On October 16, 2015, the Ukrainian National Federation’s Hall on 145 Evans Ave. in Toronto hosted a launch of the book “”Tell Them We Are Starving”– The 1933 Diaries of Gareth Jones” edited by Lubomyr Luciuk. Lubomyr Luciuk is a Canadian academic and author in the field of political geography and Ukrainian history. He is currently a full professor at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, ON. This latest book is a result of Professor Luciuk’s long-term research of the role that a Welsh journalist, Gareth Jones, played in shedding light on one of the most covered-up genocides in the global history, the Holodomor of Ukrainians in 1932-33.
The gripping story of Gareth Jones’ travel to Ukraine in 1933, what followed that travel, and how it all is affecting our present, which Lubomyr Luciuk told the New Pathway, is well worth being put on our front page.
Gareth Jones traveled to Ukraine in March 1933. The journalist was interested in the Soviet Union, having traveled there in 1931 and written several anonymous articles about it in the Times afterwards. In 1933, he first visited Moscow and on the pretext of wanting to meet the German consul in Kharkiv, requested permission to visit the then-capital of Soviet Ukraine. (After everything that happened to Gareth Jones in Ukraine he went back to Moscow and eventually did go to Germany and interviewed Adolf Hitler there, which could be a topic for a separate book). He received permission from the Soviet regime, which thought that Jones was a representative of the former British Prime Minister Lloyd George. While Jones did previously work as a secretary for Lloyd George, he did not represent him at that time.
In early March 1933, he boarded a “hard” train from Moscow to Kharkiv. In his backpack, Jones had a large supply of food which could hardly surprise anyone in the Soviet Union in those times of hardship. However, Jones had something else in mind than merely being provident. When the train was approaching Ukraine, he got off and spent next several days following the tracks on foot and visiting a total of 20 Ukrainian villages.
Gareth Jones was eventually detected by the secret police OGPU and escorted to Kharkiv. He was released in Kharkiv and spent some time there. He then traveled back to Moscow where he met with the Moscow Bureau Chief of the New York Times, Walter Duranty. In his diary, Jones said about Duranty: “I don’t trust him, still believes in the collectivization”. When Gareth Jones gave a press-conference upon his return to Berlin about the famine in Ukraine, Duranty, who is now widely called “Stalin’s apologist” and who knowingly and publicly lied about the lack of starvation in Ukraine, denounced Jones immediately after. The reaction from numerous representatives of the journalistic profession and the powers of the Western world, which followed, ruined Gareth Jones’ career.
Gareth Jones, a bright young journalist, did all he could to uncover the truth about Ukraine and to convey it to the rest of the world. In his notes which he took during the travel, he wrote in English, Russian, German, French and, to conceal important information, in Welsh. From Kharkiv, he wrote a postcard to home, praising the city’s Opera and his reception there, knowing that the card would be read by the censorship. But in his diary, he said, “more lipstick than food in the Opera.” Later, Jones published a series of 21 articles about the famine in Ukraine. Such powerful lines from the Ukrainians in the Jones’ diary as “When we all believed in God, we were happy & lived well. When they tried to go away with God, we became hungry” and “Tell them in England, we are starving” can hardly leave anyone’s heart unscathed.
Lubomyr Luciuk’s interest in Gareth Jones originated about 29 years ago, in 1986, with a reference to Jones in Robert Conquest’s classic book about the Ukrainian famine “Harvest of Despair”. Luciuk’s reaction to the reference was that Jones should be recognized. In 2006, along with the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (UCCLA), the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain, and others, Luciuk put out the first ever tri-lingual (English, Ukrainian and Welsh) plaque honoring Gareth Jones at Jones’ Alma Mater, the University of Aberystwyth in Wales. At the plaque’s unveiling ceremony, Luciuk had an opportunity to meet Nigel Linsan Colley and his mother Dr. Margareth Colley, the direct descendants of Gareth Jones. They showed Lubomyr Luciuk Jones’ diaries.
According to Lubomyr Luciuk, he immediately had an idea to publish the diaries. Due to a variety of reasons, it took this idea almost ten years to come to fruition. The diaries, which previously were published online untranscribed, had to be transcribed which was done under the supervision of a Welsh professor, Ray Gamache, and Nigel Linsan Colley, a descendant of Gareth Jones. The book “Tell Them We Are Starving” has about 100 pages of Gareth Jones diaries and 100+ pages of the transcription as the diaries themselves are somewhat illegible. The diaries are now available to public with the support of the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium (HREC), the Temerty Foundation and UCCLA. HREC, in particular, has sent the copies of the book to the libraries around the world.
Lubomyr Luciuk believes that Gareth Jones’ as an eye-witness gave us a priceless account of what happened in Ukraine in 1933. Many other pieces of information about the Holodomor are either from the people who were children at the time or are about other events like collectivization which are often mixed up with the Holodomor.
Gareth Jones gave his press-conference in Berlin on March 29, 1933. Only a few days later, on April 2, the Soviets imposed restrictions on travel by foreign journalists in the USSR. Within a few years, Gareth Jones, probably, paid with his own life for his mission in Ukraine. While travelling in China to investigate the Imperial Japanese policy in Manchuria, he was kidnapped and killed on the eve of his 30th birthday. Luciuk says that Jones’ driver was later found to be associated with the Soviet intelligence service of the time, the NKVD.
When asked by the New Pathway whether there is a connection between what surrounded Gareth Jones’ time in Ukraine and what is happening now in and around Ukraine, Luciuk said that the West in 1933 was mainly preoccupied with the rise of Nazis in Germany and tried to make peace with Stalin. This does resemble the current moment when the West is preoccupied with the events in the Middle East and is trying to negotiate with Russia. It took one bright young journalist who traveled across the famine-stricken Ukrainian villages with open eyes to break the lies of the Soviet propaganda and the Western cover-up of the Holodomor 83 years ago. Luciuk believes that it would be appropriate to place (as Stefan Bandera, grandson of a OUN-b leader Stepan Bandera, first suggested) a monument to Gareth Jones in Kyiv’s Khreschchatyk, replacing the statue of Lenin that once stood there.