Eyewitness Testimony of Anastasia Mykytivna Shpychka
A mother’s story, as recorded by her son Victor K. Shpychka
[Originally published in Holod 33: Narodna knyha-memorial (Famine 33: National Memorial Book), comp. Lidiia Kovalenko and Volodymyr Maniak. Kyiv: Radianskyi pysmennyk, 1991, p. 53].
At the time we were living in the village of Dobrovolske, in the Atbasar district of Akmolinsk oblast (today: Tselinograd oblast) [Kazakhstan]. The village consisted mainly of Ukrainian settlers who had migrated to freehold territories before the revolution. All around there was nothing but steppe—not a tree anywhere; nothing but the howling of wolves. But somehow people survived, settled in, worked hard, and bore children.
Then the years of collectivization began. Government representatives began to force people into joining the collective farms. The people resisted.
The property of the wealthier farmers, the “kulaks,” was confiscated. I can see the scene as clearly as if it were happening right now: a girl, a member of the Komsomol, is standing in front of the village soviet and conducting “an auction.” She would pick up some miserable piece of clothing from the pile of goods confiscated from some “kulak,” wave it in the air, and ask: “Who’s going to make an offer on this thing?”
People would approach to take a look. As soon as someone offered a karbovanets [Ukr. equivalent of the Russian ruble—Trans.] for the worn little jacket, a “koftyna,” the Komsomol member would pick up the next article and continue with her “sale.”
These activists would torment the people any way they wanted.
They began by requisitioning grain. As soon as you met the newly imposed levy, they would immediately institute a new one, and so on without end, until all the grain, down to the very last seed, was taken from the people. Our family’s oxen and our two cows were taken to the collective. We, children, could not sleep because the activists would rush into our houses at any time of night and summon people to the village soviet to help them expedite the confiscated grain. But there was no grain to be had. We ate potato peelings from the few potatoes left out in the dirt.
The spring of 1933 arrived and there was no food in the house. We picked out the pith of sunflower stubs, ground it up in a hand mill
, and ate it.
Translated from the Ukrainian by Alexandra Hawryluk