Holodomor: The Secret Holocaust in Ukraine
Written by James Perloff
When Ukraine resisted Soviet attempts at collectivization in the 1920s and '30s, the Soviet Union under Stalin used labor
camps, executions, and starvation (Holodomor) to kill millions of Ukrainians.
In 1933, the recently elected
administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt granted official U.S. recognition to the Soviet Union for the first time. Especially
repugnant was that this recognition was granted even though Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin had just concluded a campaign
of genocide against Ukraine that left over 10 million dead. This atrocity was known to the Roosevelt administration, but
not to the American people at large, thanks to suppression of the story by the Western press — as we shall show.
The Ukrainian genocide remains largely unknown. After 76 years, the blood of the victims still cries for truth,
and the guilt of the perpetrators for exposure.
Many Americans are barely acquainted with Ukraine, even though it is Europe's
second largest country after Russia, and has been a distinct land and people for centuries. One reason for this unfamiliarity
is that Ukraine has rarely known political independence; it was under Russia's heel throughout much of its existence —
under Soviet domination prior to 1991, and under Czarist Russia before that. Many American students heard little or nothing
of Ukraine in their history classes because the nation had been relegated to the status of a Russian "province."
Stalin accomplished genocide against Ukraine by two means. One was
massive executions and deportations to labor camps. But his second tool of murder was more unique: an artificial famine created
by confiscation of all food. Ukrainians call this the Holodomor, translated by one modern Ukrainian dictionary
as "artificial hunger, organized on a vast scale by the criminal regime against the country's population," but
often simply translated as "murder by hunger."
Ukraine was the last place one would have expected famine, for it
had been known for centuries as the "breadbasket of Europe." French diplomat Blaise de Vigenère wrote in
1573: "Ukraine is overflowing with honey and wax.... The soil of this country is so good and fertile that when you
leave a plow in the field, it becomes overgrown with grass after two or three days. It will be difficult to find." The
18th-century British traveler Joseph Marshall wrote: "The Ukraine is the richest province of the Russian empire....
The soil is a black loam.... I think I have never seen such deep plowing as these peasants give their ground."
In the aftermath
of the 1917 Russian Revolution, Ukraine became part of a bloody battlefield of fighting between the Bolsheviks (the group
that eventually became the Communist Party of the Soviet Union), Czarist Whites, and Ukrainian nationalists. Ultimately,
of course, the Bolsheviks prevailed, but Lenin shrewdly recognized that concessions would be necessary to gain Ukraine's
cooperation as a member of the unstable young USSR. To exploit Ukrainians' long-standing resentment of Czarist domination,
he permitted them to retain much of their national culture. Ukrainians experienced a relatively high degree of freedom extending
into the mid-1920s. The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and non-communist Ukrainian Academy of Sciences were allowed
to operate independently. However, as the Soviet Union consolidated its power, and Joseph Stalin ascended to the party's
top, these freedoms became expendable, and Ukrainian nationalism, at first exploited, now became viewed as a liability.
Despite a communist
push for collectivization, Ukraine's farms had mostly remained private — the foundation of their success. But in 1929,
the Central Committee of the Soviet Union's Communist Party decided to embark on a program of total collectivization. Private
farms were to be completely replaced by collectives — in Ukraine known as kolkhozes. This was, of course,
consistent with Marxist ideology: the Communist Manifesto had called for abolition of private property.
was placed upon Ukrainian peasants to join the kolkhozes. Twenty-five thousand fanatical young communists from the
USSR's cities were sent to Ukraine to compel the transition. These became known as the Twenty-Five Thousanders;
each was assigned a particular locality, and was accompanied by a weapons-bearing communist entourage, including members
of the GPU (secret police, forerunner of the KGB). A communist commission was established in each village.
