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15.12.2003 | Inna Sukhorukova, Kharkov

Famine and our souls...

   

At last the day came, for which the millions of Ukrainians were waiting. The Ukrainians, who were born or survived by a miracle during the terrible famine of 1932-33.

Only those people are alive now, who were children or youths at that time. The then adults have already died. Yet, their awful recollections remained… Unfortunately, they did not live up to the day, when almost all world community and, what is the most important, the country acknowledged that the famine of 1932-33 was a genocide. It is dreadful, when people are murdered because of their nationality, and such cases occurred, especially in the 20th century. This happened with Armenians, Gypsies and Jews. How many catastrophes happened in this horrible century!

It is dreadful, when the crowds of maimed and oppressed innocent people are driven to the camps of death. But it is not less dreadful, when your own house, your village, your land is turned into the permanent hell. And you are left in this hell, and the only choice is either somebody will eat you or you will eat somebody. And your land perishes not only physically, but also spiritually and morally. And people stop to be people, they transform into the inhabitants of this hell, the inhabitants deprived of the right for the soul and morals…

The famine of 1932-33 was not only a mass murder of innocent people, it was also an attempt at their souls. The senior priest of the John the Divine Temple in Kharkov told to his congregation that somebody turned to him asking to pray for the soul of a woman, who had died from starvation, but had not eaten her children. So, one can imagine how frequent the cases of cannibalism were. And that happened in a Christian country! So, it is not surprising that even after Ukraine became independent, she cannot solve its problems. As a matter of fact, the life of our country is the life after death. The life of the country, one part of the population of which survived by miracle, the second part survived because they eat other people, and the third part encouraged the cannibalism.

Once, in an overcrowded bus, an elderly woman told loudly: “They say: famine, famine… I lived in Kharkov and I know: there was no famine at all! Yet, we have the famine now!” Her voice was sonorous, her Russian language was correct, and her exterior proved that she really had not seen the famine. As always, some people were in the bus, who either survived this catastrophe by themselves, or knew about it from relatives, since 8 millions of the perished is a rather great proportion. The brawl began… I was silent. Firstly, if the woman does not understand the sufferings of her people, then she does not belong to this people spiritually, and, secondly, my throat was squeezed with hate. I was silent, otherwise I would shout at this fat and foolish woman. Vivid pictures flashed before my eyes. Here is my grandfather, who worked as a zootechnician in 1932-33 and visited various villages. He, mildly speaking, disliked the Soviet power, but he did not think at first that the famine was artificial. His mind refused to believe that. He was sure that Bolsheviks were idiots and understood nothing in agriculture, so the famine was caused by the disorder and stupidity. Yet, for some reasons (maybe by intuition) my grandfather advised the head of a small cooperative in Oposhnia, a village in the Poltava oblast, where the famous ceramics was made, to register himself as a worker, not a peasant, and to enlist all dwellers of the village to the cooperative. The villagers followed the advice. They enlisted even those, who came to them from other villages. And the result was striking: the seed grain was not taken away from the members of the cooperative! That does not mean that they did not starve, but their situation was better than in other Poltava villages and the town of Poltava. My grandmother told that the cooperators showed their gratitude to grandfather and brought him two great ceramic vases made by them, and these vases were kept in our house until the WW2.

The grandfather understood that the famine was created artificially only when his sister told him that there was no famine in Moscow, where she lived, and that she sent the food parcels to them, but the parcels were not delivered. In Kharkov it was also possible to buy some expensive bread. And his father was standing in queues to buy this bread, in order to make zwiebacks and take them to his granddaughters to Poltava. Then the grandfather understood the scale of the crime committed against the Ukrainian people. The older generation of our family did not conceal their attitude to the Soviet power. I subconsciously hated this power and the Soviet Union as a whole since my childhood. In the 30s the grandfather was a member of “The union of hunters and fishers”, he had a riffle, with which he hunted for the black crows. My grandmother and great-grandmother cooked these crows and shared this food with neighbors. My mother, who had been 10 years old then, told that such behavior was very uncommon at that time. Yet, they were starving too, and both she, who was born in 1922, and my aunt, who was 10 years younger, had very poor health. Their successors: my sister and me, also are not too healthy. However, we are pure in the eyes of our compatriots: not a single member of our family ate or harmed anybody. My great-grandfather perished in a bread queue: the crowd pushed him from the sidewalk, and he was knocked down by a car.

So, I knew all this from childhood. Yet, I was surprised all the same, when I visited the grandmother of my playmate in the village of Kachalivka. There we went to forest and saw the square clearings with some strange knolls. In spite of grass and bushes, these clearings seemed to be artificial. The old woman told: “Here Kachalivka was situated before the famine. The dwellers had died and the forest advanced”.

Several days later one of the neighbors in Kachalivka told us about the famine: “Special commissioners used to visit our village. They were very angry. If they saw smoke from a chimney, they understood that something was cooked. Then they rushed into the house and threw tobacco in the pot”. I believe, that almost everybody will agree with me: spoiling the food, maybe the last one, looking at the famished children, is an “infernal” deed, as Dostoyevsky said. Any human creature and ethnic group is programmed for the continuation of the family and of the entire ethnos.

If the empire, and later the communist power, drove the people to such state, which cannot be called humane even in biological sense, then what could be said about our today’s cruelty and fear that have not left the society until now? For how many centuries the citizens of the Christian country would have to ramble in desert, the citizens, who were forced to eat each other?

There was a house in Kachalivka, where cannibals lived during these terrible years. They caught and ate children. When I was in the village, a distant relative of these cannibals still lived in the house, but nobody communicated with her.

Another grandmother resided very far from Kachalivka, in opposite direction from Kharkov. This settlement, Russkaya Lozovaya, is situated close to Kharkov, and the majority of its citizens work at the plants in the city. This grandmother told that there had been no real famine in their settlement. The seed grain was not confiscated. Yet, the inhabitants were afraid to leave their homes in evening, since there was a great sandpit at the outskirts. At nights or at the early hours of morning, people, who had died from starvation (and sometimes even those, who were alive yet), were transported there and thrown to the pit. The people were collected in Kharkov streets. The local inhabitants, who lived near the pit, heard groans and cries at night. Once the number of those dead and alive people was so large than one of them, an invalid without hands and legs, scrambled out from the pile of bodies and crept along the street knocking at the doors. He asked for food and water. Later he settled in some hayloft, people continued to feed him, and he survived.

Yet, how many people died in this pit? And how many such pits exist in Ukraine?

I am sure that this outrageous damage, which was injured to our souls, is now influencing our life and will influence it for a long time, since the people, who managed to get out from other world, do not know how to live in this world. They are doomed to wander about like the lost souls, because they are the successors of those, who experienced cruelty, super-meanness and super-hypocrisy.

Stalin, “the Father and Teacher“, eclipsed the deeds of Assyrian chars, who caused death of many people. Yet, these people were not made to eat each other. The communist leaders destroyed our souls, and now we are allowing some people to march at the demonstrations with Stalin’s portraits and to agitate about the uniting to one more empire. Yet, empires are criminal structures by definition.

So, who are we? The people, who get out the realm of the dead. What do we want? We do not know what to do and where to go: to Europe or to Asia, since we do not know our own history yet. Not only children, but also adults, do not know about the genocide experienced by our people. Ask Armenians, Jews or Gypsies: they know what happened with their nations. Only we are still hoping for something: either for good President or for a miracle that would be made by the opposition. Yet, the people, who are shadows on their own land, cannot hope for anything.

They must become real people. They must find themselves and their country. Otherwise, they would never have their own state.

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