Case History LH58

Anonymous male narrator, b. 1923 in the Kiev region. Narrator's father, a blacksmith, refused to join collective farm and fled to Kam'ianets-Podils'k district, Khmel'nyts'kvi region, then to Novohrad-Volyns'k district, Zhytomyr region with his family, the latter in a village which had died out from starvation and been demolished except for the house occupied by narrator's family. Once on the way to school narrator was attacked by person who wanted to eat him. When he told the teacher, the latter accused him of spreading false rumors about hunger, which did not exist. Narrator saved his family from starvation by evading guards in the fields and stealing peas at night. Then the father got a job in the town of Novohrad-Volyns'k and was given a food ration. The 1933 harvest was excellent and that of 1932 was good. Narrator was acquainted with members of youth gangs. Narrator was later accepted to college and also gives information on World War II.

Question: The narrator does not wish to provide us with his name. Will you please tell us what year you were born, and where you were born?
Answer: OK. Certainly. Before I can make any statement about anything, I want to stress one very important item, that is that all my statements are one hundred percent true, and I could not lie to you or to anybody about the events that took place some fifty years ago, because I cherish the memory of the dead. I can't lie about that. The second thing is, that a lot of people, most people, are calling it as a famine. In my estimation, a famine is something that is caused by natural events, like drought or whatever. This is not a case of natural difficulties. This is a political killing. Therefore, I am calling this a murder by the Soviet government, by means of hunger, because you or anybody could call it killing another person by means of hunger, so that the person cannot survive. Now, and the third item I would like to stress is that I oppose to the term of survivor, because - I don't know, for some reason, I object to the terminology, because maybe I am the lucky one, but to the memory of the deceased, of the dead, I cherish the memory so deeply that I don't want to The called survivor. I am more or less a witness of the great events, of the criminal act that was conducted by the Soviet government. I would call it murder of 1933, and not a famine. And that is my choice.
Q: I certainly understand.
A: So, now getting back to your question. I was born in November 1923, in the Kiev region, and 1923 was a year when the Soviet government was well established. I did not know anything about tsarist times. My parents did, but I thought the events which took place in my life were more or less natural events, because everybody else was living like that. So I was hungry, and I was hungry as far as I can remember, so everybody else was in my surrounding like that. We could not afford, you know, to have a clock in the house, we never had any furniture. The best furniture we had, was made out of... My father knocked a couple of boards, and that was the bed, we put straw, and we slept in that, two or three of us in that thing, which was like a platform, and we couldn't have a clock or any watch to watch the time. And the school was far away, so my mother used to get up in the morning, and she could tell the time, or guess the time, by the stars, or the moon, or whichever, and then she would wake me up and she would tell me to go to school. And then I go; and sometimes my mother was correct, and sometimes she was wrong, because I came to school and it was still dark. I'll never forget one time - I never paid attention to my heart, see what I mean? - but my mother did, because she was more mature than me, of course, and she used to cry very often in the morning. She would make breakfast for me, breakfast would be consisting of water and potatoes, if we had that, and then she would sit down and cry. And I would say, "What's the matter with you, Ma?" And she says, "You don't realize that, but why you have to suffer so much, so you are so young." Sometimes she would give me 20 kopecks, to say 20 cents, because I would be back very late from school, because the school was five to seven miles away from where I live, and there was no transportation, there was only one sort of transportation, (the one) we know all best (i.e., walking). So she would give me 20 kopecks to buy 200 grams of bread, so I can have something to eat. There was no mention about butter, or any other goodies. And at school they used to tell us that we were the happiest people in the world in the Soviet Union, and children in the United States of America and Great Britain are starving, so they were collecting money from us to help those poor kids in the foreign countries. And they would show us all kinds of pictures that the children in America are behind barbed wire fences, and we would look at that and say, "Well, I can probably survive, but those poor people, those children in America, they are so hungry," so I used to give my 20 kopecks for those kids in America. I didn't know that the Soviet government would hire spies or some other means of destruction for my 20 kopecks, but you see, they didn't tell us that, not then. So years would go by just like that, and I went to school and I try to do my best in school, because that was the only job I knew how. Now comes the year 1933. Before that they wanted to punish the Ukrainian people for not joining collective farms, or for opposing collective farms. So as the result, those people that didn't have anything in the villages, they didn't suffer, because they didn't have anything. Other ones, that were opposing the farming, some of them had the land, some of