Alexander Hryhorievych Stovba, b. February 1929 in Veremiivka, a village of
about 250 households in Khorol district, Poltava region, into a family of
prosperous farmers, most of whose land was taken in 1922. Narrator discusses
persecutions of his family and quotes his mother as saying that the local
authorities consisted of komsomol and komnezam members, outsiders and lazy local
people. In noting the latter, narrator says, "I don't know to what extent she
was objective." There was much passive resistance to collectivization.
Narrator's father fled and during the famine lived by gathering crustaceans on
the Black Sea coast. When narrator's mother failed to meet second supplementary
plan, they were expelled from their house, narrator's mother was convicted of
maliciously undermining grain procurements, and narrator was placed with his
grandparents, then with an uncle in the town of Semenivka, then rejoined his
mother. Narrator's mother was sentenced to work on a dairy farm in Southern
Ukraine. Narrator lost several relatives during the famine, himself starved, and
describes the psychological effects of starvation. He also tells of travelling
to Kryvyi Rih and Kremenchuk. Widespread rumors of cannibalism made more
corpulent people, such as wives of Party members, afraid to go out at night. In
1934 narrator contracted malaria.
Question: Please tell me your first and last names.
Answer: My name is Alexander Stovba.
Q.: In what year were you born?
A.: I was born at the very beginning of 1929, at the beginning of February.
Q.: Where, exactly?
A.: In the village of Veremiivka, otherwise, it would be "Jeremiahville," in the county of Khorol, which later was split into Khorol and Semenivka counties, and the region is Poltavshchyna, or Poltava.
Q.: What was you parents' occupation?
A.: My parents' occupation before they were ruined and expelled and otherwise persecuted - they were farmers.
Q.: How many acres of land did they have before the Revolution?
A.: Before the Revolution, my parents were still young and were not married. But then I will have to go to my grandparents. And, unfortunately, for that age, (and I'm not bluffing or telling a lie), but my parents on each side come, unfortunately for them, from two of the wealthiest farmer families in the village of Jeremiahville, or Veremiivka. My father's grandfather and my father had 62 desiatynas. Sixty-two desiatynas, I believe you have to multiply by 2.7 to find acreage, is that so? Or roughly by three. So this is Gregory Stovba, my great-grandfather. And grandfather had 62 desiatynas. And mother's father, or my grandfather Andrew, or Andriy Vynohradskyi, had 32 desiatynas and a dvoryshche of five desiatynas. There were 37 desiatynas all together. Thirty-seven desiatynas, and then multiply that by about 3; that would give you the acreage.
Q.: And how much land did they have after the Revolution? Did the government confiscate any of this?
A.: Yes, after the Revolution most of it was taken away and only a couple or so desiatynas were left. That means that there was only a garden was left for gardening around the house and so on.
Q.: Around what time was this land taken?
A.: Well, its already in 1922-23. The land was taken from them and divided between paupers and poorer peasants and was not theirs at all. And then later on when they started the so-called New Economic Policy, or NEP, then my parents were given four desiatynas of land. And they married in 1927 and were given four desiatynas of land, and that's how they were living until the collectivization program started in '31-32, or maybe even earlier.
Q.: Could you describe your village? How many households were in the village?
A.: I discussed this topic many times with my parents, mainly, becuase I'm kind of a history buff. In our village, Jeremiahville, or Veremiivka, there were from 250-260 households or independent families or houses. It was not a big village. However, it was old. It had been established or began to exist around the 1740s.
Q.: Was there a church?
A.: There was a church, and the church was dedicated to the prophet Jeremiah. And Anastasia was the second saint of the church. The church was made of wood; it was a wooden, not a brick church.
Q.: How long did this church survive in the village?
A.: This was already the second church in the history of the village.
Q.: After the Revolution.
A.: Oh, after the Revolution, half of the church was dismantled. However, the bell tower was still standing as late as August 1943, that's when I left Ukraine, and that church was used by the collective farm to store grain or seed for the next harvest, for seeding.
Q.: When was the church closed as a church?
