PETRASH (SICHKO) Stefaniya Vasylivna
author: Vasyl Ovsiyenko
(b. 01.04.1925 in the Village of Zalukva, Halych Region, Stanisławów Province – died 09.09.1996, Lviv)
Participant of the national liberation movement, undeclared member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group.
From a peasant family. At the age of five she went to school. In 1939, she entered the Stanislav Female Gymnasium. In the spring of 1941, she was admitted to the Yunatstvo already forbidden by Bolsheviks and became a platoon commander in Dorist. In summer of 1941, she became a sympathizer of OUN. In winter 1942 her father died; 11 months later her paralyzed mother died. P. had to keep house. However, every summer she underwent training in youth camps and was awarded a medal upon graduation. Her older sisters Omeliana and Olga were also OUN activists, all national holidays were observed at home, the meetings took place, where applicants were admitted to the OUN and took an oath. On 14.10.1942, during the Feast of Winter Veil, P. joined the OUN and became a section and later subregion leader, that is she controlled several villages.
In March 1944, with the approach of the Red Army, P. went underground. P. performed her duties in Bohorodchany, Nadvirnia, Solotva, and Deliatyn regions. She maintained contacts with other sections and risked her life not once. On 24.08.1944, together with her sister Olga for the first time she was arrested for six days. When the Women’s network was renamed the Ukrainian Red Cross, their main work was to take care and protect the wounded UPA soldiers.
In February 1946 she was arrested for the second time. She was tortured, but as far as no evidence against P. was found she was released before Easter.
On 28.06.1947 (according to official documents on 02.07) she was apprehended in Stanislav for the third time carrying OUN literature. On 23.10, after severe tortures the Military tribunal of the MIA forces, Stanislav Oblast sentenced P. under Art. 54-1 "a", 54-11 of the Criminal Code of the UkrSSR to ten years of imprisonment and three years of deprivation of civil rights.
13.11.1947, P. was escorted from Lviv. She spent five weeks in the boxcar eating frozen bread, without toilet, and with the lack of water. On 18.12 the prisoners arrived in Khabarovsk. She worked at logging in Urgal getting 700 g of wet bread and gruel, and at haying. The women died and P. never fell ill.
On 13.11.1949, she was escorted by sea from the port of Vanino to Kolyma and never was seasick. In Magadan, there were four double-deckers propped up with poles against winds. The prisoners, including women, experiencing hunger and cold, atmosphere of arbitrariness of convoy and authorities for several years built a great city called "Komsomol construction". P. also worked at the construction of shipping warehouses.
In May 1954 P. washed a window in a hospital and made friends with prisoner Petro SICHKO. On 24.05.1955, by decision of Magadan Oblast Court from 05.20.1955 according to the Ukase of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the USSR from 14.07.1954 she was released on parole from the main and additional punishments (i.e. she was banished). On 01.09.1956, St. Stephen Day, Stefaniya married P.SICHKO, who had been just released from exile. On 15.07 her banishment came to an end. On 22.12.1956, in the Settlement of Stekolnyi, 72 kilometers from the Magadan, P. gave birth to her son Vasyl SICHKO who was swaddled in his father’s embroidered shirt and blessed to continue the fight in the future.
On 20.03.1957 P.SICHKO was released and before Easter the family returned to the Village of Vytvytsia, Dolyna Region, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast. In 1958, the Sichkos constructed khata in Dolyna and settled in it. On 26.07.1960, their son Volodymyr was born and on 04.10.1963 their daughter Oksana. P. worked as a rate-setter at the Silhosptekhnika.
In 1974, their son Vasyl graduated from high school, but he failed to get into the Lviv University, department of journalism, as a son of former political prisoners. In 1975, he secretly joined the department of journalism of the Kyiv University, but he was expelled as a second year student. They tried to put him to the mental hospital. The family applied for exit permit to leave the Soviet Union, their information was broadcasted by Svoboda radio.
On 26.02.1978, son Vasyl, and on 30.04 her husband Petro became members of the Ukrainian Public Group to Promote the Implementation of the Helsinki Accords. On 6.10 P. together with her husband and member of the UHG teacher Vasyl STRILTSIV were SUMMONED to Dolyna KGB department, where they were warned that "if anything happens on the first anniversary of the new Constitution of the USSR, they will be immediately arrested."
