Ivan Dovhopyat

Ivan Dovhopyat was born in 1919 in the village of Sloboda, Burynskiy sub-region, Sumy region. He was interviewed in 2007 and this interview was published in Ukrayinska Dumka on 8 September 2007. Ivan passed away in 2008.

What can you remember?
"It’s very difficult. I keep this close to myself. I remember when they took away the bread, when they took everything. How my father ran after them when they took the flour and says, “What are you doing? But we have five children!” I was the oldest. In 1933 I was 14 years old."

Ivan Dovhopyat remembers how good life was before the Stalinist terrors. At first, land was shared out amongst the villagers. This was their dream – to have their own small piece of land.
"We had a smallholding. They had given us land for four people when the new economic politics began. And my father did not want to join the collective farm. We had enough – a cow, a horse, pigs, and some chickens – until they started to take everything away. The communists came, or the Stalinists, however you want to describe them, collectivisation and that was that. They did not turn us out of our home because father had bought an old house and built a woodshed, so it wasn’t worth turning us out.

"My father worked as a blacksmith at the sugar factory. None of us five children died in the famine because my father and mother always tried to get some food. We had a few clothes, so they travelled to Kharkiv and bartered some for flour. We ate the chaff from buckwheat. My mother dried it, I go to baba’s, grind it, and then my mother bakes small pancakes. When there was still some flour, she would mix it in so that the pancakes held together. She put them in boiling water to make a soup and that’s how we survived. One of my younger brothers became very swollen, just when wheat began to grow near our house. I stripped the ears of wheat and gave them to him, which saved his life."

Tell us how the food was taken away.
"They had these yards for people who weren’t in the collective farm. You had to go to the headquarters. The communists came with revolvers and those who weren’t part of the kolhosp had to go. There, they gave orders how much potato and grain you had to bring. After dinner, you had to go back to them so that they could give you a receipt for how much you had brought. And if you didn’t bring anything, then the brigade would take everything.  We didn’t have anything left to take them, so the brigade came. The sugar factory wasn’t far from our house, so I ran to tell my father that they had come. My father ran home and they were already there on a sledge (it was January). Father begged a small amount of flour from them, but because he had left work without permission, he was thrown out. They took the bread, they took my father’s job: and what can you do… My father went to the railway station because they gave out bread there. I remember him coming home in the evening, and we took the crumbs out of his pocket and ate them."

You managed to survive, but what about the other villagers?
"In our village, not many. Very few people were left alive. The older people all died. I remember my dido and baba (grandfather and grandmother). Dido was lying in bed and asking for someone to bring him even a sweet.  In the spring, the real crimes began. Potato was sown, and people dug them up to eat, and they caught and killed them.

"Yes, that’s how it was. If you described everything, it would be a huge history. But not everyone believes that it happened, that we had to eat chaff… They say we’re making it up."