HEL Ivan Andriyovych
V. Ovsiyenko: On June 25, 2003 Vakhtang Kipiani and Vasyl Ovsiyenko interview Ivan Hel at the TV Center on 42, Melnykivska Street, Kyiv.
I.Hel: I am Ivan Hel, my patronymic is Andriyovych; I was born on July 17, 1937 in the Village of Klitsko, Horodok Region, Lviv Oblast. Here are my early personal data. I was born into a peasant Christian Greek Catholic family. My father, having 17 years of age (he was born in 1901), volunteered as a UHA rifleman, accompanied combatant units and participated in hostilities against the Poles. This fact speaks for itself. Dad tried to imbue me with his ideas. Moreover, in 1950 my father was arrested as an undercover liaison officer of the District OUN Security Service Commander (information from the KGB archives). He supplied the underground military network with lumber and foodstuffs and treated Supradistrict OUN Commander Oles Olhovy, alias Cheremkha.
My mother’s name is Fevroniya Tershakovets. In Halychyna, I’m not talking of Horodok Region only, the very word Tershakovets weighs a lot. Hryhoriy Tershakovets, born in 1887, was the founder of “Prosvita” in Komarnia and neighboring villages as well as ambassador to Halychyna Sejm from 1913 and up to the collapse of Austria. Then, after the occupation, the Halychyna population boycotted Polish elections. From 1928 to 1939, i.e. up to the collapse of Poland, the Ukrainians participated in the elections and he was ambassador to the Diet for eleven years. Hryn Tershakovets was also the founder of “Silsky Hospodar”. Interestingly enough: in 1990 I went to invite Patriarch Mstyslav, when he first arrived from America to Ukraine, to attend the inauguration of the memorial plaque honoring Sich Riflemen, and he asked me: “Mr. Ivan, where are you from?” I said: “From Klytsko”−“Where is it?” He certainly failed to remember. I said, “It’s near Komarne, a nearby village.”−“Wait, wait, near Komarne there is a Village of Yakymchytsi.” I said: “Right, this is one parish and one Village Rada.”−“And do not you know who Hryhoriy Tershakovets is? He resided there. He is older than you.” I said, “Right, and my mother is Fevroniya Tershakovets.” He hugged me and said, "Well, I was in your village, because I knew Hryn Tershakivtsiv personally, he was deputized to the Polish Sejm from UNDO, and I was an independent deputy from Volyn. My wife lived in Lviv and we used to go there. “Thus, in 1990−it’s a small world−I think the Providence threw us together with Patriarch Mstyslav. Aren’t you knocked all of a heap that the odious Greek Catholic has friendly relations with the Orthodox Patriarch?
Maybe, I have to say this out loud on television today. All and everybody consider me an odious ruiner of Orthodoxy and restorer of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. In fact, I chaired the Committee for Protection of the Greek Catholic Church and was a rabid struggler against Orthodoxy, but Muscovite Russian Orthodoxy. But I was the godfather of the Committee for the Revival of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. Bohdan Myhailechko was the Chairman of the Committee, and Yevhen Sverstiuk was its member, and there were also some more people from Kyiv whose names I do not remember now. I already knew that the UGCC was my native and holy Church. But you cannot bring the ideas of Uniate Church to the East for the believers there consider them unacceptable. We in Halychyna were aware that without Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church one cannot create the independent Ukrainian state in the full sense of the word. And we were always fighting for the state. Therefore I offered Bohdan Myhailechko to create and helped him to form the Committee for the revival of Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. But we may talk about if later. Let us return to the pedigree.
So, I’ve named my father, my mother and Hryn Tershakivets. He was my mother’s uncle. My mother married Andriy and so became Hel Fevroniya. And Zynoviy Tershakovets, son of Hryn, mother’s second cousin was Territorial OUN Commander and Buh Military Region Commander, a third officer in the hierarchy after Shukhevych and Vasyl Kuk for he was also the Chief of Lviv Territorial Command. He was killed in action in 1948. My two aunts−to make it clear for the reader−they are my mother’s two sisters, Hanka, as they say here in Halychyna, became sister-Basilian Agneta, that is a nun. Among other things, she also helped the underground. She became a nun back in 1942 at that, when she was 16 years old. And My Aunt Daryna or Darka, as we called her, become a nun of the Order of St. Basil the Great in 1946, when the crackdown on underground began and it was necessary to hide because she was spotted as a UNO communication agent.
So you can see for yourself: my mother Fevroniya Tershakovets, Professor Mykhailo Tershakovets recognized by American Diaspora as a major literary critic of the twentieth century who had in Halychyna free access to the Metropolitan Sheptytsky, Hrynko Tershakovets, Zynoviy Tershakovets, Hanna Tershakovets and Dariya Tershakovets. All of them were deeply religious. There were two nuns, and it could not become ex nihilo. They needed to conform to certain moral standards, have solid reasons and internal call.
And also this conspicuous fact: my Dad belonged to temperance society, was deputy chairman of “Prosvita”. You also know what “Prosvita” means in Halychyna. He was also a member of the “Vidrodzhennia” Society, which was a temperance co-op. Therefore, the christening party in my name was held without a drop of horilka. There was a barrel of beer brought out by my godfather and for the first time−it took place in 1937−at the christening party the music was played not by folk trio but by trendy Gramophone. When I used to come to the village−of course, there are no witnesses of the time and I certainly do not remember my christening party−the villagers told me: “Ivan, when you were born, they played Gramophone at your christening party. At the time of German rule you did not walk barefoot; even in summer you wore shoes”. “Usually in all villages people walked barefoot. It means we were well off. My Dad subscribed a newspaper and in the evening people used to come to us and it testifies to the degree of commitment. I stress once more: our family was deeply religious, extremely active and patriotic. In 1936, apparently before pregnancy, my mother participated in the tremendous one-hundred-thousand-strong rally organized by “Sokil” and “Prosvita” in Lviv on the Sokil-father Square in honor of Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky. They were dressed in the Ukrainian national clothes and performed various exercises. That is it was an activist family constantly advocating the cause of our village, powiat, and Halychyna…
HOW I WAS TAUGHT
I think that the reader will take interest in the following as well. Childhood. 1945, I was 8 years old, we were going to school. I went to the third grade. Under Germans I finished the first grade. And Dad, as usual, put me on the right track at home: "If you study well, you will advance from grade to grade, but if not, you will remain a dumb guy and know-nothing repeater”. And here came the Russians, 1944. They established the following routine: the first graders should once more go to the first grade, fifth graders should once more go to the fifth grade, and ninth graders to the ninth grade due to introduction of a new methodology of education and a new curriculum. I balked at making it: “I will not go to the third grade again. You taught me not to become a repeater and now you want me to submit to new orders. Am I dumb?” And I was really an overachieving pupil. My Dad gave me a smack, but went to the school principal. At the time the school principal−my first teacher Mariya Yusych−was the district leader of the OUN. In the underground, of course, while legally she worked as a teacher and school principal. She said, “Mr. Hel let him go; now we’re at war and nobody will keep an eye on it. If he hacks it−putting it in modern vernacular−he’ll advance, if not, he will become a repeater already as a senior pupil”. So I went on hacking it.
After the war all of us grokked weapons. We knew Degtyaryov machine gun, Schmeisser, PPSh, F1 hand grenade, hand grenade and so on, as well as mines, cannon shells, etc., because there was war. The boys learned it in the first place. And then one of my classmates said, apparently not realizing the operating principle of the arms: “And our guerrillas have long arms for the long-range fire”. I answered: "Our guys have Schmeissers and PPSh, as well as ten-shooter carbines.”−“Stuff and nonsense: they have long rifles with bayonets.” I said “Nay”. Though he was my classmate, he was older than I, he was born in in 1935, and I was two years younger. Then he said: “Stop pulling my leg! They have long weapons.” And then I retorted, "You stop pulling my leg; yesterday they came at nighttime and I did see their weapons." One teacher overheard this boyish dispute.
I do not I remember how many nights passed indeed: one night or two. Usually, when the guerillas came to our khata, we used blankets to curtain the windows securing a blackout and only then we lighted a lamp for there was no electricity yet. And when the guerrillas used to come, my mother always turned my head to the pillow, “Just turn your head and drop off to sleep”; and the child obediently turned to the wall so as not to see the goings on at home. And then they woke me up and my mother told me: “Get up, Ivan, the guerrillas have come.” I jumped, and there stood this one who always took me in his arms, permitted to hold his weapons, to aim, and I admired him because he had shoulder belt, mazepynka on his head, trident, hand grenades hung on his belt and a German fixed bayonet. So, with a strict look he approached me: “And you wanted to be a guerilla? You’re a traitor!” And I said, “What do you mean by traitor? I am a guerilla." They used to take me in their arms, “Ivas (or Ivan), will you join guerrillas?” Maybe, this man had his own children, liked them and easily communicated with children: “Will you join guerrillas?”−“I will! I’ll be a guerilla!” And now he called me a traitor. I was indignant and lost my temper: “What do you mean by traitor? I’ve never been a traitor!”−“You’re a traitor, and we will try you now!”−“What!”—I was outraged.—“It is impossible!”−“What did you blabber at school yesterday or the day before yesterday?” I said: "I said nothing special.”−“Stuff and nonsense! You said what the guerillas had in service. You rightly insisted that we had short arms, but why did you betray info on out nightly visits here? Do you understand that you betrayed us?” I insisted: “I betrayed nobody.” Then the commander explained: “Your words were overheard by other people, and if they squealed on it to the rangers, you blabber might be considered a betrayal, therefore you cannot be a guerilla from now on. And we will not come here anymore, and to you also.” Of course, they came to my father and to my mother to get provisions, change into laundered clothes and even get some information, but: “We will not visit you anymore because you’ve betrayed us, and we will try you now as a traitor.” My mother stuck up for me, “He didn’t do it on purpose, and he’ll come to normal.” And my Dad was silent, too, looking at me severely. "Comrade Cheremkha, what do you think?" Comrade Cheremkha said: “We should cut off his tongue so that he will not betray us to Muscovites in the future.” In the meantime I hid myself under the down bed and shed tears, because I was just an eight-year child. They started dragging me out and I resisted and tried to kick them off; but they tried their best all the same. Finally I did get out, "Well, try me as you wish, I’ve never been a traitor.” My Dad kept silence for a long time and then suddenly cut in: “Let it be a fair trial: he’s a first timed and in fact meant nothing of the sort; I reckon he did not do it deliberately, he made a mistake, just be fair.” And Commander asked: “What do you think, Comrade?”−“And you, my Comrade?” There were five of them. “To try and to cut his tongue off.” I cried, "No, I will not give you my tongue.” Then again, the unit commander, who used to take me in his arms, spoke and said: “I reckon that it was an unintentional betrayal, it was only an attempt to prove his words about the weapons of guerrillas. And although this is a grave crime and unforgivable act, this first time we have to give him a chance to improve. As a commander, I say that tomorrow they will bring miller’s bran to the khata. Do you know that our pine in the woods? Tomorrow you have to bring this miller’s bran as well as other supplies over there. “Okay," I retorted. “This time, we forgive you, but you must understand that everything what or said in this khata, you cannot betray even if you are interrogated under torture. Do you understand?”−“Yep.”−“We forgive you, but you must carry out task.”
Next day I was on pins and needles waiting for the supply of miller’s bran. Of course, I had no idea about the how of it, but I knew the line I was going to take and carry miller’s bran over there. I took a basket weaved of sweet flag and mom put there an earthenware pot, loaf of bread, slice of salo, my dad took it all in his hands, got a rolled piece of paper from a hideout−I think there was nothing written on it−gave it me to keep it under my tongue and we went. We walked to the wood, kilometer, maybe 800 meters: the open woodland began right on the outskirts of the village. We went to the sprawling pine. It was branchy because it grew in the open space. In thick woods the crown of a pine is small, and the trees themselves are slender and tall, and this one was also tall, though it grew in the open space. Its bark was very rough which I remembered forever. And my father said, "Take this miller’s bran and put it in the little hollow in the cracked bark. You just shove it there. And this kobivka (our local name for a basket weaved of sweet flag)−which contained a pot, probably with milk, I do not know, but I did see salo−you shove under that snag or bush. “Try and conceal it to keep it from sight.” There remained 70, 100, 50 meters to those pine and snag, I do not remember now, because then the Russians cut that pine and thousands more and sent these very tall bicentennial pines to the mines, where at board sawmills they made boards, cleaned out them and sold them to get money for drink. So, my Dad stood over there, like in a hiding, and I went with the basket where my Dad told me to go. So I put the miller’s bran in place and shoved the basket with bread and salo under the snag, concealed it and returned to my Dad. My Daddy patted my head, “Well, now I see that you will be a guerilla. And mind to never blabber about what happens in the khata. Run home, and I’ll be back in no time.” I think that my father went over there, took out the basket and threw miller’s bran away, of course, because there was nothing inside the basket. Such was my first baptism of fire.
The postscript. Having grown up on the riverbank, I never learned to swim. I do not remember how and with whose help and when I learned to swim. So being six or seven years old, I already knew whom I want to become: I will be a guerilla. No matter what I will do: I will go about with Schmeisser or become a liaison officer or someone else, but from my childhood I knew that I would pass on the lamp of my Dad and Uncle Zen. Therefore when a little later they detained my father and in 1956 my father returned home (he was simply written off like some goods: he was not pardoned or rehabilitated but simply written off like dead dog, an invalid) he also knew that I will continue fighting for independent Ukraine. He just said, "Ivan, remember: either you do it as it should be done, or know that peas do not punch the wall. So, I will not keep you from taking a risk.”
