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Harry and companions around dinner table

Harry, Violet, and companions around a dinner table. 

For Soviets living near the Sino-Soviet border, the close proximity to the Chinese had historically been an advantage, as an additional source of food and supplies could be easily accessed.

When notified that he had to travel away from the Chinese border in Chita, Harry expresses some concern for his circumstances:
 

Harry's diary entry

[...] we are ordered to leave don't know where, it will be worse away from Chinesse [i.e. Chinese] Boarder, [...]

— March 20, 1930

By the time the Byers first set foot in the Soviet Union however, a civil war had already erupted in China between the nationalist Kuomintang government and the Communist Party of China. Having begun in 1927, the Chinese Civil War coincided very closely with the first five-year plan, which began a year later in 1928. By Harry's arrival in 1930, the situation on both sides of the border was already beginning to rapidly deteriorate.

In the entry below, Harry notes the climbing prices of food in the nearby Chinese market in Nikolsk (now Ussuriysk):

Harry's diary entry

Market Prices out rages [i.e. outrageous]. 60 ¢ for 1 tomato, 40 [underlined superscript: 00] Pood of four [i.e. flour?]. 3 [underlined superscript: 60] 10 eggs, the Chinese run it. Cucumbers, 30 ¢ at Bay.

— July 30, 1930

In less than two months, the same Chinese market Harry had been relying on for food, closes.

Harry's diary entry

[...] Chinese Market closing up. Looks, bad where. will we eat? Oh I Wish We Were Home.

— September 16, 1930

Not long after its shut-down, Harry begins writing about their constant state of hunger and lack of available food, entry after entry.

Harry's diary entry

[...] got 1/4 lb of cheese. $1.85. We are Slowly Starving our stomachs got $30 worth of Cookies Last Spring. all gone.

— October 8, 1930

 Harry's diary entry

How much Longer we can hold out no one knows. am ordered to go to another Village. I know we will Starve. Market Sells Sour Milk.

— November 14, 1930
 
 

Harry in NikolskAt this point, Harry and Violet are still living in Nikolsk, which is 80 kilometres from the Sino-Soviet border. In this photograph, Harry can be seen posing on a balcony in the city. By December, people are fleeing from Nikolsk to China, where the conditions are not as dire.

 

Harry's diary entry

Old Man comes to house every day to tell us there is no food.  collective farm here all men beat it across to China. all instructors Planning on escape.

— December 19, 1930
 

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