Holodomor survivor Miron Dolot, in his
book Execution by Hunger, describes what happened soon after a commission was started in his village by its Twenty-Five Thousander, Comrade
We did not have to wait too long for Comrade Zeitlin's strategy to reveal itself. The first
incident occurred very early on a cold January morning in 1930 while people in our village were still asleep. Fifteen villagers
were arrested, and someone said that the Checkists [GPU] had arrived in the village at midnight....
prominent villagers were among those arrested.... This was frightening. Our official leadership had been taken away in one
night. The farmers, mostly illiterate and ignorant, were thereby left much more defenseless.
The leaders of Dolot's village were never seen
Ukraine, the Twenty-Five Thousanders held mandatory village meetings in which they demanded that all peasants relinquish
private farming and "volunteer" to join a collective. Most peasants fiercely resisted. In principle, of course,
there is nothing wrong with farmers pooling their resources and efforts in a cooperative venture. But this was not what
the communists meant by collectivization. On the kolkhozes, the government owned everything — the land, animals,
equipment, and produce. The worker kept no fruits of his labor, and was at the state's mercy to receive a pittance of pay.
never succeeded. As the eminent Sovietologist Robert Conquest noted of them, "Wherever they had existed they had, with
all the advantages given them by the regime, done worse than the individual farm." On the kolkhozes, livestock,
poorly cared for, easily died, and equipment fell into disrepair. This was because the workers did not own them, nor did
they have any stake in the collective. This illustrated the conflict between Marxist ideology and the reality of human nature.
Making matters worse, the collectives were organized by the Twenty-Five Thousanders, who, being urban youths, had
no agricultural experience; their ignorance of farming basics often became the butt of jokes among local Ukrainians.
To force the villagers
into collectives, the communists threatened them with being declared enemies of the state, to be dealt with by the GPU.
Jails — unfamiliar to Ukrainian peasants — began appearing in every village. To instill additional fear, Soviet
army units were brought in, lodging themselves in homes without permission. Torturous punishments were devised, such as
"path treading," in which a resisting peasant would be forced to walk through the snow to the next village, there
to be interrogated by its officials, and if he still refused to join a collective, walk to the next village. This would
carry on until the peasant either died of exhaustion or bent to the state's will. A very effective method was to simply
seize a family's food supply. Threatened with seeing their children starve, many peasants gave in. By the summer of 1932,
80 percent of Ukraine's farmland had been forcibly collectivized.
Scapegoat for Communist Failure
But since the kolkhozes failed to produce
as predicted by Marxist theory, and with many peasants still refusing to join, Stalin sought a scapegoat. It was announced
that the failure of collectivization was due to sabotage by "kulaks." These were the more prosperous peasants.
Merely owning a cow, hiring another peasant, or having a tin roof (instead of the more common thatched roof) were all considered
evidence that one was a kulak.
Of course, in any economy, some people thrive more than others. This is usually owing to industriousness and efficiency.
According to Marxist doctrine, however, all wealthier peasants (kulaks) were "bloodsuckers" and "parasites"
who had grown rich by exploiting poorer peasants and who were now subverting collectivization. Stalin announced that the
solution to better grain production was to "struggle against the capitalist elements of the peasantry, against the
kulaks," and he proclaimed the goal of "liquidation of the kulaks as a class." In reality, however, Ukraine
had never had a distinct social class of kulaks — this concept was a Marxist invention.
Those accused of being kulaks were either shot,
deported to remote slave labor camps in Russia, or put in local labor details. Few survived. One could be accused of being
a kulak on the flimsiest evidence. Some peasants accused others merely out of envy or dislike. As one Soviet writer later
noted: "It was easy to do a man in; you wrote a denunciation; you did not even have to sign it. All you had to say was
that he had paid people to work for him as hired hands, or that he had owned three cows." Some very poor peasants were
accused of being kulaks simply because they were religiously devout. And ironically, many of the "rich" kulaks
earned less income than the communist officials prosecuting them! "Dekulakization" slaughtered millions.
process killed off the most productive farmers, guaranteeing a smaller harvest and a more impoverished Soviet Union. The
remaining farmers did not dare take steps to improve their lands or prosper, for fear they would be reclassified as kulaks.
