By WHITING WILLIAMS
ANSWERS, A Weekly London Tabloid
Centre Spread, Pages 16 & 17
London, UK, February 24th, 1934
Mr. Whiting Williams, the first man to travel across the hungry Russian
Ukraine since famine conditions returned in the spring of 1933, is an
experienced business man and journalist and the author of many books on
Before going to look at Soviet Russia' cities and countryside, he had worked
as a journeyman labourer in America's mines and factories, as a miner in
South Wales, and a steel worker in Germany, the Saar Territory, and France.
He had, therefore, first-hand knowledge of the conditions of the workers in
Europe and America when, in 1928, he went to Russia for the first time. Now
he has returned to that land in order to discover for himself the truth
about the "hunger stories" printed in the world's newspapers during the past
year and in this issue of "Answers" he sets down, faithfully and without
exaggeration, the amazing record of what he saw and heard in that country.
Mr. Whiting Williams as he is
and photographed while in Soviet Russia
(Click on images to enlarge them)
I know that Whiting Williams has no bias either for or against Communism,
and I therefore believe that his account the first to appear in any journal
will be read with intense interest. - THE EDITOR
In a far-off Chinese mission, a doctor, weary of an unavailing light with
death, whispers the word and the whisper grows into a shout that echoes
round the world and presently the relief ships are racing across the oceans,
carrying grain and rice to the coolies whose harvest has failed.
It is Nature's Challenge to man - and man meets it always in the twentieth
century with the proud pledge: "They shall not starve! "There are many
things about which the nations bicker, but let one of them be facing this
gaunt horror of hunger, no matter how it hasp been brought about and the
rest will show that the brotherhood of man" is idle phrase but a living
Here, is the truest internationalism earth has ever known - an
internationalism based, not on words or theories, but on the hearts of -men
and women who have children of their own, and cannot bear the thought of
little ones starving in any corner of the world.
MILLIONS DEAD AND DYING.
Yet, in spite of all this, during the last twelve months, in one European
country, millions of people have died of starvation. They are still dying
like flies today. Dying in a land which was formerly one of the richest of
all the peasant states, after what has been officially described as the
biggest wheat crop for fifty years."
You think it incredible, fantastic? So did I, when the first murmurs of the
catastrophe reached me.
"Only the strong will see next summer's sun," said the chambermaid in a
Soviet hotel in which I stayed at the beginning of the tour which took me
through the length and breadth of the Russian Ukraine. I laughed at her.
Travelling by rail to Kharkov, the capital of this great agricultural and
industrial province, I talked in German to an engineer who was in the same
"You know that starvation has been killing off people here by the million?"
he said. He was quite matter-of-fact, almost -casual about it, as if he
had been saying: "You know we have had a fine summer?"
FAMINE'S FINAL SEAL.
"Nonsense," I said. "The thing's crazy! If there were anything like that
happening, the whole world would be ringing with it and organising relief."
He shrugged his shoulders.
Factory women passing a tiny victim of famine: a dead child lying on a pavement in Kharkov. (Left) A real "hunger-marcher" --a woman, reduced by famine to skin and bone, "snapped" in Ukraine
"Well, let's ask the conductor," I said. He was, passing through the coach
just then. "My own daughter died of hunger just three months ago to-day,"
he said simply, when we put the question to him. Even then I could hardly
believe that there had been anything beyond, perhaps, a few isolated deaths
in remote villages. But as I went through the country, and particularly in
the Donetz Basin, I found that the engineer had not lied.
Everywhere men and women were thinking of one thing, and that thing was
bread. Would they get enough to keep them alive throughout the winter.
They had only too much reason to ask the question, to look with dread to the
future, for they had seen so many neighbours, friends, and relatives die of
It has been worse than the famine of 'twenty-one," I was told on every hand.
And I knew that the Russian famine of 1921 bad claimed 5,000,000 victims.
But I am not reporting merely what I have heard. Once I was off the beaten
track which the tourists follow I saw with my own eyes the victims of
famine. Men and women who were literally dying of hunger in the gutter.