them had, maybe, some other means of survival, so those people were taxed heavily. And after he pays his taxes - he was taxed again, and again, and again. Finally he cannot pay any more, so them they would come over and use their rifle rods and poke around the grounds, outside, inside, any place, looking for the grain, because they wouldn't take your word for not being able to pay the taxes. And I was, you know, it's taking out your means of survival, because you didn't pay no taxes to the government. But people paid the taxes, and people didn't have anymore, anything to pay with. So they come over, they used to come over and they popped around and take any grain, or any seeds, anything, any food that you had in the house, and they could claim this is for the taxes. As the result, those farmers that had something, they have nothing now, and the rest of the population, the village, had nothing, so as a result they start to starve, they would die. Now, a lot of them, they went to the towns and the cities, for bread, but the problem was no bread in the cities. The Soviet government imposed the rations on the cities, to the working people in the cities. They were suffering, but not as much as the farmers. And they were hungry also, because the ration was not in the abundance. But the farmers, they just were starving, period. Now, I must stress out this portion, because later on I am going to talk about cannibalism and other means of survival, and I want to underline that the hunger creates a certain state of mind, that a person is losing affection to relatives or and even to children. It is hard to imagine, because everybody thinks that would never happen to me, because I am so strong. Yes, it could happen to you, and it could happen to me, it could happen to anybody, because it had happened to people like you and myself. So, my father, he was a blacksmith, and they wanted him to join the collective farm, but he didn't want to go, and since he never used to hired labor in his smith shop, he was not subject for any persecution by the Soviet government, because anybody that used hired labor, was a subject of punishment. But they wanted him to join a collective farm, but he didn't want to, so what happened, that they overheard him and my mother talking, that he would use for his refusal, that my mother is going to divorce him if he joins the collective farm. So later on, GPU called him in an office - GPU it is the same that KGB nowadays, except that by old names - and they asked him what is the matter with him, that he doesn't want to join the collective farm. And he told, "Comrade," he said, "I would join the collective farm with pleasure, but my wife threatened me to divorce me, and you know, I have children, I can't do that." So they called my mother later on, and they asked the same question, and she admitted that, yes, she was going to divorce my father if he joins the collective farm. So the KGB, or the GPU agent, asked her why, and she says, "I am not going to tell you why, but I am just telling you, that that's what I'm going to do." So finally he lost his cool head and he threw her out, and that was that. But they were going to arrest my father anyway, so he was tipped off and he run away. A few months later he sent a letter that he was in Kamianets-Podils'k, near Proskurov area, so we joined him over there, and at that time the hunger was on, the problem was in, and I knew from my own experience, and seeing all around, that people were attacking each other, there were robberies, there were all kinds of killings and just to get some food or get something for surviving. My brother, my older brother, was attacked, and so one and so forth. Now, in that time, for some reason, there is a lot of things I cannot explain, because I was too young and too small at that time, I did not record and I had no way of recording all the events, but I am just relying solely on my memory. And then my father, for some reason, went to an area near Novohrad-Volyns'k, that's Volyn in the Ukraine. Over there, they gave us to join some organization as a blacksmith, and they gave us a house in the village of Ahly (?) near Novohrad-Volyns'k. Now that village, at that time, was dead, 100 percent of people died out. Except for one house, all the houses - the Soviet government sent the troops with tanks, military tanks, and they demolished every house that was there, in the village. And only one-house was left alone, and they let us live in that house. That house had two rooms, one room was kitchen, and the other one had no walls. So you can imagine that we lived in one room only. Right next to that house, there was a big plantation, field, and the government planted, or seeded, peas on that field. And there was a path through the field, and they used this path because it was a shortcut to go to school. I went to school in Novohrad Volyns'k, and on my way to school I used to collect the peas from the field and eat it, because I had nothing to eat before it. By the time I go by that field I have my breakfast. And it wasn't too bad, when the peas was still dry but it was horrible taste when that thing start to grow and threw the buds out, and it was sort of waterish. One day - as I said to you before that there were no people around, they all died - one day I saw a young fellow doing the same things, collecting those peas seeds, and I joined him. And I was so happy to see a human being there. And we talked, and talked, and I went ahead of him, he was behind me, and he grabbed me from behind. He threw me on the ground, and he put his knee on my chest, and he goes to an inside pocket and is pulling out a big knife. And I heard so much about cannibalism, I heard so much of killing, and