December 18, 1983

Media reports on famine. XX


London Daily Telegraph

LONDON – Prof. Robert Conquest, the author of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute and UNA-commissioned book about the famine, made what he considers “a small contribution to the 50th anniversary of the Great Famine in Ukraine,” by writing a commentary on Stalin’s treatment of Ukrainian peasants in the Saturday Column of the London Daily Telegraph dated November 5.

Dr. Conquest describes the man-made famine as being “completely localized, affecting only Ukraine and the Ukrainian-speaking regions of the North Caucasus.”

He said: “First all the grain was taken; then the seed grain; then the houses and yards were searched and dug up, and any store of bread seized. They lived on a few potatoes; then on birds and cats and dogs, and then on acorns and nettles; and in early spring they died.”

He went on to say: “There is no doubt that it was a conscious act of terror against the Ukrainian peasantry. Stalin called the peasants the crux of the national question and over this period the Ukrainian villages were persistently denounced for harboring nationalists. At the same time, the other strong point of Ukrainian nationality, the country’s educated elite, was attacked: the cultural institutions were purged and hundreds of leading writers and academics made public or private confessions and went to the execution cellars or labor camps; and the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church was similarly crushed.”

Dr. Conquest states that the famine was well-reported in the West (by Malcolm Muggeridge, for instance) “but Stalin simply denied there was a famine and took in a few distinguished visitors with show farms, so that progressive Westerners could dismiss, at any rate, forget, these events, as George Orwell complained.”

He explains that “one reason for this lack of attention was ignorance in the West of the power of Ukrainian nationhood, the strength of the Ukrainian national feeling.”

To date, however, not surprisingly, Dr. Conquest notes that “the Soviet leadership has never expressed repentance for or even publicly admitted the Ukrainian genocide operation, or many another of the massacres which mark their past,” most recently the Korean airliner tragedy.

Windsor Star

WINDSOR, Ont. – The Great Famine in Ukraine (1932-33) was the subject of an extensive full-page article by staffer Paul McKeague published in the October 29 issue of the Windsor Star.

The article contained eyewitness accounts from several famine survivors now living in the Detroit-Windsor area, including one woman whose parents and 7-year-old brother died of starvation in 1933.

Mr. McKeague, citing Dr. Robert Conquest, author of an upcoming book on the famine, wrote that as many as 14 million people may have died from Soviet repression and famine between 1929 and 1937.

Dr. Ihor Stebelsky, head of the geography department of the University of Windsor, told Mr. McKeague that the famine was a deliberate attempt to break the backbone of Ukrainian nationalism and force the independent peasant farmers to submit to collectivization. He said that the famine was part of a campaign that began with the mass arrests of professors, students and priests suspected of nationalism.

Although the famine killed millions, few journalists at the time reported accurately on its scope and political character, and some, like Walter Duranty of The New York Times, actually cooperated with the Stalin regime in its cover-up, Mr. McKeague reported.

There were exceptions, however, among them Eugene Lyons, Gareth Jones and Malcolm Muggeridge, who worked for the Manchester Guardian.

“They had gone over the country like a swarm of locusts and taken away everything edible,” Mr. Muggeridge wrote in 1933. “They had shot and exiled thousands of peasants, sometimes whole villages; they had reduced some of the most fertile land in the whole world to a melancholy desert.”

The famine resulted in horrific scenes, with starving peasants reduced to eating bark, pets, weeds and carrion, wrote Mr. McKeague. One eyewitness recalled hearing stories of cannibalism, while another told of a woman being shot by authorities after she killed and cooked her youngest child.

“Unlike the (Jewish) holocaust, the famine is still largely unknown in the Western world,” wrote Mr. McKeague. “But the silence that has surrounded the event is now being broken as Ukrainians observe its 50th anniversary and insist that the full truth, at last be told.”

The Union Leader

MANCHESTER, N.H. – The November 17 issue of The Union Leader here carried an op-ed page article by Anthony Harrigan titled “The Forgotten Holocaust” in which he contrasts public reaction to the ABC movie “The Day After” and public ignorance of the Great Famine in Ukraine (1932-33).

Noting that the film, which graphically depicts the horrors following a nuclear attack on a Kansas town, helps groups “that favor unilateral nuclear disarmament of the United States,” Mr. Harrigan wrote that the networks are “completely uninterested in the virtually forgotten holocausts for which the Soviets are responsible.”

