village of Verbky lies about 3 miles north of Pawlohrad, in the
province of Dnipropertrovsk, on the river Samara. Of considerable
size, it is cut almost in half by the highway leading to Lozova
and by the railway in the western end.
It was the autumn of 1932. Almost all the villages in Ukraine, like
Verbky failed to fulfil the grain quotas, which were raised impossibly
high just for this purpose.
At this terrible time Verbky was one of those very backward villages
whose names appeared on the country's black list. All the villages
were decorated by huge black boards on which the names of people,
of whole villages, or of industrial plants appeared. Everyone and
everything that was regarded as backward and harmful to administration
plans was thus branded by the Bolshevik leaders. All those blacklisted
were subject to public abuse, received less food and were persecuted
at every step. Briefly, they were candidates for prison terms and
all the others forms of punishment.
At this time the village was teeming with 'commissioners' sent by
the higher party organs to do a thorough job of successful grain
collection. They were strangers from the central provinces of Russia:
Burgos, Pukhteyev, Avtomonov, army commissar Teplov, Senin from
the militia and others. They were loyal pets of Stalin, who had
no mercy for the poor people in the country.
The brigades they organized cleaned out the collective farms of
all their grain. But the quantity collected fell far short of the
plan. Then these brigades invaded the homes of the members of the
collective and began to 'collect' everything, the grain the
people received as their yearly wage for work in the collective,
as well as handfuls raised in their gardens. All windmills were
closed, the only village store was closed, and the people were forbidden
to leave the place. Watchmen encircled it and a boycott of the village
was proclaimed. The county sea, Pavlohrad, was decorated with posters
urging people to 'Boycott Verbky" and stores displayed the warning:
'Verbky people stay out!'
Mr. Pukhteyev sits at the table. He is drunk and in a belligerent
mood. Banging his fist on the table he shouts at the widow, Anna
"Only till tomorrow! If you don't deliver 220 bushels of grain by
tomorrow we'll scatter all your rubbish heap to the winds!'
"Where can I get it? Even now we have nothing to eat."
"You first of all deliver to the state, and then think about yourself!"
The next day a sign appeared on the white walls of the widow's cottage:
"Shame to the saboteur and enemy of the grain collection plan!"
It was illustrated by a cartoon. A whole brigade of seven men went
to search for grain. They scattered everything in the cottage, demolished
the oven, dug the earthen floor, but there was no grain hidden anywhere.
The widow fainted from grief and despair and the children ran away.
The whole village groaned in the Russian talons. Seeing no way out
from the unbearable situation Dmytro Chapla, Pavlo Volyn and Petro
Yavtushenko hanged themselves. The latter scribbled before committing
suicide: "I cannot live any longer in this hell."
These dreadful events were followed by many arrests. More than 200
men were put in prison or sent to concentration camps in Siberia.
Those who gleaned in the fields because they had nothing to eat,
those who did not welcome the officials, those who had little hand
mills, in short all whom the Russian disliked for one reason or
another-----all were arrested. They were charged with "counter-revolutionary
activities." The Moscow bullies were assisted by Ukrainian turncoats:
Havrylo Lytvynenko, Iiko Morenets and Petro Trotsenko.
Later in the fall, the whole management of the collective "Lenin's
Memorial' was arrested for trying to protect people as much as they
could. Their names were: Roman Kolisnyk, Yakiv Lytvynenko, Yukhym
Shpurenko and Ivan Trotsenko (Mamay). They were sentenced to 6,
8 and 10 years in the far concentration camps.
Others also received similar treatment: Oksana Vasylchenko was sent
for three years to a concentration camp for gleaning: Danylo Demchenko,
Sofron Kotenko, Panko Shynkarenko and Tyshchenkio and many others
were sent away for being politically unreliable, ----they talked
"counter-revolution"--when all these people did was complain that
life had become much harder since they were forced to join collective
These persecutions were followed by a terrible famine which lasted
till the next harvest. The toll was 997 persons out of a total of
7,000. There were only two births.
I cannot forget the date April 30, 1933. A beautiful sunny day,
cheery orchards in bloom. Only to live! But a wagon loaded with
the dead moves slowly and all is gone. The day 20 villagers were
buried in a common grave.
I remember some of their names: Maria Buzoverya; Matviy Kolishyk
and all of his family; Ivan, Pelagia and Dmytro; Khoma Ponomarenko;
Iiko Ryabukha and his family; Petro, Maria and Ulyana: Panas Tkachenkop
and many others.
That year the whole family of the young poet Hryhoriy Chapla died.
His father, one of the poorest in the village, was the first to
join the collective farm 'Zirka". When the poet, who taught public
school in the village of Khandeleyivka in the neighbouring county,
came home to help his kin he found all of them dead. The thatch
on the cottage was half gone, windows broken. The number of deserted
cottages grew and grew.
The people in Verbky were dying out. The same thing happened in
the neighbouring villages. It was at a time when government granaries
were bursting with grain.
From "The Black Deeds of the Kremlin, A White Book", Vol. I
Toronto, Canada, The Brasilian Press, 1953
Reproduced in: "The Agony of a Nation"
The Great Man-Made Famine In Ukraine 1932-1933
Published by: The National Committee
to Commemorate the 50th Anniversary
of the Artificial Famine in Ukraine 1932-1933
Printed by Ukrainian Publishers Ltd.
by Sava Shynkarenko