I got so scared. I don't know how it happened, but I probably rolled or twisted, so he rolled off me because he probably was powerless and hungry. I jumped to my feet and I was running, about two kilometers home, screaming. When I got home, my mother asked me what happened, and I told here what happened - that the man tried to eat me. So she says, "So today you don't go to school, you go tomorrow." So OK. Next day I come to school and my teacher asked me, "What happened to you yesterday?" I said, "Somebody tried to kill me for food." And she says, "Sit down, and don't spread any false rumors about the hunger in the Soviet Union. We have no hunger." So from that time I learned one lesson - I had to lie. So the time goes by, and that peas grow up, and it starts to have fruit. Now the Soviet government puts the horse riders around that field, 24 hours a day, to guard that field from population, so the people will not eat the peas, the ripe peas. My father at that time had swollen and was dying, and there was no way of him to survive. Funny thing happened at those days that, as I remember, that the first people that did died from hunger, were men, especially the strong men, the big ones. And women were much more durable, they could survive much easier than men could. And the children were in an even better shape. So I was running around, while my father was dying, so then I told myself, "Something has to be done." Don't forget, I was about ten years old at that time. So I took the bags and I armed myself with the bags, and I crawled to the borderline of that field of peas, and I watched the horse riders to go by? then I crawled inside the field. And now he can't find me, because the peas was high enough to cover me. And I filled up my bags with the peas, and the same way as I did before, I sneaked out. So this way I supported my father, I saved his life and the rest of the family. And sometimes it is good to be small. But it is not good to be small and in 1933. So that's the way the things went, and we moved for some reason. Again my father never told me any reason why he moved on and on. I did know that he didn't like the Soviet government, and I did know that he fought against them during the revolution, and I did know that they were going to arrest him, except for children. They told him that for the sake of children they won't touch him for the time being. So from Ahly (?) we moved to Novohrad Volyns'k, and he got a job there, and we were put on a ration, and we collected little bit of food. My mother used to... if we had any bread, she used to lock it up. All food we had she used to lock it up, and if she would give you, then she would give you only a small portion, so that you cannot eat everything. One time we went to the store, and the people told us that there is going to be bread sold in that particular store. The lines were, oh, about two miles long. Somehow we sneaked, we got in a line, and we waited a few hours. For your information, people for bread, they used to come over before night, and sleep there, in the line. Sometimes relatives would change the places, so that one can go and have some rest, another one would stay in line, so that the place was not going to be lost. And people would keep going on like that, you know, for a day or two, till you finally reach the happy destination, and you come to the store. And at the store we managed, me and my mother, we managed to get into line and get to the store, and I got a loaf of bread, and she got a loaf of bread. And when we came out, we were so happy, I can't describe you the happiness. And the first thing I did, I sat down and I start to eat the bread. And I ate half of the loaf, those were round loaves, you know, the are two kilograms. But my small body did not adjust to the amount of consumptions, so I couldn't hold, I just threw it out. But it was the best food, or the best item, I ever tasted in my entire life, even today. I'll never forget that bread. You see, it is so difficult to talk about those things, you know. I want to try, because I was born in Soviet times, I didn't do nothing wrong with the Soviet government, because I could not, I was too small. Yet, they punished me for no reason at all. So for that I will never forgive them, as long as I live, because all this suffering that we went through, I would justify if we had a natural disaster. But in 1933, in the spring of 1933, we had the best harvest - or before, in 1932, we had a very good harvest. There was no shortage of food in the Ukraine whatsoever. And then, once the fields get ripe and the wheat, and rye, and barley, start to throw their fruits out, people used to go in the fields and cut the heads - what do you call these things, kolosky.
Q: Sheaves?
A: Sheaves, yeah. Kolosky. They used to cut them off. There in the Ukraine they were still milky, very green. They used to dry them in the sun, and then take their grain out, and crush it, and make some kind of - like a pancake or something, you know. There was a way of food, getting food. Now, the government punished severely people for doing that, they were called barbers, barbers, like barbers that cut hair, because these people were using scissors to cut the sheaves, the heads. And that's the name, and for that the government used to punish people five to ten years of hard labor.
Q: Do you know anybody, that this happened to?
A: Oh, it was just natural, just a mass event, you know, you just... t could have happened to my mother, it could have happened to anybody else, you know, but she just didn't go there, but it was a mass way of survival, you know, yeah, I can't put anybody by the name, because they were all doing it.
Q: Did it make it people sick, eating it?
