A group of homeless children on a rock pile in Kharkiv
- Wienerberger, Alexander, 1891-1955, Photographer
- Media Type
- Item Types
- Photograph albums
- Several children sit on a pile of rocks. The rock pile looks like construction debris against a tall wooden fence, and in the foreground one sees at least one set of train tracks. One of the photo captions reads that these homeless children (or bezprizornye, as known in Russian) are delousing themselves, which actually is not apparent on close inspection, though certainly possible. One boy appears to be lost in thought; another, dozing off. They are both barefoot, though warmly dressed. A young girl sits near the fence while another bundled up child, its back to the photographer, rests its head on the young girl’s lap.
One could speculate that this is a resting spot for these children, or that these children are waiting for the next train to see if someone will throw them some scraps of food, or they are waiting for a freight train that they might possibly jump to get to another location.
This shot may be in the vicinity of the photograph seen in PD110, where a disabled man is making his way across train tracks to a similar pile of stone rubble near a wooden fence. Perhaps this was an area where some of the homeless congregated in Kharkiv.
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.
- Photo taken between spring – late summer, 1933.
Photo source: Wienerberger, Alexander. Die Hungertragödie in Südrussland 1933; also known as the Innitzer Album, 1934. p.10.
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 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: “Hunger!” [Starvation!]
- 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.10. Retrieved from: http://vitacollections.ca/HREC-holodomorphotodirectory/3636374/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.