CHORNOMAZ Bohdan Danylovych
author: Vasyl Ovsiyenko
V.V.Ovsiyenko: We are conversing with Mr. Bohdan Chornomaz on 23, Sahaidachny Street in Kyiv on December 8, 2000. The interview is recorded by Vasyl Ovsiyenko.
B.D.Chornomaz: I am Bohdan Chornomaz; I was born in the Village of Stehnikivtsi, Ternopil Region, Ternopil Oblast on 9 February, 1948. I was born into the family of Danylo Chornomaz and Mariya Chornomaz, maiden name Malychok. It was a typical national-minded Halychyna family. My father and all his brothers were involved in the national liberation movement of the forties.
I remember myself as a fatherless child, because my father did his term in jail. This was his third time. For the first time he was apprehended by Poles, for the second time by Germans, and for the third time already by Bolsheviks shortly after my birth. The Bolsheviks did not behave like Germans or Poles: the Poles did not imprison him for a long time, as well as the Germans, while the Bolsheviks sentenced him to be shot, but the judgment was deflected and my father got twenty-five years of imprisonment. In 1956, when I was already seven years old, my father was released. This is about my origin and the early conditions of life in a nutshell.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Are your parents still alive?
B.D.Chornomaz: My father died not long ago, in 1988. I wish my father had lived to see and hear the proclamation of the independence of Ukraine. In fact, he did not believe that the perestroika initiated at the time might do well for Ukraine. However, he did set his heart on the virtual independence. He was a disabled person, second disability group, because he had to go to the front with the Red Army after the second coming of the Bolsheviks. He was at the front for a few months and then came back as a disabled person; nevertheless he went underground and was arrested as a member of an underground organization…
My father was born in 1916, and my mother in 1918. My mother is still alive. Both my father and my mother were born in Stehnikivtsi. My father was an educated man; however, he did not finish the classical school because the Poles expelled him for organizing collective disaffiliation of gymnasium students from their Kostel. They were forced to attend regularly the Polish Kostel. Before the graduation, they were offered to bring their birth certificated from the Greek Catholic Church to the Roman Catholic Kostel. The gymnasium students did not like the idea and my father organized collective demonstrative disaffiliation from the Kostel. As a result, the Poles denied him the right to finish his classic school. However, he was doing very well in school. By the way, when he was entering classic school, the application was written for him by Yaroslava Stetsko. My father told me, but I do not remember now in what grade Stetsko was at the time.
Now I will tell you about the origins of my credo, my creed. It goes without saying that our villagers were for the most part involved in the nationalist underground. Of course, it was clear that they were pro-Ukrainian-minded. It was completely a natural phenomenon: no one undertook any special effort to educate me as a staunch patriot or nationalist, or call it as you wish. It was considered a sign of honesty and patriotism.
Under such conditions, I grew up. I was always a pace-setter and live wire in the village, on the street; I took part in all commotions in the area. Such was my childhood.
I went to school in 1955, and then I went to study in high school in Zbarazh sometime in 1961 or 1962 for I finished the 11th grade of the high school in 1966. In the high school, I displayed a priority interest in native history. There was an old, once repressed history teacher Kozak. He ably told about the Kozak history and the history of our region. It is no coincidence that he urged his pupils on drawing conclusions from the comparison of various historical episodes, events in our history.
After graduating from high school in Zbarazh, I went to enter the Agricultural Institute in Uman. I came there, experienced complete failure, and was not accepted as a student. I went to preliminary training courses and started working. I worked as an odd-job man at the experimental research farm managed by the institute. I went in for gardening there because I wanted to enter the fruit and vegetable department. I did not have time to finish, because on June 21, 1967 I was drafted into the army. In the fall, I had to join the institute, but I was late. I bore arms in the Far East, on the shore of the Sea of Japan, in the signal units.
Maybe, I’d better return to my life in Uman. In Uman, I met poet Mykola Kolomiyets, Liudmyla Tkach and other poets. There was a literary cenacle there. Some of its members knew Vasyl Symonenko in the past; they had already graduated from the Kyiv University and participated in the movement of the Sixtiers. I had strong relations with the members of the cenacle. One day by chance I met Nadiya Surovtseva. (Surovtseva Nadiya Vitaliyivna, 18.03. 1896 - 13.04. 1985, member of the Central Rada, political prisoner in 1927-1956).
We went to Nadiya Surovtseva: Mykola Kolomiyets who had already been well received in her house and I. We were with Nadiya Vitaliyivna on good terms. She had a rich library, which aroused my interest. Sometimes she had visitors with whom I was not acquainted; nevertheless I participated in conversations. They interested me. For example−this was after the army− once I met there Mykola Bazhan who seemed unreachable to me. That conversation ended on an unpleasant note. We were accompanied by mechanization college teacher Kuzma Matviyuk. He asked Mykola Bazhan whether Ukrainian people invested him with authority to bring accusations at the Nuremberg Trials and in what way did he consult with our people. Hearing it he became tense…
But let’s get back to the army. When I got in the army, the very first thing I was stunned with was the fact that in the form of an order I had to refuse from all national traits that I valued. For example, on the second or third day we were punished for singing the ordinary and neutral song “Marusia one, two, three, my swarthy May rose…” which we sang in column. We were forced to crawl on our stomachs along the sea beach for about an hour and a half.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Where did you serve?
B.D.Chornomaz: This was Sovetskaya Gavan. We are obliged to perform the songs the list of which I remember to this day, because they got under my skin. “Russia is my native land, my lovely birch and poplar stand, you’re dear for soldier and for you my love I always send.” Such were the songs: one, two, and three. I do not want to list them: they were all of the same type.
Next. In the army I subscribed to the newspaper Literaturna Ukrayina Biweekly. Obviously, the special department singled me out. There was one such Major Trusov, who offered, so to speak, closer contacts with the secret service. Once and again I said no to his offer but I was scared silly because I realized how seriously they tackled this question. I will not dwell upon it in greater details, but somehow I had to constantly argue with him. After that they exerted some pressure on me, a sort of appeal, because I was a radar squad commander. Formally, it was neatly done as mockery of Drill Regulations, because with my subordinates I implemented new methods of training: I taught them to put on their military caps with the help of their feet.
After the army I returned to Uman. I immediately joined the Uman Agricultural Institute. I came from the army in 1969 in late fall; I kept preparing myself very intensively, and immediately after the New Year passed the exams for the postal tuition department. I joined the Institute and returned to my old job. However, wages were extremely low; I was young and strong at the time and I went to work as a loader for commercial interregional storehouse. I worked there for a year, but studying in the institute demanded occupational work. I returned to work at the experimental research farm managed by the institute, but this time as an office worker. I worked there as an accountant. At the same time I was a librarian; I was elected Komsomol secretary of the experimental research farm. Then I met Kuzma Matviyuk; together with him I visited Nadiya Vitaliyivna Surovtseva. There I met Danylo Shumuk and Ivan Svitlychny. These names never appeared in my case. Shumuk is still alive. (B. 30.1.1914, Boremshchyna Village, Liuboml Gmina, Volyn Voivodeship, died 21.05., 2004, Chervonoarmiysk Town, Donetsk Oblast. He was a prisoner for 42 years, 6 months, and 7 days.--V.O.)
I met Kuzma Matviyuk with whom we were later arrested and imprisoned. Nadiya Vitaliyivna Didenko was often visited Olga Petrivna Didenko and various artists. I remember composer Meyyerovych. For me, bumpkin from the periphery, these were positive impressions.
Leonid Pliushch was a constant guest and so I was on friendly terms with him. He used to bring literature. There were also visitors from Moscow people, in particular a woman named Pidopryhora who brought literature. She came to Olytska. There were two residents in the khata of Nadiya Vitaliyivna: Olytska and mistress of the house. They were absolutely diametrically opposite concerning their ideology and beliefs. If Nadiya Vitaliyivna adhered to the pro-Ukrainian position, Olytska was Russian chauvinist. She quite openly and quite clearly was against the independence of Ukraine and aggressively expressed her views.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: From whence was she??
B.D.Chornomaz: I reckon she was sister-in-law of Nadiya Vitaliyivna, whose husband died somewhere in the Siberian camps.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Was she Ukrainian?
B.D.Chornomaz: No, this was a sort of camp acquaintance and along those lines somehow she ended up here. Olytska did not speak Ukrainian on principle. She was a smart woman, had her own convictions, absolutely chauvinistic about Ukraine, but, nevertheless, a certain camp solidarity brought Surovtseva and she together and they got along well with each other without any debate on the ideological opinions of each other. This is an interesting phenomenon that inspires respect. It was interesting to observe the circle of acquaintances of Nadiya Vitaliyivna Surovtseva and the circle of acquaintances of Olytska. Leonid Pliushch was on equal terms with both of them, but Pliushch had established ties with Moscow dissident circles: Krasin and others. From Moscow we got such editions as the Chronicle of Current Events; it was a part of samizdat publications we received. Leonid Pliushch brought it. The Ukrainian literature was brought by Shumuk. In this way we got the Cathedral in Scaffolding by Yevhen Sverstiuk, Internationalism or Russification? by Ivan Dziuba, there were also publications about burning of Ukrainian library in Vydubytsky Monastery and Vernadsky Public Library.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: On the subject of Pohruzhalsky trial?
B.D.Chornomaz: Right, On the subject of Pohruzhalsky trial. Up to now I remember what this document was about, but never mind: I think today everybody knows it.
Somehow or other we got old books as well. As far as I know, these books were from Kharkiv old intelligentsia families. They included the History of Ukraine-Rus by Mykhailo Hrushevsky, books from the period of “executed Renaissance”, in particular, the book of poems The Plow by Pavlo Tychyna; as far as I remember, it was brought by Leonid Pliushch; there were some early poems by Volodymyr Sosiura. Anyway, we lived a spiritual and cultural life, followed developments in Ukraine. We were rather skeptical about the book of Petro Shelest Our Soviet Ukraine; nevertheless we read it as well. (Political Literature of Ukraine Publishing House, Kyiv, 1970).
When we got the Internationalism or Russification? by Dziuba and when Kuzma Matviyuk and I got one-volume edition of the History of Ukraine by Mykhailo Paul Hrushevsky we decided to organize a discussion evening at our apartment. By the way, it was Surovtseva who found the apartment for us. She gave us a fine reference and were lent an apartment by the daughter of a former town judge of Uman, who began his career even before the revolution and later somehow got along with the Soviet authorities who left him later a big house. There Kuzma and I rented a room.
First of all, we got down to make an invitation list for the evening discussion. Of course, we did not want to invite an average disputant. We thought that the Komsomol activists were most likely to take interest, because according to their positions they were more or less involved in the social processes and had to focus on such things. Therefore we invited Komsomol secretaries from the teacher-training college: secretaries of organizations, courses, and faculties. The invited participants included my current wife: at the time Tetiana Lytvynenko was the Komsomol secretary of the physics and mathematics department of the Uman teacher-training college. She was a senior then.
One such gathering took place, then another. We were far-gone with the History already and segued to discussions. For Kuzma and me it was a sort of practical activities.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: And when was that?
B.D.Chornomaz: To my mind it was at the turn of year 1971 and 1972.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: There was a watershed: I mean the arrests on January 12, 1972. Was that before or after?
B.D.Chornomaz: This was before the arrests, in the fall of 1971.
We had a problem: we need more copies of those books, because we couldn’t do with a limited number of copies any more.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: I beg your pardon, how did those materials look like?
B.D.Chornomaz: We had a photocopy of Dziuba’s book, there were also typewritten texts, and the Chronicle of Current Events was printed on small pages of about 9x12 cm format. Although the pages were small, it was a standard typographic text.
It came to us that we needed duplicating machines. Kuzma got somewhere quality negative film copies… No, I did these negative film copies myself.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: What materials were filmed?
B.D.Chornomaz: We had a negative film with Dziuba’s book Internationalism or Russification?
V.V.Ovsiyenko: I also had it.
B.D.Chornomaz: We made a high-quality film copy; I had extension rings for my camera "Zenit", I was a good photographer already. So we made a film and began to produce photographic prints. We started producing prints on 15, Inzhenerna Street were our apartment was situated. But it was not a safe undertaking, because we did not want to put at risk our hostess. We had a presentiment that it might end badly. And we agreed with Olga Petrivna Didenko, whom I have mentioned above and who was well in with Surovtseva, that we would make print in her apartment. She then worked at the museum and was awarded many orders as a member of the Red Partisans Movement, but at the same time she inactively shared our views; anyway we liked her prudence and respect for our efforts.
Thus, in her apartment we set up a photo lab. I brought my enlarger there. I do not remember the exact number, but we made a great number of copies of the book Internationalism or Russification? We printed at night and distributed all over Ukraine.
It was a very important point at least given the fact that Olga Petrivna is still alive. Her contribution into this undertaking is forgotten now. She never appeared in our criminal cases, because Kuzma and I, without any prior arrangements threw a veil over her during examinations. The enlarger was in the picture. The investigators wanted to find the enlarger which we used. The investigators wearied me with questions about it for a month or so. I changed my evidence, changed my answers, but I did not say where I got that enlarger. They rummaged probably among all enlarger, which were in Uman, and still failed to find it. Apparently, there was some defect in optics. They knew for sure that our enlarger was different. As far as I know, they turned over all condensers in Uman, but failed all the same. A condenser is a lens inside an enlarger that serves to concentrate light. We used then the enlarger of Olga Petrivna.