A: No, what did make me sick to eat was... My mother used to take... there was a military establishment nearby, and she used to go there, and peel out, or get out the potato peels, from the garbage. She used to bring the stuff home, wash it, and dry in the sun, and then she would crush it and make it like a potato flour. And then she used to take ... to make more, she used to take bark from the trees, cut bark from the trees, we cut bark into small pieces, and we mixed that together, crushed it, and she used to make those pancakes like that, and we ate it. So, I was eating bark from the tree, and I got sick one time from green peas that she used to make the soup, you know. She put the stem of green peas in the pot, she boiled that, and I ate that, and I got very sick, I don't know why. Now, we also had the terminology of khapun. Khapun is, you can say it in English, is like a snatcher, it's a person that used to come from behind you... First of all, you go to the field, to the market. You go to the market, and in the market you can buy some potatoes, some this and that, you know, sometimes you can buy a pyrohy, and you never know what's inside of any of those goods were. And then you have to eat that thing, with covering with both hands when you carry them to the mouth, because there is a person behind you who would snatch them out from you, from your mouth, and then run away. So those people were called snatchers, or khapuny. Also, the people who were selling the goods, where they got it, how they got it, it's a mystery to me, but they were selling some potatoes, or maybe some grain, they were selling in the market, so you could buy it, if you had money. But the bags, or baskets they were selling it from, they were fully covered, so that nobody could steal anything, or snatch it and run away. Now, a few words about cannibalism. Yes, we did have cannibalism. I mentioned that to you before, and I'll mention it again, that it is nothing to be put as to certain ethnic group or something, because this is human tragedy. And people did kill other people for food. They were also cases of profiteering by that. There were also cases that people killed and produced the human product for profit. Now, I knew the cases that a mother had killed her own child, and ate him. I knew the case, that a son came from armed services, and father and mother killed him. And I also heard the case that the mother came in the field to collect some of their grains, and she had a little daughter with her, and the daughter went into a field of wheat, and she disappeared. The mother started to look for her, and a couple of hours later she found a little child, only bones, because an old man was sitting there and separating the meat from bones. All right. Now I saw a pot of jelly, kholodets we call it, from human flesh. What happened? There was a village of Chyzhivka near Novohrad-Volyns'k. We lived there at that time. Don't ask me, how, again, how it happened that we ended up in those areas. I don't know. My father is the answer, because he was the instrumental in those moves. We just followed him. The good thing about all this stuff was, that we never had any problems with the moves, because we had nothing. We just picked up our things, whichever we had, and looked forward to the next village, and that was it. We never had a problem of hiring movers, and where to put a refrigerator or a washing machine, because we never had them. And, as I mentioned here before, we did never had even a clock. And this was in a country, the other was in the twentieth century, this was in a country where we went to schools, and I learned everything about physics, mathematics, chemistry, and you name it. And we knew all these things, but we never had them. I graduated from high school in the Soviet Union, and I had good marks, and I knew how to do a lot of things, but I couldn't make them. Anyway, so that was in the village of Chizhivka, near Novohrad-Volyns'k. Somebody reported to the police, or militia they called them, somebody los the bees, beehives, so the police started to look around, who stole the beehives. And they went to the next-by village, and somebody reported that there are two brothers living there, in the house, and it seems they are not working, but they are not suffering a hell of a lot. So the police went over there, to that house, and there was a young little brother there, a young fellow. They ask, "Where are your brothers?" And he said, "They went to Novohrad-Volyns'k." So they started to look round, and they opened the stove, a big oven, and saw the pots, pots with something. So they pulled out these pots, and there was human flesh there. And in one of them was a human hand sticking out. So the little fellow says... "What's this?" he was asked. And he says, "Oh, we have more than that!" And he takes them to the room where they stored the meat, the goods of meat, and they found other items made put of human flesh. So they took that little fellow on a horse-wagon, and they asked him to identify the brothers as they were going to the market. On the way down to the market they met the brothers, and the little fellow says, "Yeah, those are my brothers." And they were already bringing a young boy to their home, so when they asked him, the young boy, "Where are you going?" - he says they offered him food for services of looking after the cow. So he went there, because he had nothing else to live on. So as the result of all these events, there were thousands of children that had no parents, and had no way of surviving. So as a result, they turned into hooligans, criminals, offenders. They were stealing, they were killing, they were doing anything just to survive. And those kids, they formed their own organization, and they had their own leaders. And I knew some of them, because later on I met them in school. And those kids had a strictly military discipline, and of course they lived in gutters, or some place wherever, they could sleep on, but at daybreak they all went to work, stealing. Now, if he steals anything from you, you have the right to beat him up, to defend yourself, and they admit, you had the right. But if somebody sees him doing that to you, they felt it is none of their business, but if that somebody awares you of that, that somebody could be very harshly punished - such as driving - pulling razor-blades across his eyes, or taking a razor-blade between the fingers and cut off his nose. So, when you have conditions like that, you learn how to behave yourself, and to mind you own business. Those kids, they were... As I said, they had their own leaders and they had their sharing attitude towards each other, because whoever stole - they didn't call it stealing, they used to call it "to get something" or "enrich yourself." And if he brines any item to a safe... let's call it headquarters, if you can have that it like that, then the leader would take the goods, and subdivide among others that were not as fortunate. Because the next day the others would do the same thing, and you will benefit. So that's how they survived among themselves. And of course those kids - they used to call them urki, urkahany, and they were in thousands, or maybe millions, I don't even know. I don't even know, because there was a lot of them. They could steal anything where you go. When you are at a railway station, you do not go. Usually at a Soviet railway station, the small ones, the toilets are outside, so you better take somebody with you, because it is too dangerous for you to go by yourself, because somebody is going to attack you there. They are not after your life, but they are after your dress, after your pants, your shirt, because that's worth money - they can sell. And they wouldn't harm you, unless you resist, then they might kill you. But if you are willing and cooperative, and you undress yourself, then they will take everything from you, including your underwear. And the rest of the stuff is up to you. So that's so much for that. Now if you ask me, "Did you ever had any bright moments in my life, living in the Soviet Union," the answer is "No." I don't remember, except being young. I was always in hardship. I was always lacking of first needs - food. Food and, of course, clothing. I remember I was in college, first year in college, in Kiev. By the way, how to get in college in those days? I had to take exams, and they had thirteen people, thirteen applicants for one chair. So that means I was pretty good, because I got my chair, and I won, and twelve applicants lost it. So my father gave me his jacket, because I had... (changes tape)
A: I just don't know where we left off.
