HRABETS Liubomyr Omelianovych
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Mr. Liubomyr Hrabets is telling his story in Kolomyya on March 20, 2000. You may suggest more accurate data if you wish.
L.O.Hrabets: Right. Just for the sake of accuracy: Liubomyr Hrabets, son of Omelian, who was the commander of the UIA “South”. I was born in 1942. I was born in Liublyntsi, now temporarily occupied by Poland, but in the documents, as there were many difficulties at the time, I was recorded as a native of the Village of Sloboda, Kolomyya Region.
V.O.: And what about the date of birth?
L.H.: September 15, 1942. My father was killed in action in Vinnytsia Oblast in 1944. Up to four years of age we lived with my mother; later my mother was arrested as a wife of the colonel of the UIA and for hiding a woman who was operating illegally. She bore a child in our dwelling. Somebody informed the authorities on her. My mother was arrested, and I was brought up by my Aunt Mariya. She had two her own children. And my late elder brother was brought up in our father’s family in Ternopil Oblast. It lasted for a decade, until my mother returned from the camps. Then we lived together, and Volodymyr Zhuk became a member of our family. He was an economic assistant of Hoverla Group. He became my stepfather, whom I always called my father, who actually brought me up, a sixteen-year boy. Well, this is for the autobiographical reference.
As fate would have it, I attended different schools. Later I went to Shevchenko School no. 5 in Kolomyya. Then I studied at Kolomyya Pedagogical School, worked little in the village of Kovalivka as a music teacher, senior young pioneer organizer, gymnastics teacher Yevhen of all trades in a small local school. After that I entered the Lviv Conservatory.
V.O.: Please, don’t forget about the exact dates.
L.H.: Oh, you know, sometimes memory fails me about the exact dates.
V.O.: At least, you could not forget when you studied at the conservatory.
L.H.: In 1963, in the Conservatory, I went over to the intramural education, for at first I received tuition by correspondence. I studied there for a year and a couple of months and was expunged from the conservatory for the events, about which I will tell later.
While studying at the conservatory, I had close friendly relations with the Sterniuks family as Igor Sterniuk’s wife Ms. Dzvinka Levytska was a native of Kolomyya and her mother were friends with my mom. At the time he managed the Karpaty Tourist Club, and it became necessary to employ loyal own personnel, even in such indifferent public organizations. They convinced me to head the organizational sector of Karpaty Tourist Club. We tried to make outs to Makivka with the students. We were not engaged in politics on principle, and I still was not ready for it. But Lviv intelligentsia and Lviv elite deliberately employed people who might carry weight and be in contact with young people. Later I realized why it was done. However, at first I just sympathized with these ideas; for this very reason I was working in the Karpaty Tourist Club.
I was the secretary of the Komsomol bureau of the conductors’ faculty. And I don’t feel ashamed of it, because I love social work. Especially because I was a kind of pioneer leader in Kovalivka school that taught the church choir and went caroling with the church choir. It is strange that in the village, where we made the round of all khatas, no one informed against a pioneer leader accompanying the church choir. It was the village of conscientious miners. It is regrettable that now against the background of religious affairs there is such strife underway. So there the old people of the church choir noticed that pioneer leader, confided in me: those simple rustic minds understood that this guy would not betray and he can be trusted.
But let’s return to the conservatory affairs. We initiated a good thing: the first public going Christmas caroling in Lviv. I actually cannot know remember the instigator, but on the New Year’s Eve the central all-union television broadcasted called the roll of and we went Christmas caroling. There Oles Lupiy debuted with his first poems. I remember that this teleshow featured Nadiya Neporozhnia from Kyiv.
V.O.: I know Nadiya.
L.H.: Thence our relations: we are good acquaintances. Then I met the Neporozhniys family, the father, I went to Yahotyn several times. Due to this family I was lucky to meet Ivan Makarovych Honchar: I attended lectures in his museum.
What help us? When we organized this group of koliadnyky1 from the students of conductors’ faculty, we received a New Year greeting from the Central Committee of Komsomol, charter of honor. And as the militia or any authorities caviled at us, we showed them the charter as a shield and said: “You seem not to understand that this means the acknowledgement of the Central Committee of Komsomol. Leave us alone.” So we actually started from the Polish Christmas and ended with Yordan2.
I should say that the professors of Lviv Conservatory understood us very well, because at the time we came to our lecture pairs just to sleep off, and they said, “These kids are doing a good deed.” And that’s that. This is about those koliadnyky. Now I remember that once on a New Year’s Eve we went to the railroad terminal, and there were passengers in transit from Zakarpattia and, like it happened on station premises, they were sleeping on the floor; it was very exciting picture. So, shall we go Christmas caroling? And we chanted carols. We started singing, people were still sleepy (especially women), their eyes were closed and tears were flowing down their cheeks. There were many such exciting moments. Of course, we went to visit Lviv intelligentsia in the first place: Ms. Kulchytska, Pshenychkys, to those people who were glad to meet us and were waiting, “because our children will come.”
My luck, my fate was such that since my mother was packed away for ten years, as they say in the thieves slang, and stayed there with a wife of the rector of the Lviv Conservatory Professor Vasyl Barvynsky, I dwelled in his apartment. There was a striking manifestation of protest, as Professor Barvynsky died. How did it show? When the professor died, there was an unwritten order not to sing at his funeral. And then came Mr. Yevhen Vakhnyak--he led the conservatory chorus--we came, students, and there someone whispered to him that, you know, you should not sing. And now this man who seemed to be a fearful intellectual… suddenly his hand shook and his face grew red: “How not to sing? How can we not sing?” He grabbed a tuning fork, his hands shook, and we began at once: “Hear me, Oh my brother” Our conservatory chorus sang. Then sounded the song “Be brave and don’t slacken your pace” which measured up the situation.
When they carried out the deceased and officially the hearse arrived, the students rebelled and didn’t allow to put the casket on the hearse and bore it on their shoulders, although it was against the approved scenario of the funeral; from somewhere--I do not know wherefrom--appeared ten pairs, maybe less, of little kids in white habits with little white chaplets. Someone organized it and the rest went its own way. They went ahead with their wreaths down the road to Lychakivka and students bore carried professor, rector Barvynsky through the whole city of Lviv. Before that someone took away from the conservatory all sheet music of Mozart’s Lacrimosa: it was away from the library. But, oddly enough, when they came to the cemetery, the choristers had photocopies of voice parts which would suffice for the conservatory chorus, Prometheus, and Academy of Sciences. There was also the men’s chorus of military academy: it also had voice parts. In short, several hundreds of choristers of choruses of the university and polytechnics had photocopied voice parts. Obviously, it was a good piece of work to do. The choruses sang Mozart’s Lacrimosa and other songs as well.
This was an opposition organized by intelligent people who inspired young people to follow them. The young people saw for themselves the harassment instigated by the authorities: the people rebelled against the oppression. This created a solid base for the future. One aspect included the koliadnyky’s activity, and another aspect included the Barvynsky’s funeral ceremony.
