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Talk on Gareth Jones to take place at the National Library of Wales

19 May 2024 4 minute read
Left, Starved peasants on a street in Kharkiv, 1933. Picture by Alexander Wienerberger – Diocesan Archive of Vienna. Right, Gareth Jones picture by Український інститут національної пам’яті – People of Truth (CC BY-SA 3.0).

The National Library of Wales is set to host a talk on the extraordinary life of Gareth Jones, who exposed the horrors of the Holodomor – the appalling man-made famine in Ukraine in the 1930s.

He witnessed first-hand the terrifying and tragic consequences of Stalin’s rapid collectivisation policy and he determined to make the world aware of the millions of people dying across the Soviet Union.

The talk next Wednesday (22 May) will be conducted by Philip Colley, great nephew of the famous journalist from Barry.

The illustrated, live-streamed talk will provide an intimate portrait of Jones’ life, looking at his family background, and his reporting on the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party.

The talk will also offer a closer look at Jones’ exposure of the Great Soviet famine of 1933 and how Stalin’s policies devastated the lives of so many Ukrainians, Russians and Kazakhs.

Regrettable associations

In October 2023, the Senedd recognised Holodomor as a genocide, and an event at the Senedd scheduled for Saturday 25 November to mark Holodomor Memorial Day was set to include a video featuring the unveiling of a plaque commemorating Jones at the Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine, Kyiv.

Philip Colley raised serious concerns with the Senedd about the inclusion of the video after discovering that the event in Ukraine was used to promote a controversial new book called Enemy Archives co-authored by Volodymyr Viatrovych and Lubomyr Luciuk. 

Whilst the video was confirmed to only feature scenes of Jones’ plaque being unveiled, the event itself included a notorious white nationalist and antisemite receiving a so-called ‘Gareth Jones Medal of Truth and Honour’.

Philip Colley, Literary Executor of the Gareth Vaughan Jones Estate

After the decision was made not to show the video, Philip said: “I’m relieved that my great uncle will not now be associated with Far Right nationalists through the showing of this video.

“While the Senedd has laudable aims it is an unfortunate fact there are some profoundly worrying associations within the Ukrainian nationalist movement, some of which I have pointed out in a recent article concerning their involvement with my family.”

He added: “Gareth was a pacifist and an internationalist who sought to bring peace and understanding between all nations. I continue to work hard to promote his inspirational legacy both here and abroad, to support truthful, independent journalism and encourage those who, like my great uncle, are not afraid to speak truth to power.”

Restored legacy

Gareth Jones was the first foreign journalist to fly with Hitler after he became Chancellor, and was largely ridiculed and ostracised following his exposé of the Holodomor.

In 1999, however, his niece Dr Margaret Siriol Colley, discovered his diaries, notes and letters, and set about keeping his name alive. In 2005, she published Gareth’s official biography More than a Grain of Truth.

Mr Jones tells the story of Welsh journalist Gareth Jones, played by James Norton

Jones’ restored legacy has grown over the past two decades, and he was the subject of the BBC Storyville ‘Hitler, Stalin, and Mr Jones’, and the 2019 feature film Mr Jones.

In 2022, Nation.Cymru’s Martin Shipton published a biography titled Mr Jones – The Man Who Knew Too Much: The Life and Death of Gareth Jones.

Philip Colley is the founder of the Gareth Jones Society which counters what it considers to be the instrumentalisation and falsification of Gareth’s testimony for modern political purposes.

Using diary evidence as well as rare photographs and video he will show how the myth created by nationalist historians and the film Mr Jones is very different from the fascinating, true story of this great Welsh hero.

The event takes place on Wednesday 22 May at 5pm.

Tickets are free from TicketSource.

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