Q: You were just saying that you were accepted to college.
A: Okay. My father gave me his, what we used to call fufaika. Fufaika, it is a jacket that has been fashionable in this country for some time, just a stitched jacket, that you can see stitches from outside, as well as from inside, you know. This kind of jacket they had, and my father had it in his smith shop, and that thing was smelling of coal, and everything, you know, and I used to come in the college and run fast and take it off, so that nobody could see me in that thing. Now, you also could have in Kiev, the students themselves, they never had food, except for those they were party members, or children of party members or high-fashion people, or high established people. But I remember, there was one - it was not a restaurant, it was a diner. If you manage entrance to that diner, you can order just one plate of soup for very little money, and then they could give you bread, as much as you can eat, for free. Through my connections with my friends, and so one, and so forth, you know, I got entrance to that, and I was doing well, because you can buy a bowl of soup for very small amount of money, and then you study yourself up with bread. Now, getting back. Let's go back to my childhood. I come to school and - I mentioned it to you before - my mother used to cry all the time why I suffer so much, being so young. I didn't understand all this expression, all this meaning at that time, because I just didn't know anything better. Then, how do you get food? So, I knew some of the kids, they used to bring lunches with them. But those were kids. His father is a director of a plant, or another one is a KGB member, or something else, you know. So those kids... You know, we would never pay that attention to the parents. But then, as the class ends, I used to, on purpose, drop my books, when the bell rings, I drop by books on the floor. And all kids run out from the classroom, and I am still taking my time, picking my books. Now there is for that a purpose: that after I pick my books, I go and look in the desks of those kids, and most of the time I used to find out sandwiches, they were left behind, and I helped myself to them. So when I come home, I used to brag to my mother, I say, "Ma, I had, guess what? I had a sandwich today." And she says, "Where did you get it from?" And I told her. Then she started to cry. And, one time, at that moment we used to live in Novohrad-Volyns'k - we had a ration. My mother used to go to the diner, and get dinner for me, and she would keep the dinner waiting till I come back from school. And there would be a piece of bread with it. And then I'll never forget, I had my dinner, whichever it was, but there was some soup ??? and some other stuff there, and a piece of bread, and a crumb that fell from my piece of bread on the table. And she picks it up, and she asks my permission if she can eat it. Well, then I cut. So, I don't know if I can... If in this short period of time I covered everything. It's impossible, after all, to cover everything, because day by day, it was different, out in a way it was the same, because it was still hunger. As schoolchildren, we never had books even, we never had textbooks. The school would assign one book for a group of children, maybe ten, fifteen, or twenty, and we used to assemble in one house to do the homework. So when we 'go there, one would read, and the rest of us would listen, and then we ask ourselves the questions, and this was the preparation of the homework. So the following day you come back to school, you better know the answers. As far as the notebooks, we never had them also, we tried to use brown paper, wrapping paper, as a notebook, if we can get them. The luxuries like we would have in this country, that you can have brown paper, and brown bags every place you go, that was absolutely unthinkable over there, because every paper was useful for writing, including brown paper. So once in a while, if the school has a supply of notebooks, then each one of us would get one for a year or six months, or whichever. Same thing was with pencils, the supplies were almost nothing. Oh! That's what happened one time - I guess I was maybe about 13-14 years old, and I wrote a poem. I started to write poetry when I was real young. And I wrote a poem, I wrote a poem about a boy and a girl in my class, and I put them together in my imagination as husband and wife. And I wrote a poem that they married, and he goes to work and she stays at home, and then he comes home, and he asks for supper, and she says there is nothing to eat, so he beats her up. And I though it was very funny. I found somebody, some of my friends, that I regarded him as a literary critic. So I showed him the poem, and we stood in a corner in the recess. And he read the poem, and he was cracking, and I was laughing, and everybody had good time. Except that we had a political leader there, pioner vozhata, she was the leader of pioneers, those were the kids that walked around in their red ties. And she comes over, and she says, "What are you reading, boys?" And he says that that is his writing. And she says, "Let me read it, and I will get it back to you." And I didn't like the idea, because I didn't want here to know what I know, about the man and wife, so I was sort of embarrassed. But she took it away, anyway. Either the same day, or the following day, I was called to the principal's office. And the principal asked me whether I wrote that poem. And I said I did, I said I did it for fun. But he says, it's not funny, it's very tragic. And I couldn't understand, why it is tragic. He says, "You wrote down here about hunger, that there is nothing to eat in the house, that the husband has to beat up his wife." I didn't mean to have any revolution in the Soviet Union, I just thought to write down