A.: As a church it was closed shortly after I was born. And it was closed and open in '28, '29, and '30. Half was open and half was not, because the government in the county demanded from the people in the village that they give certain contributions. And if they didn't give it to the church, then they would close it down, that is, they had to give the money to the government. Then we would go back to the seat of government, back for permission to re-open. They would do it shortly, and they again close it down. And finally, I believe in '30, '31, it was completely closed to the people. And, of course, the priest has been also chased away from the village, so there was no reason to re-open it.
Q.: Do you know if the church was ever an autocephalous church?
A.: Yes, it the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church. And my mother told me, you better go to the church because you have been baptized, or christened in that church. It was short intervals when you had closings and openings. It depends if you were giving sizeable contributions to the local government so they would permit you to open it.
Q.: What did your parents say about life under NEP? The New Economic Policy?
A.: Under NEP, they said it was somewhat better. They were given not only land for a garden around the house, but also a shed where we kept a horse, a cow, and chickens, and what not. We were given four desiatynas. And that was enough. It was not luxurious, but just enough to keep body and soul together. But it was much better than in the years 1923-1922, when there was a raging revolution and all kinds of expropriations - legal and illegal, and so forth.
Q.: Was your family ever repressed?
A.: All the time! You see, I have to go into genealogy, but I believe we don't have much time. They were repressed. Especially repressed was my father's father, my grandfather, Gregory. Both were named Gregory. One was Senior, the other Junior. Gregory, Sr., Hryhoriy Pavlovych Stovba, was still repressed at the end of 1918, when the government of the Hetmanate, which lasted eight or nine month, had to go, because Russian forces - I don't know who was leading them, whether it was Voroshilov, Budennyi, or Kotovs'kyi - came from the areas of Kharkiv and Kursk into East Bank Ukraine and occupied our area - Kremenchuk, Khorol, Semenivka, and probably even further to the north. And so my grandfather, Gregory Pavlovych Stovba, was arrested and kept in the city of Khorol in jail. In fact, the jail was so full, that they had to use the houses of wealthy merchants. These houses had fairly sturdy cellars, and that's where they kept them. I heard at least a hundred times from my parents that they were held there three to four months. And great-grandfather was not beaten, but others were right in front of him. He was too old great-grandfather, Gregory Stovba, "You better tell us where you buried your pot with the gold, or you're gonna end up in the same place with it. We'll beat the hell out of you, if you don't tell us." Nevertheless, they didn't beat him; they just mistreated him and kept him hungry. Then they let him go, because he was very old. Great-grandfather, before I forget to tell you, said to them, "I don't have any gold, I just have papers. And here, on these papers, it says how much land I have. I had some paper money, but it was in the bank." Of course, the money was worthless. So he lived after that another four to five months, and then he was stricken by some disease. I believe that it was yellow jaundice - his eyes started to turn yellow. And in those days there were no doctors of any kind who could cure that. He died either at the end of 1918 or at the beginning of 1919. He was buried in our native village.
Q.: What can you tell me about the process of collectivization in your village? For example, who belonged to the party in your village? What kind of people?
A.: I think that I should finish one very important point. Three months after I was born - I was born in February - then this would have been May, he was forced into exile under an administrative order with his wife Ulyana and daughter Hapka to Archangel, because in 1919, they were at first sending out into exile only the richest farmers from all of Ukraine. I don't know about Russia, but I know about our area. So my grandfather, Gregory, Jr., was sent to Archangel to the railroad station called Paluzhia. And near that station of Paluzhia, the families that were sent there were given only hatchets and saws to cut down trees for wood and to build villages for themselves. My grandfather lived there for a year and a half. He died of scurvy. That means that your teeth and mouth decay to an extremely bad state for lack of green vegetables or whatever. Grandmother, who was also exiled with grandfather, died about a year and a half after him. And their young daughter, who was already of marriageable age, escaped back to Khorol county in Ukraine and married as quickly as possible. She was so desperate to get married, that she would have married any old trash that would come along so she would have something to hold onto for fear of being sent back to Archangel, which is near the Arctic Circle in Russia, way north of Moscow. She managed to survive, but the ones who stayed behind died. So that's the way my father's side of the family was persecuted.
Q.: Who belonged to the Party in your village during the 1920s, right before collectivization began? What kind of people were these? Was there, for example, a komnezam in your village?