Have you ever seen a human being in the last stages of starvation? If you
have done so once, you can never mistake the signs. The swollen faces and.
ankles which follow the break-up of the body's normal functioning set the
seal of famine upon the emaciation of long-continued want.
"WILD CHILDREN'S" FIGHT FOR LIFE.
They sat there in the streets, their eyes glazed with despair and privation,
begging as I have never seen anyone beg before. Their little cups appealed
for kopecks, but they themselves are too weak to speak, or even to raise a
hand or an eye to attract charity.
Police carts gathering up abandoned and starving children at Kharkov. All these photographs on these pages with the exceptions of the two portraits, were taken by the author during his recent journey, and secretly brought out of Russia
"With good luck I hope to get through the coming winter," a Donetz railway
labourer told me. "But in my village, just over that hill, I have of them
in one morning - sometimes more."
All the time he was speaking he was looking round furtively to make sure
that no one was within earshot. It may be possible to survive the famine,
but no one in Russia today can hope to escape the Ogpu once its spies are on
Dead people in the streets! I found it difficult to believe. At I
mentioned it to a young woman who had given me information on other
"They make one last effort to get outside,' she explained, "in the hope of
finding or being given a crumb of bread. And then they are too weak-and
A day or so later I saw an old man lying in the road on the outskirts of one
Of the steel towns. I have sufficient medical knowledge to know that he was
dying, and that there was nothing which I, or anyone else, could do for him.
But the worst memory I have brought out of Russia is the children. There
was one youngster I saw in Kharkov. Half-naked, he had sunk, legs sprawled
out, regardless of danger from passing wheels.
Another - a boy of eight or nine -was sitting among the debris of a street
market, picking broken eggshells out of the dirt and examining them with
heartbreaking minuteness in the hope of finding a scrap of food still
sticking to them. His-shrunken cheeks were covered with an unhealthy
whitish down that made me think of those fungoid growths that sprout in the
darkness out of dying trees.
I saw him again, in the same place the next day motionless now, with his
head sunk between his knees in a piteous abandonment.
While eating in a restaurant in the same town I saw a girl of twelve run up
the steps towards a veranda table from which a customer had just risen. For
a moment she hesitated; shrank back as if in fear, as she saw the man look
at her. Finally, reassured by his expression, she darted boldly forward,
gathered the scraps he had left on his plate in her fingers, then turned
and -ran down the steps with her prize.
For all the world she was like a wild bird driven by a bard- winter to a
town garden. There was the same suspicion, the same holding back, and the
same momentary boldness followed by headlong flight. Something, also,
perhaps, of the same grace and beauty. I shall never see her again, but I
cherish the hope that she will survive.
There are hordes of those wild children in all the towns. They live and die
like wild animals.
Where do they come from? I made inquiries about them, and learned that last
winter, when food supplies began to fail, large numbers of peasants left
their villages and came into the towns with their families, hoping that
there they might get a chance to work - and eat.
There was neither work nor bread for them, and under a new regulation that
required every adult in the towns to show papers to prove his right to be
there, they were driven back to their foodless villages.
They believed they were returning to certain starvation. So they left the
children behind. In the villages, they said, the little ones would
inevitably die--in the towns, their chance of life might be slender, but it
was t least a chance.
Something like 18,000 children were abandoned in this manner - abandoned
because that was the only way in which their parents could help them - in
These bands of wild children are not a new phenomenon in Russia. In the
early days of the Revolution they were found even in Moscow itself. Then
they disappeared - we were told that they had been rounded up and placed in
homes, where they would be cared for and educated and made into good
I saw some of the wild children of this winter being rounded up. A
horse-drawn wagon lumbered alone the street, with two or three policemen
marching beside it. When they saw one of the little Ishmaels the police
gave chase. If the youngster was caught, he was placed among the others
already in the wagon, and this procession moved on again.
TRAGEDY IN THE SIDING.
Once, when the wagon stopped and a chase was in progress, two of the lads
previously captured saw their chance, scrambled to the ground, and made off
as hard as they could into a maze of narrow alley-ways.