what I saw around me. So he couldn't give me my poem back. Instead, it ended up in the secret police. The secret police called me in, and they put me through interrogation. And they asked about my father, and how loyal he is to the Soviet government. And I told them - even though it wasn't true - but I told them he was very loyal. And they asked me if I had any problem, material problem, in the house, and all that stuff. And I told him we had abundance of everything, which was a lie. And he told me, who inspired me to write this stuff, and I answered them, "I just did it for kicks, for fun." So in conclusion, he told me, he says I will never escape Siberia, I am too young yet to be arrested and to be sent to a concentration camp, but I am the future member of the camp, if I ever survive, he says. He told me, "Whenever you grow up, you are the candidate for Siberia." And I couldn't understand, why. And because, he says, you are very independent, and you do thinking, and we don't like those people. So that was my trip into literature, if you can call it that.
Q: And how old were you then?
A: I was about 13-14 years old.
Q: And the girl was the same age, the one for spying, or that vozhata!
A: No, the pioner vozhata was like a school teacher, she was a grown up woman. Yeah, she read that, and she gave it to the principal, because she couldn't give it back to me, because it was political. And I never knew it was political. I know now, but I didn't know then. And so much for my counter-revolutionary activities. And then my relationship with my father. I did not now any other life, except the Soviet life. And they told me at school, that we were the happiest people in the world. And I believed them. Except I couldn't understand why we are so happy and I am hungry. But my father was always blaming the Soviet government for our hardships. I tried to convince him that, "Father, you know, maybe sometimes you have to take a little bit of bitterness, because we are still in a process of getting forward, we are catching up with America, with other countries, and we would like to have good life in the future." My father told me that I am full of baloney, and that I didn't know what I was talking about, and he went through all the facts of life during the revolution, and he knows that they are bandits, and they are no good. All right, but I still didn't believe him that he was right. I do believe him now, or in some later years. And one time I felt real bad about that. My father told me, he says, "If you disagree with me, why don't you report on me?" I cried after that, because I loved him. What happens? We had a case in the Soviet Union. There was a young fellow by the name of Pavlik Morozov. That boy overheard a conversation of his father and his followers, father's friends. They were going to do some revolutionary act against the Soviet regime. So this kid went over to the secret police and reported on his father. As a result, Mr. Morozov - senior - was shot, and his followers also were killed. But some other followers ambushed Pavlik Morozov and also killed him. Now this idea was very spread around in the Soviet Union, especially among young children - the sample of a true bolshevik, the sample of a true Soviet child, that he didn't even care about his father, he loved the government, and the system, so dearly, so he reported on his father. Now, that was encouragement for all the children in the Soviet Union to do the same thing. That's why I felt so bad when my father made that crack about that.
Q: Was your father ever arrested after that?
A: No, no, I don't know exactly, but when the Russians came back, when the Soviets came back, somebody told me that in our place all the people that were men, that they could assemble, they were brought up in a church, and they put the church on fire. And they told me, my father was among them. I have no proof of that. All right, so much for that. Maybe, you know, I missed something, but I don't remember.
Q: We are all set. That was very moving and very interesting. I just had a few, maybe, questions to add. Do you remember in central Novohrad Volyns'k, the party activists and the government people, were they mainly local people, Ukrainians, or were they outsiders, or...
A: Okay. Not only there, but in another areas also, it's a mixture. The higher-ups were sent over. The government sent over those to govern, that were loyal to the communist system and to the Communist Party. Sometimes their nationality didn't play a major role or anything. As far the local people, so you can hold most of them were Russian-speaking individuals, yes, most of them were Russian-speaking individuals, yes, most of them. Those that were in command of the secret service police, the members of the secret service, most of them were of Russian origin. As far as the Ukrainians are, some of them were also there, but not too many. Some Ukrainians were acting to fulfill the orders, to do what the government says. They did that. Some of them, they believed in happy future, and they sacrificed everything for that, and they were naive, they thought it would do that, that we were going to have a paradise on earth. And held ??? everything else, even their own parents. We have cases like that, we had a case, that a son almost did send his own parent to Siberia, almost did, because he believed strongly that the communist system was the right one and the best one, because he was convinced. To regard as a national - you can call it national, because people in need or in hunger, they didn't care what nationality you are, or they were - they used the language that they knew, and they were not very particular about the grammar, but they were thinking of one thing - survival. So that's to the question who were those people - it's a mix-up, it is not entirely one ethnic group or another.
