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24 September 2017
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Ukrainian honour for Welsh journalist who exposed famine

The Ukrainian government gives him a posthumous award

A pioneering Welsh journalist who alerted the world to widespread famine in Stalin’s Soviet Union is to receive a posthumous award from the Ukrainian government, Wales Online reported.

Gareth Jones, who wrote for the Western Mail, exposed the 1932-33 Ukrainian famine. Millions died, but the Soviet authorities – and many western journalists – denied the catastrophe had even happened.

Jones and fellow reporter Malcolm Muggeridge are now revered in Ukraine, and both are to be posthumously given the country’s Order of Freedom. The award will be bestowed at a ceremony in Westminster on November 22.

Discussion of the famine, in which as many as 10 million people died, was strictly suppressed, and Ukrainians themselves have only become fully aware of the events since the fall of communism.

When Jones announced at a press conference in Berlin on March 29, 1933, that millions were starving in Ukraine as a result of Stalin’s five-year-plan, several foreign correspondents rushed to rubbish the story.

The most vocal was Walter Duranty of the New York Times, who had won a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for his own reports on Stalin’s Russia. He dismissed Jones’ eye-witness account as “a big scare story” and insisted there was “no actual starvation”.

In May 1932 the New York Times printed Mr Jones’ response to the controversy. In a furious attack on the coterie of foreign correspondents, Mr Jones congratulated “the Soviet Foreign Office on its skill in concealing the true situation in the USSR”.

Gareth Jones, who was born in Barry in 1905, was regarded as one of the most talented journalists of his generation. He wrote for The Western Mail, The Times and The Manchester Guardian as well as the Berliner Tageblatt and American newspapers.

In the 1930s he travelled through Russia and Ukraine – where his mother had lived – and was shocked at the famine conditions he encountered.

An estimated five to 10 million people died between 1932 and 1933, an event Ukrainians call the Holodomor.

His career survived the controversy over the Ukrainian reports but his life was tragically cut short when he was murdered in 1935 while travelling in Inner Mongolia. He was just 29 years old.

Mr Jones’ niece Dr Siriol Colley has written a book about her campaigning uncle’s life, A Manchukuo Incident, and has long sought for his work to be recognised. She said: “The Ukrainian people have taken him to their hearts – they call him the unsung hero.

“He reported on Ukraine but also on the rise of Hitler and the US depression. He did so much in his short life, and it is such a shame that all that knowledge died with him at such a young age.”

Fedir Kurlak, chief executive of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain, said: “I think for people to have lived for so long, for 70 years, without being able to properly tell others that their little brother, their mother or father died, or half the school died – for them to live with that for 70 years, indicates the terror that existed in that part of the world.

“Look at how Gareth Jones went about the task of reporting in those kind of circumstances, under a ruthless totalitarian regime that was liquidating the population by the hundreds of thousands.

“I’m sure Gareth would have known if he had been caught reporting on the famine that he would have faced certain death.”

He added: “As far as the Ukrainian community is concerned, anyone who has heard of Gareth’s exploits will quite simply take his hat off to him, and regard him as an exemplary journalist.”

Wales Online

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