The speech by Philip Colley, great-nephew of Gareth Jones and coordinator of garethjones.org, at the 2023 Ceremony at Milan Garden of the Righteous Worldwide.
(In welsh) Bore da, pawb. Dwy'n hapus iawn i fod yma, yn yr Eidal, gyda chi, y bore yma. Diolch yn fawr.
Good morning ladies and gentleman. First of all I’d like to thank the Gariwo Foundation for inviting me here today. Thank you for giving me the great honour of representing my great uncle, Gareth Jones. It is a real pleasure to be in the lovely, welcoming city of Milan. Thank you. Now, my great uncle Gareth came from a Welsh-speaking family in Barry, South Wales.
He was a proud Welshman, proud of Welsh culture but nonetheless he was not a nationalist. Instead he was a true internationalist. Growing up in the shadow of the First World War he understood full well the danger and disaster that can be brought to ordinary people by those who misuse national identity for political or violent ends. Gareth has become famous today for reporting in 1933 on what is now known as the Holodomor, the man-made famine, in Ukraine. At the time however he was determined to let the world know that, although we can see today there were indeed special characteristics in Ukraine, it was not a localized famine.
Gareth’s aim was to reveal that millions were dying across the Soviet Union, not just Ukrainians but Kazakhs, Cossacks, German colonists and yes Russians, too. They were all, as precious individuals, victims of Stalin’s disastrous policies, not least collectivization. They all deserve to be remembered and given a voice. And, thanks partly to Gareth as a brilliant journalist and a true humanitarian, Stalin’s crime against humanity was revealed to the world as it was taking place. He gave them that voice. But, at the time, the world did not want to hear. The Soviet government wanted to keep it a secret. And the British government, though it knew full well how murderous the famine in Ukraine was, continued to buy cheap grain to feed our unemployed. It put good relations with Moscow and self-interest before its humanitarian duty. And, of course, that still happens to day. We are quick to condemn our enemies, but when gross human rights violations are perpetrated by our friends, to our shame, we still somehow seem able to turn a blind eye.
But Gareth couldn’t turn a blind eye. His righteousness compelled him to speak out and speak the truth. And for doing that, for daring to be a Daniel, and standing against the prevailing narrative, he paid a terrible price. As those who speak the truth often still do today. He was accused of being a liar by the other Western journalists in Moscow. Back home in Britain he was shunned by many of his former friends in high places, including his former boss David Lloyd George. In many ways he lost his reputation. And two years later, in the service of journalism, he lost his life. He was captured by Chinese bandits in Inner Mongolia and after two weeks of captivity he was shot and killed, on the day before his 30th birthday. Was it Stalin’s revenge? It is quite possible, but we don’t know for sure. What we do know is that a great man with a truly great mind was lost. Lost to the world. But most painfully, he was lost to his family, and we still feel that loss today. And, like the famine he reported on, he was lost to history for some 60 years. And would probably still be in obscurity today were it not for the determination of my late mother Margaret Siriol Colley, assisted by my late brother, Nigel. They spent many long, and sometimes painful years, unearthing Gareth’s story, and producing his official biography, More Than a Grain of Truth. It is only right that they are remembered here today and I would like to pay tribute to them for their endeavour.
Thanks to them, Gareth has returned, his story somewhat changed and mythologized now perhaps, thanks to politics and film-makers, but nonetheless he is with us again as a great example of an honest journalist who pursued the truth whatever the cost. He is indeed a worthy flower in this Garden of the Righteous. Diolch yn fawr. Thank you.
Analysis by Philip Colley, great-nephew of Gareth Jones and coordinator of garethjones.org