A famine victim lies dead near a market in Kharkiv with some men pausing to look while others pass by
- Wienerberger, Alexander, 1891-1955, Photographer
- Media Type
- Item Types
- Photograph albums
- A man most likely from the countryside, lies dead on the edge of a curb. He is barefoot, destitute. The location appears to be near or within a market area, but the vendors’ windows are shuttered. The large sign above the nearest set reads in Ukrainian “ваги” translated as “scales”: a place where goods can be weighed for proper payment. At this moment, some of the passersby show interest in the victim; others don’t, or have already noticed, and now have turned away. A man holds the hand of a young boy who looks straight ahead as they walk past.
One man looks directly at the photographer. We do not know whether he is showing simple curiosity or whether he is expressing his concern for the victim to the photographer. Or, because photography of death, poverty, and so many other subjects was strictly forbidden, the man may have been signalling disapproval or a warning to Wienerberger.
SEE: Restriction of Photography, p.4-5 in "The Holodomor's Forbidden Photographs essay"
Context: Starving rural migrants and urban residents
In order to divert blame from its own intentional disregard of the proletarian’s needs, Stalin’s regime took every opportunity through its state run media to demonize the rural population as greedy, lazy, and selfish - unwilling to put the needs of the proletariat above their own, and their collective farm managers as under the influence of foreign saboteurs and other enemies of the people. Blame for the ever-increasing shortage of food was laid squarely on the shoulders of the rural population.
But with their own last food reserves stripped away from them, the desperate, starving rural residents continued to turn to the major urban and industrial centers of Ukraine as their last hope, in spite of new restrictions on travel to the cities and mandated residency registration.
In large overcrowded cities such as Kharkiv, Ukraine’s rural residents were now considered illegal aliens, and as illegals without close family or friends in the city, it would be almost impossible to find a place to stay while by law, no public shelters were available. Most ended up sleeping and congregating in vacant lots or simply along streets and sidewalks. The weakened, impoverished migrants living in such unsanitary conditions were susceptible to often fatal diseases carried by lice or caused by unclean drinking water.
Many city residents had family in the countryside, and knew that the propaganda was untrue and that the raging famine was real and intentional. Overwhelmed by the number of starving migrants filling their streets, while impoverished and hungry themselves, there was little most could do beside help a little here and there and hope and pray for the others. As city residents walk by, apparently unheeding and uncaring, we can only imagine the possible range of emotions in their hearts.
Rural residents were not permitted to receive food ration coupons, therefore could not access the city’s primary sources of food, however inadequate they were. Having traded their last life’s possessions for bread, having no work or shelter, too weak to return to their villages to die - many of Ukraine’s once proud farming families succumbed to slow death in the neighborhoods of urban Ukraine.
- Photo taken between spring – late summer, 1933.
Photo source: Wienerberger, Alexander. Die Hungertragödie in Südrussland 1933; also known as the Innitzer Album, 1934. p.13.
This is one of 25 photographs depicting life and death in and around Kharkiv during the Holodomor that the photographer put together in a small album with a handwritten title: Die Hungertragödie in Südrussland 1933 [The Tragedy of Famine in South Russia 1933.] He presented the album to the Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodor Innitzer of Vienna in 1934 as an expression of appreciation for the Cardinal’s efforts in trying to organize an international campaign to assist the victims of starvation in 1933. The album is housed in the collections of the Diözesanarchiv, Vienna, Austria.
For related photo, essays, and a listing of originals and versions published through 1939 with their captions, see Related Features below photo and Home page menus.
- Handwritten caption in album: “Auf den Strassen—” [On the streets--]
- Date of Original
- Date Of Event
Width: 24 cm
Height: 13.8 cm
- Image Dimensions
Image Width: 10.8cm
Image Height: 7.9cm
- Local identifier
- Alexander Wienerberger: Innitzer album
- Language of Item
- Geographic Coverage
Latitude: 49.98081 Longitude: 36.25272
- Copyright Statement
- Protected by copyright: Uses other than research or private study require the permission of the rightsholder(s). Responsibility for obtaining permissions and for any use rests exclusively with the user.
- Copyright Holder
- Samara Pearce https://www.samarapearce.com/
- Recommended Citation
- Wienerberger, Alexander. Die Hungertragödie in Südrussland 1933: Album Presented by the Photographer to Cardinal Theodor Innitzer of Vienna. Vienna: Diözesanarchiv der Erzdiözese, . p.13. Retrieved from: http://vitacollections.ca/HREC-holodomorphotodirectory/3632503/data
- Location of Original
- Diözesanarchiv - Bibliothek, Vienna, Austria. Please contact this archive for official reproductions.
- Rightsholder requests that the name of the photographer, Alexander Wienerberger, accompany each authentic reproduction of his work.
- Reproduction Notes
- Reproduced with the permission of rightsholder Samara Pearce and the Diözesanarchiv - Bibliothek, Vienna, Austria.