November 27, 1983

Media reports on famine. XVII


Weekend Australian

SYDNEY, Australia – The October 8-9 issue of The Weekend Australian carried two stories on the Great Famine in Ukraine (1932-33) by Peter Day.

Reporting from Washington, Mr. Day wrote that the famine commemorations in the U.S. capital on October 2 and those in Australia slated for October 15 draw attention to the famine, which, he said, “has never taken root in the historical memory of the West.”

In a story headlined “How Stalin starved millions to death in Ukraine,” Mr. Day wrote that “the nightmarish recollections of thousands of refugee survivors, for decades ignored, forgotten or complacently dismissed, have become a field of intense and systematic scholarly interest.”

Citing British Sovietologist and author Robert Conquest, who is currently writing a book on the famine, Mr. Day said that the famine was Stalin’s answer to the so-called nationality problem. This view, Mr. Day wrote, is shared by Dr. James Mace of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, who has helped with much of the research for the Conquest book. According to Dr. Mace, the Kremlin’s aim was “to take away all foodstuffs” in the hands of the peasants, and as a result, “the people starved.”

The requisition of all food in Ukraine resulted in the deaths of some 7 million people, wrote Mr. Day.

“To place things in perspective,” Dr. Conquest told Mr. Day, “Andropov would have to shoot down an airliner with 269 people aboard every day for 70,000 days to achieve what was achieved in one year in the Ukraine.”

In the second article, which appeared under the headline “The holocaust the West chose to ignore,” Mr. Day delved into some of the reasons much of the media chose to play down or ignore the famine.

While journalists such as the Manchester Guardian’s Malcolm Muggeridge did report accurately on the scope and reasons for the famine, others such as Walter Duranty of The New York Times “denied repeatedly that there was any famine,” wrote Mr. Day.

He said that, in Mr. Muggeridge’s view, The Times was not totally taken in by Mr. Duranty’s pro-Soviet views, but because it had “built him up to the point where he came to be accepted as the great Russian expert in America,” it continued to publish his articles without questioning his motives or their veracity.

Pittsburgh Press

PITTSBURGH – The October 9 issue of The Pittsburgh Press carried two articles on the Great Famine in Ukraine (1932-33).

A page one article by staffer Robert Baird, headlined “Ukrainians recall ‘The Forgotten Holocaust,'” used the recollections of two survivors to frame the story of the famine, which killed an estimated 7 million people. The article coincided with a commemorative march and memorial service for the victims of the famine organized by Pittsburgh’s Ukrainian community.

The second article, also by Mr. Baird, dealt with a famine symposium held a day earlier at the Frick Fine Arts Building, which featured presentations by Dr. James Mace of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute and Marco Carynnyk, a Canadian journalist and author, who is making a documentary on the famine.

One of the survivors cited by Mr. Baird was Leo Czaban, a 69-year-old retired construction worker, who recalled how as a 19-year-old he saw his grandmother drop dead from hunger before the door to her house and how her body was thrown on a wagon laden with corpses.

He said that his father and generations of his family before him had owned 90 acres of fertile, black-soil farmland in Kherson until the government stripped them of their property and branded them kulaks, or landowning peasants.

“Czaban’s eyes glistened with tears as he said that in March 1930, he and his parents were on a cattlecar train to Siberia when his father threw him off the train and into the snow,” wrote Mr. Baird.

Saved from exile in Siberia, Mr. Czaban eventually made his way to Kiev, where he enrolled in veterinary school. In 1933, he said, starving peasants began to flock to the cities in search of food. In the summer, he said, he and a friend took a 250-mile trip to a small town and “saw everything dead – men, women, children, dogs.”

His parents were released from a Siberian labor camp in 1939, but were forced to live in western Ukraine, he said.

Kateryna Dowbenko, who teaches Ukrainian at the University of Pittsburgh, told Mr. Baird that she and her family survived the terrible famine because her mother became a student in Kharkiv, and thereby received a special ration card.

“I only remember that the whole winter there was no bread,” she said. “I couldn’t understand. I was always asking for bread.”

She said that she once saw a whole wagon filled with infants wrapped in rags, but didn’t have the heart to ask her mother about it.

Mrs. Dowbenko said she never talks about her experiences to her friends when they speak of their childhood.

Mr. Baird wrote that Mr. Czaban took part in the famine commemoration in Washington on October 2 and was planning to participate in the Pittsburgh observance.

In the article on the symposium, Mr. Baird quoted Dr. Mace as saying that the famine was a deliberate political policy by Joseph Stalin to destroy Ukrainian culture and the Ukrainian Communist organization, to Russify Ukrainian cities and to lay waste the countryside.

He said that despite the scope of the tragedy, few in the West have ever heard of the famine largely because of press indifference at the time.

Echoing that theme, Mr. Carynnyk told Mr. Baird that influential journalists such as Walter Duranty of The New York Times, while privately acknowledging that millions were dying of starvation in Ukraine, publicly downplayed the “famine scare.”

“The pattern of appeasement had been set,” Mr. Carynnyk said at the symposium. “The victims of this famine in Ukraine were consigned to their slow and agonizing deaths as surely as the Jews of occupied Europe were consigned to Hitler’s gas chambers a few years later…”

Winnipeg Free Press

WINNIPEG – Some 6,000 Ukrainians gathered around a black coffin outside the legislative building here on October 9 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Great Famine in Ukraine (1932-33), reported the October 11 issue of the Winnipeg Free Press.

The story, which was accompanied by a photograph of the demonstrators, said that the march was to bring public attention to what organizers said was “the 20th century’s least-known atrocity.”

The paper said that there were several famine survivors among the demonstrators, including a 73-year-old woman who declined to give her name because she feared for the safety of relatives in the Soviet Union.

“The Russians took everything, all the food,” she said. “People hid food if they could, but the Communist NKVD (secret police) arrested them. There was no way to count how many people died.”

Millions of Ukrainians died of starvation in 1932-33 when food supplies were cut off by the Soviet regime, according to Harry Dmytryshyn, chairman of the organizing committee.

During the demonstration, Mayor Bill Norrie announced that a memorial will be built at city hall to commemorate the victims.

“It will be something that will stir our resolve, that we will never forget the tragedy,” he said.

Kingston Daily Freeman

KERHONKSON, N.Y. – This year’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Great Famine in Ukraine (1932-33) was mentioned in a feature article about the UNA resort Soyuzivka published in the August 25 issue of The Daily Freeman of Kingston, N.Y.

In the article, staff correspondent Rekha Basu noted that Soyuzivka was scheduled to be the site of a local Ukrainian Day Festival during which members of the community planned to “commemorate the 50th anniversary of a vast famine caused by Stalin’s expropriation of private food and grain harvests in the rich Ukrainian farmland.”

She added that 7 million people died during the famine.

The Ukrainian Weekly, November 27, 1983, No. 48, Vol. LI