Mer detaljer om Holodomor kommer frem til lyset


Times Online: Millions of peasants were starving. Children were turned against adults as they were recruited to expose people accused of hoarding grain. Stalin sealed the border between Russia and Ukraine to ensure that news of the famine would not spread, but one journalist was able to break through to discover the truth.

Gareth Jones, who revealed the story of the forced famine that claimed the lives of four million people in Ukraine in the 1930s, recorded the words of Stalin’s victims in his diaries, which he then used to prepare his dispatch.

The public can see the diaries for the first time today as they go on display at the University of Cambridge.

One entry from March 1933 describes how Jones illegally sneaked across the border from Russia to interview peasants. “They all had the same story: ‘there is no bread; we haven’t had bread for two months; a lot are dying’,” he wrote.

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Guardian: Around a well-stocked Ukrainian dinner table one evening recently, I watched in surprise as a friend’s grandmother carefully swept together the breadcrumbs on the table in front of her, then ate them from the palm of her hand.

«She knows the value of food,» my friend explained. «She lived through the Holodomor.»

The Holodomor, or «death by hunger», was unleashed on the country in 1932-33 as part of Stalin’s drive to collectivise farming across the Soviet Union. Forced grain seizures left millions dead, and Ukraine, with its fertile black earth, was worst hit. Ukraine’s suffering was intensified by the simultaneous attempt to crush Ukrainian nationalism, seen as a threat to the Soviet project and the integrity of the Soviet Union. Pavel Postyshev, who became known as «the hangman of Ukraine», was sent by Stalin in 1933 to step up seizures, but also to hunt down «nationalist counter-revolutionaries» and throttle Ukrainian culture.

Seventy-six years on, the «forgotten famine» still remains little known in the west, despite the particularly assiduous, and continuing, efforts of the Ukrainian diaspora. Knowledge of the Holodomor at the time was tainted by the accounts of Walter Duranty, New York Times reporter and Stalin sympathiser. From the comfort of Moscow, he wrote that «any report of a famine is today an exaggeration or malignant propaganda».

But two journalists – Gareth Jones and Malcolm Muggeridge – overcame travel restrictions and wrote of the suffering and death they saw first hand. A documentary about Jones was aired last week, and his diaries are currently on display at the University of Cambridge.

In the Soviet Union, the story of the Holodomor was hushed up, with the famine blamed on drought. The silence that surrounded it for decades left the wound festering, before Ukraine’s independence brought new life to the issue. The country’s first post-Soviet president, Leonid Kravchuk, called the first commemoration ceremony in 1993, and his successor, Leonid Kuchma, called for governments worldwide to recognise it as genocide in 2003.

The current Ukrainian president, Viktor Yushchenko, has invested much effort in rethinking Soviet interpretations of the nation’s history. It is unfortunate that his political failures have limited the impact of these attempts, which have been largely well received. When a large new memorial was opened last year, thousands of Ukrainians from across the country flocked to see it.

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