Holodomor
Whiting Williams Collection
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  • Emaciated woman in heavy coat and work boots stands near a factory in Ukraine
        Williams' caption on back of photograph: “One of the weaker ones whose very life depends on, not the present crop but the present harvest.” Caption under photo in Answers: “A real ‘hunger-marcher’ - a woman, reduced by famine to skin and bones, ‘snapped’ in Soviet Ukraine.”
      Williams' caption on back of photograph: “One of the weaker ones whose ...
  • Small group of people gathered around a child lying dead near the edge of a sidewalk in Kharkiv
        Williams' caption on the back of the photograph: “A little victim of Russian hunger.” Caption under the photo in Answers: "“Factory women passing a tiny victim of famine: a dead child lying on a pavement in Kharkov.”
      Williams' caption on the back of the photograph: “A little victim of ...
  • A police cart drives through the streets of Kharkiv collecting homeless children
        Williams' 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.”
      Williams' caption on back of photograph: “The wagon of the boy-catcher – ...
  • Mining employees on their way to work in the Donetsk coal mining region
        Williams' caption on back of photograph: “Coal miners in Khorlovka, Donetz basin, Ukraine, USSR.” Caption under photo in Answers: “Miners going to work in the Donetz coalfield. Although manual workers are given preferential treatment, their conditions are often desperate.”
      Williams' caption on back of photograph: “Coal miners in Khorlovka, Donetz basin, ...
  • A traffic officer is getting a shoeshine from a young boy with the new Kharkiv government buildings in the background
        Williams' caption on back of photograph: “The offices of the various Government ‘trusts’ or employing companies in the Republic of the Ukraine, and a traffic cop – everything splendid except that, outside street cars and official autos, there’s no traffic.” Caption under photo in Answers: “The lighter side of Russia ...
      Williams' caption on back of photograph: “The offices of the various Government ...
  • My Journey through Famine-Stricken Russia!
    Williams, Whiting, 1878-1975, Answers, 1934, 16-17, 28     Williams, Whiting. “My Journey Through Famine-Stricken Russia,” Answers (weekly). London, February 24, 1934, pp.16-17,28. The first of a two-part article series written by US business consultant, Whiting Williams, along with photos he took during his trip to Ukraine in August, 1933.
    Williams, Whiting, 1878-1975, Answers, 1934, 16-17, 28   Williams, Whiting. “My Journey Through Famine-Stricken Russia,” Answers (weekly). London, February 24, ...
  • Two women workers at an industrial site near the Dnipro Hydroelectric dam
        Williams' caption on back of original photograph: “Workers helping to build the aluminium and other plants in Dnieprostroy to use ‘juice’ ready years in advance!” Caption under photo in Answers: “Helping to build an aluminium plant in Dnieprostroy, where great works of various kinds are under construction. Electric power for ...
      Williams' caption on back of original photograph: “Workers helping to build the ...
  • Long line of people waiting to buy bread in Ukraine
        Caption under photo in Answers: “Even those who are still at work in Russia, and who, therefore, are entitled to a ration of bread, have to wait – sometimes for hours – in long queues before they can get it.”
      Caption under photo in Answers: “Even those who are still at work ...
  • Young urban workers helping to harvest grain at a model collective farm pose for the photographer
        Williams' caption on back of original photograph: “A ‘brigade’ of ‘voluntary’ office workers from the city endeavoring to make up for the lack of farm workers.” Caption under photo in Answers: “'Volunteer’ harvesters on one of the farms. Many of the peasants are dead or in exile, and large numbers ...
      Williams' caption on back of original photograph: “A ‘brigade’ of ‘voluntary’ office ...
  • Why Russia is Hungry!
    Williams, Whiting, 1878-1975, Answers, August 1933, 3-4     “Why Russia is Hungry,” Answers. London, March 3, 1934, pp.3-4. The second of a two-part article series written by US business consultant, Whiting Williams, along with photos he took during his trip to Ukraine in August, 1933.
    Williams, Whiting, 1878-1975, Answers, August 1933, 3-4   “Why Russia is Hungry,” Answers. London, March 3, 1934, pp.3-4. The second ...
  • Workers in open railway carts are returning from their shift at industrial building sites near the Dnipro Hydroelectric dam
        Caption on back of photograph: “Workers returning from a suburb of Dnieprostroy where aluminum, coke, and other plants are building.”
      Caption on back of photograph: “Workers returning from a suburb of Dnieprostroy ...
  • Whiting Williams and the Holodomor: A Biographical Essay
        The distinction of having the first photographs depicting scenes from Ukraine’s Holodomor published in the Western press may belong to Whiting Williams. Several of his photos from an August 1933 visit to Ukraine appeared early in 1934 as illustrations to his articles in a British weekly, Answers. A longtime resident ...
      The distinction of having the first photographs depicting scenes from Ukraine’s Holodomor ...
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Whiting Williams Collection



