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Dissident movement in Ukraine

KOTSYUBYNSKA Mykhailyna Khomivna

17.09.2013 | Yevhen Zakharov

            Ye.Zakharov: Mykhailyna, do you consider yourself a dissident, or not? What is, in your opinion, the dissident movement, and what is your attitude towards it?

            M.Kotsyubynska:, I, probably, wouldn’t call myself that. After all, I see a dissident as a politically minded person. At least, that’s my vision. I, on the other hand, always tried to stay aside. The politics, nevertheless, always interfered with my life, despite my wish. Besides, I started as a person with the cloudless Komsomol career in view, fortified by my family name, renowned in Ukraine. And even then, at rather mature age, I did not question any values, offered by official propaganda. It would be unfair to claim now, in retrospect, something I did no do or think. Probably I knew how to remain ignorant of many things. Indeed, in all fairness, I did not know a lot of things.   

            Ye.Zakharov: I understand. But, maybe, the moment had come, when you became aware that it was no longer your country, your power?

            M.Kotsyubynska: Yes, that moment occurred under the classical scenario, following the 20th congress – it was the first stroke. And the information I had been really deprived of, reached me. We, together with Sverstyuk…Sverstyuk influenced my views immensely. He turned everything topsy-turvy, literally. By the way, sometimes I quarreled with him, sometimes everything in me rebelled. But later - and I mentioned earlier, that it was of the utmost importance - even though I disagreed with him and stuck to my own opinions, these opinions by that time were not imposed on me, but became my own. We had different experience. And naturally, till now we have different views with respect to certain things, no doubt. Well, and the rest of my surroundings. I believe I mentioned it before, that in the Institute of literature, Drach’s poem “Knife in the Sun” became a sort of dividing line for the young literary community. Now it might sound ridiculous, but people on one side, those who laughed and mocked, and those on the other side, still remain at their respective positions.  

            Ye.Zakharov: When was it?

            M.Kotsyubynska: Around 1961, I believe.  

            Ye.Zakharov: It was, then, even before his first book was published?

            M.Kotsyubynska: Yes, he was just starting. Who else? Svitlychny, with whom we started at the Institute of literature after the Universkity, Sverstyuk, CSL, where we used to gather…

Ye.Zakharov: So you graduated from Kyiv University?  

            M.Kotsyubynska: Right, Kyiv University.

            Ye.Zakharov: And he graduated from Kharkiv {University}, worked there and then, by late 50-s moved to Kyiv, if I am not mistaken.

 

            M.Kotsyubynska: We all made each other’s acquaintance in the libraries. The corridors of the Central Scientific Library were our Propylaea. There we met; it was our home, literally. And Shamota was confidently making his way into the Institute of literature, headed by Biletsky. And, paradoxically enough, we all, but Sverstyuk, ended up in the same department under Shamota. When I was expelled from the party, a funny exchange occurred. I was asked: “And who is your chair?” – “Shamota”, I said. “And Svitlychny’s chair?” -“Shamota”. “And who is the supervisor for Stus’ thesis?” - “Shamota”. “And what about Badzio?” - “Shamota”. And then everyone could not help smiling. So we were Shamota’s subordinates. Here is a paradox for you.

            Ye.Zakharov: Yes, funny indeed. And when were you expelled from the party? When did it happen?  

            M.Kotsyubynska: I was expelled from the party in 1966. But everything started back in 1965, when I stood up in “Ukraina” movie theater. It was an interesting page in my life; proceedings lasted for half a year. I made a count – altogether 18 bodies of authority {were involved} – party commission, party meetings, party commission under the party committee, party committee bureau and so on and so forth. You know, at first I was very upset, and then got so fed up with all that, that by the end I spoke in aphorisms only and claimed that I’d start speaking in verses if faced with the need to meet a couple of more officials. I was expelled by the oblast’ committee decision in June 1966.

            Ye.Zakharov: Tell me please, who personally shouted in the movie theater “All those against tyranny – stand up!”? Different people have different recollections of the event.

            M.Kotsyubynska: It was Chornovil – no doubt about that. And Stus just supported him. I remember where he was standing, how he said that. It was the essence of his thinking process, while for Stus it was an emotional outburst and he was actually trembling all over.

            Ye.Zakharov: Another interesting detail, he did it, how shall I put it…

            M.Kotsyubynska: Spontaneously, I believe.

Ye.Zakharov: he did not plan or discuss it in advance – just up and go, like that?

            M.Kotsyubynska: It means spontaneously.

            Ye.Zakharov: It is Chornovil I mean.

            M.Kotsyubynska: I believe it was spontaneous, as otherwise it would have been difficult. I remember how everything was discussed. The candidates to do something, to make a speech, were evaluated. I even remember that in a desperate moment, while Ivan was behind the bards, I proposed to say something myself. But I was rejected because I was a single mother with the small kid. So my candidature was turned down immediately. And in general, it was not the best idea.

            Ye.Zakharov: And then Dzyuba was chosen? Dzyuba was probably the best speaker?

            M.Kotsyubynska: Yes, it was decided that Dzyuba {should do it}; he was the best speaker and had certain experience, so to speak. And then it happened kind of spontaneously – the call and the standing up.   

            Ye.Zakharov: And after that you were expelled from the party?

            M.Kotsyubynska: After that everyone was manipulated, just like that. Many people broke down, some did not, but practically everyone who stood up, had their life damaged.  

            Ye.Zakharov: How many people stood up then?

            M.Kotsyubynska: I think, about one hundred – many, all things considering. May be there were some random persons among them. Actually, what did they want from me? Just one utterance: ”You know, I am sorry. I stood up unthinkingly”. And no more deliberations. Instead I firmly stood my ground, and that is how my dissident career started. They say, when I had made public speeches…Somewhere I have the text of my presentation at a party meeting – some trifle issue as compared to all the rest. But a colleague of mine sat at the end of the passage, working late, behind the closed doors, and he claimed he could hear my every word, so quiet it was in the conference room.  

            Ye.Zakharov: Your every word – where exactly?

            M.Kotsyubynska: At the party meeting, where I was expelled from the party.

            Ye.Zakharov: Do you still have the papers – your speech and others? It is very interesting.

            M.Kotsyubynska: I do, somewhere, have to find them.

            Ye.Zakharov: Then we will talk about that separately.

            M.Kotsyubynska: Once I even started retyping it, but then let it go.

            Ye.Zakharov: So you were expelled from the party – but did you keep working?

            M.Kotsyubynska: I stayed at work for a short while. I waited for competition, because, after all I was admitted by way of competition. After my expulsion I was transferred to the department of socialist realism literature, naturally. But it was a real “den”: Ivanysenko, under reprisals from head to toes, Svitlychny, Stus, Badzio and Syvokin’ – that was our department, very nice and fun.

            So I was moved to the department of Shevchenko studies. There I started a research “Essays on Shevchenko’s poetics”, which was published 22 years later, after perestroika and all. It was assessed, and although no one could find anything in it, it was banned anyway. I worked in Shevchenko studies department. It was headed by Yevhen Kyryyuk – a specialist in Shevchenko studies, very cautious person, who has taken a lot of beatings and knew how to survive. In the context of this interview, a conversation with him comes to mind. He knew me since my childhood, loved me and wanted to protect. So, at the back stairs, where no one would go, he started instructing me not to interfere after Svitlychny had been arrested, and he reminisced “See, I was accused of nationalism – and repented”…  

            Ye.Zakharov: What was it about Svitlychny? I did not get it.