When in 1956 my father returned, he said to my aunt, my mother’s sister, a nun: “Hanna, find me a good priest so that I could confess for my whole life, because they set me free not to live but to die. I want to confess.” And she invited Father Shepitko, later an underground Basilian bishop. And in this case I believe that God’s providence arranged this meeting, because it cannot be a simple coincidence. It turns out that in the regiment, where my father fought as a volunteer, an ordinary rifleman, though still a kid, at that time there was Sotnyk Father Shepitko; at the time he was not priest, but intellectual, sotnyk. They fought together, but in the Gulag, of course, lived in different camps. Sotnyk Shepitko became a UGCC priest and rifleman Hel became a liaison officer of the district commander of the security service. Then two volunteers conversed after confession and were amazed by the fact of unexpected meeting after 38 years. And then Father S every week, sometimes twice a week on Saturdays and Sundays came to us to carry out divine service. There remained no survivals of that regiment, and the dialogue of memoirs, analysis of events, and mutual affection of two combatants were simply inexhaustible, and this applied not only to the problems of ZUNR, but to the whole fifty-year history. They talked for hours on end, and I listened spellbound to this live oral history of liberation fighting of several generations up to the time when I was called up for military service.
V.Kipiani: You graduated from high school. What calling did you have?
I.Hel: In 1948, my uncle Zynoviy Tershakovets, the regional commander of the OUN, alias “Fedir”, was killed in action. Why Fedir? Because Fed Chernyk was from the same parish, from the same village, which had a common village rada Yakymchytsi. He was comrade-in-arms with Konovalets. In the Corps of Sich Riflemen Fed Chernyk worked wonders. He’s been recognized as a national hero. He was killed in action near Motovylivka on November 14, 1918. He was familiar with Yevhen Konovalets. Actually, the Ukrainian People’s Republic relied on the Corps of Sich Riflemen. Then there were others, Army of Ukrainian People’s Republic, but they were the first. He was killed in action and was buried in Kyiv at Askold’s Grave, at the graveyard of honored burials, which in the early thirties the Bolsheviks wiped out, destroyed. Therefore Zynoviy Tershakovets took the alias of "Fedir" in honor of Fedir Chernyk. When they asked me about my calling, I replied that I would be a lawyer. Why? I have obviously had no idea what this exactly meant, but Zynoviy Tershakovets was one of the prominent and popular lawyers-counselor who defended Ukrainians in Polish courts. During the Bolshevik occupation he was a district commander. At the time I did not know what was more important: District OUN Commander or lawyer, but “I’ll become a lawyer like Uncle Zeno.”
And, besides everything mentioned above, Uncle Zenko was a favorite of all the surrounding villages. He organized drama circles, Sokil youth groups, football teams, backed performances, festivities, and competitions. And attracted the best performers to form youth gendarmerie. With the outbreak of German-Russian war he was in the field group. After returning from the East Ukraine, he built up a network of underground OUN and formed UIA detachments. In 1944, disguised as a German officer, he forged documents and with a few guys, also in the German uniform, brought allegedly to the front from a military dump three trucks of armament to the forest. The Germans hunted for him and wanted to shoot him publicly. Therefore for all of us he was a hero, an example of how to love Ukraine and fight for it. When he was killed in action, his death grieved our family and my mother and my aunt kept lamenting over him: “Zenia will be no more!” My Dad walked about clenching his teeth and didn’t even hide his internal suffering. My Aunt Agneta said: “We should piously speak about all those perished in the name of Ukraine.” And, as you can see, these words have engraved on my memory forever.
Why am I telling you this? Because this event, like the story about guerrillas, is a good lesson for the formation of character and moral principles of a child. After all, there were many such episodes. Until Stalin’s death, we lived in a state of war, though there were no more major and frequent battles; fear of reprisals and exile to Siberia hung above people’s heads all the time.
I went to school in the town of Komarne: in Klitsk and Yakymchytsi there were grade schools only. Besides the ten-year, in the town (center of the region) there were garrisons of MIA and MSS troops billeting there; there was also a prison. And from time to time they occasionally threw bodies of dead guerrillas against the prison wall. They lay there with shot-through head and chests; they apparently finished off the guerillas which had wounds on their legs and abdomen. The killed lay there in underwear, barefoot, and we, fifth-, sixth-, and seventh graders, were brought there on "tour" to eventually recognize someone from one’s family or acquaintances? Heads down, we looked at the bodies silently and with regret, but showed no emotions, but many of us clenched in our pockets our small fists, still weak and helpless. If you openly showed sympathy you jeopardize your parents: the whole family could be sent to Siberia or tortured during interrogation.
In Komarne high school I was also the youngest among classmates: I was the only one born in 1937, most of the schoolchildren were born in 1935-36, although there were ones born in 1933. I was not an excellent pupil, but performed above average and easily proceeded from grade to grade.
When my dad was arrested, I began doing worse at school, because I had to work to earn our living at the collective farm. In 1952, I went to the tenth, graduation class. Stalin was still alive. Halychyna was all wired up, the reaction was in full swing, and the half-suppressed underground was weak and broken down. All high-school graduates had to be members of Komsomol. This was a must. So my mother told me: “Ivan, sonny, I do not know how you will live. Will you disavow God? For example if you have to become a member of the Komsomol, they will ask you whether you believe in God. Well, will you say that you do not believe God? However, even Petro three times during a night repudiated Jesus. But if you say that you do not believe in God, you are sure to be asked: "Where is your father?" This is essentially a village. Township Komarne numbered 5-7, maximum eight thousand people. Maybe, in the early 50’s, there were less than that for a lot of people were exiled, some people ran away or went abroad; it was the third political "temporary" emigration, which later became a permanent diaspora. "Well, will you say that your father is a collective farmer? In Komarne, like in the village, everyone knows everyone, and they know where your Dad is. And when you say that your Dad is in the Siberian camp, they will ask, Your Daddy is a public enemy, and you want to build socialism as a Komsomol member? Then choose one thing: either socialism or your Dad. Well, will you repudiate your father? And if you repudiate your father and disavow God, we must renounce Ukraine as well.”
It was in 1952: it was the beginning of the second quarter, maybe, in November or early December because there was no snow yet… Yakiv Tsehelnyk was the school principal. He later became director of the Yaroslav Halan Museum in Lviv. And the SMERSH agent headed the curriculum department. I do not remember his name. All pupils well Komarne residents; three classes in full force joined the Komsomol.
V. Ovsiyenko: Were they all tenth-graders?
I.Hel: We were tenth graders. But they lined-up three senior grades− two eighth, two ninth and two tenth grades, i.e. six grades of thirty to thirty-five pupils because there were many overage schoolchildren, which made the total of at least 180-200 or maybe 250 seniors. All of them were picked up from their lessons and lined up. The head of the curriculum department−the principal was absent−and several teachers ordered me and Olga Bay, a girl from Yakymchytsi, from our parish (there were two villages making solid with one another, Klitsko and Yakymchytsi) to fall out. They made me stand in the middle and the head of the curriculum department angrily demand: “Hel, why are you so vehemently refusing to join the Young Communist League?” So I, as my mother saw it, blurted out, "I will not join the Young Communist League because joining Komsomol means to renounce God, my father and Ukraine.”−“Get out of here!” the head of the curriculum department lost his cool, screamed hysterically and taking me by the collar of my shabby jacket chucked me out of the middle of the U-shaped school line-up. It was, if we now glance at it backward with humor, my first public anti-Soviet statement. I was 15 and more at the time, because I went to school at six years of age and had to graduate being less than 16 years of age. But they ignominiously kicked me out of school. Those who joined the Komsomol, in the absence of me and sometimes directly blamed me, “He was stupid and did not join Komsomol as he wanted to demonstrate something, and they would not allow him to study now.” You can twist fearful people round your little finger. In Halychyna such "pragmatists" adapted to the new conditions. After all, the people’s deputies are doing the same today: in order to remain "at the trough" they become double-dealers, political prostitutes, scum. Take the case of "patriot" Taras Stetskiv: he participated in Rukh, but for personal gain he rolled over to Pustovoitenko’s PDP. Later he kept shouting that " Kuchma never yields his pals" and joined his milieu. Having not received Mykolayiv Cement Plant as payment for service, he turned over to Olexandr Moroz and worked at his headquarters during the elections. From Moroz he switched over to Viktor Yushchenko. But now, faced with the prospect of losing the opportunity to stay at the trough of Verkhovna Rada, he sucks up to Yuliya Tymoshenko, a pathological liar and Ukrainophobe. Now they are united on the grounds of their hatred to President Yushchenko, whom they despise and despicably defame. In Verkhovna Rada their name is Legion: Mykhailo Kosiv, Yuri Lutsenko, Volodymyr Yavorivskyi, Borys Tarasiuk etc. They are those who on time joined the Komsomol, learned to dissemble and condemn. They pose as patriots, but in fact they are political scum. Therefore, those who have broken try their best to make others to give in and transform him into their likeness. And if they fail to do so, they treat him as their enemy and hate him; they feel contempt and inferiority complex. At the time such individuals came to my mother and criticized her, taught her their "wisdom": “Fevroniya, why do you not give your child the possibility to learn? He is a capable guy and might come up the world and you throw him into confusion.” And my mother retorted them asking: “How can a boy study without God and without a father? Anyway he’ll try his best and survive.” I want to emphasize that the whole our family−my father and my mother, sister Olga and I, two aunts, Agneta and Damyana and our immediate relatives−lived through the Bolshevik era, openly showing our faith in God and opposition, contempt for the occupants.
Then, in December 1952, they handed me a certificate that I finished the ninth grade of Komarne high school. Not that I studied in the tenth grade; in this case I wouldn’t have to pass external exams for the ninth grade. There was this Lviv interoblast correspondence school. Of course, I easily passed there external exams for the ninth grade, they issued me a certificate, but I lost a year.
In the fall of 1953, I escaped from the collective farm, by hook or crook got passport after long efforts (the collective farmers were not given passports) and went Sambir evening school 40 kilometers from my village and got a job as a loader at a bread-baking plant. The officials named it not a bakery but a bread-baking plant. I loaded bread there, but it was good because daily I brought myself a loaf of bread. I also bought a bottle of milk and then had something to eat. All previous years there was a terrible famine. In nineteen fifty, fifty-one, two, three, four, five, that is before Khrushchev initiated his criticism of Stalin’s personality cult, in the collective farms and in cities people lived from hand to mouth, and I still managed to bring bread and salo to my mother in the village.
In Sambir I went to the evening night school and was doing well, of course. Among my classmates there were soldiers of the so-called Patriotic War, officers, others who had to have college diploma or certificate for the tenth grade to fill a position of a small clerk or manage. Their range of interests boiled down to school certificate, but I couldn’t afford myself to do the same and therefore I was a studious pupil and finished the school with good grades.
In 1954, I was a candidate for admission to the university, faculty of history.
V. Ovsiyenko: Did you do it with your school leaving certificate in Lviv?
I.Hel: Right, in Lviv. I submitted my papers, but either fellow villagers gave me away or at the time I had already been closely watched by KGB agents. There was no other explanation. I told nobody that I was going to enter the university. In those years the preliminaries began on August 1. So, I went with my examination slip to take my first exam on 1 August. They let me through the entrance gate, but at the entrance to the lecture room there stood another keeper controller. He cast a glance at my exam slip and said, "Hel, please go to the selection commission: they have some business to discuss with you.” However, he didn’t return my examination slip. I turned about and quickly ran in order to have time to take my exam. I entered the office of the commission and saw there on the opposite of the door to the senior secretary three more university entrants like me sitting: one girl and we, three boys. They called the first boy. A few minutes later he came out frowning; he told us nothing and left. They called the girl and she came out crying. They called the next boy, and he also came out frowning. I was the fourth, for I was the latest to come. And my exam slip was already on the table. “Sit down, Ivan.” I sat down. There was a T-shaped writing desk and an extra small add-on table in front. I sat down at this smaller table. He came up to me from behind and put his hands on my shoulders and asked, “Ivan, why are you lying?” I exploded: “I’m not lying.”−“Ivan, you submitted documents to our alma mater, you want to study here, and you begin learning with lies. We do not admit liars. What for are you lying?” I exploded once again telling that I wasn’t lying; nevertheless he towered above me pressing me down with his hands and not allowing to stand up. And I was only 17 at the time and had never gone out until then, although I saw the underground and was a grown-up and mature man, but not a town dweller; I always lacked self-confidence and arrogance for I was brought up in a village, went to school in Komarne and then studied for a year in Sambir, therefore I simply I had no time to adapt to a town life. But the feelings of dignity and justice were rather strong… The tall man pressed me firmly down to the chair: “You are lying, Ivan,” he said. “Where is your father?” I lost heart. I was very tense, but I will remember all my life how I suddenly stooped and lost heart. In my autobiography I wrote that my parents were collective farmers. They either checked or I was under surveillance, or someone fellow villagers gave me away. In fact, I actually lied: at the time my father was in prison in Taishet, and I wrote that my parents were collective farmers. Therefore I was not allowed to take exams. He caught me in a lie, I lost heart and felt broken. Not spiritually broken, but his words “There is no place for Bandera bastards in the Soviet higher educational establishments: you’d better mind it” were hard on me. But he told nothing about YCL. They touched only upon this episode. They mentioned my refusal to join Komsomol later. Obviously back then the MSS and later KGB already knew that I defiantly refused to join Komsomol and that my father was doing his term.
Since that time, I stopped trying to enter the higher educational establishment and got a job of a mechanic at the plant making autoloaders. This time it was frame-and-press body shop. It was an extremely hard and dirty work, hands grew numb: you had to carry bar eight-and-a-half or six-meter-long channel bars. You had to shoulder them as there were no technical appliances yet. We sawed these channel bars. Certainly, we did it with mechanical saws. There I worked for two years: from August 1954 till August 1956. Then I was call up for military service.
