Chisinau, March 20, 1922. Translated from German. Doctor Basilieri. Embassy of Switzerland in Bucharest."Joint" - American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
Dr. Basilieri's preliminary report on conditions in Tiraspol and Odessa. #
Today, March 20, 1922, I returned from Tiraspol. The authorities of Tiraspol met me very friendly and were very accommodating in every way. During my stay there, I was completely free in all my actions and movements.
On the day of my arrival in Tiraspol, I had a meeting with the authorities and I explained to them the purpose of my mission. The next day, the Tiraspol authorities notified the officials in Odessa of my arrival and organized a conference where I spoke directly with the foreign commissars in Odessa.
The state in which I found the population of Tiraspol turned out to be absolutely terrible. Prices for basic necessities are outrageously high and the essentials of life are only available to a very small part of the population.
Cornmeal is not sold in the market and only Indian cornmeal can be found.
Children suffer the most in this situation. They are all very weak and look emaciated from hunger. They walk the streets, or the market, hoping to find something to eat.
I saw a child of 8-10 years old who was looking for something to eat in a pile of dust. I saw another child around 10-12 years old roasting dog skin for food. Many children do not come home at night, they sleep under fences or on the streets, so that if the opportunity presents itself they will be able to get something to eat.
The entire population is disgustingly dirty and full of lice. Due to unsanitary living conditions and the constant hunger of the population, typhus spread throughout the region. The death rate in Tiraspol is about 30 to 40 people per day. It is very expensive to bury one and very few of them are able to afford such a "luxury", so the dead who cannot afford it are simply thrown out into the street until the next day they are dragged off the street and fenced in common pits with other dead. Sometimes the dead lie in cemeteries for some time before they are buried, and dogs and crows can be seen feeding on them.
I saw children in Tiraspol whose parents are in America and who even have all the necessary documents to leave. These children are constantly suffering from hunger. They will need to be fattened up for some time before they can make the journey to America.
Two thousand hungry children from the Volga region (which included a significant number of Jewish children) are in the German colonies in the Kiev region. I visited one of these colonies (Andersdorf, Dresden) and saw that the general condition there is no better than in Tiraspol. Everywhere the same needs, and the cry of hunger is heard everywhere.
I stayed in Tiraspol until March 12, and then went to Odessa.
Part of the trip, Tiraspol and Razdelnaya (Odessa-Kiev railway line) took place in a wagon and partly by rail. The trip was very difficult, although the authorities did everything possible to make the trip comfortable. In Razdelnaya, I boarded a train that brought me to Odessa in 2 and a half hours. This train made a very unpleasant impression on me. It is impossible to describe the filth in which people are forced to travel. The train was crowded with passengers from Odessa, who were traveling to the regions of Podolia and Kiev, in search of food. All travelers were very dirty, exhausted from hunger and full of lice.
I arrived in Odessa on March 13 and was received there by representatives of the government. I got a room at the Du Peuple Hotel on Gogol Street. I received permission to use the telegraph to inform Bucharest of my arrival. They also put a car at my disposal.
The condition of the population in Odessa is just as bad as in Tiraspol. Hunger is more noticeable due to the larger population. The waterworks are in poor condition and people are running through the streets with buckets looking for water to do housework.
People are just as dirty, hungry and poor as in other regions of Russia. The typhoid epidemic has done its job. It is interesting to note that very often fever returns after typhoid and in patients who do not have time to recover from typhoid, a relapse occurs.
The necessary assistance is not provided in hospitals, since the most necessary medicines, food, bed linen and antiseptics are not available. Food can't even be mentioned.
The sick lie in their own clothes.
In Tiraspol, for example, a doctor told me that they inject with needles used for veterinary purposes. Hospitals are in a terrible state. In a chronic disease hospital, nursing is stopped and patients are left to die one by one.
The death toll, including Jews, is very high and the burial costs about 2 million rubles. The dead are buried in pits 10 meters long, 2.5 meters wide and 4 meters deep. I have personally seen such a grave. Ordinary carts bring the dead to the cemetery, where they are then thrown into a pit without any identification or order, and then the grave is covered with earth about 50 centimeters high. Since it is very expensive to take the dead to the cemetery, people simply throw the dead into the streets where they are picked up and taken away the next day.
Despite all these misfortunes, there are people who live well, they are basically speculators. They control the coffee, restaurant and theater businesses, which are open and bring in a very good income. Some shops are open and for money you can get anything from white bread to chocolate.
While in Odessa I had conferences with representatives of Dr. Nansen, Mr. Karl Hahn and the President of the Ukrainian Red Cross, Dr. Danishevsky. The latter is also Captain Quisling's lawyer, from whom he receives various provisions which he distributes to the population. I agreed that all transport, which is intended exclusively for starving refugees and civilians on the left side of the Dniester, be taken under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Red Cross. The issue of transporting children to Romania was also discussed and will be resolved later.
At present, we are particularly interested in the transportation of matzah, of which 25,000 kg is already on its way to Tighina, Rezina and Atakami. In accordance with the signed contract, the transport will be sent to Dr. Danishevsky with instructions on the distribution of matzah to the local Jewish population.
Our duty is to see to it that matzah is distributed exclusively to the Jewish population. We would also like to send a certain amount of matzah to Odessa, but I doubt very much that this will be possible, as transportation on the left side of the Dniester is very difficult. It is more practical to direct transport to Odessa from Romanian ports, and this will need to be kept in mind in the course of our further work in the region.
I will return to Bucharest in a few days, and while I am there, I will discuss questions about further assistance. Today there will be a meeting of the Committee during which further assistance to the region will be discussed.
(Signature) Dr. Basilieri