Of course, the KGB could not come by all those things. There was another pending event in my life: Tetiana, my current wife, whose maiden name was Lytvynenko, and I decided to get married. The wedding was scheduled for July 15, 1972. There was no intimation that there were queer goings-on there, but shortly before the event several my fellow students came and acknowledged that they were summoned to the KGB and forced to give evidence against me, this evidence was completely biased. The technology was as follows: they were suggested to write their idea of my personality. The investigator took the text and commented: “Well, it does not look like him. You’ve written about someone else. In fact, he is dirty so-and-so…” And starts depicting me as a nationalist, Banderivets. “That’s what we want you to write down. “If the students started raising objections−and they were all seniors−they said this: “If we were you we’d rather know how many beans make five. If you cannot do it, we must reconsider the feasibility of your graduation. Are we to call your rector now… or tomorrow? Sit down and write.” This was one way. Others, for example, were pressured through their parents who were quite clearly threatened to lose their job. The parents of all college undergraduates held positions. But when they had written those things their conscience pricked them, all of them knew me very well and therefore they came and said, “I beg your pardon, but I could not do otherwise.”
V.V.Ovsiyenko: How many courses did you complete at the time?
B.D.Chornomaz: Three. I completed three courses at the time.
Already a few days before the arrest I guessed that I would have troubles, however I still did not believe that that they could arrest me, if only due to the fact that the book Internationalism or Russification? was read by Shelest because Dziuba composed it as an open letter to Shelest and the Central Committee sent it to all oblast party committees with recommendation to the bureaus of the oblast committees to make their conclusions and send them to him for decision making. I was absolutely convinced by the arguments put forward by Ivan Dziuba and I had not a slightest doubt that Shelest would make normal decision. That is I reckoned that it was not a crime, but there would be some political adjustments. But, nevertheless, the day before the wedding I was arrested.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Excuse me, but did you not know about the arrests in January 1972? Did you have no idea that the book of Ivan Dziuba had been already labeled and recognized anti-Soviet and in 1972 people already had accused of dealing with it?
B.D.Chornomaz: No. In 1972 people were accused, but after my arrest. I remember that event. I was already under investigation, when the investigator came and told me that Shelest was transferred to Moscow. He gave me tome understand−indirectly, but for me to realize−that this was not simply advancement. He will be, so to speak, placed under supervision now. The investigator made unambiguous hints about it. (P.Yu.Shelest was dismissed as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Ukraine on May 25, 1972 and was appointed Deputy Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers with preservation of membership in the Politburo of the CC of the CPSU; a year later, when he reached 60 years of age, he was pensioned off.—V.O.) It’s for one thing. During the investigation, I insisted that this work was written from the Leninist, communist, that is official positions. In response to it the investigator showed me the conclusion written by a number of philosophers… By the way, I asked him to give it to me but he turned down my request…
V.V.Ovsiyenko: And this conclusion was mentioned in all cases.
B.D.Chornomaz: Right. There was a list of those philosophers. I wanted to know their names. I did not remember them at the time, but it’s possible that I meet them now. And I’d certainly like to know…
V.V.Ovsiyenko: To have a look at them?
B.D.Chornomaz: Yes. The reviewers concluded that Dziuba took an anti-Soviet stand. Investigator triumphantly showed me the document: you’re a goner; you will be imprisoned at last. That’s what we have. At the end of the investigation…
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Wait, tell us about the time of the arrest, how it was arranged. It had to be a wedding and then you were arrested. This is a very important episode.
B.D.Chornomaz: I was arrested on the eve of the wedding. I was in the field at the time inspecting the quality of work of tractor drivers and making measurements in order to determine the cost of works. Suddenly a car drove up; two men got out of the car and ordered me to hand over my weapons. I did not have weapons. I was rather skeptical about such attitude, and yet I was ordered to get into the car. I got into the car; they took me to the apartment. The search was at full cry: they turned everything upside down.
A few interesting details should be added though. I am descended from the family that had an experience of fighting against Bolshevism in the forties; the traditions and the concepts of struggle were established in those days. I was strictly brought up in these traditions and I could not go back on my convictions. Despite the fact that I belong to a new, democratic trend in fighting which differed from Halychyna traditions (weapons, detached forces, underground hideaways), I still had a sort of inclination towards those methods. During the search in my apartment, they found typeface hidden somewhere outside my apartment. Of course, it belonged to me, as I was preparing for a more thorough printing work, because photography was labor-intensive and made it impossible to produce big print runs. It was already the preparation for serious work. When they searched the estate of my father, too, they found other things as well: Internationalism or Russification? and in another hiding they found ammunition.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Could you be more specific?
B.D.Chornomaz: There were off-center rifle bullets: it was a novelty at the time. They also found a fuse-type detonator used to trigger an explosive device. All this was very carefully packed in boxes of zinc, according to the rules of ammunition storage, covered with ashes, sealed−all as it should be−and buried. But they could not prove that they were mine or my father’s or someone else’s.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: But they found all of it on your father’s land, right?
B.D.Chornomaz: In my father’s estate, in Ternopil Oblast: they carried out a searched not only in Uman, but in Ternopil Oblast as well.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Did they do it at the same time?
V.V.Ovsiyenko: You said the wedding was scheduled for July 15, right?
B.D.Chornomaz: Right, it was scheduled for July 15, and I was arrested in the afternoon of 13 July. The date thirteen, apparently, was not chosen by chance. As I understand it, they prepared everything very carefully and thought out every detail. They put themselves beyond the reach of chance.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Beyond all questions!
B.D.Chornomaz: They found it. It was somewhere on the verge of our homestead and fields. It was impossible to establish unequivocally that it was ours. In his refusal my father substantiated that these findings might belong to the past; it was out of the question though, because there was something wrapped in a two-year-old newspaper.
Somewhere in the span of a month or two my father and brother were also arrested. So my father was arrested for possession of literature that was officially included in the case, but Ternopil KGB Investigator Zavalny told him in the clear that he would be imprisoned for having brought up such children. The examination records do not register these words; however, I cannot but believe my father. My brother was allegedly sentenced under an article covering domestic crimes.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: What is your brother’s name and when was he born?
B.D.Chornomaz: His name is Yaroslav. He is two years older than I: He was born in 1947. They arrested me when I was a third-year student at the Agricultural Institute, and my brother was a fourth-year student at the Moscow Polytechnic Institute of Petrochemistry. He worked in Ternopil. You know, under the socialist system one could bring out anything from his place of work. He worked at the Cotton Complex. It was considered quite normal when one was bringing out some offcuts. But it was a very useful lever for the government, because any unwanted person could be easily caught and called a thief.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Everybody was on the hook.
B.D.Chornomaz: Yes. My brother was caught with a piece of cloth. The inquest was conducted by investigator Rusyn who was a known person in Mordovian camps. At first he was there a militia operative appointed by the KGB, and then he became an investigator in Ternopil Oblast. He supervised the process of investigation of my brother and he was sentenced to six-year imprisonment. So the entire male population of our family was sent to the camps in 1972.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: What was your father’s sentence?
B.D.Chornomaz: My father, like me, got three years under Article 187 prim.: “slander of Soviet reality.” He was made squirm. At first they shoved him into a psychiatric hospital and made it clear that he would not go out of there. They forced him to make some public statement about his sons. My father refused to do anything like that and they put him in the criminal camp, where he served three years from beginning to end and then returned home.
Now I’ll tell a bit more about my imprisonment. At the end of the investigation they gave me a chance to go. They wanted me to do just a trifle: Chief of the Oblast Department of the KGB Diachenko and a whole lot of investigators brainwashed me insisting that I write a penitential letter, cast innuendos at acquaintances, friends who were involved in all this, and assure the Soviet government that I am a Soviet man and that nothing like this will ever happen again. Moreover, at the end of the conversation they specified the reward I would get for this my action: in two years, despite the fact that I am only in the third year, I will be offered a post-graduate course. The instruction by correspondence permits external studentship with passing two-year exams during examinations. They even specified the educational institution. You will make your postgraduate studies at the Mliyiv Experimental Station. If we back you it is absolutely possible. I did not like the prospects, and I became an inmate of the prison camp.
I thought they would send me to Mordovia…
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Please, recollect the date of the trial and how that process took place.
B.D.Chornomaz: It took place on November 17 or 18, 1972. The Cherkasy Oblast Court. I was under detention in Cherkasy. I was examined by a whole team of investigators: three or four officers.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Was it a consideration of a dual case?
B.D.Chornomaz: Yes. Kuzma Matviyuk was arrested on the same day. Investigator Diachenko was the team leader. The trial lasted for several days. The judge closed the trial to the public.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Did they close even the pronouncement of the judgment?
B.D.Chornomaz: The public was admitted to hear the pronouncement of the judgment. The pronouncement procedure was attended by my mother and my bride whom I could not manage to marry.
We’d better revert to previous events and emphasize one more thing: when I was arrested before the wedding, the guests had been notified already, and it was not possible to withdraw the invitation. At the same time they summoned my wife and my mother… well, rather the militia officers took them aside and prohibited telling anybody what had become of me. They set out a lead that I had an accident. These were the words of Uman KGB officer Victor Biden; he maintained that people had to believe in it. You are to bring this news in such a way that no one would guess that he had been arrested. He had an accident and was hospitalized. It is a must: you just name such-and-such hospital and they will answer the call in a proper way. Well, to cut a long story short, it was an excellent feint. Thus, the wedding took place, but in the absence of…
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Did it take place, or didn’t it?!
B.D.Chornomaz: Well, you could not call back the event.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: But the bride, who knew the truth, found herself in a rather awkward situation?
B.D.Chornomaz: She found herself in a back seat. Everybody surmised that something was wrong. Moreover, they thought that I ran away from the wedding.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: The most primitive version.
B.D.Chornomaz: Yes, yes. What can our man surmise? The groom has fled: he has changed his mind and did not want to marry any more. The musicians were sent away for under such conditions music-making was not very appropriate. Many a man suspected that there was something wrong and there was something else behind it.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: And have you managed to register your marriage before that?
B.D.Chornomaz: No, I have not. But legal term had expired by then, the term was kept. It was a case of fortuitous event. When I had been imprisoned, my wife, arguing that the legal term kept (at least a month the application must be under consideration in the registry office while our application remained there for a month and a half… well, somehow I do not remember those terms), so the Soviet legislation was not against it. She pressed for it for a year and a half, and after all we were allowed to register your marriage in the camp.
They transported me to the camp according to the highest standards. There was an inscription on my file: “Dangerous special public offender”. This stipulated special conditions. That means I was not kept together with domestic offenders, I always had a separate compartment, although in Kyiv and Kharkiv, where prisons were overcrowded, Kuzma and I were kept with several criminals. They were habitual offenders arrested for the twelfth time.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Dangerous special recidivists.
B.D.Chornomaz: Right. Dangerous and special. They treated us with great respect. In some transit jail−I do not remember its exact location−they brought to our cell several juvenile delinquents, seventeen-year-old boys, who started to behave aggressively. So this prisoner, domestic offender, from Vinnytsia jail, which had been arrested for the twelfth or thirteenth time and already considered the jail an adequate environment for himself, called them up and in the form of an order said to them, “Stop wriggling and being pesky with those guys.” We talked with him, he was curious to know about our convictions; he was a sensible man and I cannot say anything bad about him. Anyway, we had normal relations.
Kuzma Matviyuk was transferred from Kharkiv to an unknown destination, and I was taken under guard to the Urals. I left Cherkasy in the fall, before the New Year, and I was dressed in summer clothes. My fiancée passed me a quilted coat and felt boots, but somehow I did not get them. So I hit the road wearing my shoes and summer pants.
When we got to the Urals−it was already after the New Year−they dropped me off at the Vsekhsvyatskaya Station not far from the 35th zone. A platoon of soldiers with two dogs came to meet me: there were six soldiers, officer and two dogs and they led me on foot to that zone. We had to walk about two kilometers, but at the middle of the distance I let fall my bag in which I had some poor belongings of the prisoner. One guard picked it up and carried it because I crept more dead than alive. And when we reached our destination, it turned out that I walked in shoes at 44 degrees Celsius below zero. I was at once admitted to a jail hospital because I got frostbitten. I was in the jail hospital for about a week or two, the skin came off my legs and hands, and the new skin covered them. But while I was in the hospital, some prisoners came to visit me. The jailers drove them off, but they managed to tell me that I would not stay there and the jailers intended to transfer me to the 36th zone nearby; my visitors asked me to tell the inmates over there that Ogurtsov was arrested, such was his name. And there was also Karuzov or Karuzo, something like it. I had to convey that these persons were arrested.
After that they brought me to the 36th zone in Kuchino. There at first they put me into the disciplinary cell. I was alone in that cell; however, a cleaner-prisoner came to tidy up the cell and I soon got along with him. Although the jailers were close by, but he, addressing the jailers, construed words in such a way that I knew that this information was intended for me. I reacted accordingly, so that the inmates in the zone already knew who I was and whence I came.
When I was led into the zone, I was met by people whom I knew, but whom I’d never met in the past, for example, Yevhen Sverstiuk, Levko Lukyanenko, and Oles Serhiyenko. The regular camp routine set in. Maybe I need not dilate upon them…
V.V.Ovsiyenko: This is important. What was the atmosphere there? What were your job, conditions of detention, and regime?
B.D.Chornomaz: Okay. I arrived in the 36th zone in Kuchino in 1973, somewhere in spring: either in February, or in March. Winter. Biting frost.
As regards the atmosphere in the camp, it may be better evaluated now from the distance of several decades. Although I appraised it shortly after my discharge from the camp. The difference between the atmosphere in the camp and out of the camp simply burst upon the eye. First of all, the intellectual elite were gathered there. No one could prevent Sverstiuk to be a scholar there or Lukyanenko to be a refined lawyer. Almost all dissidents, who were there, behaved very correctly. There was a great mutual respect, good relations with people of other nationalities. By the way, somehow all nationalities lived there a little bit apart.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: They formed groups by their nationalities.
