SHEVCHENKO, Oles Yevhenyovych
(b. 22.02.1940, Skvyra, Kyiv region)
Journalist, active in the national liberation movement, former political prisoner, active in politics
Shevchenko’s father, who was born in Kyiv, fought in the First World War, the War with Finland and the Second World War. He was an artillery officer and an accountant.
From 1960 to 1969 Shevchenko studied at the Faculty of Journalism of Kyiv State University. From 1969 until his arrest in 1980 he was the executive secretary of the editorial board of the “Ukrainian Biochemistry Journal” of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences.
During the 1960s, he distributed samizdat. In 1973 he was one of the organizers of the illegal “United Revolutionary Front” which existed for more than a year without being discovered.
In 1973 in Kyiv Shevchenko arranged with S. KHMARA to continue publication of ”Ukrainsky visnyk” [“Ukrainian Herald”]. By 1974 ”Ukrainsky visnyk” No. 7 had been prepared. The two men were then joined by V. SHEVCHENKO. Together they prepared numbers 8 and 9 of the bulletin. A microfiche with the texts of numbers 7 and 8 were smuggled out to the West where the journal was published, translated into English and was to be one of the most important sources of information about the history of the repressions of the middle of the 1970s in Ukraine. They did not manage to get issue number 9 out to the West. For several years, those who produced ”Ukrainsky visnyk” were not caught by the KGB perhaps thanks to the fact that they had earlier not taken part in the national-democratic movement.
Shevchenko created a social fund to provide help for the children of political prisoners. In 1976 he agreed to help O. MESHKO in establishing contacts between the Ukrainian Helsinki Group (UHG) and the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG).
Shevchenko was arrested on 31 March 1980 at the Kyiv City Hospital, No. 3, where he was being treated for complications of an ulcer-related disorder. During the investigation he was not allowed medical care despite having a weak heart and suffering from stomach pain. Shevchenko lodged a complaint with the prosecutor’s office about the extremely brutal methods of the investigation unit but received no response. As a result, Shevchenko began to give evidence and to sign the wording of the investigators within the framework of the charges laid.
The case involving Shevchenko, S. KHMARA and V. SHEVCHENKO (in 16 volumes) was heard by the Lviv District Court from 15 – 24 December 1980. In the half-empty courtroom, there were only a few relatives of the accused men (who were admitted only on the fourth and fifth days of the session, and only after they had been interrogated as witnesses). Nobody else who tried to get in was admitted.
The charges against Shevchenko were based on a large number of elements: the collection, storage and distribution of specific material (in particular, the poems of A. LUPYNIS, and biographical information about him) and the passing of these materials to S. KHMARA for inclusion in “Ukrainsky visnyk”, contact with and exchange of material between O. MESHKO, N. SVITLYCHNA, V. SHEVCHENKO and others. In his final words, Shevchenko, in order to make his only partial evidence seem sincere, expressed regrets about his illegal activity and his willingness to make the appropriate statement for the press on condition that he could discuss this with the others accused. The court sentenced Shevchenko to 5 years harsh regime labour camp and 3 years exile under Article 62 of the Criminal Code of the Ukrainian SSR (“anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda”). The Appeal Court did not allow the appeal, except that, at Shevchenko’s request, it introduced one change to an element which significantly weakened the charge against one of the other defendants – Vitaly SHEVCHENKO. However the extended appeal statement which Shevchenko had made in which he rejected both the charges and the trial itself was not even mentioned.
In the first half of May 1981 Shevchenko was taken on the journey under guard and on 4 June he arrived in camp VS-389/36, Kutchino, Chusovoi district – one of the Perm political labour camps. In the camp he took part in all group acts of political protest. He was frequently punished by not being allowed visits or to obtain things, by being held in a punishment isolation cell or prison-type cell.
