MB - One man didn’t want to join the collective farm. Do you know what they did to him? His wife went to the city to work, and he was a cobbler. He refused to join the collective farm. They took everything from him – pillows, linens, and the pots that he cooked in. They took everything from him. He had a little stool, and he sat on that stool. They told him he didn’t have the right to plant anything in his garden – that the garden was theirs. They plowed the garden and planted buckwheat, and that buckwheat rotted. The poor man sat there, people brought him shoes to fix, and for that they would give him some porridge, and that’s how he lived.
We had a whole row of icons. They came and asked us, “Why are those [icons] hanging there? Throw it all out! You don’t need any of that!” My mother answered, “When I go out the door, what am I supposed to say – ‘Stalin, help me’? When I leave the house, I cross myself and say, ‘God help me.’” And she didn’t let them take the icons. They told her to take them down and put up portraits of Lenin, Stalin, Kaganovich, and the rest of them. She refused, and they left.
My father saw that they were coming [to search the house] – we still had one bag of flour left, so my father hid the bag of flour and told us to lie on top of it [with our arms folded], and watch what they’re doing. And that’s how we saved a bag of flour. [If we hadn’t hidden it] they would have taken it away. [The groups who came to search] were brought into the village. They brought in Russians; they weren’t Ukrainians. The NKVD brigades who came were Russians – they spoke Russian.
My mother saved a pair of beautiful earrings for me, and shoes with laces. She said that when I grew up, I could have the shoes and earrings. I don’t know who it was who came to our house, but they had two loaves of bread, and my mother gave them the earrings and shoes, so that we would have some food, so that we wouldn’t die of hunger.
Half the village died. This was a terrible famine. It was done on purpose. In Canada I met a man from England, who told me that they knew about the famine in England. They offered to help, and were told that help wasn’t needed, that [the USSR] was exporting everything. We knew it was an artificial famine because they took everything we had. My father hid that bag of flour, and we ate that flour for a month. I collected grain stalks myself.
MB – We were terrified. There was a guard who rode a horse, and if he caught anyone, he would beat them. They didn ’t let us collect grain stalks. I know this well.
Interviewer – But you tried [to collect grain stalks]?