HNATIUK Ivan Fedorovych
author: Vasyl Ovsiyenko
V.V.Ovsiyenko: We are having a conversation with Mr. Ivan Hnatiuk on 23, Sahaidachny Street in Kyiv on October 11, 2000. Interviewer Vasyl Ovsiyenko: “Please, you may start.”
I.F.Hnatiuk: I, Ivan Hnatiuk, was born according to all documents on July 27, 1929. And recently, while working on my memoirs, I found in the archive my first certificate of birth and it came out that I was born on July 21. A mistake crept into the records. I was born in the Village of Dzvyniacha, then it was not a district, but Vyshnevetska Gmina of Kremenets Powiat, Volyn Voivodeship. Now it is Ternopil Oblast.
Parents. My father Fedir, son of Ivan, was born in 1904; he fell on the last day of the Battle of Berlin on May 1, 1945. He was buried somewhere there. In fact, to take Berlin a few days before May 1, Zhukov had more than 500,000 of his soldiers killed. I personally heard in the TV broadcast dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the victory what the survivor of that battle had to say. He was awarded all kinds of medals and he said it with reprobative tone of voice. My mother was born in 1907 and died in 1990 in Kherson Oblast, where she lived with her daughter and where her grave is now. My parents were almost illiterate: they could go to school only during one winter because in summer they had to work. All their education consisted in their ability to put their signatures. My father went to war with the Gospel, with the New Testament. He was an ardent believer. Maybe he was killed carrying this Book on him, I do not know. In her old age my mother felt lonely, because we are all busy: she used to put on her glasses and learn to read and she mastered reading and then read small books to kill time. In fact, I had two wings: my mother and Ukraine. She died 10 years ago but in each my book I remember her as a great martyr. Her lot is a lot of our Ukraine. But let God forgive me: my mother died in 1990, and I say, forgive me, my mother, forgive me, O Lord my God, she died just in time and did not see what the hypocrites did during the last ten years and how they deceived her. She laid aside her pension money and all her hopes went to the blazes. Shevchenko wrote: “All things must pass away…” I also that the morning sun never lasts a day and we need to go through a spiritual cataclysm.
I know this is probably an inherited trait: my grandfather was a great rebel and died in Siberia; it looks like the genes passed on to me his rebellious unruly temper through which I had to outlive much, especially in the concentration camps. I was a disobedient person. I once spoke on the radio and said that the security officers beat me, hit hard, but poor devils could not but beat me, because I sang to jig and danced to church music. I’ve no idea how I survived: God protected me. This sun and Ukraine have been with me since I was 12 years old. It will give me comfort for the rest of my life. Why do I emphasize this? Because beyond that I do not know any other ideas. Shevchenko for me is a holy theory. He is our Ukrainian god. If we read him he would be for everyone, everyone could read there about herself/himself. That is why the scribblers like Buzyna are up in arms against him. But we give rise to it. We call for unmasking Shevchenko. We also invent things about our greatest writers: Lesia Ukrayinka and Olga Kobylianska…
Thus, Ukraine led me to participation in the strife. It wasn’t a sort of armed resistance though I had a pistol, carried grenades, and kept them just to be on the safe side. Today I do not justify their taking their own lives in those bunkers. It would be better for them to die on the surface killing the enemy and then commit a suicide. But orders are orders.
I was arrested in Kremenets pedagogical school. It was my last but one arrest. The first time I was 15 and I was arrested when I returned from the reconnaissance mission at night in 1944. I boxed horses for I had to bring a small group of insurgents on horseback to a nearby village. When I arrived, the night was so dark that nothing could be seen; it was in the late November or early December. I knocked on the window, because I knew that the insurgents had to stay there and another one or two insurgents had to come yet. The windows of the khata were dark. And all of a sudden I hear from behind: “Hands up!” Somebody betrayed us. In an ambush one insurgent was killed. He lay on the ground half a meter away: I didn’t see him and almost trod on him. Those were my first arrests. You can only imagine how they tortured me for two nights, but I survived. But they let me go. They released me because the head of the village council bailed me saying that I was just a kid from a poor family, whose father was in the lines; God knows why he’d dragged here at night, for which he certainly deserved spanking. After that there were several raids and arrests, and I was always beaten. They used to beat everyone but I was beaten the hardest for my temper.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: What for were you arrested when you were only 15 years old? How did you join the insurgents? Please, give us more specific information…
I.F.Hnatiuk: I used to go on reconnaissance still under the Germans in 1942. I was grabbed near the cemetery at night when I was on my way back from a neighboring village. But I escaped and later became a counterrevolutionary, though I did not understand the meaning of the word at the time. It beats me even now. This is something hereditary, it is a matter of my life, not even my mind, I just had such a feeling and it was my only power that won. Psychologically, I would have had to die. I’m a little superstitious, I had many dreams that had come true and therefore I believed in it. And then, when I was on my way back and when the insurgent was killed I gave up nobody to them: they stayed in the khata and knew nothing about it. And as I came to know later, the mistress of the house betrayed us: she came originally from stanitsa and therefore wasn’t jailed. It was she who was responsible for the murder of Stepan from the neighboring village whom I had seen alive. He was buried. They fixed me in their mind then and ever since when something happened they grabbed me and beat. They wrest no information from me. They found my reports to the organization, and showed me my poems, and reprinted manuscript but I did not name anyone. It was for me a holy obligation: if you are still alive, then you have to die, but never to give up anybody.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: For how long did they keep you under arrest then?
I.F.Hnatiuk: And then they just kept beating me for two days. And then they used to beat me for three or four days at the most and usually released after beating. They did it nine times, and the tenth time when I walked from the Krements school in broad daylight. In the garden two machine gunners escorted me and I went before them. He said “You know where to go. If anyone meets you on the way do not answer him and follow your way. In any case do not stop.” I suddenly like a bullet, like a bee stung me… I went saying goodbye to Kremenets with my eyes because I knew that I would never go out, and I knew why: earlier I took floor at the meeting and delivered a speech against the Komsomol. And then the idea shot into my mind: run. And I wiped off. I ran uphill with my handbooks under my right arm. There was a wall just above two meters high. I jumped up, got a grip on it with my left-hand fingertips, pulled myself up and jumped over the wall. I came back here later, I undressed and resorted to other tricks but I failed to jump it over. In 1989 the illustrator of my book and another youngster joined my trials but nobody of us succeeded. The reason is there were no chasers. If there was a pursuit, everyone would have jumped. So there exist such phenomena in our life which cannot be explained neither by science nor common sense.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: You said that you attended the Kremenets Teachers College. Since when did you study there?
I.F.Hnatiuk: I started in 1947 and moved up to my second year in 1948 and at the end of the term, probably in October, I was arrested. I escaped, but I did not go back home. I came at night, sneaked up to my home, said goodbye to my mother, took warm clothes, bread and went into the field.
