OCHAKIVSKIY Vilen Iakovych
author: Vasyl Ovsiyenko
Ovsienko V.V.: On the 8th of April 2001, in Kiev, at the home of Vasil Ovsienko we are having a conversation with Vilen Ochakivskiy who originates from Oleksandria of Kirovogradskiy region.
Ochakivskiy V.I.: I am Ochakivskiy Vilen Iakovych. I was born in Kherson on 29th of August 1937. My family members were not dissidents, just an ordinary family they were. I am a Jew by origin, but my father always taught me that we were Ukrainian jews, meaning that we were were Ukrainians of Jewish origin. I loved Ukrainian language since I was a child, even though I could seldom hear it in our family. Being a child I started writing poetry in Russian and Ukrainian. I studied in Kherson, graduated from middle school there. We had a great group and some of my school friends actually became acknowledged writers later: Yuriy Iakovych Ishchenko – a professor of the Kiev Conservatory – became a great music and opera writer...
A few words about my mother and father. My father was an ideological communist and brought me up the same way. However, by the time I was in the ninth-tenth grade I started asking questions to which my dad once said: “You are a complete contrary! I would have told in on you if you weren't my son. You listen to the “Voice of America” too much, you are anti-soviet”. Thus, the first person to spot me as an anti-soviet was my own father. My father was brought up as a bolshevik. He graduated from a communist-party school in Mykolayiv. He was part of the Twenty Five Thousand movement, if you ever heard of it – he organized a kolkhoz in the village Khrestovosdvizhenka. Of course, I was proud of my dad before I found out the details of his doings. When I clarified everything for my self I started asking my dad questions which he really didn't like. My mother was ordinary housewife. My father's name and family name were typically Jewish – Iakiv Isaakovych, and mother's name and family name were even more Jewish – Haya Iankelivna. Here own last name was Ostrovska. I still use it some times when signing certain work – Volodymyr Ostrovskiy.
Ovsienko V.V.: Are they still alive?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: No, they both passed away. My father died in 1979, and yes, he died not having understood anything about his life. I cried at his grave because he died blind, with no understanding of the real world... My father was a walking example of personality corrupted by the soviet government. And I should say that I always add this up to the list of soviet crimes: Afghanistan, GULAG, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and so on... I always say: “Friends, you keep missing the main point, they managed to create homo-bottle-sapiens out of us”. Homo-bottle-sapiens is my personal word, I use it in my poetry sometimes”. And even though my father never drank alcohol, he was nevertheless blind as well as many of those who are now lead by Kuchma and his gang.
Ovsienko V.V.: When was your father born?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: On 14th of January 1901 and died in 1979. My mother died in 1982 and was born in 1905.
Now, my brother is an interesting character. He iss of the same breed my dad was. His name is Roman Iakovych Ochakivskiy, he is a kind person, honest and well behaved. But I always thought he was corrupted and I told this to him personally. He graduated from Mykolayiv Customs Technical college, which was part of the navy KGB system. We always had different life views and we still do. He was always very proud of the arrests he performed of people who tried to flee from our “socialistic heaven” to Sweden for example. I always answered to that: “Bro, you don't really know what these people were running from”. We also had a strong quarrel over the case of Sablin. I took it very personally... I found out who was Valeriy Sablin and of his mutiny. My brother, of course, considered him a traitor. I was of the initiators of the petition for Sablin's rehabilitation and my brother still thinks I was wrong to do so back then.
Ovsienko V.V.: I'm sorry, I don't know who Sablin was.
Ochakivskiy V.I.: He was a captain, the chief executive on political education on a soviet destroyer ship in the Baltic sea. He organized this mutiny and wanted to leave the Soviet waters on the ship and flee to Sweden. He was planning to make a speech on the radio to tell the whole world why he did so, but was caught and arrested.
Ovsienko V.V.: When was this?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: In 1975. In my article to the “Inform-bulletin” newspaper I called him our national hero, and I stand my ground. I call Mykola Melnychenko our national hero too. He is the heir of heroes like Schmidt, Sablin and of course Petro Grygorenko. I wish we had more officers who would be defending our people, not our leaders. When I graduated from school in 1955 I wanted to go into reconnaissance (like Vladymyr Putin). I was a romantic. I got lucky – I served in the military as reconnaissance, but radio reconnaissance. I was listening to to Turks and Americans talking over the radio. This was in Odessa, military base 43032 in the village Krasnosilka. My service was a very comfortable one. I was a specialist so my commanders pid special attention to me, because the only one who knew both English and Turkish. I learned Turkish on my own. I was never really good at it though, because I was at some point accused of organizing a political meeting in the battalion and sent to temporary imprisonment for 10 days. So you could say that my dissident path took a start back then, in 1958.
Ovsienko V.V.: When did you start your service?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: In 1956. I started serving at the age of 19. I had problems straight away, because I was asking questions which made one of the majors from my battalion call me anti-soviet. He was the reason I got temporarily imprisoned. The KGB agent told me then: “My word alone can make you stand tribunal now”.