            M.Kotsyubynska: He was arrested, the year was 1965. Not only was I not intimidated; on the contrary, wherever I could I advertised my closeness to him. And with all that party business, into the bargain. So he said he had been accused of nationalism and had repented. Then he was accused at some higher level – and repented. Finally the case reached the CC, and their verdict was “What the heck has it to do with nationalism? There is no nationalism there”. That’s what he taught me, I responded him very simply, and still remember my answer “You know, this stereotype does not fit me at all, and I am just amazed, how a person like you, studying and promoting Shevchenko for your whole life, how you can be deep in your soul so anti-Shevchenkian? Now tell me, while no one will hear – had Shevchenko been alive, would he stay with you in the learned council or with Svitlychny in the jail?” He kept silent and I proceeded “Well, you are well aware that he would be with Svitlychny and I would be bringing them parcels, and you wouldn’t!” That’s the conversation we had.   

            And later, by 1968, I knew already what was going on and I heard that Shamota had gathered everyone and curtly warned that anyone voting in my favor would be voting against the soviet power – so nicely, concisely and briefly put.  

            Ye.Zakharov: What was that gathering about?

            M.Kotsyubynska: Learned council meeting, competition.

            Ye.Zakharov: But don’t they have secret ballot?

            M.Kotsyubynska: Secret, yes, and there was one ballot “for”. And the person immediately told me who he was – Novichenko. He had read my work, valued me as a scholar, knew there was absolutely nothing in my paper, and did not bother to hide his opinion. Besides he has always disliked Shamota. He told me that himself. One voice was in my support, but, obviously, I was thrown out.  I also remember how Kyryuk was running along the corridor with his cane, to avoid meeting me – he hurried into the room, grabbed his hat, and ran down the stairs, an elderly person that he was – all to avoid looking me directly in the face.

            Ye.Zakharov: Was he a board member?

            M.Kotsyubynska: Naturally. And he knew me from the cradle, was well acquainted with me parents and had high respect for me. In general, it is dehumanization, it…

            Ye.Zakharov: Yes, clearly, it is a typical soviet story. 

            M.Kotsyubynska: Right. But I survived all that rather calmly. For almost a year I remained jobless, having a baby to take care of. Of course, it was tough, so I did translations, something like that. Later, while I was being expelled, my articles were waiting in the magazines’ publishing houses. There was an article with the title to kill “Shevchenko as a poet of modern times”. In the 20-s he was treated as constructivist, imagist, and generally, his imagery, as he is often perceived rather flatly here…

            Ye.Zakharov: He is the greatest poet, that’s why the magnitude of his work allows for whatever interpretations.

            M.Kotsyubynska: Saying, in his time “And sky is unwashed, and waves are sleepy” represented the very modernism of the 20th century. So there was my essay, there were French poetry collections [name and surname undecipherable]. And they gave me what they could, at that time they paid well, so I received the maximum rate. That summer I lived well.

            Well, later, I am not sure it was that way, but I heard the rumors. Wherever I would go (not that I tried really hard, in fact), for example, to some third-rate design bureau where the vacancy of the editor was open, they would request my work record book, ask for my name {and degree} (senior researcher, doctor) – and immediately something odd would happen. I could not find job anywhere. Meanwhile I had a colleague, an activist of communist movement in Canada, Maria Skrypnyk. She translated Shevchenko and assisted Petro Kravchuk. She was a very nice and decent person, but till now is totally dedicated to the communist ideals. Some people are like that. But very honest and sincere, in her own way. 

            So she found out that I was barely surviving without job, with a young child. It was not 1972, but only 1968, it did not look good in the international context. I was told that she had approached our CC on behalf of the Canadian communist party. Anyway, there was hearsay, that if I apply to a new publishing house “Vyshcha shkola”, I would be accepted. After learning about that I came directly to the editor in chief and was accepted. I had to work in a department which was called the terminology unification office. 

            I stayed there as an editor for 18 years, till 1986-87. Then I quit and eventually returned to the Institute of literature, but merely as a volunteer. And then the life became tough, so for the second year now I am their contractor. But before I just worked there {free of charge}.

            Actually, it started after I became aware of Stus’ magnitude as a poet, before his death and shortly after, when his very name was banned. I came up with the idea of collecting all his work and showing it to the “big house” which was our name for the CC. When they see and hear, they will probably be not afraid of his name any longer? Tanyuk came up with the same idea – just to show them, so we joint our efforts. He started to talk to them, while I submitted the texts. When I brought this text for copying I could not put the name on the title page. It was copied by a typist as an anonymous text. It was around 1987-88. But pretty soon, half a year later, the texts were taken for publishing. Everything happened quickly then.

            Ye.Zakharov: On my part, I familiarized myself with Stus poetry in 1988, after getting hold of the collection published abroad. And I appreciated immediately what it was, how it went far beyond…

            M.Kotsyubynska: As I mentioned before I never could adhere to any theories or political slogans, absolutely, especially now. I need something tangible. And Stus provided that link for me. I understood that the prestige of Ukrainian culture is not built up by repeating that our language “sounds like a nightingale’s song, but by showing its real cultural potential. And I went to Moscow, where I stayed with Deutch’s wife. She took me Lev Ozerov. That’s how his collection of his translations with Drach’s foreword appeared in “Literaturnaya gazeta”.  The translations were quite mediocre, but still it was very important. At the time we were together with Moscow, so it was heard there. I felt at the time that it was my job, my duty, as Skovoroda would say. In the end of the day our publishing house is that axis which supports and then things can be built around it.  

            Generally speaking all my dissidence and my politics are rooted in the art and some ethical categories. Now I am reading the whole bulk of epistolary legacy and this is the best documentary evidence of the values which kept – and still keep me - me within this circle and the absence of which is most painfulІ for me. We loved each other dearly. We were never jealous of each other. These letters are the evidence of that. Someone’s kid got sick, someone wants to have a collection published and needs help and support – may be his collection is better than mine? You know, it is better than mine, and I am happy about it! What a love! It just shines; one cannot make up something like that. That is what kept me afloat. They were real, my closest people, our human relations. That was the most important for me.

            Ye.Zakharov: Tell me, please, did you have any confrontations with the regime after your expulsion from the party, or none?  

            M.Kotsyubynska: Yes, since 1972 they used to summon me incessantly…

            Ye.Zakharov: As a witness?

            M.Kotsyubynska: Now that you mention it, it was an interesting story. I was not caught either writing or directly disseminating any documents – not because I was afraid, but because I really did not do it, it was not my “niche” so to speak. But naturally I was close to Zenya Franko, who was always simmering with political activity – she knew everything and everyone. And I had always been close to all these people, I never renounced them. For the first two months they let me be. Zenya Franko was put behind the bars right away, in 1972, and then they started to work on me in March. Very soon I understood their plans. The idea was to join my name with Franko’s and to show the two of us on TV. You can imagine that the impact would be much stronger, than just Zenya’s TV appearance. Her speech was recorded, but she was there, and I was under reprisals. Also her letter was published in “Radyan’ska Ukraina”, while mine was not. And I was shown her notes in the KGB.   