But Stalin accomplished his true goal: destroying leadership that might oppose the complete subjugation of Ukraine.
This campaign extended
beyond kulaks to broadly attacking all vestiges of Ukrainian nationalism. As Dolot notes, the Soviet Communist Party
sent [Pavel] Postyshev, a sadistically cruel Russian chauvinist, as its viceroy to Ukraine. His appointment played
a crucial role in the lives of all Ukrainians. It was Postyshev who brought along and implemented a new Soviet Russian policy
in Ukraine. It was an openly proclaimed policy of deliberate and unrestricted destruction of everything Ukrainian. From
now on, we were continually reminded that there were "bourgeois-nationalists" among us whom we must destroy....
This new campaign against the Ukrainian national movement had resulted in the annihilation of the Ukrainian central government
as well as all Ukrainian cultural, educational, and social institutions.
The Ukrainian Language Institute, Ukrainian Institute
of Philosophy, Ukrainian State Publishing House, and countless other institutions were purged, their leaders murdered or
imprisoned. So fanatical was the war on nationalism that even the colorful embroidered national costumes Ukrainians wore
were seized. Eyewitness Yefrosyniya Poplavets recalls: "To save our embroidered shirts we put them on under our old
ragged jackets. It didn't work! They undressed us and took the shirts to eradicate any national spirit in the household."
But perhaps the most intense
thrust was against the church, for it represented not only a form of Ukrainian solidarity, but the Gospel whose principles
inherently oppose those of Marxism. The Communist Party declared: "The church is the kulak's agitprop." Priests
were executed or sent to labor camps; church land was confiscated; monasteries were closed. The churches — some of
them centuries-old national monuments — were either demolished, or turned into cinemas, libraries, barracks and other
secular uses for the state. Church icons were smashed; books and archives were burned; church bells were even sold as scrap.
By the end of 1930, 80 percent of all Ukraine's village churches had been shut down. These measures were applied not only
against Ukraine's Orthodox churches, but against other denominations and religions, for as Marx had said, "Religion
is the opiate of the masses."
"Murder by Hunger"
Yet the worst still awaited Ukraine. By 1932, virtually all kulaks
had been liquidated, but many of the remaining poor peasants still resisted communism and collectivization. Stalin now began
war upon Ukraine's poorest — ironically those who, in Marxist doctrine, should have been esteemed as "the proletariat."
In 1932, Stalin
demanded that Ukraine increase its grain output by 44 percent. Such a goal would have been unachievable even if the communists
had not already ruined the nation's productivity by eliminating the best farmers and forcing others onto the feeble collectives.
That year, not a single village was able to meet the impossible quota, which far exceeded Ukraine's best output in the pre-collective
then issued one of the cruelest orders of his dark career: if quotas were not met, all grain was to be confiscated. As one
Soviet author much later wrote: "All the grain without exception was requisitioned for the fulfillment of the Plan,
including that set aside for sowing, fodder, and even that previously issued to the kolkhozniki as payment for
their work." The authorization included seizure of all food from all households. Any home that did not turn over all
its grain was accused of "hoarding" state property. One villager recalled the process by which communist "brigades"
Every brigade had a so-called "specialist" for searching out grain. He was
equipped with a long iron crow-bar with which he probed for hidden grain.
The brigade went from house to house. At first they entered homes and asked, "How much grain have
you got for the government?" "I haven't any. If you don't believe me search for yourselves," was the usual
And so the "search"
began. They searched in the house, in the attic, shed, pantry and the cellar. Then they went outside and searched the barn,
pig pen, granary and the straw pile. They measured the oven and calculated if it was large enough to hold hidden grain behind
the brickwork. They broke beams in the attic, pounded on the floor of the house, tramped the whole yard and garden. If they
found a suspicious-looking spot, in went the crow-bar.