Ovsienko V.V.: You were a private soldier back then, right?
Ochakivskiy V.I.:Yes. I was then suspended from listening to the radio talks. They said: “He keeps listening to it. Who knows what he heard in English? It might have brainwashed him to start organizing strikes in the battalion”. I was suspended for almost 10 months. However, when we received an order to conduct radio reconnaissance of the Turkish radio lines, they had no other man to do it apart from me.
I finished my service early because I found out that there was a conscription for militia squads and approached my commander with a question. At first he didn't want to let me go, but I convinced him, passed all the exams into the militia school in Odessa and left the military.
When I entered the school the teachers paid special attention to me and noted that they never had recruits like myself. They even read aloud my composition which I wrote as part of the exam. In a year's time, however, they kicked me out, because I couldn't stand the terms inside the school. I saw with my own eyes that they were bringing up killers inside those walls, like general Kravchenko, for example. People like were forged inside the militia school walls. I even wrote a poem about it and first sent it to the “Sovetskaya militia” newspaper, and when they didn't publish it I sent it to the “Komsomolska pravda” newspaper. Oh, what a scandal it was! The result was kicking me out of the school with the conclusion that I am “not up to the standards of the soviet militia and am tolerant to the criminal world”.
Ovsienko V.V.:Did you actually graduate at least from the first year?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: You may say I did, because I was kicked out somewhere in May. That was after I passed all the exams. After the scandal the only thing I wanted was to get away from the hustle and from all those faces, so I recruited for another service. Naturally, it wasn't reconnaissance.
Ovsienko V.V.: Komsomol construction works?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: No, they were not Komsomol. We were called “recruited bitches”. The first shift was to Yakutia. I spent 16 years there, from September 1960 to June 1976.
I already mentioned the first time I could've been imprisoned in 1958, and in 1961 was the second time. I was offered a place at the Komsomol Committee, because they saw I was a “gifted leader, able to do a lot of great work”. I took a closer look and spotted the same problems as in the militia school. The system was the same, so it was either to beat them or to join them. The same as now, by the way.
That was the place I made my first Komsomol revolution. It was the first time in history when someone conducted alternative elections in 1961. I organized a committee and most of those in it were Ukrainians, which makes me proud. I never called my self a nationalist, I'm just a patriot of Ukraine. The greatest thing is that it this happened naturally, I wasn't walking around, gathering Ukrainians for it. It happened all by itself.
The conference took place in November, and then when I came back home, my local friend tol me I had to flee. HE was working at the Party Committee back then and found out that the KGBs were on to me. So I fled. Not far though. Just 230km north, to a town called Myrne. I started doing sport journalism there...
I forgot to mention that I was working in the “Socialisticheskiy trud” newspaper during my “Komsomol revolution” in the village Mukhtuya. I'm not sure, bet I might have been the first soviet journalist to write an article about a strike at a river port. When I gave to the editor, he grabbed his head, looked at me and said: “Vilia, what have don?! If I place it in the paper tomorrow, then in a few days your mama would fail to find you, and my wife would never find me”. So he didn't print it. The article was called “It's not quiet on the other side. I accepted his decision then, but then I wrote the second article concerning a court hearing, named “Freedom deprivation”.It was of guy from Kemerovska region. He was disabled. He had been accused of hitting the Party manager, because the man was insulting him during the strike. I decided to defend him, travelled to Yakutsk for that. That's part of my human rights occupation. I was kicked out of work for this. So I came to the Supreme Court of Yakutia and noticed the Chief Justice of the Court was Ukrainian, which was quite sad. So he said: “Ochakovskiy... How can you defend him? He came for easy money. Shame on you, you are a Komsomol!”. They didn't even let into the court hall.
After that I tried to become an official human rights defender. I entered the Juridical faculty of the National University. It was in 1962. However, I started having different thoughts straight away, questioning my self, whether I would be actually able to work as jurist. How could I do so, if I even couldn't lie? Well... I can lie to a woman about where I was and who I loved, but I can not lie in front of the society.
Ovsienko V.V.: It's a tough life for you, then.
Ochakivskiy V.I.: During my studying I wrote an article about the laws of Hammurapi, I wrote to my friend about the Roman laws, but I failed to write anything about socialistic laws, because by that time I had felt them on my self, suffered it. I found out that there were no laws, the same as now. In short, when I was came to Myrne later on, my fame was running ahead of me, as by then already had one loud human rights case on my account. They knew I had juridical education and invited me to be human rights defender. By the way, I was defending Kuchma's human rights during his tribunal.
