(Courtesy: Achievements News – Great Britain)
(by Alexander Feldman – Member of Parliament of Ukraine)
In the light of the recent negotiations with the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Knesset representatives on recognition of the Holodomor (famine) of the 1932-33 by Israeli Knesset as genocide against the Ukrainian people, I was astonished at one fact – basically, the Israeli policymakers are ready to support Ukraine and take the corresponding decision on the state level. Moreover, the Israeli parliamentarians kindly consented to help with exhibition arranging in the Knesset. The unclassified historical records of the Security Service of Ukraine on the Holodomor were intended for this exhibition.
However, as it proved to be, in course of communication with the foreign policymakers, the Holodomor issue is raised not only by those ones who strive to support Ukraine in the communist regime crimes condemnation but those ones who actively oppose this action. An impressing fact is not the Verkhovna Rada’s deputies raising these initiatives but an absurd reasoning. It’s delivered as “the next historical myth ordered by the new Ukrainian authorities”, and its support could spoil relations of Russia with Israel and cause ambiguous reaction of the Ukrainian society…
To strengthen solidarity of the Jewish and Ukrainian people banded but not limited by the centuries-old friendship as well as to make the political speculators break off facts distorting process, it’s necessary to throw some light upon the Jewish page of Holodomor tragedy, which is still unknown…
As it’s known, at the beginning of the 1930es there were 25 national districts in the administrative-territorial system of Ukraine, including seven German, three Bulgarian, three Greek, three Jewish, one Polish and eight Russian districts. The Holodomor did not pass around any of those. Facts of starvation in three Jewish national districts, Kalinindorphskiy, Novo-Zlatopolskiy and Stalindorphskiy (today, Dnepropetrovschina, Zaporozhye and Khersonschina) have been documented. At the beginning of the 1930es the Jewish agricultural settlements were powerful and profitable economies. They had tens of thousands of agricultural machineries and the first-class equipment. In March 1933 the head of the Ukrainian communists, S. Kosior, fixed a very hard situation in the national districts. The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine was informed of real disaster in the south of Ukraine. One of the documents stated: “Residents of the Voroshilovogradskoe village of the Stalindorphskiy district are starving. Four children at the age from 5 to 10 were waiting for help in the house of the collective farmer Braverman, who had been arrested for stealing collective farm’s bread. They were lying immovable with open wounds at the initial stage of decay”. There is another record describing the situation in this national district: “It’s a real disaster. People are not even looking forward to any help. They are just lying in cold, unheated houses and waiting for their death.”
Famine was also documented in other districts, in particular, the cities with traditionally high share of Jewish population: Zhitomir, Berdichev, Korosten, Kamenets-Podolskiy, Proskurov, Odessa, etc.
The Jewish handicraftsmen, who served the Ukrainian villages, were in a particularly difficult position. As a rule, Jews were involved in bakery, repairing, construction, sewing and trading job. In the period of “bloody thirties” the Ukrainian village was dying. It was turn for the Jews families’ death. As the State Archives’ records of the Vinnitsa oblast state: “The tragedy touched upon the Jewish settlement: from 5 to 10 people starve in Ilyintsy, Zhornischy, Kitaigorod every day. There are 11 artels combining up to 605 families in the region. They are cut off from the district heating supplies. Up to 80 people, members of artels (tinmen, tailors and boot-makers) have swelled of hunger and 12 people died…”
Famine was ferocious in Zhitomirschina. There are some figures fixed in the records on Berdichev: “Starvation touches upon workers – 208, handicraftsmen – 429, disabled and pensioners – 261, unemployed – 562, declassed poor people, small traders – 710, others – 48. The total amount is 2281 people.”
Desperate position incited people to any steps and trials to save their lives. In a blank despair about not getting any support from authorities, the wife of the Berdichev tannery’s worker Shraber decided to write a letter to N. Krupskaya: “You will get this letter from a woman sitting and waiting for her starvation death. Oh, if only you knew what a feeling, torture and the hell it was to starve and know that nobody will come to you, except for the vile starvation death…If I could get a piece of bread…If I could die the soonest to get rid of these unbearable torments. I am lying withered, with face and legs edema, yellow body, and waiting for the same starvation death as my husband got. Help us! We want to leave and work. We don’t want to starve and let hunger win us. Don’t leave us without help…” (Reference to the reports collection “Famine of 1932-1922, 1946-1947”. Vinnitskaya oblast. Documents and materials. Compilers: F. Vinokurova, R. Podkur. Vinnitsa. 1998)
Heartless silence and repressions was the answer of authorities to any attempts of doomed people to save from starvation. Any attempts to save the crop sowing or minimum living fund as well as deviation from the bread supply over-planning entailed immediate punishment. The following Jewish collective farms in the south of Ukraine, which met bread supply plans, fell under the “Cheka” (Extraordinary Commission) controlling methods: “Sots Dorf”, “Foroys”, “Krasniy Bessarabets”, the Jewish collective farm named after K. Libknekht, “Feuer Peuer”, etc.
The draconian measures have been applied to the collective farms heads and the Jewish collective farmers. For example, the Soviet government’s decrees stressed the failure to carry out state supply plans, facts of hiding grain, the criminal negligence of the collective farm heads as well as illegal grain dissemination among the collective farmers. Hence, the following repression steps were taken: 1. All bread reserves should be used to meet the state plan. 2. The grain given to the collective farmers should be taken back in advances. 3. The collective farm should be included in the “black list” for not fulfilling state tasks (should be deprived of any state support). 4. Heads of the listed above collective farms should be arrested and brought to legal liability.
In the lean years the high death rate among children was high. The most typical diseases were dystrophy, severe enteric diseases, typhus. For example, there were some cases when in the town of Chudnove during the lessons Jewish pupils died because of malnutrition.
There were plenty of similar cases. A famous Ukrainian film director, Boris Khandros, recalled his childhood: “In 1933, as many of my coevals, I suffered from hunger and, as everyone, nibbled a cattle cake, ate nettle, acacia flowers and “ration” bread with sawdust and eventually, after famine passed away, I was almost dead of dysentery and survived by miracle.” Boris Naumovich has studied the history of his town and finally written down his compatriots’ painful recollection of the famine of 1932-1933. This is one of Semen Reutberg’s remembrances: «…They carried 10-12 dead bodies and passed by our house to lead the way to the graveyard. But it was just an insignificant part – the rest dead bodies were carried along the other way…The cannibalism rumors were spread saying that children are kidnapped, killed for meat-jelly and bouillons cooking. The Iser Landau’s family lived next door. His daughter Rosa studied with me and her brother was 4-5 years. Suddenly, he disappeared and panic has arisen. People said he was killed and boiled. The whole town was looking for this boy. In the evening or at night they found him. A lot of countrymen swelled and died.”
These abovementioned extracts from the archive records and remembrances of the Holodomor tragedy witnesses is a small piece of illustration of the great disaster that Ukrainian people went through together in those years. Remembering of that tragedy’s victims is our solemn duty.
We arranged it in Kharkiv, Ukraine to prevent political cynics from saying to Kharkiv people that “it did not happen” and this “problem seems alien” to residents of Kharkiv region that made up a quarter of the former Soviet Ukraine’s territory.
In spring we are supposed to run an exhibition of the Soviet State Security’s archive records named “Unclassified memory” in the Knesset of Israel, where people are ready to accept this exposition. This will be followed by a range of exhibitions in the USA, Canada, Australia, Argentina and the CIS.
I am sure that we will be able to step in the future only by defending the historical truth.