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Ukrainian Jewish Encounter | 25Mar2017 | Jars Balan,  Julie Masis
Rhea Clyman - Jars Balan
Presentation - Limmud
Published on 10 Apr 2017
UJE Panel, March
[00:00] Raya Shadursky
Limmud FSU Canada
Collingwood - Blue Mountain, Ontario
Discussants: Jars Balan, Raya Shadursky
Rhea Clyman: A Forgotten
Canadian Witness to the Great Ukrainian Famine
When she was Moscow correspondent for the London Daily Express and the
Toronto Telegram, Jewish-Canadian journalist Rhea Clyman in 1932 took a
5,000-mile road trip through Soviet Ukraine and the North Caucasus. Her
chilling accounts of a government-induced famine in eastern Soviet
Ukraine, known as the Holodomor, and the gulags of the Russian Far East
often made the front-page of the newspapers for which she wrote. Clyman
was eventually expelled from the Soviet Union and went on to report on
Hitler’s Germany. Through her dispatches and research, Jars Balan
discusses the work and life of this extraordinary woman, who emigrated
from Poland to Canada at age two, and grew up in Toronto near the
corner of Bay and Dundas Streets.
- Explains UJE started in 2007 by James Temerty et al; was incorporated
in 2009; became charitable organization in 2014; many conferences and
panel discussions in Ukraine and North America; Babyn Yar 75-year
commemoration in Kyiv; books and documentries; established office in
Ukraine; new website.
- Introduces Jars Balan; articles on Makhno Movement; background of
[07:35] Jars Balan
- Perception about Holodomor was that Stalin had done such a good job
in suppressing information about the Ukrainian famine-genocide in
1932-1933,that Westerners knew very little about it. His research
has indicated that there was an incredible amount of information
in North American newspapers at that time; Toronto Star, Saskatoon Star
- But this was counter-balanced by positive articles from Soviet Union;
Vancouver Sun publisher
- Clyman's background; family came to Canada; lost leg in 1910 when she
was 6-years-old; father died in 1911; was self-educated;
agent-general in London for province of Alberta; fascinated
with Soviet Union; studied French in Paris; Germany in 1928; obtained
visa to Soviet Union; may have joined Communist party; 23Dec1928 in
Berlin train to Moscow; Chicago Daily news reporter helped her; hired
by Walter Duranty; worked for him for 9 months; picked up Russian;
stringer for London Daily Express; gradually realized that a horror
story was developing; had Russian boyfriend who was sent to the gulags
for 3 years for currency speculation; article in Saskatoon Star Phoenix
- Trip to far north to see labour camps; met and interviewed George
Bernard Shaw in Leningrad in 1931, but was not published by London
Daily Express; article in MacLean's Magazine "Russia's New Woman" --
first in the qeue and last on the bus -- Clyman was a real feminist,
who always described the terrible conditions for women;
- Trip to Petrozahorsk, capital of Karelia, in far north;
Finnish colonies, who had some contacts to West; visited Solovetsk
Island prison camp, gets GPU guard to commandeer a vehicle to take her
to hotel, gets room and was so exalted that she broke into laughter,
cleaning woman was horrified, since she had never heard anyone laugh
for 3 years -- "Tell the world outside, so that others may know"; wrote
a series of articles; went to Murmansk, Arkhanhelsk by train; wrote
series of articles, when she got back to Moscow
- Two rich women from Atlanta, Georgia were in Moscow, who wanted to
take a trip through Ukrine to the Caucasus; hired Rhea Clyman to act as
interpreter; 3 women in car packed with food; headed south; arrived in
Kharkiv that was in the "grip of hunger, stores were empty; bread
rations cut from 2 lbs/day to 1.25 lbs/day"; young Ukrainian girl,
Alice Murdska born in Longbranch, Toronto, came begging for food;
father moved to Russia 3 years earlier to work in tractor plant.
Drive south from Kharkiv past empty villages; stopped at
inhabited village (where they didn't understand Russian, but
found young boy to act as interpeter); wanted to buy milk and eggs;
drove into another village called Isumka(?); wanted her to take a
petition back to the Kremlin that they were starving and had no bread;
tall guant woman started to take the children's clothes off to reveal
their emaciated bodies.
