ZDOROVIY Anatoliy Kuz’movych
author: Vasyl Ovsiyenko
V.Ovsienko: Anatoliy Kuz’movych Zdoroviy, Kharkiv, July, 1, 2002; “Prosvita” office, 18, Rymarska str., interviewed by V.Ovsienko and Z.Popadyuk.
A. Zdoroviy: I, Anatoliy Kuz’movych Zdoroviy, was born on January 1, 1938, in the village of Sapivka, Tomashyv rayon, Vinnytsya. My father was in the military at the time, while my mom worked at home. Father was from the village of Berezivka, Krashnohrad rayon, sometimes called Kehychev rayon – they were sometimes merged and sometimes divided within Kharkiv oblast’. The land belonged to Kehych-Apostol, the son-in-law of hetman Apostol. They had a lot of Cossacks’ settlements there. As kids we used to play in these Cossacks’ Maidans and as university students we even had our own rituals: at the beginning and at the end of summer, in early spring we would go there to have all sorts of completions and games. Young people from the entire rayon would come to take part in these events, and we lived just nearby.
So, my father was from Kharkiv oblast’, my mother – from Vinnytsya oblast’, the town of Vendychany. They both became victims to the kulaks’ evictions; although they were just good farmers, who took good care of their property, and had nothing to do with kulaks. After the revolution they were given some land. All the families had many children, and after the revolution up to 6 ha of land were allotted per family member. Later, when reprisals against alleged kulaks started they were accused of having too much land. My mother’s father was deprived of all his possessions as a “kulak”. My mother’s name is Zdorova Yevdokiya Saveliyvna.
V.О.: Is it her husband’s name or her maiden name?
A.Z.: Her married name. Her maiden name was Shvets. My father, Zdoroviy Kuz’ma Saveliyovych, was born in 1910 and he is still around, thank God. I visited him two days ago. He is 92, no more, nor less. My mom was born in 1914 and died in 1990. Well, my mother’s family was literally gone with the wind. She had one brother, who also suffered the consequences of struggle against kulaks. Her brother, her grandfather, her father – all have been evicted and deported by NKVD and no one ever found what happened to them. No one came back. While the womenfolk ended up in various places. Mom was about 15 or16 years old, when the family was ruined. She went to Vendychany. There is a station there. She managed to find a job at the preserves’ factory, but once she had put her hand inside the working machine, so her hand was damaged ever since. She was a very hard- working and sympathetic person. When I talk about my mother I always stress that she really was a God-chosen person. She had empathy for everyone’s troubles, shared anyone’s sorrow. Sometimes something wrong would happen to me in the zone and she would sense it. She would write to me immediately, telling me that she was concerned as she felt something was wrong. I had a technical background, after all, so my attitude to supernatural things is rather reserved. I was not an atheist, I have always believed in God, but my faith was kind of passive. We had icons, but as my father adhered to the new soviet rule – I’ll dwell on that later- the religious upbringing was mainly my mom’s concern – you have your own room, and I have mine and do as I please in it. That is how it was. In fact, just to wrap it up, about my mom, she was that pivotal force, around which the entire God’s love in the family, his entire message of love was centered. Especially, after father went to war, and from very beginning he was sent to the Western Ukraine as superintendant responsible for the ammunition in a unit. In plain words, he had to take stock of the military supply storage. If I am not mistaken he had an officer’s rank, and, naturally, had a good opportunity to see what the reality was like. For a long time he kept silent with respect to his observations as he was afraid to talk, but eventually he told me about the war. Currently I compiled his memoirs about fighting, about people from different walks of life. But mother was all about the hearth, the family. She was the one to keep the whole household and kids together.
V.O.: When was your father first sent to the Western Ukraine?
A.Z.: When the soviets arrived there. He was drafted in 1936-37. He had some military training, but prior to that he worked in Donbas, where he fled saving himself from the kolkhoz in 1933. Struggle against the kulaks started in Kharkiv oblast’ even earlier, and the villagers were very active during Makhno-bolsheviks’ battles. My granddad’s brother Yukhym Vasyloyvych was condemned to death for his participation in Makhno gangs. He used to be some sort of commander there. He preferred not to dwell on the subject, but sometime he would spill a word here and there, especially after a shot or two of vodka. Then he would tell about his “heroic past”, so to speak. So he got death sentence, which was replaced with 25 years in prison. He spent 18 years in jail and was discharged under Khrushchev’s regime. Then he settled in Kharkiv, because his daughter had fled from the village as far back as 1932-33. So he joined his daughter. At the age of about 80, he was once standing in line to buy bread. There were two lines at the store entrance – one for bread, and the other for everything else – beer and stuff. So, he was in the bread line when a motorcycle crashed right through the line. The son of first secretary of Zhovtnevy rayon party committee in Kharkiv was riding it. He hurt several people, my grandfather including. The other victims somehow recovered, they were younger after all, but the old man did not make it through – after two or three weeks in the hospital he expired. I cannot even tell you where he had served his term, because he recalled these things very reluctantly. All I know it was somewhere in northern Urals.
During the 30-s, when the collectivization which had started around 1925, was in full swing, they began taking the land away and merging it. My granddad was crushed by the wheel of the struggle against kulaks. But he was a smart and capable man, so when he saw the turn the events were taking, he disposed of the land and the rest of property. But he had a mill, and it is not easy to get rid of the mill. Had it not been for the mill, the things might have turned all right, because he had disposed of land and other property nicely. He quit farming and got himself hired at the sugar plant. But eventually they got to him. Actually, more to his sons, who had left the village. My father, for one, left as early as 1933. Fled, actually, to Donbas. There they needed a lot of work-force, so no one bothered him and things went more or less normally. But those who stayed in the village were branded kulaks’ accessories, and it was a totally different story for them.
We have a really big family. What did it mean? 16 persons, eight children among them. Only the children who ran away survived. This is a separate topic – the year 1933. Under the cover of night the children would set up for Kharkiv. In Kharkiv the situation was less desperate. But the villages were closed. So they would go out of the village, a whole gang of them, big and small. The current Symferopol highway used to be the road from Konstantynohrad to Kharkriv. Later the Germans built a paved highway, but then it was a dirt road. The group would fall right upon the guards and the guards would turn them back. The two little girls, my aunts Olha and Shura immediately fell behind. Their mother ordered them to run and hide in the thicket of weeds. So they hid there, and after the others had been chased away, proceeded on their road to Kharkiv. They did not walk during the day, only in darkness. And they managed to get to the city. They were about ten or twelve then. One was younger, the other was older. When they finally had made it to Kharkiv an orphanage picked them up, and later they found shelter with a distant relative. They were lucky to have survived. But those who stayed in Berezivka, Krasnohrad rayon… The village was on the communists’ black list as “Makhno supporters” village. The story of this village is most fascinating. The people were hardworking, the usual sort of people. I used to visit it as young child, there was a small river flowing through the village. And nearby there was a “Katzap” [Russian – derrog.Ukr.] settlement, even two of them, one by the other. They were resettled here under the Katherine’s rule. During the famine of 1933 they played rather sinister role. Everything was taken from the peasants in the Ukrainian villages, while the Russian villages were left alone. When our villages were dying out the burial teams were hired in these Russian villages. They gathered the bodies in the Ukrainian villages and looted what they could. They entered the houses where people were lying around dying or already dead and take whatever they fancied.
In the 60-s, when I was already a student at the time of Khrushchev’s “thaw” I decided to explore the matter. Then the events of 1933 famine were brought to light. So I went there with my fellow-students. We talked to an old man. We had the recording and we wanted to publish it. Naturally, it was just wishful thinking. Nobody published anything. It was the story of a Berezivka resident. He was crippled having frozen his feet off. They were amputated. Why did it happen? He was totally exhausted and the burial team thought he was dead and threw him on the cart. It was winter and they threw him on top of the pile of bodies. But on the way he fell off. At the time he was wearing boots. The Katzap cart was followed by another cart. The driver saw a man lying in the middle of the road and started taking his boots off. The man said: “Hold on, wait at least till I die”. But the driver said: “You are dead meat anyway”. And he removed both his boots and the hat. That is what the old man had told us. Later someone else came along and took him on the sledges. He assumed the man had fallen off the cart that passed earlier. A body, indeed, does not belong on the road, so he took him to the village. The burial pits were ready and the bodies were thrown into them. But he moved and groaned, so the nurses, who happened to be around said: “Look, he is still alive, isn’t he?” They dragged him away and eventually he came around, only his feet were cut off. Probably, there was some medical facility nearby. For the rest of his life he recalled this prophecy: “You are dead meat anyway”. Some memoirs, indeed.
It was a usual village, it had its own schools, cultural centers, good Cossack traditions; it was close to the administrative center – the town of Konstantynohrad.
V.O.: And what were the names of the Katzap villages?
A.Z.: Hold on, what were they? I can’t recollect, later, maybe. (he recalled one of the names on 20.02. 2010: Tsyhlarovka). In our rayon there used to be another village – Hrushivka or Hrushove. It was a unique village. It belonged to the Sakhnovsky family. You know, the rayon center Sakhnovshchyna. And then it was purchased by the Kehych family. So Kehychyvka is named after the aforementioned Kehych-Apostol. Kehych was a military chief (“voyvoda”), who came here with the Moldovian ruler following Peter the Great. He was a renowned enlightener and writer. Supposedly he had a colonel’s rank in the Peter the Great’s army. That Kehych was from an intelligent family, he supported Ukrainians. Although of Moldovian background, he was married to a Ukrainian lady of noble birth. They promoted Ukrainian, Cossack traditions. So, getting back to that Hrushove – the village died out completely, each and every inhabitant died. And a friend of that Kehych, who had lived in Leningrad, wrote him a letter, to Paris. On hearing the news Kehych started a big row – see what the Bolsheviks have done to a flourishing village like Hrushove. All that happened very quickly. Someone must have informed the media. I don’t know what the methods of operation were among that KGB or ChK trash, whatever they were, but the information from virtually nowhere became public very quickly. A tumult started in the West – the entire village had died of hunger! So how did the Bolsheviks react? They rapidly resettled people from the Kursk oblast’ to Hrushove. People were told that there was an uninhabited village with wonderful conditions and they were most welcome to come and settle. They spent there just a couple of days when a wedding was arranged. The actors arrived, sausage and other foods alongside with vodka appeared on the tables. Everyone was invited. They did not know the wedding was just play-acting. It was all shot on film. The film had to rebut “the slanderous rumors” that the village had died out. Here you go, the wedding in full swing, with the bride and all. The man who told us that reminisced: “I was there too. Someone approached me, we had some vodka and the man asked: “Are you happy?” Why shouldn’t I be? We were brought there, everything was great. There were no cattle, but all the rest was in order, the houses were equipped with everything. But, I am telling you, what actually happened was they had waited till all our residents died and then brought people from other places and set up a show for propaganda purposes. Remember its name – the village of Hrushove, Kehychy rayon, Kharkiv oblast’. We put all these stories down; I was still under the impression that it could have been published in the Kharkiv newspapers – we have taken the Khrushchev “thaw” for real. But evidently that was the end of it. They even dared to send us to the history museum. In the newspaper’s office they told us they were afraid, so we’d rather go to the history museum. We went there, we were still young, second-year students.
My father was drafted from Donbas. He was an educated man – here in Berezivka he graduated from the parish school, and then had some years of higher education. After that he worked for some time as a village teacher. But then he had to flee from collectivization, and in Donbas he worked as manual worker, because he did not want to reveal the fact that he was a teacher, to avoid unnecessary questions. It was simpler to be hired just as an unskilled work force. He attended the welding training courses and became a welder. And then he was taken to serve in the army. Welders were considered very skilled specialists at the time. They were few. I would say, they were a privileged class of workers. In the army he was sent for further training to get an officer’s or, may be, an ensign’s rank. He passed the tests and was sent to the right bank Ukraine and then to the western border. So he served in Vinnytsya oblast’, and that was where he met my mother, during his service It was around 1936. And then the war came, but it is a totally different story.
He was literate and loved order in everything. He was also a Jack-of-all trades, and while I would think twice before doing anything with a TV set, he would just dissemble it without much ado. And he would do what was right. Maybe that is why he was charged with the duty of keeping track of the ammunition in the storages. They had some underground storage, full of missiles, equipment, ammunition and he had to go with some other controllers to check the technical condition –electrical stuff and all – according to the special lists of requirements. Many people knew him.
When in 1939 the border was moved further, he resettled too. Well, it is another story. All I can say is that my father is an extraordinary man, a very special one. Even now he follows all the current events and has his own opinion about everything, he subscribes only to our opposition newspapers, and he stays in touch with all the political developments.
This is one side of the story. The other story concerns my younger brother. He is dead already, God rest his soul. Viktor was a navy officer in the Baltic area. He used to drink a lot. Then he was transferred to Kamchatka, to complete his service there. After his retirement he lived here. Had he been more active, he might still have been around, but the way things turned out…He was a handsome and kind man – if he came across sick cat, he would treat it back to health. He sang beautifully.
I started my schooling at the time of war. Our family was evacuated, but we were stopped right on the road – the Germans caught up with us, so we were left in Maryanivka village, Kirovohrad oblast’, not far from Synyukha river. Most ominous events took place there; I’d rather relate them.