B.D.Chornomaz: Yes. There was a sort of national kinship and solidarity. These are completely normal things: Lithuanians went together, we Ukrainians went together, and Jews were united in particularly close associations.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Can you remember the names of at least the most important people that were there at the time. For example, Ukrainians, Jews…
B.D.Chornomaz: OK. Concerning Ukrainians with whom I conversed most frequently there was Yevhen Sverstiuk. Throughout my stay in the camp we were on very good terms. I met there Hryts Herchak, he is an artist and lives in Canada now. At the time he served the rest of his twenty-five-year term. He was caught up at the age of 21 years, in 1952; he was an underground activist since he was 14 years of age. In 1952, at the age of 21 years, he was arrested and imprisoned for 25 years. There were also other Ukrainians, e.g. Oleksa Riznychenko, whom the camp guards called Reznikov which he did not like. It seems there are no problems with his name now.
Then I was the youngest inmate there. The prisoners who served 20-to-25-year terms treated me very well from the very beginning. Today I explain this fact for myself with their suppressed as far as I was a 23-year old student at the time and thence these warm relations. Among them I remember the late Dmytro Paliychuk from Kosmach, Haida, old Banderivets, Gnot who served the rest of his fifteen-year term, there also was Levko Lukyanenko’s sidekick. There were 350 people altogether; one-third of them were Ukrainians, so there is no sense naming all of them.
There was a group of Jews in the camp who in 1971 (15.06. 1970 - V.O.) were arrested an attempt to steal a civilian aircraft. Their arrest riveted attention of the world community to the problems of Jews in the Soviet Union. They, as they say, laid the groundwork for Jewish emigration. It was a group of Dymshits. Mark Dymshits was an officer, major. From his group there were Chornoglaz, Mendelevich, Israel Zalmanson with his sister…
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Sylva Zalmanson did her time in Mordovia, in the women’s zone.
B.D.Chornomaz: Yes, Sylva. We knew it only according to the words of Zalmanson. They were very decent people, they treated us very well, though they were convinced Zionists. I disagreed with them only in the treatment of history. I really did not like their, I think, false and unsubstantiated allegations concerning mythical figures of extermination of Jews under Bohdan Khmelnytsky. I prove statistically that according to Polish historians of the time there were six million Ukrainians, and then if we, say, triple their number, then every second inhabitant could not be a Jew in Ukraine.
I liked Lithuanians very much. In particular, a fugitive… He was a very famous person…
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Simas Kudirka?
B.D.Chornomaz: Right you are: Kudirka. Kudirka, by the way, used to recount a funny story of how he was arrested. He was strong and somewhere in the port he leapt from the mother ship aboard the American one and asked for political asylum. But he was not well-versed in English. The Americans, according to international rules, could not help him actively without consulting the higher authorities. The American Captain contacted President Johnson. But Johnson had his days-off at the time and his attendants for some reason did not dare to disturb him. The Americans waited for some time, and then allowed the party organizer of the Soviet ship and captain to take this Kudirka home. So they scuffled on the deck for two hours: Kudirka did not want to give in and Soviet representatives kept trying to take him away. Finally they immobilized him with the telephone cable and dragged him to the Soviet ship. But it turned out that Americans filmed the whole scene and showed it to President Johnson and translated for the President Kudirka’s cries and begging; then Johnson concluded that Captain was to blame that Kudirka was sent to the camp. When Johnson met with Brezhnev, he somehow bargained for Kudirka’s release and emigration to America.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Are you sure it was Johnson, and not Nixon?
B.D.Chornomaz: In my opinion, Johnson. I’m not really sure. It happened in 1973; we’d rather consult reference books…
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Sylva Zalmanson and Simas Kudirka were released in August 1974. At the time Nixon was the President of the United States.
B.D.Chornomaz: It is quite possible. The Armenians also kept together. They were with us in a very good relationship. We tackled all all-camp problems together.
Russians behaved in a special way. Firstly, I saw no Russians who had respect for our claims of independence, establishment of our own state. I did not see such ones. They say that there were such individuals in the camps. They usually mentioned Sergei Kovalev, but I did not see such persons. The very moment you dig deep you see nobody but Russian chauvinist and Ukrainophobe. I put my money where my mouth is. I would not call them by name, but they were such as Platonov, an extremely intelligent, Arabist, Professor, Sado, also Arabist, a scientist from Moscow.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Only Kronid Lubarsky could be called the true democrat unless; he was an astronomer from Moscow. It looks like he wasn’t kept in your camp. He did his term in Mordovia and in Vladimir jail. I can say the same about Alexander Bolonkin. You know, if any of Russians turned out to be the true democrat and you dug deeply, you could find out that he was not a pureblooded Russian: he might be a little Jewish or someone else.
B.D.Chornomaz: But, for example, Sado was completely pro-Russian, although originally he was Assyrian that adopted Russian culture. Knowing well that he was an Assyrian, by his world outlook he was a conscientious Russian. There was also another one Ukrainian origin: he was brought up in the framework of Russian culture and adhered to pro-Russian sentiments… But let it be.
In the camp, I was on the best friendly terms only with Hryts Herchak who did the rest of his twenty-five-year term, with Yevhen Sverstiuk. After my first year in the camp, they brought a group of young people, they were my juniors: Stepan Sapeliak, Volodymyr Senkiv, Mykola Marmus, and Dmytro Hrynkiv. The whole group of young people came from Ukraine. The time became better now. Our older generation also took heart. They understood that without continuity with the younger generation their struggle would have no meaning.
One very interesting fact connected with the arrival of Stepan Sapeliak. There existed a rule that several times a day we all were searched in the morning and in the evening, they counted and recounted us when we went to work, to lunch, to dinner, in the morning and in the evening. Beside perfunctory search intended to find bulky items if any, some prisoners from the column were taken to a special room at the checkpoint for a detailed search. They had to strip naked and to squat, you know all this humiliating procedure…
V.V.Ovsiyenko: When they led prisoners to work or led them back from work, right?
B.D.Chornomaz: Yes. They just selected several men. And so Stepan Sapeliak was singled out for detailed search, stripped naked, forced to raise their hands and lean against the wall, and then one supervisor pressed his hands with his palm to the wall, and another one started beating him on the liver with the edge of his hand. Stepan was only recently brought to the zone, still strong enough, he wasn’t yet exhausted with camp food, and he managed to escape and jump into his column. The red marks from blows were still visible. This was an interesting, even impressive phenomenon: when previously I saw those prisoners as they walked, or were going to work, or headed to the dining room, they seemed to be in no hurry, they procrastinated the time, each one knew what would follow next, and it seemed that no power on earth could stir that mass to activity, mobilize these people for resistance or any organized activities which did not fit into that camp routine. But all of a sudden everything became jumbled up because of the brave deed of Stepan. It brought the column up short. Those old prisoners who had already served twenty and twenty-five years (for example, in our camp we knew one prisoner who had already served more than thirty years: at the end of previous term they summoned him to the guard room and gave him a new term which was the norm in the Soviet camps) suddenly stopped, got mixed and supervisors immediately fled. And the mass of prisoners moved back into the living zone.
There was a gate, locked with a coupling pin. No one tried to take the pin out: the vast crowd hit the gates and they burst open. It was a great inner strength, when emotional outbursts combined with physical ones and the joint effort bore fruit. The supervisors scattered in all directions; since that time none of them went by himself−God forbid!--but only in twos or in threes, and all of them were equipped with walkie-talkies. We went on the protest strike.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Do you remember the date of this event?
B.D.Chornomaz: It happened in summer 1974. (On June 23.—V.O.) So went on strike and advanced the demand to send a commission from Moscow. Some commission did come and even promised us something. We refused to go to work and set the rule that information from informers should not reach the administration and that no one should be humiliated; to secure it we should be allowed to go in twos or threes if we were summoned for interview.
We decided to go with Hryts Herchak. He had to serve two years more. When we were summoned, they suggested that I would be the first to go to work. I said that until all would decide to go to work, I would not do it; I said I would do as the inmates would decide. Then they came up to Hryts and offered him the same. They told Hryts: “You have two years to serve. You have already served enough. Just go to work and within a month or earlier you will be discharged. And we will begin drawing up documents now.” They told it my presence. And we need to understand a man who was 44 years old and who spent virtually all his youth in camps, but he refused.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Did he have a twenty-five-year term, or didn’t he?
B.D.Chornomaz: Yes. He was 21 years old when he was imprisoned. And he told them in my presence: “No, I prefer doing my term. I want to serve the rest of my term.” In a few days the strike came to an end, we started going to work. Levko Lukyanenko and some other prisoners were sent off to a jail as the organizers of the strike.
And one more thing. Despite the very strict security in the camp, there was a spiritual life. For example, Hryts Herchak had a guitar. In the camps he socialized with outstanding musicians and artists. He is very talented. He remembered with great respect Panas Zalyvakha and Mykhailo Soroka. He met Russian artist Ivanov and a handful of others; it’s a pity I’ve forgotten their names because all of it happened long ago. He also painted very well. We decided that the artist has to create something. We got a piece of linoleum and a piece of iron meter. We made several gouges from the meter, and Hryts created several linocuts. We quickly made a dozen copies and hid them. Hryts made bookplates almost for all Ukrainians. I understood that it might become sometime in the future a good remembrance or as an evidence of cultural and artistic life of Ukrainians in the camp, and hid some copies among my papers.
Once the guards stumbled across these gouges and tried hard to establish whom they belonged to. One supervisor−I do not know how his name, but he was nicknamed Shmalianyi− had a special talent for search; he knew how to nose things out! We hid the gouges in the handle of the gear switch of the turret drilling machine. It seemed like a place where you will not find anything. But he still managed to find them even there.
Hryts had several linocuts made by Panas Zalyvakha still in Mordovia. In the 60’s there was temporary relaxation of the regime and the artists had the opportunity to paint watercolors. Hryts has preserved certain works from those times, though they usually took away and destroyed his creations. Hryts handed me some of his works saying that the supervisors already knew that he was painting and they would certainly search him. He asked me to keep them for him and maybe take them out, since I had a three-year term only. In order to take these pictures away from the zone, I gathered a heap of all sorts of papers weighing about forty kilograms, including unnecessary clippings, prints from magazines and put the works of Hryts between layers of those printed pictures hoping that when they would discharge me and only one supervisor would complete the formalities he would become sick with leafing forty kilograms of paper and therefore he might not pay attention to some works. And so it happened. When I was being discharged, the supervisor reviewed a dozen letters, drew out several pages, cast a glance at the rest of it and said, “Get it out with you.” And I left the camp…
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Were you released directly from the 36th camp?
B.D.Chornomaz: Yes, I was. When I was discharged, I was taken to Perm to get on a train. There I sorted all those heaps of papers to get rid of unnecessary weight, picked out linocuts, bookplates and several watercolors, and threw the rest of the papers away. In such a way I evacuated the works of Hryts.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Did you go by train?
B.D.Chornomaz: Yes, I changed the train in Moscow.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Later they decided to prevent the discharged persons from visiting somebody in Moscow and transferred them under guard directly to the oblast centers.
B.D.Chornomaz: They handed me my tickets at once which included all my changes of transport.
After camp I went to Uman… And in the camp, before my release, we agreed with Hryts Herchak about as follows. At the time, there was the rule in force that when a prisoner sentenced to 25-year-term had to be released from the camp, he had to possess an official invitation from someone in Ukraine with a guarantee that he would give him the living space in her/his apartment, which would allow it. If these requirements were not fulfilled, the prisoner was not permitted to live in Ukraine. I would not like to mention all peripeteia which didn’t give Hryts a chance to return to the Ternopil Oblast, but he could not go back there for many reasons. Anyway, we agreed that in a few days before his release I will send a telegram to the camp about my official consent to let him live in my apartment. Why it was necessary to do it 2-3 days before his release? It was necessary in order to prevent exerting pressure on me. And we know that there existed ways to exert such pressure. I might go under, because I did not know what they would undertake against me.
I did so, and after his release Hryts came to me in Uman having served twenty-five years.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: But what kind of apartment did you have there?
B.D.Chornomaz: In 1975, six weeks before my release, there was a hurricane in Uman. It ruined many buildings. A few hours later a governmental commission visited the place where my fiancée lived, or already my wife…
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Did they register your marriage?
B.D.Chornomaz: Yes, they did.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: I beg your pardon, but what did the procedure look like?
B.D.Chornomaz: We were given a three-day rendezvous. The best men were the matron who searched Tetiana and supervisor who searched me, and plus some officers from the legal department…
V.V.Ovsiyenko: And did they witness that you agreed to be married?
B.D.Chornomaz: Yes. They formally conducted this procedure.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Do you remember the date?
B.D.Chornomaz: You know, I do not really remember this date; you’d better ask Tetiana.
So six weeks before my release the hurricane damaged our khata. It wrecked not just our khata, but the entire street, so that one could not live there any more: it smashed the doors, windows, tore away roofs, and left absolute destruction. The whole area became uninhabitable. The state undertook to provide housing within three months. But when I returned from the camp, the government decided against providing dwelling for me. So it took me another two years in order to secure fulfillment of obligations by the state. By the way, I had a letter of guarantee from the government. When I got added evidence that they did not intend to fulfill obligations, I refused to vote during regular elections to the Verkhovna Rada, or something. Also, I put in an application that I would be forced to turn to the United Nations Commission for Assistance to Victims of Natural Disasters. I knew that there was such a Commission.