V. Ovsiyenko: In what year?
I.Hel: On August 31, 1956. It was a month already that my father had come back home from imprisonment. And my father at once warned me: “Ivan, you have to respect your mother and sister Olga.” And we loved each other very much, were friendly, deliberately did not make fun and did not go dancing for our father was in prison. Over time I learned to dance in the army, and Olga never learned to. She was born in 1939 and died in 1980 being constantly bullied by the KGB. But I will dwell upon it later. We made a vow that as long as our father stays in prison, we won’t go dancing. Up to 1950 there was no dancing in our village because the villagers continued mourning for guerillas deported to Siberia and everything lost with them. If even someone decided to organize dancing or other variants of merriment, our guys would have smeared the heads of organizers with pitch or something. The same was the reality in other villages. Obviously, it was done by those who were close to the underground, because the guerrillas, of course, had little to do with such things. Therefore, nobody cared about dancing. However somewhere in the early fifties the clubhouse managers by order of regional CPU committees began organizing dancing parties, but we disregarded them. So on the next day after his returning Dad edified me: "You are grown-up already; at your age I had been fighting for Ukraine. You have to take care of your mother because they dismissed me not to let me live, but they dismissed me to let me die. I will not tell it your mother and Olga, but you are called up for military service and nobody knows if you will see me alive once more. You will have to care about them.” Such was my dad.
I was called up for military service. It is very interesting how the Soviet propaganda tries to make a zombie of you. In the army I was also a nationalist and a patriot, though not yet that active, only perhaps deliberately I refused to join the Komsomol. But preparing myself for entrance exams in 1958-59 I did my best to master German: I read easily, pronunciation, of course, is not that good, but my fund of words is okay. I can translate German newspaper. I learn history and Ukrainian language and literature, but most of all I master the German language. They demobbed me ahead of time before July 25, and I was in time for the entrance exams starting on August 1. But consciously or subconsciously I applied for the juridical department, because I wanted to become a lawyer like my Uncle Zenko Tershakovets.
V. Ovsiyenko: In what year did it happen?
I.Hel: In 1959. By the way, I served one year in Boryspil and two years in Kyiv, in Zhuliany. There was the military and civil airfields, and between Sovky and Zhuliany there was a garrison, where a separate company of ground maintenance aircraft and a separate squadron stationed, where okruh commander Konev had his private aircraft. The service there was rather easy, of course. But why did they send me there? Before that I served in Boryspil.
And lest we forget, I’ll tell about another interesting and important fact. The following testifies to the fact that the army special department knew about me. When in 1956 I was called to the colors, I found myself at the school of junior commanders. All of it happened without my consent, of course, no one asked me. Only that I had secondary education. In Boryspil there were three aviation regiments: two regiments of fighters and one regiment of TU-16 which are medium bombers. My unit was an anti-aircraft battalion, 57-millimeter AA guns. We guarded the airfield. But by that time the battalion was undergoing rearmament and they were replacing guns with missiles. These missiles were "top secret" therefore I was not granted security clearance. I was the only serviceman sent to another unit, where there were no secrets. It means that they knew about me. And they were on their guard against me. I got added evidence that I was right when I failed to enter for the second time. And once again I was convinced of my father’s wisdom.
And here’s one more episode. In 1954 and 1955, when Khrushchev came to power, me as a draftee up to the very draft the military registration and enlistment office kept summoning to the recruiting station. Two majors literally forced me to become a student of the military college. They kept haunting me until I, following the advice of my mother and my relatives, told them that my father was convicted. Then they entered it in some document and since then they stopped nagging me in order to send to a military school. I’ve got no idea about that military school. And, apparently, they could send me to Kyiv or even Russian school. They used to send there our Halychyna residents. Then I could rise to the rank of the captain or major somewhere in the North or the Far East, but I would be lost as Ukrainian and assimilated or broken psychologically.
Now let’s get back to the entrance. I was demobbed in 1959 and became a candidate for admission to the Law Department of the Lviv University. I sent my documents still serving in the army. And my Dad told me: "Ivan, I’m an ex-convict, you know our family and then where are you entering? You’d rather go somewhere to Polytechnic Institute or some other technical institute. Why have you chosen that very department? They will not admit you.” And now here’s a zombie-making item. I replied my father: “Dad, they say that children are not responsible for their parents.”−“Stop talking nonsense! Both your children and grandchildren will be responsible if Muscovites stay here.”
Nevertheless I made an attempt at it. I got A’s at three exams and B for the fourth one. I had six years of continuous service: three years before the army and three years in the army. And the university entrants needed record of service very much. It would suffice to have C marks, but I had no character reference from the District Committee of the Komsomol. But the most important thing was that I had been under continuous surveillance for a long time. At the last exam I had a D mark for Ukrainian language and literature after eleven additional questions. As far as I know it should have been B if not a higher mark. In fact, the C mark would suffice, even D mark; despite the negative mark the total score was okay. But after this D everything went to hell. I felt myself depressed, overwhelmed; I returned home and told about my D mark and my father responded: “Didn’t I tell you that?” He believed that it was a punishing D and they simply failed me at the drop of a hat, as they say.
In September I got a job as a fitter at the kinescope factory. A year later I was appointed a team chief as I proved to have the talent of a manager. My team included 12 guys, some of them even older than myself. In the meantime in the fall of 1959 I signed up to take preliminary courses in Ukrainian philology. Why philology? Because I came out well from the last exams and went on learning these disciplines on my own, and I felt I could pull up my Ukrainian. Therefore I went to take preliminary courses. Suddenly the lecturer who put me a D mark entered the room. "Good day!”−“Good day!”−“I am your lecturer. Please get up, when I call, in order to get to know you.” I still wore soldier’s breeches, although I also had a jacket and shirt on. Alphabetically my name was at the top of the list: either fourth or fifth. He read out: “Hel!” I got up and said, “I am!” I was angry with him and had a burning look. He stepped from behind the rostrum in the Ivan Franko lecture hall; it was the 113th spacious hall in the main building of the university. So he got up too, came up to me from behind the rostrum, held out his hand, though I was not in a hurry to do the same, he took my hand and shook it: "Young man, I have no doubt that you will study here. If you are here, you have persistence and will enough to achieve your goal.” The whole hall reverberated with his voice. It seated about sixty entrants. Once again he demonstratively shook my hand, and I lacked the character or the nerve not to hold out my hand. After this expression of sympathy he went back and continued reading. Time went by. He came up to me once, then for the second time, the third, asked about the way I lived. In Lviv his name is well-known: Andriy Skots, an excellent lecturer on Ukrainian language and literature at the university, now, maybe, Ph.D. already, unfortunately I do not know, maybe has retired. He approached me and said, "Will you please accompany me?” All preliminary courses ended at 11 pm. Usually, there were two twin lectures. So I accompanied him, and he politely made inquiries about my life. It recurred once and again from October till May. Up to the very end of preliminary courses he continued to convince me: “Do not try entering the Law Faculty: you will not be admitted there. You’d better enter the Ukrainian philology department; then you will be a student for sure and will study.’
However, I did not like philology, believing that beyond literature it was a boring grammar. And I was interested in history and "politics" in the sense of struggle. I went on attending the courses of philology faculty to enhance my knowledge of the discipline from which I got D mark for Ukrainian language and literature, but I submitted documents to the Faculty of History. This time they didn’t fail me: I had only one B mark. However, I had no character reference from the District Committee of the Komsomol and the District Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine and therefore I was not selected from among other candidates. Frustrated I returned home from my work. In the evenings, I used to lower my head on two fists: what is to be done? I could not study, and I was 23 already, a mature man…
Once in September the old woman, who rented me a room on the Chkalov Street, said: “Mr. Ivan, here is a letter for you; I’ve forgotten to tell you.” It was already 7 pm. I open the envelope and read: “Dear Comrade Hel! By Order of the Rector number such and such you are accepted as a correspondence student of the Faculty of History of Ivan Franko Lviv National University. Please come and get literature and relevant documents for prescriptive session has long been finished.” I had tears in my eyes and was really touched: how come? The exams were carried out in August, and usually the correspondence students are accepted in May… Recently, I’ve written about it in my memoirs honoring the 90th Anniversary of Rector Academician Yevhen Lazarenko.
V.Kipiani: Mykhailo Horyn also wrote pleasant memoirs about him.
I.Hel: Many people know him: Horyn, Pavlychko, Ivanychuk… What is it then? Lecturer Andriy Skots might be angry at my disobeyance, because I would have been accepted as a philology student for sure. But he was tortured by twinges of conscience for having put me a D mark. He turned to the rector and confessed to him: “Yevhen Kostiantynovych,” I know this from him and the rector, although the wording addressed to the rector was more delicate. “In 1959, I put this guy a D mark for Ukrainian language and literature, and now he has passed the exam but has not been selected from among other candidates. Then I was summoned to the first department of the University, marked his name and told to fail him. And this young man has to study.” And the rector, when the first course of correspondence students was already formed, ordered to accept me post factum. You see? He was not afraid! It was 1960 after the calendar and that was courage and even heroism at the time. Such an exceptional honesty in a lecturer, especially in the rector! Then, in 1963, Y. Lazarenko was fired for nationalism. I was already in my third year and published samvydav, though not at full capacity yet. Their full capacity the production and distribution of samvydav reached in 1964.
After dismissal of the rector, we became close friends with Andriy Skots. I’ve recounted you his story now. It happened that we were in the same company. However, he was not involved in samvydav process purposefully, but he knew that I wouldn’t sell him out for reading illegal literature, and I knew then that he wouldn’t squeal on me as well. He was Ukrainian. The political samvydav was not that frequent at the time. However, in those years, we read Vasyl Symonenko, distributed articles of Ivan Franko “What is Progress”, “Beyond Everything Possible” and so on.
In 1962 and in 1963 Ivan Dziuba and Svitlychnyi frequently visited Lviv. I attended those evenings and got personally acquainted with them, though I was just a student, and they were public figures in the full sense of the word at the time, they inspired students’ and lecturers’ audience. The spontaneous student rallies were already evolving then. However there was no critical mass of rebelliousness yet, fear prevailed and the social protest process was non-existent; it formed much later, in the eighties.
When Skots and I became closer friends, we already knew what we were doing. In my heart and in my mind I felt and understood the renewal of the state of mind when I from early childhood knew who I would become and what I would be doing. Among us there was such Yevhen Nakonechny, one of my closest friends and sworn brother even unto death. As a young child he was a political prisoner. He studied philology after his return from the concentration camp. And I became a student of the historical department. Also this circle included Liuba Popadiuk, Associate Professor of the Chair of German Language, Omelian Ilchyshyn, student of philology, Petro Protsyk, Manager of University Film & Photo Lab, Maryan Hatala student of the Lviv Polytechnic, Mykhailo Cheryba, factory worker, member of my team.
By the way, Yevhen Lazarenko invited me (unfortunately I did not finish my story about this major personality who risked his position in order to give me a chance). So I came into the reception room as a student, I was 23 years old, not a 17-year-old boy, but a mature man, though still a freshman. I told the secretary, in fact, still in the military way, that Ivan Hel has come summoned by the Rector. She waited until there was nobody in the reception room. Certainly, I dutifully waited. Obviously, she held the same views as he and she knew how to report the rector about me, too. She said: “Yevhen Kostiantynovych, here’s student Ivan Hel to meet you." And in the reception room there were only she and he. Imagine my surprise when she told me to enter and I turned toward the office seeing rector on the threshold of the office (the office and the reception room were enormous: about eight to ten meters long) and the rector shook my hand. And not I but he extended a hand and then took my hand in his two hands and said, “Young man, I’m happy for you that you are studying! You’re welcome to study and after the first session or the first year of study, you may be transferred to a department and faculty of your liking. But please study and it is desirable that you finish your first session or first course with the best marks. I know that you are working.” in fact, he told all of it on the threshold. Then he led me to his office and blessed me: "I know your story; the lecturer (he did not name him), who examined you, told me everything”. But then I did not know what it was that Skots told him.
So I became an extra-mural student of historical faculty. I got all as for my first examinations and in winter I transferred to the correspondence department of the faculty of history. I could not become a full-time student because my father was on the verge of death. He was discarded from the camp, because his blood pressure used to hike up to 260. Another, less strong-willed person, would not stand such “tempering”. Also, my father had pleurisy in the camp; those precipitations made him an invalid. From Taishet he was transferred to Chuna, where at the 42nd concentration camp station he loaded logs onto the freight cars. My Dad was arrested when he was forty-nine and in 1951−1953 he was over fifty. And at the penalty camp he had to load logs. Such forced labor could break anyone and ruin physically at that. Later he was transferred to Molotov Oblast (later Perm Oblast), to Chusovskoi Region; I cannot remember to which camp exactly, maybe even to Kuchino. There was a camp for disabled. Later, Mr. Vasyl, somewhere there you and I did our terms.
V. Ovsiyenko: We can specify it through Perm "Memorial".
I.Hel: He was there from 1954 till 1956. It is very interesting how they wrote him off; it is his story. He had no idea and was not expecting it. Suddenly he was summoned for trial. My Dad went for trial. There were doctor, prosecutor and judge with shoulder straps, all of them servicemen, sitting in the room. The judge called to order and said, “Brief us please”. The medic began giving a summary of father’s diagnosis in medical terms. The prosecutor said, “Stop those jawbreaking terms. You’d rather tell me how long he will last.” And the doc said that two or three months. “Yeah, too much but let him go!” That is my father’s story word for word. Isn’t it cynicism! That committee feigned working, the communist party led by Khrushchev criticized Stalin’s personality cult, but the repressive regime and cynicism of power remained in force and were functioning at full capacity. So the top people were saying one thing and at the bottom everything remained as before because Khrushchev belonged to the same kind of Stalinists. The majority of them was Stalinists; so the ruled ones, through force of circumstances, were engaged in the same writing-offs just to bring down the mortality rate in the camps. That was why they released my father.
Naturally, I could not become a full-time student: my mother worked at the collective farm, and my father could work no more. My sister and I protected Dad against overload and stress. Therefore, as you see, I made my bread since I was 15 years old.