We were brought to Maryanivka and got lodgings in the teacher’s house. The rumors had it that her family had been arrested by the ChK and subsequently deported. The house was big. Three families of the evacuees were placed there. Interestingly, there was a Ukrainian family, i.e us, a Russian family – the Symonov and a Jewish family – the Brol. Each family had two kids. The soviet troops retreated and two days later the Germans entered the village. On the next day the Germans herded the people into the stables. The stables were in the large structures, about 80 meters long each. They occupied about half a kilometer on the hill, with Synuykha river right below. The bank was very steep and the distance between the stables and the river constituted about 300 m. The stables were surrounded with pits full of lime, for disinfection. There were no horses left; the Bolsheviks had taken them away. But the Germans brought the residents to the pits and what people saw was horrendous – the pits were full of human bodies! It looked like some people were thrown into the pits still alive! The lime dissolved a lot…It was summer, the heat, July or August, because I recall watermelons…Scary: we are passing by, everyone is passing by and we can see that people were desperately trying to get out of this lime, arms protruding, faces eaten by the flies… The bodies then were exhumed and mass graves dug out nearby, to bury the bodies. No one knew who they were…The peasants stood on the one bank of Synuykha river, while the Germans stood between the lime pits and the graves. And they organized the military salute in honor of those who had been bestially killed by the Bolsheviks. Someone made a speech. I was very young, but I do remember the words “the red beasts”. Then the residents approached and threw some earth into the graves. At that moment the Germans decided to fire the salute. They had their guns like this, and then suddenly like this. It was the part of their drill – to put a gun in front of a soldier. I don’t recall anything like that in the soviet army …They presented arms like this and like this…And suddenly everyone was very frightened, and me, too – the guns were pointed at the crowd. It was part of the drill, but people started wailing and running down towards Synukha! And we heard the shooting, but the Germans were shooting in the air. Then they understood what had happened, and some shouted: “Don’t be afraid!” But people panicked. The Germans were good to us the Ukrainians – as far as I know. Before they arrived in our village, in Maryanivka, something else happened. The village was divided by a road which led to the rayon center, Tyshyvka. It was the military track. I saw many people passing that road. Maybe they were the members of the volunteer units, who were sent to Moscow, all 179 thousand of them, because people looked like civilians, some with their glasses on. They looked more like blue-collars, because peasants rarely wore glasses. Then the cattle was herded by this road, but later, when the Germans had made a big leap forward, the convoy in charge of the livestock shot the animals. They did not kill horses - I’ve never seen a horse shot to death. It was the cows and the sheep they shot. We picked up a wounded cow there. In general, the bulk of the kolkhoz property was left behind. The NKVD operatives or commissars tried to burn the grain fields, but they would not catch fire. And as soon as they were out of the village, the residents put the flames down. So there were just burnt patches in the fields, and as soon as the soviet authorities left the village, and the Germans haven’t not arrived yet, the villagers started saving what they could from the kolkhoz granaries. Our mothers did the same. They were well-versed in this and hid the grain well – just in case the soviets come back. Later I have come to understood how deeply the experience of the thirties was ingrained in people’s minds – they knew how to hide stuff. The tricks I saw the criminals practicing in prisons have been known to our people long before. Disaster is the best teacher as far as covering and hiding goes. So, back to the cow: we made a large hole in the earth and hid the cow there. For the entire duration of the occupation it helped three families to keep their children fed.
The Germans did not plunder. I never saw looting in the village. I recall just one instance, right before their retreat – a rascal shot a hen in our yard. Meanwhile, the so-called Bolshevik “partisans” …Just fancy, they would enter the village when there are no Germans there, with their carts, all drunk and red-faced, and start frisking every hut and taking away anything edible. The Germans never did that. These bastards took away all the food. The families with kids had nothing, because everything was taken by them. Once they ran into our courtyard, leaving their cart behind. Three women and six kids was all they saw in the yard. Their search resulted in nothing. And one of the bastards saw a bunch of the dried pears in the attic. But it was too high for him to grab. Our mothers used to give us these pears for candies on holidays. So the bastard could not reach them, but finally found some hooked stick and got them. Then the bloody Russian leapt out of the house, with us following him and shouting: “Give us back what is ours!” He was trying to chase us away with this bag of pears: “Away with you, lest I kill you”. And so he took the pears. Someone whistled, someone raised alarm, but he fell into the cart with our bag…That is how I remember it.
I saw these “partisans” several more times. Red-nosed, fat-mugged. When the Germans were chased away, they would come to “inspire” the population.
They also participated in the round-ups. 1944 was the year of the Korsun’-Shevchenkivsky military operation. Eventually I learnt that Kirovohrad oblast’ was the very hub of the inferno which Korsun’-Shevchenkivsky military operation had been. What did I see? The soviets surrounded the village. It was around lunch-time, so that by the evening the whole village was rounded up and no one was let out. They came to the town center. People stayed indoors, just in case. But then they started rounding up people. Some tried to run, but soon found out that escape was impossible, as the whole village had been surrounded. So the partisans were bringing the residents to the town center, and then separated men and women. Our neighbor Yurko Oliynychenko was only 15, but he was so tall and stolid that they took him for a grown man. His mother yelled that he was but a boy and ran to fetch his papers. But they lived pretty far and she did not make it. The men were taken away in the trucks and wagons. The mother came running and showing some certificate to prove that he was just a child, but in vain. None of the villagers deported on that day came back. And they were 50 men and young boys, no less. The old men were left behind. No one came back, and no one knows where their graves are. And it all happened nearby, in Kirovohrad oblast’.
I must say, the Germans did nothing of the kind. In our village the POWs camp was set up in the stables. They were surrounded with barbed wire even before that, but the Germans fortified the fences, put the watch tower and placed the POWs there. Various people passed through it. Between the fall of 1941 and 1943 it served as the POWs camp. Till the end of summer 1943 the women and we the kids would go there to throw them something to eat. Our mothers would give us some food with an order – go there and throw food to them. The Germans did not chase the kids away and treated the POWs decently. Moreover, the women were allowed to take their husbands out of the concentration camp. It was very simple – the woman just had to say that the man was hers and he had to confirm. No papers were required, so women from our village and from the neighboring village as well would get the men out. The Germans never touched them, but the Bolsheviks, upon return, made a short job of them.
The POWs were allowed to write letters if they resided in the territory of Ukraine. The Russians were not. The privilege was granted to the Ukrainians only. Well, the Jews were persecuted, I must admit. I mentioned earlier we had a Jewish family for neighbors, so they had to pass themselves for Ukrainians and the villagers never betrayed them. Same with the Russian family - the mothers would instruct their children to learn Ukrainian. I should say it is the best incentive to learn the language – you’re your life depends on it, you learn it pretty quick. The kids generally learn quickly.
So, the POWs were allowed to write letters and send them. If some relative, let us say, the wife, came for him, the Germans let him go. I must say it was very humane attitude, and people appreciated the Germans and were grateful to them. I won’t tell anything about other places, but this is what I saw with my own eyes. How were the letters sent out? The German guard would take them. They were written on the small sheets of paper and made into triangles. But often they asked us or the women who came to see them. The Germans on the watch towers did not mind. There was no “forbidden” zone, like in the soviet times, no three meters of “no man’s land”. Just about a meter of the barbed wire, with a watch tower on both sides, and the door in the middle. These are my war reminiscences.
We stayed in Maryanivka village, Kirovohrad oblast’ till 1946. My father fought in all the European fronts, all the way to Berlin, and then he was sent to the Far East, to fight the Japanese. He was discharged from the army around late 1946. After that we moved to Kharkiv oblast’, my father’s native village Shlakhova, near Cossacks’ Maidans, where his parents used to live. But his granddad had been killed by the Germans, and there had been other losses too. My father started working at the sugar plant. He had to support his family, the children were young then. He had to build his own house, as there was not enough room for us. Such were his everyday chores. I started attending school.
Actually, I first started school in Kirovohrad oblast’, during the war. We had a teacher by name of Tamara Vasylivna, don’t recall her last name. I was still too young as compared to the other students. I always went to school willingly and soon she noticed that I knew everything better than the older kids. So she encouraged me, and, appreciative of her attention, I studied well. By the time I had started the first grade, I knew a lot already. It is a separate story. Interestingly, she used the old ABC handbook, dating back to the 20-s and 30-s, with old phonetics and grammar. She was a patriotically-minded woman. I have come to appreciate it later, but at the time it was quite natural. I do not know whether it was against party line, but that young teacher instructed us well. The Bolsheviks would have punished her severely, but it was under the German rule. Under the Bolsheviks’ rule she certainly would have been put to jail.
So I graduated from school in 1955, and entered the physics and mathematics department of the Kharkiv University the same year. At the time it was Kharkiv state university, physics and mathematics department, nuclear power school. I was rather active during my university years. On the one hand, it was fun, but on the other, my superiors made use of my young excessive vigor. To begin with, I was an active komsomol member. I took part in all events, alongside with other boys and girls, in the operation of the komsomol organization bureau. The University occupied an old building, while the new one was being built, and I was the commander’s deputy and then the commander of the students’ construction team. It counted about three thousand students from different departments. The commander had to distribute the job and to monitor it. The professional builders would do actual construction, while the students did all the auxiliary jobs. So I managed them and acquired some experience in that.
I worked twice at the fallow lands, in 1957 and in 1959 – in Northern Kazakhstan and in Kokchetav oblast’. I was a combine operator. First I was in training, and then started operating the combine myself. In 1959 I became the deputy commander of the Kharkiv students’ team. A very good man, colonel V.I.Astakhov was our commander. His spouse is now the rector of the so-called People’s Academy. And he eventually became the secretary of oblast’ party committee and then, the deputy rector of the University. He was an adequate man, not a politician, or a hardened communist. Sometimes he told us funny stories, but his real hobbies were hunting and drinking. While he was engaged in these activities, I would travel around oblast’ to monitor the progress and give instructions.
I studied effortlessly, but spent too much time in these extra curriculum activities. I also graduated from the music school, the class of violin. I also attended specialized courses, in philological and legal department, with the dean’s office consent. It was not easy to get their consent, but at the end I managed to get it somehow. I am referring to these things because they had pushed me towards my dissident activities. I was doing what I was supposed to do in sincere belief that it was right, without getting to the core of the matter, just taking things at their face value. And the scoundrels knew that. I was even recommended to join the party. If I remember right it was in my fifth year of studies, in 1959. I easily could have become another party member. I had a narrow escape. What saved me? On the eve of the party meeting where I was to be approved as a candidate, I came to see our party organizer in her office. Her name was Anna Ivanovna Hornostayeva, and I heard her discussing me with the secretary of the rayon party committee. They said I was a greenhorn yet, but an energetic one, so “let him go and work”. Meaning that I was still stupid, but when time comes I would be ready and correct. I was very offended on hearing the bastards’ discussion. Had it not been for that eavesdropping I might have joined their blasted communist party. But once I heard it, I felt insulted. Because I was sincere in my attitude, I assumed I was doing well. For example, as a member of the voluntary militia brigade I spent a lot of my time fighting the hooligans, I organized young people, the guys, I set up amateur groups – it is for the public good [I believed]. I did other things as well. In the fallow lands I was awarded with two medals; “For the fallow lands cultivation” and “For the military valor”, after a certain accident. It happened quite out of the blue. A fire started in the bus and we managed to get the passengers out of it. And then that komsomol stuff.
Due to my komsomol activity I knew many party functionaries in Kharkiv. For example, H.I.Vashchenko, who was really like a mentor to me. By the way, he was a decent man, and very smart too. He was patriotically minded. I speak Ukrainian at all times and use Russian very rarely. My Russian was poor, although I am gifted for languages. But I preferred to speak in my own language. For example, in our village people still the use the word “zhyd” for Jew, and it has no pejorative connotation unlike in the Russian language. It is used as a normal word, even better than some foreign or borrowed one.
As to the people I knew – I studied with Skaba’s daughter, and Skaba used to be the second secretary of the party Central Committee. Sokolov also started his career here, but then moved to Kyiv. So when these people were still around, I used to be socially active. It was no problem for me to hold some public office. Things had to be done, and I would do them, irrespective of the office one held. Even later, addressing serious issues I would seek their support and they would help as much as they could.
I got interested in the Ukrainian problems. “Interested” is not the right word, they just became part of my life. The life had crushed any illusions I’ve had before. It happened more than once. I remember one dramatic revelation. We talk exclusively Ukrainian in our family. I was in my third year of studies, and my mother came to visit me – bringing a lot of parcels and boxes for her child. We took a trolley-bus to the place of my residence, the dorm here in the Independence square (renamed by Kushnaryov as Liberty square). So we took the trolley-bus from the train station. We talked Ukrainian with my mom. And my fellow-student happened to be on the same trolley-bus and asked me [in Russian]: “Why, don’t you know how to speak Russian?" I never paid attention to the issue before, on everyday basis. But my mother reacted immediately… I answered: “Why do I have to speak Russian? I am talking with my mother, what ‘s your business in that?” Later I understood it was a provocation. He was so negative, although we never had any clashes before the incident.
The Russian language was introduced eventually in the university, but it created no problems. Let us say, we had a professor, by name Dmytro Zaslavsky (I do not recall his patronymic): “I will deliver my lectures in Ukrainian. Those who want to listen are welcome here – pointing at the classroom. Those unwilling to listen are welcome to”… - and he pointed at the door. And he read his course in Ukrainian. If some terms were difficult to understand he would repeat or clarify them. So it was no problem, but eventually the Ukrainian language was ousted. Russian was favored more and more, with more and more professors using it instead of Ukrainian. It was Khrushchev’s era. On the one hand, I was lucky, and so were you, as that “grim reaping” of intelligentsia, which is so characteristic of the Moscow state, was not in order yet under Khrushchev. He was only laying foundations, preparing it. As soon as those idealists with no touch with reality raise their heads, they are cut down, reaped. So we happened to be maturing at the time when Khrushchev was still cultivating them…Those who believed him were the first to perish, the most open ones, the most sincere, the most prominent. Well, God be his judge.
But I was talking about the time when upon graduation I was sent to work…I graduated specializing in thermo-nuclear physics, the physics of plasma.
V.О.: In what year?
Two fellow students and I were immediately sent to the magnetic hydrodynamics laboratory, under Kharkiv electric mechanical plant. It was a very interesting story. The thing is, when Khrushchov went to the US for a visit, he took a lot of specialists, specifically from the Academy of Sciences, with him. One of the delegation members was the corresponding member of the AS M.D.Millionshchykov. He took notice of some innovations introduced by the American scientists. Upon his return he immediately set up two laboratories of the magnetic hydrodynamics in the Soviet Union. The laboratories had to research the physical processes in the special environments, i.e. in space, under high temperatures, fields of high frequencies, under gravity – in short, the behavior of various physical bodies under the extreme conditions. And it was to the one of these laboratories that we were sent. It had magnetic hydrodynamics department led by Ye.Yantovsky. I worked under B.F.Bobelev.
They were researching plasmotrons, i.e the behavior of plasma and the use of low-temperature plasma in the space engines and motors. I was interested in the research and happy to join the laboratory after my graduation from the university. Two of my fellow-students were also referred to work there. One of them is now a corresponding member of the AS, professor doctor M.F.Kharchenko. He is a member of our “Prosvita”, “Intelligentsia congress”, “Ukrainian council of Kharkiv region” – an outstanding public figure, a prominent patriot. Another was L.Kryuchkov, also a doctor of sciences, but I haven’t heard from him for about four or five years. He used to work in Odessa. Eventually our laboratory was transformed into an institute, reorganized in its turn. The laboratory became subordinate to the ministry of the electro-technical industry, while other departments merged with the specialized companies. And Moscow laboratory became the Institute of high temperatures.
During one of his visits Millionshchykov got acquainted with us. He treated us warmly, showed a lot of interest and when, in the course of the conversation, he found out that I have had a lot of innovative ideas, he was taken with them. After several talks he became my “advocate”, so to speak. And for the rest of my life, no matter where I would end up, he had always taken care of me. I am very grateful to him, I must admit.