V.O.: Do you remember the date of Barvynsky’s funeral ceremony?
L.H.: I do not remember. Well, this date can be ascertained. I’m sorry, but numbers, dates, and digits are my weak point3.
There was another interesting case of opposition. At one of the anniversary evenings of composer Stanislav Liudkevych everything went ad hoc and the audience demanded by applause the encores of the song “Forward, my comrades, don’t lose heart” interpreted by the men’s chorus. Moreover, instead “my homeland” they sang “my native Ukraine” as the original text suggested. The next on the program was: “Saves your honor, save your freedom”. The moment the chorus finished the applauses resounded. The officials tried to close the performance down. Then we, the conservatory students−and someone had to start−began clapping the rhythm without words, just the rhythm. And all the audience of the Philharmonic Hall picked up the rhythm and clapped the rhythm of the first stanza of that song. They sounded like prolonged applause, but it was the measured rhythm of that song.
Finally, the idea grew ripe. I think that some organizers were behind it. I think that the Horyns directed the scenario. We reckoned that it was our conservatory initiative to organize the inter-high-school student chorus. But in fact Yurko Nahirnyi and Yosyp Holyk took the lead in it. Yosyp Holyk was a surgeon and Yurko Nahirnyi was a pharmaceutist; now the latter is an Assistant Director or even a Director of the pharmaceutical factory in Lviv. These guys were already doing it consciously. And we, who could potentially have done it, were involved in it, and of course we were glad for the organized inter-high-school student chorus.
There were not only students from the institutes of higher education, but schoolchildren, but upperclassmen as well. On our own responsibility we gathered at the Conservatory for the rehearsals. We benefited from the fact that I was the faculty Komsomol secretary. Officially, the Lviv television and radio broadcasted ads passed about the organization of such chorus initiated by the Lviv City Komsomol Committee the ideological department of which was headed at the time by Yevhen Hlushko. He was an exemplary Young Communist, far from our national ideas, but maybe backed the idea for appearances’ sake, though he later refused to have anything to do with us. The chorus comprised the direct and indirect acquaintances of the choristers; however, a dozen of boys came to answer those classified ads. All of them were the right persons at the right place and time. And the inter-high-school chorus was born. Since I moved from the distant education, then, to say the truth, I was not a talented student. But as far as I headed the organizing sector of the Lviv Karpaty Club and my friends saw my organizational abilities, I carried out the managerial functions in the chorus. But since I was a musician, they occasionally allowed me to conduct.
What enjoyment did we have? We received pleasure going downtown after the rehearsal and singing Ukrainian songs, playing podolianochka and other folk games accompanied with songs. Many people used to gather around us and developed a liking for the action, including a lot of youth, and each time the crowd of participants increased. Our actions took place on the streets and in public gardens.
There were provocations. Sometimes the newcomers tried to hurt our girls; well, in this case the girls took the hottest teasers by the hand and calmed them down. Once a couple of teasers appeared from the darkness of the park and headed towards the monument to Franko instigating a brawl, so we wasted no time and quickly knocked them down, put them in a row on the ground and returned to the park. The militia never stepped in, because we politely broke up at eleven hours. But it drew a wide response, because people already knew that we had three days of rehearsals, and day by day more and more young persons took to the squares.
And then the idea occurred—now it seems to me that it occurred to me—to go to the mountainous regions and give concerts. We had good vocalists; in summer time these guys used to make money touring with various concert brigades, but in our case the officials, including the City Komsomol Committee, also promised to help financially, and they did it at first. Having manned our chorus band, which had made a name already, we started working out a program, etc. We arrived at understanding that we would present to the officials a regular program and we would also have another program in stock for a concert tour. I would like to emphasize that it was a smart idea of our managers: Yosyp Holyk, Yurko Nahirny, and Orest Ivakhiv. Although Orest Ivakhiv stayed in the background, he was an unofficial intelligent motor of our group. He overall management was well thought-out, very effective and there was nothing left hanging. Orest Ivakhiv is now a professor at the Lviv Polytechnics. These guys, these young intellectuals were our ideological live wire.
Our first performance took place at the opening of the monument to Franko in front of the Lviv University. The first public presentation of the group took place in the early September of 1963.
But later, when we went on tour there was an interesting occurrence. We agreed that we were going by train. We knew a great many Ukrainian songs and agreed to do our best and not to repeat any one of them. So we had enough songs to last from Lviv to Vorokhta, and then on our way from Vorokhta we shouldered our backpacks and made it on foot until late in the evening. And then we had to pitch our tents, and so during 8-9 hours of non-stop singing no song was repeated. There was a group from Leningrad which had answered a classified ad about the Carpathian tourism. It is a kind of a one-trip group. And there was going such one Iya Khashchynska. She was not of the same age as we: she was a woman of forty. She had a good enough voice. She looked like a Jew and she wanted very much to join our group. We admitted her to our company. She learned our repertoire, she appeared on stage together with us and this was just the finishing touch. Later it helped us out of trouble, when our chorus found itself in a pickle. That fact bailed us out.
The team was in a cheerful mood. First of all, we crossed the Chornohora Crest; we carried our instruments with us. For example, we could stop facing one shepherd and give him a half to two hours’ concert, not in tourist clothes. When we felt like giving a concert, we went behind stones and changed into native dress, in which we used to give concerts on the stage. The boys had to be shaved; everything had to be like in the case of real concert.
And then we came down the mountains to the villages in the valley. There were no preliminary arrangements. But it was that people initially fled to their villages, because, you know, they were afraid of sixty people in short pants who could allegedly boil potatoes in their jackets, steal chickens and what not. But then they saw that the guys behaved. We posted up handwritten advertisements about the concert, and in the evening people began to gather. Of course, they hoped that these youngsters would show a kind of tightrope walking, chew safety razors etc. But instead they heard the poems of Symonenko, Drach, Mamaisur, Lina Kostenko and it was a great surprise for them! And all of it we did free of charge on principle. And we finished our concert with traditional song “All will be well”. Since we had instruments, we began performing dance music, the young people stayed to dance until three to four in the morning and then we all turned in in the same club. When we got up at ten, eleven, and sometimes at twelve hours—in fact, there was no special timetable—we found near the club we found rows of bowlfuls of food and butter. We honestly ate it all, washed the bowls and wrote a note “Thank you!” and went on to the next village.
The local village councils and trade unions welcomed us, because we traveled with the billboards of City Komsomol Committee, and they considered it their duty to write down the warm words in the comments book. And it so happened that the very first review we actually prepared ourselves. And later authors of the feedback treated it as a pattern and tried to keep up with the Joneses. So we had an extremely good and warm comments book. (It was passed on to the Central Committee of the Leninist Young Communist League of Ukraine).
