THE HISTORY MAN; Journals of Barry Writer-Turned Ukraine National Hero Go on Show

South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales), November 13, 2009 | Go to article overview

THE HISTORY MAN; Journals of Barry Writer-Turned Ukraine National Hero Go on Show


THE diaries of a trail-blazing journalist from South Wales who exposed mass starvation in the Soviet Union are to go on display for the first time.

The diaries of Gareth Jones, who travelled through Russia, Ukraine and China during the 1930s, will be on view at Cambridge University.

Jones, who wrote for the Echo's sister paper the Western Mail, uncovered the 1932-33 Ukrainian famine. Millions died, but the Soviet authorities - and some journalists in the West - denied the tragedy had even taken place. Jones, from Barry, is a national hero in Ukraine, and was posthumously awarded the country's Order of Freedom last year.

In March 1933 Jones, working in Russia, gave the Soviet authorities the slip and crossed the border to Ukraine, determined to verify rumours of widespread famine. His diaries tell of encounters with starving peasants. One entry, written in Kharkov, near the Russian border, reads: "Queues for bread. Erika [from the German Consulate] and I walked along about a hundred ragged, pale people.

"Militiamen came out of shop whose windows had been battered and said, 'There is no bread' and 'There will be no bread today.'" Jones' great-nephew Nigel Colley said: "These diaries are the only independent Western verification of what was arguably Stalin's greatest atrocity." Discussion of the famine, known in the Ukraine as Holodomor, was strictly suppressed, with many Ukrainians only aware of the truth after communism's fall.

An estimated four million people died after Stalin's decision to impose farm collectivisation and then to seal the Ukrainian border to punish peasants for supposedly "hoarding grain".

Rory Finnin, lecturer in Ukrainian Studies at the University of Cambridge, said: "Jones was the only journalist who risked his name and reputation to expose Holodomor to the world. His diaries are a stirring historical record of an often forgotten tragedy of the 20th century."

After revealing the news of the famine, Jones became embroiled in a row with Walter Duranty of the New York Times, whoaccusedhim-completelyfalsely-of making the story up.

Jones' life was tragically cut short when he was murdered in August 1935 while travelling in Inner Mongolia. He was 29 years old. Mystery still surrounds the exact circumstances of his death; he and a companion were captured by bandits, and held for more than two weeks before Jones was murdered. There are strong suspicions that the Soviet authorities were involved, not least because his unharmed companion, Dr Herbert Mueller, had known Soviet connections. …

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