And then it happened. I lived in a dorm, but after I was sent here, I became entitled to an apartment. First the process was slow, but Millionshchykov issued an order for the flat to be given to me. I had a child by that time, so renting was becoming more and more difficult. New apartment was due in autumn, on the special request from Milliionshchykov, who represented the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.
V.О.: What year was it?
А.Z.: 1961. A misunderstanding occurred. The social issues for our special laboratory were handled by the trade union committee of the plant. The committee took such things into account, when need arose. The granting of the apartment had to be approved by the committee. I was told that the paperwork was in order, the construction of a house was to be completed by autumn, and I was already registered in the apartment. But an unexpected incident, in which I proved myself a complete impractical idiot, happened. The plant employees were aware of my dealings with Millionshchykov, of his trips to the plant. Immediately several requests for innovations came in, despite of the fact that our research was top secret, followed by the articles, participation in the conferences, also closed for public at large. All that became known. In spring I was summoned to the committee meeting, right when we started an experiment. I was busy head over ears; after all, I was responsible for the entire team of researchers. At the time of an experiment everyone is involved, even specialists from outside are invited for some specific purposes. Plasmotron is like a space engine. It can be used in several different ways, but our main focus was the space engine.
At the committee meeting I was advised that my number in the line [for the apartment] was 16 or 18, but there was an apartment available right away. We have the opportunity to grant you an apartment now. If not, then in autumn. What do you think? I said that I was in line, renting a flat in the meantime, that I had a small child, so if such an opportunity presented itself, it was all right with me. And then a guy jumps right from the midst of the public present, falls on his knees and with bloody tears in his eyes pleads with me in Ukrainian, going like “I am so poor, I am from the rural area, I have three kids, I have this and I have that, yield the apartment to me, you have an academician supporting you”, and his tears are so real…Most depressive. I was dumbstruck. And the committee head intervenes:”So what will you decide?” We were acquainted and I could see he sympathized with me. He wanted me to make the right decision. I said:” Well, if I receive a flat by autumn, if it is guaranteed, we can survive another six months”.
The apartment in question was given to the guy. In autumn I met him at the plant – he won’t even say hello to me. The autumn passed, nothing and more nothing. I was told: “You refused”. I said:” I did not refuse, I just postponed it till autumn”. I even had some written promise to the effect that I was guaranteed a flat by autumn. In the meantime they reported to Millionshchykov that I had refused to take a flat. He said: “Come and see me”. I came to Moscow and related the incident to him. He knocked on my forehead, like this and said:”You dumb head, how could you do anything like that? You should have used your brains”. And he showed me the paper which said that I supposedly had rejected the flat.
Apartments were very hard to get. So after I made such a fool of myself rejecting the flat, my family started nagging me…
Why would I mention Millionshchykov now? Because later he played an important role in my life, standing by me through all my tribulations, when political issued emerged, when KGB was after me. He took some steps and promised me a lot, but I did not feel like waiting any longer. A separate space research department was set up in the Physics and Technology Institute under the aegis of the secret unit 654 headed by the academician Sergey Korolyov. At the time he was not academician yet, he got that title later. Mishyn was in charge of the department where the research in thermo-physics was conducted in space conditions. In a conversation Millionshchykov mentioned that the new lab would surely have apartments to dispose of. I am not sure whether he talked to Mishyn or not, but anyway I joined the laboratory in 1962. I was granted an apartment around 1964.
And I dealt with extremely interesting things there. It was my dissertation topic, i.e. the research of liquid metal heat carriers under zero gravity. It was a very interesting research. The experimental complexes were devised and put on the planes. The planes would perform the “Nesterov loop”, or so-called “Hill”, thus creating conditions close to zero gravity. We used to make the so-called “lemons” – big balloons stuffed with measuring equipment and devices. They would be placed on the planes or on the satellites, so that they research could be conducted under different conditions. Then we continued working on them.
So my field of research was related to the imitation of weightlessness. The fascinating research was considered top secret. I worked under the high level of security regime. Later, when KGB already had me “hooked, my scientific research activity as well as my contacts with Millionshchykov and my role in the super-secret lab under the unit 654 prevented the KGB men from eating me up, lock, stock and barrel, as they might have done otherwise.
My first encounter with KGB happened in 1959. We still studied in the University. Two fellow- students studied in mathematics department alongside with us. One was Anatoliy Prostakov, from Poltava region. He came from a peasant family and was one of the two sons of a widow. His father was killed in the war. He was extremely poor, had no clothes, nothing to eat, but he made it to the university. We tried to support him, but he was a proud boy and would never ask for anything. Those who knew him would offer help. Another one was a former navy officer, much older, Vasya Mishutin. He was a democratically minded Russian. Upon his discharge from the navy he entered the University. Now he is a professor there. But at the epoch [I am talking about] he was arrested and expelled from the University.
How that rigmarole started? Mishutin corresponded with a mate in the navy, and in his letters shared his opinions with respect to the party policy, Khrushchov and other leaders. I do not believe his friend denounced him. Probably he was merely negligent and someone had read the letters. Both the mate and Mishutin were arrested. I learnt about that later. But at the time I was a komsomol activist, a komosmol bureau member, that sort of thing. When Vasya and Anatoliy were arrested, many students were summoned and interrogated by the party committee bosses and KGB officials. I was among those interrogated. First, a KGBastard came to the university party committee office, but then I had to go to KGB office, and there the protocol was written down. I kept repeating that yes, I knew these people but never noticed anything criminal about them. Later the guys told me my statements were OK. No one knew anything about them. But I could understand Tolya Prostakov’s motives: no help, father perished in the war, no one needed him. Sometimes we would collect some money, but he would refuse to take it – so proud and decent man he was, a common village boy. Vasya was sentenced to six years, and Tolya to four years.
V.О.: What year was it?
А.Z.: It was 1959.
V.О.: Was it under the article 62? No, wrong, the article 62 was not in force yet.
А.Z.: I guess so. Vasya was sentenced to six years, and Tolya to four years. Both were expelled from the University and had served their respective terms. There was a court hearing, but I was not called totestify, as my testimony was hardly of any value. And those who tried to be smart were summoned to confirm their testimony in court. Prostakov graduated much later. I do not know where he is now. Vasya also completed his studies, defended his candidate’s thesis and then his doctorate. He got professor’s title and taught in Odessa University. I do not know where he currently is. Haven’t heard anything about him since1995. Same applies to Tolya. He had a girlfriend, his fiancée Svetlana, but when all this happened she left him. You understand, such bad things going on, and she was still an undergraduate. They corresponded for a while, but then it stopped. I do not know where he is now. Even at the alumni reunions I’ve never seen either of them.
That was my first direct encounter with KGB. When I was first arrested in 1965, they referred to these events claiming that Mishutin was bad influence on me. For some time we used to live on the same floor, in the neighboring rooms and keep in touch. So they claimed he was bad influence on me. Then they dropped the subject.
My protest was building up eventually. How so? Suddenly, with no justification offered, Ukrainian schools in Kharkiv started switching to Russian as the language of teaching. It began around 1960. By 1963 the nearby schools which used to teach in Ukrainian, completed the school-year in Ukrainian and started the new school-year two months later, in Russian. All the grades, including the elementary school, were obliged to use Russian. At the time I was a member of the rayon council, and also I had my komsomol experience behind me. When I went into scientific research, I had no more time for komsomol activity, but still they used to invite me to their events, out of habit. The same is true of my activity as rayon council member. At the time it was absolutely impossible to be nominated as “deputy” and do nothing. I was recommended by the rayon committee. I knew the secretary of that party committee since my komsomol operation. All right, you nominate me, I go along. That is how I ended up a member of the council. But as long as I hold the office I have to help people. My idea was that I was there to stand for public interests, for justice, for legality, and so on, and so forth. People started bringing their petitions to me, we want this and we want that, and we want our kids to…In fact, the small children just started their schooling and had to be retrained. Give them a chance to complete their studies in Ukrainian, and then switch step by step. Nothing of the kind. I perceived it as complete nonsense and wanted to fight it. I involved other people - komsomol activists, oblast’ committee, central committee of the Ukrainian komsomol and my acquaintances among party members. But they were aware of the situation; they saw I was blind and dumb and unable of estimating the state of things adequately. But they want to save me, so they say: “Mind your own business, do not interfere, and go ahead with you research. And forget about the whole thing.” But no, I went to Kyiv, I went to Moscow. At first, I managed to bring together about one hundred supporters. They signed petitions very actively, but then the KGB functionaries decided to put an end to it. Through oblast’ party committee they disseminated the information about an idiot who allegedly kept inciting public and making nuisance of himself.
I was in the habit of bringing flowers or wreaths to Shevchenko’s monument on memorial days and holidays. When these school developments started, I kept bringing wreaths to the monument. I bought the funerary wreaths, the big ones, you know, disposed of black bands and replaced them with something bright. Sometimes I added inscriptions and sometimes I did not. It was all registered. And then they started setting up obstacles for me. Because I was not alone – my family or friends would be with me.
In the Physics and Technology Institute I had an agreement with our party organizer. He was a smart modern man, half-Jewish, but friendly towards us. I founded a board magazine and managed to publish eleven issues. I was arrested when the twelfth issue was due, and the magazine was stopped. It consisted of two parts. One was dedicated to history and culture – poetry, current events, memorial dates, information about outstanding public figures, predominantly, Ukrainian patriots. Well, of course we would not tell about Bandera, Mikhnovsky or Mazepa – that was out of question. But we offered materials about others. It was done in Ukrainian. Our special unit had the necessary equipment, still rare at the time. For example, a copier, that could not be found anywhere else. I had access to it and could use it, despite the confidentiality requirements. We made a big board. I still have some pictures of it. It could be seen by the entire Institute staff, because it was located not in our separate building, but in the central building of the institute. The monthly magazine had sports supplement, published on weekly basis. We covered Ukraine-related topics exclusively, but without any political bias. They could not get at us, because I had consent and support from our organizer. Eventually we organized a march from the Institute to the Shevchenko monument, with the laying of flowers.
V.О.: Was it on May 22 or on March 9?
А.Z.: On March 9-10, one of these days. No, we did not go on May 22.
V.О.: Sorry for interruption. Since when have you been the council member?
А.Z.: Since 1964.I was a deputy for a year, and then I was first arrested.
At the institute it was a self-destruction, so to speak. I had to work a lot. Plus technical issues. I was in charge of a research group. First you do the adjustments, and then you reach the required equipment regime. It runs for about 10 hours and then you proceed with measuring. So while technicians monitored the equipment for these 10 hours I would do my “volunteer” job. And somehow I never lacked energy or drive. I lacked time, naturally, but I slept for 5-6 hours only and then got back to work. So what was my “volunteer“ job with reference to the schools. I had acquaintances among komsomol and party leaders. Sometimes we took a train to Kyiv or to Moscow to speak in our plea, i.e. that the schools remain open.
Everywhere we were received nicely – yes-yes-yes. But nothing changes. They saw it, being more versed in these intricacies than me, and they would tell me: “Very well, go home and we will take the appropriate measures”. Sometimes they took the measures and sometimes they said: “It takes time, wait a bit”. Supposedly it could not have been done at once...
Then the issue became crucial because the parents protested and opposed the decision. I felt the pressure. But I was under the supervision of a special KGB subdivision in charge of our unit 654, and not of KGB general office. Once they learnt I worked there, everything got stuck. All this running around, pleading. They said everything would be all right, but nothing changed. Then they started intimidating my supporters. First our group comprised 120 people, then – 70, 80, and finally only 12 scared and confused people stayed with me. Everyone was taken to KGB for questioning; people were dismissed from work and intimidated. So people started leaving me, thinking, what the hell, let these schools be whatever they want.
In summer of 1965, on June 30, if I am not mistaken, I had to go on vacation. But I could not do it, as I had plenty of work to do. So I was considered to be on vacation, but in fact I kept working. I wanted to visit my parents. I always did it – divided my vacation into two parts. And I was entitled to full 32 days of vacation. So I would spend half of the term working and half traveling around Ukraine. I would go to the Western Ukraine or to Kuban’ or some other places. It was when I worked already. But in my students’ years I often traveled too, or went either on ethnic tours or hiking trips, especially while I was courting my bride-to-be. She studied at philology department and they were all crazy about these hiking trips. So I would go on a trip or on ethnic expedition. I took my heavy tape-recorder “Dnipro” with me to make the recordings of the songs and other folklore curiosities. It was good because I learnt a lot in the process.
So, in late June of 1965 I was on vacation. By that time I had only 11 or 12 persons sticking with me and some of them started avoiding me, too. I became aware of the turn the things were taking. I saw that ruthless Russification was gaining momentum, under heavy administrative pressure, merciless as it was. At a certain point I decided it was high time to call people to action…It was not a premeditated step, but something spontaneous, for want of something better. So I got some paint and brush…Our “Intourist” hotel was under repair at the time. The foreigners used to stay there, so KGB was always around. And a bit further, on the opposite side of the street, the Design and Engineering Center was being built. A structure about 30 or 50 meters long was surrounded by the fence. I used that fence to write in huge letters: “Ukrainians! Respect your native language! Away with vile theories of “natural assimilation”! Long live Ukraine!” With an exclamation mark at the end. However, I had to run home to fetch more paint. When I returned with another jar of paint they were already waiting for me. Well, I did not hide from them, but finished my job, feeling I was doing right. People were gathering behind my back. It was getting dark. I finished my writing. But they decided not to arrest me yet. So I put a nice exclamation mark at the end and emphasized some other letters. Then I collected my belongings into a bag and proceeded towards Sarzhyn Ravine. First they followed me, but suddenly I saw them in front of me. I made a turn towards Sarzhyn Ravine, where the “Myr” hotel is standing, with”Traktorsilhospproekt” institute on my side. I started my descent, but the road in front of me was blocked already. I made a futile effort to escape, but was detained.
They brought me to militia ward and started questioning me. I told them I was protesting against the liquidation of the Ukrainian schools as I believed it was violation of the Constitution and soviet laws; that it ran against the grain of the party policy and so on. I was told that the investigator had been already appointed. He arrived and took me to KGB. And all those who participated in my arrest testified as witnesses. I spent only 20 days there and they let me go. They wouldn’t do it, of course, but they found out where I worked and what my position was. This was due to Millionshchykov and the prestige of his school.
My stand was known in the institute – yes, I was a Ukrainian, a soviet Ukrainian. That was my position. But I do everything in line with law. We respect Shevchenko, we respect this and that, our culture and so on. We stay aside from political issues; I have my research work to do. Well, they understood all these games and that entire pretense pretty well.
