[bas relief by Oleh Lesiuk]
The Daily Express, April 4th, 1933
‘Bread! We are dying’
- - -
Parliament Asked to Rush Through Bill Controlling Russian Imports
- - -
PROGRESS AT THE EXPENSE OF HAPPINESS
By Gareth Jones
One cry haunts
the Russian of today and that is “Hleba Nietu” (There is no bread).
As you walk
through the Tverskaya-street in Moscow, a rough-bearded peasant in a sheepskin
coat will lumber up to you and say: “Give for the sake of God. I am from the
Ukraine, and there ‘hleba nietu’ (there is no bread). In my village
they are dying off. I have come to Moscow for bread, which I shall send to
my home by post. We are doomed in the Ukraine. In my village we had
eighty horses. Now we have only eighteen. We had a hundred and fifty
cows. Now there are only six. We are dying. Give us
Further on, a
little girl, about eight years of age, with dark brown eves, her little face
wrapped in a shawl, sells you scented white spring flowers for a rouble a
“Where do you
come from?” I, ask.
“I am from the
Crimea,” she replies, where there is warm sunshine. Here it is cold, and
I am freezing.”
“Then why have
you come up north to Moscow ?"
is no bread in the Crimea and people are dying. There will be plenty of
fruit there of all kinds, but that will not be until the summer. So my
mother and I have brought flowers to Moscow and have come to find bread.”
pox-pitted youth who sell wooden bowls with burnt-in designs on street corner
where he comes from and what he is doing in the great city, and he will
from the Nijni-Novgorod region, and there we have no bread. So we carve
these wooden bowls by hand and come to Moscow to seek something to eat.”
Ask that peasant
woman who stands in a side street and sells milk at three roubles (nominally six
shillings) a litre why she is in Moscow, and she will reply: “I live fifty
versis” (thirty miles) “from Moscow, and there we have no bread. We
come to Moscow and bring bread back. Moscow is feeding us. If it
were not for Moscow we should die.”
cattle have you in your village?” I ask. “We had three hundred
cows and now we have less than a hundred and it is difficult to feed them now
because we have to eat cattle fodder for ourselves.” She asks for
bread. “I will exchange milk for bread,” she says. So a kind of
primitive barter is returning.
Now we see a
peasant enter a shop that is crammed full with goods. Big loaves of pure
white bread are piled on the counters. Vast slabs of butter stand side by
side with pyramids of cheeses of every kind. Oranges, apples, figs, dates
are there in plenty. Clothes of every hue hang in one department.
Fur coats are being examined by inquisitive girls in another corner. Fish
from the Volga and the Caspian Sea fraternise with products from the
really be Russia? Why are nearly all the other shops empty while this is
brimming over with plenty?
follow the peasant and see. He turns round and comes up to us and says:-
“Please, I am from the village, and I have some gold earrings which I have
kept for a long time. They tell me I can buy things for gold
THEIR LAST TREASURES
That is the
solution to the mystery. In this shop one can buy with gold or silver, or
with foreign currency, and this is another magnet for the peasants to come into
In many villages
there was a little gold left, and so one or more peasants would come to Moscow
to this so-called Torgsin shop, and in exchange for gold or silver receive bread
and other objects. There has therefore been a flow of gold and silver from
the villages into the towns, and a flow of bread back.
But there are not
many fortunate peasants who have gold or silver, and soon this supply of food
will be stopped. Some of the peasants who wander into the towns in search
of bread have dollars which they have received from relatives who have emigrated
abroad. With these they can buy bread and post it home to their
families. Some of them still have silver roubles from the days of the Czar
Nicholas. Some of them bring silver spoons. Having delved into all
their treasures they have only one thought: “How can I get bread?”
Many of these new
invaders of the towns bring their children with them. Sometimes a whole
family will stand and beg, or the youngest child will be deputed to go to a
passer-by and say: “Uncle, give me some kopeks to get some bread.”
beggars call at houses for food, but often in the houses there is not enough for
the occupier. The police have a great problem with these peasant beggars,
and I do not envy their task.
One night I saw a
crowd on a street and heard piteous wails. I went up and saw a dark-bearded
Ukrainian peasant clad in the usual sheepskin, struggling with
a policeman. Three
children, distraught with fear and shrieking, were hanging on to him.
“You have no
right to beg here,” said the policeman.
“We want bread!
We want bread!”
The policeman won
the battle. He called a passing droshky, pushed the peasant in with the
children hanging on desperately, and standing on the board of the droshky, bade
the driver drive off to the police station. The unceasing cries of the
children could be heard as the droshky trotted off.
for bread from the villages sleep the anywhere. In the courtyards of the
houses they find corners, but in March these are freezing. Some have
friends in the towns, and they swell the already large numbers of occupants of
the houses. Many of them swarm to the railway stations, which are crowded
with peasants - a typical feature of the attempt of the villagers to get into
In one railway
station I talked to a group of women who said: “We are starving. We have
hardly had bread for two months. We are from the Ukraine and we are trying
to go north for they are dying quickly in the villages. But we have come
so far, and now they will give us no railway tickets. So we are stranded
here without food and do not know what to do.
Original Research, Content & Site Design by Nigel Linsan Colley. Copyright © 2001-17 All Rights Reserved Original document transcriptions by M.S. Colley.Click here for Legal Notices. For all further details email: Nigel Colley or Tel: (+44) 0796 303 8888