So we went from village to villages, gave concerts and reached… We went from Chornohora to Shebene, down the riverside of Cheremosh… we targeted at Kosmach. We knew that it was the capital of the area controlled by banderivetses… In Kosmach we gave a concert and then learned that in Sheshory they would inaugurate the monument to Shevchenko on Sunday. How did we learn? I knew about this monument because my family used to spend vacation in Sheshory and we were well acquainted with the head of the village council Mr. Volodymyr Mykhailiuk, who organized the erection of the monument to Shevchenko. At that time it was a very great sedition, because people collect the money and they risked to get a jail term for it. But you see, no one betrayed and no one squealed about the event. Well, he was a war veteran, wounded, but then he was a conscientious Ukrainian, nationally-minded, he knew what to do. I knew about this monument because every summer I came there and held classes in the club for the village chorus… these classes I had during a week or two, or three depending on the period of vacations which I spent with my mother, father, and brother. I knew that we were behind the time, that the monument had to be inaugurated a week before. But we learned in Kosmach that they were behind the schedule and the monument would be inaugurated on Sunday. Of course, we were present at the inauguration of the monument.
In the morning it became known that the local authorities were against the inauguration arguing that it was the harvest time and they were behind the schedule (and two days before they reported that the region was ahead of schedule), but there was the dedication day in the nearby village.
There gathered crowds of several thousand people. This was a resort-style village with meadows, waterfalls, where people came for the gas was not worth a straw at the time. Towards Sunday the traffic stream from Kolomyya, from Chernivtsi, from all neighborhoods headed to Sheshory.
The militia blocked all crossroads leading to Sheshory. People left the bus and found their way through forests being eager to see everything for themselves. A single person might be scared but when all passengers left the bus it was not so chilling. It was a period of thaw. And there were multitudes of people.
V.O.: And what was the name of the feast of the place?
L.H.: The Spas4, on August 19.
V.O.: So, it was on the eve of Spas? In 1965?
L.H.: Right. No, it was not on the eve of Spas… No, it was certainly on the eve of Spas on August 19.
We came, as usual, we knew that we were to participate in the inauguration of the monument, that we agreed to give a concert… and now there was this overnight ban on inauguration of the monument! Well, there was a ban, you couldn’t help it, but people rallied all the same. And the public was agitated. The cars shuttlecocked up and down the street to space out the crowd. When the car approached the crowd came apart and when it passed the people again came together. Then the instructor of Kosiv Region Committee Balanda came to me and asked us to go to the club and give a concert at the club. Well, this club was rather like a village khata: it might not sit one hundred people. You know, everyone was quick on the uptake. I had nothing to explain. I just told my people, “Boys and girls let’s go to the club and give a concert” and nobody complained that the club was too small, and nobody asked why! We had no management in the strict sense, we all were just friends.
And to the club we went. Both Yurko Nahirnyi and instructor Balanda accompanied me to the club. I blinked an eye at Yurko and swiftly went ahead, because I caught sight of approaching girls from the village chorus, with whom I had been working over the years. Yurko fooled Balanda with smooth talk, and I increased my pace to leave the company from fifteen to twenty meters behind to meet the girls and try to come up with something. I met the girls and said passingly: “Girls, we are on our way to give a concert at the club. Do something and let the club stay empty!” That’s all I said to these girls and the girls said “Will be done!” And our group proceeded to the club while these two chorus girls approached.
We went to the club and kept sitting and waiting. Fifteen minutes elapsed and nobody entered the club. The club was situated three or four hundred meters from the monument. We messed about and kept waiting but nobody came. Then the officials announced through a megaphone that there would be a concert in the club and the villagers were about to go, but the girls stopped them and asked, “Where are you going?”—“To the club.”—“There will be no concert in the club because it can sit no more than 50 people.” And here they erected a platform and prepared stands… Everything’s ready, though the bare planks were left unadorned. “Here’s the platform and the concert will take place here.” And the people returned back to the monument. The platform was erected near the monument by the riverside.
We bided our time and then at last came the same Balanda and said, “Well, well, let’s go and have your concert.” It would be good, if army were organized along the same lines! It seemed as if the girls had rehearsed it at least for a week girls. They fixed it in a split second! That only five minutes elapsed; of course, it took more than five minutes, and the whole scene was adorned with carpets, the Shevchenko’s portrait was decorated with rushnyks5, flowers, handmade adornments and what not. They fixed it in a trice! Obviously, no one needed any rehearsals to make it.
Well, we already had an official permit and we got down to work. But before we began, Chornovil, a young guy, improvised a speech. However, a very moderate one. What was the gist of it? He said that we were from Eastern Ukraine and were extremely grateful that Halychchyna and Hutsulshchyna made such a great holiday honoring our Shevchenko, who was not only ours, or yours, he belonged to the whole world… something like that. Well, for some reason, the authorities considered today that it was inappropriate to inaugurate this monument, but you would inaugurate it for yourself later; but we were very pleased that to be invited to participate.
And there were nationally-minded people from Magadan, from Karaganda, they exchanged letters and all deported and exiled timed their leaves to this very event which had taken time to prepare. Sculptor Ivan Honchar did the bust. And Hutsuls said that they preferred Shevchenko with bushy hair and not bald, they made condition about bushy hair. It is interesting that still under the Polish rule a village mason carved a monument of stone, with bushy hair. It was erected in 1939 as the Moskals6 came. The people did not expect any decree, but secretly erected that monument and the monument stood. Later Magyars7 considered it an impediment to their fire at Kovpakivetses8 and they tore the bust down. They delivered fire from the riverside. At the time the villagers hid the ruined stone monument. And so the villagers wanted Honchar to imitate that bust, which was done. Such was the historical background to the monument9.
After that we invited Tetiana Tsymbal, she was the winner of the Shevchenko contest. Our concert began with “Oh black-browed lass, don’t meddle with the Moskals”. I remember very well how she read Kateryna. And then other poems of Shevchenko followed: this was our program. Already during the concert we were approached by the officials; they saw that this was not a concert proper according to their understanding; there were no hops and jump-ups and they began to pick on the program. Well, it was difficult for them to find hitches, because the program had been endorsed by the Lviv City Committee of Komsomol. Well, it was a bit modified. Of course, this bit amounted to more than one half, but so that, for example, Kiva, Head of the Culture Department of Kosiv Region, asked me: “Whose poem is “To Osnovyanenko”?” There were such anecdotal incidents. Well, we, guys, were young, hot, quick-tempered, of course, and we taught her a lesson in public: “How can you head the department of culture, if you do not know, who was the author of the poem “To Osnovyanenko”?”
Despite the high words, we honestly brought the concert to an end. For the first time the poem “Prayer” by Pavlychko was read there: “Our Father Taras Omnipotent”. We ended the concert peacefully. They gave us flowers. Either closed or not closed the monument is the monument. When we were passing by the monument we laid those flowers. When we were laying the flowers, someone--I do not know who--of course, those were our guys who began singing “The Testament”. And these thousands of villagers caught up “The Testament”. I gave a wink at my guys and after “The Testament” we went to the Hook Waterfall: our group only and the people stayed there. As usual, “The Testament” was followed by the “Roars and Groans the Wide Dnipro” and then we sang “I Saw, I Saw a Wounded Friend”. One after another… And the huge crowd stood there and sang.