Miron Dolot recalls:
They measured the thickness
of the walls, and inspected them for bulges where grain could have been concealed. Sometimes they completely tore down suspicious
walls.... Nothing in the houses remained intact or untouched. They upturned everything: even the cribs of babies, and the
babies themselves were thoroughly frisked, not to mention the other family members. They looked for "hidden grain"
in and under men's and women's clothing. Even the smallest amount that was found was confiscated. If so much as a small
can or jar of seeds was found that had been set aside for spring planting, it was taken away, and the owner was accused
of hiding food from the state.
Of course, to avoid starvation, nearly every family did attempt to conceal
food. But experience soon made the brigades proficient at detecting even the most clever hiding places.
The result was mass starvation that took millions
of lives during the terrible winter of 1932-33. Food was nearly impossible to find anywhere. Many begged neighbors for potato
skins or other scraps — only to find their neighbors equally destitute.
There was still some food on the collectives,
which the communists did not deplete like households. However, in August 1932 the Communist Party of the USSR had passed
a law mandating the death penalty for theft of "social property." Watchtowers were built on the collectives, manned
by trigger-happy young communists. Thousands of peasants were shot for attempting to take a handful of grain or a few beets
from the kolkhozes, to feed their starving families.
Unable to get food, many ate whatever could pass for it — weeds,
leaves, tree bark, and insects. The luckiest were able to survive secretly on small woodland animals. American journalist
Thomas Walker wrote:
About twenty miles south of Kiev (Kyiv), I came upon a village that was practically extinct
by starvation. There had been fifteen houses in this village and a population of forty-odd persons. Every dog and cat had
been eaten. The horses and oxen had all been appropriated by the Bolsheviks to stock the collective farms. In one hut they
were cooking a mess that defied analysis. There were bones, pig-weed, skin, and what looked like a boot top in this pot.
The way the remaining half dozen inhabitants eagerly watched this slimy mess showed the state of their hunger.
A few people even resorted to cannibalism, eating those who had died and, in some cases, murdering those still living.
Many peasants attempted
to reach Ukraine's cities like Kiev, where factory workers were still allowed a little pay and food. However, in December
1932 the communists introduced the "internal passport." This made it impossible for a villager to get a city job
without the Party's permission, which was almost universally denied.
Other peasants hoped to get to Poland, Romania, or even Russia, where
there was no famine. But emigration was strictly forbidden. Ukrainian train stations were swamped with the starving, who
hoped to sneak aboard a train, or beg in hopes that a passenger on a passing train might throw them a bread crust. They
were repelled by GPU guards, who found themselves faced with the problem of removing countless corpses of the starving who
littered these stations.
Horror of Genocide
British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, who secretly investigated Ukraine without Soviet permission,
was able to escape communist censorship by sending details home to the Manchester Guardian in a diplomatic bag.
On a recent visit to the Northern Caucasus and the Ukraine, I saw something of the battle
that is going on between the government and the peasants.... On the one side, millions of starving peasants, their bodies
often swollen from lack of food; on the other, soldier members of the GPU carrying out the instructions of the dictatorship
of the proletariat. They had gone over the country like a swarm of locusts and taken away everything edible; they had shot
or exiled thousands of peasants, sometimes whole villages; they had reduced some of the most fertile land in the world to
a melancholy desert.
At the famine's height, 25,000 people per day were dying. As the winter wore on, Ukraine became
a panorama of horror. The roadsides were filled with the corpses of those who died seeking food. The bodies, many of which
snow concealed until the spring thaw, were unceremoniously dumped into mass graves by the communists.
Many others died of starvation in their own homes.
Some chose to end the process by suicide, commonly by hanging — if they had the strength to do it. "They just
sat," writes Dolot of his fellow villagers, "or lay down silently, too feeble even to talk. The bodies of some
were reduced to skeletons, with their skin hanging grayish-yellow and loose over their bones. Their faces looked like rubber
masks with large, bulging, immobile eyes. Their necks seemed to have shrunk onto their shoulders. The look in their eyes
was glassy, heralding their approaching death."
The communists, on the other hand, ate excellent rations, and party bosses even
enjoyed luxurious ones. In Robert Conquest's Harvest of Sorrow, we read the following account of the party officials'
dining hall at Pohrebyshcha:
Day and night it was guarded by militia keeping the starving peasants away from the restaurant....