            So I quickly became aware of the information “fountain”, where all this is coming from. I was terribly upset, but had to warn everyone that Zenya had “spilt the beans”. And then it started. They used all the possible means. I had a pretty good understanding of what was going on – probably, because I read about it, or may be, due to Ivan’s stories. I adjusted there pretty quickly. I used to take Polish detective stories; they would leave me alone for an hour, “to think it over”, but upon return they would find me munching apples and reading a story. And you are not afraid of that intimidating atmosphere any longer. But, as a matter of fact, they would summon me from work every day. Fortunately my boss was just perfect, a real saint, who sympathized with me deeply. And when I brought back the notes telling her where I had been, she would disgustedly pick them with two fingers, put them aside and tell no one. I believe people in the editorial office had some suspicions but never divulged them. I had very nice humane atmosphere {at my working place}.

            Ye.Zakharov: What was her name?

            M.Kotsyubynska: Her name is Kucheryavenko, Nina Yakivna. I always think of her as a holy person. When later they wanted to turn me out of the publishing house and announced a competition – as a way of intimidating me, I surmise, - she told them not to do it. And they’ve chosen the “right” moment. She was an easily agitated and not very healthy person, and before my own eyes they kept torturing her, literally destroying her, knowing how much we loved one another.   

            It was at that time that she had to write a recommendation. It was another story, related to Antonenko-Davydovych, but I will get back to that later, probably. So she had to write a reference for me. Usually I stayed pretty calm and would not cry. Only once I burst into tears – on reading this reference. It was a real eulogy. It was plain heroism to write such a reference under the circumstances.   

            So, let’s get back to 1972. Well, they were taking me back and forth {to KGB}. Obviously, my child who was about 10-11 years at the time, stayed at home. They would even use her to blackmail me. She is not my biological daughter, and at a certain point they told me unambiguously: “We know where your kid comes from, and if you are taken {to prison} she would go back”. Despite the foul blows they used they understood pretty soon they would get nothing from me. Then they started to use different tactics. They would assign me some assistants. One was from {Subotiv}, another from Zhytomir oblast’. They were busy men, and just wanted to stay there. Then they saw I was no use to them and sent me to Kharkiv, specifically on that day. Why to Kharkiv, of all places? A branch of our publishing house was there, so it was like a business trip. But I knew what it was about, as I was accompanied by the party organization secretary. Actually, he knew nothing, but just came with me.    

            I prepared the answers to the questions I was asked. Their main agenda was, first, to connect Zenya Franko and myself; then I had a very close friend, Czech Ukrainian scholar Andriy {Kurymsky}, a linguist deeply interested in politics. Zenya handed him the “Ukrainian bulletin” in my apartment, and they needed badly to prove it. I kept repeating that I did not remember anything, their whole scenario collapsed. So I did not remember it, no recollection and that’s it – so the version collapsed.

            They repeated all their questions for hundred times. I took a sheet of paper and wrote three pages of answers – one, two, three, about six or seven answers altogether. And when on the third day of that “business trip” they came to see me and I saw ‘my” investigator, I was mentally ready and had that paper on me. So they brought me there, and the first thing he did was handing me, in an expansive gesture, Zenya Franko’s repenting testimony. Why in Kharkiv, I thought. Because there had been no acquaintances. In Lviv, or somewhere else – welcome, but in Kharkiv I knew only a university professor Golubeva, and only superficially. 

            Ye.Zakharov: Excuse me. It was she who said “We need no pysarevs, dobrolyubovs and belynskys here – we need secondary school teachers!” She was the dean of the philology department. 

            M.Kotsyubynska: Here you go! So they brought me to your KGB and presented with Zenya Franko’s statement. I read the first sentence and the signature and handed it back. He was deeply struck, even his face expression changed: “Aren’t you interested in reading this?” And I said: “But I know this wonderful genre – it is better to repent than [undecipherable], she would not do it”. You know how he repented: “I need to get myself all covered in mud” and so forth. Anyway, I said, she would not do it. He was so genuinely upset that I said “Well, if that is what you want, I’ll read it”. I read it, returned it to him and remarked that everyone chooses his own genre. Then he started questioning me, and I told him I knew why I had been summoned there, took out my paper from the purse and handed it to him. Finally he disappeared for half an hour claiming that he had to call Kyiv, as he did not know how to proceed. So the whole surprise effect was for nothing. Main thing is I had a ticket for the evening train. He said the director had ordered me to stay. I said: “Director gave me a leave of absence – I left my child alone, someone had to stay with her, but now that person has to go. That’s why I have to leave.” May be he was told that there was no point in keeping me any longer. So he proceeded asking me about the “Ukrainian bulletin”. I answered; “Here is my statement – page two, paragraph 4”. “What’s that, are you are unwilling to talk to us?” I said: “I’ve been talking to you for three months. The questions are all the same, so I wrote everything down.” That’s how it was.  

            Then I came back and kept going. Everything was on decline then, but they kept summoning me. Once I had that nice guy from Kirovohrad oblast’, born in {Subotiv}, and we discussed all the topics with him. The point was to take me off work and have me staying there. I told him: “You know, under different circumstances I’d be happy to converse, but why should we waste time here?” And on one occasion he talked to me in a totally different way, and by his manner I understood there were no “bugs” in the room, so I asked him: “Tell me please, what I should do? You can see for yourself that it does not work”. And suddenly he says:» But he does not see you, he does not hear you”. He meant Fedorchuk, and mimicked him “You-u-u wo-o-rk po-o-orly!” Then I knew for sure that our conversation was not overheard. ”And what if I write him a letter explaining everything I explained to you?” –“Yes, go ahead! And leave it in such-and-such place”.

            And so I wrote everything – that certain answers which I cannot provide, are requested from me. And I will not give these answers no matter what is being done to me. I underlined it in red and submitted the letter.

            Ye.Zakharov: Interesting. You sent that letter, but told no one, right?

            M.Kotsyubynska: No, it was that time already. There was another letter too, I am sorry I do not have it with me now. The letter was written to Dzyuba. I was impressed. I wrote it on the same grounds. So, fancy such an episode. I wrote to him and did not want the letter ending up in his wife’s or mother–in-law’s hands. A friend promised to give it to another friend who would keep a watch to know when the wife and the mother-in-law would leave the house. Then he would deliver the letter. He did it, and on the next day my home was searched. What could I think? Obviously, they were looking for something. So, what happened? An investigator Kolchyk happened to be in the apartment, but who could have known it? He intercepted the letter and it never reached him.

            Ye.Zakharov: By the way, to my knowledge, that investigator exposed not only Dzyuba, but also Zenya Franko, Lyuba Serednyak and someone else. I know that he failed with Plushch.

            M.Kotsyubynska: Our portraits were always together in the hall of fame - Kotsyubynska and Kolchyk.

            Ye.Zakharov: He is philologist, isn’t he?

            M.Kotsyubynska: No, he is a lawyer, but in the university hall of fame we were always together.  

            Ye.Zakharov:: And where is he now?

