The document presents a report of the intelligence division of the Second Unit of the Border Guard Service of Poland in Kharkiv about the situation with food supplies in the city and the mass departure of foreign (German) specialists from Ukraine and the Soviet Union. The document is dated of March 5, 1933, the most critical time of the Holodomor famine in 1932-1933. The document’s author does not use the word “famine,” but the report includes multiple direct testimonies of starvation and food crisis. The author describes them and also adds his sarcastic and critical comments about the nature of Soviet rule and the impact of its political and economic course on the situation of the local population. Careful reading of the document reveals information about the everyday life of common citizens residing in Kharkiv and the nearby villages, including foreign nationals, and their survival practices.

In the short memo, the author highlights the rapid growth in prices of grain and food. The prices were so high and unaffordable for common consumers that such food products as potatoes were sold by piece. The situation was so dire and precarious that the consulate staff could not “get” flour or potatoes in the special retail chain for foreigners, TORGSIN. The key objective of the chain was to sell goods to foreign nationals, but in the settings of scarcity, it became a government tool for taking away cash, precious metals, and jewelry from the starving citizens who had to exchange them for bread and other food. With his sarcastic comments, the author focuses on one of the common examples of survival during the Holodomor: eating surrogates that peasants inventively used for making bread, which he labels as culinary delights. When describing the scarcity of choice in the everyday hungry existence, the author highlights the “humbleness” and “humility” related to the eagerness to eat the surrogates. The story about the workers who brought firewood to the consulate and started eating the potato peels from the dumpster shows that consumption of food waste was a common survival practice among urban citizens who did not have access to the public food distribution system. The consulate officer also mentioned the critical condition of domestic animals lacking feed. The author of the report also describes how the artificially imposed social and economic conditions and scarcity made foreign staff apply to foreign representative offices in Ukraine to search for ways to escape “the paradise.” In addition, he generally criticizes the Communist ideology.


Report of the Intelligence Unit ІІ of the Border Guard Service of Poland on the Food Supplies Situation in the Soviet Kharkiv

Hołodomor 1932-1933. Wielki głód na Ukrainie w dokumentach polskiej dyplomacji i wywiadu, Wybór i opracowanie Jan Jacek Bruski. Warszawa, 2008, 778 с.
Original language:

March 5, 1933

Report of the intelligence division «Kpl» from Kharkiv on the deterioration of the food supply situation and the departure of German experts from Ukraine.

Dear Sir!

[…] [1]

The situation with food supplies is improving every day due to increasingly better organized party arrangements. We have not been able to get any flour for 5 days now, even in TORGSIN. There are no potatoes in stock, which price was 100 roubles per 1 pound on 26/2, and today, the price on the market is 60 kop. per piece. However, in a village near Kharkiv, they bake first-class bread. Please, find attached one slice as an example of the humble attitude of local citizens who eat such culinary delights with humility of their spirit: the price per 1 pound of that mix is about 6 roubles. The workers who brought us firewood to the consulate ate the food we gave to the dogs and also picked the potato peels from the dumpster, which their horse was also eagerly willing to eat. After all, according to the resolution on the good nutrition of domestic animals, he was legitimately entitled to it. It is no wonder that the number of people willing to get out of this paradise, although platonic, keeps growing, and we can’t complain about having few visitors in the consulate. German experts are leaving in big numbers, mostly heading for Moscow, where they get tickets for Soviet roubles, but then leave via Latvia, Lithuania, and Prussia.

[…] [2]

Meanwhile, I am sending you my best regards, and looking forward to any updates.

Ya. Andrzeiewski

CAW, Unit II of the Border Guard Service, I.303.4.2094, subfile W-37, manuscript

[1] A fragment was skipped where the author comments on the newspaper clippings attached.
[2] Comments are skipped on the possible attempt at Soviet provocation, such as the information on the planned abduction of the head of the General Consulate.


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Worked on the material:
Research, comment

Iryna Skubii

Translation into English

Svitlana Bregman

Text transcript

Orest Kostiv

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