I was not housed in an underground bunker because I came directly from the regional headquarters. In my book these guys do not appear because it was a secret. Borys was one secret name, and the second one was Kulia. My closest friend Vasyl Tesliuk was also there. I have a short poem dedicated to him. So during five weeks--the snow fell already—made myself comfortable somewhere in a shed, or stealthily crept into my khata at night, or slept in a haycock somewhere in the field. I went everywhere with my gun and, two grenades… But I wanted to study. A friend of mine was the class monitor. He forged my matriculation certificate. I was an excellent student and studied well and entered the school in Brody, they admitted me. It was the same teachers’ school. There I studied for three weeks only: they found me. They also cunningly grabbed me during the break and prevented my escape. It was the eleventh arrest. It happened on December 27, 1948. The investigation took three or four months… But above all they put me in a cooler. This was terrible…
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Where was the investigation conducted?
I.F.Hnatiuk: They came from Kremenets, arrested me and took me by train back. It’s an interesting story, but I have already written about it (Hnatiuk, Ivan. My Pathways. Memoirs. -- Drohobych: Vidrodzhennia Publishers, 1998.--496 p., ill. ). I do remember the past events. I can forget yesterday’s events, especially the names, but I do remember the past. Nothing but fine details… You will read the book and it will be able to interest you. I was condemned to 25 years.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: What article was it?
I.F.Hnatiuk: 54 /1 and 54 /11: “high treason” and “armed struggle” respectively. In connection with the decree of May 26, 1947 on the abolition of the death penalty I was given 25 years as a maximum term. These were ordinary penal settlements or special camps, the so called Berlag.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: How was the investigation conducted?
I.F.Hnatiuk: Captain Kravchenko, who resembled my father and was tall as well, came for me together with Mohylevsky, from whom I fled. They found me in Brody. I was in the bullpen, cell of pretrial detention, and militia brought me. One militiaman was left at the door with me, and another one reported that I was conveyed. He started opening the door and letting me in, when Mohylevsky fived me in my eyes. He could blind me but I backed just in time saying: "Are you nuts?" He said: “No flying from me now!” I said, “Time will tell.” And Captain Kravchenko standing in the corner observed: “I do not know about Mohylevsky here, but be sure no flying from me, because I’m an old Cheka officer.” I said: “Yes, it might be difficult, but nevertheless I’ll make a try.” He laughed and offered me to sit down, and wrote down everything. And that night both of them together escorted me in a compartment car. At the time all cars were regarded as day coaches, because it was in the postwar period. In the corner there sat a woman in front of me. Brought to Dubno. We spent the night at the station; we were given a special room. Lieutenant Mohylevsky lay beside me and another one was sitting at the door and reading a book. I had intended to flee again and I five or six times asked to let me relieve myself. He led me to the loo saying: “Stop mixing me up, I know you.” Back to Kremenets they brought me on an open platform driven by the locomotive. It was in December: it was bitterly cold during days and nights. They brought me to Kremenets and kept in the crew area of the locomotive while it was driven to a lay-by. They drove the platform truck up to the entry to the crew area and then they made me to move. The moment I moved onto the truck they covered me with a cape so that I looked like a haycock. Occasionally the cape slipped down and I saw a few meters away Tesla, a student from my class. She obviously stared at me. But they covered me with the cape again.
Things began to take off. Immediately they started questioning which lasted for three days. Kravchenko did the first examination record. He was already tired and not shaved; therefore he quietly spoke to me. I did not tell anything to him, and he waved his hand: there is a Georgian proverb that you need two hands to clap. And I was betrayed by a stoolie. Now He lives in Krements; in my book I gave only his initials V.S. I was asked, why I did not disclose his name. And how would I prove it? I met him at the public call office in Lviv in 1976 and we talked with him. I told him everything to his face. Some people know him. In my book he appears as V.S. So I knew that they knew about me. I had time to consider everything carefully. My imagination is but my investigation. I formed a line not to give up anybody. So he asked me: “You mean it was a one-man organization?” — “Well, there were insurgents as well: I met them by chance in the field.” And I was tried alone.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: What kind of trial was this?
I.F.Hnatiuk: The tribunal. I was a regional headquarters orderly and there was not a single village but a whole cluster. I was still going to school when the guys were imprisoned. They grabbed one guy and he betrayed the rest of them. Later they planted him into my cell. I knew about it because my mother had come and told me about the traitor. Though, he was not to blame; later they all lived together amicably. When someone gives up other persons during questioning, nobody can blame him, the accuser has no moral right to do this, because only a few can stand up to trial. I do know what it means to stand up to trial. Therefore they did not blame him and got on well. I did not introduce myself at first and he did not recognize me. He knew neither my name nor my pseudo. I told him that if you, God forbid, would tell them that I came to your men in the neighboring village, my pals would ice you here (in fact, I had no friends in that prison). You squeal and you’re a dead man. He did not squeal. They asked me about them, because one of them was in touch with me for it was the same regional headquarters. I gave up nobody and was tried alone, and they were tried as a group of 13 men. It was a great shame when the whole group was brought in for questioning and they gave up each other. And when you’re alone there is happiness, there is dignity which is the dearest.
The sentence being passed I tried and organized the escape but I was caught.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: From the halting place or what?
I.F.Hnatiuk: My cellmate and I started picking the wall to make a crawlway in the stove…
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Where was it?
I.F.Hnatiuk: In the cell in Kremenets. There were two of us… Shevchuk from Shumsky Region. It was a very scary windy night, and our prison was fenced with a palisade at a short distance of below two meters. So, we could make a running jump from the roof over the palisade and into the deep snow. We were on the second story of the two-storied prison. We could use the stack to get onto the roof and then make a running jump and… what would be would be. We strived for freedom. But the next day the stoolie squealed: under the floor they had six horseshoes for picking, two horseshoes were mine and I forgot the names of other horseshoe owners. When the escape failed, there arrived a representative from Kyiv in quilted jacket and without shoulder boards. All bosses trembled in front of this newcomer.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Can you clarify this horseshoe-picking idea, please? Do you mean some kind of splitter or what?
I.F.Hnatiuk: Well, it rather looked like a chisel: I unbent a horseshoe, sharpened it on pots, wound around the handle with all sorts of foot wrap and thread. With such instrument one could stab a man to death or slaughter a boar.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: The name of Koliyivshchyna Rebellion proceeds from the name of such instrument?
I.F.Hnatiuk: Yes, yes, it was a kind of such chisel. One inmate said that tomorrow would be a trying day. It was eleven o’clock at night. I hid those chisels and filled in the hole with several bricks. But the next day the hiding was found. Some inmate had to be a stoolie. He was taken away from the cell that very night. At dawn he returned and looked terribly beaten. I was summoned after him. There worked investigator Bezshchasnyi, a real executioner. Recently I have visited the same prison but Bezshchasnyi was dead already. People say that his son said that he was a very kind person. But I deny it and say that he was a real executioner. They brought me to the office and I immediately took sight of pots on which we sharpened our instruments. And all six chisels were lying side by side: “Who did it?” — “I. ”— “Why did you plan to flee?” — “Because I wanted to be at large.” He grabs a pot. At that moment the door opened and Prosecutor Colonel Bindiuk came in. He put down the pot and said: “This guy is young, he is from a poor family, and his father was killed in action. The chiefs think he may be released.” A long conversation was held. Finally I said: “Let’s stop playing cat and mouse and let’s discontinue the inquest.” They gave me back my passport and let me go. I was on my way already. “But wait, tell me, where do you live? Bezshchasnyi got onto familiar terms of address with me for the first and the last time, and hit me no more. Then came the representative from Kyiv; the reshuffle took place; they foisted legless and old cripples on me. I was an only youngster among them. It’s rather a long story though.