The Kolomyya doctors learned that we were giving these concerts for free collected some money among their people and brought us the whole sum. They did it under the pretext that I was a resident of Kolomyya and I was an acquaintance of theirs… We, however, declined to accept money. The first reason was that it was our principle to give free concerts, and, secondly, we were afraid that it might be a provocation. Yurko said: “Liubomyr, do you know those people?” I said: “I know that they’re allegedly our people, but I couldn’t guarantee…”—“We do not take the money, because it may be a provocation.” We politely thanked for the money and refused to accept.
When dusk began falling, two older people came up to us, they were granddads. I hadn’t met them in Sheshory, although I had a vacation there… Well, but I was young and socialized mostly with the young people; therefore I did not know them. But those two men came up and said, “Guys, you’re young, you’re smart, you’ve come here from the universities. They ban the inauguration of the monument, and let it be. We’ve done our time already. We may go and pull the string and the monument will be opened! We’ll not let them ban the recreated monument.” Well, of course, the old men were a little inebriated, to tell the truth, they did their terms and they were not scared off, they might pull a string and the cover would fall down and Shevchenko’s monument would be inaugurated! What for should it stay covered so long?
The old guys understood that it wasn’t worth doing. We began to persuade them: “Look here, we are but guests and we would leave soon, we’re nothing but snotnoses, they will either find us here or will not find.” We even thought that it would be impossible for them to find some guests from Lviv here. Who knows us? So, you know, this was a kind of naivety. “But the head of the village council has three children, they’ arrest him and who will bring a piece of bread to his children?”—“Do not worry, our village is fine and we will bring them up!” It sounded rather unconvincing… Just think: they did their terms and what? “And Mykhailiuk does not scare easily. We can pull the string all the same.”
The last argument was… I do not know who suggested the idea: Orest Ivakhiv or Yosyp Holyk, or Nahirnyi, but it sounded as follows: “You know, my dear friends, you’d rather quit the idea. Say, you pull the string and open the monument. Otherwise, you just imagine, the monument will stick out covered and everybody (and there were Poles, they had a camcorder) will know that the authorities ban the inauguration of the monument to Shevchenko. So what is better? “Let the people know, we will not pull the string.” So they concluded and went off. Moreover, to prevent such provocative opening of the monument, we in turn kept watch near the monument in groups of three or four; we sat there and the rest stayed in the club.
I just relieved a guy on duty; we pitched our camp of tents upstream from the Hook Waterfall. A young man—he was about 29 to 31 years old, something like that—came up to me and said, “Guys, I’m fresh out of Kosiv: the meeting of regional party committee has recently ended and tomorrow they will come to arrest you. Flee!” And he went away. You know, it sounded very romantic, I put two fingers in my mouth and whistled; some guys popped out from the tents, “What happened, Liubomyr? Why do you whistle?” I outlined the situation for them. Well, the first thing was to begin to pack. “Do you know the trails out of here?” I said, “Guys, I know here all trails backwards out; don’t worry and I’ll lead you out? There’s nothing for you to worry about.” And then, you know, I told them like a doctor, “Just wait! Why should we run away from here? We are on our land, from whom will we flee? We will not become fugitives: go to bed.”
Yeah, I have missed an important point. Still before dusk Chornovil brought the taped voice of Symonenko and his letters. We listened to the voice of Symonenko and read his letters; it was the illegal literature at the time.
V.O.: You mean his diary?
L.H.: The diary, sure, sorry the diary. Chornovil then went away for the overnight halt; the next day we did not see him, he went away.
We got up early; it was something like the ninth hour. There arrived a Russian-made jeep from the city party committee. And the four of us--Olga Medynska, Bohdan Antkiv (he manages the Revutsky chorus now) Yurko Nahirnyi and I—went to the regional party committee in Kosiv. The conversation was about nothing. It looked like they wanted to ask us something. However, they reproached us that in the villages we greeted people saying, “Glory to Jesus Christ”. We answered them, saying, that it was a traditional greeting there. People followed us on our way: they accompanied us from Shebene, and a drunk militiaman, or a frontier guard found fault continually why we said “Glory to Jesus Christ”. We came up for discussion, however, it led nowhere. Here we also had a lengthy futile discussion. Finally I said, “You know--this was about 01 p.m.--if we do not return to the village by 03 p.m., our people are warned that we’ve been arrested and they will go by motorcycles all over the mountains, the villages and tell that we were arbitrarily arrested.” And immediately they jeeped us back to the village. But they expressly banned all future concerts.
A few days later there was an inauguration of the monument to Rudniev in Yaremcha and we would like to give a concert there as well, but decided to return to Lviv instead. And we were short of money. Only in Lviv we learned about the arrests.
And then there were Komsomol meeting… I do not know, maybe it is not worth telling?
V.O.: No, that’s interesting: the Komsomol meeting.
L.H.: I also believe that the Komsomol meeting was very interesting. We came back, came in September to study and found commotion at the conservatory. A ruckus was raised in the conservatory that students had organized a group, that arrests were underway… all were disquieted and scared. I was summoned to the Komsomol City Committee, to the City Party Committee. They put me on a backburner for five, six, seven hours: they used to appoint a meeting time and kept me waiting in the corridor until close-of-business hour. They also might not call for me. At the time I reckoned that since I was the head, I was responsible for those people and if I said something wrong they could have been arrested.
And there existed a precedent already. Before those events I directed a girls’ chorus at the loan accounting college as I had to make some money on the side. And just earlier in spring, there was a Shevchenko concert. My girls began singing “The Testament”: the chorus performed and the audience didn’t get up. I stopped the chorus, turned to the audience, and put the Lviv audience to shame saying that the whole world gets up when they sing “The Testament”. The audience got up and we sang “The Testament”. We brought the whole concert program to the end, everything was all right, but after the concert the director called me and said, “We are very sorry, but you know yourself, you will not be able to continue to manage our chorus.” They thanked me politely, we settled the matter nicely and I felt that she sympathized with me. But it was clear that after this incident I didn’t manage that chorus; it happened earlier, in spring.
The Department of Culture took up my question, etc. Of course, all organizations turned down our propositions. And only the Head of Lviv Department of Culture tolerated us; she was Belarusian, her name was Sharhorodska, if memory serves me right. She said: “I know these guys, they are very good guys.” She battled for our interests to the end. However, later she was sacked, but it happened a little later. This woman did not give up on us: she said that she personally took care of us.
