Crimes of the NY Times

The reference librarian's answer was brief and to the point "There is no record of it. It never happened. Your father lied."

My father had the misfortune to be born in June 1917 in the southern Ukraine. He spent the first thirty years of his life under Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler and survived them all. He never lived in a free country until we immigrated to America is 1956.

As I was growing up, my father told me stories of his life. They were not pleasant. Stories of the Red Army sweeping across the farm in 1926 and taking all the horses. The Communists returning a year later and confiscating the farm, shooting my grandmother, and making my father an orphan at the age of 10.

He told stories of surviving in the Black Sea marshes by fishing for pike and trapping ducks and other wildlife. The German army marched into the Ukraine in 1941. Here the stories included surviving summary execution by the Germans not once, but twice. 

He went to Germany as a forced laborer and spent the war years there. The only funny story I can remember him telling is when the United States Air Force bombed the local brewery in Austria and the streets ran with beer for the drinking. Even that story had the backdrop of war.

But the story he always kept coming back to was the famine in the early 1930s. He had already been an orphan for five years when the Soviet government removed all food and seed stocks from the Ukrainian people, sealed their borders, and waited for them to die. And die they did, by the millions. 

It was this story that prompted my visit to the library. I looked in the subject card catalog and could not find any books under the Ukrainian famine. So I went to ask the reference librarian and there got her "definitive" answer. 

Like any son, I had issues with my father. But I never knew him to lie or overstate facts. At that time, I was the same age he was when the famine started. So I just chalked it up to a local famine that somehow got blown out of proportion in the telling. 

Then, in the late 1980s, I received a phone call from my father. In an excited voice, he said "The truth is finally out. The world now knows the truth." I immediately knew what he was talking about. He was tired of people doubting his story, same as the rest of the Ukrainians who survived the famine only to have their stories denied. The Harvest of Despair documentary was shown on the local PBS station. 

Further investigation brought to light the fact that New York Times reporter Walter Duranty knew of Stalin's murder of ten million people and refused to report it. To add insult to injury, Walter Duranty won a Pulitzer Prize in the early 1930s for his reporting from the Soviet Union.

But it gets worse. A British reporter, Gareth Jones, discovered the truth and started writing stories about the famine. The New York Times published Walter Duranty's rebuttals, admitting that times were tough in the Soviet Union, but there was no Holodomor, or "murder by famine" killing millions of Ukrainians, even though the Ukrainians themselves knew the truth. America's "newspaper of record" with its worldwide reputation convinced the world that they, not Gareth Jones, had the story correct. And so people continued to die.

Nearly eighty years later, the New York Times has still refused to apologize to the Ukrainian people for its complicity in the murder of ten million people. They still hang Walter Duranty's Pulitzer Prize in their building. 

The reference librarian was wrong. There is a record of it. It did happen. The New York Times lied, and ten million people died. My father told the truth.

For that I will never forgive the New York Times.

Vladimir Steblina, Wenatchee, Washington, is retired from the U.S. Forest Service. He has a blog on public lands at www.usbackroads.blogspot.com.
The reference librarian's answer was brief and to the point "There is no record of it. It never happened. Your father lied."

My father had the misfortune to be born in June 1917 in the southern Ukraine. He spent the first thirty years of his life under Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler and survived them all. He never lived in a free country until we immigrated to America is 1956.

As I was growing up, my father told me stories of his life. They were not pleasant. Stories of the Red Army sweeping across the farm in 1926 and taking all the horses. The Communists returning a year later and confiscating the farm, shooting my grandmother, and making my father an orphan at the age of 10.

He told stories of surviving in the Black Sea marshes by fishing for pike and trapping ducks and other wildlife. The German army marched into the Ukraine in 1941. Here the stories included surviving summary execution by the Germans not once, but twice. 

He went to Germany as a forced laborer and spent the war years there. The only funny story I can remember him telling is when the United States Air Force bombed the local brewery in Austria and the streets ran with beer for the drinking. Even that story had the backdrop of war.

But the story he always kept coming back to was the famine in the early 1930s. He had already been an orphan for five years when the Soviet government removed all food and seed stocks from the Ukrainian people, sealed their borders, and waited for them to die. And die they did, by the millions. 

It was this story that prompted my visit to the library. I looked in the subject card catalog and could not find any books under the Ukrainian famine. So I went to ask the reference librarian and there got her "definitive" answer. 

Like any son, I had issues with my father. But I never knew him to lie or overstate facts. At that time, I was the same age he was when the famine started. So I just chalked it up to a local famine that somehow got blown out of proportion in the telling. 

Then, in the late 1980s, I received a phone call from my father. In an excited voice, he said "The truth is finally out. The world now knows the truth." I immediately knew what he was talking about. He was tired of people doubting his story, same as the rest of the Ukrainians who survived the famine only to have their stories denied. The Harvest of Despair documentary was shown on the local PBS station. 

Further investigation brought to light the fact that New York Times reporter Walter Duranty knew of Stalin's murder of ten million people and refused to report it. To add insult to injury, Walter Duranty won a Pulitzer Prize in the early 1930s for his reporting from the Soviet Union.

But it gets worse. A British reporter, Gareth Jones, discovered the truth and started writing stories about the famine. The New York Times published Walter Duranty's rebuttals, admitting that times were tough in the Soviet Union, but there was no Holodomor, or "murder by famine" killing millions of Ukrainians, even though the Ukrainians themselves knew the truth. America's "newspaper of record" with its worldwide reputation convinced the world that they, not Gareth Jones, had the story correct. And so people continued to die.

Nearly eighty years later, the New York Times has still refused to apologize to the Ukrainian people for its complicity in the murder of ten million people. They still hang Walter Duranty's Pulitzer Prize in their building. 

The reference librarian was wrong. There is a record of it. It did happen. The New York Times lied, and ten million people died. My father told the truth.

For that I will never forgive the New York Times.

Vladimir Steblina, Wenatchee, Washington, is retired from the U.S. Forest Service. He has a blog on public lands at www.usbackroads.blogspot.com.