A.: Oh, yes, the komnezam! You should talk to my mother about this, but she died ten years ago. The komnezam consisted of the poorest peasants. My mother always said that they were also the laziest. But I don't know to what extent she was objective. And these komnezams were also in due time enrolled in the Communist Party, at first as candidates and later on, probably as full members. And besides them, the young folks had been dragged in. These young folks were called the komsomol, that is, the Communist Youth. So, the komsomol and komnezams were the ones who actually took over the county government and each village. They were the ones that were carrying out the Soviet program. Not so much during the New Economic Policy, but later on, when the so-called collectivization began with collective and state farms.
Q.: Were their communes in your village before collectivization began formally.
A.: No, not in our are
A. In our area neither I nor my parents heard of any. Maybe they existed on paper, but never in reality.
Q.: When did they begin to organize the collective farms?
A.: The collective farms, as it seems to me, were started at the earliest in 1929. That's as far as I know for our are
A. My parents probably even forgot the exact dates or months.
Q.: Do you know who the head of the village council was?
A.: There were Medianyk, Sukhenko, Havenko, and one more who was also a teacher, but he wasn't local - he was brought in from another country or maybe the city. But we know Sukhenko, Havenko, Medianyk, and one more whom my mother always called an S.O.B.
Q.: Were these mostly local people?
A.: The head of the collective farm of the village council was not one of ours. He was from the outside. But this trash was from the local village and belonged to families that were just poor, either by misfortune or they had always been that way. They were just poor.
Q.: Could you describe how collectivization was carried out in your village?
A.: Well, first of all, there were many trials before, and it dragged its feet, so to say. Local counties were issuing orders to intensify work, not to waste time, etc. But many people put this off. This was especially true of the middle peasants, or the sub-kulaks. In Ukrainian they were calledkurkul's. You must have heard about them. They started to scare people, to use force, and to spread rumors. Brigadiers would come along and try to persuade you to join. They would come little by little, and many didn't even have time to eat. And some like us and maybe a dozen or so families were not allowed to be admitted into the local collective farms, because we were regarded as anti-social or against the people. We were singled out. Even' if we had wanted to, they could not have taken us in, because they would say it would be dangerous to have us for the purpose of socialist development and socialist building of society. So my mother was never in a collective farm, not one day. As she got older, she was proud of this fact. She used to say, "I wasn't any garbage in the collective farm." That's how she would joke sometimes. They were ugly and crusty social jokes.
Q.: Do you have any idea what part of the harvest the government required people to hand over before collectivization? Just generally speaking, did people think that this was too much or was it possible?
A.: I'll have to give you a little more background about my family before I can answer this question for you.
Q.: During the 1920s.
A.: Well, during the 20s. Collectivization had not really got going yet.
Q.: Right before that, right before collectivization.
A.: Well, in 1927 my parents got married and received four desiatynas of land from the village. And I don't know what they were given, but they were given enough that they were able to pay the state their grain taxes, so that they would not be dragged into court. That was in 1927, 1928. I remember that my parents were able to pay their taxes that were levied upon their household or farm those two years. It was later on that all hell broke loose.
Q.: Did people resist collectivization?
A.: Generally speaking, yes. They did so passively by withholding or withdrawing, or simply waiting. This was true of the middle peasants; the richer peasants had already been decimated. But they had been postponing, because even in those days people didn't believe that the Soviets would last long. Somehow they thought if not in the villages, but at least some place in Russia - maybe in Moscow, Petrograd, there would still be some kind of change, hey believed that maybe other European governments or countries would influence the Soviets that they would modify and become more or less humane rather than dogmatic. In other words, treat Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin - no, not Stalin, he was a nobody yet - treat the doctrines literally, as it should be adopted and carried through, or else. In those days people still didn't believe that it would be really enforced, as it turned out to be so in time of rushed collectivization.
Q.: Did people slaughter their cattle so as not to give it to the collective farm?