START OF ACTIVITIES. SAMVYDAV
In 1960 I became a student, and in 1961 on Yaniv Cemetery, where on the vast 38th field 602 Sich riflemen and Bilas and Danylyshyn were buried, Omelian Ilchyshyn and I organized for the first time a memorial service on November 1. On All Saints’ Day. According to tradition, it was the Polish Dzień wszystkych swętych. The holiday was not a Ukrainian commemoration day, but if someone wanted to pray for one of those who could not officially be commemorated, he went there on November 1. Anyway, there were a lot of people on the cemetery. The people were scattered all over the cemetery. But when we found on the cemetery an old priest and asked him to perform the Office for the Dead, people began gathering together from the surrounding graves from all over the cemetery. They obviously came timidly, put candles on individual graves, prayed and went away. And when the priest started reciting the office hundreds of people began assembling and hundreds of people make a huge crowd! They donated two, three, five karbovanets notes to the brave priest who otherwise would never earn that much. But as he dared to recite the office and we organized the memorial service, the fishers of souls started hunting for us. At the cemetery there were disguised KGB agents. We barely managed to escape with the people.
Since then, we regularly went to the cemetery. We put in order the graves of Kost Levytsky and Myron Tarnavsky, Prime Minister of the WUPR and Commander in Chief of UHA. Omelian and I did it. The wife and daughter of Myron Tarnavsky had just returned from Siberia at the time and we agreed with them that the widow had allegedly hired us to arrange those graves. We mixed concrete and made good tombs with plates and crosses. They stood until 1995. Until then, there was a usual small mound and a symbolic wooden cross. We made it so that the two graves were there until recent times, because the whole field was destroyed in order to free burial sites for the jacks in office. When I became deputy head of the oblast rada, the burial field was cleansed and the grave officially restored in the form of original concrete slabs and erected on each grave a rifleman’s cross that is we completely renovated the military cemetery.
In the early 60s the discussions were already underway about the possibility of creating an underground organization. I was the initiator. Yevhen Nakonechniy, former underage political prisoner, now a student, also was ready to act, but he rejected the idea of an organization. It is believed that the Halychyna activists did not know what to do, until the arrival of Ivan Dziuba and Svitlychny in the framework of their program of cultural activities. We, the activists from Lviv, considered it an underestimate. The youth wanted more. Already then, in 1961, 100 Lviv activists went to Kaniv to observe the Centenary of the Death of Taras Shevchenko. At night Omelian Ilchyshyn and I put at the base of the monument a woven wreath of thorns. But officially we left there the oak wreath as well. Naturally, the KGB agents figured out that the wreath of thorns was put not by the comers from Donetsk… There was no mass pilgrimage in Kaniv, but all the same quite a lot of people arrived there. And from Lviv one hundred people privately went to Kyiv, visited the museum and from Kyiv they went to Kaniv.
V. Ovsiyenko: Did you bring the wreath with you or did you make it in Kaniv?
I.Hel: No, we brought it as a package in a box from Lviv. Vsevolod Baidak, a brilliant organizer, to some extent, my spiritual father, was our informal leader. Later the KGB agents treacherously killed him.
V.Kipiani: And what work did he do?
I.Hel: He worked at the Institute of Blood Transfusion. At the same time, he organized groups, for example, like the Creative Youth Club in Kyiv. On the outside it looked like cultural work for education of youth. Meanwhile among us a serious selection or political screening was underway. Once Vsevolod Baidak said: “Ivan, here we go to Kaniv, but we need doing something more important, not only this undertaking.” However, a lot of trust and openness were a mistake: the group was done away with, some members were terrified, and he was killed. It was rather easy to bring to light all members. Although they did not know who namely put the wreath, they guessed.
In Lviv Oblast there was no tradition to celebrate May 22, the day of transfer of the body of Taras Shevchenko to Kaniv. We observe Shevchenko days in March. On May 22-23 we celebrate the Day of Heroes. It is the day of death of Yevhen Konovalets in Rotterdam. So they managed to pin it on me, though neither I, nor Omelian admitted out participation in the action. And Vsevolod Baidak was killed by the KGB agents, beyond all doubt.
In Halychyna, at the beginning of the sixties, especially in Lviv, the post-genocide social conditions still dominated. Like it was in Great Ukraine at the end of the thirties: there were already no mass repressions, but fear paralyzed people. Therefore in Lviv neither Svitlychnyi, nor Dziuba, nor Alla Horska could objectively appear. In fact, the criticism of personality cult had one meaning in Kyiv, in Naddniprianshchyna a different meaning and still different meaning it had in Lviv, in Halychyna. Therefore the spiritual leaders of the Sixtiers could appear, form and operate only in the East, while in Halychyna, even if they appeared, they would have been quietly “removed”, as they did it with Vsevolod Baidak. However, if the activity of three Ivans did not fall into fertile Halychyna soil, the Sixtiers would not have developed into such a powerful socio-political phenomenon. It could but smolder in a narrow environment in Kyiv only. And its founders would have been physically destroyed, as they did it with Vsevolod Baidak, Alla Horska, and Volodymyr Ivasiuk.
V.Kipiani: As they did it with Vsevolod Baidak?
I.Hel: In 1963, he was found dead. They killed him like they have killed Hetman recently.
I.Hel: No, Baidak was strangled. He was found dead in the middle of nowhere; then they wrote that he had died of a heart attack. But on his neck there was a strangulation line, like in the case of Volodymyr Ivasiuk. His death, unfortunately, did not become resonant. The relatives quietly buried him and that was all.
And on 3 May 1961 they summoned me to the KGB for the first time. Two days after my return from Kaniv. I was summoned not by Halsky and not by Horban, but by Captain Batiuk. Only after Batiuk failed passing off as a weak investigator, Halsky took over.
V.Kipiani: In fact, Halsky is Klym Dmytruk; they say, he now lives and works in Kyiv.
I.Hel: To my knowledge, he is no longer alive. Indeed, he lived in Kyiv and published his works under this pseudonym. He wrote scurrilous things.
V.Kipiani: I was told that he works for the tax administration.
I.Hel: I do not think so. Taxes are not his trade. He is well educated and he is in for humanities. He may be a militia agent combating shadow business. Moreover, he is old. Halsky told me a legend as follows: when the Cheka agents left him in Lviv on the eve of German advance, he was 18 years old. So, you may figure up in 1961 Halsky was 38 years old. Then he was major. In 1981 he was 58. Now he was without a rank and used pseudonym Klym Dmytruk, author of “Fatherless Child”. This meant that Halsky was retired and Dmytruk became an author. Although nobody could really retire from the Cheka or KGB.
V.Kipiani: I was told that that he was in the Pechersk District.
I.Hel: I doubt because he is unlikely to go back to work there. Halsky headed the fifth department, and Captain Batiuk was his subordinate. Of course, he was not as skilled psychologist as Halsky. However, I met Halsky later. Batiuk began intimidating me, and when a man is intimidated, he may explode psychologically which is a natural expression of indignation and protest. There were several calls. So I adapted to those calls. And when Batiuk handed me over to Halsky, I could already talk more freely with Halsky. I bear no grudge against them; I think that God’s Providence preserved me lest I be broken, so that they couldn’t intimidate me. I studied and treasured it; every time they threatened to exclude me. So far, I think I chose the best variant of behavior. There exist different forms of behavior. The first one is that of Vasyl Stus: absolute uncompromising stand, defiant heroism. I did time with him in the cell, so I know how he told me how he told his investigator: “You are fascists and you are inveterate criminals”. Vasyl had stentorian voice and he deafened his investigators. Vasyl used to talk barely raising his voice, but the voice of the investigator was no longer heard. That is, he didn’t hear himself as well. When Vasyl told him this, the head investigator called jailers, who pinioned Vasyl. And they brought him to the cell with pinioned arms. I guess you do not know this…
V. Ovsiyenko: In fact, they twisted his arms, he had pains in his arms for a long time, and when I was there in 1984, he could not raise his hands up.
I.Hel: Two cops−one on each side−brought him to the cell with his hands bound behind him. After that for more than two years he could not lift his hands up. We did time in one cell in Kuchino in the early 80s; they did it by intentional design intending to set two strong personalities at loggerheads. However we proved to be compatible and feel sympathy for each other. Vasyl proposed to be on familiar terms with each other, though he was very demanding in relations with people.
But there is also another form of behavior. It means not to act beneath human dignity, not to give up, not to repent, but at the same time not to provoke, not to talk to them with a challenge. I adhered to such deliberate behavior. I think that it was Batiuk who taught me to behave like this. If Halsky were with me from the very beginning… And Halsky had aggressive character; he was arrogant, cynical, and exerted tremendous psychological pressure on people. He closely cooperated with Lieutenant Colonel Horban. At first Halsky was major, and for his work with us, the Sixtiers, as I was told, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. Horban, while still a lieutenant, back in 1947 performed roundups and arrested Olga Matseliukh (future Olga Horyn), and he beat her on the face. Such were our points of contact. Olga asks, “Oh, do you know Horban? And this bastard hit me in the face”. I answer: “Yes, in general I know him well; he did not beat me, but together with Halsky they terrorized me for four years and tried to prevail upon me and in 1965 it was he who performed the arrest.”
So constantly keeping in mind whom I wanted to become and rejoicing that I already did something for this, I felt myself psychologically ready for Halsky. Halsky had different methods of exerting influence. One day, he said and it meant that already since my young days I was under the surveillance of the KGB: “Ivan, why do you play the fool and make a fool of other people or else you’re secretive about things? In fact, you are an ardent nationalist, I know you well as well as all your relatives. I know more about you than you do about yourself. He had a ready file which, in fact, contained operative information. He took the filer out of the drawer and opened it. The filer contained Watman folded in two to the size of the folder. Inside in the center: Hel Ivan Andriyovych, rectangle, Hel Andriy Petrovych, Hel Fevroniya Ivanivna (Tershakovets), Tershakovets Zynoviy, Terashakovets Hryhoriy, Tershakovets Mykhailo, Tershakovets Hanna, Tershakovets Darya, Tershakovets Olga, Hel Olga and others.
Aha. I’ve forgotten to mention above Mykhailo Tershakovets. He was born in 1883, and in 1904 as a University student he began to study the life and work of Markiyan Sashkevych. He looked for documents in Lviv archives and Vienna, in the archive of the Austrian special service. At the age of 24 years, he wrote a monograph on Shashkevych Halychyna-Ruthenian Literary Revival that was highly appreciated by Ivan Franko. At the age of 26 years Mykhailo Tershakovets became a full member of the Shevchenko Scientific Society, which was equal to the Academy of Sciences. And then he was the first professor of Ukrainian Gymnasium, Lviv University. In the diaspora he was professor of University of Vienna, then of Rome University, UCU (Ukrainian Catholic University). He died in 1978 at the age of 96 years, he was an outstanding literary critic of the 20th century.
Halsky showed me all these names. Of course, I knew about Uncle Zenko, I knew Hryhoriy because he came back from Siberia and died in 1959, he was buried in our village, but about Mykhailo I heard something, but did not know him. And many other family members I did not know personally. The youngest brother of my father Stepan died in hiding in 1946, his niece Mariyka Hel was a messenger between my father and district leader of the security service. That is the whole family was shot down or killed in the concentration camps, deported or emigrated abroad and lived in the diaspora. In fact, he opened my eyes on the activity of the family. He provided new information on each of its members, because in our khata not everything was mentioned, and relatives did not know everything about these people. I concluded that they kept an eye on the family, they did it for years on documenting new crimes against soviets and adding new criminals to the list.
During constant calls, especially in 1963-64, Halsky began hinting me about Samvydav: what have you read recently, Ivan, what have you distributed, what are you typing now, where do you hide your typewriter, how have you come together with Mykhailo Horyn why are you not dating Myroslava Zvarychevska, a nice girl, but make clandestine political rendezvous with her, what relations can be between a student and lecturer of the University Liubov Popadiuk as far as she isn’t your instructor. The KGB officer hinted that he knew everything about me and my friends. It was an overt psychological pressure, a way to intimidate, break down, make me withdraw from social activities. And it was a "mild form" of influence. Occasionally Halsky lost his temper. It soon became clear that this was a premeditated psychological attack. He had an advantage knowing when I might be picked on the street or at work, and he was able to think over, to design his monologue and they used to apprehend me by surprise, unexpectedly for me. The attack began with a rough hissing: “Again you (say, on November 1st− Day of creation of ZUNR and All Saints’ Day, the day of commemorating the dead) participated, mother fucker, Banderivets sob, on Yaniv Cemetery and put candles to various Levitskys, Tarnavskys, Bilas and Danylyshyn, and the like nationalist sobs like yourself. The Soviet people will not tolerate such arrogance. We’ll rot you in jail, we will destroy you as all independence-oriented hangers-on that have blocked the road to development of Ukrainian people in united and powerful USSR. "When I tried and broke loose from the chair and angrily shouted that he can call his mother names and call himself a louse, but Horban or Batiuk pressed me down onto the chair while Halsky fiercely growled and swore like a trooper. After a while I realized, to be more precise, I guessed that these "scenes" were designed, arranged and were intended to break me, intimidate, or tick off and in the uncontrolled state I would speak out and produce a desirable piece of information. I had to stoop to their level of mutual personal abuses. Realizing this, I calmly and even demonstratively calmly listened to their intentionally hysterical tirades of Halsky. Later he realized or expert psychologists (all this, of course, was recorded on tape), analyzing my response told him that I did not fall for it and Halsky refused from such psychological attack on me. Also during the investigation. Although he went using this "method" of influence against Mykhailo Osadchy: he swore like a trooper, waved his fists in the face of him, and abused him.
Now I’ll dwell upon our seeming inexperience and conscious refusal to organize and resort to armed struggle. The political prisoners, members of the liberation struggle of the 1940s, did not accept our form of activities, open confrontation, production and distribution of samvydav, though performed secretly, statements of protest and so on. The professional members of underground organizations considered it children’s games, though they themselves did not refuse from the leaflets. You, Mr. Vasyl, were brought to the concentration camp a bit later, when there were considerably less leading figures of the underground, but I think that you also had to do with such “haughty” thesis: “But you are all Komsomol members! What for have you been jailed? For a long tongue or some petty notes! And you call it a struggle? Do you imagine that your writings have any value? They are nil.” I believe that our activity was adequate, productive and even the only possible form of struggle under a totalitarian regime and the then political situation and the state of public engagement in the political movement. For fear prevailed in Halychyna and in the Great Ukraine the rupture of genetic memory between generations took place. These two components of Ukraine went their own way, looking for forms, directions, and methods of struggle and synthesized them: grain sown by Easterners Dziuba, Ivan Svitlychny, and Vasyl Symonenko on fertile field in Halychyna produced good crops, which began to feed the whole of Ukraine from Kharkiv and Luhansk to Chop and Lutsk.