Q: Do you remember any church services?
A: Yeah.
Q: Will you tell us about that?
A: Yeah, oh, yeah. It's good you asked me that. In my lifetime over there, as a youngster, I was twice in church. First time, my mother took me down - nobody even asked whether I like it or not, they just took me down, and that's it. I remember that - I don't know, maybe I was three years old, four years old, I don't know - I know that the choir made me cry, because it was so affecting my soul, the choir singing. Second time I went to church, we were living at that time at the township Berezdiv, near Proskurov. My mother says to me that it's Thursday before Easter, strasny chetverh (Holy Thursday). Usually in the Orthodox Church, it's a procession around the church, the services are in the evening, around the church, with the candles, and it's a very moving event. And she told me that it's so beautiful, that I would love it. So I didn't want to oppose her too much, and I said, "Okay, Ma" - not "okay," because I didn't know "Okay" those days. I agree with her, and I cam to the church with her. It's true that the church was beautiful, and the service was nice, and everything else, and I enjoyed it. The following day I went to school, and the principal called me in, and he asked me why did I go to church. Apparently there was somebody there, that saw me. So I told them, I went with my mother. And he starts to yell at me, and he starts to threaten me, and he says to me, "If I go again to the church, I would have to quit school," because a Soviet child is not permitted to go to school and to a church to experience opium of people, like Karl Marx's expression. He made me cry, and he kept me there for a few hours, and was yelling and threatening me. I came home and I told my mother, "From now on I never go to church again." And I asked her to remove the icons from the house, because what happened, I realized we had icons in the house, and not the portrait of Lenin and Stalin. And when I realized that, I got scared, and I told my mother, I told her, "Ma, you'd better take those icons out of here, because I am going to buy a portrait of Joseph Stalin." And I explained her why, and my mother took those icons, and she put them in the attic. And she used to go every day to them, and she used to pray there, up in the attic. And I put a portrait of Joseph Stalin in a corner, and I thought that anybody that comes to the house, they will see that I am very patriotic. Those are things, you know, that you have to do, if you want to survive, and make the steps in life. My father didn't go to church, I don't think he was a very religious individual. My mother was. By the way, my mother was illiterate, my father had two years schooling, I was the highest in the whole family with my education, and I can tell you this much, that for all those years I had various professors, inside Soviet Union or outside, but my mother was the biggest professor of them all. Because she had Ph.D. in life, or of life, in my mind. And the sacrifice that she made for me and my brothers, probably every other woman would do it, but I have no experience, except with my own mother. So if I had my right, I would erect her a monument, the highest in the world. So much for this.
Q: You mentioned earlier that you father had opposed the Bolsheviks during the revolution. Could you tell us anything about that?
A: From the best I knew, he was for a short period of time in what was the Petliura movement, and then he was at one time even trying to join the Communist Party, but they wouldn't accept him, because he was marked. Speaking about my father, he was very proud and stoic man. And those people, people like him - I can judge it now - they don't bend. You can break them, but you can never band them. And he was still that type of quick individual. And maybe I inherited something from him, because when they told me that I am a candidate for Siberia, maybe that was the case. I don't know. But this is so much for my father.
Q: Once you told me that you had uncles, or other relatives, in the Petliura forces.
A: Yeah, that was on my mother's side. I don't know how far or distant are their relationships, you know, but I knew that he was in tsarist army, an officer, and then, during the revolution he jointed the Petliura armed forces, and he was a Petliura officer. And then - I told you this about when he came home. Do you want me to repeat it?
Q: Yes.
A: You know, in those days the armed forces, it was not like today when everybody has a uniform. These people didn't have uniforms, nobody knew who was what, they were all running in civilian clothes. And he came home, I guess Petliura armed forces were retreating, and it happened so that they were coming through his village, so he went to the house and he wanted to rest, and he lied down. As soon as he lied down, his mother looked in the window, and she saw the Bolsheviks with red stars on their hats, on their caps, red stars. They were coming to the house, so she says that the Bolsheviks are coming. So he goes in the attic, looks around, and then he jumps down to the ground, and he goes to the... There is a river there, so he goes down by the bank of the river. And there was a horse rider behind him, and he hold his, "Halt!" And this guy started, "The Bolshevik is on the horse!" And so he keeps running and the guy on the horse thought the Bolsheviks is running away from him. He takes his rifle and shoots my relative right there, on the river bank, dead. And he comes over, and that was his officer; this soldier, an enlisted man, shot his own officer. So this guy died that way, but then his younger brother was a very strong sympathizer, and he did all kinds of misdeeds, to his cousins, to his relatives, and his own parents. For the glory of the Communist Party. So that much for that.