A.: I don't believe I heard that from my parents. There wasn't much to slaughter. Like in our village, Jeremiahville, one, two cows, or one, two or three pigs, 20 or 40 chickens, several or maybe a dozen ducks or geese. And there was not much to slaughter. They could have slaughtered at the end when there was not enough hay or straw, then you had no choice. But I didn't hear about that. I only heard that people were trying to keep their cows. And to keep them alive, they would pluck from their thatched roofs, their straw roofs, some straw for the animals. After all, if you had a child, it would be difficult to feed it without a cow.
Q.: Did the so-called 25,000ers come to the village?
A.: They would come to a village, gather all the local communists and activists and give them directives what to do. They thus helped to activate the local groups to squeeze the grain out of the people. Later on they also participated in the collective system. But these were not our people. These were foreigners - Russians, Georgians, Armenians, and others.
Q.: How and when did dekulakization begin in the village?
A.: Here I can only say in the case of my family. And I know that pretty well, I heard it hundreds of times. You see, there were three waves of grain levies. The first grain levy was probably in 1930, 1931. Most likely in 1931, that's when my father escaped from the village. He left me and my mother behind. I was a tiny boy then, and my mother was a helpless girl left behind all by herself. And, of course, she complained about my father all her life for that, "You deserted me with a small boy." Well, that was between them. So, around 1931, my father escaped from the village so that he would not be arrested, because his father had been sent to Archangel into permanent exile. He was afraid that the same would happen to him. Some of his cousins and more distant relatives, the Kozaks, the Syniahovskis, who no longer lived in our village but in homesteads around our village, escaped with four to five of them. When they escaped, they located themselves wherever it was possible to find a job. So my father, after he escaped in 1931, lived in the Caucasus, where a new highway was being built in the mountains. From there he moved to Moscow. In Moscow they were looking for some young, strong workers for a favorable wage. This was somewhere near Moscow. But they escaped from there. And then we went to some place near Kiev, to some state farm. I don't remember the name of the nearby town, but it's important in our history. And then he went to the Crimea and lived in the city of Skadovsk. Skadovsk is on a lake or the sea. That was 1933, and he was out of work. They chased him out. He saved himself from hunger by collecting all kinds of mollusks on the seashore. They weren't shrimp, but something like that. This is how he survived that half of year or eight months at the peak of the famine.
Q.: In the meantime, you and your mother were still in the village?
A.: Well, that's what I wanted to say. So when father escaped, then the komnezam city council began to impose grain levies on us. They paid the first levy. Then they paid the second one - little was left, but we didn't starve. And then there was a third levy! And there was nothing to give. So the local village activists and communists or whoever they were, the komsomol, came to our house on Novoselytsya Street and evicted my mother and me away from our house and put a lock on the door. And that's how we said good-bye to our family home. So after that, I was four years old then, maybe three and a half, and I was placed in the care of my grandparents. These were my maternal grandparents, the Vynohradskyis - Andriy and Domna or Domnikia. About half a month later, mother was arrested and put on trial by the village court, which was presided over by a representative from the county. And for many years, my mother carried around with her a copy of the verdict, which was written in pencil instead of ink. In the verdict she was accused of purposefully and maliciously sabotaging and undermining the collection of food-stuffs, especially grain, for the State. She, of course, was found guilty. She was accused of violating an article of the constitution of the Ukrainian SSR which dealt with criminal activities against the state instead of tax evasion. For this she was punished with long-term exile at a distant corrective labor camp. However, in view that my mother was responsible for taking care of me and that her husband had disappeared somewhere, her sentence was commuted to serving three years at a labor colony closer in. After this, I ended up with my maternal grandparents. After the sentencing, she was taken to the county jail. She was held a week or so there, and then she was taken by train to Kremenchuk. It was a large city with a port on the Dnieper River. She sat there in jail, one that had been built in tsarist times. She spent six months there in cells reserved for women. I wrote an article about her stay there, and it was published in a Ukrainian journal that comes out in Toronto, Moloda Ukraina. Anyhow, after six months of jail, she was taken to Kryvyi Rih, which is on the Right Bank in the south. She had two and a half years to serve yet. She was placed in a corrective colony there. My mother was attached to the herding detail - she had to tend cows and to milk them, which were considered property of the state. About 50 to 60 women were assigned to a herd. I can't be sure about how big the herds were - maybe 800 or even 1,000. They were supposed to take care of the cows, to milk them. I think this was supposed to be done at least once a day. The milk was supposed to be pasteurized then - to separate the good stuff from the bad. And then either a truck or a horse and buggy with two horses would come along and take the milk off to Kryvyi Rih. From there it was taken somewhere that nobody knew. Mother didn't know either. These herds wandered like nomads from one village to another, depending where grass was available for huge herds. By the way, these cows had been confiscated from Ukrainian peasants in that area and that's how the big herds came into existence. So, as I remember now, we have been traveling to Mosiivka, Hruzhka, Heikivka, Bili Koshary, Anastasivka, Ivanivka. And sometimes, the herd was stationed at Tenz.., right on the bank of a small river called the Inhulets'. The Inhulets' is a tributary of a bigger river, the Inhul, which is mentioned in very ancient history records. This river is mentioned even in Herodotus, the Greek historian.