Nevertheless we were upset by skeptical assessments of political prisoners. The more so I personally was trying to create an organization and up to now I stay convinced that armed struggle and machine-gun dialogue is the most productive and effective conversation with the invader.
V. Ovsiyenko: The most convincing.
I.Hel: Right. “Convincing” is the right word: the sub-machine gun and hand grenade make the dialogue with the invader convincing. But while creating an organizational structure, I saw that the group consisted of students, lecturers, and workers. And we needed codists, operatives, radioman, walkie-talkie and so on. That is there were enthusiasts, but no specialists. I am also not an expert. Together with Yevhen Nakonechny− the already experienced member of the underground, which participated in the youth structure of the OUN and found himself in the camp for this−we often discussed the difficulty of creation of an organization, reflected on the basic structure of the OUN starting with Ukrainian Military Organization and Yevhen Konovalets. He started with recruiting officers, and I could not trust the officers of the Soviet Army. Yevhen Konovalets created Ukrainian Military Organization (we did not dare to compare our attempts with OUN, even though we knew its accurate system of making structures and conspiracy) of professionals, and we had but admit enthusiastic amateurs. Liuba Popadiuk used to tell me, “Ivan, I’ll do whatever you say, but I myself do not know how and what to do.”
In parallel, and almost at the same time, except for the two years ahead of me, Levko Lukyanenko created the Ukrainian Workers’ and Peasants’ Union. And from his own empirical experience he made the same conclusions. When we met with him at the 11th camp station in Mordovia and talked about our work, he said: “Ivan, it is very good that you was taken up with the organization and did not shoot the works, because it would just repeat the ways of our organization and might be exposed and crushed at the stage of formation. Indeed, one of a set of five members is a KGB agent. At the very least one of seven: you find six honest men and the seventh will sell you out. Maybe, you are lucky enough to find fourteen members, but the fifteenth one will sell you out all the same.”
It is a conspicuous coincidence, if not a pure accident, which I doubt. In 1961, the investigator of Levko Lukyanenko was Captain Denisov the “investigator of cases of particular importance”. In 1965, my investigator was also the same Denisov, “wolfhound” and in addition the party organizer of the investigatory department: during the investigation the KGB officers came into the office and handed him huge party membership dues. I was surprised because, in fact, their amount equaled the wages of workers, seamstresses, yardmen and others. He used to make an introduction to each investigation: “In 1947 I already was a wolfhound and I knew what was to be done with your kind: either take aim at you with a sub-machine gun or to strangle. Now I have to talk with you, gratify, and you take time to become brazen or register a protest. But anyway you’ll do your time.”
During the investigation in 1965 Denisov and Halsky called Mykhailo Horyn and me or rather our groups “the organizations without organization”. To a large extent so it really was. There was no formal organization, but the groups acted as clandestine cells, particularly in the production and distribution of samvydav, and we with Mykhailo, especially I, gave ourselves away which went about the process of illegal samvydav, and we acted in the open that is we did not hide our views and made public statements. By the way, Mykhailo Horyn tried to convince me of inexpediency of organization. And he was under influence of I. Svitlychnyi and I. Dziuba. At the time, I had only nodding acquaintance with them and I simply wouldn’t dare to talk with them about the organization.
It didn’t take Mykhailo a lot of time to convince me. By that time I was a little disappointed by a not very successful attempt to create an operating organization. The group was, in fact, quite colorful in its social status, education level and more. Say, Liuba Popadiuk was a university lecturer, Mykhailo Cheryba was a worker at Kineskop Plant, mechanic like me, a member of my team. Petro Protsyk was the Head Manager of the film & photo university lab, who made hundreds of photocopies of various documents. In the lab we had hiding places. Through it we could go up to the attic and onto the roof of the university. There we also hid samvydav, even in the statues dominating the facade of the main building. Unfortunately, the KGB managed to intimidate Petro so that after my return from the jail he did not want to even maintain friendly contacts with anyone. But he gave away nobody and nobody gave away him. Maryan Hatala was student attending evening classes at Lviv Polytechnic, work planner at electronic tubes shop at Kineskop. At the oblast committee of the communist party our acquaintance showed us a duplicator in the special department with restricted admission. Maryan remembered principle of operation of this duplicating machine, designed it, and I as a fitters team leader of the machine-building shop ordered to make components putting drawings of these parts into the package of other parts which the turners, millers, and grinders made for other mechanisms and I myself carried out fitter’s works. Since the drawings of components and mechanisms were in the team leader’s folder, no one paid attention to the incompatibility of parts. We carried those components out of the factory and assembled the duplicator. The first model did not work. Then Maryan improved the drawing and we adjusted the cylinder and the duplicator produced the first output in the khata in Levandivka District where Mariyan’s relatives lived (then Levandivka was, in fact, a suburban village with one- and two-storied buildings. Liuba Popadiuk or Myroslava Fuga typed on waxed paper poems by Vasyl Symonenko using the university or school typewriter. It was dangerous, but we had no typewriter yet. Later we bought a typewriter but lost the source of waxed paper supply. We tried once and again to make waxed paper but, unfortunately, we failed, which is another obvious case showing that without professionals one cannot create a functioning organization. After our arrests Maryan Hatalo disassembled and threw out the components of the duplicator in different places of Lviv. We were awfully sorry for the failure for each waxed paper gave 100 - 120 copies of the text in a very short time at that, and we were able to get only 25-30 sheets of waxed paper and everything came to a standstill, when we became accustomed to success and were happy with the results.
So along with progress in expansion of the group work, there occurred failures in attempts to finalize the formation of the organization. Therefore, obviously, the arguments of M. Horyn during our meetings and discussions became more and more convincing; and I emphasize that it was he who convinced me that creation of the organization was premature, because none of us knew the rules of conspiracy, nor how to organize communication system, not to mention the constant lack of funds for basic needs, because all our needs were paid for by our meager wages of workers and intellectuals, moreover, not by membership fees, but considerable donations which often ruined personal or family budgets. But everything was based on the enthusiasm, and no one spared money.
That was how the samvydav emerged in Lviv. In addition to poetry of Vasyl Symonenko we published prohibited poems “Dug Up Grave”, “To the Dead and the Living…” by Taras Shevchenko; “It Isn’t Time, It Isn’t Time…” and the introduction to the poem “Moses”, which begins with the words “My people…” by Ivan Franko; poetry of Panko Kulish “Oh Cheater, You Flattered All and Each” which I found while reading “Chords”, an anthology of Ukrainian poetry compiled and published by Ivan Franko in 1904 or 1906. In Halychyna the Ukrainians also liked two Franko’s articles: “What is Progress?” and “Beyond the Possible”. These articles were recommended me by Professor Yaroslav Kis, Head of the Chair of the History of Ukraine, with whom we have established confidential relations. He was a man of exceptional integrity and nobleness. Even then, that is in the early 1960s, he did not allow himself any "compliments" on account of the CPSU. He was a deeply religious, honest, and brilliant historian; professor knew how to lecture in history without condemnation of WUPR, UNR, Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism in general, which was a must at the time.
By the time I had confidential relations with Stepan Zlupko, young associate professor who delivered us lectures on political economy and stressed the outstanding contributions to this science by Ukrainians Mykola Ziber and Mykhailo Tuhan-Baranovsky specifying that Lenin, ideologue of the revolution and dictatorship, acutely argued with the latter, while the Ukrainians defended the evolutionary path of human development. The emphasis on the Ukrainian identity of these theorists and economists and participation of Tuhan-Baranovsky in the UPR government triggered sympathetic feelings of the students toward the lecturer. Stepan Zlupko was an open person, and we quickly became friends. He took samvydav publications that I had and also shared with me what he had. Although he refused writing for samvydav because his style was very individual and stood out, so the KGB would easily establish authorship. However, after the release of Rector Ye. Lazarenko Stepan Zlupko became vulnerable and was soon sacked; therefore he was unable to defend his doctoral thesis. For a long time he was an odd-job man; he was reinstated in his former job at the university only before gaining statehood by Ukraine and still managed to realize himself becoming an academician.
At the Chair of Ancient History worked laboratory assistant Lidiya Kvit, wife of Deputy Dean of the Department of Mechanics and Mathematics Ivan Kvit. I kept samvydav in the offices of both of them, though I never visited the mathematician myself having no sufficient reason for it. However there were all grounds to frequent the chair of history which was dictated by the educational process, and together with the books taken from the library I brought samvydav literature or took publications hidden by Lidiya Kvit there. In addition to that, she generously shared university carbon paper, cigarette paper, typewriter ribbons, though she did not type anything on the university typewriter. Another secret address was the Chair of Contemporary History, where Taisiya Tairova worked as a laboratory assistant. She was involved in samvydav distribution by Lidiya Kvit, and a bit later we were socializing directly. At the chair there was Professor Brodsky, bitterest Ukrainophobe, so I was afraid of virtual failure of the conspiracy. However Tairova, perhaps because she was a wife of the career officer, proved to be an arrogant conspirer; she used to hide samvydav in folders labeled “Articles and abstracts of Prof. Brodsky”. She generously shared carbon paper, cigarette paper, typewriter ribbons and retyped the works of Ivan Franko.
These were the people and such was the atmosphere of the university formed by Ye. Lazarenko, for whom I became a good friend. So when Yaroslav Kis gave me a pre-war edition of the article “What is Progress?” and then “Beyond the Possible”, I was impressed by the talent of foresight of genius while reading, rather, absorbing and “digesting” the text. For the article was written in 1903! Even then, Franko carried out a hard-hitting attack on Lenin, who, based on the theory of Marx and Engels, sought to establish the “dictatorship of the proletariat”. Ivan Franko, long before the Bolshevik coup d’état, convincingly argued that when the society along the lines of Lenin would be built in Russia (and our generation lives and experiences the "achievements" of totalitarian occupation regime), it would mean the need to suppress the world progress and development of social democratic process casting it 150-years back into remote past. The young people could not find a better, more convincing and topical article than this one written by Ivan Franko. It was especially important when only the first shoots of modern journalism were out.
Even more impressive was the work “Beyond the Possible”. For me it was, in fact, a new discovery of Ivan Franko as a thinker and ideologue of Ukrainian statehood. At the time the school curriculum was limited to such works of Ivan Franko as “Stone Masons”, “Withered Leaves”, “Zakhar Berkut” plus “Boryslav Laughs”, “Fox Mykyta” and several other stories. I am sure that even the students-philologists did not study the above work. Because otherwise it would be an apology of Ukrainian nationalism. In his article “Beyond the Possible” Ivan Franko defined Ukrainian national idea as the right of Ukrainians to have their own state, but in order to reach this goal−gaining statehood−it was necessary to concentrate enormous efforts of will, and then, according to Ivan Franko, what is impossible today, becomes probable tomorrow and what is probable tomorrow will become a reality the day after tomorrow. All you need is selfless work.
I repeat once more. These two articles literally shocked me. At that time I had not read yet either Bachynskyi, or Lipinskyi, or Dontsov, or Lypa. My nationalism formed under the exemplary influence of my father, Uncle Zenko, atmosphere in which I was formed, that is it was an internal need. However, I lacked formal education and theoretical knowledge. But I admiring call for knowledge, motivation, I would say obsession. Therefore the articles of Franko were among the first that increased my intrinsic motivation, willingness to self-dedication and belief in the proper selection of road; they put everything on a scientific basis. Those two articles of Ivan Franko we talked over in our group, discussed, rather, admired the set of ideas, arguments, strong thinking and high topicality of materials written long ago. Therefore we decided to publish and distribute them. They were especially valuable and compelling for the very fact that they were authored by Ivan Franko, revolutionary democrat, as he was known at school, while under lock and key they kept his most significant works. These publications were stored in the special funds; they were not even included into the fifty-volume edition of Franko’s works.
My sincerity about years when I was still maturing (a man is maturing and searching for knowledge all his life though) and searching obsessively for knowledge, and even more for ways to deal with the invader, you may consider naive, even pathetic today. But it was a reality. I tried my best to fill in the gaps in my knowledge. In 1959 I was 22 years old and after three years of service I was demobilized from the army. At this age the boys of my age already had formal education and had already obtained a position. However, I was only starting my education, which was determined by my previous life.
Our family has never hidden behind the screen of tolerance toward the Soviet system. Nobody acted against her or his conscience, nobody shouted slogans proclaiming the glory of "liberators" while holding a fig in the pocket as many Halychyna timeservers learned to do. Having returned from imprisonment my father did not regret his past, though they “offered” him to do it once and again. My aunts-nuns did not disavow their religious status. In our khata the Greek Catholic priests, in fact, often served on Sundays. My sister openly taught her children to say prayers, Catechism, on Easter and other holidays she did not allow them to go to school. So each of us had corresponding relations with the government, was subject to pressure, was not looking for posts and had to earn her/his bread with hard work. My mother was a collective farm worker, my aunts were general workers, and my sister was an accountant. I left home when I was below 16 years of age. Before the army I worked as a loader and finished the night school. Subsequently, before the draft, I worked as a mechanic at Lviv Lift Truck Plant. After the army, I was the foreman of mechanics at the “Kineskop”. So, having entered the University due to Rector Ye. Lazarenko, I wanted to recoup my losses. Indeed, in the evenings and at night I gave myself up wholly to science. I did it not to "take up the post”, but to know how to fight against Russians.