After these developments the KGB men became very tough. First I was interrogated, and a week later the witnesses were brought in. Knowing that it was my first arrest, they tried to intimidate me by means of psychological pressure. But I remained calm: whatever will be, will be. Can’t be worse. So I was not afraid.
V.О.: I wonder what article they used to bring charges against you?
А.Z.: Nothing at the beginning, they were overwhelmed. They first started questioning me and then got to findings. I told them who I was and what I was. First of all, many party leaders in the oblast’ committee knew me. Second, half of the staff in the komsomol oblast’ committee knew me as well. I told them I had approached both entities trying to help people. Public would appeal to me, as a deputy, complaining of violations of national laws and distortions of party line. My version was that I was defending our lawfulness. “What about the writing on the wall?” – “I was brought to such a state, that I saw it as the only possible solution”.
Well, I was aware of the current developments, I read books and newspapers, listened in to the foreign radio programs. First I was not followed by them, but then they put me under surveillance. But I kept listening to “Liberty” broadcasting. Later I learnt they questioned all the neighbors about it. As a rule the neighbors knew nothing. My neighbors were quite normal people. But when I moved to another apartment in the “Academy town” where I still live, they engaged two neighbors to spy on me, installed their equipment and the neighbors assisted them. One of them later told me about it. It was much later, but at least he let me know. While the other, the female neighbor…When the bitch retired no one had taken into account her services to KGB. So she wrote a complaint – I heard about it from a former KGB official. He did not divulge her name, but just referred to her as the dorm manager, who upon retirement complained that her favors to KGB had been disregarded. Probably she was promised some benefits. He was a nice man and he laughed when told me about the incident.
V.О.: What legal grounds have they given for your 20 days’ imprisonment?
А.Z.: I cannot tell you about legal grounds – I just don’t remember.
V.О.: Were you officially arraigned?
А.Z.: They brought charges against me. First they questioned me and then they wanted me to write an explanatory note. They asked me how many days I needed to do that. I noticed a dramatic change.
V.О.: Right, someone from the top “advised” them to drop the case.
А.Z: Yes. When I met Millionshchykov later, he asked me: “So, did you misbehave?” I do not recall exactly what they had written in the official papers, but the attitude changed drastically. I did not know whether they would let me go or not, so I had to brace up for the worst. I thought it was the end of me. And then things changed at once…I was interviewed by the Kharkiv KGB general Petrov. God Almighty, Vasyl! He summoned me there. I have a suspicion they gave me something before that meeting, as I was totally ignorant about these things at the time. Well, I asked for water, and after I have drunk it, something happened. I could not concentrate, and had to use all my will power to stay focused. Tears started running. And they are waiting. Definitely, they put something into the water. The general did not appear at once, but when he did, he began persuading me that they – the party - were for the Ukrainian cause, same as me.
After I was arrested my home was frisked. I have a big library which contains a lot of books on history, non-fiction, including those which were considered forbidden. I had many books by the historian Hrushevsky, by Vinnychenko, the Ukrainian encyclopedia, books published under the soviet regime, but many years ago; books from the Western Ukraine, published in Berlin – whatever I could get hold of. On my business trips I used to visit the bookstores, or book markets, or flea markets to buy books wherever I could. I could afford them; I earned good money at the time. So they came, sorted all the books and took them away. In six months they came back with another search. They confiscated about 300 volumes altogether. I’ve been thinking about getting them back, but who would know where they are now and who would find them. There were some unique and rare editions among these 300 books, especially on history and ethnography. I was interested in poetry, knew V.Symonenko personally and went with my son to see him in Cherkassy. We met in Kyiv too. During the search they found Symonenko’s letter to me and took it away. I had his verses, the photographs showing the two of us together, with his son and his mother. They found and confiscated all of them. Later the pictures were returned to me, but I don’t know what happened to the letter. I have some excerpts from it, because I copied and disseminated them.
So the general Petrov advised me to stay away from politics and to concentrate on my own scientific research, leaving politics to the professionals, supposedly we had plenty of them and I did not need to interfere. The year was 1965. I was taken to Petrov’s office. He was very elegantly dressed. They gave me some kind of foot stool to sit upon. The desk was large, covered with red velvet. But when they understood I was not as ready as I had to be for the meeting, they called it off. The investigator would come in from time to time and ask me some question. And I sense that my memory is vague, and my concentration is poor. I understood immediately they had given me something, but I tried to stay awake. So he entered once, then once again, and then asked me whether I needed anything. I said:”I need nothing, I can feel something is wrong with me”. By that time I was getting mad. I wanted to say something but instead my tears started running. He grinned: “That is nothing to worry about”. And then the general entered: “Remain seated, remain seated”. I wanted to stand up to greet him. “No, no, remain seated, Anatoliy Kuz’movych”, so politely and nicely. And he told me in that avuncular way of his: “Do you assume we are opposed to people like Kholodny, like Vinhranovsky, like Drach or Symonenko?” And I had the copy of the Symonenko’s authentic verses. I knew them by heart, and I added some verses to the book. The authentic texts of the verses. I made typed copies of them. But they frisked everything and saw them. And he told me, do you believe we don’t know about that, he is our own, he sings just like you do, he is soviet, but the enemies use him. And what do you think? He is pacing the office in his narrow-legged breeches, boxcalf boots screeching, he is so slender, so neat, with that handsome mug of his, dressed to the nines, well-groomed and combed, so attractive. And so he is pacing his office reciting Symonenko’s poetry, that poem which runs” let americas and russias shut up when I’m talking to you”.
V.О.: The general Petrov?
А.Z.: The general Petrov, the commander of the KGB department in Kharkiv oblast’ and the year was 1965. I was dumbfounded, really shocked. He talked a bit, and then recited another poem. And then he took a book from the shelf. I think it was all staged on purpose: the book shelves, glass all around, all of Symonenko’s poetry collections. There was nothing else there, just Symonenko’s books. So they staged all that just to show me that I made a fool of myself; that it was unnecessary, that everything was going in the right direction, while I was creating problems for them and for myself.
To cut a long story short, that was the end of it. But noteworthy, wrapping up the conversation he said: “You see we are working in the same direction. So do not counteract, help us instead. It is just because of your ignorance…” So he offered me collaboration. I answered automatically “No, no way”. He took heed of my abrupt answer, but at that moment I got tense and tears started running…He was towering over me and I was sitting on that small foot stool, well, not actually a stool, but some kind of bench.
V.О.: A small chair.
А.Z.: A small chair, yes. I was sitting on it and holding tight not to say something unwarranted. He repeated his offer, but I said “no” once again. I almost howled. After that he left me alone. I understood the talk was coming to an end. So far there were just the two us talking, but now he called an investigator, then another man joined them and they talked among themselves, and then I was escorted out.
But all that happened after I have written about 15 pages, maybe more, of the explanatory note. I remember insisting that the soviet power was inherent to the Ukrainian mentality, but its principles should have been adhered to. Naturally, I claimed I was no enemy of the soviet power. That was the end of it.
RESEARCH WORK UNDER KGB SUPERVISION
Later I understood, of course, that if it had not been for my “protectors” – Millionshchykov and Mishyn, I would not have gotten away that easily. Korolyov was still alive then, and they had connections with him. I think KGB was caught unawares by my protest. The situation was rather unusual - on the one hand I was party and komsomol activist and a deputy into the bargain, and besides I was protected in my professional area of operation – so they let me be. The only consequence was that they entrusted party committee and director’s office with spying on me. Why do I think it had been the case? When I returned (officially I was still on vacation) from my KGB “vacation”, and resumed my work, I related everything that had happened to me to my lab head and colleagues. They were nice and they were fully aware of what such developments initiated by the “special unit” meant. They were also glad that I was not trying to hide anything from them; it was a mutual display of trust. I wanted to stress that. Yuvenaliy Anempodystovych Kyrychenko was the head of the department for thermo-physics research under special conditions. He had doctor’s degree and was a man of high intellect, broad interests and very humane attitude. I think he was from a very refined family. Another colleague Rem Serhiyovych Mychalchenko was also very sympathetic. He was also a doctor of sciences and headed the department. The department was huge, about 600 of employees. I have known the institute director for a long time, because he used to teach in our university and was very friendly. I continued my research. The topic of my thesis was “Thermo-technical research of liquid metals under weightlessness”.
V.О.: Did you manage to defend it?
А.Z.: No, not then and there. I had to defend it in 1967. Now we are getting to it. I defended it later in another institute. But so far I’ve been talking about the Physics and Technology institute of the low temperatures. When I came back to work after my adventures, I gave them the gist of the developments and kept working. But then I noticed that the institute party committee was monitoring our board magazine, which I published. They keep it under control, in a seemingly friendly fashion, just asking what it is about etc. Although the party organizer himself was a good man, maybe I’ll recollect his name later. I was in the focus of their attention and control. But as I paid more attention to my research work, spending literally days and nights in the institute, I hoped that things would take care of themselves. It was not the case, though. About six months later the KGBastards came to visit: “We have a search warrant”. And they frisked the whole apartment, confiscated literature and so on. Every six months they would confiscate something preparing a case against me. Later many materials were used to level the accusations. Moreover, the books bore my notes – you know, when you read something, you make your own notes on the margins. Or sometimes I wrote letters, even after my detention. I see injustice – I make my opinion known to the CC, claiming that things are wrong and this is the way to put them right. In due time it turned out all these letters were collected by KGB. Sometimes I was summoned to the oblast’ party committee or rayon committee. My deputy duties somehow came to an end too. I was deeply involved in my scientific research, and no one invited me to the sessions. When I led that protest against the Russification of the schools, they saw I was doing something undesirable. Before the incident I was called to participate in the board meetings and sessions, but after no one called me, and I was not very anxious to go, having understood the essence of all that.
I recall an incident that happened in March 1967 at the Shevchenko monument. I decided to go there. Earlier the party committee would even procure flowers, so that I could go and lay them there. And people were allowed to come to the monument. But no more: no one is going and I am advised against going too, to avoid possible repercussions. It was March 1967. It kind of incited me. I took several co-workers with me, about ten persons altogether. We laid some wreaths and flowers. KGB started picking at these people, as it turned out, on the basis of the pictures they had taken while we were laying wreaths. Then I was called to our personnel department where a KGB man was already waiting for me. He repeated the same stuff: we warned you, but you give us no heed, why are you doing it? And in August 1967 I had to defend my thesis. I’ve passed all the required exams, you understand I had to work a lot, getting ready. And suddenly I am invited to the rayon committee for a talk. There was a guy by name of Yunakov or maybe Yunashyn. He started explaining to me that without their approval no dissertation defense was possible. Also he mentioned that KGB was worried: what are all these demonstrations for? A few people coming and laying wreaths at the Shevchenko monument is a demonstration, according to them. Nonsense, pure and complete. What had it to do with a demonstration? May be it looked like one to them. As the saying goes, even a bush could scare them off. Anyway, I understood from the talk that they were worried. Then I was called by the lab head, which let me know that they had received an instruction to use sanctions against me. The sanctions were not specified; he just wanted to warn me, man to man. He warned me so that I would be cautious and alert. There were more talks to the effect that it was high time for me to stop. And then I had to make a statement. What kind of statement? I made no official statements before, so why should I make one now? I refused. He did not insist.
And then the bargaining started. My defense was due in August, but meanwhile the decision had to be made, whether it was destined to happen or not. It was up to me to decide. I said: “Let me think about it”. “All right, think it over and then give us a call”. Time is passing by, I do not call, and they remain silent too. Then I was summoned to the director’s office. A personnel department clerk, the head of my lab, the head of the sector or general department and two plain-clothes men – one from the oblast’ party committee, I didn’t know him, and another – from KGB, also unknown to me. After a talk among themselves the director, who was sympathetic, as far as know, told me: “it was your own decision, so what do we do next? Here is a man who claims your behavior is antisocial.” I started protesting, but the director said: “Anatoliy Kuz’mych, we are all adults here, so come up with a mature decision”. That is how he shut me up from the start. I asked: “What do you suggest?” But he does not answer, and then the lab head says: “ Submit a resignation note”. I said: “May I think about it?” –“No, you may not”. So I sat down and wrote a request to resign voluntarily.
V.О.: Do you remember the date?
А.Z.: May 30, 1967.
V.О.: You mentioned August earlier…
А.Z.: I had to defend my thesis in August, but it was still May 30, 1967. So I wrote my resignation note and left, while they stayed behind. Later on the same day I had a talk with the head of the lab. After all I was in charge of a group; I had to delegate my duties to someone. While I was talking to him, he took my hand and gave it a strong shake, so friendly, without any words, just showing his sympathy. We lived close to one another. Through other colleagues he sent me an invitation to come and see him. Then he told me about the further developments. The KGB functionaries announced they were quite satisfied to have me off the job, with no access to confidential material. So I had not more protection from Moscow. Their goal was not to imprison me, but just to have me fired from the institute. OK. Eventually I asked the department head about other possible jobs for me. I assumed they won’t let me work there at all, that there would be some pressure from KGB. But no. Through personnel department and then special department I found out where I could find job. I was told I could work in any position unrelated to confidential information or special regime of access.
First I was looking around myself, but then my former superiors advised me. I talked to the institute director, who was quite nice to me, then he called the head of the lab and together they told me that at the moment they could do nothing for me, but if and when my thesis was ready they would arrange for the defense in their institute. Indeed, I found a position of acting senior researcher.
А.Z.: In “Hiprostal’” institute this time. It is on the same street, the Lenin prospect, but close to the city center. Later my department separated and became an independent institute “VNIPICHermettntrgoochistka”, a research and production complex dealing with black and color metallurgy and its environmental impacts, of the national subordination. I am grateful to my compatriots in Kharkiv – the director and Kyrychenko, mentioned above, and to Millionshchykov as well, because, at the end of the day, my topic was approved. I proposed a totally innovative topic and was promised support in addressing it. I mean in my research. I dealt with “Cooling of metallurgical grates of steel-smelting convertors”, enhance of steel-smelting convertors’ lining durability by cooling. The cooling was done with water or with liquid metals’ carriers. And as I used to work with liquid metals’ carriers before, I was familiar with the technology. Water processes were a part of this technology, one of the areas of operation. I am very grateful to the director, B.Ye.Verkin, God rest his soul. He was a Karaim by origin. Sometimes he was taken for a Jew, and Jews were numerous there; they were quite decent and worthy people, but he was Karaim. I did not, though, discuss ethnic issues with him. He was much older, but he treated me well. His daughter is now in charge of the festivals called “Kharkiv Assemblies”. Although I must admit this festival is too commercialized, it has little to do with culture or promotion of Ukrainian idea. Nevertheless, she is doing her job adequately, more power to her. They gave me a lot of equipment and methodology designed for the purpose. Rather quickly, in 1971, I defended my thesis in the new institute. It was related to experimental projects at the metallurgy works. An experimental convertor was constructed at Petrovsky metallurgy works in Dnipropetrovsk. I was given free hand in using it for my experiments. The aforementioned Millionshchykov played his role in that, too, he recommended me. It was a good initiative.