Ovsienko V.V.: In Kiev?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: Yes. On the 25th of February. The story I'm really proud of, however, happened back in Yakutia. The court wanted to sentence a girl for 3 years of imprisonment and I cut it down to 2 years of probation. The people in the hall were applauding when the court had ended. I even felt a bit shy. I'd like to make small off top. In 1962 I met a girl in Yakutia. She was from Siberia, the town of Anzhero-Sudzhensk. And today she is still my wife and the mother of my children. Back then, as I made the proposal, I warned her that I could be arrested for political reasons any day due to my occupation and the number of enemies”, -”I'm prepared for anything!”, -”Ok then”. And in 20 years I actually was arrested and sentenced, although there had been other attempts before then. In 1975, in Yakutia, just before leaving I met an acquaintance of mine – a KGB agent, who is now, by the way, a colonel in retirement here in Kyiv. He warned me then: “Vilen, if you have anything anti-soviet on you, you'd better get rid of it”. And I did have a lot, yes. To start with, I had my poems, the ones I got sentenced for in 1982, I also had a historical analysis by general Grygorenko of the Nikrych's book “22nd of July 1941”.
Ovsienko V.V.: Oh yes, I think I heard of it. It's some kind of review of the book, I think I read it.
Ochakivskiy V.I.: So I had that. And you know perfectly that that meant a sentence. Thanks to that KGB friend of mine, I evaded arrest that time. I didn't evade it later on 1982, though. It's the most interesting part of my story.
Upon my return from Yakutia... I left Yakutia in 1976, lived in Horkiy town for one and a half years and now I live in Nyzhniy Novhorod. I was working a truck driver back then, driving from Horkiy around the whole Soviet Union. It was very interesting and needed for me as for a writer. I was planning to write a big book, so I had to travel around Russia and Ukraine. I travelled from Kaliningrad to Ural, from Leningrad to Hrozniy. I even created a small children's football club in Yakutia in 1974... And I even took them to Nova Kahovka, in Kherson region, all the way from Yakutia. I was proud of those kids and they knew it. I was telling them that I was preparing them for Kyiv National football team “Dinamo”.
Some of those kids actually grew up to be professional football players, but only one of them played for “Dinamo”.
At some point my wife moved from Myrne to Oleksandriia, so I moved too and found myself back at my homeland. It was a relief, because by that time I felt I really needed it. My son used to play hockey in Horkiy town, for Russian “Spartak” team, but later on I managed to get him over to Ukraine.
Ovsienko V.V.: You mentioned your son. What's his name and date of birth?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: My son's name is quite exotic – Fidel. I was raising him and all my children in a revolutionary manner. I won't be lying right now, like some of our national-democrats, who say that they were revolutionaries since their cradles – I had none of that. I was an ideological Lenin follower, because I used only the information I was given. Of course, I had questions for Lenin, I read all his novels and I had plenty to ask him, which I wrote on the side in the books I read. If this would have been found during an arrest, I would've had many problems...
Ovsienko V.V.: Lenin was arrested himself at the end. And it should be said that many people had his novels seized during arrests, with remarks on the sides.
Ochakivskiy V.I.: Well, I was lucky to evade it.
Ovsienko V.V.: When was your son born?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: He was born in 1964.
Ovsienko V.V.: When did Fidel Kastro pay his visit?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: Earlier. Somewhere in 1961. I had a cult of his name. My daughter was born in 1974. I thought I was going to have a second son and wanted to name him Ernesto, after Ernesto Che Guevara. However, I got a daughter, so I named her Jeanne D'ark. If I had a daughter now, I'd name her Julia for widely known reasons (meaning Julia Tymoshenko's arrest in the Lukianivske SIZO, where she was kept for over a month – Ovsienko V.V.). I think that every family should have such heroic posture's names in them. We had that. Later though, I found out something about Fidel Kastro from a person who knew him personally – a popular poet and my friend Ievhen Ievtushenko. He was the one who helped me in my rehabilitation period. So anyway, he gave a book as a gift to my son for his birthday and signed it, saying “Dear Fidel, I hope you will grow up a man, different from the man, who's name you hold, because that man, during his rebellious student years, promised freedom to his people, but when he got the power, he gave his people a new type of unfreedom”. I still have that book.
Upon my return to Ukraine, I faced a serious question on what to do, how to work to make a living. I worked as a truck driver for some time, driving around Ukraine. After that I felt I wanted some underground romance, so I started a job at the coal mines. Romance or not, I should mention that working at the mines had its own privileges – if you worked there for 10 years, you could retire at a much earlier age than normally. Now, I should also mention that I was 42 when I decided to do so, and normally people who wanted to start working at the mines at 40-42 did button-pushing jobs, whereas I wanted to be a front worker, so I went to Makiyivka to study. Factually, I became an underground combiner, an operator of the rock extricating machine.
Ovsienko V.V.: You were 42, so it was...
Ochakivskiy V.I.: It was in 1979. I went to the mines to work, stayed there for a half a year and was then sent to study in Makiyivka. By that time I already had the anti-soviet writings I was arrested for later. I was preparing notes for publishing, and I had a companion who still doesn't allow me to name him. He was a talented photographer and was helping me in making anti-soviet photographic reports with my anti-soviet poems beside them. I was spreading them in Donetsk and in Moscow during the Olympic games of 1980.