Many of the Sixtiers, including those from Naddniprianshchyna, began from searching for the truth of life, some people sought creative freedom, others keyed on human dignity not to dissemble before themselves. Some were dissenters, some were seeker of truth or faith, and still others were dissidents. All of it was cultivated in me by my parents, relatives, environment in which I was brought up and shaped as a man. I knew that my goal was fighting for Ukraine. The question was "how." So I looked for answers in books, literally devoured them at night. However, it was also not formal education because I used to read a lot of fiction. I admired the heroes of Vasyl London, Jean-Christophe by Romain Rolland, Camus, Sartre and others.
But let us return to the samvydav because I seem to have started to repeat myself.
Roughly at the same time, i.e. in the mid-1963, perhaps near the end, I do not exactly remember, Horyn brothers established a supply channel of literature from the Ukrainian diaspora. The first swallows were Code of Laws of Ukraine, a collection of articles, among which I found Franko’s “Beyond the Possible”." So once again I received evidence what valuable work I had read and distributed in the wide world: even the title of the book shoed that it dwelt upon the theoretical justification of the right of Ukraine to have its own state. Another book from abroad (that is from the U.S.) was the work of Myroslav Prokop “Ukraine and the Ukrainian Policy of Moscow”. I did my best to distribute both books in the network of Ukrainian samvydav. Unless, of course, we do not take into account the fact that brothers Horyn some of the original copies of these books distributed as well. We also printed materials of Ukrainian political journalism: Diary by V. Symonenko, his poetry and “Open Letter to the Mother of Vasyl Symonenko by Hanna Shcherban”. They were followed by “With Regard to the Trial of Pohruzhalsky”, article of Yevhen Proniuk “The Status and Tasks of Ukrainian National Liberation Movement” and so on.
Thus, at the beginning of the sixties we started to produce and distribute materials of samvydav. Then, however, most of us thought that this would be a sideline, additional pursuit, as, for example, distribution of leaflets, because everyone thought that s/he would carry out much more “serious” and dangerous job in the organization. But with the lapse of time, we understood that political samvydav is our most important job, especially the organization of this process.
However, I must say that in Ukraine since the early 1960s there was an active group of Vsevolod Baidak. He organized the youth, arranged theme evenings, entertainments, carols, shchedrivkas, and visiting historic landmarks in Ukraine. V.Baidak, V. Vitruk, Mykola Batih, and Vira Svientsitska lectured on cultural history and art criticism. Many young people gathered in the National museum, the then Museum of Ukrainian Art on 42, Drahomanov Street. Such lectures were a good motivation to visit the museum, and at the same time an excellent safe house. The regular attendance made, say, 50-60 visitors; the audience could exchange ideas and news with each other, and in the corner near the picture or another convenient place they exchanged samvydav, passed cigarette paper, typewriter ribbon. The similar meetings under the guise of Vechornytsi Vsevolod Baidak used to organize in various apartments. He did this legally, but at the same time he secretly studied and selected and screened trusted boys and girls, let’s conditionally call them militants, but rather spiritual militants. For example, in 1961, the centennial of the death of Taras Shevchenko, V. Baidak gathered a group of one hundred people and we went to Kaniv. They planted an oak-tree, distributed several thousand postcards and brochures, and at night, before leaving, I lay a crown of thorns at the pedestal of the monument. Of course, Baidak knew and backed it. The KGB had no direct evidence, but the KGB officers easily “figured out” that it was carried out by the visitors from Lviv. Since then I was regularly summoned to the KGB.
In early 1963 Mykhailo Horyn was looking for me like a “business partner”, because in Ukraine there were rumors that the KGB officers dragged Hel to their offices. I deliberately did not conceal it in order to ward off danger from others. Therefore some acquaintances kept away from me and others stretched their hands for me. During the very first business meeting I told Mykhailo that I came into the spotlight of KGB men. So if he wants to carry out good deeds with me, he’d rather give it a second thought. Mykhailo replied that we all had come or would come into the spotlight. From that time on we used to meet openly. And in the same 1963 the KGB officers killed Vsevolod Baidak. They disguised it as a heart attack.
In 1964 there happened an episode that, I reckon, is interesting, because for me it is a memorable experience, too. I’ll tell now about real psychic breakdown of Halsky during the detention. In 1964 we observed 150th Anniversary of Taras Shevchenko’s Birth. The ruling top designed the official commemoration. We knew that there would be foreign delegations; Khrushchev announced that he invited sixty-six delegations from around the world. And the Ukrainian diaspora was expected to make the majority of guests. In the meantime we accumulated a wide array of samvydav and we got down to work. I had already sent some materials via Poland as far as I had a relative a part of whose family remained in Poland during the Operation Vistula. He was a forced settler and his brother remained there. It was easy to transfer materials. And a screw-up of Kyivites a little later was due to the fact that thy transferred materials via Czechoslovakia… So, we had to take this opportunity to send the materials to the diaspora. But I understood that I was under surveillance. That is, I risk a washout if I were to carry that samvydav. Myrosia Zvarychevska together with the Horyns were university seniors: Mykhailo would graduate soon and Olga Horyn and she would follow him. “Myrosia” was an obliging, serious, and a very beautiful girl. Mykhailo and I agreed upon our actions and did it very carefully, because the KGB agents eavesdropped on us. We agreed upon what should be transferred abroad. Then we involved Myrosia Zvarychevska. I took upon myself the role of a buffer. In other words, I pretended that I would transfer. I did not word it directly, but where they were listening, I said that I had to go somewhere by motorcycle in order to save time. Simultaneously I settled with Volodymyr Baran, who was then the First Secretary of the Lviv Oblast Committee of Komsomol and headed the delegation of creative young people going to the anniversary celebrations that I could go by their bus. We were students of the same year: he studied Ukrainian philology at the university, and I studied history. We knew each other from the time of preliminary courses. Volodymyr said: “I’ll take you”. I reminded him: "If I am a bit late, please wait for me”.
On the day of departure I came home from work to my apartment, to that old woman from whom I rented a part of a basement room; I put in the suitcase four or five books, ballpens, which were the state-of-the-art items, because they had just appeared in the USSR, an embroidered shirt and Chinese dust coat. I also put half a loaf of bread, slice of salo, just in case I would need a snack. I drove up to the oblast committee of Komsomol ten minutes before the bus departure time. And Volodymyr Baran−now his penname is Kviten because for some reason he became ashamed of the name Baran and now as a poet he is known as Kviten−made me seated not in the passenger compartment, but: “You will be the deputy head of the delegation”. We took two front seats in the bus.
The driver slammed on the juice. Myrosia Zvarychevska occupied one of the rear seats: I offered her a seat there. She did not have a chance to go, but thanks to Kvitnevy I actually put her on the list. Among the members of the delegation there were Roman Ivanychuk, Taras Myhal, Myroslav Skoryk, Mykola Ilnytskyi, sisters Boiko, whose names are well-known now. We departed from the oblast committee of Komsomol and headed for the Kyiv Highway. We had just passed the checkpoint--at the time everywhere beyond the city line there were checkpoints on the roads—the militiaman on a motorcycle cut in front of us and stopped. I was sitting next to Kvitnevy and two bus drivers: one of them drove the bus and the other one occupied an attached folding seat. It was an Intourist bus because it carried the delegation of the oblast committee of Komsomol. One driver said to the other: “Why on earth do they stop us? Usually the Intourist buses carry foreign delegations and they never stop them, and now the guys stop us”. The driver opened the door. The militiaman entered the bus: "Who’s Hel here?" I kept silence. “I ask who Hel is here. He has no right to go for is not included in the list of delegation and has no right to go”. And Kvitnevy got up and said, “He is on the list: he is the second on the list, he is my deputy.”—“He has no right to go! Who’s Hel? Otherwise, if you do not admit who’s Hel, I can turn the whole bus back, and no one will go.”
I saw that that he really intended to not let the delegation to go and said: “I am Hel. What is the matter?” Then I did not believe that he would remove me from the bus. I thought that they would keep me under surveillance, I would deflect their attention and in the meantime Myrosia would do what had to be done. I said, "I am Hel. What’s up?”−“Get your belongings, you aren’t going. If you do not step out of your own free will we have orders to use force; otherwise we will swing the bus about.” There was no choice: I took my small suitcase with those four copybooks and put my dust coat on my arm: “Have a good journey, guys, bye!” Everyone who knew me there: “Goodbye, Ivan! Safe journey home!” Everybody saw that there was something wrong. Volodymyr was also to exit the bus with me and the militiaman accompanied us to the checkpoint where Halsky and Horban were waiting for me. As we entered the premises Halsky grabbed my suitcase. He was convinced that it was full of samvydav publications. He grabbed the suitcase, put it on the table, opened, and found there four copybooks. He went over them again: they were clean. And a ballpoint pen, half a loaf of bread and salo and nothing more, except for an embroidered shirts. He pulled out and scattered all my things on the table and then started frantically rapping on the both sides of the case bottom and it began coming home to him that there was no double bottom which he expected to find. There was nothing of the kind! Then he said: “Wait for me here”. He took Volodymyr Baran by the arm and instructed him to be on his guard lest there happened anything suspicious, he allowed him to go on with the trip and suggested not to enlarge on why they took me off. And he explained him why they did it. Supposedly Hel carried samvydav in order to arrange during the celebration of Shevchenko anti-Soviet nationalist provocation, and therefore Hel’s trips to Kyiv and Kaniv could not be allowed. Volodymyr returned to the bus−and he was thoroughly scared already!--and off they went.
Horban and Halsky (there was also the third completely unknown and silent KGB agent) led me out of the checkpoint. There was Volga parked close to the wall. In the shade. Its driver pressed down the hammer and the car rolled up to the exit from the checkpoint. Then for the first time I saw how they technically performed an arrest. Halsky got into the front seat and the other one pushed me into the car to sit in the back seat. And before I could sit down the KGB officer popped up on the other side of me. That is when they push you on the right side of the car their well-trained operative opens the door on the left and squeezes himself into the car. Before you manage to lift your foot you find yourself almost lying on the seat. And you are already a captive, you cannot offer any resistance. It is done with lightning speed and I could not even gather my wits as I found myself in the car. Halsky as a boss occupied the front seat; he turned his head backward and asked: “Well, Ivan, this time I’ve got you!” And I retorted: “What do you mean? Why? Why did you remove me from the bus when I was on my way to celebrate Taras Shevchenko?”−“We will give you such opportunity, you will go tomorrow, or the day after, you will catch up with them, we’ll buy you the seat on the plane. But we must talk: maybe you will help us expose those still on board the bus and are going there for the same purpose for which you’ve joined the trip.” And I replied, “My only purpose is to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Shevchenko.”−“You’re liar! We will prove this to you now.” This "dialogue" took place on the way to the former Dzerzhinsky Street, to the KGB, where now there are the premises of the Security Service; now the street has been renamed from Dzerzhinsky to Vitovsky.
The car rolled into the yard. For the first time I saw that enormous yard. There were many machines in the yard. He brought me up to the third floor of the KGB, to an office, and there they began the search. Here for the first time I saw how they conducted the search. To do this, they called a specialist, maybe an investigator, and so it came to me that I was probably arrested. This A1 specialist searched even my comb expecting that it was a trick comb or something. He examined my suitcase completely, even the handle. At one point he pierced the bottom with an awl, he also used the awl to pierce the case from the top, but he found no double bottom. Then he ordered: “Take off your clothes”. It was a dry bath; they even checked every seam of my shorts. The same they did with my shirt, undershirt, and pants. All this he put on a pole: my shirt and dust cloak for I was naked. It was a terrible humiliation for I was standing naked and they pawed me. “Stand up!” I stood up. “Squat!” I squatted. He examined the space under my manhood and then he moved apart my buttocks and studied my bum. Then I also saw for the first time how he looked between my toes. Then he looked into one ear and then the second ear. “Open your mouth!” I opened my mouth. “Stick your tongue out!” I suck my tongue out. “Raise your tongue!” He looked under the tongue. That is they searched me professionally, as subsequently they searched me hundreds if not thousands of times. Then I encountered it for the first time. That was in 1964. Actually, this was the end of my trip intended to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Shevchenko. Then they all went out; there remained only one investigator or operative, who searched me, and then he left as well. I was left with a captain in the KGB uniform, no one else stayed there. I was left for the time being. In this way they kept me from 20:00 till 24:00 pm.
V.Kipiani: And you were naked all the time?
I.Hel: Nay, they did all they needed and gave me an opportunity to get dressed. They didn’t open their heads for the rest of the time. They threw me a sports newspaper, but in such cases you cannot read because you cannot collect your thoughts. I ran over it maybe two or three times, but I do not remember the content. At twelve o’clock came a major, department duty manager, and asked: “Ivan, where can we take you?” I had already accepted the situation that I would be obviously taken to the cell. My answer was outwardly defiant, even with bravado: “What do you mean by where? Drive me to my home, of course.”−“Where do you live? On Pekarska Street?”−“Right.”−“We’ll give you a lift to your khata.” “We will give you a lift to your khata, because you were removed from the vehicle.” They put me in the cop car, kind of military UAZ. There were lengthwise seats in it. They drove me home and rolled up to my khata violating traffic rules. I lived on Gastello Street, which had one-way movement. They had to drive up from the left side, and they rolled up to the gate from the wrong right side. I entered my khata and I was quick in the uptake that they released me at half past midnight. I did not get a wink of sleep until morning, and I had to go for work in the morning. I came to work, dressed in my overalls, and got down to work. But all my thoughts were keyed on the bus and Myrosia. At about ten o’clock, the superintended came up to me and said: “Ivan, the recruitment office summons you.” My boss was a Jew and spoke Russian, but he was a normal, calm, and reasonable person: “For some reason the recruitment office summons you, drop in.” I dropped in and found there two KGB officers sitting, including Halsky. One of them accompanied me to the locker room, where I put on my suit. We went to the KGB and they interrogated me again. They repeated it each day, until the group returned home.
V.Kipiani: Did they summon you almost every day?