Everything started with the piano faculty, at the meeting, because there were also pianists. The issue was brought up and Professor Edelman, a Jew, took the floor, “Wait, comrades--as it was a proper address formula then—up to now they were our best student activists. Speculations are rife that they did something. What do we know about it? Let’s convene a meeting, let them stand up and say, and let those that accuse them have their say, and let them speak in their defense and explain what they’re doing if they did something shameful. And we will together consider in that situation.” So, it was decided that the meeting will be convened and we will try to make ourselves understood.
Of course, the culture department told us that there will be no such chorus. I let my hair down because the official pounded on the table, “I told you that the chorus will be no more.” And I in my turn, well, a snot, pounded on the table, “And I tell you that it will exist. If you do not give us a room, we will gather in the park, we can stay awake until the eleventh hour, we do not sing rowdy songs; will you forbid that?” However, all of it was nothing but a childish prattle, the youthful fervor protesting against the policy of prohibiting. It was an understandable youth explosion.
They kept putting the Komsomol meeting off, and at long last the Komsomol meeting to hear reports and elect new officials was held. It took place on the eve of October Holiday. The Komsomol meeting to hear reports and elect new officials. The secretary of the Oblast Komsomol Committee came and suggested to drop the issue from the agenda, “There is a chance that your chorus will exist; we will consider the matter if you do not raise this question at your meeting.” I said: “Well, if the chorus will exist I will not raise this question. Let it be.”
Before that there was an interesting occurrence when I among my photographic negatives found the negatives of illegal literature. We then reread it. So I looked and immediately saw that it was a letter of Dziuba, his response to the statement of one such Aksionov about the Kyiv Shevchenko Museum: “Yes, the building is perfect: these premises might be used for a university or hospital.” Another document was about the celebration of the Anniversary of Lesia Ukrayinka, there was also Symonenko’s diary; all of it made the rounds, and I myself saw those negatives. But in my room there were three my friends with me who had seen the documents. My things lay usually hugger-mugger; nevertheless I noticed that my negatives were kept in a wrong order. I opened the container and noticed it. There was Oles Gerega in the room; I knew that he had spent two weeks under investigation in Ternopil. He is a conductor now, blood brother of Igor Gerega, a museum worker. I knew that he had been under investigation. I did not know whether he cracked; even then, we got the hang of things little by little. There were two more guys who looked like jolly fellows, but we were not always able to tell cheese from chalk. What should be done with that negative? I gathered all students present in the dorm lobby and said that someone had planted it in my room, but nobody had been imprisoned because of my kin and I wouldn’t make a blunder. I had no idea who had hidden it: either one of my fellows who tried to save his bacon, or the KGB who wanted to incriminate me. I burnt those negatives in front of all the students in the dorm. This was an interesting incident. Later I analyzed the occurrence and concluded that perhaps it was no accident.
Finally the Komsomol meeting to hear reports and elect new officials was held. Everything as it should be, I was still the secretary of the faculty and attended all sorts of instructions. As the secretary I submitted my reports on Komsomol work. I never touched upon this issue. But the representative of the Oblast Committee of Komsomol failed to coordinate things with our party bureau, and those present began dropping remarks: “Quit putting up British Parliament here, tell us better how you disgraced us there” etc. I then turn to the Komsomol meeting and ask to let me not to stick to the time limit and I’ll dwell upon this point. The secretary sitting in the presidium said, “I reckon we’ve come to an agreement about it.” I said, “Excuse me, Comrade Secretary, but I have to be justified, otherwise everyone will think that we really did something lamentable.”
And I began to expand on the subject. But first I made him read a letter from Iya Khashchynska from Leningrad, who kept us company. On the eve of the October Holiday she sent us a congratulatory letter telling what wonderful people we were, how we welcomed her, she also mentioned the friendship among people, and what not. In her sincere letter she suggested to bring her friends with her next year so that they would come to know us better. This was the letter containing the October Holiday greetings.
But before that, during our tour, there was a regrettable incident, and maybe later it turned out that it was not regrettable. She performed with us, but, you know, in the company--I do not want to name the guy now, he later wished he had thought of it better, because he was a harsh person, and he commented on her ethnicity--we did not know the details of that conversation, we learned it by chance, but later they told me that he had insulted her. We learned about it and drew him out of the company, because we were friends together and he had no right to insult her. Therefore we ousted him. She learned about it, waved down a car, overtook him on the road, and brought him back; it was after Kryvorivnia. She came back, “I beg you--of course, she said it in Russian—do not do it, I do not want to stir it up among you, I understand everything…” That’s the way it was.
After that incident we spent several evenings together, and Yurko Nahirnyi and I told her about our holding a prejudice against the Moskals. She understood everything in a right way, which resulted in the above letter from Leningrad.
I made them read that letter at the meeting. Because the accusations were without basis and included unverified info on a group of students singing in Kosiv banned nationalist songs, stopping traffic on the main Lenin Street in Kosiv; they also alleged that being asked in Russian we called a man a scum, rascal and urged him to go back where he came from, etc. They read these accusations at the meeting, when I began to report on the case of the chorus and several concerts we gave. I read aloud from the visitors’ book. I justified myself telling that we did nothing wrong. And then this letter was read which was followed by charges contained in the official letter of the regional party committee; I had to answer now by the disposition of angels. How could I prove that they got it all wrong? I said that I was a slowcoach and that I should sort it out myself. But there was this.
I explained that we were invited by the party organization of the Verkhovyna timber works to give several concerts in the mountains. We were driven by car because workers there never heard good concerts. They thanked us officially. After that everyone was terribly tired. All guys went to waterfalls in Kosiv and we, three of us, went to replenish foodstuffs for the next day. Three of us could not stop the traffic. Moreover, I said, “All this is unconvincing, because the street traffic is banned altogether on the street, where we allegedly interfered with traffic, where we humbled a man and sang forbidden songs: it was Lenin Street in the resort town.” So I immediately said, “That’s a lie.” It kind of escaped me: “That’s a lie.” You see, the party document was officially received, and this punk standing on the podium at Komsomol meeting and claims it a lie. My wings had grown and I felt a fresh surge of energy and said: "You can now bring down those road signs, but all residents in Kosiv know that they were there at the time, so that’s a lie. This is not a party document but it is a lie.”
The oblast Komsomol committee man sitting on the panel wanted to take the floor: " What kind of Komsomolets is he and why does he study at the conservatory?” One Vietnamese student raised his hand and said: “I’ve got a proposal. If comrade secretary goes on behaving like that, we will vote to oblige him to quit our meeting.” And this was the representative of the Lviv Oblast Komsomol Committee! It’s not a village and one should behave himself. End of the story. He sat down, and was humbler than the dust.
Then a Bulgarian rose to speak (we were in the same basketball team) and apologized to the meeting that he had been almost persuaded that we really had been crooks and treated foreigners badly. He apologized to us that he could think of us badly. And he said: “I realized so that we’ve gathered here to at least award them diplomas. Others usually go to make money, and these guys traveled to give free concerts.” And so on: the meeting went astray.
