Gareth Jones and the Holodomor : the November 2019 Slavonic items of the month

Yesterday evening, Cambridge Ukrainian Studies hosted a showing of the film ‘Mr Jones’.  Directed by award-winner Agnieszka Holland, the film tells the story of Gareth Jones, the journalist who reported on the Holodomor, the appalling famine which killed millions in Ukraine.  A pop-up exhibition of books from the UL and MMLL libraries was provided after the film, and the exhibits and captions are shown below.  Each title is linked to the item’s iDiscover record.  Please click on each image to enlarge it.

“Tell them we are starving” : the 1933 diaries of Gareth Jones
(Kingston, Ontario, Kashtan Press, 2015)

This publication provides facsimile reproductions of three of Jones’ handwritten diaries, covering the period of his Ukrainian trip from 5 March to 24 March 1933.  Each diary is provided in facsimile and then followed by a transcription of its contents.  The section shown is from the entry for Friday 11 March.

All people say same: khleba netu [there is no bread], vse pukhlye [everyone is swollen].  One woman said “We are looking forward to death”.

Facts about Ukraine
(London : Ukrainian Bureau, 1933)

A staggering lack of belief in the famine and its scale left Jones pitted against the most powerful news agencies and politicians, and caused a shocking lack of awareness in the West of the tragedy.  This pamphlet, for example, which was published in 1933 by a pro-Ukrainian group in London, bears no mention of the famine.

Gareth Jones Memorial Fund : list of subscriptions
(UK : [publisher not identified], 1935)

It would take decades for Jones’ reporting to be given the recognition it deserved, but his violent and untimely death in 1935 was greatly mourned.  A memorial fund was set up to commemorate him, and this list of subscriptions dates from 2 October 1935.  The total amount committed was £1,764.18s.6d. – nearly £120,000 in today’s money.  The fund is in use to this day, as the Gareth Jones Memorial Travelling Scholarship, for graduates of the University of Wales.

The 1933 diaries of Gareth Richard Vaughn Jones [exhibition leaflet]
(Cambridge, 2009)

In 2009, the first ever exhibition of Jones’ diaries was held in Trinity College, whose alumnus Jones had been.  Cambridge Ukrainian Studies was a co-sponsor of the exhibition, which was reported widely in the media for its success in attracting significant attention to Gareth Jones’ work and courage.  The diaries are held with Jones’ other papers in the National Library of Wales.

Naibil’shyi zlochyn Kremlia [The Kremlin’s greatest crime] by M. Verbyts’kyi
(London : DOBRUS, 1952)

Published by the UK section of the Democratic Organization of Ukrainians Formerly Persecuted by the Soviet Regime, this harrowing book includes the personal narratives of survivors (“live witnesses of the famine”) by then based in Britain.

This book featured in a blog post 6 years ago, where the the term ‘Holodomor’ was explained.  “[It] became a standard term to describe the Ukraine famine only many years after this book was published.  The term used in the book is the standard holod (hunger, famine).  The mor added to its end to create the current term is a root relating to death; mor itself means plague/epidemic, but the verb moryty means to kill or to exterminate.”

V dev’iatim kruzi— [In the ninth circle] by Oleksa Voropai
(London : Vyd SUM-u, 1953)

Another example of personal narratives of the Holodomor, this book, as the one above and several others in this list, comes from library of Peter Yakimiuk, a late British Ukrainian whose book collection was donated to the University Library.

Zhovtyi kniaz’ (The yellow prince) by Vasyl’ Barka
(Kyiv : Naukova dumka. 2001)
Mariia: khronika odnoho zhyttia [Maria: the chronicle of one life] by Ulas Samchuk
(Buenos-Aires : Vyd-vo Mykoly Denysiuka, 1952)
(Kyiv : Smoloskyp, 2009)

Barka and Samchuk’s novels are among the most famous Ukrainian literary works about the Holodomor.  The 2001 edition of The yellow prince shown was published in the Schoolchild’s Library series, a sign of how the book had become core reading.

The Holodomor reader compiled and edited by Bohdan Klid and Alexander J. Motyl (Edmonton : Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press, 2012)

The University Library and Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics Faculty Library continue to collect material about the Holodomor widely in Ukrainian, Russian, English, and more.  A copy of this example is held in both libraries.


Much more material about the Holodomor can be found by using the Library of Congress subject heading Ukraine — History — Famine, 1932-1933 in the catalogue (click here to see the results of a subject browse search, for example).

Mel Bach (with many many thanks to Olenka Dmytryk of the MMLL Faculty Library for her help in getting hold of material and to Olenka Pevny of Cambridge Ukrainian Studies for suggesting the exhibition)

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