In the dining room, at very low prices, white bread, meat, poultry, canned fruit and delicacies, wines and sweets were served
to the district bosses.... Around these oases famine and death were raging.
But perhaps the worst paradox: although much
of the confiscated grain was exported to the West, large portions were simply dumped into the sea by the Soviets, or allowed
to rot. For example, a huge supply of grain lay decaying under GPU guard at Reshetylivka Station in Poltava Province. Passing
it in a train, an American correspondent saw "huge pyramids of grain, piled high, and smoking from internal combustion."
In the Lubotino region, thousands of tons of confiscated potatoes were allowed to rot, surrounded by barbed wire.
All this underscores
the true purpose of the food confiscation: genocide. Sergio Gradenigo, the Italian consul in Moscow, wrote in a dispatch
to Rome on May 31, 1933:
The famine has been deliberately planned by the Moscow government and implemented by
means of brutal requisition. The definite aim of this crime is to liquidate the Ukrainian problem over a few months, sacrificing
from 10 to 15 million people. Do not consider this figure to be exaggerated: I'm sure it could even have been reached and
exceeded by now.
While there is disagreement over how many lives the genocide claimed, Gradenigo's figures have
turned out to be rather accurate. In Harvest of Sorrow, historian Robert Conquest, considered by many the leading
authority on the famine, put the toll at 14.5 million. About half of these deaths represent the liquidation of the kulaks,
via execution and slow death in gulags, while the famine itself claimed the lives of approximately seven million, including
three million children.
Helping Stalin Hide the Holocaust
How did a holocaust of these dimensions remain unknown in the West?
First, the Soviets suppressed all information regarding the famine. Russia's state-controlled press was prohibited from
discussing it, and for ordinary citizens, just mentioning the famine carried a penalty of three to five years' imprisonment.
Although some Western
observers did report the magnitude of the Ukrainians' plight, such comments were extremely rare. During the famine, the
Soviets prohibited foreign journalists from visiting Ukraine. But just as significant was the cooperation of influential
Western writers sympathetic to communism. The Fabian Socialist George Bernard Shaw, after receiving a tour carefully orchestrated
by the Soviets, proclaimed in 1932: "I did not see a single under-nourished person in Russia, young or old."
But by far the
worst offender was Walter Duranty, New York Times' Moscow bureau chief from 1922 to 1936. Duranty enjoyed personal
access to Stalin, called him "the greatest living statesman," and even praised the dictator's notorious show trials.
To call Duranty a Soviet sympathizer greatly understates his role. Journalist Joseph Alsop termed Duranty a "KGB agent,"
and Malcolm Muggeridge called him "the greatest liar of any journalist I have met in 50 years of journalism."
denials of Ukraine's Holodomor were perhaps the vilest acts of his career. In November 1932, he brazenly told his
New York Times readers, "There is no famine or actual starvation nor is there likely to be." He denounced
as "liars" the few brave writers who reported the famine, which he called "malignant propaganda." When
accumulating reports made the massive deaths hard to dispute, Duranty switched tactics from outright denial to downplay.
He wrote in the Times in March 1933: "There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation but there is
widespread mortality from deaths due to malnutrition."
Incredibly, Duranty was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for "dispassionate,
interpretive reporting of the news from Russia."
Some will ask: did the Ukrainians resist the genocide? Yes! Throughout Stalin's
war, hundreds of riots and revolts, on various scales, erupted throughout Ukraine. There are even a number of stories where
groups of heroic women overran the communist-guarded kolkhozes and seized grain for their starving children. And
it was not unusual for a village's local party tyrant to suddenly be found dead.
However, such resistance was brutally suppressed.
The Soviets had passed gun registration decrees in 1926, 1928, and 1929, and few Ukrainians owned effective weapons. Resistance
largely constituted pitchforks against machine guns. The GPU and Soviet army dealt with revolts; aircraft were brought in
to suppress the more serious ones. And the famine of 1932-33 left peasants too weak to resist.