One such holocaust was the famine in Ukraine, which Mr. Harrigan said was “calculated to crush the spirit of the freedom-loving and independent-minded people of the Ukraine.”

“One wonders how many Americans know of this holocaust, how many know that the Soviet dictatorship deliberately starved millions to death in order to crush people who were opposed to Communist tyranny,” wrote Mr. Harrigan. “Certainly, ABC and the other networks have not helped educate Americans to this grim reality.”

He said that the lesson of the famine is that “the Soviet Union is the enemy of life,” and that the United States must maintain a strong nuclear deterrent force to prevent a nuclear holocaust in this country.

Evening Independent

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Great Famine in Ukraine (1932-33) was the subject of a December 3 article in the Evening Independent here by Associate Editor Michael Richardson.

Headlined “How to remember the mass murder of 7 million,” the article provided a synopsis of events surrounding the famine, which Mr. Richardson said “ranks as one of history’s most outrageous moral disorders.”

In addition to citing the confiscation of grain by 25,000 non-Ukrainian militiamen specially mobilized for that purpose, Mr. Richardson referred to the destruction of the Ukrainian Orthodox and Catholic Churches as part of the Soviet campaign to destroy the “independent-minded and nationalistic Ukrainians.”

“Today, the collective farms in the Ukraine are a reality, created over the dead bodies of persons now only a flickering memory,” he wrote.

That memory, he added, is being kept alive by Ukrainians in the free world who, “with tears and prayers,” are this year marking the 50th anniversary of their nation’s holocaust.

Alberta Report

EDMONTON – The Great Famine in Ukraine (1932-33) was the subject of a cover story in the October 31 issue of Alberta Report, a weekly news magazine.

The cover shows six black-and-white photographs of famine victims framing the visage of Prof. Yar Slavutych, a famine survivor and a retired University of Alberta professor whose recollections form the centerpiece of the article.

The five-and-a-half-page article by Stephen Weatherbe was headlined “The Ukrainian Holocaust.” The famine coverage also included two separate stories by Marco Levytsky based on eyewitness accounts.

Prof. Slavutych, now 65, said he lost both his grandparents and a sister during the terrible famine, and recalled how he made an oath to his grandfather as the old man lay dying in his arms to “tell the world how Moscow destroys the Ukrainian nation.”

He described how he and his father, who was branded a “kulak” because he owned 30 acres of the family’s old estate near Kryviy Rih, were arrested and put on cattle cars to be deported to Siberia. Prof. Slavutych said that he managed to escape and make his way back to his family, which was living near its former home.

The family was bloated with hunger, he said, and he decided to take a job in a state dairy farm where workers were being allocated a few slices of bread a day and two bowls of thin soup. He brought home what he could, but it was not enough and by May his grandfather was close to death.

A half hour after Prof. Slavutych swore that he would let the world know about Moscow’s genocidal policies, his grandfather died in his arms. He buried him in a shallow grave on his ancestral land because his grandfather had said he never wanted to be buried in one of the many mass graves that were dug to dispose of the ever-growing number of corpses.

But while life was difficult in the cities and towns, the situation was far worse in the countryside. Mr. Slavutych recalled hearing about one of his childhood friends who, crazed by hunger, slaughtered her daughter and put her in a cooking pot. Realizing what she had done, the hysterical woman ran to the village screaming anti-Soviet epithets. She was arrested and shot.

While most Western journalists either ignored the famine or, out of sympathy for the regime, glossed over it in their reports, some, like Malcolm Muggeridge of the Manchester Guardian, did try to tell the real story. Unfortunately, his accounts of mass starvation in Ukraine were dismissed by editors and readers sympathetic to the Soviet revolution.

Today, according to the Alberta Report article, Ukrainian scholars, academicians and journalists are working to make the world aware of the famine. The magazine cited the efforts of author/translator Marco Carynnyk, the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, which has commissioned Dr. Robert Conquest to write a book on the famine, and the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies.

“Local newspapers have done features and Yar Slavutych has been interviewed often about his own experiences,” the article said. “And though he cannot sleep after such an interview, he is happy. ‘At least now I have fulfilled my promise to my grandfather.'”

The Ukrainian Weekly, December 18, 1983, No. 51, Vol. LI