Small group of people gathers around a famine victim lying dead on a sidewalk in Kharkiv
- Wienerberger, Alexander, 1891-1955, Photographer
- Media Type
- Item Types
- Photograph albums
- A young farmer, according to the photographer, lies dead on the sidewalk of a residential neighborhood. Several people are standing near the victim, among them five children of various ages (three of the youngest are barely visible), who exhibit a range of reactions. Four adults stand closest to the victim, two regarding him with apparent concern, while another appears to be talking about it with a man and a woman standing further away in the background, barely visible. Most of those gathered appear to be city residents. The fact that this sight has elicited considerable interest, may mean that the sight of dead or dying people is still uncommon, at least in this Kharkiv neighborhood.
See Record PD1 for a close-up photo of the victim.
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.11.
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: “Eines der ersten Opfer.” [One of the first victims.]
- 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.11. Retrieved from: http://vitacollections.ca/HREC-holodomorphotodirectory/3636376/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.