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Famine Testimony of Tatiana Pawlichka

In 1932, I was 10 years old, and I remember well what happened in my native village in the Kiev region. In the spring of that year, we had virtually no seed. The Communists had taken all the grain, and although they saw that we were weak and hungry, they came and searched for more grain. My mother had stashed away some corn that had already sprouted, but they found that, too, and took it. What we did manage to sow, the starving people pulled up out of the ground and ate. 

In the villages and on the collective farms (our village had two collectives), a lot of land lay fallow, because people had nothing to sow, and there wasn't enough manpower to do the sowing. Most people couldn't walk, and those few who could had no strength. When, at harvest time, there weren't enough local people to harvest the grain, others were sent in to help on the collectives. These people spoke Russian, and they were given provisions. 

After the harvest, the villagers tried to go out in the field to look for gleanings, and the Communists would arrest them and shoot at them, and send them to Siberia. My aunt, Tatiana Rudenko, was taken away. They said she had stolen the property of the collective farm. 

That summer, the vegetables couldn't even ripen - people pulled them out of the ground - still green - and ate them. People ate leaves, nettles, milkweed, sedges. By autumn, no one had any chickens or cattle. Here and there, someone had a few potatoes or beets. People coming in from other villages told the very same story. They would travel all over trying to get food. They would fall by the roadside, and none of us could do anything to help. When the ground froze, they were just left lying there dead, in the snow; or, if they died in the house, they were dragged out to the cattle-shed, and they would lie there frozen until spring. There was no one to dig graves. 

All the train stations were overflowing with starving, dying people. Everyone wanted to go to Russia [the Russian SFSR] because it was said that there was no famine there. Very few [of those who left] returned. They all perished on the way. They weren't allowed into Russia and were turned back at the border. Those who somehow managed to get into Russia could save themselves. 

In February of 1933, there were so few children left that the schools were closed. By this time, there wasn't a cat, dog or sparrow in the village. In that month, my cousin Mykhailo Rudenko died; a month later my aunt Nastia Klymenko and her son, my cousin Ivan, died, as well as my classmate, Dokia Klymenko. 

There was cannibalism in our village. On my farmstead, an 18-year-old boy, Danylo Hukhlib, died, and his mother and younger sisters and brothers cut him up and ate him. The Communists came and took them away, and we never saw them again. People said they took them a little ways off and shot them right away - the little ones and the older ones together.

At that time, I remember, I had heavy, swollen legs. My sister, Tamara, had a large, swollen stomach, and her neck was long and thin like a bird's neck. People didn't look like people - they were more like starving ghosts. 

The ground thawed, and they began to take the dead to the ravine in ox carts. The air was filled with the ubiquitous odor of decomposing bodies. The wind carried this odor far and wide. It was thus over all of Ukraine. 


Congressional Testimony presented before the United States Ukraine Famine Commission in Washington D. C., October 8, 1986 

 

 

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