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Polina Dmytrivna Popovych

Foreword of son Yaroslav :

I express you my sincere gratitude for the establishment of historic justice. Your work strengthens and increases spirit of old eyewitnesses of tragic events, gives them more strength and optimism.

I have an opportunity to share memories оf my mother Polyna Dmytrivna Popovych who was an eyewitness of famine.

My mother was born on the 21-st of November,1928 in the village Zapadynka Vasyljkiv district Kyiv region (nowadays the village is joined to the territory of Vasyljkiv) in the family of Dmytro and Khrystyna Klymenko. Togather with their parents, elder brother Petro and sister Maria they went through famine in their own farmstead in this village. Mother was the fifth and the youngest child in the family. Besides mentioned sister Maria and brother Petro parents brought up also the eldest: Kilia and Vasyl. Just they (Kilia and Vasyl) "entered" Komsomol in voluntary-forced order. And they asked on their knees not to hide the food. Maria and Petro were small at that time. Thanks God, their age didn't meet the requirements of Komsomol yet.

This story is written down according to the videotape recording on the 5th of November, 2006 keeping dialects and vocabulary. Now Polyna Dmytrivna Popovych lives in the city Ternopil, Lesia Ukrainka Street 11/7, tel.8-(0352)-24-74-91.

With respect Yaroslav Popovych

Below the memories are given from the first person.

* * *
Those who were going took away the cow, the horse, took away the heifer and the pig. And together with the horse they took away also all the implements: the cart and everything for ploughing the ground: the plough, the harrows, simply everything. All this things were taken away to the collective farm.

What I would remember for all my life is taking away the cow. Father held me at the window while I watched mother's refusing from giving away the cow. I remembered the scene when my mother was crying: "For Goodness' sake, what my child will eat! "

I don’t already remember those people (who were taking away). I remember only one, his name was Halyavist. He was the head. Whether it was his surname, whether he was teased like that…

They made Komsomol members from Maria and Petrusj (sister and brother). They didn't even understand what Komsomol was. It was for fear. They were told: "If your parents don't give everything to the collective farm we will send you to the white bears." They were scaring. My mother told me that. Maria and Petrusj fell to their knees and asked their parents to give away: "If you have pity for us then give away, if you don't give we will be taken away."

I remember as we were going and trying the ground with their ramrods, searching for something hidden under the ground.

We had the garden. Many magpies built their nests there. The neighboring boys destroyed those nests looking for the eggs. There were neither magpies or cats or dogs.

We ate gum of the trees. We were almost dead from stomach-ache. Later mother made kissel out of that gum.

In 1933 there were the so called "shaking" shops . Maybe they were named in such a way in public – they shook gold out of people. They exchanged products for gold. If you found cereals or flour you would get 200g or a kilo according to the price of the gold. Mother and father got out everything: and ear-rings and rings. Father brought one really big roll made out of extra white flour for the hammered Gipsy ear-rings (they were large). If you take a piece of the roll in your hand, press it – your fingers will meet, and if you open your fingers it will diverge. And if you take it into the mouth it will be nothing to eat. He brought the bag of some cereals either. And it was for two large ear-rings.

Later commercial bread appeared in Kyiv. The bread was given in measure of 400g at hands at 6 o'clock in the morning. From 6 to 7 o'clock. Almost one hour. It was impossible to stand in a queue and take several times.

If your turn comes – you will take 400g, if doesn't come you will wait for the next day. And everybody waited, sat near those shops day and night.

Then it was given start to the aerodrome. They brought their workers. It was impossible to take on workers among us. People were hungry, swollen and powerless. They had their dining-room, their subsidiary economy. They had hens, geese, swine, and cows in that economy. Fish was brought to them. It was large, salty. Heads of the fish were chopped up and left for pigs. They cooked porridge for the workers. Pieces of it didn't dissolve even in slops. Firstly they put barrels for the slops. People took all the slops to the very bottom and it was nothing to give to the swine. Then they built such wooden barrels of nearly 2m in height, set the fence and guarded from another side.

Famine can teach people everything. We decided to go to the slops at night. The bag was fastened around my neck. The second rope was fastened under my hands. Petrusj wound that rope round his leg. Petro fell on his knees, and then he lifted his legs higher and leant on the barrel with his hands. Maria stood on his shoulders. He mounted and Maria mounted as well. And I was on Maria. And we had such a pyramid. They sent me into the barrel. Our happiness was endless when I caught the head of the fish. There were salt and fat in it. Mother pressed bread, though it was wet and did something.

When I caught a little in the bag and it pulled me down I tugged at the rope because it was impossible to cry. And they (brother and sister) pulled me up.When my head appeared above, I saw Maria stand on Petro and extend her hands to the bag. We live 2 or 3 days due to that bag. It was enough for us. Mother prepared soup. She cooked fish in such a way that bones were soft and we could eat them. But we could catch that fish not always.

Slops were brought there in the evening.

And once driver who carried slops from the dining-room overslept or God knows why he went to pour the slops out in the morning. And I was there in the barrel. Petrusj and Maria threw the rope from fright. And when I began to squelch through the slops and pulled the rope in order that they lifted me it fell to me from that side. There were slops up to my waist. He poured the slops out of the barrel on the cart with the help of bucket into that large barrel through the doors that should be locked. The water began to rise. And I wasn't tall. I was small and besides I was bended. I didn't let my hands down and warmed in such a way. Mother was afraid lest I remain such a cripple. I began to cry. The water rose, it was already up to my throat. And I began to peep. That man heard. He put his head into the barrel and asked: "Who’s there?" I cried and said I didn't know. That man answered: "Stand still, I'll give you an empty bucket and you climb into it." In any case he pulled me up, put me and asked:

-Who sent you there?


-Do you have mother?

And my sick mother was lying.  They said she had "dog's udder". She was like a log. She recovered due to the slops.

-Mother is lying, she is swollen. 

And then he said:

-If you have mother let her do two bags for you in order that you might give me one and take another. I will bring you the slops, put everything dry and you will wait for me.

I went when his schedule was. He brought the first bag in the evening when the moon rose and I gave him an empty one. From that time we didn't know what starvation was. There were dry bread, dry porridge, and sometimes scalded bones.  

(translated by Ilona Lesbekova)

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)