August 16-31, 1934
On August 16, Svoboda printed news reports datelined Kiev which stated that the purges under Pavel Postyshev continued. Newest reports revealed that Shevchenko’s “Kobzar” was also being purged of any nationalistic ideas so as not to give youth the wrong direction.
That same day Svoboda ran a lengthy report from a famine eyewitness titled “An Eyewitness to Soviet Hell.” The report stated that the Soviet Union pays much attention to its youth, establishing such organizations as the Zhovteniata (for kids under 10) and the Yuni Pionery (for ages 10-18) as training programs to the Komsomol (Communist Youth League).
The writer went on to say that very often these children are taught to be spies. He stated that in Komsomol clubs and youth centers throughout the Soviet Union hang portraits of Lenin surrounded by children. He commented that this was a mockery of the religious paintings of Jesus surrounded by children.
On August 17, Svoboda reported that the House of Lords in London had once again brought up the famine during its sessions. According to reports datelined London, a long debate took place in Parliament on the situation in the Soviet Union, more specifically the famine in Ukraine. The reports stated that over 3 million people died in Ukraine because of hunger. One lord praised the resolution about the famine recently submitted to the U.S. Congress by Rep. Hamilton Fish.
On August 21, Svoboda reported that London’s Daily Express had recently printed a journalist’s eyewitness accounts of his extended visit to Ukraine. In the article, the unnamed journalist stated that in the last 18 months, 6 million peasants had died in Ukraine. Traveling back to Europe from Ukraine, the journalist reported that he saw hungry people lined up at railway stations, hoping to obtain some bread. Throughout the villages he passed he saw peasants dying in their homes.
That same day the London Times Moscow correspondent reported that he was very skeptical about the newly issued Soviet reports that the new harvest was going to be better than the previous year’s.
The headline in the August 22 issue of Svoboda read: “Fall and Winter Will Be Catastrophic for Ukraine.” The reports stated that the journalist who had reported on the famine for the Daily Express in London had disguised himself as a Ukrainian peasant in order to get into areas designated off limits to reporters by the Soviet regime. He said that the following fall and winter would be even worse for the peasants’ food situation. Arriving in a village 12 miles outside of Kiev, he saw that the village’s entire population had died out, except for six older people who told him of their tragedy.
Meeting a 15-year-old boy, the reporter began asking him about his family. He replied that he would rather die now than live through the famine, and showed the reporter his father’s corpse, covered with straw, lying outside the house. His mother had left weeks ago, looking for food and had never returned, probably having died on the way. The Daily Express also published photos taken by the journalist.
On August 23, Svoboda printed another story datelined London, which reported that once again the harvest in Ukraine would be very poor. This time it was blamed on the late rains. The area which would suffer the most, reported a London Times correspondent, would be the steppes in southern Ukraine.
According to reports from London, the Communist regime was making a great effort to save the harvest, including posting extra guards to make sure the peasants did not steal any of the grain.
On August 31, Svoboda ran a news item which reported that 15,000 special Soviet policemen served as executioners for peasants who did not turn over grain. According to the news item, penalties for stealing the grain ranged from imprisonment for no less than 10 years to execution because the grain was regarded as state property.
In the August 17 issue of The Ukrainian Weekly, the following story concerning the famine in Ukraine appeared.
“According to a front-page account appearing in last Sunday’s issue of The New York Times, the press in Germany has made sweeping accusations that the Soviet authorities are deliberately interfering with relief work designed to aid the starving millions of inhabitants in Ukraine and other parts of the USSR. These charges bear earmarks of having their origin in official circles.
“Speaking of Ukraine, The Times reports the German press as saying that ‘large areas in Ukraine already are in the grip of catastrophic famine.’ One account states that ‘conservative estimates warrant the conclusion that the number of persons who have met death through starvation in the vicinity of Kiev will not fall short of 1.5 million.'”
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Around the world:
The U.S. Agriculture Department declared that the United States would not export any wheat in the following year because the U.S. harvest was poor due to drought.
In Germany, the economic ministry issued a decree which forbade the export of any steel. Much scrap metal was being collected; gates and steel ornaments were being removed and shipped to factories to be melted down. Reports speculated that this was in preparation for war.