Q: Do you remember anybody in your family talking about the days before the revolution, what did they thing of the tsar?
A: Yeah. My mother used to talk to me about a lot of things. My father also told me that he was a worker during the tsarist times, and he was in Katerynoslav, that's Dnipropetrovs'ke. He says that he had such a good life that he had even white bread. Oh, over there you have to understand that white bread is not like in the United States. White bread usually is consumed by people of means. The peasantry eat only dark rye bread, and people who are in a low bracket eat rye, but he who eats bulka, white bread, and that's status, symbol of status, okay? So when he told me that he was eating nothing but white bread, you know, that he never even touched dark bread at all, I thought he was kidding, because he had good living. On my mother's side, she was telling me that it was tough, but there was no hunger. On a low level, people say they had hardships, yes, but nobody starved. You did not have to do criminal acts in order to survive. You could always have something to eat. Even if you asked, if you begged, they would give it to you, because if you don't have it, somebody else does, you know, they will always share it with you. So therefore, even though I am not sympathetic to monarchy, that's my personal point of view, because I do not share the view that if father had a position, then his son has to inherit that. I do not share that view, because father could be a very smart fellow, but his son could be very dumb fellow, and the country would suffer, and people with it. So therefore I do not share this view. I would rather elect my representatives, if you call them president, you call them tsar, you call them anything you want. Anyway, so therefore I do not share the view of liking monarchy, but I see that they had much better life during that tsar than I had in a glorious proletarian state.
Q: Could you share with us your memories of the outbreak of the Second World War? How did people react? How did you react?
A: Yeah. Well, number one - my father was expecting a war. It's funny that the rest of the population on earth opposed the war, which is natural. But in the Soviet Union every year, every spring, they expected war. My father was expecting every spring when it was going actually to happen, because the only way that the Soviet people could change their life, or style of living, was through the war. They could not do that themselves, so finally then the war broke out, the Germans bombed Kiev and other cities, and, I know, my mother was crying because the boys, you know, sons and so on, but in general people were expecting the war as a blessing. It didn't turn out that way, because the Germans came over, they were not liberators, they were conquerors. And the Soviet troops that went to the POW, to German hands, on purpose, because they did not want to fight for the regime of Stalin, but now, what happens, that the Germans were keeping them in the POW camps, and they were starving them to death. So that helped, that strengthened up the Stalin's position, because then red soldiers did not want to go into the POW, into German hands, you see? Now, so Hitlerism, even though the expectation of Soviet people, of Ukrainian people, they counted, because you know, they thought that Germany is a civilized country, a European cultural country, with Beethoven, Goethe, and others, so they could not thing that we will have maniacs like Hitler and others, to come over and they were killing us. They were killing us, they were killing for nothing. So, those that were counting on Germans changed their mind later on. Because then, they found out that the Germans came over not to help us, but to turn the Ukraine into a slave country.
Q: How quickly did the news spread that the POWs were being starved? Did the people learn about it quickly?
A: Oh, yes. This spread out very fast. I remember, so many times, the Germans would lead a group of maybe several hundreds of POWS, all right, through the streets of our town or railway leave, right? They were leading them to the camp, or some destination unknown, I don't know what the hell they were doing with them. Now, if one of the POWs cannot, or two, or three, or ten, cannot walk, because they were wounded, or he was sick, the German patrol would take out their rifles and shoot them, right there, in front of people. Now we used to come over, because his claim was, that what good is he, anyway, he can't walk, so they would kill him. My mother used to cry, and she says, "Look, what they are doing!" Because she felt that maybe, you know, her son, is in such a predicament, you know. Now also the Germans would not allow civil population to bring food to the POWs. We didn't care what nationality they were, we had nothing ourselves, but at least we had some potatoes, carrots, beets, or some other stuff, you know. We used to bring over, but they wouldn't allow us to give to them. Then we stood outside, and we used to throw it over to them. And help them that way. You see, it's very difficult to understand now, from a perspective of 50 years or 40 years, you know, what happened in those days - you can have all kinds of accusations, you can have all kinds of thinking, but if you put yourself in those positions, you know, what do you do? No matter what you try, it's bad. No matter where you go, it's danger. You try to use your senses, and if you misjudge your moves, you're dead.
Q: Thank you very much.

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