After the trial, they threw me into the common cell. I entered my cell and saw my brother-in-law, his brother and other acquaintances. My mother told me that they were arrested for their long tongue and the “special council” gave each of us ten years. I asked: “Why? What the heck! I didn’t give up anybody!”
Then followed Lviv and Kolyma.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: How long did your transportation take?
I.F.Hnatiuk: It took us a month to travel by train to the port of Vanino near the Okhotsk Sea. There is a transit camp there. You know how they beat us and counted.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: People told me.
I.F.Hnatiuk: A lot of people were killed there: two truckfuls of dead bodies; they made us meet those crazy coppers’ narks. In those Kolyma concentration camps we fought local rats. Three hundred our men and three hundred Lithuanians stood up against 800 snitches. We immediately resisted them. We had only boards and stones to fight with. Those kingpins, rats, and bullies you know… They abused other prisoners and stole things, but we became organized and for eighteen months carried on a struggle against them in the open behind the barbed wire being locked up and staying behind bars. And we brought them down and set things going in order to survive. They stopped stealing and we did not take vengeance on them. All of it happened behind the barbed wire, one on one, and now there are so many thieves, robbers gaining millions, one gainer per tens of thousands and nobody has been subjected to punishment. The laws were made, but none of them was put in the dock. I believe that everything will fall into place. We were revived in 1989/1990. I believe in the resurrection of our national soul. Only after we banish all leaders of all parties from our sight and liquidate all parties. There is only one party: the people of Ukraine and Ukraine. It is the only party and all the rest will pass away. They have divided us. In the days of lore Monomakh gave his children a broom to break… By the way, I’ve recently started reading the diary of Arkadiy Liubchenko… Have you read it?
V.V.Ovsiyenko: It has been published recently, but I have not read it yet.
I.F.Hnatiuk: Liubchenko says that when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was established in Ukraine as an independent state in the time of war, he would not be surprised if the Bolsheviks hoisted the colors of Ukraine then. They needed it, or didn’t they? To achieve their goals they always use every stick in the book. They could do in 1943 or 1944 what they did in 1990 for the very same ones hoisted the colors then. If they say that that we did, it isn’t true: they did it and there is no biggie in the fact that they took a few dissidents with them. What did they do with Stus? The lawyer that was appointed to speak in his defense, though Vasyl Stus had turned him down, delivered an accusatory speech that increased the term for Stus which died as a result of it. I say, the Ukrainian people must finally decide with whom they are spiritually: with Vasyl Stus or with Medvedchuk who, in fact, is not Medvedchuk.
How was I released?
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Wait, what about Kolyma and fight against those rats? In what camps did you do your term?
I.F.Hnatiuk: I was kept for twelve months in Arkagala concentration camp on Kolyma. The chiefs tolerated the easy-tempered workers while the routine violators were transported under guard elsewhere.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: What kind of work did you do there?
I.F.Hnatiuk: There were the coal mines in Arkagala. Have I told you about Dry-Khmara? It’s interesting.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Please, tell us how he perished.
I.F.Hnatiuk: Ten years before I was brought there, in 1939, as later wrote in “Literaturna Ukrayina” Panteleimon Vasylevskyi who now lives in Drohobych, and he was told this story by the witness of the death of Dry-Khmara… They dealt shortly with the prisoners: the chief of the concentration camp, or a newly arrived boss pulled out a pistol and then shot and killed in front of all other prisoners. He could form in column and shoot on the spot. Later he was accused of being a “Japanese spy”. He arrived, formed in column, and had to shoot every fifth. And Dry-Khmara was in that column. He figured that his neighbor would be killed. And this neighbor was a student. He decided that he had lived enough and in a wink changed places with the student who had to be the fifth. The executioner took no notice of it and put the full cartridge clip of bullets into Dry-Khmara. Thus perished Dry-Khmara. So he is not only a great writer but also a courageous man. They say that people want to live and I wanted to live, but there is something higher than life. Honor is higher than life: not higher but more precious than life.
About that Arkagala you may read in my book. You will also laugh at my tricks there. They brought me to Aliaskitovo. There at the gate I met my brother-in-law… They examined me and diagnosed tuberculosis. The doctor told my friend that I had had three infiltrates in the course of six months… we were hungry and there were no medications… I was young, and tuberculosis is usually more active in young persons. They sent me to the central hospital for prisoners on the “Left Bank”. They carried five, seven, ten dead bodies out every night. I underwent treatment there; they also performed appendectomy. For my violation of the matter-of-fact routine of the hospital they threw me out of the hospital. I was in the transit camp. Because of criminals and non-political prisoners they built a subdividing partition in the barrack. They used boards to make a partition and made another entrance. I had a bad mood. Earlier I met a guy of my age from Leningrad in the hospital. He wanted to die, and he did die… We went to work together and in the evening they led us to the movies. He said: “Today you go to work alone, and I will shoot myself.” He manufactured a homemade gun and shot himself. I wanted very much that he would live; I did my best to persuade him. That is why my tension built up. He tried everything and all: he swallowed a spoon, took Ammonal and swallowed nails but all of it to no avail. His brother was a major and prosecutor; he came to visit him, they expelled him from the zone, but he did not go. He was a decent, honest guy. I’ll write more about him, if I live, it’s an interesting story. And so while I was in such an excited state they announced that three men are needed to do some work. I was the first to volunteer in order to get out of that cramped space and leave the fence behind. They brought us to the outside forbidden ground to hoe and harrow soil so that one could see traces if someone decided to escape. You know the routine. Two prisoners started hoeing and I sat down and watched. The guard asked: “Why are you sitting and not working?” — “What is that to you?” — “You volunteered to work, so get down to work.” I answered: “And you are expected to guard me, so do mind your business, and other men will call me to account.” — “I order you to work!” — “And I answer you: fuck you…” According to camp custom I sent him to fuck himself. He grabbed his submachine-gun makers and I said: “Here now I will give you something to do.” I got up and went to the forbidden zone. He cocked the gun: “Stop, I will shoot!” Silently I stepped over. And about one and a half kilometer away there were a valley, forest, and mountains. I heard him making click-click behind me: after thirty meters or so I turned back saying: “Stop yelling! You’re at a loss what to do?” And I moved on. Fifty meters more and he caught me and gripping my hand said: “Do not go away: if you go, they’ll find me guilty.” — “Right, you’ll be sentenced to twenty-five years.” And he cried saying: “I cannot shoot you, I have mother…” So I saw the tears. I’ve never been able to see other people’s tears, I feel pity for them. I saw tears and said: “Stop crying, I’m going back. I ’m not afraid of bullets, but I am afraid of tears.” And I returned back. So I dawdled up to the dinner time and he led us to the dining hall; after dinner we went out and I heard him saying: “I’d rather leave this one here.” His chief asked: “What did he do?” — “Nothing special,” he said. “I simply do not like his face.” And he took some other guy with him and left me behind.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: This was truly an extraordinary case!