            M.Kotsyubynska: I don’t know. Even then he always complained of his liver or something.

            Ye.Zakharov: Did he have TB?

M.Kotsyubynska: I don’t think so. Kidneys, rather, he was always like…Well, once he arranged a confrontation between Zenya Franko and me – it was a nightmare. It was the most horrible thing I remember; all these talks were a mere trifle in comparison.

            Ye.Zakharov: Did she try to convince you  to do the same?

            M.Kotsyubynska: Just fancy, I was summoned there, they took me to a room, she hurried {to hug me], but I did not reciprocate – just said “Good day”, and we sat down reservedly. Kolchyk explained that “Zenya Tarasivna here claims that such and such things happened – it was all about the notorious “Ukrainian bulletin” and Andriy Kurymsky. By the way, later I found out that Andriy had corroborated everything while I was sure he would never say a thing. And he really felt compunctions about it as he used to be very good to me.   

            And I said what I have repeated for one hundred times and was repeating for the umpteenth time - that I do not remember or know, and cannot confirm it. Kolchyk said “Well, Zenya Tarasivna provided different information. Your turn, Zenya!”. And she started saying terrible things, that I am the one to disrupt everything, and I am respected and honored, while she is being treated like dirt. I remember when I left the place, Dzyuba had not been arrested yet, I said I had to sit down or to lean on someone for support, because my legs would not hold me. That is how it was.

            Ye.Zakharov: And what did you write to Dzyuba? Haven’t you got a copy?

            M.Kotsyubynska: That’s what I was going to tell you. They came, as I learnt later, absolutely by chance. We did not even see each other, when I learnt {about it} – he confided to his physician, who happened to be one of our authors. He told his editor that he just [undecipherable]. 

            Well, what have I written? That it hurt. I remember recurrent motive that I’ve been struck in the back. It was a good letter. I wrote a draft and put it into a box with Christmas decorations. When they had arrived, I understood they were looking for something small, so I knew immediately what they were after. I was with my daughter, she was about 11, not what you would call a very smart or educated girl, but she had always loved me, and knew that if someone offends her mom, her duty is to protect her. That she knew for sure. And she, playing silly, was running around, helping them in order to get rid of them as soon as possible, and then she hugs me. And I whispered to her where it was. I could not be more specific while they were watching us, so I told her to put it into a place, which they had searched already. She understood where it was, but then she even exceeded my request, torn it to pieces and flushed down the toilet.  What could I tell her? She meant well, I just failed to explain it to her properly. Well, anyway, it was destroyed and Dzyuba never read it. It got lost somewhere. I tried to find out, but there was no file on me, so all my papers… They say there had been nothing – it was not a real file, but a dossier. The only thing I managed to get back was my typewriter, without it I was totally helpless.

            Ye.Zakharov: Your letter had to be in Dzyuba’s file.

            M.Kotsyubynska: No, he asked. I don’t know, probably it should be investigated, but it’s his business, not mine.

            Ye.Zakharov: Well, it would be very hard. In general, it is a tragedy, when a person like Dzyuba, could not…

M.Kotsyubynska: I remember, Lyolya was always blackmailed – Ivan looks so mild and malleable. But they were wrong, he is so stubborn, so tough, that no matter what could be blamed on him. If he makes up his mind, nothing would make him change it.  They became aware of it and gave him full term, just out of spite. But in the meantime they spread the rumors that he had started to cooperate with prosecution, that he would write a repenting letter. And I remember Lyolya visiting me after the trial – she looked so poised in a black suite with some nice brooch and shining eyes. “Full term!” No one would believe it, but it is true, that is how it was, I am not making it up. Some joy it was – her husband got 12 years of imprisonment and she was radiant.   

            Ye.Zakharov: By the way, there had been hearsay that after his first arrest in 1965 they had let him free to throw suspicion on him.

            M.Kotsyubynska: But it was so obvious to everyone who had known him, that not a single person…But do you know who let him go free and why? Nikitchenko, who preceded Fedorchuk, deeply sympathized with him. And he was not the only KGB-man, who sympathized with Ivan, I know another one too. He would talk to him for hours on end – hours! He was an educated person, he was interested. He would summon {Ivan} and they would converse. Finally it was his doing. And there was another KGB official in exile. I even remember having seen him somewhere. He brought him from the mountains where he could not stay, to Gorno-Altaysk and found him a job. Sometimes in the evenings, when it was dark already, he would grab a bottle and come with a visit. And Lyolya kept in touch with him. By the way, he died of cancer when Ivan was still alive and Lyolya would not let Ivan know, because of their decent relations. So it goes – even there people are different. 

            Ye.Zakharov: Sure, sure. Decent people can be found always and everywhere.

            M.Kotsyubynska: Even the one who hid Stus’ papers at a certain moment – he also had to have something in his head, or may be in his soul. Well, people were so twisted - who would know what was inside…

            Ye.Zakharov: Certainly. So did they leave you in peace after the letter?

            M.Kotsyubynska: No. There had been more searches. Then another round, related to Helsinki group, started. Once again, I became involved not through my speeches or paper, but due to my personal contacts. Marynovych, whom I’ve always loved and respected, was with me.

            Ye.Zakharov: I fully share your feelings.

            M.Kotsyubynska: I know, he mentioned recently that he appreciates you as well. Well, and another person, very different, but very engaging in his own way - Mykola Matusevych. They were bosom friends. Matusevych, Marynovych, then Olya Heyko, Matusevych’s wife. They were younger than me, but we belonged to the same company.

            So they came and found some sort of appeal written by the Group. I even do not remember what it was. We have never been close with Oksana Yakivna, we differ too much. I barely knew Rudenko, but it was the same circle…

            Ye.Zakharov: Did they invite you to join the Group or not?

            M.Kotsyubynska: They did not even try. They knew I would not do it.

            Ye.Zakharov: Well, Oksana Yakivna was a tough woman, very sure about certain things.

            M.Kotsyubynska: I cannot stand categorical and peremptory attitude in a person. I respect her, but we could not be together – we differed too much. It started after a search. When they came we were celebrating my daughter’s sixteenth anniversary, and first she cried as she had been expecting guests; but then she helped them and I was afraid for her, for she would talk sharp to them.   

            And then troubles at work started. May be you know about the articles, which were sent to me in the parcels from abroad – one or two of them. And there had been pasquils about me and Antonenko-Davydovych. The first pasquil even referred to my daughter, who, allegedly, had been wearing nice clothes but studying poorly. And, by the way, my colleagues went to her school, and the principal said that the mom was a member of the school board, and the daughter was not a bad student, while other students had nothing but “twos” {the lowest grade}, and no one wrote about them in the newspaper. After he had said that, they let us be. Even a kid would be mentioned in this article. Probably they did know how else to blackmail me, and found my weak spot.

            Ye.Zakharov: I can relate to that too. My son was subject to, let us say, pressure, as a young boy. He was nine at the time.

