Eyewitness to Terror

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peasant women

peasant women gathering spilled kernels from the sowing


"People were wandering about the gardens and hoping to come upon something left behind in the gardens; they would dig and dig, and examine every clump of earth. If they came upon a smelly old potato, they would clean it and take the starch. . . People dug up all sorts of roots. It was terrible, absolutely terrible. People scattered all over; they wandered here and there. Sometimes they'd spot some small creature in the water, like a turtle and eat it as food. It was terrible. People were reduced to that state. I was right there. Some of the starving were in such a bad way that they had begun to stink already. Their feet would swell up; their wounds would open and fester. It was terrible. You would see them walking about, just walking and walking, and one would drop, and then another, and so on it went." 

Interview with a survivor by the U.S. Commission on the Ukraine Famine in 1987

"Moscow assigned grain production and delivery quotas to the provinces, and the provinces then assigned them to the districts. And our village was given a quota that it couldn't have fulfilled in ten years! In the village rada (council) even those who weren't drinkers took to drink out of terror...    Of course, the grain deliveries could not be fulfilled. Smaller areas had been sown, and the crop yield on those smaller areas had shrunk. So where could it come from, that promised ocean of grain from the collective farms? The conclusion reached up top was that the grain had all been concealed, hidden away. By kulaks who had not yet been liquidated, by loafers! The "kulaks" had been removed, but the "kulak" spirit remained. Private property was master over the minds of the Ukrainian peasant.   

Who was it who then signed the act which imposed mass murder? ... For the decree required that the peasants of Ukraine, the Don, and the Kuban be put to death by starvation, put to death along with their tiny children. The instructions were to take away the entire seed fund. Grain was searched for as if it were not grain but bombs and machine guns. The whole earth was stabbed with bayonets and ramrods. Cellars were dug up, floors were broken through, and vegetable gardens were turned over. From some they confiscated grain, and dust hung over the earth. And there were no grain elevators to accommodate it, and they simply dumped it out on the earth and set guards around it. By winter the grain had been soaked by the rains and began to ferment -- the Soviet government didn't even have enough canvases to cover it up!...

        Fathers and mothers wanted to save their children and hid a tiny bit of grain, and they were told: "You hate the country of socialism. You are trying to make the plan fail, you parasites, you pro-kulaks, you rats." ... The entire seed fund had been confiscated...

        Everyone was in terror. Mothers looked at their children and began to scream in fear. They screamed as if a snake had crept into their house. And this snake was famine, starvation, death..."

Lev Kopelev, communist worker - account published in his memoirs, The Education of a True Believer


Part of The Ukrainian Famine Genocide exhibit