My research work took a lot of my time, but I consciously wanted more. My political interests were broadening, due to my numerous acquaintances and travels all over the Soviet Union. Sometimes I would stay for months in Dnipropetrovsk or Dniprodzerzhynsk - for the whole duration of an experiment. Also I visited metallurgy institutes, universities, writers’ unions, other intellectuals in Dnipropetrovsk or Dniprodzerzhynsk, in Zaporizhzya; I also attended conferences… That is how my political interests were getting more diverse. The process of consolidation was gaining momentum. For example, for Lesya Ukrainka’s anniversary the monument had to be inaugurated in Kyiv. But Lesya Ukrainka used to stay in Kharkiv as well. So we decided to celebrate too. In Kharkiv she stayed for a month in a room, No 6 or 8 in Rymarska street. So, we, i.e Ihor Kravtsiv and I …
V.О.: Lesya Ukrainka was born on February 25, 1871.
А.Z.: So, we prepared that petition asking for turning this room into Lesya Ukrainka museum, giving a street or a square her name and erecting a monument. We had to get all the necessary approvals. We wrote on behalf of public, but we had to include the creative unions as well –the Writers’ Union, the composers’ Union, the Artists’ Union, the Union of the Theater workers. Hence we had to collect their signatures. We did not get any signatures from the aforementioned unions, so we ended up in the Writers’ Union… I cannot recollect the name of the man, a beautiful Russian name he had, he was the first to sign. We complained that the others did not want to sign the petition and he laughed and said: “I know these people…”
V.О.: Wasn’t it Ihor Muratov?
А.Z.: Muratov. After he signed the others started putting their signatures, too. Then we sent our petition out and it disappeared leaving no trace. And we spent so much time on it. I consider that period now and it seems to have been so obscure, so hopeless, with Brezhnev’s pressure and all, but at least some Brownian motion occurred. Some people would increase the amplitude. They sought more information, they behaved with more freedom. Anyway, the Khrushchev’s “thaw” still lasted, people were less scared. Many people were not afraid at all. Maybe they were unaware of the consequences, but they sided with those who were in the front line, who initiated something, and supported them. More often people preferred to help anonymously – don’t quote my name, just tell me what to do. I had many acquaintances like that, especially among party and komsomol activists. I remember an acquaintance of my, a colonel or a lieutenant colonel. Prior to my arrest I sported moustache. I did not wear the embroidered shirt, but the moustache, yes. When I went to the monument or somewhere else, he would meet me and give a warning: “Tell other guys and beware yourself – the KGB men recognize the nationalists by the moustache”.
V.О.: Especially the moustache pointing down!
А.Z.: He wanted to warn me and my friends. So, was I obliged to give up my moustache. “No way, - I said –I’ll be sporting it anyway”.
Another episode. An acquaintance of my held a rather high office in the oblast’ party committee. Once they were playing preference, I play well, having learnt during my university years. I was visiting them. So they were playing preference card game, but then got bored and started another round with only three players, although before they were four. I stood at the window and during a smoke break he came to me and said: “You know what, Anatoliy, when you are distributing machine-guns, keep one for me”. It was in early 1972.
V.О.: But the arrests started on January 12, right?
А.Z.: That is what I am saying - early 1972. I understand: the man was tipsy…And when I came back from the jail, when perestroika started…You know, even in prison people who were known to be honest and decent, were treated differently by the militia officers and guards, with certain measure of trust, I would say. But if you are known to be trash…Same here. Later, when perestroika started and we were founding the Rukh movement a lot depended on our behavior. Kharkiv was unique in a sense that oblast’ party committee functionaries recommended people to join the Rukh. They always kept us informed, warned us of any developments. We immediately were informed about the agenda of the party bureau meetings. Moreover, we had our own men among KGB officers. And we did not yield our Rukh to them, we managed to ban all the events they were trying to organize. But all this was later. I want you just to have the feel of the atmosphere. 30 years have passed, and such an utterance pronounced by the oblast’ party committee boss, would sound bizarre. Sometimes I cannot find and explanation. Was it a provocation? But I’ve known him for many years.
V.О.: They were also fed up with all that communist abomination.
А.Z.: Well, never mind him. In brief, they saw that I remained active despite all these things. Besides, I knew Ivan Dzyuba and Oles’ Honchar personally. I used to visit them. In my line of work I traveled a lot. I was in Dnipropetrovsk when the monument to Lomonosov was erected there. I was present at the inauguration. Later I was relating it to Dzyuba, openly and in large detail. Dzyuba was already under surveillance by that time. The KGB men intercepted the letter. So they started following me, the bastards. They have become so insolent that I could not tolerate it any longer. You know, when you are aware of being followed, it is very easy to lose your cool. So they were after me again. I am talking about February-March1972. I could see their spies, when I was leaving my home, first thing in the morning. But it was not systematic. They would hang around for a week and then disappear. Once I was talking on the pay phone and that is what happened – two jerks came very close to me. “If you, so-and-so, will try to outstrip us, you would not be able to crawl, let alone walk again”. Hearing that I retorted after the fashion: " You go and…” using their own foul language. So the question “When will they come to take me away?” loomed large. It was 1972. We knew about numerous arrests. At may work I felt the usual trust. My thesis curator was our deputy director, and another one was from Donetsk University. I had two curators, because two areas were covered in my dissertation – water cooling and liquid metals, so I had to have two specialists as curators. They were subjected to some pressure too. And then I was not yet approved by the all-Union Certification Board.
Around May 1972 the Board approval arrived, and on June 22 I was arrested. The approval came to the institute, so the personnel department informed KGB immediately. I learnt about it later, because no matter how hard they tried, they could not hide the fact. Eventually it was delivered to me and I had to sign the receipt form.
I was not the only one shadowed. Kravtsiv and all my friends were followed too.
And incident happened in the course of the investigation. My investigator was Anatoliy Ivanovych…Don’t recall his name, will tell you later (On February 20, 2010 A.Z. provided the last name – Yakovenko). Babusenko was the head of the investigation department, and colonel V.Denysov was in charge of the most important cases. This Denysov was an investigator in Nahrebny and Valdzio case…Prompt me more names - Koval’ and some other guys. They served their term in Mordovia. One was Nahrebny and that Vladzio…Why, you surely know him too. He was from Ivano-Frankivsk oblast’. The charges were pressed following their efforts to preserve the church and protect it from being destroyed. As soon as their opponents started the demolition, they would go up the bell-tower and ring the bells for alarm. It lasted for a week.
V.О.: I was not aware of this incident.
А.Z.: Vasylyk, Vasylyk. He was with us in prison. He was discharged before us. So that Denysov – one day I will write about him separately – was their investigator and he knocked out Nahrebny’s teeth. At one time I demanded that the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights should be adhered to, and that Denysov told me: “Had we met a couple of years earlier, I would have shown you national and international rights”. It was in the zone that I learnt he had been an investigator in Nahrebny and Vasylyk case. He used to knock teeth out, to beat people without mercy, to hit them on the liver and kidneys.
V.О.: How were you arrested?
А.Z.: First off, the shadowing. You can see it and it makes you nervous.
Z.Popadyuk: It is the shadowing to exert pressure - they used it a lot. So that a man would know that he is being followed.
А.Z.: Exactly so. I would go on a business trip…At my work, on my trips I could sense that people were afraid, that their attitude changed. They were not intimidating everybody, just the leaders. So that pressing was getting more and more intense.
V.О.: Sure, especially in the days prior to arrest.
А.Z.: And one is affected by it. On that day I had to meet my wife near Conservatoire. It is here nearby, at the metro entrance on the Constitution square. It was my lunch time, and we agreed to meet. She called me to tell that she had made some purchases and ask me to take the staff home. I helped her, then crossed the street walking in the direction of the Conservatoire. Two men approached me and took me by both arms. It was on a lunch break, about 12.20, on June 22 1972. One of them said:”You don’t know us”. I said: “Fine, so who are you?” – “You will know right away”, and they lead me somewhere. “No, - said I. – It won’t do. Who are you?” Then one of them responded: ”Security committee”. I felt freezing on the spot. “Let us move to the other side” – they talk politely, but they keep dragging me at the same time. The car was parked there. We crossed the street, they are putting me into the car, I oppose and he shows me his ID. I asked for the arrest warrant. And he retorted: It is not time for that yet. We still have to visit your home”. Then I said:” The search warrant?” – "We will, we will show it to you once we are there”. Well, I got into the car, there was someone sitting there. I was sitting in the middle. They had two more cars escorting them – one in the front, and another in the back. So we went in three-car procession.
We arrived at my home - there is a turn there with trees planted on both sides. No sooner have we got out of the cars, than colonel Babusenko appeared. We barely made it to the entrance when some idiot ran out of it carrying either a tape-recorder or a camera in a sleeve, or some other device on his shoulders. Suddenly he let go of it and everything fell on the ground. He did not know what to do. He had to report that everything was in order on the window side of the house. So he came to report, and there were two more dumb-heads around. So they were three altogether. And one of them came to report to the colonel. The colonel barked at him: “Away with you! Go to hell, will you!” So that idiot was absolutely clueless. He retreated and went away. You see he was so happy that someone had arrived to replace him, and he hurried to report. Meanwhile I kept demanding the search warrant. “You will see it”. Finally Babusenko ordered flippantly: “Let him have the warrant.”
The subordinate retrieved the warrant – it is signed and stamped, but not filled out! See? I said: “Look here, something is wrong, whose name is there?” My God that colonel yelled at the investigator: “You, milksop! You snot nose!” What was his name again? Anatoliy Andriyovych…(Yakovenko – Ed.). He was a real bastard, the KGB henchman. Well, God punished him. He achieved the colonel’s rank. When I returned from my “vacation” in 1979, he was already a colonel, but within the next half a year he died of cancer. “Hurry up!” – and the investigator got promptly into the car. I do not know where he went, because it would have been easy to type in my name right there – they had a typewriter, but they did not want doing it in my presence, so that I would not object. They just gave me a blank paper, with no name or address on it. When I saw it, he understood they’ve made a fault-pas. And no one needs tumult and havoc, it is unprofessional. So he arrived some twenty minutes later. We were in the entrance hall already, and about half an hour later two more functionaries came running and brought a paper. I did not even bother to look at that warrant, because, obviously, they have corrected everything.
The search lasted from 1 pm to 4 am, more or less. I have a big library and they fumbled through each and every book, and I kept asking them to put every title on their register. So they were sitting there, getting totally mad. Having completed the search and their protocols they took me away. “Where is the arrest warrant?” – “Here it is!” And they showed it to me. But no charges were brought against me, it happened later.
V.О.: Did they take to the KGB pretrial isolation center?
А.Z.: The KGB pretrial isolation center.
V.О.: Where is it, in what street?
А.Z.: In Radnarkomivska street, where National Security Service is, it is the corner of Radnarkomivska and Myronosytska, at that time Dzerzhynsky street, 1. But their pretrial detention center had an entrance from Chernyshevsky street. I have been there before. Moreover, I was put in the same cell –right where I stayed in 1965. And the guards were the same. So I felt no psychological discomfort. They started explaining the rules to me, but I knew all the rules.
INVESTIGATION AND TRIAL
V.О.: What charges were brought against you?
А.Z.: The charges were brought later, and they included forty nine items – naturally, “the anti-Soviet propaganda and campaigning”, “slanderous allegations”. I demanded that the accusations against me were formulated in Ukrainian, but they kept switching from one language to another. It was a real red-tape. I did it on purpose; my investigation lasted for a year. The Prosecutor General had it continued twice or thrice, because of that red-tape. It was very interesting; I fought at every stage, picking on every legal nuance and detail. Moreover, being aware of the tricks they used, I managed to get hold of the investigation plan at the first stages. I knew, what had happened before; who had been questioned already; which acquaintances of mine spied on me. It was fascinating.
That is how it happened. With investigation in progress interrogations lasted for days on end, till late at night; the bastard used to keep them long and it was very hot. So he opened the window. It was bleak outside and the rain started, with the gusts of wind. One of these gusts blew off the papers from his desk. And I was sitting at another desk on a chair fastened to the floor. So he started collecting his paperwork and I bent to help him, being polite.
V.О.: To help him.
А.Z.: To help him, yes. And suddenly I saw, God help me, “Investigation action plan”. While he was collecting the rest of the papers, I quickly hid the plan and continued picking up the papers. But I had to read it, and many times too, to learn it by heart. It was typed on two sheets of paper, with corrections and additions written by hand. They usually took me back to the pretrial detention center. I had to hide it well, because people frisked on arrival. To cut a long story short, I made it. I kept it for about two weeks under my pillow. At the end our relationship turned completely sour, and he insisted on taking me to the mental hospital for professional evaluation. First, a five-minute meeting was held, and then they took me back immediately. But on the next day or two they brought me again for the complete evaluation.
V.О.: Was it in oblast’ mental hospital?
А.Z.: Yes, they have a special criminal ward in the hospital No 15. Interesting developments, very interesting. So he brought me there, and l left the plan under the pillow. I have read it many times. I had only one cell-mate. I was very cautious, so that neither my mate nor the guards would notice anything. Maybe they found it during a police-up, I don’t know. The fact of the matter is that during my absence, while I was in the mental hospital, they had conducted a search and found the sheets of paper. It is no trifle, you know, two sheets of paper folded haphazardly. My God, what havoc broke loose after that…Well, probably he had been disciplined severely. Something terrible it was! He pleaded with me: “You scoundrel! Well, you’ve taken it, you’ve stolen it – he was on the verge of crying – Why could not you tear it to shreds!” He was even moaning. I saw what was up, so I told him: “Why did you send me to the loony-bin? Had I remained in my cell, I might have torn it, I meant you no harm. It was my piece of luck – I used it”. Such a sincere talk we had. You know what his revenge was?
There were many occurrences like that. There was that rigmarole with the defense attorney. They found an attorney for me and brought him from Kyiv. Upon his arrival he was not granted permission to see me. Only a local attorney is entitled. I said: “No, an attorney should be from outside, not from Kharkiv’”. My relatives from Belarus arranged for another, paid attorney. But that damned Anatoliy Andriyovych, what’s his last name, (Yakovenko –Ed.) was too smart by half. My brother had to come for a visit. He started negotiations with my brother, and told me to write a letter. I wrote a greeting note to my brother, asking him to do his best to find an attorney, who would be not from Kharkiv, but from another city or even republic. We knew an attorney. But my brother imprudently told the investigator where he was going. So he was followed. After my brother had made arrangements with the attorney, they started exerting pressure on this latter, so that finally he called to say that he was not able to come.