M.Kotsyubynska:  Something else happened when I worked in the publishing house. There was a woman who in 1992 was very old, but still alive – a certain Antonina Horohovych. She was a teacher, an activist. She used to visit me, sometimes would bring some things. They knew about it and somehow caught her. I don’t know what they did to her, but what they presented to me as her confession was complete nonsense. I do not have the slightest idea. Then they sent all that to my director, and they had a meeting and there was a resolution – if I do not repent, I should be fired. Then, in the director’s office they give me a copy of some sheet of paper torn out of her notebook, which says “A blouse for Mykhasya”. And I would say “So what about that blouse for Mykhasya? Had I been in her place, I would have made similar notes – book or something for Tonya. It is as simple as that!” But they would carp at me with these rags and stuff.  Then, in my understanding, they had decided they did not need me. So we met and I said something to the effect that I would be more selective in my contacts, especially with people whom I do not know well enough. It did not matter what I had said – main thing was I was not trying to prove anything.  So they left me alone.

            And then there was another, completely personal story, which was very demonstrative and not political at all, because everything that happened to me was in the domain of human relations. I have always been, like the rest of us, very close to the writer Borys Antonenko-Davydovych. He is an elderly person, most interesting, prominent man, a real patriot, absolutely devoid of any rigorous pathetic, a very nice man, to whom we owe a lot. He lived nearby, I often helped him. His wife was mentally ill, and his son made bad choices in life and had been put to jail several times. I do not know who was a bigger criminal – the son or the KGB that made such indecent use of the situation. I think their actions were even worse and dirtier. For example, they arrange a search, looking for something in his home. Allegedly, he had raped someone or had been a party to the crime.  And they would confiscate Antonenko-Davydovych’s diaries. Then, again, they would come with a search, allegedly, in connection with the son, but would take away Borys Dmytrovych’s memoirs, letters etc.  

            Then the son ended up behind the bars. The wife died. By the way, she was dying in a mental asylum. I lived nearby and always helped him. My situation was very constrained, I lived with my daughter, her husband and child – all in one room. It was a nightmare. So he just offered that I would move in to stay with him. But because of his daughter, he wanted me to marry him officially. Who cared that I was much younger? After all, I was not 18 and had a granddaughter already.

            So I moved to his place. It was very good for him. I ensured the best possible life for him and he became very attached to me. But for a year and a half we would not be allowed to get married – once the date was set, a protest from his son would arrive. It was easy to see that he was unstable, but no one cared. So the marriage had been postponed several times. Then the libelous letter came to my work. In general, I cannot even fathom how I survived. By that time I would have been happy to go back, but how could I desert him? If he saw our relationship the way he did – well, he is a writer – I could not muster the courage either to go or tell him “To hell with all that!” and he couldn’t either; he just kept writing appeals. I still keep the whole folder of those. One trial, another trial, civil registry office – everywhere we’ve been refused on the grounds that he was incapacitated; finally psychiatric evaluation was arranged. The psychiatrists came along bright-eyed, but he demonstrated excellent memory, striking eloquence and would converse with them to the point when they were completely ashamed!  All that happened and was discussed in my working place – my moral turpitude and stuff like that. They wanted my voluntary departure. I told them “How can I leave? I have two years before retirement – where would I go?” And I had to bear with all that.

            Ye.Zakharov: When was it?

            M.Kotsyubynska: Not long before his death. It was 1982-83, I believe. And it was like this – my working place was a prison cell of sorts. For example, if I had to cross the street to take my shoes to repair shop, I was reprimanded and then punished by deprivation of a bonus. And I had to feed him, to cook something for him. Lunch break lasts 45 minutes. I remember running there and back to make it on time.  And he was sick, and those were terrible years, although the plan had been completely different. He got uncommonly attached to me. Then the daughter got the custody over him, and I returned to my own daughter. And, of course, I visited him in the hospital.   

            Ye.Zakharov: So you were never allowed to register your marriage?

            M.Kotsyubynska: No, of course not. Then, in a year, he died. All that had upset him a lot. I remember, how after his first stay in the hospital, he was so agitated, would pace the room and recite, Svetlov’s poem, if I remember right. “We are inside of ring of fire, comrades!” And the last time, when he was…You know, sometimes remissions happen prior to death. It was Easter. I came to see him, he was so happy, even sat at the table. It was back at home, not in the hospital. And suddenly, he recited a poem by Balmont, I know it too."Do not curse me, wise men! What have you got to do with me? I am nothing but the fire cloud floating in the sky! I am calling dreamers – not you!” Those were his last coherent words. Then his condition aggravated and he died. It happened.

            I’ve told you that my story is very human, related to people. They wanted me to reject my friends: you are writing to them – but do you agree with their opinions? And I would say “When the opponent is behind the bars, there is no discussion, even if I disagree”. I might have my own ideas, but under the circumstances…

            Ye.Zakharov: So how can you suggest you are not a dissident? You are a classical, typical dissident. Because a dissident is a person that morally opposes the regime and the one who cannot, as a human being, agree with regime’s actions and does not hide his/her opinions. You are a typical, a classical dissident, much more so than many others. You did write to your friends in labor camps, didn’t you?

            M.Kotsyubynska: Absolutely.

            Ye.Zakharov: I’ve heard the stories, when they would force people to stop correspondence altogether. Did it happen to you too?

            M.Kotsyubynska: So that they wouldn’t let me go there?

            Ye.Zakharov: Well, that is one thing, but I mean, did they try to ban your correspondence?

            M.Kotsyubynska: Of course, naturally, all the time. But there is no point even talking to me about it. I would not talk to them, but just do what I had to do. I told them “You have censoring system, go ahead and read.” What was my tactics? I loved to travel, to go places. Sometimes, when the child was young, I would leave her with someone and go. By the way, it was in one of my letters to Zeena Henyk-Berezovska. I was traveling in Cherkassy oblast’ and writing to her from every town I visited. I had only one companion – Antonych’s collection of poetry. It was typical. I traveled in Volyn’ the same way. Later we traveled around Baltic republics with my daughter. And, wherever I used to go, I would buy a pack of postcards and write on them (6-7- postcards would fit into an envelope). I wrote everything on these postcards. I described everything I saw, how old Armenians made coffee in Sukhumi, how it smelled, what the color of the sea was, what the lakes in Latvia looked like, the castle [undecipherable] – I described all that. What could the censors make out of it? And I would send them out. And Stus would retell them to his wife – so important they were for him: “You know, Mykhasya wrote about the coffee smell in Sukhumi streets” – that’s what he would relate to her! This was most important.    

            Ye.Zakharov: I know it only too well – I also wrote a lot to the camps.

            M.Kotsyubynska: Or, to give you another example. He was translating Goethe and, through his wife, he asked me to send him the right pattern for the Alexandrian verse. Well, I prepared these patterns and sent them to him.  

            Ye.Zakharov: And they were intercepted, right?

            M.Kotsyubynska: Right. I wrote for the second time and made a note on the margin: “Dear comrade censor! This is an ancient Greek system of versification. It means this-and-that” and so on. And the let the letter pass through. But several times I would notice something else. Once, after a concert I wrote a long and beautiful letter. We used to go to concerts {with Stus}, he loved Bach, Beethoven. These things helped me to survive. Now the life has changed so that I cannot afford to go to the philharmonic, and it is beyond my comprehension. But at the time it provided me with spiritual energy, I attended concerts constantly. So, I wrote him a huge letter – no politics, just lofty feelings, some music – and they intercepted it!     

