A starving farmer sits by the side of a house in Kharkiv (Death by starvation series, no. 1)
- Wienerberger, Alexander, 1891-1955, Photographer
- Media Type
- Item Types
- Photograph albums
- Death by starvation series, no. 1 This is the first in a sequence of 4 photos which Alexander Wienerberger compiled into a brief series to portray how the starving people from the farms and villages ultimately succumb and die after finding no relief in the city of Kharkiv. The photographer states in his memoir Hart auf Hart, that the photos were taken across a period of 6 days, documenting the toll of starvation on the life of one particular farmer.
In this first photo, Wienerberger shows us a destitute old farmer sitting in the yard of a small house. He is wearing a winter hat, tattered winter clothing, and his legs are wrapped in cloth strips. It is not clear what he is holding in hs hand. A walking stick is barely visible, lying behind him.
Context: the fate of rural migrants in the cities
In the winter of 1932, Moscow closed the borders of Ukraine and the Kuban to stop the rapidly increasing numbers of residents from leaving in search of food. Those apprehended at the borders were either arrested and deported or sent back to die in their villages. New internal passport requirements were instituted in 1932 and expanded in 1933 which restricted travel from the villages to the cities, and mandated residency registration in the cities. But with their 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.
Formidable obstacles awaited rural residents in a large overcrowded city such as Kharkiv, whose population had nearly doubled between 1920-1933. Officially, Ukraine’s rural residents were now considered illegal aliens in the cities, and as illegals without close family or friends in the city, it would be almost impossible to find a place to stay, and 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.
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 from disease and starvation 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.
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: “Die Tragödie eines Bauern in vier Bildern. I.”[The tragedy of a farmer in four pictures. I.]
- 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.17. Retrieved from: http://vitacollections.ca/HREC-holodomorphotodirectory/3636386/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.