All that rigmarole lasted for some time. It was high time for me to familiarize myself with my file. I received nine thick volumes plus addendum – the list of material evidence: 150 books, articles, extracts, other “slanderous materials”. I have to go through all that. But I do not want their attorney, point blank. They appoint an attorney and I reject him. I went to see the file and the attorney was sitting there in wait. I said: “I beg your pardon, but I want nothing to do with you. I know you will be coerced to do what you are ordered to do”. I still was under illusion that I might find a good attorney. But it was not to happen.
Another attorney was appointed in Kharkiv, a woman, who got the necessary permission from KGB. And I must tell, Mr. Vasyl, she has chosen a much better line of defense, than one could expect. She told me that she would be my defense attorney. Now people accuse Medvedchuk for cooking up the case against Stus. You should have heard the lady – for about 45 minutes she kept accusing me, just like the investigator, adding only at the very end that she disagreed, because she had found the mitigating circumstances. I was sentenced to seven years. She did not put forward ay objections, but wrote to the judicial board under the Supreme Court for criminal justice. And in her petition she presented all her objections in writing. I might have written a dissertation on the issue. Later it was taken away from me, to hell with them. I was in custody while the lady attorney went there with my brother. My brother was denied the entry to the courtroom, but she was allowed to show her case.
V.О.: It was the appellation court, wasn’t it? ?
А.Z.: The appellation court, the Supreme Court board. And there, due to her efforts, and maybe, due to my own endeavors, which turned out not so dumb at all, a lot of procedural violations were found. I tried to keep track of them. Interestingly, it was a surprise for them. If we look into my file – and we will – we’ll see a lot of complaints filed by my investigator. Some of them were close to plain slander. He claimed that I planned to drive him totally mad. But as a matter of fact, it was the case, so I told him: “Why are you so mad? You are armed like a hunter, and I am just a helpless rabbit, with nothing but my chatter to help me, and you get mad. I see you want to harm me.” – “But I want to help you”. God Almighty, what was his name, Anatoliy Andriyovych…enko (Yakovenko – Ed.). Anyway, to hell with him.
So much for the defense. It resulted in nothing. My attorney managed to have my term reduced by three years.
V.О.: So how much did you ultimately get?
А.Z.: At the beginning it was seven years, but after the appeal the term was reduced to four years, i.e. three years less. And then – and it is noteworthy – they became enraged with me, with my lady attorney and with the Supreme Court. KGB filed a complaint with the Supreme Court of the Soviet Union, and with the all-union KGB, claiming that with its decision the Supreme Court of Ukraine contributed “to the spreading of the nationalistic anti-Soviet tendencies in Ukraine”. My attorney was shocked and told me it was an unprecedented case, for KGB to file complaint against the Supreme Court and the attorney. What did the Supreme Court of the Soviet Union do? It invalidated the ruling of the Supreme Court of Ukraine and remanded the case for reconsideration by the new court I was not invited, and just received the notice to the effect that the earlier decision had been invalidated and my earlier term restored.
V.О.: Just fancy! Did you tell us the name of that lady attorney?
А.Z.: I do not recall, but I have it somewhere in writing. I am sure to find it for you, because she was an outstanding person and acted very reasonably. She was punished for that. It was not a persecution per se, but simply…
Z.Popadyuk: She was not allowed to take on political cases.
А.Z.: Exactly, exactly. She became an outcast, of sorts.
V.О.: Criminal cases only.
А.Z.: Over the year 1972 the situation in Kharkiv was deteriorating. On the day of my arrest the searches were held in the homes of 9 persons who later were accused as members of an anti-Soviet group. And I was supposed to be the group’s “locomotive”. Five residences were searched and two persons arrested – Zdoroviy and Kravtsiv. The flats of V.Kaliberda, V.Murovaiko were searched. We learnt later that police-ups were conducted simultaneously in five flats. First they intended to cook up a case against 9 persons, then the number was cut to five, and finally it was just the two of us, representing a group. Our cases were separated in late 1972, in December. Before, it was one group case. They wanted to frame people with the help of this fictitious group. Let us take Murovaiko – he was a regular chatter-box. There was another boy from the aviation institute, who was threatened and intimidated in a most outrageous fashion. So he had said whatever they wanted him to say. He was involved as a witness later. I do not think KGB really intended to find anything in the course of these searches – they just wanted to create the atmosphere of suspicion and to prove that an anti-Soviet group was operating in Kharkiv. Obviously, there was no group at all; the isolated outbursts of public activity occurred sporadically, but no organized fight. When I decided to write a slogan to defend Ukrainian language and schools, I never dreamt of overthrowing the soviet power. I have come up with this goal much later. At the time the violations of the law, deviation from the declared policy, distortion of justice were my targets. Indeed, it seemed contrary to any common sense – in May the students finish the school year in Ukrainian, and two months later the teachers are obliged to switch to Russian completely, without consulting anyone. Now they are playing the liberal democracy games, damn them. But then no public opinion was sought. Now they would ask you, whether you want it this way or that way and in the end of the day they will do it the communist way. The norms should be set up first, and then you can play democratic games. They way things are right now, we are still playing a game and we will lose it and betray the interests of Ukraine into the bargain.
So, the investigation was long, with numerous errors and violations. I tried to keep track of them, naturally, according to my legal competence at the time. I knew a thing or two after doing my time, so I was quite well versed in many issues. It was a surprise for them, for fear used to be their main instrument. If one is not afraid and is using the legal language and references instead of anti-Soviet slogans, then they are confused: is a mugging or a bit of persuasion in order? You are aware that by that time they did not beat us, but just tried to mitigate some things or to get around them. Anyway they had the prepared “scripts” for the cases, because everything was faked. You surely understand that our actions never had either meaning and goals they tried to attribute to it, especially in the area of judgment. Although, it was in fact…How shall I put it…
V.О.: They anticipated the turn of events.
А.Z.: Evidently. They were experienced enough to understand that the fire will turn into flames if left unattended. Naturally, they knew it pretty well, and a couple of utterance, a few objective testimonies would do the trick. For example, I plead partially guilty, for the sake of procedure, to let my attorney proceed with the case. She told me unambiguously that if I don’t plead guilty no Supreme Court would be able to help me. And that is true, that is the way it is.
Z.Popadyuk: It was her only chance.
А.Z.: She told me bluntly that she would build up her defense on that. And she was successful in doing it. Second, you know, I pleaded partially guilty, confirming that I wrote such and such letters to the CC, although without a goal of subversion or weakening of the regime. I never set up such goals. The essence was clear, because basically I kept saying that I was not guilty. But formally my attorney could refer to my pleading “partially guilty”, it was written in the protocol.
What else can I say? I did my time alongside with many others, not with you, though.
V.О.: When and where were you taken from Kharkiv?
А.Z.: I was taken from Kharkiv in July, or maybe, in August 1973, because I arrived in the zone 36 in August. The transport went through Kazan’, Perm and then, from Perm to the zone 36. That was my transport. Many interesting things happened on my way there. First, I stayed for the whole year in Kharkiv pretrial investigation center and met a lot of people, who “stopped by”. The rumors of their coming preceded their arrival. I do not remember their names. I arrived in the zone 36 in August…
Z.Popadyuk: And were you moved to Kholodna Hora [Cold Mountain – Ukr.], or did you stay in the same investigation center?
А.Z.: For about two weeks I was held in KGB in preliminary detention cell. Two weeks later, after I was convicted, it was high time to move on. They procrastinated, so that I had to hurry them up: ‘Make up your minds, either I go here or there”– "You will be informed in due time” their response used to be. They had no right to hold one in the preliminary detention cell, but they did. Then I was moved to pretrial investigation center.
V.О.: In Kholodna Hora?
А.Z.: There is an interesting nuance – the psychological pressure. The fact is I was placed in the disciplinary cell twice during the inquest on the investigator’s motion. I fought back as best as I could, asking him questions on the procedural issues. Believe me, I never quarreled with him or cursed him – it was out of question. One could get mad at times, but one should have a firm hold of oneself, remaining courteous and polite, but persisting in one’s demands. And they try either to intimidate you or to get around some legal provisions. You fail to do it – I do not talk to you anymore. I wrote to the investigator that such and such violations were revealed. I get no answer, then I would write to the prosecutor’s office; they keep silent as well, so I would write to the national KGB investigation department. It does not work – I would write to the all-union KGB. They were not used to it, so they would start providing clarifications. And giving explanations was unconceivable for the militiamen, even at KGB level. Never, ever would they dream of doing it! You should see my file, I’ll make sure you do, hopefully it is still available. The investigator provides clarifications to the effect that I threatened his life, due to my malign disposition.
So after the trial was over, I was not brought back to my cell, but thrown to the condemned cell in the pretrial investigation center.
V.О.: Is it in Kholodna Hora?
А.Z.: Pretrial investigation center in Kholodna Hora. In the first block, first floor, I still remember that cell.
V.О.: I was held there too.
А.Z.: I spent three days there.
Z.Popadyuk: The huge dungeons…
V.О.: With metal bunk beds made from an entire sheet of metal, and metal bed stand, and metal bars.
Z.Popadyuk: Wide arched doors. Enough room for an elephant.
А.Z.: Well, I do not remember the arches.
I was aware of the sentence – seven years. I think it was for the purpose of some dumb psychological pressure. So, while I was staying there one of our guys was brought in, I do not recall the name. We had a chance to exchange a couple of words across the courtyard. He said he was so and so, and asked who I was. I told him. Then another guy from Donetsk arrived in the zone, and prior to my arrival told the inmates that a certain Jew posing as Ukrainian should be coming from Kharkiv”. So they were expecting a Jew posing as Ukrainian. I do not know why he decided I was the Jew in question, maybe someone told him something. “OK, - I said – take me for a Jew posing as Ukrainian”.
I spent three days there. I asked for paper immediately but was refused on the grounds that paper “was not allowed in the cell”. How come “not allowed”? Then I understood what kind of cell it was. Because earlier I assumed it was used while other cells were policed-up. So I spent three days there and was told that paper “was not allowed in the cell”. And then I was transferred to another cell, but not to the one in which I had stayed previously. I took my belongings with me, proper way and moved to a usual cell. Then I retrospectively complained of being placed in the condemned cell. But it was of no use, having been written after the fact. Although I must admit the militia officials were less aggressive in the pretrial investigation center. They would show rigor only when their KGB bosses came to visit, but otherwise their attitude was of not caring a damn. They were negatively predisposed with respect to KGB – like everyone else.
А.Z.: Once in the zone you start looking for compatriots. And even prior to my arrest I knew who was held there. So when I found out that Lukyanenko was there and the other guys, too – wow! They came to greet me properly right after my arrival in the zone. When one of our own arrived, everyone would know and come to greet him. Because they knew in advance who was to be brought there. I spent there seven years altogether.
V.О.: All in the same zone?
А.Z.: No. Around 1975 a strike happened in the zone after Stepan Sapelyak had been mugged. I must admit Stepan himself had chosen the wrong line of behavior, so in a sense he had provoked what happened. I understand, that attitude of the young, but the guard had no right beating him. So, what actually happened? He was a mere boy, right from the students’ environment, feeling quite independent. And he started exercising on the horizontal bars…It was zone number thirty six, they had vegetable gardens, where they used to grow dill, you know it, don’t you? The horizontal bars were there.
Z.Popadyuk: At the very end…
А.Z.: Right. And Stepan stripped to the waist and started exercising on the bars. And the zone warden assistant, who was on duty, came to him. And mind you, he wasn’t very demanding, not one of the worst. I just don’t recall his name.
Z.Popadyuk: Chykvarionov, was it?
А.Z.: No, not Chykvarionov.
А.Z.: No, no. It was some other official (L.Lukyanenko in his book “Z chasiv nevoli” [From the times of captivity – Ukr.], v.4: The Moksel country -– К.: Feniks, 2010, on p. 248 and further on refers to him as militia captain A.Mylyantey. – V.О.). He reprimanded him, but Stepan answered him rudely. They had no witnesses, so anyone would believe the official and not Stepan. That is how it all started. The officer hit him. And then the pandemonium broke loose: how dared you hit the prisoner? We had a team in the zone, composed chiefly not from the UPA members, but from the newcomers. So it was not like a regular brawl, but rather like a political protest – the legal issues, political statements, specific complaints related to the specific actions. Basically we started turning their own arms against them. By that time the discussion around European cooperation was launched already, all those Helsinki provisions were widely discussed, and the atmosphere was changing. You know what the situation in the camps and prisons was like, but now Europe and the whole world started reacting.
V.О.: Yes, one could sense it.
А.Z.: Moreover, when the specific names were quoted, even the militiamen understood that it would not be easy to subjugate the inmates, that they were monitored by the community at large.
The episode with Stepan Sapelyak, when the zone stood up in his defense, was used by the KGB men to have this zone, with all the intellectuals in it, disbanded. The inmates had to be separated, so that the leaders would stay behind, and the intellectuals would be taken away. So we ended up in the local slams. What was the name? It was in that station…
V.О.: Vsekhsvyatska or Chusova?
А.Z.: Chusova. At the hearing in Chusova no one asked any questions. We were just read the verdict.
V.О.: But formally before that one had to do time in the penitentiary cell or in a specialized prison where could remain for up to six months – did you go through all that?
Z.Popadyuk: Were you taken to Chusova for the hearing?
А.Z.: Yes. Everything was done pretty quickly. We did not complete our term in the specialized prison, when the date for the hearing had already been set.
V.О.: When did it happen? It would be good to hear the exact date.
А.Z.: The hearing? I cannot tell you, I don’t remember. Must have been sometime in late 1975.
Z.Popadyuk: And did you stay in jail till the end, never returning to the zone?
V.О.: Did you get three years?
А.Z.: Three years. And I was brought to the zone by late 1978.
V.О.: What were the conditions like there?
Z.Popadyuk: Weren’t you taken to Chystopol?
А.Z.: No, not to Chystopol, to Vladymyr.
V.О.: I ask each and every ex-con about the conditions in the zone. We know what they were, but each zone was somewhat different. How did administration treat you? What punishments were used? It is important.
А.Z.: I have to say the following. Their attitude towards me was kind of special. I have no explanation for that. In what sense was it special? They were never aggressive with me, because I manifested no aggression. I used to talk calmly to the KGB men, to the commanders. You are doing your job, so go ahead and do it. I have my own duties to perform. I tried to stick to the general human values in my dealings with them. But it did not work always. Let us, with Fedorov it won’t do. I could not stand the man.