            Ye.Zakharov: They would do it when they assumed there was certain cipher, something encoded there.

M.Kotsyubynska: And not only a cipher. They were not dumb, so they understood it would give him spiritual fortitude.

            Ye.Zakharov: And are your letters to Stus intact?

            M.Kotsyubynska: To Stus? One letter survived thanks to KGB, it can be found in our manuscripts’ department. I collected the letters from Stus - 153 letters that have been published. But we also have the letters to Stus, in a special file. May be, one day they will be instrumental.

            Ye.Zakharov: Another thing I wanted to clarify with you. I have heard Oksana Meshko being accused of sort of “dragging” Stus into Helsinki group. What do you think about it?

            M.Kotsyubynska: First of all, you’d better talk to someone who knew all these intricacies, i.e. Svitalna Kyrychenko. No doubt, you cannot do without her. Do you know her?

            Ye.Zakharov: I do not know her personally.

            M.Kotsyubynska: I can call her if necessary. Her memory is very sharp. Badzio, to a lesser extent. For you the real source of data would be Svitlana. She called me not long ago regarding this issue. She has her own ideas with respect to inaccuracies concerning his membership in Helsinki group. I simply do not know. But she knows what no one else does. She was with him for the 8 months he spent here, went to Moscow with him – extremely interesting things! What he did there, whom he met, her descriptions of people in the memoir. And generally, she is extremely…

            Ye.Zakharov: Tell me please, what was, in your opinion, the significance of all that dissent and the dissident movement for Ukraine in general? How would you assess it?

            M.Kotsyubynska: I think it was of great importance. This is the stereotype of our whole development summarized in Stus’ prophetic words “We don’t have closed ranks, jagged spires of our random efforts – that is all”. We get back constantly and live in isolated blaze-ups. I think it is our developmental stereotype inherent to us. I wish I were mistaken and we would be able to find the right way. But that is the most beautiful thing that has been done – a row of bright flashes moving forward. They are the guarantee of indestructibility, of the main thing. I see it so… Whether the people managed to implement it in reality, in general human sense, specifically – I don’t know. I am afraid few people would be capable of that. But then it was such a spontaneous and magnificent explosion. No doubt, it was not homogenous. But it in its best manifestations it was so pure. I am not aware of any forecasts, but it is evidently not enough for our general development, our reputation, cultural standing, for human progress.    

            Ye.Zakharov: You know, looking at “shistdesyatniks” now I feel very sad for many reasons.

            M.Kotsyubynska: So do І. But I think, as far as any real activity goes…

            Ye.Zakharov: I hear you. I am just saying that at a certain point I virtually fell in love with some people in these circles. I read Stus, I’ve heard a lot about Svitlychny, I’ve come to love Marynovych, Antonyuk – a very wise man…

            M.Kotsyubynska: Well, you know, for me it was not just “hello-goodbye relationship”; I’ve read his memoir about Svitlychny. It was splendid, just splendid!

            Ye.Zakharov: Generally speaking, he was never duly appreciated. You should have read his essays – a propos Stus’“jagged spires” – “Liknep deliberations on national issues”, it was one essay, and another big article on the religious situation in Ukraine. I consider them fundamental works.

            M.Kotsyubynska: So you are talking about Anotnyuk, not Marynovych?

Ye.Zakharov: Antonyuk. In my belief Antonyuk showed deeper understanding of complicated things than Marynovych, because Myroslav, you know, is kind of immersed inside his own perception.

            M.Kotsyubynska: I might believe you once I read them.

            Ye.Zakharov: Do it.

            M.Kotsyubynska: But where are they to be found?

            Ye.Zakharov: One of these essays was published in “Suchasnist’”[ Modern times – Ukr.]. Dzyuba mitigated it somewhat. You know, he is alert of diaspora, afraid that they would stop giving money. Because Antonyuk…There is our own magazine “Human rights in Ukraine”, which I edited; I was its editor-in-chief. I can just give you a copy. One should be aware that the main problem is that our society…Right now a very interesting book written by two young guys from Lviv – V.Pavliv and S.Kryvenko – was published in “Postup”. It is called “The encyclopedia of our Ukrainian studies”. There they claim, for one, that Plushch is a kind of person that would represent Ukrainian elite, but those who value him are outside the power structures.  That’s the way it is. So the trouble is that the society fails to comprehend that Marynovych, Plushch, Antonyuk are its spiritual leaders, in a manner of speaking. That is my belief. I simply fell in love with these persons and started doing something to promote them.

            M.Kotsyubynska: As far as I am concerned, recently, visiting Antonovych library, I told them unambiguously, that earlier it was much easier for me.

            Ye.Zakharov: Yes, I’ve heard it in many interviews – that all stood together, understanding between people was better…

M.Kotsyubynska: I have chosen not go to the forum quite consciously. My family situation is complicated and tense; then, my “Cassandra complex”, I can predict what happens there next, that’s why I can feel it so acutely. No, I did not go to the forum, because I have participated already in “Intelligentsia Congress”, in the writers’ congress, so I can see that stereotype and I do not want to be a part of it. I stay at home all the time; I switched on the TV, to listen to something. They are dancing and singing. Suddenly {a guy} appears with Hlazovy sketch – so dumb, my God! When they mention “sharovarshchyna”, that is just about it, about exposed bellies and stuff like that. What a shame – huge applause, an ovation! Disgusted, I switched the TV off. So primitive, for God’s sake! 

            Ye.Zakharov: The problem, as I see it, is that spiritual, pure trend in “shistdesyatniks” movement never won, it was obscured by politicians. What do you think?  

            M.Kotsyubynska:  I believe that these people are here, but they cannot break through, either due to material constraints or other reasons, and they are not numerous. So that hermetic shell is just stifling them, literally strangling. I would never imagine anything like that, because I am a person of concrete thinking and estimate my own capacity objectively, but if we are talking about a specific thing we are working on now, i.e. the Stus publication – whom else should the state support, come to think of it? Moreover, all the people working on that are not the people who would use any money for their own benefit.  I know I received 1500 USD from the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian studies. When I accounted for this money, sent them two volumes plus the third one {and added that we pay 20 USD, for ourselves}, they were so impressed that they gave money right away, they simply could not fathom it.   So, what are we doing now? Begging around for money, literally. And we do it anyway, although there is no allocation. Looks like these real values are not in demand at all.  Well, they are, but one needs fangs and elbows to break through. And in the process something is lost.

            Ye.Zakharov: I can relate to that. You know, I want to share my opinion and seek yours. I believe it is very important to take into account a certain moral compromise, so to speak, which we observe right now. Let us take judge Hryhoriy Zubets, for example. He still is the chief justice of Kyiv municipal court. This person condemned Valery Marchenko to death and passed a verdict against Stus. How can you do that, Mr. Horbal, Mr. Pronyuk, Mr. Chornovil? You voted for his indefinite term as a judge, for life! Why would not you ask him a single question, how he sees his role in what had happened?! How can it be? How could they approve Radchenko as the head of national security service? It is common knowledge that he worked in the ill-famed 5th department, dealt with the so-called democrats, staged people’s beatings. Those who did the beatings are still around, and he personally participated.    And everyone knows it – Horbal, for one, knows it perfectly, but keeps silent. I think this is one of the reasons, which explains a lot of things…

            M.Kotsyubynska: That’s what I call moral deficiency. And this moral deficiency…

            Ye.Zakharov: Mykola is such a wonderful man! I know nothing but good things about him.