If I kept silence, refused to open my mouth… but it was the Komsomol meeting to hear reports and elect new officials. Bohdan Ankiv took floor as well. He delivered a carefully speech; he was a balanced, composed, and calm guy. Though younger than me, he was already a student. He served his time in the army, however he still was the youngest of us, but he was an even-tempered guy. He put a single question: “How did you happen to go there?” It looked like an acrid remark; we were not airborne with enemy copters: we were students carrying out the task of the city Komsomol committee to give concerts. Such was his acid reply. He decided to breather not a single word more, but somebody asked, “Well, if so, how did you help?” He answered: “The representative of the City Party Committee officially asked us to give a concert to draw off the attention of the crowd from the monument, and we gave this concert and fulfilled the request of the Secretary of the City Party Committee and thereby helped the party organs.” It was a very well thought-out and calm answer.
Then the Komsomol bureau reelection took place. They read the whole list of candidates. I again raised my hand, because as the secretary of the Komsomol faculty committee I attended all instructions, and said, “Do you not know that two days ago there was the official strict instruction to avoid proposing the list of candidates?” That’s all. The meeting votes to let nomination by name. And, can you beat it that every suggestion promoted somebody of our company to the Komsomol bureau. It threw everybody into confusion… I spoke, there was one such Zhanna Sorokina, a good musician from Drohobych, it seems, her father worked there. We were not buddy-buddies. She wasn’t an activist (we already knew what it meant to be active); I spoke against her rather sharply: Why should we elect her to the bureau, she should not be there. In short, the meeting tried to press such candidates through.
They also submitted the nomination of a guy from Chernivtsi school: I cannot remember his name. Toward the anniversary of Liudkevych the students collected money to buy a bunch of flowers, and he in student’s manner said that our money would be good for Liudkevych only for the last wreath, something like it. The students flew into a rage against him and even broached to expel him from the Conservatory for Liudkevych was a living legend, the students loved him terribly. It went without saying. And such guy was nominated to the bureau! He was blue-slipped, and Zhanna went through. Why am I talking about it? Because everything is interconnected. In the end I raised my hand and said, “How are we to vote? Just count the komsomoletses in the room.” The audience included now not only komsomoletses or conservatory students but numbers of strangers who were informed about the Komsomol meeting. There but a few komsomoletses only. The oblast committee secretary tries to address the audience but the audience catcalled him; it took place in such ideological institution as the conservatory! I went on “Our meetings powerless, because there are not enough conservatory students, the latter make less than one half of the audience, the voting is not valid.” They began to count then, made the meeting valid, and elected the bureau.
As usual, now they had to expel members from the League. The Bureau was about to expel us from the Komsomol. Hryts Holyk, the undergraduate conservatory student, and me, the third-year student, were expelled from the Komsomol. It is clear that after that the expel from the conservatory followed. But Hryts was protected by Russian teacher of conducting Dolgova. She said: “I know this guy, if he had slipped once, he can still make up for it.” So, she lended a helping hand to him as an undergraduate. She was a war vet and she defended him.
In the meantime the first-department officials from Lviv Polytechnic summoned guys for conversation and concluded that nothing special had happened, and left them alone. They parted peacefully.
Yuri Nahirnyi was sent for by the Lviv Medical Institute party organization secretary; she said that she was there and saw everything for herself, she saw nothing wrong, but beware, guys. And this case was also laid away.
And we had a little bit different case. First, Rector Kolessa was absent and Yevhen Kozak held office10. And Yevhen Kozak was our man, especially since he once did his term and was a political prisoner. He called for me and spoke with me not in his office but in the hallway; he said, “Liubomyr, my boy…” And he, when I lived in Barvynsky’s apartment, came to visit professor and therefore already knew me. So, he said, “You know, my child, I must punish you.” The case in question was that as far as he had to punish, he couldn’t hesitate, because the Conservatory was in need of people like him, like Yevhen Vakhnyak. It so happened that I had to be expelled for a period from a month till six months, and afterwards to be re-established. I understood it very well, consciously understood, and there were no problems there. He asked: “Who else was there with you?” I answered, “Yevhen Teodorovych, I can tell you who was, it was no secret, but it seems that it is not of the essence, because it is important to give a formal reply that the guilty ones were punished. And it makes no difference whether there was one person or ten.” It did not matter.
At the time Malanchuk was in Lviv and was rebuked for it11. He was rebuked, because there was made an inquiry about the much-talked-of group, but it in late August, and no information was available: a Lviv group, Lviv students, God knows what students. By the time we got back, by the time they cooked a case Malanchuk was rebuked. We, however, tried to turn to him to save the chorus. But he ran away from us. We walked through the front door, and he escaped through the rear door, even though we knew that he had been in the office. Well, skip it. Such conflicts we had.
And Yevhen Teodorovych acted very cleverly and wisely. He issued an order. According to the paragraph one I was rebuked for violations of the administrative instructions. It was neither a reprimand, nor formal reprimand to be recorded in my personal file. Violation is a trifle. Say, I might fiddle in the hallway, they admonished me but I went on fiddling. That could be. This was the first paragraph. There were many paragraphs, and the last paragraph read as follows: for a good job in the children’s opera studio (for a while I busied myself with children, I loved it and at the Conservatory I organized the children’s opera studio) official thanks were due to me, even with the cash prize. That means that this paragraph rescinded the reprimand. And the extract from the order for the oblast party committee quoted only the first paragraph. And they were happy after all. Maybe they also knew that, but they were satisfied that there were punished persons and there was an end to it.
But now Kolessa returned from a business trip. We terribly honored and loved him as a musician and conductor, and to this day I appreciate this musician. If truth be told, he taught me a lot, though he was not my teacher proper. And then he was Ukrainian, God-fearing man, under no circumstances he might be an enemy or something… he was a Ukrainian, very fearful though. He did his best to develop Ukrainian culture, and none could wish to manage it better, because his was a major contribution to the Ukrainian music. I’ve told it only to assert that I don’t feel hurt by him and I admire him truly.
But I went to see him and apologize for what had happened and to tell that we were innocent, that we understood that the conservatory could have some trouble because of us, but we were not to blame for the attack on us and we had to defend. But he told me that we should let every sheep hang by its own shank. It was distressing for me to hear and I said, “Mykola Filaretovych, we did mind our business as students of the conductors’ faculty of the Conservatory. We organized a student chorus… and what about you, when you were young?” You know, that fearful man turned white! You organized choruses “Boyan” and “Surma”! When the Central Committee of Komsomol expressed commendations you did not call for me to say that we should let every sheep hang by its own shank and you’d better study! Yes, I was not a strong student, but not a mediocre student as well.”—“Will you go on sticking your neck in the noose?” I answered: “I won’t do specifically that but I will do everything that depends on me as far as I am a leader, so that people are not affected, so that they are not thrown out of the conservatory, so that they are not ultimately imprisoned, because we did nothing wrong; I have to defend myself and protect my comrades, because we are not to blame.”—“You may go now.”