I.F.Hnatiuk: Yes. A few days later I again went to work. We team consisted of 12 prisoners and there were more guards. He had taken his team somewhere and was now on his way to the dining room, and we were escorted to have our dinner in the camp. He saw me in the column (I was inside) and ran up to me with his submachine gun while somebody called to him shouting: “Are you nuts?” And he called back: “Wait!” He stopped the column, held out his hand and said, “What was it? I know you did not want to live.” I answered: “Maybe.” He begged me: “Don’t do it again! You’ll get your freedom yet!” He entreated me to do it no more. He went away and I did not see more of him.
You see, I was seventy-one last birthday, and in Aliaskitovo, in 1951, they said that I would not pull through another six months. And God let me a chance to live on.
From the hospital they transferred me to the Kholodny concentration camp. Our barrack was near the watch premises. You may know the routine of posting of sentries and you may know their rations; for us they determined the five-six-hour resting time, no more. And suddenly at night: “Reveille! Fall in!” We fell in. “Left wheel!” So, we had to go out. A truck went into a skid or a truck had to be unloaded or some other devilry… It was Christmas Eve 1953, Stalin was still alive, January 6, I had my supper already and I had to go to the night shift. It was only a fifty-meter walk. I lay rough, of course, legs hanging in the air because they punished very hard for it. I thought about the Christmas Eve, my native village, customs, my deceased father, my mother with her children who had to leave for the took away everything, even our bed linen… What were our lives like? We lived very poorly; we had no bed, instead we drove poling into the floor, on top of it we fixed crossbars, boards, spread straw and covered it with a thick linen sheet to sleep on it. They confiscated even the straw. My mother moved to the Mykolayiv Oblast… So, I was in a blue mood and suddenly somebody barked “Fall in!” It gave me a shock. I stood the nearest to the door. All prisoners fell in. “Left wheel!” But I went back to the barrack. “Stop!” Everybody went away, and I remained alone. I thought: they’ll give me a sound thrashing now. The column is on its way and I go back to the barrack. Here four or five supervisors came inside. I climbed up onto the top bunk made of two lining boards above and two lining boards below. I forewarned: “Stop where you are, because I’ll hit you on the head.” They shifted from one foot to the other and went away. I was sitting on the top bunk. It was the time of guard mounting. The guards left their arms in the guardhouse and fifteen men entered the barrack. Well, I hit one or two of them with a stool on the head. They took our table, and using it as a shield they knocked me down, twisted my arms and handcuffed me. I wasn’t dressed properly. In the guardhouse they kept beating me and strangling for four hours. It is an unbelievable pain when you’re in handcuffs and you cannot touch your hands with your fingers. They put me into the isolation ward handcuffed and undressed and they took away my belt to prevent my hanging myself. But I was handcuffed and couldn’t hang myself, or could I?
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Were your handcuffed hands in front of you or behind your back?
I.F.Hnatiuk: Behind my back: my hands were twisted and it gave me terrible pain. It seems I hollered when they beat my hands, one executioner strangled me several times and then brought me to my senses pouring water. Even now I see his face: this lousy Russian face was looming in front of my eyes. But, you know, I currently feel no anger towards those executioners… I’ve forgotten everything. I am angry with our scatterbrained people or collaborators who for their personal interests or vanity or greed went to cooperate with that scum which delivered blows to our liver for the blue-and-yellow flag; now the same villains swear an oath under national colors. I hate them very much. People said that all my life I was very kind. My love was my life and I loved life, I loved everybody, because in my lifetime I used to protect many a man. Even when I was betrayed by my friends for the first time, I did not believe that a person can stretch the truth. Even during the questioning I did not deceive anybody; I said: “I will not give anybody up for the life of me!” After that I was awake for twenty-two years… For two days I kept silence in my cell and on the third night I fell ill. They called a doctor; I do not remember how he came and what he did. After that I lost sleep over it. For three or four months I was awake. I might sleep for one and a half days and then stay awake again. It lasted until 1971. After that I began sleeping normally. My wife here knows that I stay awake: I am breathing as if I am asleep, but actually stay awake the whole night. So it was. Currently insomnia happens from time to time and I may forget things… What was I saying?
V.V.Ovsiyenko: You talked about the Kholodny concentration camp. Was it the last one?
I.F.Hnatiuk: No, no, not the last. There they put me in the isolation ward. By the way, I stayed in the hospital at the same time as writer Arkadiy Liubchenko. He is a renowned writer. They kept me almost all the time in the isolation ward together with criminals. Sometimes for a month or two they used to transfer me to the zone, and then locked again. When Stalin died, they transferred me from Kholodny to Dniprovsky.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Was Dniprovsky in the same region there?
I.F.Hnatiuk: Right, in Kolyma Region. I do not know how long it took to transfer me there. There was one provocateur, major of Vlasov’s Russian Liberation Army. When I was still in the Kholodny concentration camp, I knew that he was a provocateur, and then we kind of made it up. He provoked the blood purge between our men and Georgians. We drove those provocateurs out of the zone; I myself went to the Georgian barracks and explained that they were provocateurs. Those rats rumored that we had to attack the Georgians of the 20th and they had to do the same on the 19th. The alarmed at night and in winter the guards were lying around the zone. We were alerted at night. The door stood ajar for those who needed to go to the loo. The guys took turns so that they couldn’t catch us asleep; the guys were on standby all night. The next day I had to be transported under guard together with those Georgians for them to kill me somewhere on the way to Belovo. And they said in Georgian: “Ivan, you think and we’ll act. You say the word and we will beat if there is a need.” In Belovo, the manager of the works came up, asked my name, shook hands with me and assigned working near Bestuzhev, major of Vlasov’s Russian Liberation Army; he was a decent man and wrote good poems. I brought his handwritten book home and buried together with my poetry, but, alas, later I failed to find any of my or his poems.
There, in Belovo, one could live. These criminals, who had committed dozens of murders, already listened to us. After Stalin’s death, even the bosses listened to us. It is not proper to speak of myself, but I’ve already hinted above that I did my best to improve the situation. Even our men started squabble among themselves. I gathered them. Everybody said that he was right… Even Solomon could get entangled. I said, “Guys, give each other your hands and give each other fraternal kiss and don’t let it happen again, otherwise it will be necessary to use some other means.” They reconciled.
It is not true that all CheKa officers are bad. God forbid, there were executioners and good people. Dontsov, Senior Lieutenant, did not harm anyone. Several times he summoned me. He had read the five-volume history of diplomacy and told me about it. And once he asked me: “What was your charge?” I said: “I had two personal enemies, both of them have kicked the bucket and I’m still doing my time in the zone.” — “And what about your friends or relatives?” — “No, you know them.” — “Who?” I answered: “Beria and Stalin.” — “Wait, could say Beria, but Stalin? He has won the war.” I said: “It is the price of victory that matters.” I did say this, really! I said: “In less than 2-3 years they will say for everybody to hear what Stalin was.” — “I reckon it’s unlikely.” He even jumped to his feet. I said: “You just cannot, because you have a family, you have kids and you’re at large. I’ve got nothing and I know that I will leave this world sick and exhausted. But remember my words.” I do not know, maybe he did remember…
By the way, I sacked Khrushchev as well: not the government, but Khrushchev. It was fun and there are witnesses to it. That happened in 1964. Somehow I foresaw all government reshuffles. My only mistake was as follows: I thought that Zhukov would remove Khrushchev. But Zhukov was the time, as you know, in Yugoslavia. Furthermore, we then thought that Zhukov was a decent man. Only later it came out that he together with Beria signed the order to deport Western Ukraine and how he brutally dammed up Dnipro with corpses. We had no idea about it at the time. I reckoned Zhukov would sack Khrushchev, and so said to everybody. I also foreknew about the Korean War.