On 4 September 1982 a strike of political prisoners began in support of Shevchenko. In response, Shevchenko was placed in a punishment cell where he was held without being taken out once for 66 days, and given food only once every two days. This was a record of sorts even for the USSR. After this Shevchenko was transferred to a prison-type cell from where, just before New Year, he was taken to Kyiv. In a cell of the investigation isolation unit of the KGB, lieutenant Honchar told Shevchenko that his wife, Lidya, was in hospital and that there was no hope for her. He told Shevchenko to write an appeal for a pardon in order to be able to bring up his children. As a start, he suggested right there in the cell seeing the New Year in however Shevchenko pleased. Shevchenko refused, and was sent to camp No. 37 (Polovynka, Perm region).
At the end of Shevchenko’s 5 year sentence, material was ready to bring new charges against him (he was informed of this by the head of the unit), however the death of Chernenko and the new policy of Gorbachev stopped this.
He served his period of exile in Kazakhstan, in the south of the Gurevsk region. He was released on 30 April 1987.
In 1987 Shevchenko worked as a digger on the Podolsk archaeological expedition. He was one of the founders of the Ukrainsky kulturolohychny klub [The Ukrainian Cultural Studies Club]. On 26 April 1988 UCSC organized a demonstration to commemorate the second anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, as a result of which Shevchenko was held under arrest for 15 days. There an ambulance was needed to provide medical assistance to him twice. In July 1988, during a picket organized by the Ukrainian Helsinki Union (UHU) to call for the release of L. LUKYANENKO, M. HORBAL, Y. BADZIO, B. KLYMCHAK and others, 16 activists of the UHU were seized by a special operations unit in different parts of Kyiv and taken outside the city. Shevchenko was taken out of the car and left in a forest in the Chernihiv area, 10 kilometres from the coach route.
On 20 November 1988 at the founding meeting of the Kyiv branch of UHU, Shevchenko was elected chairperson.
In 1990 he was elected Deputy to the Verkhovna Rada of the Ukrainian SSR.
From 1990 to 1995 Shevchenko was a member of the Board of the Ukrainian Republican Party (URP), and was deputy chairperson, and also chairperson of the Kyiv branch. At the present time he is a member of the Board of Narodny Rukh Ukrainy [Popular Movement of Ukraine] (RUKH) and the deputy chairperson of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN).
He lives in Kyiv.
Oles Shevchenko. Ne budmo baiduzhymy do svoyeyi doli [Let us not be indifferent to our fate]. // Chas-Time.— 1998.— 25 February.
Oles Shevchenko. Ukraina ta OUN v syohodenni [Ukraine and the OUN today. // Rozbudova derzhavy, 1996, № 11.— pp. 5-9.
Oles Shevchenko. Ukraina na shostomu rotsi nezalezhnosti. Suchasny stan i perspektyvy [Ukraine in the sixth year of its independence. Present state and prospects for the future. // Rozbudova derzhavy, 1997, № 7/8.— pp. 7-15.
Г.Касьянов. Незгодні: українська інтелігенція в русі опору 1960-1980-х років. / G. Kasyanov. Dissenting voices: the Ukrainian intelligentsia in the resistance movement of the 1960s to 1980s — Kyiv: Lybid, 1995.— p. 147.
А.Русначенко. Національно-визвольний рух в Україні. / A. Rusnachenko. The National Liberation Movement in Ukraine. – Kyiv: The O. Teliha Publishing house, 1998, pp. 193, 194.
Prosto ukrainska biografiya [Just a Ukrainian biography]. // Samostiyna Ukraina.— 1994.— 28 February.
’Khronika tekushchykh sobytiy’ [‘Chronicle of Current Events’] (CCE) - New York: Khronika, 1980, No. 56.— p. 68.
CCE.— New York: Khronika, 1981, No. 60.— p. 54-61.
CCE.— New York: Khronika, 1982, No. 62.— p. 74, 132.
CCE.— New York: Khronika, 1983, No. 63.— pp. 82, 177, 179, 180-183.
Visnyk represiy v Ukraini [Bulletin of repression in Ukraine]. External Representation of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group. – New York, 1980, pp. 5-8, 9-19, 10-7; 1981, 5-17, 6-26, 8-52; 1982, 6-26, 7/8-17.
V. Kaplun. Revised by O. Shevchenko and V. Ovsiyenko