Ovsienko V.V.: What do you mean by “spreading”?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: Spreading as in throwing them around so people would find them. The text itself wouldn't be of interest, I think.
Ovsienko V.V.: On the contrary! It's very important to know, what you wrote there.
Ochakivskiy V.I.: On of the texts was given by me to press-secretary of the “Ukraine with no Kuchma” movement. It was addressed to the Armed Forces, in Russian: “ Esteemed Marshals and Generals! Officers and soldiers of the Taman Kantemirivskiy division await your order to arrive at the Red Square, isolate Kremlin and arrest the bandits from the Political Bureau and to prepare them for the second Nuremberg trial”. This was in 1980 in Moscow.
Ovsienko V.V.:Hw did you manufacture them?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: I was writing them by hand and my companion was making photographies... By the way, I did fear that I would crack, when the KGBs applied barbamyl to me to make me tell the truth. I didn't crack, thanks God.
Ovsienko V.V.: You said, that you were a lone in all of this?
Ochakivskiy V.I.:Yes. They questioned my wife too. “All this is done very professionally.”, -”Well, he is a professional” - my wife replied, -”He is a journalist. It doesn't really matter that he worked at the mines, because his life is newspapers and photography”. Everything was done well and the guy who helped me didn't get arrested and is still alive, but I will not name him.
Ovsienko V.V.: Well, “no” it is, then.
Ochakivskiy V.I.: The first mine I worked at was called “Verbolozivska”, in Oleksandria. The second mine, where I created a revolution committee, was called “Vedmezhoyarska”. Thus, having worked in those two mines I gained certain authority. It allowed me to work by my own rules inside the working cooperatives of the mines. It was in the beginning of 1982.
Ovsienko V.V.: Brezhnev was still there, yes?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: Yes. Before starting I invited my own people in. They invited theirs too, but we had different entry criteria. And the most important thing was that I was not the head of this committee. I was just a journalist and stated that “I would be delighted to play my own role in the activity, whereas Mykola Mykolayovych Kalinichenko would be your head”. We were publishing our own newspaper as part of the initiative of the committee, but the Party Manager kept ripping it off the wall. I made my way out of it by taking the newspaper down to the mine and letting the miners read it while they're down in the coalpit.
Ovsienko V.V.: How did you publish it? Was printed or written by hand?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: Written by hand. I was the one writing and even making caricatures. My son was helping me during his holidays at the university, he was studying to become an architect back then. He works in Yakutia now, couldn't find a place in Ukraine...
So, we're closing on my arrest and its reasons. Firstly, I have successfully created a manufacture committee. I wanted to keep on and create a mine committee by the same principle. I was working my way towards it, and then just six days before the conference where I would have gained victory, I was arrested. I am proud to be the first dissident arrested right at the mine, all dirty and sweaty. I spent almost an hour washing all the dirt off. Two cars came to pick me up and another one was waiting in an ambush just in case (as I was told later on by another guy who didn't want to be named). They did all that just to stop me from making the first free labor committee in Soviet Union. It would have been a total disgrace for them... They first just arrested me, but then searched my belongings and found the negatives of the notes I've been spreading at the Olympic games in 1980. There two searches in total.
Ovsienko V.V.: Do you remember dates and places?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: Yes. On the 11th of October 1982 a white “Volga” arrived at the mine. It was the prosecutor of the investigation department of the Kirovograd regional prosecutor office – Komendiak Volodymyr Fedorovych. He was the one who arrested me. After that we travelled to my country house and they searched the building. The also searched the territory around the building. I made a joke then, saying that they should prepare my garden for the winter while they're still here, so I wouldn't have to do it later on myself. They made me some kind of super-spy, organized ambushes around my house in case someone comes to see me, told me I had a radio hidden somewhere... Well, you know how it works.
Ovsienko V.V.: Yes, I do.
Ochakivskiy V.I.: The second search took place at my town apartment, in Oleksandria, Banniy short street, 6. After that search they took me to the local militia department. There I addressed Komendiak, asking him to let me go home overnight because I have a daughter, who is all alone at home and her mother is away at the moment. The took a thought about it and... actually let let me go overnight. Straightaway I spotted a tail, but it didn't really matter, they just thought I was part of some bigger bourgeoisie organization. Everything was ok at home, because my nephew came by from the nearby village. Next morning I travelled to the mines again to talk to my director, as I thought they wouldn't take me until my wife comes back. I told my director that I wouldn't be working the next few days, while my wife was away and he was absolutely ok about. I knew I was doomed now, so I decided to go and say goodbye to a friend of mine at the mine, a painter, who worked together with me. Did that, and then, just as I walked out of the office, I saw a car near the building and two tough guys running towards me. “Guys”,-I said,- “I have nothing on me! All the funs and grenades are back at home”, - “Get in the car”, - was the reply. In the car I noticed that the colonel, the head of local militia in person came to get me so I couldn't hold myself and spoke out a joke about it. “You have a strange sense of humor, Vilen Yakovych.”, - he replied to that. “Well, I did study in the Odessa militia school, didn't I?”, - “We need to go to you country house again.”, - “Well then, off we go!”. They took me to Kirovograd. It was evening by the time we arrived. And, you know how it happens: the guy who was signing my isolation papers became commission secretary of rehabilitation in the Oleksandria region.