In 1964 I began working as bookstore manager in Boryslav. Until then I did not work anywhere. There was also another claimant to the job. I was not either financially or materially accountable then. They even hid the money not to show daily receipts. And then the boss, Russian Pereskokov, required receipts, but there were none. We were ordered to write off a pile of books: it was an outdated Stalinist literature; the process needed painful work. There were also packs of Khrushchev’s books… For three days I tried to rivet their attention to them but they treated me as a provocateur. I asked: “When will I write off Khrushchev’s works?” They were not displayed on the counter; they were stored in the walk-in closet. They just looked in silent confusion at the sharp-tongued man. On the third day after this write-off there was a buzz from the city party committee. Ideology Secretary Bykov quietly told me that in the manner not to attract observation we should remove portraits of Khrushchev from the shelves and put them in the walk-in closet. I said: “Yes, will do!” He hung up and I cried out “Hooray! Gimme that bastard!” and in front of everybody I threw his portraits away. It’s true I cannot school myself to patience. So I denounced Stalin, removed Khrushchev… such a sense of humor.
Well, they brought me to Belovo. There without seeing my girl, my present wife, who also did her term.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: There was a concentration camp in Belovo, or what?
I.F.Hnatiuk: The concentration camp, the same Berlag.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: How could you make an acquaintance with a girl there?
I.F.Hnatiuk: I was in correspondence with her.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: In correspondence? But did you see her?
I.F.Hnatiuk: I did: she managed get outside the barbed wire. I remember chief security officer Rybnikov with a Cheka officer… After Beria’s death they were at a loss. Maybe he took on a new life because guys with small terms given not for political activity, asked him: “Let us walk a little out of the zone area.” — “You may get drunk.” — “No, we will not drink.” He met their wants. An hour later, somebody came and forewarned: “Go and pick them: they are naked and drunk as muck.” For this routine violation the camp chief put him into the disciplinary cell for ten days. Earlier I asked him to permit a date with my girlfriend which was about to go away. “What is she to you?” I said: “My future wife.” — “A-ah, you’ll have a wide choice in future yet.” However he did not refuse. She had to go next day, and the next day was Sunday. I informed the girl about the permit through an unguarded guy. Through the slits in the rough logs I saw her going to the headquarters. Rybnikov made the guards to mop the floor. They said, "We scrubbed the floor for you.” I said: “But you were born to scrub the floor for me.” And there, in the guardhouse, security officer Rybnikov gave us a date.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: And was the name of this girl?
I.F.Hnatiuk: Halyna Kapustian.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: What was she?
I.F.Hnatiuk: She did her ten year term for nothing: during the German rue she observed the anniversary of the death of Konovalets at the church service. It was the church service and she attended the service. For this she was given ten years, her brother was given ten years, and they confiscated their house. Only now they have returned the dilapidated building and my daughter lives there. Her father was exiled and her mother was imprisoned. Her father was a famous sexton and a Sich rifleman. He was the last Sich rifleman in our Boryslav. The first two Sich riflemen were killed in 1914. My father-in-law was the last Sich rifleman in Boryslav. He was killed and buried there not far away.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: And in what year did you met your future wife?
I.F.Hnatiuk: In 1954, Beria was still alive, but Stalin was already dead… No, it seems Beria was already dead as well.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Beria was arrested on June 26, 1953, right?
I.F.Hnatiuk: Oh, Beria was still alive when I met her. I do not know when he was shot or killed. She helped me a lot because I passed her letters through contract civilians. She passed me even clothes. The prisoner was permitted to send letters only twice a year. During three years my mother did not receive my letters. In my last letter I wrote that I developed tuberculosis. And my uncle, my father’s brother Zakhar, was also imprisoned and died of tuberculosis in 1947. For three years my mother was not receiving my letters and she decided that I was dead, and she prayed in church pray for the repose of my soul. And then she received these letters that I sent through the girl. She went home earlier…
I was given a second disability group and sent to the central regional hospital in Matrosovo, where later Vasyl Stus served his exile term. There I was in the hospital, too. I had a terrible effusion of blood there. There they also walled half of the barrack for political TB patients. When I had that effusion of blood, the unfamiliar guys who already knew me during one night collected 1,200 rubles for my medications and gave me the money in the morning to undergo treatment.
From there I was released on March 6, 1956.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: What kind of dismissal was this one? Were you granted clemency?
I.F.Hnatiuk: They did not want to let me go home because there was an instruction of the Magadan Oblast Court (I have the certificate) to release me as a “patient having severe disease”. Before that they enquired who could support such a patient otherwise political prisoners were not sent home. They released criminals, but they were not inclined to discharge political prisoners. So, I gave the address of my future wife for my mother lived in Mykolayiv Oblast, and I had read somewhere in a magazine that the most unhealthy and adverse climate for tuberculosis patients is in Mykolayiv and Leningrad. I didn’t give them that address. She sent her official commitment through the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Soviet Union specifying that she agreed to support me. In case of refusal she would be obliged to make alimony payments. However, as soon as I arrived, the next day the KGB officers visited me demanding that I signed a document that I would not go anywhere, even in Drohobych, to the distance exceeding 6-7 miles.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Where did she live?
I.F.Hnatiuk: She lived in Boryslav where we live now. And in a few days the new ukase was issued permitting to go wherever you want. I went to my native village and came to see my mother in Mykolayiv Oblast. I returned home at the time of Hungarian uprising and the new ukase came out prescribing to oust all of us.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: From where? To drive out from Western Ukraine?
I.F.Hnatiuk: Yes, everybody had to go to Eastern Ukraine. Well, I resisted for a long time, and finally they said, "Well, you’re not stupid, we do not want you here. We are not authorized to send you away, but an automobile accident can happen or someone can assault you.” in the very nick of time two drunk Russians attacked me in the evening. I knocked down both of them: one fell on the road and the other into the ditch. They came to their senses and recognized me. Therefore returning home from work at night I used to carry an ax with me; I returned home 00:30 am because I studied to become a projectionist and worked nights. I told them to make long story short: “Do not approach me closer than two meters: I may ax you.” So when they said that someone may assault me, I realized that they might kill me.
I went to my mother living in Mykolayiv Oblast. There a new bout of tuberculosis took place because of severe conditions. The KGB officers came to me, some officers came from as far as from Kyiv, they hospitalized me in the isolation ward and called my friend Mykola Voloshchuk. He did his term with you, dissidents. And you may also know Volodymyr Sorokolit. These were my friends, they are famous people. I might hear about Trokhym Shynkaruk. That was my team, they could put things in order there, you know.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Trokhym Shynkaruk did his term under tight security conditions in the mid70’s; I heard about it, though I did not see him personally. I was told that he faced a firing squad.