- Famine had already started in the spring of 1932, was eased somewhat
during the summer, but hit full force in the fall and winter of
1932-1933; from January to June of 1933 about 25,000 people a
day were dying of hunger
Rhea Clyman travelled through the coal mining districts, to the
Caucasus, Kuban region; descried watch towers; made it all the way to
Georgia; checked into a hotel; 2 OGPU men told her that the she had 24
hours to leave the country, because of a 17Sep1932 decree of the
Politburo banishing her from the country for writing false news about
Russia; Ms. Clyman refused and insisted to go to Moscow; stormed out
and went to German consulate, had German diplomats telegraph the
British embassy; insisted on seeing the Senior Russian personnel;
allowed to return to Moscow via a 5-day train trip; just-arrived
Malcolm Muggridge visited her as she was packing up; she had lived with
a Russian family with 8 children; it was a major international news
story -- Montreal Gazette,Ottawa Citizen, Star, Telegram, Globe,
Winnipeg Free Press, Winnipeg Tribune, Saskatoon Star Phoenix, Regina
Thing(?), Medicine Hat, Vancouver Sun, Vancouver Province; she was the
first Western journalist to be kicked out of the Soviet Union in 11
years; Boston Globe, New York Times and dozens of American newspapers
around the country; Hungarian Press, British Press, French Press,
Polish Press, Dutch Press, Singapore -- this was a big news story;
wrote sewries of articles in London Daily Express and back in Toronto
wrote 22 articles; earlier she had 21 articles of trip to far north.
Rhea Clyman goes back to Europe in November 1933; immediately goes to
Germany and becomes reporter for London Daily Telegraph; Munich Germany
from November 1933 to summer of 1938; flew out with group of Jewish
children to Amsterdam, but plane crashed and she broke her tailbone;
recovered in England; maoved back to Canada until 1942; moved to the
United States and sort of disappears; advertising agency, Reuters (but
no record of employment); died in New York city in 1981; no mention of
her death, which is unusual; left some money to relative in Toronto;
Balan is working on documentary film about her life; she was a really
Q: Did Duranty and Clyman ever clash?
A: 1961 article in Toronto Telegram, when their correspondent was
kicked out of Moscow, the Telegram contacted her in HNew York and wrote
anarticle about her in which she mentions Duranty saying that nobody
really cares and it doesn't matter what we write. She wasn't the only
Canadain there; it is astounding how many Canadians were in the Soviet
Union in 1932-33; 2 journalists from the Globe and the Star, who wrote
about 40 articles; all threee of them visited the same tractor factory
that Clyman did within a period of 3 months; expulsion of Clyman
appears to have been a warning to other journalists not to cross the
line; Toronto Telegram published 18 articles by a Toronto engineer, who
worked on various projects in the Soviet Union and who described the
5-year-plan as a disaster; but this was counter-balanced by other
stories about the number of new factories and establishment of
Q: Is there anything to be said about her Jewish [roots]?
A: The family wasn't deeply religious. One reference, when she was 23
years old in Toronto, she attended a function at one of the Zionist
halls organized by the Hadassah Society. She is just listed as being
there. The family was poor. "We are trying to find her grave.Perhaps in
New York"; family can't help; trying to find a death certificate.
A: I work at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies. My job is to
reasearch the history of Ukrainians in Canada -- during the inter-war
period. We were wondering what Canadians knew about what was going on
in Uraine during this time. Hired 2 grad students at Trent University
to look through the Toronto Telegram; Toronto Star and theToronto Globe
and mail are searchable; we went through the Winnipeg Free Press, a
whole bunch of newspapers -- came across Clyman's articles; hired a
real scholar who culled a wealth of information, which started us.
Another student went through the London Daily Express and found a bunch
of articles that I didn't have. We are gradually filling out the
of her reports
Q: Did you want to introduce her relative?
A: Ted and Terry Shipper are here.
- Ted met Rhea when he was just a little kid.
- "She left Toronto before I was born. ... I met her when I was a very
young child. Her brother David was my grandfather -- was my mother's
father". --- Other than that he learned more fromYars Balan than he
- The two women that she travelled with through Ukraine are from
Atlanta. One of them wrote a series of 8 articles that were published
in the Chicago Tribune in 1933 about the same trip. Rhea is only
mentioned twice. The Soviets wanted to supply them with a secret
policeman, but they asked for Rhea Clyman which "And that proved to be
a mistake." The next refernce to her is when she is kicked out -- and
the OGPU came and arrested her "and this was not a surprise".
- Ms. Shadursky thanks Balan, and makes further announcements -- at
6:30 PM there will be a presentation about Jews and Ukrainians
and that Professor Magosci will be speaking.
- Mr. Balan: "And who here will do the story of Rhea in Nazi Germany,
because that is a whole new chapter of her life."
Times of Israel | 18Jun2017 | Julie Masis
How a female Jewish
journalist alerted the world to Ukraine's
Clyman’s groundbreaking coverage of the 1932 famine is the subject of a
new biography by Prof. Jaroslaw Balan, who is searching for her
‘goldmine’ of a memoir.
While driving through the Ukrainian countryside in 1932, Rhea
Clyman, a Jewish-Canadian journalist, stopped in a village to ask where
she could buy some milk and eggs.