The next day I was called by the First Secretary of the Communist Party City Committee, where Timofeev, Chief of the Uman KGB, and another man were present. I was asked to explain what I meant. I told them about one case, which occurred in Lviv. Stepan Sapeliak knows it very well. One student had parents who were disabled and received a pension, and he studied at the university. He worked part time at the railroad terminal, and then he also fell ill and could not work. And then his neighbors’ relatives from America came to visit them. They visited his home, saw how he lived, asked about his academic achievements. He said he would have to leave the university, because he had no money. So they suggested him to write an appeal to the United Nations and ask for assistance. He wrote. I do not know whether this is true story about the amount they sent him, but it had to be a sum to the tune of several thousand dollars and a new car, which he had to get here. The upshot of it all was that he was summoned to the KGB and forced to write a refusal on the grounds that the Soviet Union had not been using it for a decade already and that it was defamation and so on. He declined, but until his graduation he had Leninist scholarship.
I retold them that episode and said, "But keep in mind that if international imperialism throws me something, I would take it and I would be very grateful for the handout.” Then they gave me an apartment. It turned out that the Council of Ministers funded assistance to victims of disasters. They gave me apartment in a very interesting place: the apartment was on the fifth floor, but my windows overlooked the Uman jail across the street, which had been built at the time of Catherine II and in 1975 the jail still functioned.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: So you lived across the street from the jail, and if anything cropped up you could find yourself across the street from your house?
B.D.Chornomaz: Right, it’s enough to make a cat laugh. On the lower floors nothing was heard because the camp was surrounded with a brick wall, but I lived on the fifth floor and all reveilles, formation calls, roll calls, calls for march to the dining hall jangled on my nerves for several years. However, I had to accept my situation because nothing could be done. Sometimes I woke up, heard those signals and thought: where am I?
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Didn’t you want to jump up and run?
B.D.Chornomaz: Yes. Especially when signals for work sounded. After my release, I wanted to go to the same place where I worked, i.e. to the institute. Of course, this was not possible. Then I worked as a loader, odd-job man: it was very hard labor. I was looking for another employment; they suggested me to go to the stokehole, which was a regular appointment for the prisoners that was officially called “operator of heating system equipment”, or “the stoker” the way we put it. So I was a stoker for fifteen years.
Hryts Hirchak (sic) lived for eight months in my apartment. He met with Liudmyla Lytovchenko of Kyiv, daughter of the artist Lytovchenko, known tapestry maker; she was known in Ukraine and abroad and had something to do with dissidence. Liudmyla was once expelled from the university for signing some letters of protest. She was divorced from her first husband, something went wrong with their marriage, and married Hryts Herchak. After 8 months of living in my apartment he moved to Kyiv. If I am permitted a digression, I will tell you about Herchak.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Well, do, please.
B.D.Chornomaz: He moved to Kyiv. They lived near Pechersk Bridge in a two-room apartment with two children. We used to go to them in order to socialize. In their apartment we got to know Mykola Horbal, Sverstiuk used to visit them, we used to visit Sverstiuk. It was the center of political life in Kyiv, the center of all news, literature, and cultural life.
The conditions of life made Hryts work hard. Now he had a family. After forty-five years of age people try and think about what they will leave behind. Feeling himself a potential artist and seeing no prospect to leave something behind in this area at home, he began to ponder whether it was worth to go abroad. It was in the eighties, 1987-88. We worked out a plan to prepare exit from the country. At the time they did not allow former prisoners to go abroad. But then the Poles began visiting Ukraine. The Poles from Przemyśl, who had relatives in Canada, came several times to Uman, and we agreed that those relatives from Canada would make an official statement that Hryts was their relative and they invited him and his family to stay with them. They did it.
Obviously, the KGB already suspected that Hryts aspires to leave and in this way to escape from them. They forewarned him, they threatened him. Hryts tried and convinced them that it could not be. But in the long run he was released.
B.D.Chornomaz: It seems to me it was in 1988. Then the Ukrainian culturological club broke the ice, and Hryts and I had already attended meetings there. When he was ready to go, they made it a condition that he had to buy round trip air tickets. But they hadn’t enough money. My wife and I sold our wedding rings. Those were memorable rings: when we were registered under camp conditions, there were no rings, but later, after the camp, our family collected money and bought us these rings; now we sold these rings and gave money to Hryts and Liudmyla to buy those tickets. In this way they went abroad and remained there.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: In what country did they settle?
B.D.Chornomaz: In Canada. There Liudmyla went to work for Radio Liberty and Hryts was employed as a cleaner in some archive.
My fate. In the late 80s the democratic processes began. The Ukrainian Culturological Club began operating; we watched its activity and with great caution attended its meetings. A little later the Ukrainian Helsinki Union was set up. I was involved in its formation in Cherkasy Oblast. It so fell out that Cherkasy failed to create any normal structures of the Rukh or Helsinki Union. There were vain attempts but there was no normal structure. At the same time in Uman were people trained by me, and one could rely upon them. So we created Helsinki Union in Uman.
Perhaps, we’d better start a little earlier: how the democratic movements emerged in Ukraine, in which I participated. In 1988, in November, the Radio Liberty informed that in Vinnytsia the group of the Ukrainian National Front was created under Volodymyr Muliava and Simyachko. Simyachko was my good friend, he was the party organizer at the teacher-training college at the time when I was arrested and when my wife studied there. When my wife (then she was still my bride) in the presence of party organizer was offered to desert me−and the choice was: either the college or desertion−Tetiana answered: “Well, if you need this diploma very much, then you may have it.” After that Simyachko, already after my return, expressed us high regard, despite the fact that he was party organizer. It turned out that he also had certain acquaintances in Kyiv because he was a member of the Writers’ Union and was among those who sympathized with us. So, we then gathered a group: Grokholskiy of Uman, I, my Tetiana, Olga Didenko, Larysa Tsymbrovska, and Stepan Buriak, stage director. I think I missed nobody. Then we decided to create a key support point of this front. We did it immediately on the next day. We sent my wife Tetiana to meet Simyachko and Muliava. She went to Vinnytsia and brought back the Statute of the Front; I have now this very copy in my archive. We sent them a letter informing that we had conducted a meeting and decided to set up a key support point of the Front. It was our first step. So we had formed an organizational framework of the key group of Ukrainian National Front. After this the Writers’ Union initiated the process of creation of the People’s Movement of Ukraine for Perestroika and sent appeals to create primary organizations in the oblasts. We immediately decided, just in case, to register our group as a primary organization of the Rukh. But literary coterie, which at the time existed in Uman, invited us to a joint meeting. Then Ivan Drach appealed to all literary associations to hold meetings and create primary organizations of Rukh.
We attended that meeting. It turned out that there had gathered a respectable number of people, more than twenty. Those present discussed the program proposed by the writers. Of course, I understood that it was a liberal program, this was the first progressive step that had to be supported, I was very well aware of this. We said at that meeting that we had such a group, but if there were more people we agreed to unite and create a primary organization of the Rukh. We made a joint appeal to the Writers’ Union in support of its initiative and declared that we had a primary organization in Uman.
Do you remember when the Lev Society was created in Lviv? I do not remember whether it was before or after the Rukh? In my opinion, it was before the Rukh. (The meeting of founders of the Lev Society was held at the Club of the Lviv Forestry Engineering Institute on October 19, 1987.--V.O.)
V.V.Ovsiyenko: The Draft program of the Rukh was published in Literaturna Ukrayina Newspaper on February 17, 1989.
B.D.Chornomaz: And I am speaking about the Lev Society. When it was created, we discussed it and then I was sent on a mission trip to Lviv. Then I met with Head of this Lev Society Orest Sheiko. He was a former secretary of the city or oblast Komsomol committee. But after I had talked with him, I realized that he was a little afraid of the developments as he was overcautious concerning all ideological matters. But I asked him to give me a copy of the statute of their association and we immediately set up a Berehynia Society. By the way, to this day it goes on operating on the basis of that statute. Tetiana, my wife, was elected a head of the society and she holds this post up to this day. The society has a considerable groundwork, but we will not go into subtleties.
Now let’s return to the processes of creation of Rukh. When we expanded and had many members, we decided to organize a large formal founding meeting in Uman. But once again we riveted attention of the City Communist Party Committee: every our meeting was attended by a representative in the person of the secretary for ideology, one such Bodrov, current mayor; he accurately recorded all developments, from time to time he asked for the floor, intervened and tried to channel things. When we were in the process of convening a meeting of founders, I realized that it was a very risky undertaking to elect me a head, because I was a former political prisoner from Western Ukraine; indeed, there were many weak points that in propaganda terms might affect the prospects of activity and prospects for the growth of the organization. We discussed in a narrow circle all these problems and decided that we could not nominate me as a future Head of the Uman Rukh. We agreed at that meeting that we should rather nominate Stanislav Kravchuk as the future head of Uman Rukh; at the time he was the Head of Uman Literary Union. We elected him chairman of Uman Rukh, but I do not know how City Communist Party Committee and the KGB brought pressure to bear on him, because when we come to the next meeting, he brought the draft of the statute, but it wasn’t the variant approved for the Rukh. At the founding meeting where we elected him chairman, all insiders took home printed draft statute of the Rukh sent from Kyiv and voted for it. But to the second meeting Kravchuk brought another draft, which I have, and it was called “Unity”. Somehow, due to his oratorical talent, he was able to make us believe−and we were too inexperienced and didn’t look into it−that set up Uman independent association under the name “Unity”.
When we once again came to the meeting, the First Secretary of the City Communist Party Committee for Ideology (sic) took the floor and said, “My dear, what Rukh are you talking about? Your organization is named “Unity”! We recognize it, here is its statute for which you voted and minutes of the meeting and here are my recordings about it. What else do you want? What Rukh and what appeals to Drach are you talking about?”
Then I got scared. I got up and announced yet another meeting. We held one more meeting at which I was elected chairman. We did not reject anybody, but conducted another meeting, and so I became Head of Uman Rukh.
You cannot imagine what pressure we withstood! Then I traveled several times to Kyiv, I took my cue from the situation in Ukraine and concluded that if we stayed by ourselves, we might be overridden. We began visiting regions. We went to Khrystynivka, went to Monastyryshche, we traveled all over six regions and helped to established primary organizations of the Rukh there.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Did it take place before the Constituent Congress of the NRU on 8 - 10 September 1989?
B.D.Chornomaz: It did take place before the Rukh Constituent Congress. So to speak, on the underground level I was supported by the professorate of Uman Agricultural Institute. These supporters included Professor, Dr. Vasyl Bilous. One should distinguish between him and Vasyl Bilous who was a former political prisoner. There were other supporters as well… Well, when I remember their names I will tell you. One of these doctors has already died, another one emigrated to Germany. The support of the highest intellectual elite of Uman, of course, persuaded me that everything was fine and we should only get down to work.
All attempts to influence Cherkasy and organize something there failed. This was followed by attempts to organize the Ukrainian Republican Party. (The Constituent Congress took place on 29-30 April 1990.--V.O.) Through carelessness of the party leadership, including Levko Lukyanenko, the Congress failed. There were people, it was plain sailing, but the stake was placed on Cherkasy, particularly on Mykhailo Gedz, who was known in Uman by rigged elections, when there were three nominees for the post of the head−my wife, I, and he−and during the counting of votes it turned out that the ballot-box contained more voting bulletin than there were party members present at the meeting. This led to protests. Anyway, the voting fraud failed.
Already in 1989 I established contacts with Lithuania and we organized publishing of the newspaper. It was one of the first newspapers in eastern Ukraine, which had mass circulation: Chervona Kalyna.
With the establishment of the primary organization of the Ukrainian Republican Party there appeared one more newspaper: The Tryzub. Once again, as they say, this came to be under my auspices. My wife Tetiana and Alexander Koverha were busy with The Tryzub. Again, it was done in order to reduce, minimize attacks against the media, which came out sort of under my control. I tried never to show my influence and authorship in those newspapers. Therefore I did not want to be an editor there.
Newspapers were printed on a regular basis and their run was always in great demand. Where did we get the money? First of all, my wife and I had about three and a half thousand hryvnias at the savings bank; we used all our moneys to promote these newspapers; we squandered our money away. We managed to obtain some funds locally, which included joint contribution, the sale of books and newspapers brought a good return; we sold our newspapers for 15 kopecks per copy.
Later, when in six oblasts there were Rukh organizations, it was found that in Cherkasy Oblast there was another primary organization set up in Kaniv that united the most part of Cherkasy Oblast, but in the City of Cherkasy it was impossible to set up an organization. Anatoliy Lupynis and I visited Cherkasy several times. We tried to do anything though in vain. Two or three times we even convened oblast meetings of the founders in Cherkasy, which had to elect co-chairs: Professor Hubar, me and writer Liudmyla Taranenko. But since Uman was situated 200 kilometers away, and I still had to work in the boiler room, I had no chance to exert influence on the processes in Cherkasy.
What other interesting developments were there? I’ve already mentioned the primary organization of the Ukrainian Helsinki Union, which originated in Uman. How? You may remember that we used to come together on Olegivska. It was my first encounter with Helsinki Union.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Olegivska, 10. It is not far from here in Kyiv, the apartment of Dmytro Fedoriv.
B.D.Chornomaz: Right. I do not know if you were then, when once we held our meeting and then made a roll call, because we saw odd persons in the hall. It turned out that there were a major of militia and Secretary of the District Communist Party Committee.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: It happened without me.
B.D.Chornomaz: Then a wave of rallies set in. Uman has 100 thousand town dwellers. The first meeting we convened with great pomp; the meeting was devoted to the commemoration of the repressions and Holodomor in Ukraine. I then invited the Japanese TV: I came across it somewhere in Kyiv. I invited Volodymyr Muliava, I also invited writer Volodymyr Maniak who wrote about the Holodomor, he died… I also invited James Earnest Mace. It was a great shock to the government.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: And when was that?
