The point at which an entire family was doomed was when its last mobile member became too weak to queue for rations. Heads of households — usually mothers — were thus faced with a heartbreaking dilemma: whether to eat more food themselves, so as to stay on their feet, or whether to give more to the family’s sickest member — usually a grandparent or child — and risk the lives of all. That many or most prioritised their children is indicated by the large numbers of orphans they left behind. The lucky ones were put into children’s homes; the unlucky had their cards stolen by neighbours, took to thieving on the streets or simply died alone.
The Russian language makes the morally vital distinction between trupoyedstvo — ‘corpse-eating’ — and lyudoyedstvo — ‘person-eating’, or murder for cannibalism.