[bas relief by Oleh Lesiuk]
The Daily Express, April 7th, 1933
15 HOURS TO WAIT FOR THE SHOPS TO OPEN
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Frosty Vigil Lasts all night
Black Bread 2s. per Slice
Bands of Homeless Children
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By Gareth Jones
homeless boys were herded to be taken away. One of them lay on the floor,
his face red with fever. Typhus…”
In this dramatic
article Mr. Gareth Jones, who was until recently Mr. Lloyd George’s special
foreign adviser, is writing these remarkable articles exclusively for the Daily
TYPHUS SCENE AT THE STATION
IN 1930 I saw
Kharkoff, the capital of the Ukraine, from the air. A mast of scaffolding
towered in the centre of the city, where there was to rise a range of
skyscrapers. I could see thousands of men like ants hurry-scurrying here
and there. The Soviets were building.
In 1931 I again
saw Kharkoff. The new houses and streets impressed me. There was a
spirit of adventurous construction among many of the
young workers. They were putting up at gigantic speed the vast tractor
works. “We’ll beat America,’’ they cried.
In 1933 I have
again seen Kharkoff. It is no longer the city of 1930, when the skyscraper
was the symbol of a happy future. The spirit of adventure of 1931 has
disappeared. The cry, "We‘ll beat America" is muffled.
I splashed my way
through the streets. The early Russian thaw had suddenly come and streams
of water from the snow of yesterday poured along the gutters and formed pools in
the middle of the road. The houses now looked dilapidated, as if no one
cared for them. Many of the new constructions were lying idle.
been abandoned on account of financial difficulties an expert told me. A
heap of stone for building stood at the side of the road. When I felt the
stone it crumbled slightly between my fingers. I went into one of the
houses and examined the building work. The bricks, which were themselves
good, had great gaps and only a minimum of mortar between each other. On
the opposite side of the road a church had been blown up and men were busy
shovelling the masonry and carting it away. I heard later that for a long
time the workers had refused to work on the site of the destroyed church.
“It is haunted,” they said. Peasant children seated on doorsteps
shouted at me as I passed, “Uncle, give me some kopeks (or bread).”
HATED SOLDIERS OF THE OGPU
Numbers of Ogpu
soldiers with theirs green lapels passed by. They are the land Ogpu, who
control the countryside and are hated like the plague by the peasants.
Before long I heard people shout and quarrel and turning the corner I saw what
was happening. Outside a bread shop the windows of which had been battered
in, and were now boarded with planks, a hundred ragged people were crying: “
We want bread.”
policemen were keeping the people away front the doors and replying: “There is
no bread, and there will be no bread to-day.” There was an outburst of
anger. The queue lost its form and the mass of women and peasants
and workers surrounded the policemen. “But citizens, there is no
bread. Do not blame me,” cried in despair. I went up to a man in
the queue. “How long have you been standing here?” “This is
the second day,” he replied. The crowd would not disperse. There
always remained a forlorn hope that a wagon of bread might suddenly turn up from
Some of the bread
queues in Kharkoff number from four thousands to seven thousands people.
They begin it to assemble at about three or four o’clock in the afternoon and
stand all night in the bitter Russian frost for opening of the shop at seven
o’clock in the morning.
TRYING TO LAUGH AWAY THEIR
No wonder I
thought as I made my way to market. This bitterness expresses itself in
those biting witticisms with which the Russians try to laugh away their
sorrows. In Kharkoff I heard the following: A louse and a pig a meet on
the frontier of the Soviet Union. The louse is going into Russia, while
the pig a leaving.
“Why are you
coming into Russia?” The pig asks
coming,” because in Germany people are so clean that I cannot find a single
place to rest, my head so I am entering the Soviet Union. But why are you
The. pig answers:
“In Russia to-day people are eating what we pigs used to eat. So there
is nothing left for me, and I’m saying good-bye.”
provides me with a proof of the truth of this allegory.
diseased people loiter about the booths. A boy is selling two slices of
doughy black bread, which he holds in his band. “One rouble each,” he
says. That means nominally 2s. for a slice of bread.
I do not forget,
however, that millions of people can get their small supply of bread at a very
low price at the co-operative shops, provided they have bread-cards. The
peasant beggars, whom one cannot avoid in Russia, are here in scores.
Private traders, regarded by the Government as the scum of the earth, sell
trinkets and odds-and-ends of clothing. One of them, with a hooked nose, a
swarthy complexion and black hair, is doing a slow trade in long, plaited locks
“I am a
Turk,” he said, “a refugee after the war but now I am doomed. I am a
private trader. I get no bread card. I have no rights. I am
taxed out of existence. I just hang on to my life and that’s about
I walk through
the market I notice one group of people in the open, who sell home-made towels
and clothes, some of which are decorated with artistic designs. A drunken
peasant reels and totters, laughing loudly-an example of the dangers of vodka
upon an empty stomach.
Near by a little gipsy girl, about eight years of age, is singing a tzigane song with all the dramatic emotion of an operatic contralto. After each song she bows. “Uncle, give me a rouble”. I see another long queue, with its incessant bickering. At least a thousand people stand for bread, which is being sold at a high price. A highly-strung woman seeing that I am a foreigner snarls at me: “You see how fine it is here”.
But the feature
of the market which strikes me most is the number of ragged, homeless boys, in
so-called “bezprizorny.” With the foulest of rags and the most
depraved of faces, they hover about. In 1930 I saw few of these homeless
boys. The Soviet Government had made a gallant fight to remove the swarms
of ruffians who were the legacy of the civil war. In 1931 I saw still
fewer, although they would sometimes shout in stations to passengers: “Give us
In 1933 I have
seen the resurgence of the homeless boys. They wander about the streets of
the towns. I have seen some being captured by the police and taken
away. When I left Kharkoff it was the homeless boys who remained as the
last and deepest impression.
In the station
waiting-room three hundred of them were herded to be take away. I peeped
through the window. One of them near the window lay on the floor, his face
red with fever and breathing heavily, with his mouth open. “Typhus,”
said another man, who was looking at them. Another lay in rags stretched
on the ground, with part of his body uncovered, revealing dried up flesh and
CLASS DIFFERENCES GREATER THAN
I turned away and
entered the train for Moscow. In the corridor stood little girl. She
was well dressed. Her cheeks were rosy. She held a toy in one hand
and a piece of cake in the other. She was probably the daughter of a
Communist Party member or of an engineer.
In 1930 there
were class differences. In 1931 they were as great as ever. In 1933
they are one of the most striking features of the Soviet Union. These
children are not the relics of the civil war. They are the homeless
children of hunger, most of them turned out from their homes to fend for themselves because the peasants have no bread.
The train rolled on to Moscow.
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