January 22, 1984



October 1-15, 1934

The headline in the October 1 issue of Svoboda read: “Chaos During the Transport of Grain in Russia.” The story, datelined Moscow, stated that there was a lack of transport cars to carry grain, and it often rotted at railway stations. In a station near Kiev, the report stated, the grain was being stolen by peasants and then sold at the market.

The reports stated that sometimes the wagons had holes in the floors and the grain would pour out during transport.

The October 3 issue of Svoboda noted that, according to reports in the Soviet press, only 56 percent of the grain needed had been collected from the farms. Pravda blamed these low figures on saboteurs.

On October 4, Svoboda reported that the Communist Youth League had recently printed a series of articles on the Soviet family in its newspaper, Komsomolska Pravda. According to the article, the family unit in the Soviet Union had completely fallen apart. Women were deeply affected by the fact that their husbands had no time to spend with them and the children because they were so involved in the concerns of a world revolution and the Communist system. Some said that there was no room for the family unit in the Communist system; matters of the state seemed to be more important.

The headline in the October 9 issue of Svoboda read: “The Renewal of the Bolshevik Anti-Famine Propaganda.” The subheadline explained that Harold Denny had arrived in place of Walter Duranty as The New York Times Moscow correspondent. It stated that Mr. Duranty, who had never seen famine in the Soviet Union, had been replaced by Mr. Denny, who now sings the praises of Ukraine’s hospitality, the abundance of good food and good drink.

On October 10, Svoboda printed a news report, datelined Kiev, which stated that Moscow kept dividing the lands of Ukraine, thus decreasing its size and power. The story described the formation of the Moldavian Republic on land once Ukrainian. At first, 10 years earlier, the official language of the republic was Ukrainian, but as time went on, Ukrainian was forgotten and used less and less.

On October 11, Svoboda reprinted an entire article by Harold Denny from The New York Times. It also printed an article which appeared in the Elizabeth (N.J.) Journal. The latter was written by a Harry Goldstein, an eyewitness of the famine in Ukraine.

The first article, titled “Is There Famine in Ukraine under Soviets?,” was cabled to The New York Times on October 8 from Mr. Denny in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. It read:

“This correspondent is traveling through the principal grain regions of the Soviet Union to check reports published abroad that a new famine exists or impends. Thus far no famine has been found nor an indication of famine in the year to come, though many peasants must draw in their belts and eat food they do not like until the 1935 harvest.

“Not one of all the peasants interviewed on an 800-mile journey made by train, automobile, farm wagon and on foot believes there will be actual starvation in his neighborhood this winter. Of course the trip is only begun and thousands of miles are yet to be covered before all the regions which are reputedly worst affected by the drought are visited.

“On a trip through an area about 20 miles north of here, peasants, interviewed in railway stations and in the hard cars of rural railway trains, said they were in grave danger. This correspondent found the grain crop very seriously diminished though not destroyed, a fair crop of other produce, and in the evening, at the end of a hard day of going from farm to farm, he feasted on milk and honey, milk from contented collectivized cows and honey fresh from the hives of Bolshevik bees on a big collective farm.

“These delicacies were served at the end of a meal of a tasty salad of tomatoes, pickles and onions, roast duck and fluffy potato souffle, much better prepared than in Moscow hotels, washed down with the Ukrainian national drink slivyanka, a liquor made from plums, tasting non-alcoholic though with a mule’s kick in every swallow.

“This correspondent guessed the collective farm leadership had spread themselves at a minute’s notice to produce this Lucullan banquet and did not for a minute imagine that such a meal was the daily fare of the agricultural workers though all he saw – and he saw hundreds – were smiling and well-nourished. Yet there was a meal eloquent in itself and this corespondent, feeling somewhat hungrier than guilty, did it full justice.”

The second article was from Mr. Goldstein who said that conditions could not be worse. Excerpts from his story, titled “Tells of Misery Found in Russia,” which appeared on September 12 in the Elizabeth Journal, follow.

“I don’t see how conditions could be worse than they are now. There are 168 million people in Russia, they say. If other countries would let them in and Russia would permit them to leave. I think 150 million would emigrate, Communists or no Communists.

“Everybody is working, and getting perhaps 150 rubles a month for an ordinary job. But they can’t buy anything with their rubles. A pair of good shoes may cost 150 to 200 rubles – a whole month’s pay. Bread is two rubles a pound.

“They say that in the cities conditions are better than they were a couple of years ago. There is bread, though not enough. But many families have no meat on their tables for months at a time. An average meal for the working class may consist of bread and a cup of tea, sweetened with synthetic candy because they cannot afford to buy sugar.

“Things were bad enough in the larger cities I visited – Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev and Odessa. I couldn’t describe the poverty I saw in a small town. People were making a meal of ordinary grass cut up and boiled for soup. Living accommodations are not decent anywhere. A family of the working class never has more than one room. If it is a sizable room it is supposed to accommodate a family of seven or eight. Inspectors will come around at night to make sure that the full number of people are using it. If they find less they will transfer the family to a smaller room.

“The people are not healthy because of the poor diet. At one town where there are mineral springs and where the sick are sent to recover, there were more than 80,000 people in one month, I was told. They slept in the streets or in the yards because there was no place to put them.

“Things are a little better for members of the Communist Party. They get lower prices in the stores and special privileges. Those who have important jobs ride around in Lincolns and live well. But they don’t take everybody into the party. A man has to prove that he is for the party and is working for it. Even after he is admitted he may be thrown out without a hearing if some informer turns in a report against him.

“Everywhere people are dissatisfied, but they are afraid to talk. In my parents’ house at Kiev my own father and brothers were afraid to give me any information about conditions in Russia. They hushed me when I started to talk about it. Only when we went for a walk in the woods or the country would they tell me anything. …”

On October 15, Svoboda printed a report datelined London which stated that the British monthly magazine, National, had run an article about the Ukrainian peasant class before and after the war.

The article described the Ukrainian peasants as being more enterprising, having more faith in their own strength and generally better off than the peasants in different areas of the empire.

The article stated that it was not unusual for Ukraine to continue its struggle against the Soviets; it had always been a European country. The author ended his article by stating that the Ukrainian struggle continued against the Soviets’ collectivization of the land.

In its October 12 issue, The Ukrainian Weekly said that the best way to report on the famine in Ukraine and the best way to refute incorrect allegations about Ukraine was to reply with facts. For this reason, the October 11 issue of Svoboda had published the Denny article from The New York Times and followed with a rebuttal, the Goldstein eyewitness account.

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Around the world:

The International Labor Bureau reported that there were 19 million jobless people in the world in 1933.

Croatian revolutionary Petry Kalleman killed King Alexander of Yugoslavia as he arrived in Marseilles, France, for a state visit.