Why Ukrainians respect bread: The Big Famine


Have you ever hear that in the post Soviet countries people treat bread with a big respect? We never throw it on the ground. Our parents always taught us: “If bread falls down you will have to pick it up and kiss it”.

For Ukrainians bread is symbol of prosperity. Traditionally Ukrainians were farmers as we have the best soil in the world known as  black soil. The core of village community consisted of the most respectable farmers who worked hard on their lands. My great grandfather had about 10 hectares but he always wore old shoes and ate the black bread.

The villagers took care about culture and religion as well. In my village (Stebne Cherkassy region) we have a beautiful wooden church which dates back to the late 1800s. According to Kyiv archive’s documents this church was built by village member’s donations. They requested a state to cover just the 10th part of its cost.

Up to now villagers remember Prime Minister of Russian Empire Petro Stolypin. According to his agrarian reforms peasants could get lands in private ownership. They were allowed to take free lands out of the village and set up a khutor – a small settlement frequently created by some independent families. In 1913 Russian Empire got the start of the USA in wheat export. It is notable that the USA bought spaghetti in Italy which was made of Russian flour.

The USSR was able to achieve this result just in 1956 after tilling the big area of wild eastern land. Bolsheviks were not interested in middle class prosperity. They wanted everybody work hard almost for nothing. Therefore Soviet government launched collective farms and forced to join them all peasants. The farmers who refused to do it were sent to Siberia immediately.

Late on Stalin decided that it is not enough and in 1932-1933 Red dictator ordered to take all harvest and food from peasants. As a result, 7 million Ukrainians died of hunger. For instance in my village according to evidence of people every day about eight people died. If people try to collect some grains on the farms they were shot.

But even in such hard time people protested against inhumanity. The old lady from my village told:
“My grandfather was not rich but he kept his lands very well. When communists ordered to give all grains to collective farm he did it. But it was not enough. Some collective members were especially cruel and try to take everything. One communist came to my grandfather and started to pierce land on his yard by metal stick. He was looking for hiding grain. He found nothing so came to the house and asked to open the big chest. My grandfather was really very angry. When he opened the chest he pushed this man inside, closed the lid and sat on it. The man inside begged him to let him go.  He promised never come again.

My grandfather asked him: “Why do you do such things against me? You know me all my life. I am not a lazy person and work hard always. I gave everything to collective farm. But you come to me as a thief and look for more”. At last he let him go and the man really never came back. But this man and all his family died of hunger as well”. Soviet regime did not have mercy upon betrayers.

The government sold collecting harvest to Western Europe and the USA and for gaining money they built factories, mines and gigantic buildings which symbolized the idea of communism glorification.