August 1-15, 1933
Commentaries in Svoboda
By August 1933, the famine in Ukraine was peaking. More and more Ukrainians outside the Soviet Union realized the devastating impact the famine was having on the population, and began to comment on the tragedy in the Ukrainian press.
In August, Svoboda carried several commentaries about the situation in Soviet Ukraine.
One such commentary, published in two parts, was written by Prof. R. Rosova and Dr. S. Kononenko, president and secretary, respectively, of the Ukrainian National Women’s Council. It appeared in the August 4 and 5 editions of Svoboda.
In their piece, the two women cited various Soviet newspaper articles concerning situation in Ukraine, some published as early as 1931. They prefaced these accounts by stating that the famine of 1932-33 was not caused by natural or climatic factors, but by the oppressive policies of the Soviet regime.
To back their argument, the women cited earlier Soviet press accounts that showed the official Soviet attitude toward the Ukrainian peasants, attitudes that betrayed the policies of terror and persecution.
One of the earliest accounts cited was from Molodiy Bolshevik, which as early as the fall of 1931 wrote: “No one is ready for the fall harvest in 1931 – Ukraine will be faced with a serious danger.”
Proletarska Pravda was more specific, declaring in September 1931: “The population is already hungry and steals bread wherever it can and then hides it so the regime won’t take it away.”
Robitnychiy Proletar, another Soviet newspaper, declared: “At this time, when the hungry population hides and steals its bread…the Soviet regime transports this priceless bread to Moscow and Leningrad…”
The authors of the commentary in Svoboda also cited a December 1931 article from Kommunist, which stated: “We receive news that the peasants deliberately wear out their horses so they can’t transport bread out of Ukraine. The harvest keeps getting smaller; records of grain quotas are filled out incorrectly, tractors break down because the peasants don’t know how to use them.” Already, the peasants were being blamed for the impending disaster.
The two women also commented in their article that the Soviet regime had sent people into Ukraine to “beat, knife and shoot the people, and pass the bread along, because Ukraine is a Soviet colony and must feed its master; it must nourish the entire Soviet Union.”
In part II of the commentary, published on August 5, the authors reported that German and American students traveling through the Soviet Union noticed entire villages dying out because of hunger and typhoid. They had also seen cases of cannibalism.
They reported that in the town of Kremenchuk, they found over 10,000 people in overcrowded hospitals, and that many had to be placed in schools converted to dispensaries, the commentary said. A Soviet newspaper, Narodniy Agronom, said that the illnesses resulted from people eating all kinds of weeds not intended for human consumption.
The women wrote that the country, once the richest in Europe, had reached economic ruin.
“A nation, which has its own history, its own psychology, its own temperament, has been destroyed; it is both economically and morally a catastrophe. The regime has not only perpetrated a 20th century famine in Ukraine – complete with all the terror – but it has also caused the demise of the peasants’ and factory workers’ lives, people who no longer have regular wages. These people no longer receive food, housing, clothing – no necessities needed for daily existence. They are found wandering from train station to train station, hungry, their personal lives totally destroyed.”
Additional excerpts from the commentary follow:
“First of all, we have to wonder how a people, who for centuries have had ties with the land, who have tilled the soil and produced bread, how can they leave it barren? Their culture has been one which has looked at the land with piety; the harvest was a time of great celebration for the people.
“The psychology of a nation does not change in 10 to 12 years. One can see how these people can be in despair as their enemy takes away their bread, destroys their property, makes their children suffer, exiles and forces them into hard labor and then kills them. So, the Ukrainian peasants decided it is better to die than work for the enemy.”
The commentary ended with a plea from the National Women’s Council to the civilized world. The authors stated that their organization did not have the means to help the starving Ukrainians, and that the food they sent would not get through to the people in need.
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On August 7 and 8, Ostap Stanislavsky of Vienna published his translation of Dr. Ewald Ammende’s statement asking the International Red Cross to come to the aid of the starving in Ukraine. Dr. Ammende’s article summarized reporter Gareth Jones’s description of the horrors in Ukraine and outlined decrees issued by Soviet official Paul Postyshev against Ukrainian peasants.
In publishing the statement in translation, Mr. Stanislavsky said he hoped to make more Ukrainians aware of the situation in Ukraine and he appealed to them for help.
On August 10, the editorial in Svoboda was titled “The reasons for the famine.” Facts for the editorial came from a special correspondent for The London Times, who reported that the state of Ukrainian agriculture was much worse than the state of industry, which had also greatly deteriorated.
Describing the factory workers’ situation the correspondent wrote: “They are everywhere. They leave the fields, the factories, and wander aimlessly, despondent over their situation, looking for some unknown place which will provide them with the necessities of life.”
He went on to describe the agricultural condition: “Seventy million peasants are grouped into 200,000 collective farms. Those who are skilled farm workers were exiled, massacred and destroyed. In their places, young Communists arrived, inexperienced in agricultural matters. Now the planting takes three times as long. On most farms, 90 percent of the machinery does not work. This situation will naturally result in hunger.”
The editorial ended with the correspondent’s comment that the situation in Ukraine was due to collectivization.
On August 12, Svoboda carried an article titled “Moscow Denies Famine in Ukraine,” with a subhead, “Correspondents of foreign newspapers finally send news from Moscow about the terrible famine.”
In the story datelined Paris, two correspondents from French newspapers confirmed Dr. Ammende’s observations about the famine and his appeal to the Red Cross.
Two days later, on August 14, Svoboda ran a news story datelined Berlin, which told of recently organized massive worker’ demonstrations against the Soviet regime. The reports said that the number of guards and police at Soviet state institutions had been increased.
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