I.Hel: Each day but the weekend. Here is an important point. This episode in my life had a sequel. You may remember that above I said that Halsky lost his temper. Right. In 1965, they arrested both Horyns, Mykhailo Masiutko, me, Myrosia Zvarychevska, Kosiv, and Osadchy. I refused to testify until December: I as much as confirmed some self-evident facts only being sadder but wiser. I was a detainee and they treated me hostilely and I came back at them; therefore there could be no compromise. But I did not become personal: I was not fighting them, though I retorted somewhat provocatively. As a person under investigation I sat in the corner of the office. Suddenly Halsky burst into the office: at the time my investigator was Major Denisov; he investigated the case of Levko Lukyanenko as well; he was a party organizer at the investigatory department of the KGB. I expressed outrage at continuous violation of the Constitution, and he said, “Ivan, the Soviet Constitution was not written for you, it was written for the blackies.” Such was his cynicism. He was also one of those old-time raiders like Horban. When they were lieutenants, they both were fighting against guerillas. I was sitting in the corner on a stool fastened to the floor, a small table, maybe a quarter of this here table, or a bit larger. All of a sudden Halsky burst into the room and turned to me: “… you mother fucker are still wet behind the ears!” And waving his hands in the face of me, even Denisov was frightened. He lost his self-control: “… you mother fucker are still wet behind the ears! You’ve screwed the career Cheka officer!” He kept swearing dirtily, but I could not guess why.
V.Kipiani: Did he mean passing samvydav?
I.Hel: Unfortunately Myrosia Zvarychevska told that she passed the materials and about my tricks, although she knew nothing about the details of the plan. The KGB officer swallowed the bait in this play at giveaway. And having learnt about it, he lost his temper. He always boasted that he was ace at it. And this ace was humiliated. I made myself a buffer and they zeroed in on me. It was a colossal failure of the KGB, because Myrosia passed samvydav to the West. But she knew nothing about the set-up. Her story was analyzed during the investigation. Everything was recorded like we do it now, only it was a stationary recording. After the interrogation they perform the word-by-word analysis collating the taped messages with the examination record. Then they even inserted the details into the official record. If only she kept silence, she might have saved not herself or somebody else, but Halsky in the first place, because it was his huge puncture. Episode by episode they taped her story about the fact of passing samvydav. Everything was recorded, and he realized what this meant: he, an experienced operative, career Cheka officer, got the fast shuffle from an amateur sob!
Mykhailo Osadchy, as he himself told me and depicted in his novel Walleye, was a little bit afraid of them. He was moderate and repented. Osadchy is a Soviet-type pragmatist. In order to intimidate him, Halsky waved his fists in the face of him. In my case there was nothing of the sort; there was the only one episode when even Denisov exploded: “What is the matter, Klim Yevgenyevich? Calm down, Klim Yevgenyevich!” But that one went on swearing and waving his fists in my face. I remembered that episode for keeps: no doubt, these pros were not born yesterday, but all the same you can think your moves over and easily outmaneuver them. They may be hooked.
Anticipating things, I will tell about another episode showing how terribly vulnerable they are. In 1974, I was brought from Mordovia to Lviv as a kind of the so-called prevention measures. I had many years to serve yet, because we were arrested in 1972 and given 15 years. Essentially the so-called preventive work is nothing but moral terror. They keep winning you over to their side, giving a lot of jazz, and making a tour of the city. They made a tour of the city for me as well, promised a job at the university, apartment, flesh-pots of Egypt, later they did the same in 1976 and 1980. Then came to me higher ranking security officer than Halsky General Poluden, Head of the Lviv Department of KGB. He turned to me like a buddy: “Ivan, we’re intellectuals and you are a talented person. You are historian; you can become a doctor of sciences, Dean of the Faculty of History or perhaps rector. We will give you the possibility to work, but at first you have to sincerely repent and then go the hang-out road. Haven’t you told everything yet?” This meeting took place in 1976, after the second arrest and trial. These are consonant episodes; therefore I bridge them. He said that I had to repent. I countered him: “General, the rats desert a sinking ship. Therefore we will forgive you, if you cooperate with us, and we will not try you. But you must give us the information; I do not suggest that you discharge me or all of us for the same matter. You should cooperate with us. It is not you who recruits me, because you have no right to it, but I recruit you.” God! Wasn’t he afraid! Vasyl, it was my way of defending myself. And now I affirm: it was the Providence of God. Otherwise, no doubt, it could not dawn upon me. I did not think it out beforehand: the idea dawned on me, and I did not know yet whether it was correct or not. And wasn’t he panic-stricken! “You go too far, man!” He resorted to Russian at once. “I spilled my blood!” And he lifted the trouser leg. I am one-legged now, and I am ashamed to show that I have only one leg, or speak with pride about it. And he really had a torn out fragment of his shin and there was a cavity with a possible grenade or shell splinter: "Yes I have spilled my blood and you dare to recruit me! How dare you!” And then in Ukrainian: “I did not expect from you this, how dare you!” He became unnerved and after a minute or maybe three he escaped: he panicked! I was immediately taken away and thrown into a cell. They believed that a political prisoner, or rather “a criminal” had a great honor to meet the general; they reckoned that if the general tried to recruit a person, the result would be guaranteed. In fact, it wasn’t a conversation, but a 15-20-minute chat. He panicked and went away. And then… Vasyl, maybe you met KGB officer Chepkasov in Kuchino?
V. Ovsiyenko: Right, I know him.
I.Hel: I tried to recruit Chepkasov by the same method and the identical response followed. Maybe their words or levels of culture were slightly different: for one was a major and another was a general who sported Shevchenko’s badge on the lapel, bragged about his erudition and culture for he was a general and headed the department.
In Lviv also served Major Shumeyko Olexandr Olexandrovych, operative, who actually replaced Halsky. He was a different type: flattering, smooth-tongued, but sadistic, no doubt. And Halsky stood apart: he was extremely aggressive, fierce, vindictive, and subtle psychologist.
So in my lifetime I tried to recruit three KGB officers: General Poluden, Chepkasov, and Olexandr Shumeyko. Their response was absolutely identical. On this point the KGBists proved to be very vulnerable. Why? Because they knew that their every word was recorded at the time. And when a person goes on the offensive, he does not know how to respond: he finds himself in such a situation for the first time. His behavior was not predesigned because nobody tried to recruit him yet. I am sure that it was a powerful defense in every way. With Chepkasov it happened in Kuchino concentration camp, when the term of special treatment was coming to an end. They brought us there somewhere in the 1980. Then I did it more delicately, more confidently for I had already gained certain experience in such practices. Obviously, fixed in my personal file that I tried to recruit Poluden, because I “tempted” him in 1976. After this peripeteia they were terrible and dangerous opponents no more: a man could see their meanness, fear, panic, and they looked miserable. They terrorize a prisoner or put him in a punishment cell, but if you can take such a stand, you will win the psychological battle and not the jailers.
Once I went on a hundred-day hunger strike. Nobody else could stand the test there…
V.Kipiani: Let us make it a day for today.
V. Ovsiyenko: This conversation took place in the TV center on June 25, 2003 and we are going on with it in the Taras Shevchenko Park in Kyiv on June 27.
V.Kipiani: Recall, please, the date of your arrest. We broke our conversation at this.
I.Hel: We have not yet talked about arrest: we talked about my detention in 1964, when during the celebration of the 150th Anniversary of Shevchenko they removed me from the bus and searched thoroughly. I thought it was an arrest, but I was released, they gave me a lift in their jeep to my home after midnight and then they constantly summoned me.
When the delegation returned, Myrosia Zvarychevska and others, that is the majority of the delegation, gave me a lot of gifts and thanked. Some of them were afraid and therefore they passed their presents through Myrosia or Volodymyr. This was a resonant event on the urban scale in Lviv. The news about my apprehension spread among intellectuals, students, artists, musicians, compositors, historians, and publicists. The whole Lviv spoke in the low voice that Hel was detained and detained for political reasons at that. When delegates were on their way to Kyiv and from Kyiv, the fact of the removal was discussed and commented: for what, why, whether I was arrested etc. The delegates tried to get information out of Volodymyr Baran-Kvitnevy (so that we do not confuse the names, because it is one and the same person) and he said that Hel was removed by KGB officers. Later, it seems at the end of 1980s, he dedicated several poems to me. The event mobilized many people and also scared many.
Now, the next worthwhile item. At the time I was a student attending evening classes at the Lviv University, I was about to finished my fourth year at the History Department. I got the worst marks because in June, during the summer session, they continuously summoned me to the KGB. It was not talking the small change of partners in conversation, but an elementary moral KGB terror: threats, blackmail, mentions about parents and other family members. They kept in the KGB for several hours almost every day, sometimes every other day or every three days. After they removed me from the bus for three or four weeks they summoned me two or three times a week, sometimes every day. They tried to cash in on the fact that I was a laborer, although I was a foreman of the team of mechanics. I took a vacation: according to schedule we had 15 days in spring and 15 days in winter during two sessions at the university. The KGB officers defiled both my vacation and training, because I was not able to read in the library. And when you are systematically summoned to the KGB, whoever you are, Schtirlitz, say, or James Bond, you have a live heart, you constantly worry, you are nervous about what will happen next, and how events will unfold. Worst of all, they do not let you work properly because the system of output-based payments left you without wages, to say nothing of tests and exams. I allotted sufficient time for working with literature, however this time I was under time pressure. The same about the psychological pressure: I did nothing special but found myself under the threat of arrest and imprisonment.
This went on for the whole summer. In 1964 there was an inauguration of the monument to Ivan Franko in Lviv in August. Probably, it is talked of August 26, Franko’s birthday. We actually prepared leaflets. Probably, their total number made 150-160 at the most. All of them were typewritten. The duplicator was out-of-operation and such number of copies was really too big for the typewriter. But we did it expeditiously, because there were no more than 300 words of the text. And the poem “This is not a time…”. They either got wind of something, or, as it were, simply regularly notified to appear at the KGB. So that day also decided to call upon me. I was already at work; I was a mechanic. He arrived around nine o’clock and we worked from 8:00 am. Once more the shop foreman approached me and said, "Ivan, they again summon you to the military registration and enlistment office.” He already knew that it was the KGB, and I knew it as well. I went there in my working clothes. I entered the room and saw Halsky sitting there, Horban and an unknown officer; all of them were waiting for me. Then Halsky sent that young man with me to the basement (we changed our clothes in the shop). I washed and changed my clothes. He was watchful, or rather alarmed. For they always took me tided up, and now, when I had to change my clothes, it would be a time-consuming job. I may not return up to the end of the workday. In addition, a sense of uncertainty oppressed me in connection with the leaflets: nobody knew whether the KGB agents had dug out anything and whether my guys would manage to distribute them.
Maryan Hatala was responsible for the distribution. He was an admiringly heroic and courageous and dedicated person, my sworn brother. Maryan was younger than me, but a kindred spirit. Maryan was not my fellow villager, but he was born somewhere 5-7 kilometers from my village, in Pidzviryntsi. There were seven brothers in his family; the eldest one was 25 years old and participated in the OUN underground. His parents, too, in order to escape the exile to Siberia, took refuge in Lviv in good time. As the relocatees from Poland, they got jobs as a janitor and a factory worker. So they took cover and were not deported to Siberia. But their eldest son was jailed. Maryan was the sixth son; he was born in 1942; he had a younger brother as well. Maryan’s helper was Mykhailo Cheryba, a friend from our team of mechanics, and another his sworn brother.
I wanted to tell about our friendship a bit later because when I came back our relations became closer between the first and second arrest. He was already working as the chief manufacturing manager and the chief of a bureau. It was he who designed the duplicator. He saw the duplicator only once: in the Oblast Communist Party Committee his good girlfriend published a small article, three standard A4 pages. We were surprised at how quickly the duplicator printed and felt an urge to make such duplicator for our needs. And Maryan designed it. Since he was a technologist, it was easy for him to order individual parts or blocks. I worked in an engineering workshop and he worked in the cathode ray tubes shop, which was in the making at the time. At the plant they had a closed-loop manufacturing of production lines: the produced systems pumped air out of the cathode-ray picture tubes, installed arrangement devices, welded up glass, and made cathode ray tubes. In our shop he ordered one part, I ordered another. Maryan made drawings. So we assembled the duplicator. The first machine didn’t work properly. Although I am a good mechanic, sixth class, and mounter, the first mechanism failed. We looked into it and found that the adjustment of joints was faulty. I mean that they didn’t match sometimes. He made improvements in his design, we assembled the second duplicator and it worked very well. We used it to print small works. The long articles needed many sheets of waxed paper which was hard to get. We tried to make waxed paper ourselves, but it was a low quality product: when you were typing a text there emerged holes on the surface of the homemade waxed paper here and there. We got waxed paper in the oblast party committee or oblast executive committee, but the oblast executive committee had only a scarce supply of this paper. At the oblast party committee they had a greater stock of waxed paper. We tried and got this paper through various channels. The standard paper performed excellently. We printed two to three pages on A4 standard format; in this way we obtained many copies which may be considered general circulation in the case of samvydav.
So Maryan was responsible for distribution of the leaflets dedicated to the 100th Anniversary of Franko. We arranged to meet at ten o’clock in the morning to discuss all those things in details but I was summoned by the KGBists. Well, I washed myself, changed clothes there in the basement where we had our little personal wardrobe lockers. Then the KGBists took me to Dzerzhinsky Street (now Vitovsky Street), not to the investigation department, as they sometimes did. They talked with me for an hour or an hour and a half, no more.
V.Kipiani: Did they put forward any concrete accusations?
I.Hel: No, they didn’t lay an accusation against me, only that I could−and it struck me−drop the leaflets at the rally dedicated to the inauguration of the monument to Ivan Franko. In fact, during the inauguration. Therefore they isolated me, so they said. Before that they told me nothing about this; instead they very sharply pronounced that I failed to disarm that I would be convicted and rot in jail like my father… just ordinary KGB trash. And when the time the time ran out, they put a lieutenant in civvies on guard with me−or was it a career master sergeant−and kept me in their office until eight o’clock in the evening. That is, they kept me from nine in the morning until eight in the evening. They threw me some old issue of Sportyvna Gazeta or something else. And the man on guard never uttered a word to me, I also did not apply to him, but each time I was about to go, he was abruptly off. You can neither enter nor exit the KGB without a special permit. Lieutenant Colonel Horban came and let me go at eight o’clock. They didn’t give me a lift this time.
