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P. Solodko

Pavlo Solodko, who was born in 1922, is a pensioner, former director of Bakhmatsk school №2, teacher of mathematics and astronomy. A story was written down in 1997 by his granddaughter.

«I was born on February 22, 1922 in village Kurin', Bakhmatsk district, Chernigiv oblast, where I lived during the Holodomor. I am a war veteran and  since 1951 I worked as a director of the Bakhmatsk secondary school in the village Bakhmach, where I presently live on the 5 Lesja Ukrainka street, as a retired person. Our village was large, close to 2000 houses, with the population of more than 7 thousands people. In 1932 I was helping my parents to work in the fields by carrying the wheat stocks (kopas) from the field to our home together with my elder brother (the kopa consists of 60 wheat bundles). The harvest was average in our region that year, but nothing indicated a famine in 1933. We collected enough grain to live till the new harvest. But it did not happened as we planned.

My father has fulfilled the plan of bread sales to the state. Our farm was considered to be in the category of so called middle - «hard-core» households. The reason was because my parents did not join the collective farm and kept the household to themselves. To force such middle peasants to join the collective farm, they were notified about additional new «fixed» plans - to give additional 20 pounds of grain. We did it. But again, yet  another new task was given, and again, until nothing was to give. We left some grain in order for our family, which consisted of 6 persons, to survive the winter. But the brigades (we called them «advanced workers - "ydarnyky") were walking around our farms and snooping, and gradually took away everything to the last grain. These brigades were armed with metallic rods and could quickly find any grain, which my uncle had hidden somewhere in the pit in his yard. The same happened to our family. It was good that potatoes harvest was good and we ate it for some time. The potato pit was dug for the winter and could contain about five bushels. The advanced workers didn’t dug out potato pits. But they took away all our grains and beans to the last grain.

When all food was used to the end my mother had nothing to cook for us in the bowl.

Many people were swollen. We also began to swell. Than mother took out of the chest several homemade clothes and send the elder brother Grygorij to the grinding mill. There he exchanged clothes for several sacks of the millet shells. They had not a single grain of millet. So, you can imagine what kind of caloric value we are talking about? We had some silver coins of czar's coinage that had been kept in our family since the revolution. My brother carried them to the trade syndicate (“torgsyn”) and exchanged them for a bag of millet.

I believe that these “operations” saved us from starving. Mother cooked a big cast iron bowl of soap, in which there were very small chips (?) of potatoes and just a few grains of millet. We swelled even more because of excessive fluid consumption. Our "heavy" legs were hardly moving, our faces were so swelled that only splits were left where formerly eyes were. As Taras Shevchenko wrote “The village was like burned”. There were almost no people on the streets, there were no songs, music, people’s voices, because it was hard for people to say a word. And we almost did not go outside.

Until there were potatoes that we grated and added that millet chaff and baked some corn pones. When potatoes finished we added dried linden leaves, corn’s stem crumb to chaff and tried to bake something.

Hungry people at night tried to dig out potatoes planted on the vegetable gardens. There were cases, when these “thieves” were dying on the somebody's field.

At last came the spring. People began to use heads of clover, nettle, goosefoot and linden leaves. All that was dried, grinded and people tried to bake something from it. Once I went to the school garden (nearly 300 meters from home) to cut linden leaves. I saw dead man on the road in front of the garden. It was very terribly and scary picture. Nevertheless, I have cut the branches, because they were  waiting for me at home. Another time my mother sent me to the garden that was separate from the yard. When I was coming up to the garden I saw another man’s dead body. His body was nibbled by dogs on his thigh. I fell down because of dizziness and when I come to my senses I could hardly stand up. A lot of people died in our corner (small village’s quarter), in particular Karpenko’s family died out totally, wife and children died in the family of Andrij Chekhanjuk, father, wife and three children died in the family of Jakiv Matisk. In my uncle Trokhym’s family, who died earlier from famine, only one daughter was alive out of 6 people. The tragedy of the situation was even worth because in the village lived close relatives, but they weren’t able to help. It is hard to say how many people died in our large village, because at that time I was only eleven years old. That year many people from other Chernigiv’s districts (even from Poltava region) were staying in the village, hoping to beg something to eat. They were telling that in their region death had taken many people. In some villages almost all people died out.

Fortunately, potatoes took plumages very soon in 1934. It was our rescue. Nobody waited till it ripen and tuber become bigger.

It is terrible to remember but all it happened. My children and grandchildren could hardly imagine it, all the more to believe it. I am convinced that famine, in particular in our region, was caused purposely by the state’s leaders..."

Republished from: The Holodomor Memorial Website


  • About 15 million persons suffered from Communist repressions in Ukraine
  • On 30 December 1922, along with the Russian, Byelorussian, and Transcaucasian republics, the Ukrainian SSR was one of the founding members of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)