Ovsienko V.V.: Yeah, I know what you mean. What was his name?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: Chornovolov.
Ovsienko V.V.: Let's be honest and say that Valeriy Marchenko was sentenced, factually, to death by Grygoriy Zubets. And then in 1991 he was the one who sent his mother a notification on Valeriy's posthumous rehabilitation.
Ochakivskiy V.I.: Well, Radchenko's hands aren't clean either (General; 1972-82 authorized head of the Ukrainian KGB dept. in Kyiv and Kyiv region, 1994-95 – the Minister of Exterior, 1995-98 and 2001-03 – the head of SBU – Ovsienko V.V.).
Ovsienko V.V.: That's the guy who was beating up Volodymyr Malynkovych (a member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group from October 1978 – Ovsienko V.V.). He was captured in town, taken out to the woods and beat up.
Ochakivskiy V.I.: This happened back then?
Ovsienko V.V.: Before 1980.
Ochakivskiy V.I.: Well, and now these people still embrace power...
Ovsienko V.V.: It's a different story, but Malybkovych suffered because of Radchenko's orders – that's true.
Ochakivskiy V.I.: Komendiuk was the one who questioned me afterwards. I told him at some point: “Why are on to me? My name is Lenin! (Vilen is short for Vladimir Illich Lenin – Ovsienko V.V.). You are arresting Lenin, think about it. You might get in trouble for it!”, - “Please tell me, what were the aims of the organization you wrote about?”, - “It's a story! I created it myself. I created the organization “Spartak”. The letters stand for Truth seekers Union of Anti-Brezhnev Revolutionary Anti-Party Community. “And the notes you found are just writings from the book, which I haven't written yet because you didn't let me. There's no corpus delicti here, whichever way you look at it. You can't make me stand trial”. And that's how we chatted with me joking all the time. I spent half a year under investigation in the SIZO of Kirovograd.
Ovsienko V.V.: Did you name the date of your arrest?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: 11th of October 1982. I was in Kirovograd on the next day and was thrown behind bars. My investigator at the time – Karelov Valeriy Mykolayovych – is now the special cases investigator at the Prosecutor General's Department of Ukraine. How d'you like that?
Ovsienko V.V.: Yeah, there're many cases like that now.
Ochakivskiy V.I.: Let's continue. I was convincing them I was a truthful Lenin-follower. By the way, I was never a nationalist and I don't consider my self one now. I am a patriot, yes, but even in this case, I'm not a loud one. I love Ukraine, but I whisper it, I don't shout about it on every corner.
Ovsienko V.V.: One must seldom talk of his love to his woman and yes, he should whisper.
Ochakivskiy V.I.: Just between us, not for the press, when I was at the round table meeting, I checked how many times different people mentioned that they were patriots. Anatoliy Matvienko, Levko Lukianenko and Stepan Khmara. The las t two men didn't say a word about it, whereas Matvienko mentioned it three times. I was never a nationalist, I didn't want the USSR to fall, I wanted it to be completely reformed. I wrote to Gorbachov, saying that the Party needs to be cleaned, leaving around a 100 000 people in it. This way the Party would become the brain centre of the Union. I don't even want to call myself a nationalist, I'm not Pavlichenko, not Dratch, I'm just a passerby. I don't deny my past, I saw many things and people from a different angle. I thought that UNSO was a semi-nazi organization, but now I see that they're the type the new MIA should consist of.
Ovsienko V.V.: Their numbers were shortened at some point.
Ochakivskiy V.I.: I know, I mean that I see worthy people there now. So, I saw many things in a new way, but I still don't stand up shouting that I'm a nationalist, “Hail Ukraine” - is not something I want to shout. All I'm saying is that my first gulp of water was from the Dnipro river, and I want the last one also to be from Dnipro. But this is between you an me.
So, after half a year of investigation they organized an expertise. It's an interesting one, I'll send you the materials over.
Ovsienko V.V.: How was the investigation conducted?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: Oh, that's another subject. They forced me into the psychiatric ward at some point and came to my wife telling me that I was absolutely insane, mentally ill and the best thing she could do was to divorce, because she was still a young woman able to make a family and I was done for. They then took me to Odessa and started different medical tests. That was when the tortures had started. At some point they administered Barbomyl and started asking questions. I told them I was not going to talk.
Ovsienko V.V.: How did the administer it?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: With a syringe...
Ovsienko V.V.: Where doctors doing it?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: Yes-yes. There was this lady – Alla Pavlivna Kravtsova, she was the one who was doing it. She's dead now.