B.D.Chornomaz: It was somewhere in the early 1991, in winter, in January, but the weather was sort of… I have somewhere the resolution of that meeting. As far as there was such a solid representation, the authorities also claimed the right to be present at that meeting. That is, they gave us a venue and loud speaking installation. The stadium was determined as the place for our gathering. Six thousand people came together. For Uman with its population of 100 thousand it is quite a lot of people. Before that I, Maniak and Muliava visited the First Secretary of the City Communist Party Committee in order to discuss the resolution. They had their project, and we had ours. In the end we produced a compromise variant. But half an hour before the meeting I was told to select only one speaker from our party, and the rest would represent the City Communist Party Committee and their draft resolution would be put to vote. In that case, I pulled out my old draft, which I had proposed as a basis for compromise, pinpointed its issues, put it in my pocket and went.
When meeting began, I seized an opportunity when there was nobody near the microphone, jumped on the stage and forced my way to the microphone. This was after they had read the resolution drafted in the City Communist Party Committee. But for some reason they did not ask the audience to vote for it. I explained the situation to people, informed them about the draft we agreed upon, but the party officials tried to get their own way, and I now wanted to call your attention to a new draft resolution. I read it and said, “Now let’s vote. Who is for our resolution?" Well, the voting produced absolutely 100% affirmative vote, and only two votes were cast for the party draft. So we democratically voted for our resolution.
There were many such episodes. Subsequently the meetings continued during the year. I do not remember how many times they inflicted fines on me for such rallies? All of it happened in 1991-92. For example, I reckon that in 1992 I was seven times thrown to the preventive-detention cell. As a matter of fact, they kept me for no more than 2-3 days or even one day. As usual, each time began with our convening the meeting, the authorities refused to give permission, and after the rally or meeting they arrested me. It ended with a big crowd gathering in the evening near the militia station carrying slogans, singing, chanting; in short, unrest during all night, and a lot of trouble for the militia… And I went hungry there. If I wasn’t the only one, who was thrown to the bullpen, then we began to sing, and the whole preventive-detention cell joint us, then the authorities summoned me and fined me 100-120 karbovanetses according to the then exchange rate saying, “Take away your Banderovetses and never set foot here anymore!”
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Did you pay those fines or not?
B.D.Chornomaz: Never. People−our girls, my wife and others−put three-liter jar on the stand in the downtown, wrote large placard about whip-round intended to cover my fine. When the appropriate amount was accumulated, they wrote that it was the community who paid the fine and did pay it. Such was the ending of all above episodes.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: So, did all these events take place near the fence, or didn’t they?
B.D.Chornomaz: Yes, we had a place that was called Hyde-Parkan. It was the site of an uncompleted construction project.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Has this fence remained until now?
B.D.Chornomaz: This protracted construction is not in operating order yet. A month ago the fence was removed.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Vow, isn’t it a historical site!
B.D.Chornomaz: Right. That fence was a witness to history! By the way, all those posters weighing probably to the tune of 10-15 kilograms have remained up to now. All those “Shame to CPSU!” are a history now!
V.V.Ovsiyenko: That Hyde-Parkan should have been taken to pieces like the Berlin Wall, and these pieces as exhibits should have been sent to the museum.
B.D.Chornomaz: Yes. When in 1992 I saw the need to work intensively on the optimization of the regional structure, I suggested the Head of Kaniv Rukh Petrenko to carry out a joint conference to explain to the people without any frills, quite honestly the essence of the problem and elect one head. I think in the meantime we need to nominate him and me. We offered several nominations including nominees from Cherkasy as well. The meeting supported my nomination, and so we combined two Rukh organizations−Kaniv and Uman−and I became the oblast head. At this very time the Communist Party was defeated and we came together. I went to Bohdan Boyko and took furniture for the office. Mayor of Cherkasy Sokolovski gave us several rooms, in which, by the way, the Rukh headquarters resides until now.
We were very active in the early 90’s; therefore the townspeople of Lviv paid attention to us. For example, during the celebration of the 500th Anniversary of Kozaks, Uman was at the hub of activity: it was a friendly territory, where they could stay overnight and fill up their vehicles. Of course, the authorities, when Lviv residents came to Uman, refused to put them up in a hotel. Then I used to gather the visitors downtown and through a megaphone explained the situation and that the authorities prevented the visitors from Halychyna to put up in a hotel. We need volunteers to let people stay overnight: please, come up and I’ll write down your address. So we mobilized our population and visitors from Halychyna did not stay on the street.
When the preparations were underway for the second congress of the Rukh, the first decisive act of terrorism was committed against our Rukh activists. We then went by car to Talyanky sing my old car Moskvich, which is now 34 years old and is still on-the-run. I was driving the car, my passengers were Olexandr Koverha, current Chairman of the Rukh, candidate of sciences, associate professor of teacher’s training college Pakhotin, Russian, but anti-communist and supporter of the view that he wanted to live in Ukraine, in Ukrainian normal state, and my wife. We went to Talyanky which is an urban village. There was an attempt to assault my car: there stopped another car, four men jumped out of it, began pulling handles, tried to open the doors which were locked from inside. I stepped on the accelerator, broke away from them, while they rushed back to their car and dashed in pursuit of us. I was riding eyes out, the car muffler broke and the car roared like a tank, I tried hard not to give them a chance to overtake me, but I saw that an old Moskvich” could not vie with the Lada car.
Olexandr Koverha was in the back seat, and at the back of my seat I had some pieces of iron: a jack and something else. The jack looked very like the Schmeisser submachine gun. They pursued us closely, just a few meters; they ran us down and could see very well what was up inside the car. When Koverha took "Schmeisser" from behind the seat, they thought it was a submachine gun, and so they cut off the lights, made a u-turn and fled without lights. It was the first such case. We at once turned to the police: it’s in the archives; we took down the number of the license plate, because we remembered it. It turned out that such car did not exist.
At that time, when I became the Head of Oblast Rukh, I left my full-time job at the boiler house and, so to speak, went over to work as an administrator. Of course, it still was a severe duty. Once again I had to stay overnight in my office, and to shuttle between my home and office. Every weekend I visited my family in Uman. Any way I honestly stood firm for two years.
In 1993, we got down to the issues of the reign of law in real earnest, for at the time the lawlessness raised its head violating every law. We began to actively intervene. Sometime in March 1993, I addressed the Session of the Oblast Rada as the Head of Rukh and literally publicized names, numbers, and specific facts; I was accused several persons, including Director of the Cherkasy Meat Processing and Packing Factory Babak of tampering with stocks of materials and capital equipment. In particular, he bartered canned stewed meat for twenty-one cars in Togliatti, Russia. At the time of this non-statutory transaction the price for one can of stewed meat in Cherkasy was UAH64, while he sold for UAH26 apiece. When we counted how many gratuitous cans of stewed meat he sent to Russia, it turned out that every family in Ukraine could have three days in a row one can of stewed meat on its table.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: You told about hryvnias… It seems there were no hryvnias at the time.
B.D.Chornomaz: Right you are, I meant coupons, sorry. It was in 1993. Then we dealt with Yastreb, Representative of the President. His son-in-law did business with Maize Co. dealing in corn. They bought corn seed in the United States at the expense of budgetary funds and sowed it in Ukraine. They asked the state to give them 30% of arable land allotted for corn. The state gave them 10%, but in the Cherkasy Oblast on those 10% of land the crop yield of American quality corn made 11 metric centners of corn, while the more or less normal harvest is 80-85 or even more than 100 metric centners per hectare. It means that they poured public money into defective seeds of which they obviously knew that it should be either disposed of or feed to cattle; in the meantime they bought these priced-up seeds and split the pickings. I gave it all to this oblast meeting.
Then there was a restricted session with the representative of the president, chief of militia Shliakhov, chief of security service, and some other officials, whose names I do not remember. I spoke at the meeting to which I was invited and asked why we, the members of Rukh, deal with functions which fall within the responsibility of militia. I made several examples. In Uman, for violating the law and abuse of power, and, simply speaking, for embezzlement, we released from duties the head of regional executive committee, head of the department of culture, former first secretary; we discharged five or six officials. But it is not a part of our responsibility.
The reply came pat. After the meeting, in the evening, right on the street, when dusk was falling, I was hit on the head and for twelve hours I lay unconscious, blacked out. I got home myself, but I do not remember how. I had my nose broken, broken teeth, cerebral hemorrhage, concussion, and more. It took me several months to put through, in any case, after that my health grew worse significantly. And my vision as well…
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Did you mention the date of the event?
B.D.Chornomaz: It happened on April 9, 1993. At the time the paid treatment was introduced and I was unable to get drugs. Somehow my friends began to collect money within their powers and bought me Cerebrolysin which was used to prevent clotting of blood. But somehow things settled one way or another.
In the fall of 1993, when I regained my footing, I was invited to work with the OUN Secretariat in Kyiv headed by Mykola Plavliuk, Melnykite. I never identified myself−and I never concealed or hid this−with a particular branch of the OUN, Banderovetses or Melnykites, for I consider myself a follower of tradition and moral credit established by the national liberation movements in the twentieth century, I mean the 20s and 40s of the past century and beyond. I agreed to this position and worked there for 4 years at first as the Deputy Head of the Secretariat, then as the Head of the Secretariat. And then I resigned as the Head of the Secretariat, and again became the Deputy Head of the Secretariat, but a bit later I left the job. In 1997, I returned to Uman, because in Kyiv I had an apartment provided by the employer. Anyway one has to keep his eye on the ball, I mean what’s boiling in your family. My two children studied at the Institute, both my son and my daughter.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Please tell us your children’s names and when they were born.
B.D.Chornomaz: My son Roman was born in 1977 and my daughter Sofia in 1980. They both entered the higher educational establishment. Roman graduated from the Faculty of Philology and Ethnology Uman Pedagogical University (this is already the university, IV level), and my daughter is already a senior. Both my children in one way or another were involved in all those processes. Moreover, my daughter, for example, became a history in Uman, because all the time she used to bear the flag when it was believed a dangerous behavior, for a person might be beaten or persecuted in some other way. In Central and Eastern Ukraine there is a long-standing common stereotype: not to leave children holding the bag. It is based on an instinct. But in Uman I wanted to show on principle that children need to be involved in political affairs and trained the way it should be done. When there was a column marching with flags and slogans, I always put my daughter in front. There remained many photos showing a marching column with a 6-7-year-old child with a flag in front row. These are pleasant memories. I believe that children have grown up and have been trained in a proper way, and everything is okay.
Since 1997 I stay out of work. Already in the years of independence I graduated from the History Department of Lviv Ivan Franko University, in absentia. I had honors diploma. My diploma thesis was titled “The activities of national-patriotic underground in Uman Region.” I had insisted to be given this topic, because I wasn’t satisfied with the officially listed topics. I believed that the historian had to be thoroughly and deeply interested in modern history.
Then as I a graduate student-seeker I registered at the University “Lviv Polytechnic”. It was a year later. Why I did not do it immediately upon my graduation? When we speak of Lviv Oblast, we tend to overestimate processes there and are likely to idealize them. For example, in order to be given the theme of the thesis, which I have just described, I had to insist, because the chair had forces that did not like the idea of promoting national liberation movements. It was in 1997, not so long ago. When I raised the issue of my registering with the chair as a post-graduate student, I was invited to attend the meeting of the chair. During the meeting of the chair the lecturers in full force voted to allow me to be registered as a post-graduate student-seeker at the Chair of History of Ukraine of the Ivan Franko Lviv University. But on the last day of filing of postgraduate documents Head of the Chair Kost Kostiovych Kondratiuk turned me down on the grounds that I had no publications in scientific periodicals. It turned out that I was the only exception, because none of the registered graduate students had such publications. However, I, as a law-abiding man, accepted my defeat and went away.
I went to the Lviv Polytechnic and turned to Professor Deshchynsky there. Deschynskyy listened to me and told me to apply and, if there were such, adjoin my newspaper publications, not in the scientific periodicals but in newspapers. I had several dozen publications in the newspapers at the time. I brought him my articles about historical issues. He liked them and he called a meeting of the chair and the chair members voted for my registering at the Chair of History of Ukraine, Science and Technology of Lviv Polytechnic. I am now a post-graduate student-seeker. The lecturers in Polytechnics are well-wishing, friendly and open-hearted. I do not feel any kind of special control; I work absolutely on my own. I have already finished my monograph “The activities of national-patriotic underground on the territory of Uman in 1941 – 1945”. It has already been under preliminary consideration as a future thesis; they liked it and decided to formalize the thesis again as an order of the department. This raises the value and status of the dissertation. There still remains the problem of two doctoral reviews; then I will seek funds to bring the monograph out and prepare it for the defense of the thesis. There remain other minor problems: on the way to a scientific degree it is necessary to overcome various difficulties. In particular, I still do not have publications in the so-called journals of the Higher Attestation Commission as it is rather difficult to gain access to them. Firstly, some people, who are related to opportunities to be published there, call a specific amount, i.e. how much you have to pay.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Who is this?
B.D.Chornomaz: Sorry, but I am out of work for four years and I am unable to pay-you; therefore I seek other ways out. It is difficult for me. I do undertake certain steps and I believe that the thorny path will end in victory. You see, the number of journals of the Higher Attestation Commission is very limited; they are under control of bribe-takers or people who still have pro-Soviet or even hostile-to-Ukraine outlook and mentality, if the truth must be told.
