It began in 1932, in a harsh winter, the year drew to a close. Nobody expected at the beginning of the year what was yet to come. Like a bad dream, but no nightmare lasts so long and normally you wake up in the end. The country was in a state of unrest because of the red plague that was circulating in our country and in neighbouring countries. As if that wasn't enough, monsters crept into our country as well... At first it was hard to predict how much damage they would do, because they were like shadows, nobody saw them coming, nobody heard them, it was unclear what they wanted. We called them the Holodomor.

Soon, however, it turned out what they wanted. Those creatures ate everything edible. Our cattle, fruit, vegetables, nuts, berries, mushrooms and even less tasty herbs, which were even avoided by old herbal women because of their bitterness. But above all, the Holodomor took our grain. Not only that which was already harvested and stored in silos and barns, no, they ate it directly from the fields. Not too many weeks passed and there was nothing more to trade and therefore nothing more that could be exchanged for food. An absolute catastrophe for a country that consisted mainly of farmers... We became hungry... Oh how hungry we were... In my need I tried once to get something to eat in the next town, but the guards didn't let me in. They protected the city from the Holodomor and were very strict, farmers were not allowed in, they threatened me with drawn weapons. I heard from other people that they sneaked onto freight trains to find something edible, but that was very dangerous, they were thrown down even while the trains drove, I was still small, I didn't dare to try that.

My neighbour, Mr. Kowalenko, was once a farmer. It didn't take long and you could see his elbows and knees almost drilling through his skin, it was easy to count his ribs. I once gave him a small piece of meat, I had so much sympathy for him, he was always such a nice man and let me play with his chickens when he still had some... At some point I heard him yelling at passing soldiers: "Day meni chlib! ("Give me bread!") he screamed and repeated it. But they probably had nothing. I thought the soldiers would fight the Holodomor at that time... Children were also seen on the streets screaming for bread, but at some point there was nothing to eat, everything was plundered, the Holodomor were worse than a plague of locusts. Had we sinned so badly that we had earned the Holodomor? I cannot imagine it... But not only the lack of food became a problem. The people were so much in need that one had to beware of one's neighbor...

When I went to the northern neighbouring village to check on my friend Taras, I hadn't seen him for many weeks, I saw one of the many colourful posters. It was a poster from the government, I liked the motifs, you didn't see many colorful pictures back then. Reading was difficult for me at that time, I hadn't been to school long and was only a farmer's child anyway. But this one time I took the time to read it, I don't know exactly why, mostly I didn't.

The poster said: "Eating your children is a barbaric act". I hadn't really understood these words back then, of course it's a "barbaric act" to eat your children, why the poster? I thought it was funny, everyone knows that you can't do that! Who would do such an abominable thing? So I thought. The way to Taras' house was not exactly short, I saw a starved man leaning against a tree. He had a ring on his finger, which I took away from him, I was not greedy, but I hoped to be able to exchange the ring somewhere for something to eat. When I arrived, Tara's mother had trouble recognizing me, I was very thin, but by that time she was almost skin and bone. She sent me away, she said that the Holodomor had eaten my friend Taras. I cried and she took a scarf and tied it around my neck. She told me to take good care of it. I was sad. Later I noticed blood stains on the scarf.

My brother Andreij was 2 years older than me. At some point he had the idea to steal something from a field that belonged to the city and was very well guarded. I warned him and told him that it was too dangerous, but he wanted to be a hero, to bring mum and me something to eat. "Secretly in the night it will work out," he said. But the guards shot him, like hundreds before him, they became the food for the Holodomor, poor Andreij... First the hunger gnaws at one's own fat, then at one's own muscles and then at the mind, and so he died. I witnessed my dear brother Andreij being collected, the guards received 100 grams of bread for his body, so they collected him, not to bury him. One of us was worth a hundred grams of bread... I would have given anything for a hundred grams of bread.

Eventually the food became scarcer for the city dwellers, and then the guards also got hungry. There were no corpses left to exchange for bread. I thought I had seen every horror so far, but i was still far from it. At some point the guards came to our village, I hid well on a tree, very high up, and watched as they took my neighbour, Mr. Kowalenko, even though he was still alive. He was alive! Dear God, he was still alive! The guards didn't care, hunger clouded their brains and they dragged him away. From a safe distance I followed them. Mr. Kowalenko was too weak to defend himself, and with many others he was buried alive. He was thrown into a prepared hole, not even very deep, in a field plundered by the Holodomor, and he was buried alive. No prayer, no compassion, no humanity. "Zemlya rukhayet'sya!" ("The earth is moving!"), called a girl who watched it exactly like I did. After her call I looked closely, it was almost dark and the whole field was wafting away, from the last movements of the alive buried... I froze with horror in my hiding place. I hadn't cried for a long time, nobody had enough salt in their body for something like that. "Zemlya rukhayet'sya!" ("The earth is moving!"), she shouted again. Her voice was tender, I'll never forget the call and the muffled sound that followed, when a shovel hit her on the head and she also landed in a hole and was dug up. At least she was dead.

At the end of 1933 the Holodomor moved away. Only the devil knows where and why, there was nothing left to get, the fields lay fallow. Bony corpses lay on the streets. I survived thanks to my mother, father had long since died. Even before the Holodomor. My mother cut off her arm, and weeks later her leg. She fed me and Andreij with it. Of course we didn't want that, but she just did. Once the arm was off, we couldn't just throw it away, it would have been such a waste and all the pain my mother inflicted would have been in vain... And we were so hungry... When Andreij died, there was more for me, I think that was the only way I survived. Mama is now forever a part of me. Thank you Mama. I am the only one from my family who survived.


Written and translated by audiolex23, original story in German:
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