Triumph at Last, Tragedy Not Forgotten
stands as a permanent warning of what happens when unlimited state power destroys God-given rights. A cursory review of
America's Bill of Rights demonstrates that virtually every right mentioned was trampled on by Stalin in Ukraine. Yet although
the dictator used every means to eradicate the people's will, the national spirit lived on unbreakably, until Ukraine gained
its independence in 1991.
Here in the United States, Ukrainian-American organizations such as the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), Ukrainian Genocide Famine Foundation, and others work diligently to maintain awareness of the Holodomor. Last year, they helped commemorate the genocide's
75th anniversary. And largely thanks to their efforts, in 2008 the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution deploring
the genocidal famine. One of UCCA's ongoing campaigns — which The New American heartily endorses — is
for the long-deserved revocation of Walter Duranty's Pulitzer Prize.
James Perloff is the author of The Shadows of Power: The Council on Foreign Relations and the American Decline
Click on this text to see: HOLODOMOR : The famine-genocide of Ukraine, 1932-1933....
"Please return the grain
that you have confiscated from me. If you don’t return it I’ll die. I’m 78 years old and I’m incapable
of searching for food by myself."
petition to the authorities by I.A. Rylov)
"I saw the ravages of the famine of 1932-1933 in the Ukraine: hordes of
families in rags begging at the railway stations, the women lifting up to the compartment window their starving brats, which,
with drumstick limbs, big cadaverous heads and puffed bellies, looked like embryos out of alcohol bottles ..."
(as remembered by Arthur Kaestler, a famous British novelist,
journalist, and critic. Koestler spent about three months in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv during the Famine. He wrote about
his experiences in "The God That Failed", a 1949 book which collects together six essays with the testimonies
of a number of famous ex-Communists, who were writers and journalists.)
Our father used to read the Bible to us, but whenever he
came to the passage mentioning ‘bloodless war’ he could not explain to us what that term meant. When in 1933
he was dying from hunger he called us to his deathbed and said “This, children, is what is called bloodless war...”
(as remembered by Hanna Doroshenko)
"What I saw that morning ... was inexpressibly horrible. On a battlefield men die quickly, they fight back
... Here I saw people dying in solitude by slow degrees, dying hideously, without the excuse of sacrifice for a cause. They
had been trapped and left to starve, each in his own home, by a political decision made in a far-off capital around conference
and banquet tables. There was not even the consolation of inevitability to relieve the horror."
(as remembered by Victor Kravchenko, a Soviet defector who wrote
up his experiences of life in the Soviet Union and as a Soviet official, especially in his 1946 book "I Chose Freedom".
"I Chose Freedom" containing extensive revelations on collectivization, Soviet prison camps and the use of slave
labor came at a time of growing tension between the Warsaw Pact nations and the West. His death from bullet wounds in his
apartment remains unclarified, though it was officially ruled a suicide. His son Andrew continues to believe he was the
victim of a KGB execution.)
"From 1931 to 1934 we had great harvests. The weather
conditions were great. However, all the grain was taken from us. People searched the fields for mice burrows hoping to
find measly amounts of grain stored by mice..."
(as remembered by Mykola Karlosh)
"I still get nauseous when I remember the burial hole
that all the dead livestock was thrown into. I still remember people screaming by that hole. Driven to madness by hunger
people were ripping the meat of the dead animals. The stronger ones were getting bigger pieces. People ate dogs, cats,
just about anything to survive."
remembered by Vasil Boroznyak)
"People were dying all over our village. The dogs
ate the ones that were not buried. If people could catch the dogs they were eaten. In the neighboring village people ate
bodies that they dug up."
by Motrya Mostova)
"I’m asking for your permission to advance me any amount of grain. I’m
completely sick. I don’t have any food. I’ve started to swell up and I can hardly move my feet. Please don’t
refuse me or it will be too late."
a petition to the authorities by P. Lube)
"In the spring when acacia trees started blooming everyone began
eating their flowers. I remember that our neighbor who didn’t have her own acacia tree climbed on ours and I went
to tell my mother that she was eating our flowers. My mother only smiled sadly."