We have already given a general idea of the past, and it’s time now to outline the problems of our time, which relate to our existential credo, our beliefs and our stand in life, and I think we will do our best to proceed along the same lines until the end.
The present developments prove that there is a crisis in the progress of national democratic processes in Ukraine. Since I am into science now, I must say that science, especially humanitarian sector, develops in two directions. One direction is absolutely correct and very important; it is dictated by the requirements of the time: the development of our national philosophy of history, historiography and history and philosophy of science in general as part of the whole. There is another paradigm, another type of development that is based on more pro-communist outlook, inertia of the old days. It is no coincidence that the latter is so durable. We’ve inherited current governance from the Soviet system: the government goes on trimming processes here and there and allowing negative trends to survive.
How does it impact history, which I have to do with? There is a group of expert historians, which have been permitted to study archives with priority access to classified information materials. They were given an opportunity to make their own conclusions and theorize about these topics. They’ve managed to fill all top posts in special journals having Higher Attestation Commission status. It is not that easy for a normal person with the national-oriented outlook, with normal concepts of problems faced by Ukraine to strike through this obstacle. There is a stubborn and persistent struggle for the development of science in this humanitarian sphere. This is only one stroke of that complex situation that can be seen, as they say, by the naked eye.
To say nothing of the political, moral and political crises, because, if we somehow resort to theorizing, the publication by Olexandr Moroz of audiotapes denigrated the very rating and credibility of the idea of governance. You know, this is not even a sort of denigration, but a profanation of the idea of Ukrainian authorities. I’m sorry to say this. At every turn we should bear firmly in mind that we enter into history with certain persons who will remain in our history forever, and our President will never be able to get rid of the historic stigma: no trial, no prosecution, no legal defense will manage to justify Lytvyn and Kravchenko. They will never wash it away like Clinton will never atone for his relations with that Monica. Our trouble is that we will have a president linked to the corpse.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Yes, people know that psychologically and morally our president is capable of such things. He might or might not do it, but he is capable of doing it.
B.D.Chornomaz: If the President is the author of the decrees that provide for the appearance of trust companies and total robbery of Ukraine’s population, you have to be stupid not to understand that he is capable of anything. And more than that: he can easily pay a visit to Lukashenko and watch Ukrainian flag turned upside down, stand with a stupid smile at ease behind Moscow Mayor Luzhkov in the Crimea when the latter pronounces absolutely Ukrainophobe speech, or even better: to say that the Ukrainian idea did not work when he even did not ever launch it. All of it tells its own tale…
V.V.Ovsiyenko: However it is not our topic. Since your father was imprisoned under Article 187 prime, this is an interest area of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group. If only you could collect documents concerning your father… And now please tell us more about him.
B.D.Chornomaz: I have my father’s sentence. My father, Danylo Hryhorovych Chornomaz was born in 1916. He went to the primary school in the Village Stehnikivtsi, now Ternopil Region, and then went to the upper secondary school in Ternopil. In Ternopil he studied at the Polish upper secondary school. I have already told that after the Poles threw him out of the upper secondary school, he studied for some time in private Ukrainian upper secondary school. Despite the fact that he was doing very well in school he had no money to get higher education. And he did not have higher education. He attended a sort of University Extension in Vienna and specialized in experimental psychology. With the outbreak of war his training ended.
Before the war, still under Polish rule, he headed the Luh Association. The Luh was a sports-type structure, which was secretly engaged in paramilitary work, i.e. military training of youth. He was also a member of other organizations: in our region there were Prosvita and Kalyna. Anyway he was a civil activist.
My mother is Mariya Chornomaz; her maiden name was Malychok. There were two major organizations in the village: the Kalyna for women (it was in the 30s, before the war), and the Sokoly for men. My Uncle Olexa, the elder brother of my father, ran the organization for men and my mother ran the organization for women. I still have a picture where those two groups are standing together: a group of boys and a group of girls. Among them one can see my mother, my uncle, and my father. This nice photograph was taken in 1938 when the Ternopil Prosvita activists visited the village: the guests had neckties and the villagers wore embroidered shirts.
During the war, my father was the secretary of the village community (Sekretär Gemeinden−translator’s note): the Germans introduced such a structure. This was an elective post: he was elected by people. He was involved in the underground activity, his underground alias was Andriy. When, after the German occupation, the Soviets came, he was sent to the front at once. He was not there for a long time, just a few months. Has returned an invalid: he had a perforating wound on his left hand and actually this hand stiffened. Nevertheless he didn’t severe his relations with the underground and remained active in the underground organs. I cannot say exactly in what year, but soon after I was born, sometime in 1949 or in 1948, he was arrested. He was sentenced to be shot, but after six months they substituted the death sentence for twenty-five years of imprisonment. He was in Novaya Chunka camps, Chuna… somewhere in those camps.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Where is it?
B.D.Chornomaz: They are situated in Siberia, somewhere at the back of beyond. These camps are well-known. It is interesting that I recently read an appeal of Americans via the Kharkiv Human Rights Group to answer those, who know American soldiers who did their terms in Soviet camps… He is no more, but it is worth finding people, who were in the camps, and ask them. Because my father told me that there were two Americans. I do not remember, how they got there, but they were there indeed. Chuna and Novaya Chunka are two camps. Jot it down in order to search later.
My father came back from the camp in 1956. As a disabled person, he was not working anymore, but made some money on the side. He knew several languages. He had a good command of English, knew Latin and he even did some translations for Ternopil Medical Institute; it was he who did those translations. He knew Greek, knew German. Five languages is no laughing matter. I’m not talking about Polish. And he knew mathematics very well. The forestry enterprise also turned to him. It turned out that all forestry cannot use cubature directories and cannot calculate cubic capacity of cut trees. So my father carried out all calculations, but he taught no one how to do it. Therefore he had good earnings. In this way he raised money to buy lumber for a khata and somewhere in the 60s we built a khata in Stehnikivtsi because our old khata in which we lived burned three times in the late forties. Looking for OUN, the Cheka officers acted as follows: they used to make an ambush, set khata on fire, and watch who would run out. Therefore our house was on fire three times and was already in such an awful condition that, when my father returned from the camp, it was impossible to live in it: one room was more or less put in order, a pole propped it in the middle, and the rest was in a terrible chaos. It took us eight years to build it a little at a time and we finished it in the late 60’s.
One could not be too active in the 50s and 60s. He tried to write his memoirs, but in 1972 he destroyed them before I, my brother, and he were arrested, they found only one page of memories. And it was one of the main charges against him.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Do you remember the date of arrest of your father?
B.D.Chornomaz: Sometime in August 1972.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: So, your father was accused of possessing what?
B.D.Chornomaz: He was accused of keeping the book Internationalism or Russification? by Ivan Dziuba and the above page the qualification of which I do not remember now. I do not know, whether there was a count for possession of weapons, but the search record listed it.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: What court and where tried his case?
B.D.Chornomaz: Ternopil Oblast Court.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: And where did he serve his term?
B.D.Chornomaz: In Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. I do not know the precise location. All of it needs rewriting. I have one my father’s cherished object from the camp, where he was in the early 50’s. There was a period of thaw when artists were allowed to make oil paintings. And one artist, I do not remember his name, but I have it written down, from Kuban, painted in oil a 24x24 portrait of my father. I still have it.
He served his term with interesting people. At one time he served his term with Dr. Volodymyr Horbov, brother of Ivan Ohiyenko, there was even a photo of Ohiyenko, for when he returned to Morshyn, he sent my father a photo which I still have. He got married there: at first he was a bachelor, but later he got married and sent this photo. And then he died.
He narrated about such interesting people, though I do not really remember now the details.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Do you remember when your father died?
B.D.Chornomaz: 1988, and the exact date…
V.V.Ovsiyenko: We need background information about your father. It would be good, if you could write it for us.
B.D.Chornomaz: Okay, I will.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Please, collect all information possible. And now we will call it a day. Thank you.
It was Mr. Bohdan Chornomaz, December 8, 2000. Recorded by Vasyl Ovsiyenko.
The story of Tetiana Chornomaz (Lytvynenko)
Tetiana Chornomaz: The recording is carried out on December 24, 2000 at the request of Vasyl Ovsiyenko, political prisoner of the Soviet concentration camps. I, Tetiana Chornomaz, am the narrator. The recording is performed in Uman, Cherkasy Oblast, Ukraine.
I am Tetiana Chornomaz, wife of political prisoner Bohdan Chornomaz. But before I tell you about my life in the Soviet Union and my road of sorrows around wires of 36th Perm camp, about my road to dreamlike Ukraine, which we have or have not today, I will take it from the top, from my biography.
I was born in the Town of Uman, which at that time belonged to the Kyiv Oblast, on January 25, 1950. I was born into a family of a worker and a nurse. My father was the son of a repressed priest shot in Uman jail in 1937 for his refusal to write to the newspaper about his lapse from the faith. My mother was a nurse, her parents were peasants.
I attended school; I was a pioneer and Komsomol member as all other Soviet youth at the time. There were no Communists in our family for my grandmother was brought up in the spirit of anticommunism. She was born in 1900; she witnessed the Bolshevik take-over, about which she told us hating communists. By the way, my grandmother brought up both me and my sister, because my parents were at work all day and, according to my grandmother, my parents did not send me and my sister to the kindergarten so that they could not teach us to love Lenin it and communist ideology from such tender age.
Of course, when I went to school, my grandmother objected to my being admitted to Pioneer or Komsomol organizations. But if you had not joined the Pioneers or the Komsomol organizations, you would have been expelled from school, your parents would have had trouble at work; of course, our family had to rough it.
My first recollection was as follows. When Stalin died, I was three years old. On the wall we had his small portrait. Despite my grandmother’s hatred to Stalin, obviously, it was necessary to have his portrait in the house, because people came to see us, the family was considered a family of repressed, public enemies. And if there was no portrait of the leader, there could be extra trouble. But I remember, when Stalin died, my grandmother took this portrait from the wall, threw it on the floor, trampled with her feet and cried. I asked my grandmother why she was crying, and she said, “These are tears of joy, my child, tears of joy!” Later, when I grew up, I realized that she was glad that the deathsman died.
I studied well enough and entered Uman Teacher-Training College. I was very active by nature, took part in amateur performances and because on the political scene I could show myself only as a member of Komsomol, I participated in Komsomol activities. They took notice of me and elected me to the Komsomol bureau of the faculty.
My first acquaintance with the Ukrainian world… because at that time everything Ukrainian was not popular, but rather… It was very good for me that nearly all students of my year, except for a few ones, were from the village. The Ukrainian songs helped me from the very beginning to feel myself a part of Ukrainian national culture. I joined a group of singers which consisted of rural girls and boys. These songs sank home, through them I began to explore the world of Ukrainian realities, the world of beauty and my belonging to this nation which has so many songs. It seemed like the roots of my family were somewhere deep. And I was like fresh leaves at the top, on the face of it there was no connection, and this folk song, which charmed me as a student, helped me to connect my roots with leaves and the tree began to spread.
Despite the fact that I studied at the Physics and Mathematics Department, we organized in the college literary and poetic club and named it “Solar Clarinets”. It was there that I acquainted myself with the poetry of Vasyl Symonenko, there for the first time we read the best poems of Borys Oliynyk which showed the beauty of the Ukrainian language. We ourselves, the students, tried to write poetry.
At the time I met my future husband, Bohdan Chornomaz. I was introduced by my friend, who lived nearby, a neighbor, we can say, Nadiya Vitaliyivna Surovtseva. Then Bohdan Chornomaz frequented the apartment of Nadiya Surovtseva, who helped him to learn German, he took from her many books. She was a very famous woman with wide outlook, with progressive and democratic aspirations. Nadiya Vitaliyivna Surovtseva was democratic, independent, and freedom-loving personality. Many young people from Uman frequented her apartment and breathed there fresh air, drank pure water drew from the well at the time of prevalence of gloomy Soviet agitation and propaganda, luscious, false, and artificial.
My husband later told me why they chose me for making acquaintance. They asked my girlfriend to acquaint me with Bohdan. There was a group of them: he, Kuzma Matviyuk, Volodymyr Naida, a few more guys, I do not remember all of them in full. They used to invite Komsomol activists and try to prove the falsity of communist ideas and to see to what extent the young people sincerely believed in those communist ideas and to sow the seeds of doubt in the communist reality. Bohdan Chornomaz invited me to observe May 1; we were fourth-year students at the time. And the fourth year fell on 1971, in spring.
I went there. The toast was proposed for the free Ukraine, it seems there was such toast. I did not pay any special attention to it, because no one told us that we could not speak about the independent Ukraine. We talked for a while, maybe there were conversations about politics. I do not recollect what was boiling. But after that summer came, vacations, we did not go out with Bohdan then.
In the fall, in September, I was summoned to the KGB. I went and wondered why I was summoned. I was a fifth-year student in 1971. When I entered, they at once asked me if I knew Chornomaz. I answered that I did not know.—“Well, and what about Bohdan?”−“I know Bohdan, but I don’t know his last name, because when you meet a guy, usually you do not ask his last name.” They began to question me about that day in May when I was visiting Bohdan and Kuzma, where a group of young people gathered.
I did not want to talk about what was said there, but they started to scare me that they would expel me from the college and then told me that they knew everything all the same. Indeed, they read me a few extracts of conversations that took place there and said that Bohdan came of the family of Bandera sympathizers. They used to kill people and fill wells with Komsomol members and teachers from Eastern Ukraine, abused people and children. And his father was an old offender. Bohdan was a very dangerous man. I can walk unawares and all of a sudden a brick may fall on my head. These people are very dangerous. They continued the examination, read me fragments of conversations at Bohdan’s and Kuzma’s apartment on May 1, and I had to either confirm or deny the texts.