V.О.: I know Fedorov.
А.Z.: Well, maybe some other time I will write about him separately. Once I met Vasyl Stus in the zone 37, and then we met for a short time in Perm prison. I was taken there to talk with the KGB men, who had come from Ukraine. So we were taken there and I met Vasyl.
V.О.: Is it in Urals?
А.Z.: In Urals.
V.О.: And what was the year?
Z.Popadyuk: 77, probably.
V.О.: But Stus was imprisoned for the second time in 1980.
А.Z.: Now, hold on. I first met him in the zone 37, at the hospital.
V.О.: What year might it have been?
А.Z.: I was still in the zone, prior to the prison.
V.О.: Around 1975, was it?
А.Z.: Around 1974, may be early 1975.
V.О.: But Stus had not been to Urals during his first imprisonment. Stus was in Mordovia only. And in early 1977 he was taken to his exile in Kolyma. He left the zone 19 on January, 11.
А.Z.: OK, we’ll have to clarify this. I met him first in the hospital, in the zone No 37. You know how it happened?
V.О.: It might have been 1980 or 1981. Stus served his second term in Urals.
А.Z.: No, I was done by 1979.
V.О.: That’s bizarre.
А.Z.: All right, let us leave the issue alone for a moment.
V.О.: Or maybe, it was in some transit point on Stus’ way to exile.
А.Z.: Right, at a transit station. No, the transit station was in Perm. But it happened in the hospital, in the zone 37. If you have been there, then you remember a courtyard with the birch-trees. Taking a walk I saw inscriptions on the birch bark. Women have been imprisoned there, as well as minors. I even copied these inscriptions. They were devastating, these inscriptions, coming from the bottom of agonizing soul. Just inscriptions on the bark. One could read that the inmates were raped and tortured by that Fedorov. He held some official position there. Later he was the warden in charge of regime in our zone. Having read these inscriptions I could not stand the look of the man.
I might be wrong and I’ll have to check the facts, because my meeting with Stus is related to these inscriptions. In that zone we had no way to communicate on the regular basis; all we could do was exchange a couple of words at the transit stops. So the mates from the zone 37 would come to talk. Sometimes we would ask the inmates distributing food to deliver a note.
Z.Popadyuk: This is a hospital zone. I was kept in the mental ward there, but I had no idea one could somehow get in touch with the camp.
А.Z.: People found ways. The thing is I have been there twice, if I am not mistaken. Something was wrong with my spine, so I have been there twice and spent about a month. I used to do morning exercises. On my arrival to the zone I decided I would continue exercising. I did my morning exercises even in the mental ward. I went on with my life, doing routine things, reading, writing, ignoring my surroundings. Several inmates approached me, claiming that they were ordered to spy on me. Same [continued] in the zone. I arrived there and started my morning exercises. I went outside one morning in my jogging suit, and it was pretty cold by then – I arrived in August, and days were growing colder and colder. The first snow had fallen, but I kept exercising. I was advised by other inmates to stop because, supposedly, the weather in Ukraine was one thing and here it was totally different. Indeed, the back pain set in and never went away. I got rid of that pain only after I was discharged from the zone.
Z.Popadyuk: But, come on, Vasyl, from what zone was Stus sent to exile?
V.О.: From zone 19 in Mordovia. He was transported on January, 11, 1977. He spent two months traveling to Magadan oblast’. He was brought to Matrosovo on March,5.
А.Z.: You know what, I cannot recall the exact date now. I was brought for the talk with the KGBastards. I spent there two days and nights. The KGBastards spent the whole day talking to me, and then I spent two more days there. I was in a cell – nowadays anyone can see it, when a man came in. He was tall and gloomy-looking. He did not introduce himself, but remained silent. I looked at him. He was tall, thin and a bit tense – one could read it on his face. So I refrained from talking too. EventualІy he came around and introduced himself as Stus. I said I was from Kharkiv. I did not know then, that I would be taken to KGB for a talk – I was just told that I would be taken on a transport and that was all. We talked and stayed in the cell together for the whole night.
Z.Popadyuk: Maybe it happened in a different prison? His trip to the hospital in Leningrad took place around that time.
V.О.: Why should it have been the one? He was taken from Kyiv to Leningrad by plane in the fall of 1975.
А.Z.: All right, let us not waste more on this; we’ll try to clarify it if possible, because it is an interesting episode.
THE VLADYMYR PRISON
V.О.: So how was it in Vladymyr prison?
А.Z.: I will tell you something. Both in the zone and in the Vladymyr prison normal life and communication were the necessary prerequisites for survival. You end up with the life you were given and you have to remain human. That is the way it was like in both places. I’ve been thinking and arrived at the conclusion that probably it is the Ukrainian nature – wherever a Ukrainian happens to be he remains what he is, just the way he is. If you resist rot and corruption then you are all right, and you survive now matter what. The conditions might change but you will behave likewise under these new conditions. I learnt a lot of useful lessons. Although by the time of my imprisonment I was already a well-informed person, the systematic knowledge of the political issues was still lacking. I’ve acquired my orientation guidelines there, consciously, although I was interested in some areas and topics even prior to that. History and language issues have always been in the focus of my attention. When I arrived we organized lectures at our working place – first, in Vasylyk’s smithy, then in other places. We had prominent figures among us – Lukyanenko, Sverstyuk, Svitlychny, Proniuk, Serhienko, Astra – in short the whole bunch of well-educated and worthy people. We would get together using any opportunity, and there would be lectures with 10-15 listeners present. One of the older inmates would stand guard. And it was good, because these old men would join us; they treated it as an honor. I was amazed. People need tutoring. All these leaders, that entire “intelligentsia” are nothing but bullshit. But as far as common people go… Let me tell you, in my case over 200 people have been called to testify, about 219-220 persons from various parts of the Soviet Union, from the plants were I used to work, especially from the mechanical works in Dnipropetrovsk. I will tell that common people, the workers behaved with such dignity, that they caused no harm either to me or to themselves. All they ever said was: “I know nothing, I am a common man”. Meanwhile that lousy intelligentsia, prompted by a militia investigator, would tell such tall tales that in the end both they and I would be deep in shit. I had such instances. Ivan Dzyuba gave very smart answers when questioned. A part of his book “Internationalism or Russification?” was confiscated from my mail box at the time of my arrest. They knew we were acquainted and exchanged letters. So he was questioned but he reacted appropriately.
А.Z.: Exactly, he owed me nothing, I owed him nothing – everything is all right. Now I can reveal it. Dzyuba really gave me his book “Internationalism or Russification?” Moreover, we made copies of it and distributed them. But militia never learnt about that.
Now to other issues. I believe that the zone and the prison provided me with the unique benefit of meeting prominent persons, really outstanding representatives of various nations, Ukrainians included. They were people who radiated divine energy, the people who had decisive influence on historic processes. They were not formal leaders, but their energy consolidated others, so powerful it was. Maybe Mr. Zoryan remembers it too, we’ve been together in the room No 10, right?
V.О.: Bukovsky was in the cell No 10 [undecipherable].
А.Z.: So that was a room for 10 persons and Bukovsky, Davydov, Lukyanenko, Serhienko, Budulak-Sharyhin, 9 men altogether were placed there. At least 5 or 6 of them had such strong energy that it was almost tangible.
V.О.: Antonyuk Zynoviy…
А.Z.: Right, Antonyuk. From my space research I know that when a team for a space ship or a submarine is selected the people with matching energies are chosen.
V.О.: Psychologically compatible.
А.Z.: And the militiamen did it on purpose, assuming that presence of people with such strong energy will lead to the quarrels earlier or later.
V.О.: They lack living space.
А.Z.: And, you know, I observed such phenomena. Most often I tried to stay aside, not to get involved; I remained calm, amicable, normal, but I sensed the atmosphere around me…When a man by name of Stus entered [the cell] one could sense his aura. I wanted to draw your attention to the issue of that aura, the energy which fills the whole room, because despite my serene disposition I can sense it when one’s energy comes to clashes with another, leading to confrontation. If you are friendly that energy will not bother you. I know what I am talking about. Many things happened in that room, as well as in the other rooms…We used to share a cell with the Jews. They were superb guys, no kidding. Mishener, Zalmanson – the so-called “aviators”.
А.Z.: Mendelevych. Good guys. It was then that I started respecting the Jews. Because before I knew only the Jews who were cowardly or scheming, I used to work with them. I found common grounds with them by being always the best and by not being greedy. If someone came to me with invention I did not mind accepting his request. If an article was written, I would put my name and his as well. I avoided confrontation, because I did my bit, offending no one. But there I made acquaintance with different Jews – courageous, ready for a brawl even if it entailed severe consequences for them. Vudka, for example, - I served my term in prison, while he was in the zone - a wonderful guy, from Lithuania. (Arye Vudka was from Pavlohrad, Dnipropetrovsk oblast’– V.О.). I was in prison with Yakiv Suslensky. He was a great man. I met him when KGB henchmen were trying to get him certified as mentally incompetent, using his condition as a pretext.
Z.Popadyuk: His hypertension?
А.Z.: Yes, he used to have that hypertension collapses. I was sent to the prison hospital ward, in the fourth block.
Z.Popadyuk: The hospital was in the second block.
А.Z.: The second block, was it? On the first floor, maybe the room number four.
Z.Popadyuk: It was small, that second block.
А.Z.: The building was used for solitary incarceration under the tsarist regime. By the way, Valentyn Moroz was held there. We were out for an exercise, and he was in the solitary cell. Suslensky and I were coming back, talking openly, and recalling names. Then he sent us a note through the criminals, and we sent notes to him with the help of the same criminals.
Moroz had heard about me on his way through Kharkiv, when he was being transported somewhere. I was in the pretrial investigation prison. And he knew I was the one who had written these words on a fence: “Ukrainians! Respect your own language! Away with vile theories of “natural assimilation”! Long live Ukraine!” He, supposedly, used to compare me to Taras Bulba who had come back to fetch his smoking pipe – just like him I, the crazy guy, returned to fetch more paint for the exclamation mark and final letters. It was interesting for me, because I never made the connection myself. So we used to send notes back and forth till his discharge.
Now back to Yakiv Suslensky – when I entered the cell he was really in a very poor state, rather dizzy, repeating that the doctor had to be there any moment. But a militia guard came instead, took one look into the peep-hole, then opened the door and came into the cell. Yakiv had foam around his mouth by that time. And I was thinking of what to do and how to fetch a doctor. The only thing I could think of was calling a doctor, allegedly, for me. But I still had my own pills with me. I always had some store of them, although it was forbidden. I needed them for my osteochondrosis and occasional chest pain. I was suspicious of their medications, so I always tried to keep my own pills around. I gave him some, and, you know what, he came around immediately. They were the heart pills. At that moment the orderlies arrived to take him to the mental ward. Because, you know, he was foaming at the mouth, talking nonsense. But by that time he was OK, they looked into his eyes and understood the collapse had passed and there was no need to take him anywhere.
А.Z.: That is what I am saying, they called it collapse. He received some more treatment after that. He was lucky I had those pills on me. Otherwise I would not be able to help him at all.
V.О.: Look, it is eight o’clock.
А.Z.: That is it, let us wrap up, gentlemen.
V.О.: No wrapping up before you reach the end of your story.
А.Z.: What else can I tell you? In my belief, all of us, and I in particular, accepted God’s will for our entire lives. If we managed to stay human and true to our cause and our ideas, we are OK. Thank God he delivered us from temptation and from the devil’s grasp. This is one side of the story. Another side is that our cause, the cause for which we fought, consciously or unconsciously, had triumphed. And when I am asked whether I am happy with my life I can only thank God for making our dreams come true. There is nothing great about us – we are just tiny drops, small tidbits in the process orchestrated by God. But in our own niches, designated for us, we tried to do our best. Our names might have been used by other people, but after my discharge in 1979 I had remained under administrative supervision for 5 more years, almost till perestroika.
FREEDOM UNDER SUPERVISION
V.О.: So how did you manage to settle after you return?
А.Z.: When I came back here, the KGB men were rather courteous to me. I was a researcher; they talked to me prior to my release. They would ask how I planned to work after the discharge. I told them bluntly: “Now, guys, tell me what you want. I am going to work in my specialty. Will you let me do that?” -– “But of course, of course, if you have a specific work place in mind”. Sounded OK to me. So I wanted to clarify: “No restrictions for me, then?” - “No, none”.
I was reluctant to return to my former work place. I did not like the atmosphere and would have preferred another company. I approached some of my good friends, they found a good place for me – but no way, I could not hold a managerial position. The order with my nomination had already been issued, but KGB interfered and it was cancelled. It happened once and twice. I was seeking some lucrative job, especially considering the fact that my investigator made me pay 1000 roubles for the chemical substances’ expert evaluation. I paid the amount. I feel kind of awkward demanding that money from the state of Ukraine as compensation, but at the time it was big money – about 1000 dollars. I paid it in installments, while in prison and later, here. I led the scientific research, had my own team of researchers, first four persons, then seven, but my salary was less than 100, just 82 roubles. My subordinates had more than that, but I was exploited as the manager and generator of ideas. They said: “We cannot allow it, we have to report”. After two years they added ten more years. Only after perestroika started in 1986, my supervision was lifted, and I started earning money. With the contracts the payment was good. But meanwhile I had to stay put, could not go anywhere, especially at the beginning. Others were sent to help out in the kolkhoz, it was a usual procedure for our institute, but I was stuck, could not leave the city without a permit. So I wrote a note to KGB – either have the issue resolved with my bosses or leave me alone. They made some arrangements and did not bother me for some time.
V.О.: Tomatoes and potatoes, right?
А.Z.: The others thought it was some kind of privilege – everyone has to go and work in the kolkhoz, but not him. No one explained to them that it had been done on the KGB orders.
Another story comes to my mind. We had land plots to cultivate fruit orchards. The KGB officials were complete idiots – it’s no big deal, give a plot of land to a common Ukrainian and he will be digging it like a mole. I am like that myself. But for three years they would not let me have a plot. The whole land was parceled, nothing but hollows remained, and now, 20 years later, I am still working these ravines. (Laughs). I got used to them – come and visit some time. It is a beautiful area, but when I first arrived, there was nothing but shrubs, weeds and ravines. No one wanted it but me. They allowed me to have it three years later, when everyone else already had a plot. When I began cultivating it they understood finally how things should be done.
V.О.: Cultivating land you do not have much time to think.