            M.Kotsyubynska: This is one reason, while another is our “leadership” stereotypes, and sometimes cavemen’ mentality. Recently, for example, I witnessed it myself – there was a poet, by name of Naum Tykhy…   

            Ye.Zakharov: Heard about it. I know his son well.

            M.Kotsyubynska: He is a good man. He is from Zhytomir oblast’, from a small town, son of a Jewish baker, he knows the language since childhood, it’s native for him, and he writes in it beautifully and correctly. What is interesting, right before he got old, his books appeared in a flash. The dramatic works are really interesting. So what one Valery [last name unclear] would write in “Literaturna Ukraina”?

            Ye.Zakharov: I think, Tykhy died because,,,

            M.Kotsyubynska: He writes about Ukrainian-speaking and Ukrainian poets, quoting Pervomaiskiy and Fishbein as Ukrainian-speaking….Thank you very much, we bow low for their “Ukrainian speaking”. God knows what literature… What about Pasternak?

            Ye.Zakharov: Well, that is no way to look at it, otherwise only Tolstoy will remain as thoroughbred Russian in Russian literature.

            M.Kotsyubynska: So the old man calls me and asks “Have you read that?” And I say “Naum Hryhorovych, the man is an idiot, don’t take any heed of him. No one with any common sense thinks this way!”  ІHe was all shaky, and it was about ten in the evening when he called. At one in the morning he had heart attack. So it followed directly. How can one kill like that? And a person like Naum Tykhy too!

            Ye.Zakharov: Hear, hear. You see, in a certain sense, all these things are intertwined. The thing is our cause never won, lamentably.

            M.Kotsyubynska: So, naturally, a large portion of all our developments is accounted for by immanent internal reasons. I have a gut feeling about it. That is why…

            Ye.Zakharov: And why would you mention Cassandra complex? You know, I did the same, since certain moment I started to predict the future – and my forecast is getting sadder and sadder.

            M.Kotsyubynska: As I do not want to whine, I just keep silent. I am ignorant about many things, one should know a lot to do that, and it is far beyond my competence. That is why I know my own niche and capabilities. So I keep silent. And I want to do my job, and see some specific things to do. Recently I edited a collection of memoirs about Svitlychny, and once it is published…  

            Ye.Zakharov:: It will be published, I know it for sure.

            M.Kotsyubynska: Yes, they have money. As it happened, Nadiyka typed it on her computer, brought it here, and it cannot be read on these computers, so she went back to introduce corrections, and the computer died. Then she told me it was because of terrible heat. I don’t know, may be. Finally, in two weeks, the corrections have been made, and to accelerate things, she sent it “express”. It should take 4 days, but 12 days passed. Lyolya went completely crazy. But, thank God, it arrived and I have all disks here, proofread. 

            Ye.Zakharov: You did not give it to the print-shop house yet?

            M.Kotsyubynska: In a couple of days I will, but we’ve done a very meticulous job.

Ye.Zakharov: Yes, I know.

            M.Kotsyubynska: And another book, edited by me, probably has been already published. I do not know for sure, but there was a program on Sunday - “Anthology of Ukrainian drama and Ukrainian literature”. Very prominent book, Larysa Onyshkevych’s.

            Ye.Zakharov: Is it published in Lviv?

M.Kotsyubynska: In Lviv, where Hundorova’s book was published, where Maria Hablevych and her husband are. It was that Onyshkevych who found the money, for a smaller number of copies. She is delivering some course here so she wanted this book. And they do good job of publishing.

            Ye.Zakharov: I also wanted to ask about Borys Antonenko-Davydovych. I have a feeling (and I might be wrong) that he was, in a certain sense, spiritual leader for the “shistdesyatnyks”. I mean, he was deeply respected as a teacher would be. Is this right?

M.Kotsyubynska: Yes, it is right. He was one of the two most important figures, so to speak – Hryhoriy Kochur and Borys Antonenko-Davydovych. They were very different, operated at different levels, but it was them, and, possibly, Iryna Steshenko from the older generation… 

            Ye.Zakharov: Well, Kochur was deeply into literature…

            M.Kotsyubynska: Into literature and culture, yes, but he contributed a lot to the broadening of horizons, knowledge and culture.

            Ye.Zakharov: Definitely. .

            M.Kotsyubynska: And in politics? Well, for example, I’ve first heard all these stories about UPR, about their “universals” from him, from Antonenko-Davydovych.

            Ye.Zakharov:.And Antonenko-Davydovych did it both in political and literary areas.

            M.Kotsyubynska: Well, for example, on January 22, the unification day, he would invite us to his place, or on one occasion we were at Matusevych sister’s, and  he told us stories. It was from him that I first heard Malynenko’s  [?] poetry, he knew it by heart and recited to us. Once again, I did not always share his directness and single-mindedness, but I was always very interested.  

            What else it was about him? This much targeted struggle for the language, for its purity. He could not plainly talk to you or whoever, God Almighty it might have been for all he cared – he had to correct a language mistake. You should have heard how he corrected the KGB men! A coronal would ask him “Who are “petlyurivtsi”?” Why, this term was not in use then, it comprises two concepts. So he would lecture him and correct his mistakes. 

            Ye.Zakharov: Did he have any clashes with KGB? 

            M.Kotsyubynska: Incessantly, and searches too. He was questioned by them…

            Ye.Zakharov: So it started as far back as 1955?

            M.Kotsyubynska: And they would not publish his work. His novel was sitting there in “Radyanskiy pys’mennyk” and they would not allow him to publish it.

            Ye.Zakharov: He was a political prisoner of Stalin’s era, wasn’t he?

            M.Kotsyubynska: By the way, I do not know if you are aware of it – a very interesting book was published recently in Australia {“Zashyfrovani pravyla zhyttya” – Encoded rules of life – Ukr.}; 200 pages by Antonenko-Davydovych. A certain Mitchenko, his correspondent from Australia, published all his letters.

            Ye.Zakharov: I assume, he can be considered a dissident as well?

            M.Kotsyubynska: Absolutely.

            Ye.Zakharov: And not just a dissident, but the Father of dissidents.

            M.Kotsyubynska: He would attend trials too – Moroz trial…

            Ye.Zakharov: Did you attend trials and visit people in exile?

            M.Kotsyubynska: No, I visited just Svitlychny in his exile. I have not been summoned to courts. Once I received a call:” Do you know that Dzyuba is on trial?” “No, I don’t” – said I. – “And it was mentioned there that you were sick and could not attend” “How so?” I hurried to the court. They threw me out, would not let me in. Where else have I attended trials? The second Stus trial, due to Svitlana Kyrychenko, who made it all public; otherwise I would not have remembered it.

            And it was most interesting. We have chosen different tactics according to our temperaments. She testified as a witness and immediately refused to participate in the unfair proceedings, i.e. the closed trial. She provoked a confrontation and was escorted out of the courtroom and sentenced to three months of forced labor.  