On 11.03.1978, the KGB officers spoke with both Sichkos at their home. On 7.03.1979, the officers conducted 10-hour search at their apartment as they allegedly were mixed up in the case of Oles BERDNYK.
On 10.6.1979, on the Whitsun Sunday, P. and V. SICHKO delivered a speech on Lychakiv cemetery in Lviv during the civic memorial service at the grave of composer Volodymyr Ivasiuk in memory of forty days of his death and urged people to support the activities of the UHG. On 5.07, they were detained and their son was put into Lviv psychiatric hospital for examination, where he spent 40 days. P. lodged protests to the Lviv Oblast prosecutor, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR L.I.Brezhniev, Lviv Oblast Commission for forensic psychiatric examination, visited members of the UHG Oksana Mieszko and Yuriy Lytvyn in Kyiv.
On 07.08.1979, searched the apartment of P., where they Oksana MESHKO and Mykhailo LUTSYK were present. On 14.08 P. happened to see her son Vasyl and learned that he was acknowledged mentally competent and arrested.
On 05.09 P. sent a protest to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, in which she disavowed the slanderous fabrications of the newspaper "Chervona Dolyna" intended to discredit her family; on 24.09 she wrote about the same to the E-in-C of this newspaper.
On 26.09, the preliminary investigation of the Sichkivs’ case under art. 187-1 of the Criminal Code of the UkrSSR was finished (“spreading of slanderous fabrications which defame the Soviet political and social system.") The parcel from mother to her son was accepted, but the parcel to her husband was not accepted because he allegedly refused to take it. On 13.10 P. met in Kyiv with member of the UHG O. MESHKO, in November she visited Moscow and Tarusa on UHG business.
On 04.12.1979, Petro and Vasyl Sichko, secretly from their family, were sentenced to three years of imprisonment in Lviv. On 11.12, P. together with her son Volodymyr and daughter Oksana were allowed one-hour visit to see her husband and son (each one separately) in Lviv prison. Consequently, her son Volodymyr was expelled from the 3rd year of Mechanics and Mathematics Department of Kyiv State University and later imprisoned as well.
On the eve of Christmas 1980 the party organizer at Silhosptekhnika threatened rate fixer P. with dismissal. On 05.02, in the presence of the oblast KGB officer she was warned about criminal responsibility under the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR from 25.12.1972; in particular, they forbid her to contact members of the UHG and O. MESHKO. Then she was told about her son Volodymyr, "It does not pay for the state to teach its enemy."
In connection with the deprivation of her son and husband of the visits and parcels, beating and delaying posting P. repeatedly sent well-grounded appeals to the authorities, which were simultaneously passed abroad and published there and broadcast by the radio "Svoboda". In March 1980, P. appealed to the UN Assembly, progressive world community and to mothers, all international unions of Ukrainian women seeking protection of her family. Here, in particular, she stated that she considered herself an unannounced member of the UHG.
On 12.03.1980, in Morshyn, in the presence of P., who was returning from her visits, the officers arrested UHG member Zinoviy Krasivskyi. On 21.03, her son Volodymyr SICHKO was expelled from the University.
On 1.04, the new attempts were made to sack P. She appealed for protection to her trade union and Robitnycha Gazeta. On 21.07, P. was summoned to Dolyna department of the KGB. In Kalush, her brother Anton was told by a militiaman that her khata and children in that khata were burned down. In September, her 17-year-old daughter Oksana was attacked by a man with a dog. At night, the window frame in her khata was torn out. On 21.09, her son Volodymyr SICHKO (20 years old), in protest against his illegal expulsion from the university spread his “Request for the waiver of citizenship of the USSR", in which he also refused to serve in the Soviet Army, and the "Appeal to the students of the world,"; therefore on 6.12 he was arrested and on 09.01.1981, in Dolyna, without a trial lawyer and prosecutor, he was sentenced to three years of imprisonment in minimal security camps under art. 72 of the Criminal Code of the UkrSSR (“Evasion of military service"). His mother and sister happened to attend the end of the process and morally supported him.
