VOLYNETS, MYKHTOD IVANOVYCH
(b. 3.03.1926, village of Ivanivka (now Travneve), the Korostyshiv district of the Zhytomyr region)
Leader of the national patriotic underground organization “Spilka vilnoyi ukrainskoyi molodi” [“Union of free Ukrainian youth”] , writer and educationalist. Former political prisoner
Volynets was born into a peasant family. He had studied for one year in the Korostyshiv Ivan Franko Teacher Training College when the War began. He took part in the anti-Nazi underground which tried to prevent people being taken as forced labour to Germany: they smashed cars, grinding machines, tractors to stop grain being transported to Germany and wrecked the military cable between Kyiv and Zhytomyr, being shot at during military actions by German machines.
Throughout his childhood Volynets lived in books. He sent his poems to the newspaper “Volyn”, where they received a positive review from Upas Samchuk, with one being published.
With the return of the Soviet Army, between January and March 1944 Volynets worked as secretary to the village council and collective farm bookkeeper.
On 3 April 1944 he was called up to the Soviet Army, first to a training regiment in Kazan, and then in the Ulyanovsk region. From September 1944 he served in the Lviv region where he prepared firewood and food, and guarded the roads against insurgents. He witnessed the suffering of the local population at the hands of the new occupiers. He was devastated by the image he saw in a house at the beginning of March 1945: a half-naked woman’s body lay, covered in blood. In a cradle a baby had been killed with an axe. Under the bed there was a third victim, a girl of around seven. In the presence of journalists deliberately gathered, the captain said: “These people were killed by Bandera supporters because her husband joined the Soviet Army to defend his country”.
After that Volynets told his friends: “Lads, to serve such executioners is to have the blood of those children on us”. He did not think to join the underground active nearby, but created his own “Spilka vilnoyi ukrainskoyi molodi” [“Union of free Ukrainian youth”]. The first members were Mykhailo Chekeres from the Kirovohrad region, Vasyl Myronyuk from the Ternopil region, and later Leonid Pilat from the Donbas area. In March 1945 Volynets drew up a program and charter for the organization. He kept it together with statements in the headquarters where he was working in a secret unit. By November the organization had 14 members. With the reforming of the unit, the young men ended up in different places, however continued their activities in cells of three people. The objectives of the organization were
i) to gain independence for Ukraine, and in this they referred to Article 72 of the Constitution of the USSR and Article 69 of the Constitution of the Ukrainian SSR;
ii) propaganda and agitation among young Ukrainians. This was verbal, or through writing letters to addresses taken from directories and from newspapers. They also printed leaflets on an unregistered typewriter;
iii) to thoroughly study the weaponry of the Soviet Army for the future struggle and to build Ukrainian military forces;
iv) disorganization of the world of the SMERSH [counter-intelligence] bodies by infiltrating them with their own people in order to find out their plans and to identify informers.
From June 1946 Volynets served at the station Zymnya Voda near Lviv. He took part in the work of a literary studio attached to the journal “Radyansky Lviv” [“Soviet Lviv”] where a collection of his poems, praised by Maxim Rylsky was published. A poem had already been published in 1945 in the newspaper “Molod Ukrainy”.
In autumn 1946 Volynets was transferred to the Moscow military area. From 1947-49 he studied and graduated from the German Faculty of the State Central Correspondence Language Courses of Institute of Foreign Languages, and then in 1950 entered the English Faculty.
In connection with the escape of a member of the organization Petro Voznyuk whom Volynets had given forged documents for leave in order to carry out and bury the organization’s archives, he was transferred to Vladimir and served punishment in a guardhouse.
“Spilka vilnoyi ukrainskoyi molodi” continued its activities. Volynets recruited agents of SMERSH, uncovered Vitaly Pogruzhalsky who was later on 24 May 1964 to set fire to the section of old prints and manuscripts of the Central Scientific Library in Kyiv.