In about an hour later they put up the order about my expulsion from the conservatory. And on the morning of the second day there was an order about removal him from the rectorship. He knew about it because he returned from Kyiv and already knew that he was not the rector. It was one of the last orders of Kolessa: about my expulsion.
V.O.: Had his removal anything to do with your case?
L.H.: People did try to associate both events, but in fact they were unrelated. Or maybe they were related. Maybe it was the last straw. For he, nevertheless, held the Lviv Conservatory in the national spirit, in traditional style, so that he could be fired even without that. And perhaps, indeed, that the conservatory students organized such seditious chorus and that was the last straw, and possibly the cause. I cannot make the right conclusion now.
Then the same City Komsomol Committee called for me and told me to get out of Lviv in the course of three days.
Earlier there happened an indicative event. Ivan Ostafiychuk, who is now the world-famous artist, did not keep company with us. He was an artist and was usually busy painting. But when Horyn and others were imprisoned, he came up to me and said, “Liubomyr, you know, I need money. The printing house has exhausted its resources and it is short of printout paper. You have connections among the Lviv families and you might help the guys out.” I was an old stager, and said, “Ivan, you have not told me this. You need money and I’ll lend you money. When you have, you will repay. In a few days I’ll lend you.” I do not remember the amount now, but I know that for me it was a lot of money for my pockets were cram-full. But it is significant that every family of Lviv intelligentsia I turned to… Due to Barvynsky and due to the Sterniuks I was received as of their own kind; I just went and asked for money saying: “Please, lend me money.” Nobody asked what for. “How much, Liubomyr, do you need?”—“Well, as much as you can give.” Nowhere was I asked what for.
I was told to get out of Lviv. And people wanted me to go to some other conservatory. I was given references by professors Antkiv, Liudkevych, Vakhniak, Kozak for presentation at any conservatory of the Soviet Union, except for Leningrad and Moscow. I could not afford to make it in because I was aware that I was not a strong student, and it would be a shame if I represented Lviv, Ukraine, because I had to be a representative then. They would perceive me as the representative of Ukraine. I knew that I would be a teacher in an educational organization, I liked it, I was strongly attracted to this, and I understood that I could not be a good musician and I could not afford myself to go.
But after all this ballyhoo I went to the Komsomol Central Committee in Kyiv in order to justify myself, be rehabilitated and restored in the Komsomol, etc. In the office there sat a forty-year-old woman, short haircut, gray-haired, totally white, and one more instructor. His last name was Vyshnevsky or Vyshnevetsky, in my opinion, it was Vyshnevsky. I gave them an account of events, and then he told me that he was not able to talk with me and suggested to meet at three o’clock, and I left. I left there all my documents and materials. He overtook me on the road where there is now a monument to Princess Olga, and said: “I beg you to tell me whether anyone of your family was arrested?” I said: “My father was killed in action in UIA, and my mother did the term of ten years.”—“Sorry, I do not know if I can help you in such situation.” I replied, “I thank you. You could be very helpful indeed. I will not turn to you anymore because you are more important here, than I was there, at the conservatory. Please, leave it as it is because I won’t make a nuisance of myself anymore.” This settled, we parted. We never met again and I know nothing more.
Then I heard at the oblast committee that this lady took an interest in this case, but I did not go to meet her again. I thought that if these people received me in such a manner, they were our-own-not-our-own people and I’d better don’t cross them up.
Of course, I went from Lviv to Kolomyya, and played with the idea to move away from Lviv. My parents supported me: my mother and my sworn father, of course, they were fighters, they never blamed me. My mother was rather restrained at first, and my sworn father supported me immediately, and uncle Arsen, also a UIA fighter, “Liubomyr, the KGB will grab you all the same.” And they instructed me how to behave, what to say, how to respond, what their tactics was: the exhaustive directions.
A few days later I walked about the city and met Eduard Olexandrovych Lukasevych, who was a school headmaster, he was a former secretary of the city party committee. In the past they urged me to work at the city Komsomol committee, but I refused saying that the paperwork would kill me; I preferred to work with children, I liked to sing, to play violin, I wouldn’t agree to go. He was a school principal at the time: “I have heard Liubomyr that something happened to you. What do you think to do now?” And I said, “What can I think? I am a teacher, I can do nothing else. I want to be a teacher, but nobody will employ me here, so I think to go elsewhere.”—“Why leave?” I said: “Eduard Olexandrovych, nobody will employ me here.”—“Why do you think so?”—“I know for sure.”—“Well, would you like to get a job at the first school?” This was the leading oblast school at the time. “Who will take me there?”—“Turn up for work tomorrow.”
I turned up for work the next morning and so I became a teacher. And I worked there for a long time… and in 1989-1990, I became a tutor in gymnasium, and that was my new epic.
V.O.: And what is your current position?
L.H.: Now I am a headmaster at the industrial-pedagogical college. Not everything went smoothly. The NUC, our nationalist and national organizations nominated me for the head of the oblast department of culture. I had proper references and was about to apply for the job. All of a sudden the Head of the Oblast Department of Education Mr. Dzvinchuk (at the time he was a caretaker of the Humanities Department because Skrypnychuk was on vacation) read my documents and said, “Hrabets, ouch, I have been looking for you all day long, but it is urgent no more. It is not urgent because I wanted to offer you the position of the head of the department of educational work at the board of education. But they nominate you for the head of the department of culture, which post is equivalent to mine. Therefore I will not propose you the position three steps lower, when you are about to pass through to a higher post.”
But I realized that I was still closer to education. I went to the department and consulted with women who worked in that department. There worked Vira Parypa, daughter of a priest, who was my guardian angel all those years and did not let to eat me up even as a music teacher. I agreed to the job to manage educational department at the board of education. We were a good team together: we didn’t separate our tasks and fulfilled our objectives by combined effort.
We then launched a patriotic expedition to the Chorny Forest. The URP initiated and education department backed the contest dedicated to the Kruty events “Young Ukraine” and “Bonfire of Memory” that I had promoted still as a gymnasium tutor. Then followed the UIA anniversary: it was proposed to light a bonfire of memory on the Feast of Intersession in every place where there had been fortified localities and secret places. We gave the schools a task to organize historic museum of their village, their neighborhood, otherwise we didn’t take into account their educational work. If there is no museum, the school is not functioning properly. There was such a wave. We subdued the wrong tendency of “depoliticization of school”. It was absurd, but there was even the decision of the session of the Oblast Rada on depoliticization of educational institutions. We won: there should be departization12 and there cannot be depoliticization. Then the youth organizations, including the Plast, refused the services of tutors, who were young pioneer organizers and Komsomol leaders. In this was the authorities cut off the professionals. We managed to convince them that they were wrong because some professionals were eager and able to work and they may not be separated from children. Moreover, there emerged an idea that, say, Plast could meet wherever they wanted, but not at school so that the school management could not control the organization. We suppressed this idea as well. For where should those children gather: should they join tipplers at the club? They should gather at school. Well, a city with several schools can provide some premises for the Plast. And what is about the villages?