Ovsienko V.V.: Where they holding you?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: Of course!
Ovsienko V.V.: So, they administered Barbomyl during the expertise, right?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: No, not during the expertise, but while holding me in the psychiatric ward. It was a special forensic psychiatric unit. You've been there yourself.
Ovsienko V.V.: I was in a psychiatric ward in Kyiv.
Ochakivskiy V.I.: So, I didn't tell them anything and they organized a commission check then. My check got delayed because the chief executive didn't want to be checking me, just didn't and that was it. She told me to wait for the head of the department to return. The guy's dead by now. I'm like the Count of Monte Kristo, you know – all enemies are now dead. God sees everything. I'll tell you a story of Karelov later on, remind me. So the boss came back after some time – John Iosifovych Mayer his name was. He was a Jew. He came back and told me: “Ok, Vilen Iakovych, I personally looked through your writings and found them to be a seriously prepared assault of the Marxism-Leninism ideas”, - “How could I, a simple mine worker make a “seriously prepared assault” of such a strong structure?”
Ovsienko V.V.: With a pick and and a shovel, I guess.
Ochakivskiy V.I.: Yeah, so I go: “I assaulted coal, yes... but this...”, - “Don't take me for a fool, we read everything thoroughly. You studied Montaigne, Aristotle, Hegel and so on. Miners don't do that. So you're a smart one”, - “Alright then, mr. professor, the deal should be as during an investigation, because this is no expertise – it's an investigation. And during an investigation, which I know because I studied for a jurist in a militia school, you offer me tons of paper work for each my word. And I should be signing all of that to make it real”. After those words he ordered the guards to take me away. I wrote of this meeting to the “Jug” newspaper, I'll send it over to you. I was then shifted back to Odessa and then to Kirovograd. They told me I was recognized to be ill, which was a bluff. They than sent a different investigator in, some guy named Tumenko Oleg Mykolayovych.
One night I was woken by the order to collect my things and get out. I was searched, they took two notebooks of mine, and shifted me Dnipropetrovsk.
Ovsienko V.V.: How long did that expertise take?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: The expertise itself took around 10 minutes. After 10 minutes of conversation he diagnosed me with Paranoid Schizophrenia...
Ovsienko V.V.: Meaning you were too smart for him.
Ochakivskiy V.I.: That's with no account of the fact that I didn't say a word before that conversation, I refused to talk at all. Thus it showed that they had prepared nothing of the case, because it was simply set up by the KGB. I was then thrown into the Dnipropetrovsk psychiatric ward and placed to the worse cell with really ill inadequate people. The head of the department at that time was Chusovskyh Liudmyla Oleksiivna. My personal therapist's name was Liudmyla Andriivna Chynchyk, who was the daughter of colonel Chynchyk – the head of the Dnipropetrovsk SIZO. That woman was natural sadist, there were rumors that she used to be a captain of the MIA. There were two situations when I passed out during her procedures because the neuroleptics had stopped working. Some of the tortures included infusing liquids intramuscularly in big amounts, using big needles. It was very painful. She was standing there, looking at me, waiting for me to scream like everyone else, begging her to stop, but I fought the pain and just smiled at her. I survived five sessions. She also did psychological tortures...
There were times when she read my personal mail in front of me just for show...
However, inside those walls I met very interesting people. I would like to mention this name: Volodymyr Dmytorvych Chubynskiy – a music writer, a poet, engineer, pedagog and the author of KPI anthem. His pseudonym is Vedetch. His grave is in Boryspyl, together with his legendary great grandfather – Pavlo Platonovych Chubynskiy, the author of Ukraine's National Anthem.
So I met Volodymyr Shubynskiy in the psychiatric ward, but I was released before him, so I only heard that he was later shifted to Glevaha psychiatric ward in Kyiv, where he died. I was moved to an ordinary clinic in Kirovograd.
Ovsienko V.V.: When was that?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: I was moved away from Dnipropetrovsk on 22nd of April, I was diagnosed with Schizophrenia on 22nd of June 1988... Funny date coincidence.
Ovsienko V.V.: When were you moved to Kirovograd?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: On the 22nd of April 1986. They had these commissions every half a year to see the patients progressing in their “treatment”, and that was the reason I was moved. I was supposed to have left half a year earlier but the KGB denied my shift first time. That's how the system worked there. They drugged me so heavily that it started to show physically, and when my wife and daughter arrived to see me, my daughter went crying, because she was used to her daddy looking all healthy and handsome. There was this one situation when Chynchyk was away on holidays and one of the doctors called me up for a conversation and said that he was sorry I had to be living through all the tortures, but it would have been much easier to get me out of this place if I had a murder conviction, because political sentences are always much tougher to handle.
And that's not to mention that I had a very light sentence – No. 187. People got three years maximum for it, whereas I spent 4 years and 1 month in custody.
They were preparing me for a lifetime, I guess. But thanks to Gorbachov and his Perestroika, I was released.