Two days before demobilization, on 3 April 1950, Volynets was arrested. The first interrogations in the Vladimir Prison gave no results, and he was taken to Lubyanka in Moscow, and then to Lefortova and Butyrka prisons. Neither Volynets, nor Ivan Zelisko (from Bukovyna) revealed anything, and they were even tried separately.
On 7 February 1951 Volynets was convicted in his absence by a Special Commission [OSO] under Articles 58-1-b, 58-10 § 1 and 58-11 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR [“State treason”, and others] to 25 years labour camp. Before this, he had been held for a month and a half in a cell on death row in Leftortova. He was accused of creating an anti-Soviet nationalist organization, writing its charter, program and appeals to Ukrainian youth and Ukrainians serving in the Soviet Army.
At the beginning of March 1951 Volynets was taken to Taishet. In labour camp No. 019 at Chuna he worked on a wood processing plant. There he became friendly with the writers Yakov Maistrenko and Ivan Hryshyn-Hryshchuk and with Myron Tarnavsky, son of a General of the Ukrainian Halychan Army and with fighters of the Ukrainian Resistance Army [UPA]. When they heard rumours about the uprisings at the Kengirsk and Norilsk camps they began preparing such a revolt in Chuna. In order to establish contact with neighbouring zones, Volynets transferred to the “black market” where wagons and machines with timber were brought. There he became acquainted through correspondence with Mariya Marynyak from zone No. 030 who had been sentenced in 1946 to 10 years for helping the UPA.
The relevance of the uprising faded because of Stalin’s death. And since the first amnesties did not affect political prisoners, Volynets, Leonid Kotenko and Anatoly Kuralin in July 1954 escaped only to be caught within three days and sent to prison in Taishet. On 25 August 1954 a session of the Irkutsk regional court added 3 years to their sentences under Article 82 § 1 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR.. They were sent to the punishment zone No. 43 of the Ozerlag near the city of Bratsk to build the Anzyoba station, however they refused to work. The zone was full of foreign nationals. Volynets heard the tale of a former member of the government of the Zabaikal People’s Republic Pavel Yakhno who later was in charge in Kharbin of the Ukrainian association “Prosvita” [“Enlightenment”], and Professor Mykola Odynets, advisor to the Emperor of Manchuria Pu Yee.
He was moved to zone No. 06 where he was friendly with Ivan Dolishny from the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. They organized acts of disobedience, uncovered informers. After the zone was closed as unviable, they were returned to the wood processing plant.
The state commission reviewing the cases of political prisoners which began its work in June 1956 did not release Volynets despite the fact that all the cases of the Special Commission were appealed by the Prosecutor General. At the beginning of October 1956 he was summoned to Lubyanka for a re-investigation. Volynets’ case was reviewed by the military tribunal of the Moscow garrison on 16.05.1957, which issued a new sentence under Article 58-10 § 1 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR to 8 years labour camp and 3 years deprivation of rights (Article 31). This sentence also absorbed the un-served part of the sentence of the Irkutsk regional court of 15.08.1954. Since the beginning of the term was counted from his first arrest on 3 April 1950, and taking into account “zaliki” [time earned through particularly difficult jobs], this meant release.
On 22 June 1957 Volynets was released from Lubyanka with his wooden prisoners’ suitcase, and after much difficulty bought a ticket to Kyiv. He got out at Khutor Mykhaikivsk, bent down and kissed his native soil.
In his home village he could not get registration until he submitted an application “Please issue me with a passport in order to travel beyond the boundaries of the European part of the USSR”. He travelled with this to the town of Osinniki in the Kemerovsk region where he married Mariya Marynya whom he had only had one meeting with, pretending to be a cousin and travelling to where she had been sent in exile, on 4 July 1955 in the presence of a supervisor.
He worked in a mine, but in 1959 completed the 10th grade of evening school with a gold medal and entered the Kemerovsk Department of the All-Soviet External Financial and Economic Institute which he graduated from in 1964. He worked on repairs in the mines, then as a duty electrician, a foreman on a timber warehouse and as an economist for the mine administration.
