Families from the starving countryside rest near a low-lying building on the outskirts of Kharkiv
- Wienerberger, Alexander, 1891-1955, Photographer
- Media Type
- Item Types
- Book illustrations
- We see several clusters of people – adults and children - on the grounds of a low-lying building that is closed and the windows shuttered. Although it is difficult to see clearly, the people next to the house look particularly impoverished. One group closest to the camera appears to be a family, with the mother talking or playing with her young son while another person lies next to them. Most likely all of these people have come from the countryside without relatives in the city or a place to stay, and have found this location as a temporary refuge. A woman, perhaps a resident of that neighborhood, walks by.
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 allowed 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. Hart auf Hart. 15 Jahre Ingenieur in Sowjetrussland. Ein Tatsachenbericht; mit 52 Original-Leicaaufnahmen des Verfassers. Salzburg, Leipzig: Pustet, 1939. f.p.97.
Hart auf hart was Alexander Wienerberger’s memoir of his career as a chemical engineer and technical manager in the Soviet Union through most of 1917 – 1933. Three of the chapters deal exclusively with his period in Ukraine, where he was tasked with retrofitting and managing a factory in Kharkiv from autumn 1932 – late summer 1933.
As stated in the title, the memoir includes 52 of his photos; however, only those from Ukraine are included in this Directory. The book was initially serialized with 7 photographs in an Austrian newspaper, the Salzburger Volksblatt, as “Abenteuer in Sowjetrussland,” [Adventures in Soviet Russia] in late 1938.
For essays and a listing of originals and versions published through 1939 with their captions, see Related Features below photo and Home page menus.
- Caption: “In Scharen lagern die zugewanderten Bauern auf Strassen und Plätzen” [The immigrant farmers are settling down in droves on the streets and squares]
- Date of Original
- Date Of Event
- Image Dimensions
Image Width: 11cm
Image Height: 8cm
- Local identifier
- Alexander Wienerberger: Beyond the Innitzer album
- 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.
- Copyright Holder
- Samara Pearce https://www.samarapearce.com/
- Recommended Citation
- Wienerberger, Alexander. Hart auf Hart. 15 Jahre Ingenieur in Sowjetrussland. Ein Tatsachenbericht; mit 52 Original-Leicaaufnahmen des Verfassers. Salzburg, Leipzig: Pustet, 1939. f.p.97. Retrieved from: http://vitacollections.ca/HREC-holodomorphotodirectory/3636252/data
- Location of Original
- Location of original photograph reproduced in this publication is unknown.
- 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. Source: Book cited in NOTES above.