‘Hunger for Truth: The Rhea Cly­man Story’ tells how brave Cana­dian jour­nal­ist wrote about Holodomor

Kyiv Post - - Front Page - BY BRIAN BON­NER BON­[email protected]

Rhea Cly­man, a Cana­dian jour­nal­ist born in Poland, is fi­nally get­ting more in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion as the first and one of the few jour­nal­ists who ex­posed the Holodomor, Joseph Stalin’s geno­ci­dal star­va­tion of 4 mil­lion Ukraini­ans from 1932-1933.

Un­for­tu­nately, her sto­ries in the Toronto Tele­gram, which closed in 1971 af­ter a nearly a cen­tury in busi­ness, never got much in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion – un­til re­cently.

The documentary "Hunger For Truth: The Rhea Cly­man Story" has been show­ing this month in Toronto. A June 5 pre­miere at the Royal On­tario Mu­seum in­cluded rel­a­tives of Cly­man and Cana­dian Am­bas­sador to Ukraine Ro­man Waschuk in the au­di­ence. The Canada-Ukraine Foun­da­tion and the Holodomor Na­tional Aware­ness Tour pro­duced the documentary.

The movie helps ce­ment Cly­man’s legacy as a heroic jour­nal­ist who called at­ten­tion to the Holodomor as Stalin’s apol­o­gists, in­clud­ing the New York Times’ Wal­ter Du­ranty, were deny­ing its ex­is­tence. The West, by and large, ig­nored the mass star­va­tion in or­der to build re­la­tions with Stalin.

"She is a hero," Waschuk said dur­ing a June 25 in­ter­view in Kyiv.

The documentary is di­rected by An­drew Tkach. Waschuk called the documentary "very well-done" and says it does jus­tice to Cly­man’s life story. The movie has English and Ukrainian ver­sions. Waschuk said he’s in­ter­ested in see­ing "Hunger for Truth: The Rhea Cly­man Story" shown in Ukraine soon.

"She had died in rel­a­tive ob­scu­rity in New York. It’s re­ally only a pro­fes­sor from the Uni­ver­sity of Al­berta who started look­ing at her sto­ries in the Toronto Tele­gram and Toronto Star and the Cana­dian press two years ago. The pro­fes­sor dis­cov­ered 22 sto­ries that she had filed in the Toronto Tele­gram in late 1932," Waschuk said.

The pro­fes­sor who rediscovered Cly­man’s sto­ries is Jars Balan, a his­tory pro­fes­sor who was re­search­ing Cana­dian cov­er­age of the Holodomor and who reached out to Cly­man’s rel­a­tives. She wrote ar­ti­cles based on her rips to Kharkiv in east­ern Ukraine and parts of Rus­sia and the Cau­ca­sus.

"She was re­ally some­one who had to over­come true chal­lenges. She was run over by a street car in Toronto when she was 11 (and lost a leg). She was de­ter­mined to be­come a re­porter and found it was a boy’s club in Canada."

She de­cided that be­com­ing an in­ter­na­tional cor­re­spon­dent was her best chance for a ca­reer break­through and ini­tially went to the Soviet Union with naive ideas that it would be a "worker’s par­adise," Waschuk said. She worked as a re­searcher for Du­ranty, the now-dis­cred­ited New York Times re­porter con­sid­ered the dean of the Moscow press corps and a Stalin lackey.

When Cly­man dis­cov­ered that Du­ranty’s ap­proach "doesn’t cor­re­spond with the way she saw re­al­ity," Waschuk said, she set off on a car trip with two other women to dis­cov- er the Holodomor. She ex­pelled from the Soviet Union for her cov­er­age. She went on to cover Nazi Ger­many and even sur­vived a plane crash with other Jewish refugees to the Nether­lands.

"It’s a truly grip­ping story. Her own rel­a­tives are ac­tive mem­bers of the Cana­dian-Jewish com­mu­nity," Waschuk said. "Many of them who are in Canada were un­aware of her past life and ac­com­plish­ments. It’s been a voy­age of redis­cov­ery all around."

Ac­cord­ing to a June 13 ar­ti­cle in the Cana­dian Jewish News, Cly­man, writ­ing about Kharkiv in 1932 wrote that the city "was in the grip of hunger. Beg­gars swarmed round the streets, the stores were empty, the work­ers bread ra­tions had just been cut.” She also wrote of see­ing ema- ciated corpses in the streets and of learn­ing that chil­dren had been re­duced to eat­ing grass.

In the April 2 edi­tion of Ma­clean’s, a Cana­dian mag­a­zine, Lisa Shymko writes: "The brave Jewish-Cana­dian cor­re­spon­dent— the first Western jour­nal­ist to re­port on the forced famine — was ac­cused by Moscow of spread­ing fake news and promptly ban­ished from the USSR. Like Cly­man, a Welsh jour­nal­ist by the name of Gareth Jones trav­eled to the Soviet Union and sub­se­quently pub­lished his ac­counts of the forced famine rav­aging Soviet Ukraine. He too was banned from ever en­ter­ing the Soviet Union again. Not long af­ter­wards, Jones was shot dead in the Far East un­der mys­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances be­lieved to be linked to the Rus­sian se­cret po­lice."

Rhea Cly­man

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