Since they did not want to send their son Danylo, born in 1958, to a Russian school, in September 1964 they moved to the village of Ivanivka. In search of work he travelled over half of Ukraine, but was turned down as soon as he told them where he had returned from. Finally, through a contact, he found work as an accountant and inspector in the Korostyshiv district Silgosptechnika [state agricultural technology inspection]. In 1958 he received a room in the hostel in Korostyshiv and then a flat. From the job of chief accountant in November 1966 he moved to “Mizhkolkhospbud” [collective farm construction] as a planner, and from 1967 worked as the head of a planning and production department. In 1967 his daughter Halyna was born. In 1971 the family suffered a terrible tragedy when their 8-year-old son Ihor was hit and killed by a car.
All his life Volynets has written poetry and a diary. Writing to newspapers was a testing ground, and his first poems after his release were published by the regional newspaper “Radyanska Zhytomyrshchyna”. There were enthusiastic responses and an invitation to the literary studio attached to the newspaper, however after a reaction from the KGB, this was stopped. The district newspaper “Leninskym shlyakhom” published hundreds of his poems, humoresques and articles. There were also publications in the journal “Ukraina”.
With the occupation of Afghanistan, repression against dissidents intensified. In July 1980 in the village of Studenytsya in the Korostyshiv district the KGB arrested the French teacher and translator Y. Zaleta with whom Volynets was friendly. On 6 and 7 August 1980, on a warrant from the prosecutor’s office, “in order to remove manuscripts of Yury Ivanovych Zaleta”, a search was carried out of the home of Volynets, during which the latter’s manuscripts and diaries were taken away, these consisting of 46 notebooks written over 25 years, beginning in the camps of Ozerlag!
On 11 September 1980 a case was launched against Volynets under Article 187-1 of the Criminal Code of the Ukrainian SSR (“disseminating untrue stories which defame the Soviet State and social order”). He was arrested on 19 September. The charges were thoroughly primitive, that he had said that Belousov, Protopovov, Rostropovych and Vishnevskaya had fled the USSR because they were having a hard time; that he had talked about the war in Afghanistan; that he had passed information to the USA that a bridge had collapsed in Korostyshiv. The main charge however was that he had kept a diary. At first the case was run by prosecutor’s investigator Nikolai Obelchenko, then he passed it to Anatoly Shelepa, who having looked through it, refused to run it. It was brought before the court by Yury Kylyk who soon afterwards hanged himself.
On 14 November 1980 the Zhytomyr Regional Court, presided over by S.M. Biletsky, with the participation of prosecutor Savchenko, sentenced Volynets to 3 years harsh regime labour camp.
He served his sentence in the harsh regime camp YaYU-30973 in the village of Raika in the Berdychiv district of the Zhytomyr region. He worked in the accountancy department writing out invoices for goods. His writing was confiscated and primitive forms of provocation organized. Although he had not written any complaints, in order to get rid of the “slanderer”, the administration organized Volynets’ move through the court in December 1981.
The move lasted until 1981: from Kharkiv – Kazan – Solikamsk – Nirob in the Perm region. The settlement colony was a former labour camp, only without barbed wire. The barracks were infested with cockroaches and fleas. At first he worked on a boiler, then on receiving timber, however the criminal elements demanded that he fiddle the books and he gave up that work. He also “graduated from two courses of the MIA academy” – by writing the test papers for an external student captain. This eased his regime and he was able to use the settlement committee’s library.
On 19 September 1983 he received his papers about his release and the next day was on a plane home.
Nobody would give him a job in Korostyshiv. Finally the head of the district KGB got him work as accountant in a repair plant, then later he worked as an economist, a specialist in major repairs. On 3 March 1986 he turned 60 and retired.
While Volynets was imprisoned, his wife had the word “Bandera supporter” scrawled on their door. When Volynets returned, they sent neighbours to listen in or to intimidate them, circulating rumours that their house was bugged. Threats were placed in their post box, with pictures of a skull and cross bones.