Then they said they I had to write all of it down. Of course, I was already terrified because the questioning had been going on for three hours already. They quietened me down. Interrogator Biden, whose first name I have forgotten, was a young KGB officer. He calmed me down and said that he would dictate for me to write. Honestly speaking, I’d already come apart at the seams after three hours of interrogation. Truly, I cannot recollect now what he dictated then. Later I could evaluate what he had dictated, because another investigator reread for me what I had written taking dictation and what I have signed. When he had finished dictating, I signed all the dictated pages, and then I wrote that I undertook not to disclose the fact of the KGB summons and the subject matter of investigation. I was already on my way out for outside the window it was already dark. I said "Goodbye!" and even thanked this KGB officer and said: "Well, I thank you that you forewarned me that I inadvertently met a man who is dangerous to society. In future I will try to keep clear from that person.” But somehow these my words even disappointed the KGB officer and he said: “On the contrary, I would like very much if you could see Bohdan more often and here is the phone number.” He gave me a piece of paper with a phone number written on it: “See him and tell us what he tells you and where he invites you.”
It affected me like he poured cold water on me. I came out of the KGB onto the street and headed for my home thinking along the way: “I am a member of Komsomol, activist, a young Soviet person. I did right: I have told about the enemy of the Soviet state, about the man dangerous for the Soviet state, I have told what happened during that party. I deceived nobody. I told about the toast to the independent Ukraine because it was the only thing I managed to remember”. On my way home something tormented me, I felt I did something wrong. Why? Why? And when I reached my home, I realized: I was tormented by the last words of KGB officer who suggested to continue seeing Bohdan and report on him later.
In fact, I was horrified. They induced me to be an informer, i.e. they agitated to squeal on Bohdan! But in our family such conditions were unacceptable. My family lived in poverty just because we did not agree to snitch and we were against changing our ideological values. I made up my mind to stop seeing Bohdan and not to go to the KGB anymore; I decided not to use that phone number.
But you can’t escape your fate. My close friend, the one that introduced me to Bohdan, Tetiana Kondratiuk, celebrated her wedding and Bohdan was a guest at the wedding. He knew no one there but me. So he stayed nearby and I exchanged views with him. The very fact that he drew attention of the KGB made me to take a closer look at him. I saw that he was a very kind man, very interesting, that he knew a lot, he was well-read in history, philosophy, he could speak on any topic, he was a connoisseur of art, he took interest in all aspects of life: social life, public activity; he did not drunk and did not smoke; he was head and shoulders above all boys I knew at the time.
That night, after the wedding, he went to see me home. But I have a credo: I cannot date a person if I have anything against him/her in my bosom in order to escape vagueness. I have either to break with this person or give it to her/him straight if I intend to socialize with or date this person.
And I told Bohdan−I asked only that he swore to tell no one about it−that I was summoned to the KGB and interrogated about the May Day, when I was visiting their company. Bohdan started laughing and said: “Everybody present had already been summoned and examined; you were probably the last one. Therefore put it out of mind. It’s a mere nothing. It’s nothing but childish pranks. Nothing will come out of it; they only wanted to know and that’s that. That’s my lookout. No biggie.”
So since that evening he started dating me. We spent evenings in discussions because I still belonged to the so-called Soviet youth and was packed with those Communist ideological clichés and ideas. Bohdan tried and persuaded me that there was another world and that life abroad was another kettle of fish. And I said, “How come? Our history books and newspapers maintain that it is too bad there, there are a lot of very poor people, unemployment.” And he said, "But you were not there, you did not see!” But I really believed the then communist leaders.
But gradually he somehow succeeded in convincing me, and in general it was very interesting with him. We found out that we had a lot in common, both of us were very fond of history and literature and art. It so fell out that we decided to get married, but after our graduation, after my state examinations.
It was already in 1972. I was, however, summoned once to the dean’s office; there was this KGB officer who had agitated me. He asked me why I did not come and did not call him. I said: “Well…” And he said: “I know you go out with Bohdan.” I said that I did not come and did not call him because he told me nothing of interest for you. Then, when I to pass my final state examination, the methodology of physics, I was called to the party committee during the consultation. And again KGB officer Baida was sitting in the presence of party organizer of biology faculty Simyachko (I happened to meet him later, when Ukraine was already independent. He was my favorite teacher of philosophy, member of the Writers’ Union, very intelligent man) and in the presence of Simyachko this KGB officer held a conversation with me. He urged me to give up my marriage with Bohdan Chornomaz, otherwise I could not get a diploma. I stood up and said to him, "Well, if I am to obtain a degree at such a price, then you may have it for yourself!” I got up and went out.
I went away and on way home I kept thinking whether it was worth going to the last exam tomorrow or not, because, of course, they will fail me. But I went. They gave me three out of five, though all other marks in my diploma were good and excellent. Physics was my favorite subject, I always had “A”s, and my lessons were good. Then in the course of twenty-three years I taught physics in school, right, it was physics, because I knew teaching methodology. But they gave me “C”. However, later the lecturers−Simyachko and Kalenyk, an Ossetian− told about what they had to endure because they gave me C grade instead of D; in the course of year both of them were sacked from our Uman Teachers’ Training College. They transferred to other institutes. Well, it is clear that they had different party penalties.
After the last exam Bohdan and I went to the KGB to ask about the wedding, because my father really wanted to celebrate my wedding, because all our neighbors, relatives, acquaintances organized wedding celebrations for their children while we had a presentiment that there might be arrests for many people had been arrested already. When we came to the KGB, they reassured us saying that the case might come to a comrades’ court. Bohdan did not tell me about the grounds for his summons; he maintained that behind summons were his anti-Soviet conversations, talks about independent Ukraine which could secede from the Soviet Union. In the meantime I did not know about real and final reasons.
The wedding was set for mid-July, it seems for July 15. Two days before the wedding Bohdan did not come to my home. I started to worry; the next morning I went to his apartment−he lived with Kuzma Matviyuk on Inzhenerna Street−and saw crying Sonia, Matviyuk’s bride there. In the apartment everything was turned upside down: books, clothes. She was sorting everything out. Sonia said: “Tetiana, the boys were arrested and taken to Cherkasy. Please, help me to sort out Bohdan’s belongings.” Well, I told Sonia that the Bohdan’s clothes, of course, might be recognized at once as they were of smaller size, but it was impossible to sort out books and I offered Sonia to take everything which she believed belonged to Kuzma and I would take the rest of the books.
I returned home and told my father about the developments. The wedding had to take place the next day. My father embraced his head with his hands and sat without a word for three hours and then said, “Oh, well, we cannot cancel the wedding because people received telegrams, people were invited. Of course, we will cancel only the music group. And let people come, let them eat, and drink everything.” My father also went to the KGB and they told him not to disclose that the boys had been arrested. They forbade saying that Bohdan had been arrested and asked to tell the guests that he had a car accident. Sure, there were people, were relatives, and were my friends from the college, whom I am very grateful for their support. The guests guessed the real cause, some people even knew about the arrest.
The day after the wedding I went to Sonia and said, “Let’s go to Cherkasy and find out where they keep our guys.” We went to Cherkasy. There I went to the KGB. I was received by Kovtun, who at the time was an investigating officer, it seems. He said that Bohdan was arrested; he didn’t disclose the grounds for the arrest; they charged him with nationalism and anti-Soviet propaganda and agitation. I tried to find out the exact formulation.—“Well, there were all kinds of talks, agitation of the youth.”
The investigation proceeded in Cherkasy. I came to Cherkasy every two weeks to pass a parcel. They have a very big jail in Cherkasy. When I came to pass my first parcel, I bought oranges, chocolate, all sorts of food rich in calories, and was on the line for four hours for the jail was very big and very many people intended to pass parcels. When came up to the window and submitted a list of items in the parcel, the matron threw me back the list over the barrier and shouted: “Don’t you ever think it is not a vacation center or resort? It is a jail! Read on the wall the list of permitted items. The items in your parcel are not allowed!” I bowed in silence, all food I bought I distributed among children (there were many women with children waiting): candies, chocolate, oranges. I went to the market, bought salo, onions, garlic and all this I was permitted to pass having waited for my turn for the second time.
This was my first trip to Cherkasy. I cannot say that I hate Cherkasy, but I do not like it because my first visit to the oblast center coincided with hard events for me. When they were ready to transport Bohdan under guard shortly after the trial, I was told to give him felt boots, quilted coat, winter clothes, because at the time of arrest he wore light nylon raincoat and light summer shoes. I’d passed all of it two weeks before the transportation and later I found out that they intentionally did not give him these clothes and he in Siberia or the Urals walked many kilometers from the station to the camp at minus thirty degrees Celsius clad in light nylon raincoat and got his hands and feet frostbitten.
Then there was trial in Cherkasy. I sent a wire so that mother could attend the trial. Brother and mother came on time. But they did not let us in the courtroom. This was hearing in camera. The trial continued for three days. The mother arrived, she could not sit and wait for three days, because she had a lot to do at home, she still had two small children: Bohdan’s mother had five children altogether. We entreated one soldier to let us into the corridor leading to the courtroom doors. The soldier was not of our nationality, either Kazakh, or Uzbek. He us pass. We explained him that this was mother and she wanted to see her son. We entered the corridor, opened the door to the courtroom and shouted: “Bohdan!" He stood up and began looking. His mother saw him. Then the guards pounced on us and threw us out of the corridor and on through the door. And the next day I again stuck around the door of the corridor leading to the courtroom. Already another soldier was on duty, Russian, who told me: “The guy, who was on duty here yesterday and who let you go inside, has been subjected to a severe punishment. He has been sentenced to hoosegow.” Honestly, I saw compassion, pity and compassion in the eyes of these young soldiers. Sonia, Bohdan’s brother and I were admitted to the courtroom only to hear the reading out of the judgment. We heard only the reading of the court decision. That’s all.
Then I decided to go and visit Bohdan for I had already received a letter from him. I received an appointment and went to work in Kirovohrad Oblast, Novoukrayinskiy Region, Village of Maryanopil starting on September 1. And on my first vacation I went to the Urals to obtain a permit to see Bohdan. When I went for the first time, of course, I took with me two suitcases of all sorts of food: cabbage, salo, canned stewed meat, and well, everything… I had a handsome salary. But I failed to obtain a permit: they said I was unrelated to him while they admitted relatives only. I tried and entreated them, though in vain. They said that I should go to Kyiv, to the KGB, and the KGB should solve this issue.
Of course, in Kyiv (I went to Kyiv, to the KGB) they promised me to tackle this problem and again I went to see Bohdan in the thirty-sixth camp in Kuchino. They permitted me to see Bohdan but after I had completed a form where I had to write the word I did not want to write and crying I wrote that I was a concubine of Chornomaz. I tried to prove them that I was his bride, they−the young girls−only jeered at me and said that they had no such notion as a bride; they used two terms only: wife or concubine. I was weeping again and wrote that word that I was a concubine, and they allowed me a short meeting.
They led me into a room for meetings (I do not know how to call it officially, because it was gray, I went through three enclosures) and offered to sit on a stool… It was a long room with a wire netting in the middle. I was sitting there, keeping silent, and seeing no one. At the one end of the netting there sat a matron who cried: “Speak now!” I looked that at the other end, at a distance, a small man cropped close was sitting. The words stuck in my throat because I did not recognize Bohdan. They often show pictures and photographs of the prisoners of Auschwitz, dystrophic, thin and unrecognizable, bags of bones… and now there was their likeness sitting at the end of the table, at a distance from me. I began speaking, of course, in Ukrainian. And the matron cried out: “Speak in plain Russian, in Russian, please!” We had to resort to the Russian language and talk. Of course, the meeting was short. This time the parcel wasn’t allowed as well, like the previous time. All food I brought with me, on the road from the camp− Kuchino is situated three kilometers from Kopalno, where there is a highway and you can go by bus to Chusovaya−I went three kilometers along the country road and dogs followed me; I threw out to them about everything from my suitcases: sausages, all edibles.
All the time I kept appealing to all agencies both in Moscow and in Kyiv, to KGB to allow us to get married, to register our marriage in the camp for they do not allow our meetings. I wrote that we were deceived because they said that nothing would happen, that everything would boil down to a comrades’ court, and that my parents overspent on wedding due to disinformation. I was taught that in the Soviet Union the authorities never deceive, and that high executives never cheat. It certainly was a turning point in my life that showed me the back side of that seemingly prosperous “Soviet reality”. In fact it was a reverse side: the man was put behind bars for nothing, for dissenting view, the man who killed no one, who did not commit breach of the peace. On the contrary, he was a good and smart man, cultivated reason, kindness and eternal values and gave a lead to others. It showed me the back side of the Soviet reality, the black side. These were my “universities”.
More than once, when I went to see the high KGB officials in Kyiv, they laughed in my face, saying, “Are not you afraid that we do not release you from this room?” And I said, “There is no sense in it. My whole life has been ruined. I just have nothing to fear. I do not care whether you detain me.” Anyhow, the higher authorities apparently settled the affair and allowed us to register our marriage in the camp.