I.F.Hnatiuk: Right. I wrote about him. And there was one such Sorokolit; even the chief manager of the works told him: “Hello, my dear Volodymyr!” He replied: “Hi, there.” Such were these guys. There was also Zhora Honcharov: he was one and a half times higher than me, about forty-five years old or under fifty; he addressed me only “Ivan Fedorovych”. Then they brought Maliyev… There the gang rule existed instead of customary law and he was the lord of the underworld. He came to me to ask whether we would welcome Maliyev in the zone as he was incriminated in dozens of murders. That was in 1955. I said, “We won’t reckon somebody’s murders because…” I did not remind him about murders he himself was incriminated in. “If we need to cut his throat, we will have time; in the meantime let him live and let come what may.” He was allowed to enter the zone. Later they were friends, lived quietly, and nothing happened. So the guys listened to us, because there was a great friendship and recklessness. I do not believe those who slandered Trokhym Shynkaruk. He had a heart of flint. He was imprisoned as a young boy as a “leader of UIA”. Trokhym gathered mushrooms and berries in Polissia, therefore he knew how to lead insurgents through a marshland, and he did it. And he was imprisoned for this. In the zone a supervisor beat him for nothing and Trokhym cut his throat. He was under age; therefore they did not condemn him to death; he was sentenced though. He had a lot of such sentences. Once being at large he chopped a Cheka officer, but the latter survived. Last time he was given a term for stabbing three criminals to death.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: It took place in Mordovia. Vasyl Stus told me that he spoke with Trokhym in the hospital. Stus was prescribed tight security conditions, and Trokhym was prescribed special security conditions. In the Barashevo hospital the patients under special security conditions were kept in a closed separate ward, but sometimes they were let to take a walk in the yard and so you could talk with them. Due to this routine I talked with Daniel Shumuk several times. And Stus could talk with Trokhym, and he produced a very good impression on him. Vasyl stressed that once Trokhym a little shyly brought a poem. “Here,” he said “it’s mine. Would you, please, read it, Vasyl?”—“The very fact” said Stus “that this man was able to write a poem had a profound effect on me.”
I.F.Hnatiuk: I have a manuscript of his poems. I was shocked when I read in the Zona Magazine, no.4, his poems. His pen name was Marko Zatskovanyi (Marko Zatskovanyi. From the collection of poems “The Treasure of my Soul”. Zona Magazine, no.4, 1993.—P. 82-89). I took them from the editorial office and reprinted on my typewriter, and presently gave this copy to Andriy Kryshtalsky (he brought my poems from Kolyma, where I did my term, and gave them to Sverstiuk). I said: “Here is a typewriter copy, please publish a book, at least 500 copies. And please give me ten copies of the book.” In his last letter Trokhym Shynkaruk wrote (when he gave poems to his friend he was already sentenced to death and he knew that he would face the firing squad): “Dear friend, please see that these poems do not die with me.” Those were his last words. All this has been typed in a single copy. I will ask to Xerox it for me.
If you knew how I was collecting money for the book… It bears no comparison to Kolyma… such humiliation, you know. Our tycoons jeered at it… it is terrible. I can go begging no more. And would like to see it published. (This book was published: Marko Zatskovanyi. The Treasure of my Soul. Poems. - Chuhuyiv: Third Millennium. - 2001. - 72 p. Compiled by the author, introduction and redaction by Ivan Hnatiuk.)
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Why was Trokhym Shynkaruk shot?
I.F.Hnatiuk: He killed three criminals in succession. They allegedly humiliated him. At first they belabored one another and then began bashing up Trokhym, and he brought a knife, and they were locked up, and immediately he slew them in the cell.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: When was that?
I.F.Hnatiuk: I guess he faced the firing squad in winter of 1981-82, in January. In this book I repeated what the Patriarch had told me.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: The future Patriarch Volodymyr, i.e. Vasyl Romaniuk?
I.F.Hnatiuk: Right. Volodymyr was my friend since 1953. A month before his death, he came to visit me in Boryslav. He used to come to me, and I visited him as well. I had to speak at the place of his burial and Metropolitan Filaret had to speak on behalf of the clergy. And, by the way, when during the foundation of the CUN he was informed by phone that the nationalists are uniting to establish the CUN, and, according to the Patriarch, he asked: “Will Ivan Hnatiuk join it?”—“We do not know what he is.”—“What kind of nationalists are you, if you do not know Hnatiuk?” Those were his words. Good gracious! When you’ve lived as long as I have, you’ll understand better. I am all alone in the world, no one of my friends who were with me survived. Many times my friends, the Patriarch including, came here to say goodbye to me, because I was dying many times. And I outlived them all…
So they pitched me out to the Mykolayiv Oblast. I began writing complaint about wrongful eviction. I got a job of accountant there. My mother was a calf-tender and my sisters were milkmaids at the farm.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: In what year did you have to go there?
I.F.Hnatiuk: In 1957. I went there in spring. This was the Prybuzky Soviet Farm of Zhovtnevy Region of Mykolayiv Oblast. In the morning I had to chalk on the blackboard the milk yield per milkmaid. I was writing on the blackboard when the GAZ car arrived. Two men went out of the car. One was in a paramilitary uniform, or so it seemed to me. He came out and asked: “Are you a foreman?” I answered: “No, I am an accountant.”—“What is your name?”—“Ivan Hnatiuk.”—“What are you scribbling over there?”—“I’m putting down the milk yield per milkmaid.”—“Do you have a red corner here?”—“No, only the foreman’s booth.”—“Where? We want to check your records.” I said, “Well, over there.” We entered the booth. It was rather a stall in the stable for livestock. I said, “Here’s the foreman.” The foreman was about to enter but he stopped him with his hand and would not allow him to proceed. I said: “But he is our foreman.” He did not let the foreman in. He shut the door while I was getting out my register, but he snapped: “We do not need it.” I asked: “Who are you?”—“We are security officers.”—“Jolly fellows, heh?” They said: “Did you write complaints there?”—“I did.”—“So, you were denied a request. And give up for lost Western Ukraine, you’ll never see it again.” I crossed myself and said: “God is my witness that I will return to live there.” He said: “We’ll live to see.” And I intoned: “We’ll live to see.”
And they made sail. The same day I was sacked and became totally unemployed again. I lived in my mother’s house. Meanwhile my wife with my newborn daughter remained in Boryslavl. I was all in a twit hating my hanger-on status; two days later my mother came and said: “There is that man who earlier had come by the GAZ car to visit you. The tall one. And director Masiuta, a jolly guy. Barefooted, in my sleeveless blouse, I plodded on my way to that farm. Well, he might have heard such words for the first time in his life; I came down on him with all my concentration camp experience in filthy language: “Why have you released me?! Respond me!” And so on and so forth. He tried to stop me, but in vain, unless he hit me so that I shut up. I had my say and he queried: “Well, would you mind telling me what’s wrong?” I went over to the formal form of address. I said: “After your visit I was sacked.”—“Why?”—“I’ve got no idea.”—“How can it be? We did our best to get you a position of trust.” And he added: “I’ll come and tell you the details.” He did not come, but nevertheless he informed that in a Soviet farm they would employ me on the elevator as a grain accepting authority. It was harvest-time. Three people worked in three shifts there, round-the-clock operation, but I was not assigned a shift. Almost three weeks I was sitting round-the-clock at the small window and closed lids only for a couple of minutes. My mother brought me milk and bread and boiled eggs. This lieutenant colonel (I do not know his name) came a couple of times to control my work there. He came and invited me to go somewhere to a restaurant to drink, and I answered, “No, I will not go.” He did it to contrive something or allow someone to commit a burglary or something… I saw through him at once. I sat there all harvest-time…
They drove me into nervous exhaustion. Nevertheless i survived.