With perestroika, Volynets was active in educational, civic and political work. In 1989 he founded the Association of researchers into Holodomor [the Famine of 1932-1933] in Korostyshiv. He participated in two international symposiums of this, published his memories of the Famine and organized addresses by those who lived through it. He was a founding member of the Ukrainian Republican Party, “Prosvita” and the All-Ukrainian Association of Veterans in the district. He held many meetings, lectures, lessons and has published hundreds of works. In 1999 his book of poems “Do not returned, years”. He has collected a huge archive and is working on recollections of several volumes which cover the period from the founding of the village of Ivanivka to the present, on how historical events have been viewed by the population.
In 1991 he was formally rehabilitated by the Military Commission of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation and in accordance with the Law of the Ukrainian SSR from 17 April 1991 “On the rehabilitation of victims of political repression in Ukraine”.
Since October 2002 Mykhtod Volynets has lived in the town of Vorzel near Kyiv.
Volynets, Mykhtod Ivanovych On the Famine : In the book The Famine of 1933. Narodna Knyha-Memorial // compiled by L.B. Kovalenko and V. A. Manyak. – Kyiv – Radyansky Pysmennyk, 1991. pp 270-274
Volynets, Mykhtod Ivanovych Tale of my tribulations. Fragments. Zona, № 2, 1992. pp. 180 – 190.
Volynets, Mykhtod Ivanovych . Prisoner’s Psalter: Evening Prayers. Zona, Зона, № 5, 1993. pp. 31 – 36.
Volynets, Mykhtod Ivanovych . Selection of poems in the book: Z oblohy nochi [Night’s siege: Collection of prisoners’ poems in Ukraine from the 1930s to the 1980s. // Compiled by M.O. Samiylenko. – Kyiv: Ukrainsky pysmennyk, 1993. pp. 66-73
Volynets, Mykhtod Ivanovych . To informers. At least a tear. // the Journal “Kosen”. Zhytomyr: CNS, 1993, p. 12
Volynets, Mykhtod Ivanovych . SVUM – like a breath of spring. – Slovo prosvity – № 1 (15), 1995.
Volynets, Mykhtod Ivanovych . My medal I give to Morozov. – Naroda gazeta, No. 11, March 1995, p. 4
Volynets, Mykhtod Ivanovych . Zhytomyr, KPZ – Zona, № 10, 1995. pp. 36 – 37.
Volynets, Mykhtod Ivanovych . One soul, two, three. How many more? A sketch for a political portrait of Yeltsin from the viewpoint of a non-politician in the light of the Russian press. – Chas / Time, no. 14-17, from 5 to 28.04.1996.
Volynets, Mykhtod Ivanovych . I live on Bandit St – For a Free Ukraine. Lviv, 10.08.1996, Ukrainske slovo, Kyiv, 24.10.1996.
Volynets, Mykhtod Ivanovych . Why did Upas Samchuk mention me?
– Ukrainske slovo, no. 32, 15.08 1996.
Mykola Chernenko. Dissident from the provinces. “He was caught in the forest on a pine. He passed something very secret on to the USA…” (excerpts from the diaries of M. Volynets) – Ukraina moloda, 20.03.1997.
Volynets, Mykhtod Ivanovych . And there is therefore no forgetting evermore – in the book: Maxim Rylsky. In my golden torment. – Zhytomyr: ASA, 1998. pp. 148-154
Volynets, Mykhtod Ivanovych . Do not return, years... – Zhytomyr: ASA, 1999.- 96 pages.
Volynets, Mykhtod Ivanovych . Prison prayers. – Kosen, No. 1, 1999, pp. 95 – 100
Volynets, Mykhtod Ivanovych . Reshetov – the journal “Zhytychi”, № 2, Brusuliv, 2001. pp. 28 – 34.
Volynets, Mykhtod Ivanovych . Report from the mouth of a convoy dog / Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group.. Kharkiv: Folio, 2005 – 128 p.
Vasyl Ovsiyenko, edited by M. Volynets