We did our best. There were, of course, some difficulties, but the masswork lacks sufficient personnel. But let it be.
After they combined the pedagogical school with the technical school, I felt that was wrong. I’m not young, I reckoned, I cannot be a tutor forever, the job needs a younger specialist. So I was offered and I agreed and went to work as the headmaster of the industrial-pedagogical college. Not long after, the rector of the Prykarpattia University wanted to bring this structural unit complete control with no legal status. For Kolomyya is a good point to pump money. We rebelled against it because they intended to close down the industrial department. This was, in fact, a vocational school. These children would not go to a university; otherwise these five hundred guys would flood the streets or become barrow-boys… Not all of them are well-bred, someone does not want to study, someone is on the verge of criminality, some of them are from single-parent families, and such is the contingent of vocational schools. Anyhow five hundred children keep themselves busy. You will see our folks. I can see how with every action, every event these kids try to get on in the world. Someone may get uptight, but mostly I’m happy with them. I see progress in the minds of these children, because they can hear it nowhere else.
It was a difficult situation to untangle, because the head of oblast state administration and rector of the university were on casual terms with the then minister of education and together they backed this idea, and here among them popped up this newly-fledged principal with a two-and-a-half-year experience who didn’t know them really well. It was really hard, but the ministerial personnel treated me very well. I do not know why. I am extremely grateful to those who supported me in the ministry. This very ministry administered hundreds of such schools, and I was a lightweight in the trade, this was not a top-level technical college, but these folks helped: Kolomyya boasts a teachers college and Pedagogical Institute, and the college we regained preserving its legal status. Any management is not everlasting: yesterday it was Kononenko, today Hrabets, and tomorrow there will be someone else. The very idea is good: Kolomyya is worth having such an institution, and the idea is implemented now. Not so, as we would like, of course, but it’s a matter of people who will implement it.
I wanted to stay at the teachers college because I was a musician. I asked them to leave me there even as a guard because my mom studied here in the ‘20s at the teachers’ seminar, then I went there, then my child went to study there. They did me an honor and left me a headmaster here. We train carpenters, masons… I am a headmaster, but I am separated from music and from the musical pedagogy. It’s a pity, because I put my shoulder to the wheel and I still have a lot to say to people, but the managerial work preoccupies my attention.
There was one very interesting occurrence. When I still worked as a teacher, they announced the all-union seminar on music. At the time it was fashionable to go to the mountains, to the Carpathians. Vira Parypa who then worked at the regional department of education brought out our school. But the Head of the Department of Agitation and Propaganda of the Oblast Committee of the Communist Party Lykhachova told her: “Chose any school you like, but not one with Hrabets!” So she went to take risks. She brought the commission from Moscow to the worst oblast schools around. They returned to the oblast party committee and said, “You have no place to conduct the workshop.” Then she said, “You may also go to the first school in Kolomyya.” And they concluded afterwards: “Oh, it makes a great difference.” The workshop comprised our good schools: Utoropy, Pavlivka, and Tysmenytsia, which were indicative of modern trends. Why am I saying this? I’d like to bring out the fact that this Vira risked her position and backed a persecuted man like me. The first school always came to the fore and its achievements stared in the face. And Lukasevych supported me. We kept up with one another and supported one another.
As usual, the organs did not lose sight of me all those years. They tried to recruit such an attractive candidate: father was a UIA colonel, mother did a ten-year term, priestly family, and almost all were arrested. And in my student days I made a slip; that was a nice pretext to make a whistle-blower. I maintained that I was not fit for this: if I had anything to say, I would tell it right in someone’s face. And when they treated me badly, I threatened that I would find the possibility to apply to Andropov and inform people abroad. I said: “If I’m a criminal, you can imprison me. But if I’m not a criminal, let me work in peace, because I am needed more as a teacher, then a KGB stoolie.” And then these events began…
And when the first democratic elections came, and I kept keys to all classes, where the election staff was located. I deliberately went for it. During the preparation for the first democratic elections the high school no. 1 was singled out as pre-election staff for several reasons.
1. There were a sufficient number of classes of classes where we could place radio sets and tape recorders to jam the possible bugs in conference rooms.
2. There were no buildings nearby, where they could install distant detectophones.
3. The school employed a friendly guy, that is me, who hadn’t been in the public eye after the Sheshory events.
Maybe to my shame, but during my teaching I did not read any illegal literature. Only in Ivanychuk’s apartment I read in manuscript “The Cranberry Cry.” I didn’t like even to touch anything. Maybe I was wrong. It wasn’t a matter of fear (maybe of fear as well and therefore I reproach myself now), but the matter of valuing my job as a teacher. I was aware that I was a no-good politico, but I knew for sure that I was a good teacher, and I wanted to do something as such. I condemn myself out of my own mouth that I would rather be a standby with our guys who lifted up the horn. I cannot even now determine whether I cried craven making the only acceptable for me decision to resort to teaching which I wouldn’t exchange not for love nor money. If this may be interpreted as my sin, then I am a sinner. And to forestall the backbiting I’d better verbalize it myself and say that I understand it.
V.O.: Thank you, your story is very interesting. Our whole history is made up of human lives.
L.H.: I’ve always been surrounded by smart, dedicated and nationally conscious people.
V.O.: You are lucky.
It was Mr. Liubomyr Hrabets. And this conversation has been not so much conducted as enjoyed Vasyl Ovsiyenko. It took place in the house of Mr. Myroslav Symchych in the town of Kolomyya on March 20, 2000.
1 Koliadnyk (pl. Koliadnyks) is a group of singers of Christmas carols that make the round of dwellings carrying Christmas attributes and sacks for donations. In Ukrainian this process is called koliaduvannia. Koliaduvannia is an ancient Slavic festivity of Sumerian origin, which was much later adopted by the Church (translator’s note).
2 Ukrainian folk name of Epiphany Holiday (translator’s note).
3 Vasyl Barvynsky died on June 9, 1963 – V.O.
4 The Ukrainian folk name for the Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ (translator’s note).
5 Rushnyk is a Ukrainian embroidered towel (translator’s note).
6 Historical Ukrainian term for Russians and soldiers of Imperial army; now sounds derogatory (translator’s note).
7 Hungarians (translator’s note).
8 Kovpakivets was a member of NKVD guerilla units headed by Sydir Kovpak (translator’s note).
9 For the details of the background information see the interview of Yaroslav Hevrych. – V.O.
10 Professor Mykola Filaretovych Kolessa was the rector of the Lviv Conservatory from 1953 to 1965 – V.O.
11 Valentyn Yukhymovych Malanchuk was the Secretary for Ideology of the Lviv Oblast Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine in 1963-1967. – V.O.
12 Ban on party activities at public institutions (translator’s note).