I have published twenty books, and this year a book of poetry will be out in Kharkiv, and I have also written a sequel. Such is my biography in a nutshell. You will read these books. I will still make some amendments and abridgements.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Well, you’ve told your story up to 1957, and what happened after that date?
I.F.Hnatiuk: As I’ve told you, I became a writer after that. When I was dying, I was put in an isolation ward. It happened at the time when Voloshchuk was imprisoned in Mykolayiv. I have no idea how they learned about it but they came to me in the hospital; among them there was Major Biliachenko who maintained that he had interrogated Pavlychko… And he looked at me with piercing eyes. My God, I was dying and they stuck around. “Write poems.” I wrote them three or four poems… You know that Snehiriov the day before his death signed a letter?
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Heliy Snehiriov?
I.F.Hnatiuk: Right. They knew that when a person was in such a condition… And when he has kids… Two of them came from Kyiv…
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Wait a minute, when was that?
I.F.Hnatiuk: In 1959. In 1959, I had another acute recurrence of tuberculosis. I was in the hospital, the temperature held on. This condition is also called the galloping consumption. The patient could not withstand it for more than two or three weeks. I ran the temperature of 40-41°C. I could not eat, my strength was failing. They put me into the isolation ward to die there, and at that moment the KGB officers arrived. They opened the door and stopped on the threshold hearing my hacking cough till I was blue in the face. Standing on the threshold they said: “We’ve come in re Voloshchuk’s case but we see that you do not feel quite well.” I said: “Right, I do not feel quite well.” And I had a fit of coughing. “We’ll better come another time.” I said, “Listen, if I do not die, will you permit me to go to Boryslav, where I have a daughter and my son has been born recently?” I was sorry, I had been sorry all the time that I had given birth to them. “Of course, we’ll let you.” I said, “Can you pledge your word of honor?”—“We pledge our word of honor,” said Biliachenko from Kyiv. I said, “Well, if I do not die, I will go.”
I did not die. I underwent a surgical treatment in another hospital. When the temperature began falling they discharged me from the hospital; oh, how I cried, how I ate! Until then I did not eat anything, I could not eat, I thought that I would die leaving my kids. I decided to start eating. I’ve suffered enough and I will eat now! Only I was given compote, or tea: I could consume nothing more. She asked: “Will you have compote for dinner?” I said, “No, not compote, bring me the first course, second course, and three pieces of bread.” She said, “I’m asking seriously.”—“I say seriously as well.” She ran and brought the doctor: “What now?”—“Nothing.”—“Do you want to eat?”—“Yeah.” She brought my meal and helped me to sit upright. I remember there were green borscht, barley porridge and two meat rissoles. They seemed bricks to me. And she brought three slices of bread, as I said. I said: “Go out and guard the door and let nobody in until I clatter; the spoons and bowl were made of metal.” I began to eat. Honestly, I ate more tears than spoons of soup. But I ate all first course, second course, rissoles, three slices of bread and drank compote. I had to clatter, she came in, and I was breathing. So I started eating, and in two weeks the temperature began falling. When it fell down to normal, I was discharged. I stayed at home for twenty days and recovered slightly.
And then I went for control examination to the oblast hospital. Four-month treatment almost healed my lung caverns; there remained only one lesion focus as big as five kopecks. But the doctor examined me and prescribed surgical treatment. And then the officers from Kyiv arrived once more to question me about imprisoned Voloshchuk and Sorokalit. I said: “Everyone says that I need no surgery.”—“You do need it.” I reckon they exerted pressure on my doctor so that he had to perform surgery on me because at first they told me about one segment only and in fact they extirpated the entire right side, while the cavern and silicosis were in my left lung.
Again, I survived. Six months later, when I began walking on my own, I obtained permission to be off and went to the KGB which was located nearby; I had there another curator Yeletskyi Petro Fedorovych, who is now somewhere in Kharkiv. I said: "You told me that you would give me permission to go to Boryslav.” Then eight KGB officers came together and from twelve o’clock till six o’clock in the evening without any dinner they tried to persuade me that I should not go, because the climate there was unfavorable. I objected: “But you passed the word of honor.”—“We aren’t forbidding, but…” Finally they said, “As you wish, but do not make haste about your discharge, let your wife discharge first.” For two more years I was registered in Mykolayiv Oblast. Here, in Boryslav, my wife was registered without much ado, but I was stricken out off the list of tenants in Mykolayiv Oblast only two years later. During the strike-off procedure a militia chief said, “Well, I hope you won’t go in for politics anymore?” I said: “Right you are.”
How did I join the Writers’ Union? I was rehabilitated in 1993. Without my knowledge the rehabilitation petition was submitted by the Head of the City Rada.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: And when were you rehabilitated?
I.F.Hnatiuk: In 1993, and to the Writers’ Union I was admitted in Lviv in 1966, when my first book The Guelder Rose was published.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Yeah. So you were admitted to the Writers’ Union before you were rehabilitated?
I.F.Hnatiuk: Right. Malanchuk came without any loss of time. Have you heard of Malanchuk, the Secretary of the Central Committee?
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Of course.
I.F.Hnatiuk: The next day he convened the closed caucus of the Lviv writers’ organization and said, “I will not forgive you that you’ve stealthily admitted this Banderivets to the Writers’ Union.” He came to our town as well; in his wake came KGB officer Podolchak; then the head of the department of culture of the oblast party committee convened the meeting of activists: You dare! He may exert a devastating impact on our youth, this dirty so-and-so… And I cannot even explain how I was admitted to the Writers’ Union. It took the administration of the Union in Kyiv eighteen months to approve my admission. The local members turned the air blue. About my book The Guelder Rose they opined: “A good poet but by bad luck he is anti-Soviet.” Petro Osadchyk recently told me that he was present at the special meeting of the Central Committee of Komsomol, which considered the publication of this nationalist book. The first poem, “The Threshold” ends with the stanza as follows:
"My son, do kneel in front of the threshold,
and wipe carefully its dearest face.
’Cause if you’re a turncoat bold,
father’s blood from under it may race."
This is the time when all the current major democrats vowed to Lenin, the party, Moscow…
And one more thing: I called on Patriarch--he was still a Metropolitan then—who lived in the hotel “Ukraine”. There were priests in his room. And Metropolitan Volodymyr started telling an old priest about me. And the latter asked: “So, how do you live?”—“I do not know. I’ve no idea how I managed to survive.” And one old bearded priest said, “You know,” and he pointed with his finger to the heaven, “The heavenly beings convey you their energy, their capacity so that you could live for yourself and for them.” When he said this, I grew cold from my neck down to my toes. A colonel came to accompany the Metropolitan to a military unit, and the old priest repeated the same words again and I grew cold once more. I said, "Wait, your former and latter words made me feel creepy all over.”—“Oh, I told you the truth." I am not a mystic, but something keeps me going, I know t is a kind of fortitude. I am strong, I had superhuman courage, because I underwent trying experiences.
