National Press Club

Journalist tells Newsmaker how smuggled 'Animal Farm' translations buoyed DPs

March 11, 2012 | By Peter Hickman |

Andrea Chalupa

Andrea Chalupa

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

Andrea Chalupa, a Ukrainian-American journalist, explained at a March 5 Newsmaker how George Orwell’s iconic satire on the Soviet system, “Animal Farm,” was translated into Ukrainian and smuggled into and distributed free to displaced persons (DPs) in Soviet-controlled refugee camps in East Germany after World War II.

Describing how she obtained one of the rare translations, Chalupa said that one of her uncles was among the incarcerated DPs who received a smuggled copy.

Decades later, Chalupa said, "I was having dinner at the home of another uncle, Vitalji Keis, a retired literary professor for Rutgers University, and told him I was working on a screenplay about Stalin's terror famine in Ukraine in l932-33 that starved to death an estimated 10 million people."

At that point, Chalupa said, "My aunt, Tanya Keis -- who also had escaped from Soviet Ukraine -- jumped up from the table, went into their library, and came back with a copy of Orwell's bootlegged ‘Animal Farm.’

“Here,” she said, 'this is for you,’ handing me this thin, yellowed, delicate pamphlet with a stapled binding. The title read in Ukrainian ‘Kolhosp Tvaryn' [The Collective Farm] an obvious reference to Stalin's forced collectivization by the terror famine."

At the Newsmaker, Chalupa presented a duplicate copy of one of the original bootlegged Ukrainian translations to the National Press Club.

Although the Soviets confiscated and destroyed most copies of the Ukrainian translation, some 2,000 survived and were smuggled into the refugee camps. "They circulated among a population charged with a revolutionary spirit," Chalupa said.

The appearance of Orwell's book, she said, "was significant because he tapped into exactly what drove these people: he described what they had lived through.”

The farm in “Animal Farm”, she said, "is Ukraine and they immediately recognized themselves in his pages.”