I felt rather sorry for these youngsters, running back to the hardship and
hunger of their life in the gutter, when, as I thought, they would have been
fed and clad and educated in the institution to which they were being taken.
But when I mentioned this to a Russian acquaintance he just stared at me.
At first I could not believe what he told me. Then I spoke to a number of
other people. They all said the same thing.
These children were not sent to homes. Bread was too scarce. They were put
into railway wagons and unloaded out in the open country - too far out for
it to be possible to walk back to town.
And once, at least, three wagons filled with youngsters were shunted into a
siding and forgotten for three days. When, at the end of that time, someone
found them, not one of the children remained alive.
I don't pretend, of course, that this was a typical case. But what chance
have children dumped out in the open country? There may be a village within
walking distance, but when they reach it conditions there are probably as
bad as in the places to which their parents refused to take them back,
because they knew they couldn't get food for them.
WHAT TOURISTS DON'T SEE.
ArtUkraine.com thanks Margaret Siriol Colley and Nigel Linsan Colley
for their work in posting the original documents regarding their
relative Gareth Jones and his outstanding news stories about the genocidal
famine in Ukraine in 1932-1933. They have also posted related stories,
such as the one above, which they have given us permission to use.
Here is what a British agricultural expert reported to his principals in
London after travelling hundreds of miles through the farmlands of the North
"In whole districts the extinction of the population through famine is in
full swing. In some villages I visited the population is now almost
extinct. In others about half the population has died off. In the villages
I visited the number of deaths varied between twenty ,and thirty a day.
There are still villages in which death from famine is not so frequent. But
famine in some degree reigns everywhere in the regions I have visited."
The man who wrote that had no thought of his report or any part of it, ever
being published. He was writing simply and solely for the information of
his principals. He had no political axe to grind.
Neither , for that matter, have I. I have been just as much impressed as
any of the tourists, who are so carefully and efficiently conducted; with
Communist guides and interpreters always at their elbow, through Russia's
show places with the great new factories, the giant 'Palaces of culture,"
the palatial workers' clubs and hospitals. And I pay willing tribute to
what the Soviets have achieved in the way of "liquidating" illiteracy.
But I have seen the darker side of the Russian experiment -the side which
the conducted tourist is never allowed to glimpse. I have talked, without
an Interpreter, to people whom the tourist would never even meet; have
penetrated to towns and villages of which he has never heard. And I know
that factories and machinery, clubs, and schoolbooks, and cinemas are no
substitutes for bread, and consider it more important that I should tell the
truth as I have seen it than that I should leave the door open for my return
to Russia at some future date.
DRIVEN TO CANNIBALISM.
Bibliographic Note on Whiting Williams
What this British expert found in the Caucasus I saw wherever I went in the
Ukraine, and my observations were confirmed by a thousand conversations.
Here, typical of many others, is a story told me by a foreign representative
who has spent five years in Russia:
"A group of Young Communists went out to visit a village where a population
of over a thousand had been reduced to a mere hundred. In one house they
found five people lying in one room - two of them dead, three still alive,
but very weak. They asked the neighbours why the corpses hadn't been
'Why bother?' was the reply. 'The other three and a few others will go
shortly, and one big grave is easier to dig.'
"One member of the group was so shocked by this and by the other things he
bad seen and heard that he shot himself when he got back to the town."
There is another development no more horrible than any which I have yet
described - so - horrible that I dare only touch upon it. I first heard of
it while talking to a person whom I knew to be absolutely reliable.
"A relative of mine," he said, "was arrested for a minor offence, and met in
prison a woman who had been convicted of killing and eating her little boy.
"'We couldn't both live,' she said, 'and he was the weaker one. So weak
that, whatever happened, he couldn't possibly have lived two days longer.
So, I thought it was better for one of us to keep going.'"
A day or two later I saw in a Russian newspaper an account of a man's trial.
He was accused of killing a number of people and selling their flesh in the
free market. Then I made inquiries and found that in the Ukraine just now
cannibalism has become a commonplace.