Q.: When your mother was working, herding this cattle, you were still back in the village with your grandparents?
A.: Oh, well, that's another story, but I think we don't have time to go into it.
Q.: Well, I want to ask you about the famine.
A.: O.K. So my mother was there with the herd. And those herds like hers were there, at least those that she knew, and there were four herds, about 800 to 1000 each. And this was for women. Women tended these herds. But besides that, there were about four to six colonies like these for men also, mostly old timers. And they took care of vegetable plantations, which were irrigated as well as planted on the river Inhulets'. And those people over there were in the category that got from two-to-four-year sentences. And they were not sent further than just to southern Ukraine. I mean further, not to the same place, to Siberia or the North, the Ural Mountains. This was regarded as a very easy, light category. So mother was there working with her herds, with the other 50 to 60 women; they were like nomads going from village to village. At that time, I was living in the village of Jeremiahville with my grandparents Andrew and Domenica. In 1932, they were expelled from the village. We stayed for a short time at the mercy of one good person who let us live in his house in Veremiivka. Then a village committee came to see this man, Kremenovs'kyi, "You cannot keep them." Kremenovs'kyi then told us, "Well, go away. I cannot keep you anymore." And then, from the village of Veremiivka we went to a small town called Semenivka, which was about six to seven kilometers away. And we had several bags with us. And these bags were carried by my grandparents Andrew and Domenic
A. I was very small, and they were dragging me by the hand like a kid. So that's my first memory of my grandparents on my mother's side. And from Jeremiahville my grandparents took all the edibles that they had. It was famine already. So among our edibles there were a few bags with millet, maize, sunflowers, no real flour at all. We also had a bag of something similar to potato chips, but they weren't made of potatoes but rather from either sugar beets or plain beets. We had no place to go. My uncle John, the son of my maternal grandparents, lived in Semenivka. His wife, Halyna, didn't particularly care for us. But we had to go there, because there was no place else to go. We went there, and they had to take us in. They gave us a tiny room with a stove and one chair. There was a flat raised surface near the stove where one could lay or prepare food on it. We lived there from the winter of 1932 to 1933. There was nothing to eat. My Uncle Ivan worked in the city. He was receiving some kind of ration. He divided it among his wife, child, himself, and us. We got about one third of it. In the winter of '32/'33, we had almost finished our bags of millet, barley, and sunflower seeds. What was left were those chips made from sugar and ordinary beets. They were transparent, like glass. They were dried out. And so each morning, when we began to eat, it was almost like a ceremony. At first we finished the millet - we ate it a little at a time so we could draw it out as long as possible. Of course, sooner or later, we ended up with just the chips. Every morning, my grandmother Domenica would moisten them in a cup, give me a cup, take one for herself, and give one to my grandfather. There was nothing else we could do. When you ate these beet chips, you felt like vomiting. After awhile they get to you; it begins to bug you on the inside. Those things are just not eatable. Cows manage to eat them somehow and nothing happens, but when people eat them, then something happens. So it was a time of total famine. There was nothing to eat except those chips. You put three to four of them in a cup of warm water. They become glassy and ugly. After you eat them, you feel like throwing up. So those chips were making us sick, and they were also becoming depleted and disappearing. I remember grandfather was sick; he was lying on the stove. He was coughing and vomiting. He told grandmother not to give him anymore of those chips, because he would die anyway, and that he didn't care anymore about anything. I lay near him on the raised platform, and kept staring into the electric lamp high up on the ceiling. I know how it is when you're aching all over, you're belly is aching with pain, sharp pains. And that is only part of the story. The worst part is that when you're really hungry, you feel every heart beat. And that heart beat then somehow reverberates in your head and particularly in your ears. So with each heart beat, you get a sharp pain in your ears. I don't know, maybe my ears were infected then, but that's something I will never forget. Of course, besides that, you become swollen, because you drink so much water. But there is nothing to eat, and