            I did it differently. They asked me: “Describe Stus”. I started singing his praises, and they started writing everything down. Whatever good things I could remember, I told them. Later he sent out some information with my help. It concerned his letter to the friends and he (Stus) asked me: “Are you aware of the confidentiality of private correspondence?” – “Yes, I am”. And then a very interesting thing happened, related to his exile. I said he was put into a kind of hostel with marginal inmates, and other things like that. “You insult the working class! They are all serving their term here!” it was at Stus’ expense that they have been flown there. And now the defendant is allowed to ask questions. He asks one of those witnesses “Do you remember so-and-so (giving a name) peeing into our tea?” The man had nothing to say, and somehow the issue of insult to working class was never raised again – someone urinated into the tea kettle. Things like that. Moreover, he pointed at a person and said “Are you aware of the fact that on a given date the commander in charge, or what his rank is, has beaten me?”, and showed him to me. That was his way of divulging the information. On my way out I related everything to Svitlana and she immediately called someone, I believe it was Halya Horbach, and somehow disseminated this information. Now it can all be found in the book of memoirs about Stus.

            Another trial I attended was Marynovych’s. I was not allowed to attend Matusevych’s trial; there was no way as he had been such an “explosive” person. But I remember Myroslav was so nervous and agitated that even his jacket got all sweaty. Can you imagine that? For me such details are always very important. They tried to turn me away – I wanted to look at him all the time, to smile at him, and they kept turning me the other way. He is a terribly tender person.   

            They lived with Matusevych opposite my place. They belonged to a younger generation, and they would invite me. I remember very well a birthday party – it was the day after Mao Tsetung’s death – they had some moonshine in the bottles labeled “Tears for Mao”. It was always a lot of fun. They interviewed us, asking what our perception of the current situation was, recording our answers.  They were very nice, interesting people and I felt good in their company. That’s why they kept grilling me about Helsinki group.  

            Ye.Zakharov: Got you.

            M.Kotsyubynska: And your assessment of Antonenko-Davydovych is absolutely right.

            Ye.Zakharov: But it does not apply to Kochur, probably.

            M.Kotsyubynska: No, as far as politics goes, but otherwise…

            Ye.Zakharov: This is my point, you see, that it was the general cultural background that made the movement possible, contributed to its development. There were writers who simply wrote the way they did, and said what they had to say – in their literary works – and it had a huge impact on public awareness…

            M.Kotsyubynska: You see, he was more than that – he was also subject to reprisals, he knew all that from personal experience, he also showed us a lot of values from another viewpoint – things which had not been published, which were banned – he uncovered all these facts and works for us. They had different amplitudes, so to speak, but both had a colossal impact.

            Ye.Zakharov: I understand. Another question concerning Lukash. His letter, where he asked to be put to jail instead of Dzyuba, is well known. It is very interesting. I know society was divided into two groups – those who considered him crazy and those who supported his action. First, where did you belong? I can predict your answer, but I want to hear it.

            M.Kotsyubynska: I was terribly sorry for him, but, naturally, I understood his spontaneous act.  

            Ye.Zakharov: Did he do anything else in the same line?

            M.Kotsyubynska: I don’t think there were other actions like this, but of course, there were characteristics he gave, his jokes.

            Ye.Zakharov: Public statements? Because public statements are actions.

            M.Kotsyubynska: He spoke very rarely on public, did not give public speeches. In general he was a very unconventional man. He was broken somewhere on the way, and he would sit playing dominoes inconspicuously on Dnipro hills. Recently I came across a man, a drunkard who used to know him. He referred to him as “our Mykola”. And he knew so many languages! He was wasting his time away unable to get to translating “Don Quixote”. I remember Kochur would give him…He was hanging around, looking so miserable, so people would leave some small change in his pocket. But there had been an occasion, when Svitlychny came to Kyiv from exile and visited Kochur – by the way, he was the one to reprimand him bitterly for letting go.    

            Ye.Zakharov: Reprimanded Lukash? And Ivan Oleksiyovych visited …

            M.Kotsyubynska: Lukash and spent half a day with him. They all lived in the writers’ house in Pechersk. I was not very close to Lukash myself, but we would meet occasionally. He was a real treasure trove of knowledge, a firework!  I remember things in close-ups, and one of the pictures will stay with me till the day I die, I’ll see it and smell it – myself, Vira Vovk and he in Hydropark. It was one of Vira Vovk’s visits and we were taking a walk; it was nice; there were few people. Both Vira and I remember it. At that time George Pompidou was visiting Kyiv. And he came up with very funny impromptu about Pompidou, which both Vira and I remember till this day.

            And, mentioning that dissident era, the 60-s, we must always remember the window to the West. What we are observing now is quite common and has nothing to do with that time. I am talking about Vira Vovk, Halya Horbach, Zeena Henyk, whom I mentioned earlier. And Zeena is the one who knew the “bridge” to Prague and further on. 

            Ye.Zakharov: Was all that due to Ivan Svitlychny?

            M.Kotsyubynska: Yes, it was, and Ivan was himself a bridge between Lviv and Kyiv.

            Ye.Zakharov: But, unfortunately, Kharkiv had no such links.

            M.Kotsyubynska: This is correct.

            Ye.Zakharov: It is possible that Kharkiv did not have the right people – well, of course, people were there, but not such outstanding personalities.

            M.Kotsyubynska: After all, it was mainly around national idea. And this aspect in Kharkiv…I believe, it might have been present but not so…We could see both nationalistic and democratic aspirations among the Kievites. Kharkiv, probably, had more general democratic movements, while the national ideas were represented by isolated people. May be it was like that. 

            Ye.Zakharov:: There have been certain expressions of  national idea in Kharkiv, but it lacked such outstanding persons as in Kyiv and Lviv. Probably, that is the reason. 

            Drach used to be one of the leaders of the whole generation, but after 1965 he changed a lot…

            M.Kotsyubynska: Yes. I remember, I have a special file, were I wrote things to remember, and I have used some of materials already. The memoir contained an essay on Tychyna “Corrosion of talent”. It was done just for the sake of living somehow, of writing something. After all the searches I’ve devised a method – I would write two pages, put them into a plastic bag and put it under my neighbor’s wardrobe – they would not look there.I knew the places they used to search. What was the impetus? - Shamota presenting Drach with Shevchenko  award. My notes were entitled “The light is seen” (Skovoroda’s words). As far as I am concerned, Shevchenko and Shamota…Shevchenko, Stus, Drach – and Shamota!. It was kind of phantasmagoric, and I wanted to research that stereotype applicable to Tychyna and Drach both. Here it was, the corrosion of talent…Actually, he is not a poet any more.

            Ye.Zakharov: Moreover, he does not remember the words of his own poetry – I noticed it at one of his recitals. Moreover, he heard a poem and did not recognize it as his own. You know, it is rather scary.

M.Kotsyubynska: Scary, indeed. In the 70-s I went to one of his recitals, despite everything; everyone tried to stay away from me, but I found a side seat. At the time he still remembered [his poems] and was very good at reciting them. And at the beginning of all these developments, he still remembered something and would recite nicely. But of late he became over-bureaucratized , no doubt. 

 

 


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