as a kulak and besides the high taxes he was paying, he was charged 200 rubles for being a cantor.
Phillip also suffered because he was kicked out of school; the father was forbidden to teach his son, and soon afterward the family was exiled to Siberia. However, Phillip was not allowed to go with his parents. He was sent to his uncle’s house but he, too, was exiled to Siberia. The townspeople advised Phillip to escape to Bessarabia, which he did, alone.
On August 24, the headlines in Svoboda read: “Peasants Do Not Want to Harvest Grain in the Soviet Union.” The subhead said: “In the Poltava region, less than one-tenth of the grain has been harvested.” From Moscow reports came that peasants refused to harvest wheat because they could not get any of the supplies they needed for daily existence. The report from Moscow also stated that the world economic crisis had not helped the Soviets obtain the goods they needed for their citizens. They said that if the foreign countries would give the Soviet Union new credit lines, then they would be able to obtain the goods needed for their citizens.
The next day, August 25, Svoboda carried a news summary about the recently concluded All-Ukrainian Conference of the Communist Party in Kharhiv, where, according to various reports, the words “hunger” and “famine” were not even mentioned.
At the end of August the headlines became even more gruesome. The August 30 headline read: “Bolsheviks Execute Starving People.” Five peasants in Ukraine were shot for stealing grain from collective farms, according to the news from Moscow. According to the TASS wire service, Ukrainian peasants in Ukraine, Moldavia, the Crimean region and Caucasus area secretly ground the grain and hid it from the government. Peasants working the fields snipped off the ears from the sheaves and left the stalks of the wheat to be harvested for the government. The Moscow agency said this was peasant sabotage.
On August 31, Svoboda reported on the “Horrible Scenes of Hunger in Soviet Ukraine.” The newspaper received news from American students who were traveling from Kiev to Moscow and who spoke Russian well enough to be able to converse with the peasants. According to the students: “Peasants leave their villages and travel to towns to find at least a few crumbs of bread. Often the peasants leave their children on the streets, hoping God’s will would take care of them.”
* * *
Around the world:
In Europe, Adolf Hitler and his National Socialists continued to cause trouble for the Hindenburg government. Hitler as head of the largest party, demanded the chancellorship for himself – all or nothing.
James A. Mollison, a British pilot, completed the first westbound trans-Atlantic solo flight from Portmarnock, Ireland to Pennfield, New Brunswick.
Vatican City reported that the Soviet government was planning to liquidate all Orthodox churches by December 31, 1933. The Vatican paper reported that the Soviets planned to leave 20 Catholic churches standing to serve the 2 million Catholics in the country.