Hell on Earth

Andrii Lehit

The girls no longer sing in the street,
autumn's shadow and lash fall everywhere,
in the neighbouring Zhabokriukivka
even the frogs haven't cried for a year.

The ragged thatched roofs are sleeping
as are the hungry overworked people,
and beyond the fields on the horizon,
the harpies are putting a yoke on the moon.

The barns bid farewell to the storks,
and reeds choke the crystal clear pond,
the Church that was revered as the Little One,
now droops without a bell or a cross.

Nothing remains of the Greater Church,
only broken bricks and humps on the ground,
the herons call down from the highest heights
the herons sadly fly on their way.

The sycamores rustle no more near the roadways
only the bare stumps burn like lanterns
soundlessness reigns over the bare fields,
and the plundered native land sleeps.

But here comes nineteen thirty three,
the year the people called the accursed,
when every barn bin and corner of granary
was swept clean by the red broom.

They took the horses and bulls to the collective,
they took the wagons, plows, and harrows too,
they took some people to the distant north,
while others died a hungry death.

It was a cold, icy winter
that raged and whirled above the villages,
the wind blew grey herds across the sky,
and swept up white walls of drifts.

As the wind howled in a choir of wolves,
the Frost painted panes with flowers.
In the cold house, a grieving mother, barely alive,
sat with her young children.

The famine chased the elders away
into Turkestan, Siberia, the forests of Ural,
the pens, sheds and fences been burned in the ovens,
and the livestock and grain were taken by soldiers.

Father had gone to Tambov
to sell the last of the clothes for grain,
and now we cannot see the Lord's world through our tears.
Mother has been waiting for him for months....A knocking comes.

The door opens..
and pain squeezes my poor mother's heart,
emaciated, in rags, without grain,
my father barely stands on his swollen feet.

If Taras arose from the grave
and looked Ukraine over, he would weep,
for the hell among us now
is worse than hell was under Nicholas.

Everywhere, the scythe of death by hunger
raged through the cities and towns,
where has the beauty of the country gone?
Where has the joyful singing gone?

In Kyrylivka, where he grew up
in a ragged and unheated home,
a woman stoops, as if taken down from the cross,
a mother over her prostrated children.

Their cows and bulls had been taken from them
their garden was ripped right up to the house,
father and grandfather were driven east,
while the mother and children were left to die.

"Bread," cried little Olia,
"Sleep, child, you'll dream of it,"
and the red broom emptied
the barn, the shed and the cellar.

"Milk," cried the smaller Ivas,
"Sleep my beloved Ivasyk, without milk:
Herod Stalin is raging at us,
and has taken our cow Lyska to the slaughterhouse.

"...She put out the lamp, and lay herself down...
but without closing their eyes for a minute that night,
as already had half the village,
the three of them fell asleep for eternity.

Great Famine in Ukraine 1932-33, p83 (see bibliography)