A Note on the Collection

Whiting Williams, a well-respected, widely published American authority on labor-management relations, visited Ukraine in his professional capacity in August, 1933 – a follow-up to his visit to Ukraine’s Donetsk mining region in 1928. Upon arrival in 1933, he was so stunned by the disastrous conditions he encountered that he resolved to inform the American public immediately upon his return home. While newspapers and magazines back home had displayed photos of notable visitors at new Soviet factories and model collective farms and featured Margaret Bourke-White’s photo essays of mammoth Soviet structures and muscular workers [1][2], no one had published photographs that documented the suffering that Williams witnessed.


Williams' travel within Ukraine was closely managed by the official Soviet tourist agency; however, he attempted to elude his minders to snap at least a few quick shots that might capture a hint of the human catastrophe surrounding him. Whenever possible, he also tried to catch a few words with local residents – hotel workers, train conductors, miners – to get beyond the propaganda and offer a balancing perspective to the succession of model sites on the itinerary designed to impress visitors. Yet as shocked as he was by the conditions of death and despair he encountered off the tour, he also wanted to present to his readers back home not simply a picture of misery but of a common humanity desperate to survive. Moreover, he sought to convey his own underlying hope and respect for the people he documented.


Williams edited his journal pages, filled with factual observations and laced with anguish, and sent out the manuscript with photographs to US magazine editors who had previously published his work. To his dismay, however, he found that no one was willing to run this story. (See “Whiting Williams: a Biographical Essay” in this Directory for further details). Eventually, Williams was connected with the editor of a weekly London newspaper, Answers, who took his manuscript and several photographs, reworked them into a tabloid style and format, then published them in a two-part series in early 1934.


The Williams photos in Answers are quite likely the first published photographs to appear in the Western press that provide a glimpse of the suffering and genocidal policy in Ukraine that brought about the Holodomor.


The collection presented here contains the complete articles published in Answers on February 24, 1934, and March 3, 1934, along with the ten illustrations. Two are portraits of Williams – one formal, and one in laborer guise – and eight are photographs from his 1933 visit to Ukraine. Significantly, this collection also presents digitized copies of the original photographs from which the published illustrations came. These originals are archived in the WRHS Photograph and Print Collection, which supplements the Whiting Williams Papers, an extensive collection of Williams’ publications and correspondence housed in the Western Reserve Historical Society (WRHS) Library, Cleveland, Ohio. https://www.wrhs.org/research/library/ By contractual agreement, WRHS has provided high quality scans of the photographs for display in this Directory, for which we are most grateful.


The original photographs – essentially Williams’ snapshots as a non-professional photographer – offer not only technically more distinct images but in some cases important visual context that was cropped away in the published versions. Also worth noting is that the original photographs have Williams’ own captions written on the backs, sometimes rather different from the captions that appeared in the newspaper. Unfortunately, one of the closely cropped newspaper illustrations is missing its original in the Williams archives, which would undoubtedly have added valuable context and caption information.


As indicated in “Whiting Williams: a Biographical Essay,” Williams’ correspondence with publishers mentions an unspecified number of photographs from 1933, but it may never be confirmed whether those that appeared in Answers comprise the extent of his 1933 photos. The Whiting Williams Papers at WRHS include additional photographs from his visits to Ukraine. Most are undated but appear to match directly or by style and subject the photographs he took in 1928 and subsequently published with articles published 1928-1932. A few are harder to place and will require further research, although at least two or three are quite certainly from 1933. One of them is included in this Directory.


Footnotes
  1. Bourke-White, Eyes on Russia.
  2. Bourke-White, Margaret Bourke-White’s Photographs of U.S.S.R.


Sources Cited

Bourke-White, Margaret. Eyes on Russia. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1931.

———Margaret Bourke-White’s Photographs of U.S.S.R. Albany, NY: Argus Press, 1934.