Ovsienko V.V.: What was the date you were released?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: I was released on 27th of November 1986. I was very lucky, you know, unlike Volodymyr Dmytrovych. He happened to get in the hands of torturers in Glevaha, and I was surrounded by real Ukrainians, who were humanly and friendly.
So I was free, but couldn't get a job anywhere, so I decided to conduct an experiment: I was saying, straight and open, that I actually served a sentence for anti-soviet activities. I always got a “no” after this. Later on an old Jew helped me out with a job, Chychelnitskiy Vitaliy Mykolayovych his name was. I worked there a bit and then started preparing for my rehabilitation procedures: the guys from work used to let me off to do that, I travelled to Moscow. I was one of the people who founded the “Memorial” in Oleksandria. Started off with that and then organized the “Movement”. I travelled to Moscow, to the “Memorial” meeting in the “Komsomolka”, and so, I am here with you.
Ovsienko V.V.: Do you remember the dates of the “Memorial” meeting?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: It took place in the beginning of 1989, in January. I met a journalist from the “Komsomolka” just like I met you now, Oleksiy Novikov his name was. But I'll tell of that a bit later.
I want to start with the first part of my rehabilitation process. I wanted to return to the mine I was arrested at. But to do that I had get rid of psychiatric diagnosis. I knew it was unlikely possible, because no one had yet managed to get rid of schizophrenia diagnosis, especially political prisoners. Nevertheless, I decided to try. I won't be naming the psychiatrist who helped me, because he “doesn't want to be a hero”, but I should at least mention that he helped me pass the adequacy test. He gave me a detailed instruction on how to move, how to talk, what can I do and what I shouldn't.
So I got the appointment for the test and came there to find the head of the department Reveniuk. I told him why I came, but mentioned that I would first like to see any person who had already passed the test before. Just to be on the safe side. “I'm sorry, I can't provide you with such a person. You will be the first”, - he replied. “Ok then, I'm in”, - I even felt kind nice about it. When came to my ward nurse, she offered me a choice of whether to stay with quiet patients or the the disturbed ones. I chose the disturbed, just to feel the whole delight of the psychiatric ward for the last time.
Ovsienko V.V.: When was this happening?
Ochakivskiy V.I.:At the end of may 1988, I spent 35 days there. I was well prepared. I asked all my friends, from everywhere I had them, to send their description of me to the aforementioned psychiatric clinic. Many people sent their letters to the clinic, I was delighted to see this.
After all the procedures they had no choice but accept me being healthy.
So, having been rehabilitated I returned to the mine, willing to work there. The head of the mine tried to find a way to keep me away, because.. you know... Who needs a rebel who is also an anti-soviet, right? But thanks to my boys, who helped me out, I was hired again. Of course, the director of the mine regretted it later on, when the strikes had started. I was made the head of the striking committee and had become the head of the department newspaper again.
So I went through my first part of the rehabilitation – the medical part, but I had yet be rehabilitated juridically. However, there was no law for political prisoner's rehabilitation, so I tricked the system and just used the criminal code article on the matter published and legitimate from 18th of May 1981. Thus, on 30th of May 1990 I was rehabilitated juridically by order of the Supreme Court.
After that I decided to push my luck a bit, as I now needed good food, good clothes and money. So I wrote to the local court asking for money. They sent me 9 000, although I calculated that they should have given me 27 000. I wrote back, claiming they should have given more, to which they answered that I should be thankful for what I got, because they could have given me nothing at all. I answered that if that happens – I would simply right an appeal to the Supreme court on the matter.
And so I did. I was very lucky to find the chief executive prosecutor in Kyiv to be a friend of mine, a true cossack. I asked him to make sure that my appeal goes through according to the Law. He did so, made a great speech. During that trial I provided the court with the full list of people who were acting against the Law in my practice and demanded that my pay gets taken from these people. That last bit wasn't done, but nevertheless they gave me 16 345 RUR, which was quite a lot at the time. I bought a house in the village for that money. My son was born in that village, and I told my wife that the doors of this place should be open for any person to be haunted for truth. Any political prisoner may find shelter at our home.
And that's the story with a happy ending. I retired after all.
Ovsienko V.V.: When?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: In the beginning of 1991. I still work in the “Memorial”, in both – our own and the international. By the way, I was the first in all the “Memorials” to make a television program about political prisoners, called “Smoloskyp”. It didn't live long though, they shut it down after a footage from the London museum of freedom battles named after Stepan Banders. I have a copy of the footage if you'd be interested. If you have any questions, I would be glad to answer them.
Ovsienko V.V.: I really need to take your address.
Ochakivskiy V.I.: Please do.
You know, there was other man in Oleksandria region, who was a political prisoner. My story is a childish game compared to what he's been through. And it shows. He isn't totally insane or schizophrenic but quite disturbed I would say. We met after I got out. I was trying to help him, including financial help and the “Memorial's” contacts. I think he is somewhere in Kyiv now.