"There were so many cases in the famine of 1921 that the courts were still
trying them in '25 and '26," I was told. "And, of course, it is happening
again now. It is bound to."
DOCTORS DAREN'T TELL.
In all Russia, how many victims - how many millions of victims - has the
famine already claimed? I can't pretend to say. There are no statistics.
Officially, no one dies of hunger in the land of the Soviets. The doctors
are Government employees, and they dare not report any death as caused
by starvation. "Weak heart" or exposure" is the favourite formula.
All the people in a position to judge with whom I have talked, however,
including engineers and experts whose work takes them all over the country,
are unanimous in saying that famine conditions have been more widespread
during the last twelve months than they were in the hunger year of 1921.
Then, too, there was organised foreign famine relief, which saved
unnumbered lives. This tine there has been no such helping hand.
It is also significant that, even among Russians who are not starving, food
is the one all-absorbing topic of conversation, and that the only at about
the famine is whether the death-roll amounts to fifteen millions or only
That, admittedly, does not mean that even lower figure is a safe one to
accept. But it seems only too much reason to believe that the number of
those who have died of starvation is well in excess of the five millions who
perished in the famine of 'twenty-one.
Of course, the conducted tourists won't believe it. They saw for
themselves - what they were meant to see. I was shown a letter written by
a woman in Yalta to a friend in Kiev.
"Last Tuesday we hardly knew Yalta," it ran. 'As you know, we had a
terrible number of starving people. I have thirty of them daily at my door,
and try to give a morsel to all of them so that none will drop down and die
before my eyes. But last Tuesday all these were missing - and our traffic
policemen blossomed out in new white uniforms. We couldn't make out why
until, about eleven o'clock, we saw that some hundreds of strangers from
abroad were paying us a visit."
WHERE THE "SACK" MEAN STARVATION.
In the towns the workers - that is, those who rave jobs - are getting
enough, just enough, to keep them alive. In the last five years, after
making full allowance for the much-advertised right of the Soviet employee
to buy at privilege prices, real wages have been reduced by seventy-five per
cent, and many workers can only afford to eat once a day.
That is while the job lasts. But dismissal may follow a very minor offence,
such as being five minutes late for work in the morning. And once a man is
discharged, not only does his income stop, but his food card is withdrawn,
which means hat he can only buy bread at the top price, and he is turned out
of his home.
And after that? Sooner or later famine will claim another victim.
(In a concluding article, appearing in next Friday's issue, Mr. Whiting
Williams will explain why Russia is hungry, and reveal further remarkable
facts concerning the food policy of the men who govern the former "granary
of Europe." Don't miss these eye witness revelations, - they will appear
only in ANSWERS.)
Biographical material below is quoted from the "Guide to the Architectural
Records in the Oberlin College Archives," edited by Roland M. Baumann
(Oberlin, 1996), p. 25., :
(Charles) Whiting Williams (1878-1975, A.B. 1899, M.A. 1909) was born in
Shelby, Ohio. He continued his studies at the University of Berlin
(1899-1900) and the University of Chicago (1900-1901), serving as Chicago's
director of the Bureau of University Travel from 1901 to 1904. Williams
returned to Oberlin to serve as the first assistant to the president from
1904 to 1912 under Henry Churchill King. Among his primary tasks was the
raising of money for building and scholarships.
In 1912, Williams left Oberlin. Over the next three decades he was
successful in reform and philanthropy movements, serving as the first
executive secretary of the Federation of Charity and Philanthropy (now known
as the Welfare Federation of Cleveland). Upon entering the private sector in
1917, he legally changed his name to Whiting Williams. After 1919, Williams
pursued a career as a consultant in labor-management relations, and spent
the greater part of his remaining life researching, speaking and writing on
Permission for above source material granted by Oberlin College.
The scans of the photographs were made by www.ArtUkraine.com
from a photocopy of the Whiting Williams article furnished to us by the
Colley's. Be sure and take a look at the historic material about Gareth
Jones on their website: http://www.colley.co.uk/garethjones.
FOR PERSONAL AND ACADEMIC USE ONLY