The villagers couldn’t
understand her, but someone went off and came back with a crippled
14-year-old boy, who slowly made his way to her.
are starving, we have no bread,” he said, and went on to describe the
dire conditions of the previous spring. “The children were eating
grass… they were down on all fours like animals… There was nothing else
To illustrate the point, a
peasant woman began to peel off her children’s clothes.
undressed them one by one, prodded their sagging bellies, pointed to
their spindly legs, ran her hand up and down their tortured, misshapen,
twisted little bodies to make me understand that this was real famine,”
recalled Clyman in a piece published by the Toronto Telegram, one of
the largest Canadian newspapers at the time.
Largely forgotten, a Ukrainian
professor in Canada is writing a book about Clyman, the first ever
biography of the intrepid reporter.
“She went to the Soviet Union
feeling very optimistic, [expecting that there would be] no
unemployment, that men and women were equal,” said Jaroslaw Balan, of
the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the University of
Alberta. “But she very quickly came to the realization that this was an
incredible totalitarian state -- how poor people were and how difficult
their lives were.”
Clyman was born in 1904 in
Poland, then a part of the Russian Empire, and immigrated to Canada
when she was 2 years old. At the age of 6, she was hit by a streetcar
and had her leg amputated. She spent the next few years in and out of
Yet this didn’t stop her, at age
24, from traveling alone to the Soviet Union and trying to make a
living as a freelance foreign correspondent.
In 1928 Clyman got off the train
in Moscow with no acquaintances and only a few words of Russian. She
spent hours in the train station until someone showed her the way to a
hotel, where she slept in the bathtub of an American journalist. She
was to remain in the Soviet Union for the next four years.
“A lot of newspapers sent
journalists [to the USSR] for short [stints],” Balan said. “But she
learned the language. She developed a perspective that was very
At one point, Clyman traveled to
Russia’s far north to the town of Kem, near a Soviet prison camp, a
place off-limits to foreigners. She met the wives of the prisoners, saw
the former inmates who were not permitted to leave the town even after
they were freed, and reported on how the Soviets used political
prisoners as forced laborers to chop wood. This was an important story
for Canada, which was then losing its lumber market in the United
Kingdom to the cheaper Soviet competitor.
“It supported the claims that
cheap labor was used in the Soviet Union, and [that’s why] Canada
couldn’t compete,” Balan said.
But it was Clyman’s coverage of
the Holodomor, the man-made famine estimated to have led to the deaths
of some 4 million Ukrainians between 1932 and 1933, that really
interests Balan. He first came across Clyman’s work while searching
through Canadian newspapers for what was written about the famine in
In 1932, Clyman drove in a car
southward from Moscow through Kharkiv -- then the capital of Ukraine --
to the Black Sea and on to Stalin’s birthplace in Georgia.
In Ukraine, she passed empty
villages and wondered where had all the people gone?
A group of villagers on a
collective farm gathered around her to see if she could bring a
petition to the Kremlin to tell the Soviet leaders that the people were
starving. All their grain had been taken away. Their animals were long
ago slaughtered. When she tried to buy eggs, a village woman looked at
her incredulously and asked if she expected to get them for money.
“Of course,” Rhea answered. “I
don’t expect to get them for nothing.”
“You don’t understand,” the
peasant told her. “We don’t sell eggs or milk for money. We want bread.
Have you any?”
Balan said that Clyman developed
insights into the causes of the famine — that it was not just due to
drought, but a result of forced collectivization. For instance, the
Soviet attempt to mechanize agriculture led to problems when the
production of machinery didn’t go as quickly as planned. Horses and
cattle were already killed, but there weren’t enough tractors to
harvest the crops. This was the result of poor decisions from the top,
Balan said. When Ukrainians were starving, the Soviets sealed the
borders between Ukraine and Russia so that people couldn’t escape, he
“Her story is important for Jews
and Ukrainians,” Balan said. “Among Ukrainians, there are a lot of
stereotypes that the Jews were Bolsheviks and that they were
responsible for the famine. And here’s a Jewish woman who’s written
about the famine. In truth, Jews were also persecuted. She’s Jewish
too, but look, she wrote the truth.”
In 1932, Clyman became the first
foreign journalist in 11 years to get kicked out of the Soviet Union,
allegedly “for spreading lies.”
But from there she went to
Germany, to report on the rise of the Nazis.
Balan still needs to do a lot
more research to find the articles that Clyman authored from Germany.
He said that he has only been able to read two of them so far.
Clyman reported from Germany
until 1938, when fled the country on a small airplane together with a
few Jewish refugees. Unfortunately, as the plane came in for landing in
Amsterdam, it crashed. Nearly half of the passengers were killed and
Clyman broke her back -- though she somehow avoided paralysis.
She returned to North America,
where she moved to New York and recorded her memoirs. She never married
nor had children, and died in 1981.
Upon her death, Clyman’s memoir
remained unpublished and Balan is hoping to find it. He is also trying
to find out where she was buried. He located some of her relatives but
they did not know where she was laid to rest, he said.