А.Z.: This is one way to look at it. When perestroika started, the people who used to be afraid of us started looking up to us as some sort of beacons. It happened pretty often – I wonder if you’ve had the same experience, after all it was very personal – they would approach silently a circle of smokers; well, I don’t smoke myself, but the others used to smoke in the toilet – and launch a discussion. They would start with the questions: what will it be like? What should it be like? How exactly should it be done? And I would tell them quite frankly, all anti-soviet propaganda aside – this is the party position, so it should be done in such and such way. In short, I could see that our opinion was valued, whether due to some synergy, or the weight of our very names.
When we founded Rukh in 1989 many people approached us – I know personally at least 12 persons – and said: “We are with you. Wherever you go, we go too”. They are still with me, 13 years later. Only one of them is [undecipherable], he was at the event yesterday and carried the flag. Well, he is like a weather-vane, turn to the right, turn to the left, he has his own ambitions, but he is a hard-working guy after all. That is why I reiterate that Ovsienko, Zdoroviy, Kravtsiv, Popadyuk, Lukyanenko and their ilk used to be “beacons” of the community, which looked up to them for guidance. I came across a letter, written by a teacher, by the name of Burmakina or Burlakina. She is Russian and she wrote a letter to the “Panorama” newspaper. The editor gave me the letter because it concerned me personally. Not only me, other people too were mentioned in it. She wrote in her letter that the newspaper kept publishing materials about such and such individuals, while everyone knew what they used to be in the past. The people with certain stand had always adhered to [their cause], while the others suddenly sprouted their social position, just out of the blue. Such people are interested in nothing, but their own gain. I would like to hear more about the people whom you describe as “nationalists”. What it means is that public perception is that we have always served as an example to follow. We were not perfect, of course, but we offered people some guidelines, with our own operation, with our everyday work. This is first.
I was among the most active perestroika champions. What did it actually mean? The “Spadshchyna” [Legacy – Ukr.] society was set up as the first association of Ukrainians, and I was the author of its by-laws.
V.О.: It must have been 1988, right?
А.Z.: By 1986 the by-laws were ready. In 1985 I made it public at M. Luhovenko’s place, in her apartment. Kravtsiv was present, and he got scared. He anticipated drastic consequences, and I was still under surveillance at the time. So his reaction was kind of abrupt – he said it was too early yet. Well, it addressed just the cultural development. When all that had to be formalized around 1986-87, I had to seek support among my acquaintances in the oblast’ party committee and they helped. One of them is no longer among us. At the 10th anniversary of independence celebrations we granted him a public award, posthumously. It was received by his son. He had helped a lot, that man. Being the member of the oblast’ committee bureau, he helped to register our “Spadshchyna” society. It was around 1987. For a long time nothing could have been done, everyone was afraid. The oblast’ committee became aware that the situation had changed, the public meetings started…The societies and associations were appearing one after another.
V.О.: The Ukrainian language society, the “Memorial”?
А.Z.: The Ukrainian language society, the “Memorial”. I was a founder and one of the leaders of both.
V.О.: Were you member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group as well?
А.Z.: Yes, I was, and that is how it happened. I was in charge of several matters in Kharkiv. When V.Pasichnyk told me that I had to join the Ukrainian Helsinki Group, I explained I was all for it, but if I become a member, than I won’t be able to take care of other things, because my supervision had just been lifted. So we agreed that my membership would be revealed only in emergency, and otherwise it would be a secret. The guy from Dnipropetrovsk, what’s his name…
V.О.: Ivan Sokulsky?
А.Z.: Sokulsky. Oh, that was a funny story. It happened prior to his latest nomination. He came here to share some materials. Right after his arrival he called me – he knew my office number. Well, at work I was aware that a spy sat next to me, and there was a little lady behind me charged with the task of reporting on me to the personnel department. And here is Ivan calling me. Well, I thought [undecipherable]. And that is what happened next. I had to go to work, so where would he stay? And these bastards, even after my supervision had been lifted, used to come for unexpected checks – who is living in my flat and stuff like that. “But – I used to say – is it any business of yours?’ – “We have our own orders”. I would say: “But I am not under supervision any more”. – “So we don’t ask to come and report to us. It is just a friendly visit”. Well, I thought, God forbid they come while he is there… I went to work and Ivan stayed behind to copy some of his papers. We were supposed to publish them later. But we decided it was a stupid idea, as it would be too easy to catch us.
V.О.: So was it before Ivan’s second imprisonment?
А.Z.: Before Ivan’s second imprisonment .
V.О.: If I recall right, he was sent to jail for his second term in 1980, wasn’t he? (April 11, 1980– V.О).
А.Z.: Tell you what. During the perestroika people changed their attitudes, their perception of us, but the processes were gaining momentum. For example, the Cossacks’ fellowship was revived. I participated in that revival and then was a delegate to the Cossacks’ meetings. I was appointed the regiment commander at their first meeting. That fellow who works at “Liberty” radio station, O.Pechyna (?), was also a member of the Cossacks’ council. Big convention was in order, so we were working on the joint statement.
I was the deputy head of Kharkiv Rukh organization before I came to work in the state administration.
V.O.: And when did you start working there? You have been a deputy for a long time, haven’t you?
A.Z.: In 1990 I was elected the oblast’ council deputy. I headed a commission, served as presidium member, and headed the human rights and public organizations committee.
V.О: For one convocation, right?
A.Z.: For one convocation, from 1990 till 1994. Then, in 1992, I was elected the first deputy head of the presidential administration for Kharkiv oblast’ on all-state and regional policy in humanitarian issues – that was the name of the office. So here I stayed till 1994, when Kravchuk lost the elections. It is noteworthy that he had showed some reticence, while he had to fight for power. But I find more fault with Chornovil. Let him rest in peace, he was a most outstanding man, but unfortunately he was not a politician, he was a journalist and remained journalist till the end. He was talented, gifted, but he did not know how to do politics. If you make your opponent implement your program, do not try to do it yourself, let him sweat a bit, and your job is control and due pressure. We were sent by Rukh to the administration. Although a deputy myself, I represented Rukh on this occasion. I managed to bring inonly 28 persons – as opposed to 6 thousand of administration. Nevertheless, we had a chance of winning had we persevered. But we were left to our own devices, and it was a step back, instigated by Chornovil; he set up that party…
V.О.: And declared his adherence to opposition.
А.Z.: Right. Kravchuk offers him his hand to shake, and he spits at it. What kind of politician is that?
V.О.: I attended that NRU III Congress. I was present when Kravchuk was catcalled, with Chornovil making no attempt to stop it.
А.Z.: I know. I’ll tell you, I talked to Chornovil more than once. Last time we talked like we are talking now. We were four, we agreed to meet and he promised to get all the forces united by the elections of 1998. We pleaded with him: “You see how things are, so speak up and announce that everyone has equal rights, then the unity will be possible, while what you are saying is “Accept my rules of the game”.
But I had other doubts too. We arranged to meet in the building of the Supreme Rada commissions. He was busy all the time, always surrounded by some dubious companions. He said he won’t have more than half an hour for me. We were waiting, he was running late, but finally he arrived. As soon as he came in, the whole bunch of people surrounded him. Who were they all? I appealed to him:” Look around, who are these people? They look like crooks, all of them…” And they make themselves useful, so they become expedient for him. But they kept him away from more important issues.
V.О.: You are right, it was their tactics.
А.Z.: They occupy his time, they waste his strength, his nerves and they isolate him from the rest. It happened many a time – you are calling him and they are doing their best to keep him away from the phone. And all you basically need is to talk to him personally. Like it happened last time. He just entered the room, when someone approached him to sign a paper. No sooner had the petitioner left the room, than the next one came in. To hell with all of you! I physically pushed the man out of the room, put a chair through the door-handle and closed the door. Only then we had about 15-20 minutes of peace and quiet to talk. I told him then: “Vyacheslav Maxymovych! It cannot be that all our ex-cons are wrong and only one is right”. What did he answer? Not only to me, but to all those sitting in the room with us:” Why do you think that the opinions of the others are more relevant that my own opinion? Maybe, my opinion is God-inspired.” On hearing that, I thought that the “divine mission” was a very special concept. I was really concerned, I must tell, because you never know…But your environment, your comrades, who have been through the same tribulations, are warning you, and you are disregarding them…
The time of my service as the first deputy of the administration head in Kharkiv was very hard, very trying for me. We had a very active start. For example, organizing the ceremony of taking oath of allegiance to Ukraine in the military required a lot of work.
Excellent work of O. Maselsky, the administration head in Kharkiv, aimed at consolidating the forces, is worth mentioning here. He was not one of the party “apparatchiks”; he was always seen in the executive committees. He was the first secretary for limited time, but things did not work out for him. He was a very talented manager, though. But the main thing is he was a real Ukrainian patriot, even then. He hated all these communists and “apparatchiks”. He had to take heed of them, because it was the only way to function, but he remained a Ukrainian. When these issues arose, he did a lot of good. He deserves the highest praise as he was an authentic statesman. He managed to find and offer me the acceptable position, even in a city like Kharkiv, a city surrounded by the hostile Katzap population. Sometimes I would say; “Enough of these mild half-measures, it is time to use the real power and we have the authority to do it”, but he would reply: “No, I’d rather do it my way”. And he did. For that he was appreciated – no one else was taken into consideration, but he had the real authority and people recognized it. He was an experienced manager: if someone disobeyed he would immediately have some inspection after the culprit, like fire control or whatever – he knew all the doings. And the subordinates knew that if they did something wrong he will have someone after them pretty quick. But what he did was for the benefit of the Ukrainian state, for the Ukrainian cause.
At that time we had but 3-5 persons involved in national-democratic development. It was V.Pasichnyk, first and foremost, then Bakumenko, who now is the head of URP “Sobor”, who had been the deputy of both oblast’ and city councils, the deputy head and then the director of a plant. Then Kharchenko (?) from “Prosvita”, also an educated and active man. I.Kravtsiv as well. But I.Kravtsiv did not like hand-on work. Being a deputy he would give some smart advice or comment worth listening to, but all his comments were rather theoretical, referring to the principles of operation. Although sometimes it was useful, so I would take him with me to debate all these prosecutors’ nuances which required a lot of nerve and patience. Then new people came along. What basically did we do to set up URP or DemPU? Pasichnyk said – we need URP, and here he is a URP member; or we need DemPU (we were under the illusion that we could set up two parties in Ukraine – the republican and the democratic, like in the US). So Pasichnyk was in charge of the URP, while I was responsible for the DemPU, so I joined the members of the Democratic Party. Then they all switched to “Sobor”, the entire Kharkiv branch of the organization, about 860 persons.
V.О.: When was it?
А.Z.: In 2001, when we got involved with Volkov.
V.О.: But you have returned to the civil service after 1994, haven’t you?
А.Z.: In 1994 I filed an official resignation note, to facilitate the new president’s task. I believed that it was the right thing to do. But the oblast’ administration head said: “Do not hurry”. I am talking about Maselsky, who was killed in 1996. Kushnaryov and his corrupt gang were behind this assassination, because they wanted favorable ambiance to privatize the entire Kharkiv region. Kushnaryov handed in the whole data bank for Kharkiv region (concerning material and technical facilities, resources, personnel etc) to the gang of 11 corrupt agents, led by Marconi & Co. When I uncovered these facts I went straight to the National Security Service. But they hindered the progress of the case. I took the files to Kyiv, but they disappeared miraculously. Kushnaryov is still around, and he is number one enemy. So they killed Maselsky, because Maselsky was popular as nationally-minded statesman. And he also curbed their appetites; under him that barbarous privatization would not have been possible. One could grab something here and there, but as far as strategic facilities went, like power industry – it was forbidden point blank, and rightly so. That is why they did him in.
As to my subsequent service, I was nominated to the oblast’ council, but never made it. Why? It was not that I had not been elected – there were no elections at all.
V.О.: Was it 1994?
А.Z.: Right, 1994. The elections never happened. My chances were not bad, but there were no elections at all. They were never held in this electoral district. The oblast’ council had been short of 4 of five deputies between 1994 and 1998. I did not run in the further elections which were announced twice, but never took place in this electoral district – the voters simply did not come.
V.О.: Didn’t you run in 1998?
А.Z.: In 1998 I was nominated from a rural electoral district. I have chosen the one where the communists were on the loose. It comprised five rayons.
V.О.: Are you referring to the Supreme Rada [elections]?
A.Z.: Correct. I admit I am most satisfied with my operation in that area.
Z.Popakyuk: It was a propagandistic action.
V.О.: And where did you work?
А.Z.: From oblast’ administration I was transferred to work as the manager of a bank here in Kharkiv, the Comintern saving bank. I lasted only about seven months at that position…The job was not right for me. I think it was Maselsky’s idea: learn to stand on your own legs. Later I told him the job was not for me, I was not interested in money and would rather go in for politics. I have the bare necessities I need, but working for profit…I left.
V.О.: Are you still working?
А.Z.: I retired three years ago. Now I am working on half-voluntary basis. An Institute for political sciences was set up, with me as its executive director. It offers lectures for the young people. The university undergraduates are trained on becoming statesmen, patriots. The curriculum is very broad, it covers the Ukrainian history, diplomacy, speaking in public, military affairs, security, crucial industries and their management – a huge program.
V.О.: Since when have you been working there?
А.Z.: It is my third year now. Besides, I work in the Kharkiv former political prisoners’ association.
V.О.: You have been its head from the very beginning, haven’t you?
А.Z.: No, I became the head of the Kharkiv former political prisoners’ association only after leaving the bank, around 1995-96.
V.О.: So you are the head of the oblast’ association, right?
А.Z.: You see, the way we had was that the association worked in close contact with the “Memorial”. But then Henrich Altunyan interfered. I must tell you that Altunyan has changed a lot after becoming Supreme Rada deputy in 1990. Zhenya Zakharov, for one, has always been and still is democratically minded. I know his family, his mother – they are normal people, tolerant towards Ukraine. I mean Zhenya, his wife, his mother Marlena Rakhlina. And Altunyan is a liberal democrat, a windbag specializing in Ukrainian matters… At some point I had very hard time bringing him into Rukh, because we had to demonstrate that Rukh leadership included people of different nationalities. It was hard to bring him in. We literally carried him to the Supreme Rada. I was running from Frunze electoral district then, so I took about six groups off the campaign, to switch the whole operation to Kyiv rayon. We did a tremendous job to bring him in. He won with just insignificant majority of votes. And then started pursuing his own agenda…
V.О.: Now tell us a few words about your family status.
А.Z.: I have been married twice. My first wife, with whom we had our son Yaroslav, was born in1962, on January 12. He bears my name and is my direct heir. We do not have common children with my second wife. She is a teacher and has two children. But the children are as much hers as they are mine. They are grown up already and have their own families.
V.О.: Thank you for talking with us.