POPADYUK, Zoryan Volodymyrovych


(b. 21.04.1953, Lviv)

“Dissident without fear and beyond any reproach” (M. Heifets), former political prisoner

Popadyuk’s mother was a lecturer in German at Lviv University.  Zoryan spent a lot of his childhood in the town of Sambir in the Lviv region, living with his grandmother, a teacher of mathematics. His grandfather, also a teacher, died early, however his accounts of his time spent serving in the sichovi striltsi[1] had a profound impact on the family.  The years of Polish, German and later Russian occupation intensified and sharpened the family’s patriotism. At the same time, the ideas of European enlightenment and liberalism with the new trends of the times which were spread via samizdat which Popadyuk’s mother was also involved in circulating, gave a European character to Popadyuk’s worldview.  

On one occasion a spring flood on the banks of the Dniestr river exposed a communal grave of lyceum students murdered in 1939 after Western Ukraine was joined to the USSR. The grave held the remains of 117 young victims. An old man whose mind had not withstood the grief wandered the banks – his two children lay buried in that terrible place.  While in the city cemetery there was yet another grave where the remains lay of 900 men killed in the Sambir prison on the eve of the retreat of the Red Army in 1941.  Relatives also showed Zoryan the place in the forest where the Nazis had murdered several hundred Jews. The occupation of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 was to finally form Popadyuk’s social and political views.

While still studying at the school in Sambir, Popadyuk together with some classmates had organized an underground opposition group which they called the “Ukrainian National Liberation Front” (UNLF). With this name they wanted to stress that they took their roots from the “Ukrainian National Front” (UNF) of D. KVETSKO, Z. KRASIVSKY, M. Melen, M. Dyak and others which had been crushed in the second half of the 1960s).  Soon afterwards all the members of the UNLF went on to study at institutes, and the group spread both in terms of numbers and geographically.

The activity of the UNLF revolved around circulating samizdat literature, in particular leaflets against the national oppression of the Ukrainian people, the destruction of their culture and language, as well as against the occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968. They typed out and distributed the works of I. DZIUBA, V. MOROZ, Y. SVERSTYUK, V. CHORNOVIL and others, the bulletins ‘Ukrainsky visnyk’ [‘Ukrainian Herald’ ], ’Khronika tekushchykh sobytiy’ [’Chronicle of Current Events’], the works of Solzhenitsyn, the book of Milovan Djilas “The New class”.  They managed to put out their own socio-political journal “Postup” [“Progress”].

On 28 March 1973 several dozen students, including Popadyuk, were arrested after the appearance of leaflets protesting at the banning of an event in Lviv to mark the anniversary of the birth of the poet Taras Shevchenko.  On 6 August Popadyuk was sentenced by the Lviv Regional Court under Article 62 § 1 of the Criminal Code of the Ukrainian SSR (“anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda”) to 7 years labour camp and 5 years exile. Another student, Yaromyr Mykytko was sentenced to 5 years deprivation of liberty, while the other students were before the trial expelled from their institutes and called up for military service.

Popadyuk served his sentence in the Mordovian political labour camps: harsh regime Camps No. ZhKh-385/19 and 17-a.  He was punished on several occasions for taking part in camp protest actions and for the incompatibility of his views with the official position. In October 1975 he was sentenced to three years in Vladimir Prison where he developed an ongoing cardio-vascular disorder. On 30 October 1978 he was moved back to camp No. 19.
Popadyuk had close contacts with such prominent dissidents and figures of the national liberation movements as G. Superfinn, V. Chernykh, P. Paulaitis, P. Airikyan and M. MARYNOVYCH.  He was held in warm regard by V. STUS, M. RUDENKO and K. Lyubarsky. M. HEIFETS wrote that Popadyuk “is associated for him with some kind of miraculous nobility of spirit, combined with an equally natural and therefore just as spontaneous talent and valour”.

On 2 June 1980 Popadyuk began his term of exile in the village of Matrosovo in the Magadan region. He worked at first in the mines, however on 9 October of that year he underwent a lung operation connected with tuberculosis, after which he worked as a cabinetmaker.

In May 1981 he was allowed a 10-day visit to his ill mother (she died on 19.09.84). Due to the deterioration in his health, he was transferred in June 1981 to the Aktyubynsk region of Kazakhstan where he did clerical work for a collective farm.
On 2 September 1982 Popadyuk was arrested again and charged with “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda” (under Article 56 § 2 of the Criminal Code of the Kazakhstan SSR).  During the pre-trial investigation period in the Aktyubynsk prison he was on several occasions beaten up, supposedly for violations of regulations.  The “case” was based on “anti-Soviet remarks” made in numerous letters sent by Popadyuk to friends, in particular, on his comments about the imposition of military rule in Poland. On 4 March 1983 he was sentenced by the Aktyubynsk Regional Court to 10 years labour camp and 5 years exile. Popadyuk rejected the services of a lawyer and the option of appeal. He served his sentence in the harsh regime camp VS- 389/36 (village of Kutchino: one of the Perm political labour camps).

He was released on 5 February 1987 under the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of 02.02.87 ‘pardoning’ a group of political prisoners. He was also rehabilitated.

He worked in Sambir as a loader and as a cabinetmaker. In 1990 he was elected the Head of the City Council, then later the Head of the City Executive Committee. In 1992 he was appointed Representative of the President of Ukraine in the Sambir district. In 1997 he became the Head of the Starosambir [Old Sambir] District State Administration, and from 1998 the Deputy Head of the Sambir District State Administration.

Popadyuk is married with two children, a son, Lyubomyr, born in 1988 and daughter Irina born in 1989.


Lviv. Istorychni narysy. [Lviv. Historical sketches] Compiled by Y. Isayevych, F. Stebliy, M. Lytvyn. Institute for Ukrainian Studies, Lviv, 1996.
M. Heifets. Ukrainski sylyety [Ukrainian silhouettes] – Suchasnist. — pp. 249-271 (in Ukrainian and Russian; also: Pole vidchayu i nadiyi. [Field of despair and hope]. Almanac. – Kyiv: 1994. – pp. 361-381). А.Русначенко. Національно-визвольний рух в Україні. / A. Rusnachenko. The National Liberation Movement in Ukraine.  – Kyiv: The O. Teliha Publishing house, 1998, pp. 196-209.
Ukrainsky visnyk. Kyiv-Lviv-Baltimore-Toronto. 1988, No. 7, 8, 9, 10.

S. Karasik. Revised by Z. Popadyuk

[1] ’sichovi striltsi’  were military units fighting for Ukrainian independence. They appeared in Halychyna (Western Ukraine), and existed from 1912 through 1919, fighting both against Poland and against Bolshevik Russia.