Ovsienko V.V.: What I would be eager to find out is his repression story.
Ochakivskiy V.I.: Yes, and I still have this aim, it's a must, I owe this to Volodymyr Dmytrovych Chubynskiy. I want to create a museum of the PPSU – CHU history. The Punishment Psychiatry of the Soviet Union – Communistic Hell of Ukraine. I already started mailing people about this project, so I think it's going to happen in some time.
Ovsienko V.V.: Do you have any other contacts of political prisoners? Not so much from the psychiatry. Someone, you could recommend visiting maybe.
Ochakivskiy V.I.: I'll give you an address of a former KGB agent who'd been locked up in the psychiatric wards, and then wrote a novel, called “Knock any door”. There's another interesting guy, very popular in Kirovograd, I have his telephone number. Have you ever been to Kirovograd?
Ovsienko V.V.: No, I haven't.
Ochakivskiy V.I.: Well, come by some time, I'll take you. He might be of interest to you, because he is also collecting information about political prisoners in psychiatric clinics of that time and is writing a novel about it... Mostoviy Vasyl Andriyovych.
Ovsienko V.V.: Did he suffer repressions himself?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: Yes, and he did serve his term in the Dnipropetrovsk clinic. You know, call me some time – I'll find his address and phone number for you, I have them somewhere.
Ovsienko V.V.: Well, I won't be needing it as we have a specific program – the repressions after Stalin.
Ochakivskiy V.I.: Oh, by the way. The Kirovograd regional SBU has a PR manager of a sort – Fedir Shepel. He's our man, he's like a quiet version of Melnychenko, I would say. He can tell you many interesting things you would find useful. He can tell you of Chorniy – the guy who served his term beside our giants, like Myroslav...
Ovsienko V.V.: Marynvych? The one who served a term in Ural.
Ochakivskiy V.I.: Probably, yes. Shepel has all that information. Write him a letter, he would help you. And I'll send you some materials.
I have many interesting projects on at the moment. The PPSU – CHU history museum, for example. I also want to create a post of opposition press in every region of Ukraine. I want to open a news spot in my apartment in Oleksandria, where I could distribute newspapers like “Tovaryshch”, “Grani”, “Svoboda”, Silski Visti” - small local newspaper materials, which give real information on the current situation in Ukraine.
It's not going to be easy though, because it all requires money, but the important thing is to raise my children.
I remembered this one time when I was in the Kirovograd SIZO, I decided to conduct an experiment. I always loved experiments, there was even time when I thought I was ill with empiriomania – as in I really loved conducting experiments using my self as a subject. So I wrote an appeal to the Kirovograd regional KGB department of the USSR asking for a KGB agent to come and get certain very important information for the National Security of the Soviet Union. I also mentioned that I would prefer major Strelenko to come an see me. He was the one I mentioned earlier. He came the next day and I told him that I had information about crimes committed in MIA with names and places, but major Strelenko replied that it was not under the jurisdiction of the KGB, the same as my personal case – it belonged to the prosecutor's power. And that was the experiment. The result was that they did nothing about those crimes, tortures and murders.
And now another short word of my current political occupation. I have recently become a member of a party committee on defending the Constitution, and I am part of the initiative “Ukraine without Kuchma”. It's an initiative from the general Ukrainian “Memorial” named after Vasil Stus.
I am not part of any political party and it's unlikely that this will change. None of the existing political parties satisfy my needs. I would be the first to assign myself to a party of truth seekers, but there's nothing like around.
Ovsienko V.V.: Did you consider creating one yourself?
Ochakivskiy V.I.: How? I don't have neither the needed money, nor the influence. I am tiny in this system. Giants can do it, I can not.
I also wanted to add something I completely forgot about. A word of my latest project. It's a combined initiative between me and the Mykolyivsky church of the Ukrainian Autocephalous orthodox Church in Oleksandria. We want to build a small monument (small – due to lack of finances) in front of the church. We want to call the “The spark of memories of Oleksandria region”. The authors are mother Viktoria Philipovna – she is a member of the general Ukrainian “Memorial”, and me. We are now in search of financial support for this project. Our town's head – Les Taniuk – should be able to help us with it. This prject is very interesting for me because of one good reason: I want this monument to make Ukrainians stand together and unite, forgetting all the quarrels of the past. For our motherland, for our own future. My aim is to make one prayer remember all: the URA soldiers, and the boys who were sent to kill those soldiers by the blood-red hands from above. Today I saw those kids blocking us from getting inside the Lukianovske SIZO to give flowers to Julia Timoshenko. What we need is real peace, and the monument should serve this idea.
If I succeed in the aforementioned – I will be able to tell my children and my grandson that I lived my life successfully and meaningfully.
Ovsienko V.V.: I thank you for the conversation. Vilen Iakovych Ochakivskiy, recorded by Ovsienko V.V. on 8th of March 2001 in Kyiv, in Vasil's apartment by the address Kikvidze str. 30, apt.60.