On 10.12/1980, P. retired to concentrate on protection of family interests. In 1981, P. 33 times went to visit her husband and children and brought them parcels. Only a few trips were successful, but mostly her arrival caused their imprisonment in a punishment cell. She kept sending two letters weekly to the three of them and received no answers for months. She supported V.STRILTSIV as well. In August 1981, her daughter Oksana was failed in the entrance exams when she tried to enter the dental department of the Lviv medical school. "I did not know how to go about them in the first place," P. wrote later, but she withstood fierce pressure.
On 03.12.1981, six months before expiration of imprisonment, in VTK ECh-325/62 of the militia department of Cherkassy Oblast Executive Committee her son Vasyl SICHKO was charged with "possession of drugs without intent to sell,"; on 04.01.1982, the Pydniprovskyi Regional Court of Cherkasy sentenced him in the investigatory isolation ward under art. 229, p. 6 of the Criminal Code of the UkrSSR to 3 years of imprisonment in strict security camps. Mother was not allowed to be present in court.
In January 1982, at the suggestion of Yosyp TERELIA, she and Father Hryhoriy Budzynskyi became co-founders of the Action Group for Protection of Ukrainian Churches.
On 26.05.1982, 40 days before the expiration of the sentence, her husband P.SICHKO was charged under Art. 187-I of the Criminal Code of the UkrSSR. On 5.07, by order of Attorney of Voroshylovhrad Oblast the search was conducted at her home in order to impound his complaints. They impounded 28 documents. On 19.07, the panel of judges in criminal cases of Voroshylovhrad Oblast Court issued a verdict in the case no. 2-97 on charges of P.SICHKO with "defamation of the Soviet state and social order" and sentenced him to three years of strict security camps.
In 1982, her daughter Oksana secretly entered the medical school in Riga. In spring 1983, P. visited her daughter in Latvia. Meanwhile her khata was bugged. In late March 1983, the khata was searched in connection with the case of Y.TERELIA.
In December 1983, her son Volodymyr SICHKO was released, and in June 1984 he was called to the colors.
On 08.02.1985, Y.TERELIA was arrested again and once more the search was conducted at P.’s khata.
On 26,05,1985, P.’s husband Petro was released and her son Vasyl was set free on 7.07. Both of them found themselves under one-year administrative supervision.
On 11.03.1988, her husband and son Vasyl renewed their activity in the Ukrainian Helsinki Group; simultaneously they created the Ukrainian Christian Democratic Front. P. was an activist there.
By invitation of her relatives P. stayed in Canada from June 1988 till February 1989 and delivered a speech at the World Congress of Free Ukrainians in Toronto. At the request of Nina STROKATA-KARAVANSKA she wrote the first version of her memoires. On 25.02.1989, the Boryspil Airport customs officials took away her computer, which she brought from Canada for the UCDP.
In May 1989, the UCDP observed the 10th Anniversary of the death of V.Ivasiuk and organized a memorial service at the Lviv cemetery. P. delivered a memorial speech at the grave.
Her son and her husband were repeatedly arrested for organizing rallies; then P. carried on their work. On 11.06.1989, First Secretary of the CPU District Committee R.V. Kondratiuk named Vasyl SICHKO a provocateur, "whose parents killed Yaroslav Galan in 1949". At the rally on 25.06 P. said that they had already been in Siberia since 1947. For the "defamation" of the communist P. was fined by Dolyna court for 300 karbovanetses and for six months did not receive her pension. On 5.07, in the SICHKOS’ khata the last "Jubilee" search was carried out. Nothing was confiscated. But the SICHKOS were repeatedly arrested and beaten.
In February 1990, P. addressed the meeting of Ukrainian society "Dnipro" in Riga.
In 1991, at the time of the feast of the Protecting Veil P. returned to writing her memoirs the Women’s Destiny.
On 22.01.1992, she participated in the Congress of Ukrainian Diaspora in Kyiv.
She died from colon cancer in Lviv on 09.09.1996. She was buried in Lychakiv Cemetery.
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