You may have read: I’ve won a prize and I was given presidential scholarship.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: In what year did you win the prize?
I.F.Hnatiuk: This very year: the National Taras Shevchenko Prize.
Such are my fragmented memories. I say one thing and then turn back in time. And this very moment I’ve remembered one episode. On January 18, 1955, on the Eve of Shchedry vechir, I was speaking on the phone from the work zone of Belov Concentration Camp (as I recall, the boss there was Guzev, who hated me; in his speeches he reiterated that he was the head manager of the camp before Hnatiuk, who now became the decision-maker). So I said my season’s greetings to my future wife’s girlfriend who now in Kalush lives out her days in terrible poverty, by the way. Her sister was an insurgent missing in action: they are still looking for her, and her husband was imprisoned. They live on a miserable pension. I greeted her and asked: “Why do not you invite guests?”--”Well, you can visit us tomorrow." I joked, “Right. And you will have time.”--”We will.” At night, they take us home: we worked twelve-o’clock shifts every other day. On January 19, they led us, eight prisoners with small terms, to the store and bathhouse for contracted civilians. We heated water there, washed our clothes, and bathed. One wall faced our zone: there was a fence and a lodge with a guard. Going home, I kept thinking, how could I go on a visit? And then a thought occurred to me: I could mix with the contracted civilians. I found the means of doing it and borrowed a sheepskin coat. I have already grown my hair long. To tell the truth, three times Guzeev gave orders to cut my hair. Once they took me to a barber, but I ran away. All tags were taken already. Having arranged beforehand that Hnatiuk would replace someone else I went to the lodge. Mayor Mykytenko, chief of planning and production section, asked: “Were do you think you are going?”--”To the bath. You know, I do not drink and do not behave like a hooligan.”--”Well, watch it, buster!” And so I went. And then I went in and mixed with the bathers. I knew that this girl lived in the barrack a kilometer and a half away. It was in winter: Kolyma frost, 50°C-plus. I hurried on, entered the barrack, long corridors like in prison, the door on both sides, and which one to knock at? I knock at the third door, heard a voice, and entered.
There was her Lithuanian or Latvian friend, cleaning woman at the accounting office. She ran after her; they put a bottle of cognac on the table. For the first time in my life I drank two glasses of brandy. I never drank in the camp, and even forbade others to drink. I felt funny. I asked to look out there on the street, because I had to go. She returned pale saying "They are looking for you, there is a lot of soldiers; they’ve looked into each room already, but ours.” Two minutes later I took the girls by the arm and went out. I went to the gate, from which I had come out earlier, and met Major Mykytenko, who let me out, and two guards. I approached them to a distance of five to six meters. The guard grabbed his submachine gun, and security officer Mykytenko jumped three meters like a tiger screening me with his body and giving the order: “As you were!” Shaking he took me by the arm, cast a glance at the guards and went on screening me with his body. “You’re stupid, Ivan, you’re stupid. The major, the chief of the camp ordered to shoot and kill you. You got it? They’ll kill you!” That guard could shoot and kill the major as well, because he executed the order of higher commander. He brought me to the headquarters beyond the zone, pushed me in and the chief looked at me and exploded: “Comrade Major, why have you brought him alive?” And the chief stamped his foot. The major answered: “I will not shoot: he came back himself.” The phones buzzed because he had called everyone: “He attempted to reach the hills. We will catch him, sure. He’s here already, back down, back down.” He had roused half of Kolyma to action. He told everyone that I “attempted to reach the hills”, however they caught me. I said: “Citizen major, your shoulder boards will go up in flames!”--”I’ll shoot you!” I said, “Shooting may be too much for me, but I certainly deserve punishment.” The major has calmed down already: “Ten days of confinement! Undress him, cut his hair, shave his crotch and under his arms… everything.” And cheerful Mykytenko responded: “Yes, Comrade Major!” He led the way and I followed him; he talked to me. He led me to the same room in the guardhouse; I took off the sheepskin coat and asked to bring it over to the zone to prevent steeling, then I asked to bring me my padded jacket with my poems in its pockets, my notebook and letters from my girlfriend. She’s just been released and may be given ten years again for her relationship with political prisoner while I may be sentenced to a year of staying in a ward!
I was shaved all over. I checked my pockets: everything was in its place. My hands were shaking. I went down the corridor (there were also supervisors), opened the door of the stove and threw everything inside and it burned to ashes. “And you muddle about with it,” Mykytenko said. Such a kind of Cheka officer. Therefore I supported Marchuk during the presidential elections of 1999.
I have two children: daughter Liuba Hnatiuk, now Savka. Liuba was born in 1957, she is the head of the curriculum department in a gymnasium, she educates the younger generation. She works in Boryslav. At first she had a rugged life, but now, thank God, she has a very good husband. My son Volodymyr was born in 1959; he is the chief city architect, very capable one. He designed the best building constructed in Drohobych in the course of past 15 years. When they were still kids, I reproached myself for giving birth to them dooming them to suffering? It was when they harassed him and when he was jobless. He didn’t leave his home for eight months.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: And what is your current mailing address?
I.F.Hnatiuk: 635, Drogobytska Street, Boryslav, Lviv Oblast, zip code 82300. Home phone, code from Kyiv: 03248, and Boryslav code is 48, phone no: 5-2061.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Thank you, let it be recorded.
I.F.Hnatiuk: My friend Ivan Pidhorny, who signed with me the certificate of discharge for health reasons… We had to go home together from Lviv. But I had a terrible hemorrhage. So during several days he used to come and sit beside my bed. When I got up he collapsed and died three days later from silicosis. It was a horrible death. They took away bottles of sputum like beaten up yolks: three liters or more every day. And just two or three days later he died. So, he told me that in the late forties he was in Pokryshkino. In the fall they brought there 2800 prisoners but failed to deliver food. And in winter there is no way to deliver supplies. Only 180 of them survived until spring. All of them died, even cook died of starvation. In spring a commission was sent down from Moscow and, they say, the administration faced the firing squad. And he was among those 180, and, being released, he did not go home. I sold out his things with the help of former prisoners released from escort and forwarded the money to his family: they lived in exile in Kemerovo Oblast. One such prisoner released from escort gave me the mailing receipt. But I received no response from his relatives. I do not know whether they received the money and whether they are still alive, I do not know.
Such were the stories. People died. And those cemeteries… good God! And at first no one buried corpses. You’ve heard Yeltsin said that Ligachev order to bulldoze corpses into Lena River.
Let’s call it a day now, thank you.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: And I thank you. We’ve carried out this recording on October 11, 2000. It was Ivan Hnatiuk.
 Kulia means “bullet” in Ukrainian (translator’s note).
 The more veritable etymology of Koliyivshshyna is based on the meaning of the term “stake” used by rebels (translator’s note).
 Red corner was, in fact, a special room or other premises allotted for political indoctrination (translator’s note).
 In the capacity of the Secretary of the CPU Valentyn Malanchuk worked in 1972-1979 (translator’s note).
 I.e. Malanka festivity according to a pre-Christian folk tradition in Halychyna (translator’s note).