am a native of Kiev region, from the village of Bridky in the administration
unit of Parada.
In June of 1931, I was drafted by the Bolshevik government for compulsory
work in Mariupol to build Lenin Factory named "Azovstal". There
were many others brought here from Ukrainian villages, about 400
people, and we were lodged in the former Theological Seminary
building under the watchful eyes of the NKVD.
Living conditions in that place were dreadful. Our daily ration
consisted of 11 ounces of bread and some thin soup (balanda). Dirty
rags on the bare floors, full of crawling lice, served for beds.
We did heavy work under these conditions, dug ditches and carried
Close to the seminary there was a separate enclosure, protected
by barbed wire, in which 4,000 priests and 36 'deviationists' were
being detained. They fared even worse than we did. All of them were
completely naked, hungry, and during hot spells they were not allowed
to drink enough water but were forced to do the heaviest work. A
huge number of them died every day.
I came home on April 5, 1932, and found out that the NKVD was again
looking for me as a traitor and deviationist. I had to leave. I
thought that I might get some work in Donbas and hide there. But
when I came to the railway station on April 11 I
was not able to buy a ticket to the place I wished. The only way
left was to go to Moscow to work at the construction of the Moscow-Donbas
There were others in the same predicament. We were told by the employment
agent: "You have two alternatives, to go and work at the railway
construction or starve."
Ten days later we made up our minds. Transportation charges, amounting
to 34 rubles per person, had to be paid in advance. That night we
were loaded in boxcars with a double row of bunk beds. Every car
had to accommodate 110 men and we were rather crowded. The next
day our train, that had a human load of 4,000, was dispatched to
Moscow. Not an ounce of bread or a drop of soup was given to us
while we were on the way and the result was that my May 1 eight
had died. They died from hunger.
We were not allowed to get off the train in Moscow, but were taken
to Kashira, that is 75 miles away. Since we were such a long time
without food 370 people more died on the way.
We spent four days in Kashira being organized for work, but still
there was no bread. Then we began to beg, but those who could not
speak Russian did not get any bread. The Russians would say: "I
won't give you any bread if you cannot ask in Russian. Go back to
where you came from, and perish there from hunger."
Twenty-five others, and I were sent with the railway survey party
from Kashira back to Moscow. We surveyed 67 miles in 30 days, and
every night we stayed in a different village.
I had an opportunity to observe the life of the "muzhiks" in the
Russian village. Every farmer had, on the average, 4 horses, 6 cows,
a sheep and pigs, while in Ukraine people had been deprived of all
their possessions and were starving. The Russians had bread, meat
and potatoes, that were rotting in the farm yards. No one dreamed
of any famine here!
I worked there for a year. Towards the end I lived in Moscow suburb
and saw Ukrainians coming to buy bread, which they tried to take
back to their dying families in Ukraine.
I left Moscow on April 20, 1933, after having provided myself with
79 pounds of bread. When about to leave I met two women from my
native village who had come to Moscow to buy bread. Our journey
was uneventful until we reached Bakhmach on the Russian-Ukrainian
border. Here, all the passengers were ordered by the NKVD to go
to the customs office, where the officials took away my bread, leaving
me only 9 pounds. This was in consideration of the fact that I had
been working in Moscow, but my countrywomen were not only robbed
of their bread but were themselves detained for "taking" bread away
These two unfortunate women left hungry children at home. Their
husbands died from hunger, and the children were alone. They never
After my arrival at my native village I was ordered by the village
Soviet chairman, a Moscow henchman, Klym Komiychenko, to oversee
a brigade of women, swollen from hunger, whose task was to sow and
weed sugar beets. Practically all people in
the village were suffering and swollen, many had already died from
hunger. The work these hungry women were doing was too hard for
them, and they would fall down and die. It was terrible to look
at them, the skin cracked and water oozed out. The peak of mortality
was reached just before the harvest.
Then another man and I were ordered to roam over the village and
gather up the corpses...
...The hot weather hastened the decomposition of the bodies and
the stench in the village was unendurable. About twenty people died
every day and there was no one to bury them. Four men were steadily
employed at the cemetery, digging graves. We brought in the
dead on the wagon like logs. No one lamented their deaths because
their families or relatives were sick or were already dead. The
NKVD agent, a Russian, was telling us what to do. People were buried
worse than cattle. If I should, by some miracle, return to my native
village I would be able to find all those holes where more than
half of the people in the village were buried.
I worked at this collection of the dead for two months, and then
I was swelled with hunger. All I had to eat during that time was
3 and one-half ounces of bread and a small potato a day and a lack
of other foods, especially meat and fats, began to affect my body.
I ate nettles, lambs quarters, locust flowers and drank water. My
body swelled so badly that I could walk no longer, I could only
Luckily for me, the ears of rye began to fill with a milky substance.
I greedily sucked the ears and the swelling abated. In Moscow I
had weighed over 200 pounds, but now I was only 106. Slowly my strength
returned. I could walk, and in four weeks out of danger, thanks
to the ears of rye.
Then I managed to get hold of some forged documents, and I went
to Donbas. I had never come back to my native village.
From: "The Black Deeds of the Kremlin, A White Book", Vol 1
The Basilian Press, 1953,Toronto, Canada
Story reprinted In: "The Agony Of a Nation"
by Stephen Oleskiw
The National Committee to Commemorate the 50th Anniversary
of the Artificial Famine in Ukraine 1932-1933, London
Printed by: Ukrainian Publishers Ltd.,
ISBN 0 950 8851 OX
by I. Chamber