A police cart drives through the streets of Kharkiv collecting homeless children
- Williams, Whiting, 1878-1975, Photographer
- Media Type
- Item Types
- Newspaper illustrations
- Williams captures a scene in downtown Kharkiv that shows a police cart carrying a number of mostly young boys who were picked up off the streets. A man pulling a large handcart is passing the police cart.
In the original photo, judging from where some of the boys and some of the people on the street are directing their attention, it appears that the police cart may have stopped to pick up more children.
Context: Homeless children during the Holodomor
As famine conditions in Ukraine became ever more severe in the 1930’s, the numbers of homeless youth increased dramatically. Starving parents from the countryside sometimes dropped off their children in urban areas in the desperate hope that they had a better chance for survival there. Perhaps they might be taken in by a kind stranger or an orphanage. Older children sometimes left their dead or dying families in the villages of their own accord, also in the hope of finding a means to stay alive in the city. Abandonment and runaways occurred, though to a lesser extent, among urban families as well.
The older children tended to band together, begging, scrounging for scraps, and stealing to survive. Prostitution was not uncommon. Living and sleeping on the streets in unsanitary conditions, they were susceptible to often fatal diseases carried by lice or caused by unclean drinking water.
The situation was particularly acute in Kharkiv. Officials report 9,000 children picked up off the streets in one week alone in May, 1933. There were not enough provisions in the overcrowded orphanages, where the death rate was 30% and higher from disease and starvation. Conditions were so appalling that more able-bodied children often escaped to return to a chance for survival in the streets. Accounts of witnesses also report that sometimes children were housed in railcars in unspeakable conditions, or as stated in Williams’ article, simply carted off to an open space in the countryside, where they were left to fend for themselves.
- Photo taken August, 1933.
This photo was later published with the first of 2 articles by Whiting Williams in a London weekly titled Answers: “My Journey Through Famine-Stricken Russia,” February 24, 1934, p.17.
See Related Features menu to link to the article.
The original photograph and the published version are both shown.
- Caption on back of photograph: “The wagon of the boy-catcher – gathering up some of the 18,000 boys reported left last winter in Kharkov by their parents.”
Caption under photo in Answers: “Police carts gathering up abandoned and starving children at Kharkov.”
- Date of Original
- Date Of Event
- Local identifier
- Whiting Williams
- Language of Item
- Geographic Coverage
Latitude: 49.98081 Longitude: 36.25272
- Copyright Statement
- Copyright status unknown. Responsibility for determining the copyright status and any use rests exclusively with the user.
- Recommended Citation
- for original: “The wagon of the boy-catcher – gathering up some of the 18,000 boys reported left last winter in Kharkov by their parents.” [Container 1, Folder 9 ] PG 89 Whiting Williams Photographs, Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, OH.
Retrieved from: http://vitacollections.ca/HREC-holodomorphotodirectory/3634046/data
for published version: Williams, Whiting. “My Journey Through Famine-Stricken Russia,” Answers (weekly). London, February 24, 1934, p.17.
Retrieved from: http://vitacollections.ca/HREC-holodomorphotodirectory/3634046/image/4224394
- Location of Original
- [Container 1, Folder 9 ] PG 89 Whiting Williams Photographs, Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, OH.
- Reproduction of images is restricted to fair use for personal study or research. Any other use requires a contractual agreement with the Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, OH. Contact the Society directly at:
- Reproduction Notes
- Reproduced by contractual agreement with the Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, OH.