Also, I visited the Gulag Administration in Vsesvyatskaya (Skalnyi Camps Management in Perm Oblast.--V.O.). I saw there the reverse side of another medal: I saw life of camp supervisors and officers. While I was in Vsesvyatskaya, they did not know the aim I pursued; they lodged me not in the hotel for relatives of prisoners but in the hotel for officers. There I lived in a room with a Russian local council deputy. I saw that this deputy the door of the hotel for the night, but also blocked the door putting a chair in the door handle. I was amazed at it. The deputy said, “Do not wonder at it: sometimes people here get out of line! It’s for the sake of good order.” Indeed, that night we hardly slept. The hotel was in motion: the drunkards roared songs, knocked on our doors and other doors as well, stamped their feet, and drunken brawl was in full swing. In the morning all was quiet; I went out to keep an appointment with the head of the Gulag and asked the woman on duty: "What it was here at night?" And she answered: “The officers had a payday.” The local officers had two paydays per month, their women stayed far away in Perm, they went about their children going to school; therefore the men could be on the loose. Some of them are brought down here from the officer’s cafeteria with the wind knocked out of them, some of them reach here on their own to binge drink once more and then they run off the rails.
Having received permission to register our marriage, I went again from Vsesvyatskaya to Kuchino. I walked for about fifteen kilometers along the taiga road. Later I realized that it was very dangerous. But at that time I did not feel any danger. In a year and a half they registered our marriage in the camp. It was in 1974, in January. The jail matrons were our witnesses at the registration.
After that I was at last granted a three-day meeting. After the meeting a very strong snowstorm set in, the roads were blocked with snow. I went out of the camp, the snow on the road was not cleared away, there was only a narrow path leading from Kuchino to Kopalno, to the highway. A pack of dogs in heat followed me. The main dog ran and thrust its nose up my leg. This pack followed me along the path in the half-meter-high snow and growled. I remembered the advice of my grandmother that if the pack of dogs in heat attacked you, you should rather behave calmly and, God forbid, do not make any sudden movements and keep going all the same. So I had the company of this pack of dogs in heat all over the three-kilometer road up to the highway.
When I reached the highway this pack of hungry wild dogs left me alone. All at once I felt sick and I sat down on the snow right by the bus stop for I could not remain on my feet anymore. There were people who came running, someone found Validol, helped me, and I came to my senses.
I traveled there several times more to visit Bohdan.
When Bohdan returned, we began, just like after the war, our peaceful life. I gave birth to the baby, our son was born, and four years later I had a daughter. During the first year they tried to summon Bohdan to the KGB; they wanted him to write scurrilous things about Surovtseva or his father. For this they promised to reinstate him at the Agricultural Institute−he had been arrested in the third year of studies−and help him make a scientific career.
Every time after such call he came back black and gray. Certainly, I didn’t like all of it. After one of the summons I went to our Uman KGB and asked, “Will you tell me, please, whether you do you think that had committed a crime by Soviet laws?” They said, “Yes.”−“Was he sentenced?”−“Yes.”−“They gave him three years?”−“Yes.”−“Did he serve his term from beginning to end?”−“Yes.”−“Yes,” I said. “Does he owe you anything?” They stared at me. I said: “So, if you summon him to the KGB once again, I will come here alone and I will smash windows and doors here. You can arrest me today, because I do promise to come!” Since then he was no longer summoned.
But, of course, he could not continue his studies. He made to more attempts to enter the agricultural institute, but they failed him in the physics exam. Later this lecturer said that he deliberately failed him, because otherwise he himself might be sacked.
It seems that two years later Hryts Herchak from the thirty-sixth came to us. We arranged that still in the camp because he no longer had immediate family there, where he came from, i.e. Ternopil Oblast. We agreed to accommodate and register him in our apartment. It was a standing rule in the camps: if a person had no family, someone in Ukraine had to agree to accommodate hi/her, register and provide for necessities of life. Otherwise, a person could stay there in exile in Siberia or in the TransUrals. Hryts Herchak finalized my formation and my view of the world.
He was a man of few words, he refrained from agitating me and, honestly, before his arrival I was afraid a little, because he served his twenty-five-year term, which is a considerable time. According to my former Soviet view of the world, he had to commit something dangerous to be sentenced to twenty-five years of imprisonment. But I agreed to have him as a lodger, because I really believed Bohdan; I knew that Bohdan could not invite a nasty person to our home. Altogether he may not communicate with nasty individuals. But when Hryts crossed the threshold of our home, when I saw this man, his warm, kind eyes with an air of suffering, I immediately liked our guest. I believed this man. He told about his childhood. With his behavior, his presence, he instilled a belief in the ideas about which Bohdan told me. I realized that a man like Hryts could not serve twenty-five-year term for naught; it had to be a great idea for which it is worth to give one’s life. And the last remains of my communist ideological dogmas toppled down like a house of cards. After Hryts Herchak put up with us, I became a full-fledged fighter for freedom of Ukraine. Bohdan and I taught our children to speak Ukrainian. I guess only our children in the whole city said "Dad" and not "papa" in the French manner as it was popular at the time. I was often lost in conjectures: “My God, why do we teach them to speak Ukrainian? Why do we teach them to say “Dad”? After all, there will be no Ukraine in any case!” The entire Soviet politics zeroed in on the destruction of this nation. But then a thought: “Well, and then what? Let my kids be the last of the Mohicans.” But I could not do otherwise because I acted the way God told me, because my family never betrayed those ideals and never went astray.
Then Hryts married in Kyiv Liudmyla Lytovchenko. We often came to Kyiv; I met there many people with whom Bohdan served his term in the camp, I met there fighters for the freedom of Ukraine, the great men of our century: Yevhen Sverstiuk and others. In fact, there were a great lot of them. There I first heard about Alla Horska, about the circumstances of her horrible death. There I saw that these people constituted a group, which will hold at all costs to the last man.
Then the perestroika set in. Gorbachev was at the helm. The relaxation of restrictions took place. I got into gear and actively promoted Ukrainian language and Ukrainian culture. In 1989 in Uman we created Berehynia Society. We sang carols, shchedrivkas, manufactured homemade blue and yellow ribbons, flags, and banners. And thus I step by step, shoulder to shoulder together with Bohdan moved towards our Ukraine. But I think that we have not yet reached it. It is necessary to take a few steps, but very decisive and very difficult ones. Many a men failed to keep pace with the times, many people lost courage and probably will not be able to get up and make these few steps. But we will get to the end: I mean my husband, I, and a fairly big group of people who are here in Uman now. They may be simple peasants, ordinary people, along with a part of intellectuals who did not go astray. They will go all the way to the very end until they make Ukraine a real Ukrainian state.
Speaking of activities, in which we were involved starting from the period of Thaw, from the rule of Gorbachev to the collapse of the Soviet empire we participated in Kyiv in all constituent assemblies. Bohdan and I as well as a number of the towners of Uman were even members of the organizing committee of the First Constituent Congress of the People’s Rukh of Ukraine for Perestroika, as it was called at the time. Then there followed the constituent assemblies of the Ukrainian Language Society, and Founding Congress of the Zelenyi Svit. We were members of the UHU from the very start.
Of course, the Empire maintained fierce resistance to national movements in all republics, not only in Ukraine. It started from the Baltic States. When there had already been the People’s Front and we had not Popular Rukh yet, in Uman emerged an initiative group striving to create People’s Front. In Vinnytsia Oblast such organization had been already created. I went to Vinnytsia: the towners of Uman sent me there. The statute was given to me by Simyachko, my former lecturer, who took part in my life, who contributed to the fact that I had higher education, and who disobeyed the KGB. This lecturer gave me the statute of the People’s Front. According to that statute we created an action group. It was in the fall of 1988 or 1989. And when did the founding congress of the People’s Rukh take place?
Bohdan Chornomaz: On 8 - 10 September 1989.
Tetiana Chornomaz: So, it was in the fall of 1988, for in spring of 1989 a group of the towners of Uman already went to the Writers’ Union with proposals to create the People’s Front in Ukraine. But the writers replied that, obviously, the organization would be called the People’s Rukh. We participated in its creation. We also participated in the founding congress of “Memorial”.
I started to say that Empire maintained fierce resistance to national movements; the same happened in Ukraine. The repression included beating, searches, arrests for raising the national flag near the monument to Taras Shevchenko in Uman. People were beaten for it, dispersed, arrested, fined for unauthorized rallies. I was fined even for the meeting commemorating the Chernobyl Disaster. Overall, I was fined three times for about three hundred karbovanetses each time. It was quite a sum; I then received a hundred, well maybe two hundred, or a hundred and fifty karbovanetses. Three hundred karbovanetses was a considerable sum. But people came out of with a jar with a written on it request for support, they said they were collecting money for the fine. People were throwing donations into the jar during the day, and then we went to the post office and paid the penalty to prevent deductions at work.
We defended ourselves, we wanted to protect the rights of people and our rights as well, we shielded the sprouts of our emerging national state, and we sought ways to inform Europe and the international community. The Moscow bureau of Radio Liberty was rather active then. We found out how to contact it. The bureau was managed by Anatoly Dotsenko. I had a schedule of when they received the information. If someone was beaten, I contacted the correspondent of Radio Liberty and conveyed a message. But I did it only if something out of the way happened: assault and violation of human rights. Once I even managed to contact Munich. Bohdan and I had no telephone: they had not installed a telephone in our apartment. We had already stood in line for a decade to get the telephone installed. All riser blocks of flats in our house had telephones installed, almost all apartments had telephones, but in our riser block of flats there was only one telephone, and it was installed in the apartment of such Ukrainophobes that we could not call even an ambulance. Therefore we called the Radio Liberty the public call office at the central post office. Then the bureau of the Radio Liberty was opened in Kyiv, it was managed by Serhiy Naboka, we kept in touch with him and with Svitlana Riaboshapka. In such a way I collaborated with Radio Liberty at that time. I’d like to thank employees who worked then under such difficult conditions. The telephone conversations were times and again interrupted and telephone lines were tapped, but the radio journalists called back if required. If we could not contact them, they usually found an opportunity to contact us and broadcast the information. As a rule our information was not verified, because then there prevailed general enthusiasm and confidence. Indeed, there were no provocations at the time. Everyone knew that Tetiana Chornomaz was in Uman, if she informed that someone was beaten or flags were broken, that was one-hundred-percent true.
What is to be said? Of course, all these years abounded in work, work, and work. Probably Bohdan can better tell about how we made political, party organizations, national societies, step by step, because he is a historian and I am a practical woman in the first place. In fact, I do not like to cast backward glances. Maybe I lose sight of some details sometimes; maybe I sometimes fail to take into consideration something important. I am a person of the future; I live in that dream or wish to perform more and more. I belong in the future, not in the past. I am in a hurry. Perhaps I build too ambitious plans and I am always unsatisfied, because if you plan a lot, you will not be able to fulfill everything. And the great amount of work to be done causes my dissatisfaction. But when it all comes down, one can see that we’ve managed to do a great deal. Of course, one would like to make greater strides… Ukraine did not use them, one might say, although we scored a lot indeed.
And I want to go back to Bohdan’s past in the camp. Why did I want them to register our marriage, when he was in the concentration camp? Maybe three years is not a very big term, if you consider it today. But at the time it was forever and a day for me. But it’s not the case. We could, of course, make do without those rare meetings and I could wait for him these three years. But for me it was important to act, to do something in order that a shut-up man knew that out of the camp there were those who cared for him. Every second I wanted to do something for him to know over there. I wanted to help him at least in this way, so that he might know that he was not abandoned and he had strong support out of the camp. I think the captivity is a terrible thing. Fortunately I did not have to go in captivity. If you do not consider the life in the Soviet Union a kind of bondage then I did not have to go behind bars in a direct sense. I have no idea how I would have behaved myself there: for me it probably it would mean, perhaps, the absolute death. Frankly, a person can be at large and feel imprisoned. I know it happens here and there. But what I felt during our meetings being on the other side of the barbed wire, being only a close friend of a man staying behind barbed wire inside the concentration camp, I would not want even my enemy to feel it.
I always crouch my head upon my breast before all political prisoners who have served not even a big time, let alone the big terms. I bow profoundly not only to the political prisoners, but also to their families, their mothers, wives, and children, who kept waiting, writing, passing parcels and otherwise supporting their relatives there. My deep gratitude goes to these people! And my deep bow to those who did their terms and fought for this country. Even when there was a desperate situation, the glimmer of hope rejoiced the cockles of their hearts behind the barbed wire. I bow to all people who fought for Ukraine behind barbed wire and at large! Thank you again for your attention.
 Roman Catholic Church (translator’s note).
 Follower of Stepan Bandera (translator’s note).
 Mliyiv Fruit-Growing Research Station (translator’s note).
 For the official version of Kudirka Incident see: http://lt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simas_Kudirka; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_United_States_Coast_Guard#The_Kudirka_incident (translator’s note).
 The modern Assyrians are classified as Aisor ethnic group (translator’s note).
 In fact, Ivan Lytovchenko was a known artist working in the domain of monumental and applied arts (translator’s note).
 Lytovchenko Liudmyla Ivanivna (b. 12.15.1945) - journalist and dissident, editor at "Radio Liberty" (translator’s note).
 There is also an alternative date, see: http://uk.wikipedia.org/wiki/Товариство_Лева
 The population of Uman made 88 735 in 2001; http://ukrmap.org.ua/Naselenie_ukr.htm, while as of 01.01.2014 it makes 86 621 http://uk.wikipedia.org/wiki/Умань (translator’s note).
 Local slang that may be translated into English as: Hyde-Fence (translator’s note).
 Talianky is a village in Cherkasy Oblast, Ukraine, close to the city of Talne and about 237 kilometers south of Kyiv. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talianki
 Follower of Andriy Melnyk (December 12, 1890–November 1, 1964), Ukrainian military and political leader. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andriy_Melnyk
 Also see: http://uk.wikipedia.org/wiki/Луг_(товариство) (translator’s note).
 Shchedrivka is a Ukrainian ritual song. The Ukrainians sing during the New Year Celebrations after Christmas. These songs contain wishes of good harvest, health and prosperity for the coming year (translator’s note).