“If we could find her memoirs
that would be an exciting thing to see, that would be a goldmine,” he
Balan recently gave a talk on
Clyman at Limmud FSU in New York, the largest gathering of
Russian-speaking Jews in North America. The talk was sponsored by the
Ukrainian-Jewish Encounter, a Canadian nonprofit that aims to promote
cooperation between Ukrainians and Jews. Launched by Canadian
businessman James Temerty, the initiative aims to do away with negative
feelings between the two peoples.
“Jews have been living in
Ukraine probably for 1,000 years, and certainly in large numbers since
the 16th century,” Balan said. “If you take out the periods of the
pogroms and the Holocaust, the rest of the time, Jews in many cases
flourished in Ukraine.”
The two peoples have more in
common than they might realize -- the food, for one -- and they should
learn more about each other’s culture, said Natalia Feduschak, the
director of communications for the Ukrainian-Jewish Encounter.
Feduschak said that Clyman helps
to bridge the gap between the two communities because she was a Jewish
woman who wrote “about the Ukrainian famine with great compassion and
“Because of World War II and the
horrific events of that period, the communities find it difficult to
communicate with one another,” she said. “But there are a lot of
Roman Serbyn 20Jun2017
Balan's work on Rhea Clyman's reporting on the 1932-1933 famine in
Ukraine is a welcome addition to the documentation on the intentional
starvation of the Ukrainian farming population - the main lethal
component of Stalin's genocide against the Ukrainians, and a
contribution to the growing literature on Jewish-Ukrainian relations.
The photograph of the starving childred was taken in Ukraine, but in
1922 and not in the 1930s. Unlike the first famine (1921-23), which hit
southern Ukraine and southern Russia, and which was advertised in the
west in order to get famine relief, the second
famine (1932-33) was not a "result of poor decisions from the top," but
intentional, and hidden from the world. It was not possible to openly
and publicly gather children to pose for such a photo exposing the
governments crimes against its own citizens. But the photo showed
faithfully how children exposed to forced starvation look like, and so
it can be used, but it should be labeled a photo illustrating the fact
of famine in general and not to be taken for a document for the
specific famine of 1932-33.
Holodomor memorial in the world was erected in my birth city (Edmonton,
Alberta, Canada) in 1983.
respect this lady for going to Russia to discover for herself what was
going on. Unfortuanately, she was another "useful idiot" that Lenin had
fooled into thinking Russia was a "paradise". And the photo in the
article shows more of those "useful idiots" beating up their brother
Ukrainians. I am amazed there are any Ukrainians still alive after the
Commies starved them, then the Nazi murdered them, and then the Commies
abused them once after the Nazis were gone! Of course, the Ukrainians
(some) were brutal towards the Jews when the Nazis were there. The most
dangerous beast on the earth is "man".
who took power in 2014 in Ukraine after unconstitutional bloody coup,
supports myth, that Holodomor was a deliberate act of genocide against
The fact, the major causes the Soviet famine of 1932–33
include the 1932–33 confiscations of grain and other food by the Soviet
authorities. The Soviet famine of 1932–33 affected the major
grain-producing areas of the Soviet Union, leading to millions of
deaths in those areas and severe food shortage throughout the USSR.
These areas included Ukraine, Northern Caucasus, Volga Region and
Kazakhstan, the South Urals, and West Siberia.
Holodomor was a massive failure of Stalin’s political
Shame on Jewish journalists who support Ukrainian Nazi
politically engineered Holodomor caused over 4 million deaths in Soviet
Ukraine in in late 1932-early 1933, one of the greatest crimes against
humanity to befoul 20th century European history and yet still poorly
known in the West even if Raphael Lemkin corretly defined it as a
genocide as early as 1953.
about the Holodomor famine-genocide as it was occurring in Ukraine in
the early 1930s because of extensive media reporting at the time,
according to new research by an expert who will speak at a free public
event at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) next week.
The CMHR article in the link above is dated 29Jan2015 and refers to a
free public lecture on the Holodomor (including Rhea Clyman) by
Jaroslaw Balan at the CMHR the following week.
is surprising that none of the Holodomor experts refer to the book by
Ewald Ammende, reports by Andrew Cairns in the Foreigh Office and the
Famine, Valentyn Moroz, Pavlo Makohon, etc..
Life in Russia
01Nov1935; Ewald Ammende [W.
and the Famine 1988; Marco Carynnyk et al, eds. [W.
2007; Patrick Wright [W.
Origin of the
Artificial Famine of 1932-1933 in Ukraine ihr.org, 01Feb1985;
Ukrainian Tragedy of
'33 faminegenocide.com, 1983; Valentyn Moroz
Memoirs of the Famine of 1933 in Ukraine Pavlo
Makohon (1983) ]