somehow, it's just that way. Your eyes somehow become deeper, deeply depressed, and black things around them, become black areas. And in time they start also to rot. That is, either your eyes or the area around your eyes. So my Uncle Ivan, was afraid to have me die. He knew that my mother would never forgive him for that. So he decided to take me to my mother in Kryvyi Rih. He took the train with me and took me to the village. The herds were stationed at that time in the village of Mosiivka. I remember how we went across the river Inhulets', when Uncle John swam, and I held onto his neck, because I was scared. It was early spring, the water was very cold. And then we had to go through the fields, but not along side the furrows, but across, which for me, who was very small, was kind of hard. So he carried me in his hands, and then he dragged me by the hand. I yelled all the time or cried, but that's normal. Finally, we found the colony, that is, where the herd was stationed. The first thing that I did was to look around those two houses where the women were stationed and where they slept. I looked into the weeds to see if there was anything to eat. By that time I knew that there were two kinds of weeds that can be eaten. One weed is called kalachyky in Ukrainian; birds go after them. The other were burdocks. They had a meaty stem; it was considered a plain old weed which farmers wanted to get rid of. It has white, gummy, bitter sap in it. But if you eat it, nothing happens; you just fill your belly. Anyway, Uncle John, after he brought me there, went back by train to Kryvyi Rih, and I was left with my mother. And in those two houses where the women were stationed, you couldn't keep children, because it was against the law. And I was not the first one to be brought to the colony, but there were six, seven of us. Some were just like me; others were a year or two older. So these mothers who were working with the herds used to place us around the village with peasants there. And whatever they could pay them in kind, or maybe give them a slice of bread or give them two to three rubles, so that they would keep these children. This was not just in one place but scattered here and there. And so, as the herd was traveling from Mosiivka to Oleksandrivka and to Bili Koshary, and elsewhere, my mother had to find me a new place in the new village. And it was not only me, but six, seven other ones. And so, it was very sickening, but well, nobody wanted me at that time. My father disappeared, my grandparents were dying, and I had to be there. So when mother was milking the cows, she, secretly, of course, milked also into her mouth, or drank from the bucket, so she had enough there. And she could do it, and all other women did it. Of course, they had to do this so they wouldn't be seen. And then whatever ration she was getting, she would bring it to me. She also gave something to the people who were taking care of me, day by day, week by week. And I know how bad people could be when they are hungry. You know, I sit there. My mother doesn't come for three or four days. And those people themselves are hungry - two children, a wife and a woman, sit by the table and start to eat some kind of greenish soup, of course without anything, just green vegetables in it. And at that time, they chase me into another room so I won't see. And when I yell and say give me at least a little bit, they said, "Oh, we don't have anything for ourselves. Your mother will bring you something." And my mother would not be coming for three or four days, almost a week, because the herd had been chased into another village far away. And that's the way it was. And then one time, somebody took me and brought me back into Khorol, our native city, to my Aunt Mary, who was my sister's mother. I lived there for a short time, but then again, they brought me back for some reason, by train into Kryvyi Rib. And so it was back and forth in two and a half years, at least three times. And then in the last year, I believe it was 1934, malaria hit us. Of all the things! You know, it's an ugly thing. Mother and I. Mother was still drinking quinine - it's a white crystaline powder. And she was holding up more or less all right, but I was small, and one time I became unconscious, and I started going in and out of it. So the doctor said that I have to be taken to a colder climate. But how? My mother had eight months to serve out her sentence. My mother told the doctor this, and he persuaded the head of the labor colony at that time, Poduikin, to take me to Poltava province to my aunt. My mother was given three weeks or a month. My malaria abated then. It was a miracle! And so then I had to go back to Kryvyi Rih. I remember traveling through Khorol, Ohlobyna, a railroad station, and then finally Kremenchuk. It was a large city. The station in Kremenchuk was red and made from