My Poetic Eyes, Research

Before I even think about writing any poetry I must give you a brief history lesson and revisit things I may have forgotten. The topic I have chosen to write my poetry about is Holodomor. Holodomor is based on two Ukrainian words: holod – ‘hunger, starvation, famine’, and moryty – ‘to induce suffering, to kill’. Holodomor happened in 1932 – 1933 in Ukraine. It was a man-made famine constructed by the orders of Stalin on the Ukrainian peasants (the “kulaks”) because they refused to agree to his plan of collectivisation. Over 7 million people died of starvation and that includes around 3 million children. No one knows exactly how many people died during that 18 month period because the dead were put into mass graves which are still being found.

Some of you reading this might be thinking “if there was a man-made famine in Ukraine back then we would know about it. It would be in history books…etc etc etc”. WRONG! When I was taking GCSE history we studied Russia as part of the course and in my history book there was 2 line (yes, 2 whole lines) about the starving people in the Ukrainian SSR. It basically said “…during 1932- 33 there was a famine in Ukraine, the breadbasket of Europe. Around 5 million people died and Stalin was deeply saddened by this….” So, don’t always believe what you read in history books. Holodomor was repeatedly denied by the Soviet Union while the western world turned a blind eye. When officials visited from different countries to see for themselves if anything was going on, actors would be paid to act as “happy peasants” of the collective farms and any real peasants, the ones that were dying of starvation, would be arrested and shot if they went near the officials.

For the people of Ukraine, their food was confiscated and if people were hiding food they would be arrest and, more than likely, would have been shot. Travelling to different parts of Ukraine to find food was forbidden. Livestock, grain, crops and any and all types of food was seized by Russian authorities.

Eyewitness accounts from survivors: http://www.augb.co.uk/survivor-testimony.php

Eye witness accounts from journalists:
Walter Duranty: New York Times. Interviewed Stalin and collaborated with the Soviet Government to cover up the existence and scale of the famine. Privately he admitted the famine both existed and the death toll was horrendous.

Malcolm Muggeridge: smuggled out several articles via the diplomatic pouch which were published in the Manchester Guardian. In his diaries he wrote, “I must never pretend that I haven’t seen this…”

Gareth Jones: travelled through Ukraine and subsequently wrote articles for and was interviewed by several newspapers. He said, “I walked alone through villages and twelve collective farms. Everywhere was the cry, ‘There is no bread; we are dying…’”

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