(as remembered by Vasil Demchenko)
"Of our neighbors I remember all the Solveiki family
died, all of the Kapshuks, all the Rahachenkos too - and the Yeremo family - three of them, still alive, were thrown into
the mass grave…"
(as remembered by
"Where did all bread disappear, I do not really know, maybe they have taken
it all abroad. The authorities have confiscated it, removed from the villages, loaded grain into the railway coaches and
took it away someplace. They have searched the houses, taken away everything to the smallest thing. All the vegetable gardens,
all the cellars were raked out and everything was taken away.
Wealthy peasants were exiled into Siberia even before Holodomor during the “collectivization”. Communists
came, collected everything. Children were crying beaten for that with the boots. It is terrifying to recall what happened.
It was so dreadful that every day became engraved in my memory. People were lying everywhere as dead flies. The stench was
awful. Many of our neighbors and acquaintances from our street died.
I have no idea how I managed to survive and stay alive. In 1933 we tried to survive the best
we could. We collected grass, goose-foot, burdocks, rotten potatoes and made pancakes, soups from putrid beans or nettles.
Collected gley from the trees and ate it,
ate sparrows, pigeons, cats, dead and live dogs. When there was still cattle, it was eaten first, then - the domestic animals.
Some were eating their own children, I would have never been able to eat my child. One of our neighbours came home when
her husband, suffering from severe starvation ate their own baby-daughter. This woman went crazy.
People were drinking a lot of water to fill stomachs, that is why
the bellies and legs were swollen, the skin was swelling from the water as well. At that time the punishment for a stolen
handful of grain was 5 years of prison. One was not allowed to go into the fields, the sparrows were pecking grain, though
people were not allowed."
(From the memories
of Olexandra Rafalska, Zhytomir)
"A boy, 9 years old, said: "Mother said, 'Save yourself,
run to town.' I turned back twice; I could not bear to leave my mother, but she begged and cried, and I finally went for
(Recollected by an observer simply
known as Dr. M.M.)
"At that time I lived in the village of Yaressky of the Poltava region. More
than a half of the village population perished as a result of the famine. It was terrifying to walk through the village:
swollen people moaning and dying. The bodies of the dead were buried together, because there was no one to dig the graves.
There were no dogs and no cats. People died at work; it
was of no concern whether your body was swollen, whether you could work, whether you have eaten, whether you could –
you had to go and work. Otherwise – you are the enemy of the people.
Many people never lived to see the crops of 1933 and those crops were considerable. A more
severe famine, other sufferings were awaiting ahead. Rye was starting to become ripe. Those who were still able made their
way to the fields. This road, however, was covered with dead bodies, some could not reach the fields, some ate grain and
died right away. The patrol was hunting them down, collecting everything, trampled down the collected spikelets, beat the
people, came into their homes, seized everything. What they could not take – they burned."
(From the memories of Galina Gubenko, Poltava region)
famine began. People were eating cats, dogs in the Ros’ river all the frogs were caught out. Children were gathering
insects in the fields and died swollen. Stronger peasants were forced to collect the dead to the cemeteries; they were stocked
on the carts like firewood, than dropped off into one big pit. The dead were all around: on the roads, near the river, by
the fences. I used to have 5 brothers. Altogether 792 souls have died in our village during the famine, in the war years
– 135 souls"
(As remembered by Antonina
Meleshchenko, village of Kosivka, region of Kyiv)
"I remember Holodomor very well, but have no wish to
recall it. There were so many people dying then. They were lying out in the streets, in the fields, floating in the flux.
My uncle lived in Derevka – he died of hunger and my aunt went crazy – she ate her own child. At the time one
couldn’t hear the dogs barking – they were all eaten up.”
(From the memories of Galina Smyrna, village Uspenka of Dniepropetrovsk region)