brick. It had tall chimneys. The railroad station was packed. There were only 50 to 80 places to sit, the rest were on the cobbled stones around the station. They would wait for hours and even days to get a ticket. You just couldn't get a ticket for money. You had to produce special papers stating where you were going and the purpose of your trip. So my mother and I sat by the station in Kremenchuk. My mother said, "O.K, it's time to get into line for a ticket. Here, hold our basket and one bag." At that time, small boys and younger teen-agers would grab your suitcase, or whatever, run away, because they were hungry. So I sat there and held the basket in one hand and a bag in the other. Hundreds of other people did the same. And I kept watching. Near the station I saw a huge garbage bin. It was the kind that required two horses to haul it away. As I sat there, I kept watching the bin. About every five minutes I would see a boy, about nine, 10, 11, 12 years old, come around and climb into the bin. He would stay there for about three to five minutes and then get out. I'd see them come about with herring bones, heads from herrings, cucumber peels, and all kinds of other things. That was probably the only edible things they found in the garbage. Then they would just eat whatever they found so voraciously, because they were so hungry. In those days there were rumors flying around Kremenchuk, and many people said that they were not unjustified, that no one should buy the kielbasa, because it was often made of human meat. It fact, many fat people, and this included the wives of Party members, were afraid to go out in the dark, because they could be more ready targets for the sausage-makers than skinny people, who were just skin and bones. Anyway, those were just rumors and nothing else. After this episode, we again left Kremenchuk and went by train to Piatykhatky, Ternylo(?), Zavadka, Hlyboka, and I can't remember all the other places. Finally, we arrived in Kryvyi Rih. It's beautiful there, but we had no opportunity to enjoy that. And, of course, there were no carts, no trucks, no buses there at that time, and then we had to go about 30 to 35 kilometers from the train station at Kryvyi Rih to find the colony where my mother's herd was wandering at that time. And that's how it was. At this colony where my mother was, some of us children happened to be around when the director, Poduikin, would come around to inspect the place. Our mothers would hide us in haystacks or straw and say to us, "Don't you dare come out of there, because the director is gonna rip your head off." We were really patient in sitting there until Poduikin would take his horses and wagon and disappear. One event that I remember is where some of us kids ate some unripened apricots, some flowers and buds. We got extremely sick and almost died. Our mothers forced us to drink diluted soap with water in order to get us to throw up. About four months before my mother's sentence would end, I think it was my father who took me from Kryvyi Rih to Khorol. Of course, we had no place of our own there, so we ended up at my mother's sister, Maria. I waited there until my mother finally completed her time and came home. My father also arrived. Now their problem was where to go and what to do.
Q.: Was there enough to eat at the time? Was there enough to eat that time?
A.: This was already 1934 or 1935.
Q.: During all of that time that you were traveling around, did you see a lot of people who were dying from hunger?
A.: I personally did not see this, because my mother was keeping me away from these horrific things. However, when my Uncle John took to Mosi?vka, to the Kryvyi Rih area, my mother told me hundreds of times, that he had brought me completely swollen and that my eyes had started to rot for some reason. And that's all I know. Of course, I forgot this one. About two months later, after Uncle John took me to Kryvyi Rih, my grandfather Andrew died of hunger there. This was at the height of the famine.
Q.: Were there any other members of your family that had also died of hunger?
A.: Father's parents died, but they died in Archangel. A year earlier, Gregory had died, but they said that he had died of scurvy. As for more distant relatives, the Kozaks, the Havryshes, more of them had died. Among the families of my father's aunts and uncles, those who were living in the village of Bovbasivka, yes, indeed, many adults and children had died. Now, I'll tell you how my grandfather Andrew died. He died, of course, of hunger. There was no one at the funeral except his son Ivan. He got a horse and buggy from the township somehow and took the body to the local cemetery in the small town of Semenivka. There were no pieces of lumber even to make a coffin. So he wrapped him into something like a comforter. Then he dug a grave for his father and buried him all by himself.