And the leaflets were not distributed because I was absent. In the team, which I managed, they knew, in particular, Mykhailo Cheryba. So when Maryan came and asked where Ivan was, they said, “He was summoned to the military registration and enlistment office. Somehow they summon him very often but evade drafting him all the same.” Maryan knew everything and understood where I was for we were working at the same plant, had direct friendly, professional and production relations, discussed and analyzed summons to the KGB.
However, I have not come to the most important point yet. Maryan is an unusually sacrificial, noble, internally clean man. When we were arrested for the second time and he remained at large, in order to protest against repression, he convened a meeting at the cathode ray tubes shop employing fifteen hundred people… They worked in the first, second and third shifts. The first and the second shifts were the greatest. And he convened the meeting during the interval between shifts. All workers gathered sometime after four o’clock: some of them had finished their shift and some of them had not begun yet, all mechanisms were switched off. He addressed the workers and said about our arrests and then he pulled from his pocket a pair of scissors and pierced his heart having said: “Only my blood can wash away the dirt from my land.” He pierced his heart and died. Such was Maryan Hatala. I will tell you more about him, of course…
V.Kipiani: This protest, this suicide, when did it take place?
I.Hel: It occurred on May 25, 1972. They had been interrogating us for five months already and he was in a terrible despair. Maryan did quite a lot. Later, years after his deed, I told everyone who knew him−the Kalynets, Mariya Savka and Stefa Shabatura−that if I had known that he would commit suicide, I would have testified against him so that he would have been arrested, because he wouldn’t have committed suicide; however everything happened not as one would like it to be. He was a heroic and immensely sacrificial figure. [...]
V. Ovsiyenko: Don’t forget that our time is limited. It is the eleventh hour already, and we have to somehow finish our conversation.
I.Hel: Will do. Now it is ten past eleven. Maryan had a charming girl of 21, daughter of the priest from the Church of Saint George. They loved each other very much. But, as it happens in the life of young people, they quarreled. Both of them grieved their drama very much. Her father, fearing for his daughter, tried to intervene, because she also typed samvydav. Maryan was depressed. All this he shared with me and he was certain that their relationship would be restored. (However, his girl Natalia died of leukemia in the spring of 1967. Maryan felt deeply the tragic loss.--Ed.). Maryan did not keep company with Shabatura. I acquainted Maryan with Shabatura only on 1 November 1970, when we returned from the Yaniv Cemetery where we had lighted candles honoring the Sich riflemen or maybe on 4 or 5 November when we celebrated Stefa’s birthday. [...] Long before their meeting, but after the tragic act of Jan Palach (about Vasyl Makukha there were just scrappy info) Maryan literally had a burning desire to dedicate his life in Ukraine and burn himself. I did my best to convince him that Ukraine needed not his death, but his life. Under the circumstances it was important to work step by step than to die, even heroically. That convinced him. He did a lot of dirty work: trips, distribution of samvydav, finding apartments and typists to type and more. I really went a long way with Maryan. [...] So, 1964. After the arrest, which happened on 25 or 26 August, for the exception of one or two times, the quitted summoning me for preventive conversations before my final arrest. That is, a year or maybe ten months before my arrest in 1965 they let me alone. They obviously realized that their attempts to prevail upon me were futile. After Brezhnev’s upheaval both the policy and regime underwent drastic changes. They went about preparing arrests.
In 1963-65 we became very close with Mykhailo Horyn and produced a lot of samvydav publications. Slava Menkush offered her services and also helped a lot because she was also arrested. In the underground, she was an oblast leader of the Women’s UNO Network. My uncle Zynoviy Tershakovets, zonal leader, drew her in. Then, of course, he did not occupy this post yet, but organized underground throughout the oblast. It happened in the early 1940s. Subsequently, at the end of the 1940s and early 1950s Slava Menkush with her daughter Halia found refuge at our khata. Daryna Bandera, the future wife of Panas Zalyvakha, also found refuge at our khata. You can see for yourself that the world is a small place; but nobody at home knew who they were… They knew the legend that Slava is the owner of the apartment rented by my sister Olga in Lviv. For Olga was a student anywhere from 1949 to 1954. Slava Menkush visited us, stayed for a week or two or a month or two, especially in summer. In 1956 she acknowledged her fault. Iryna Vilde helped her, because Vilde was married to KGB Colonel Drobyazko. Slava turned to her and Iryna Vilde turned to the Colonel… Slava was not tried. In 1964, Slava herself suggested to type samvydav materials. Maryan brought the typewriter to her apartment on Kutuzov Street, now Tarnavsky Street. In 1965, she also typed. During the arrest and search the KGB agents seized both the typewriter and part of the typescript.
We are approaching the first “combing-out”. I have already said that the KGB no longer summoned me. That is I was under surveillance and I saw that they were following me, though they tried their best to hide. The KGB resorted to such means as straightforward, demonstrative following in order to apply psychological pressure and covert surveillance. Several times I noticed that I was shadowed.
In 1965, I finished the fifth course of historical faculty with distinction and had six months to write a diploma thesis. Meanwhile I found a part-time job at the teachers college and for the first time I ordered a custom-tailored respectable black suit to look like a lecturer worthy of respect. I was 28 years old at the time. Half past four I returned to my apartment after the trying-on (and at seven we had to go to the Zankovetska Drama Theater). Nearby the place, if you know Lviv, where once stood a tank, at the top of Lychakivska Street, near the Church of the Intercession, which was remade from the Catholic Kostel, which I later, in 1990, gave to the Greek-Catholic community. In addition, there was a huge bell-tower: a very tall four-sided tower 40 meters high. The premises were owned by the KGB, which installed there wiretapping and special communication equipment. There were also three tall towers near the Saint George Cathedral, which is one of the highest points of Lviv. And I rent an apartment nearby. I was coming home after the trying-on when I was stopped on the street just opposite and I immediately found himself in a triangle: Halsky, Horban and some other youngster. “Ivan, you will go with us.” I answered: “I won’t go, because I have tickets to the theater, and it is too late already.” Halsky retorted: “No, you shall go, because we have to talk about very important things.” I had long known that with the KGB the refusal is a no-go, because several times they forced me to go with them. I’ve failed to mention it above that several times I refused to go with them and they instantly pinioned me and showed into a car, and they did it even in crowded places. And if the episode attracted attention of passers-by, one of them usually started shouting that they’d caught a bandit. So, they escorted me, one of them opened the door, I got into the car, and once again it happened as was then, in 1964, when I was removed from the bus during my trip to Shevchenko celebrations. They put me in the back seat, the moment I got inside from the right another agent blocked me from the left and I found myself between two agents like we are sitting now on the bench: you sit on the right and on the left and I sit in the middle. Halsky sat in the front seat and we started moving. Usually we went either to his office or the office of Horban, but this time we headed to the jail on Copernicus Street; we drove through the gates of the of the jail and not up to the main entrance (in 1963 I was summoned to the investigation department for questioning in the case of Yevhen Chaban, who repented later, but then I came on my own and not under escort). Now, I was brought through the hidden gate from the side of Copernicus Street; there the elevator brought us to the second floor of the investigation department of the KGB.
They at once called two witnesses. I had no idea who these people were. Captain Denisov began searching me very carefully. I had nothing, they found nothing. It was about twenty to five on August 24, 1965. Not later because at twenty to five they detained me near the tank, and then for the last time in three years I looked at my watch. They brought me at about half past five, maybe a quarter to six, because I already could not consult my watch. I remember that the questioning started at 18:00: so the investigator wrote in the record of investigation. He began questioning me and put forward the charges of anti-Soviet nationalist activities, article 62, part 1, and organizational activities, article 64 of the Criminal Code of Ukrainian SSR. He suggested me to acknowledge my fault, make open-hearted confession and repent; these would be considered as extenuating circumstances. All of it the investigator announced officially. Three KGBists went out and the investigator was with me one on one. For the first time he began to question me as a suspect. He ordered me to sit down at a small square table on the stool fastened to the floor, and then I realized that there was something serious in it. Yet at the time I still admitted that they imitated the arrest because they were able to play tricks if they wanted to intimidate you.
He questioned me till half past eight in the evening. About a quarter to nine he called jailers: at once two warrant officers appeared, led me away, brought me to the floor below and showed me into a tiny box. There was a bank of standing boxes. Inside there was a wooden bench, I sat down, but I could not straighten my legs, my knees were set against the door. The box was 40 centimeters deep. In a half-sitting posture I spent there about 15 minutes. I was lost in guesses whether it was a show or whether it was a real arrest. Then they led me out of the box, searched thoroughly, and took away my belt, watch, and shoe-laces. Around half past nine or a quarter to ten they brought me to a sell. They took away my necktie. I was always neatly dressed. They threw me into one-man 120-by-200-cm cell. The cell was empty; there were only a little close-stool in the corner, bedside table and an iron bed made of metal plates 5 or 6 cm wide and 5 mm thick. The bed was heavy, iron, and I don’t know whether it was fastened to the floor. Somebody ordered: “Lights out! Go to bed!” But there was no question of sleeping during my first night of arrest? I Of course, I was agitated, could not sleep, sometimes dropped off, woke up, and on the whole it was almost a sleepless night. I do not know what time it was for they took away my watch, maybe four or five hours in the morning, somewhere from the bottom sounded hysterical, appalling cries, “Oh-oh-oh, Mom! God!” The groans were not hysterical but agonizing, painful, and sorrowful.
V.Kipiani: Was it a man or a woman?
I.Hel: It was a man: his groans were poignant and heart-rending. I was painfully impressed. Because of those penetrating moans and yelling I jumped out of bed, got to my feet and began walking, and the cop approached me and said, "It isn’t time for getting up yet, go to bed!” But I had soul above buttons and continued walking. “We have an established order here. We will tell you, when to wake up and then it will not be allowed to lie down.” I lay down but could not sleep. A few minutes passed and then yelling, moans, and cries renewed… It is interesting that when the jailer was speaking, the cries were not heard. It seemed like they switched off something. Many a time within myself I returned to that first night: what was it? Now these are my deliberations after the event. But what did I think at the time? “Ivan, someone is being beaten!” My father told me how they carried out beatings, how they tortured, but we mostly reckoned that they quitted torturing as in Stalin’s time, and everything seemed so civilized. “Ivan, they’re beating somebody, get a grip on yourself. Ivan, get a grip on yourself!” And I started mobilizing myself psychologically: your dad did not break down and you have to endure, you have to endure. And I… You see these warts. In this way I schooled myself to endure tortures ever since I was 15-16 years old. I was already a chain-smoker. I puffed at a cigarette and seared my hand. And I pressed it until it died out. At first my hand twitched as it suffered pain. I repeated it many times until I taught to stop twitching and bear pain. And then I pressed the cigarette to my outstretched hand. Only when my stretched out hand stopped twitching when I seared it with a cigarette, I stopped experimenting because I realized that I could bear pain. I did all of it, when I was 15-16-17 years old. Well, I might do it when I was 18 also. In fact, I mentally prepared myself for it. And this training proved to be useful. For when they arrested me, my inner voice ordered: “Ivan, they’re beating somebody, get a grip on yourself.” You jump out of your bed and a cop makes you lie down. Finally it was six in the morning: “Show a leg!”
The jailers were walking in felt slippers stealthily. The flaps of the spyholes in the jail were made of rubber in order to silence the friction of the iron. At the same time in the special prison camp the flaps were made of iron and the jailers there were taking liberties with us, but also, if it was necessary, they also walked in felt slippers, rather in truncated felt boots and quietly peeped in). “Show a leg!” I got up. “Toilet”. They gave me a towel. And I was the son of a peasant, and from childhood, as I can remember, in summer and in winter I washed myself with cold water from a well in the yard down to the waist or rubbed myself with snow. Since my childhood I followed the example of my father and did it.
(I can tell you another episode from my childhood. My father was arrested, detained for two weeks and released. My dad was the head of a collective farm in the 1949-50. But the nominal head of the collective farm was one such Otverko who was obviously sent from eastern Ukraine, as he spoke fluent Ukrainian and rode a motorcycle. The underground was still active, therefore the head of the collective farm came to work at nine in the morning and at five o’clock he slipped away trembling for his life. The latter’s post was a mere formality but in actual fact his deputy or foreperson plugged in. In those years in our cellar, before the arrest of my father, we always had a lot of lightly salted cheese, butter, and beef; in the pantry we had a lot of food, buckwheat, wheat grits. In my case, to which we are approaching, there is an excerpt from my father’s case that my father was a village commander and messenger of the district security service chief. He gave a large amount of timber to the guerillas in the forest, foodstuffs; the document also listed 25 pigs and 10 heads of livestock. It is a summary only; in fact, nobody sent a live cow to the underground, but made it in parts. It was a summary excerpt prepared by investigators and archivists later in time. My father was released allegedly to gather in the crops.
One day, in the morning my mother woke me as usual early in the morning to pasture cows. And I apparently lost my stick somewhere. While looking for it, I looked into our threshing barn. I reckon you know what is? I looked on the barn floor in the threshing barn and saw that something black was moving. It was a kind of referred sensation. But then I recognized my father, of course. My father, when I slammed the door, asked: "Ivan, what are you doing here?" I answered: “I’m looking for my stick.” And he said: "You saw me in this condition, but beware telling anybody anything because I signed a pledge of secrecy!” My dad was all black, beaten black and blue and only his face was white. The rest was bluish with no white intervals: his hands, back, chest and stomach. And what about my daddy? My father was hiding in the barn, so that I did not see the signs of battery. He also didn’t want villagers to see it, because the villagers often come to the head of the collective farm. In order to prevent them seeing him beaten and prostrate he began washing himself not in the inner porch or in the yard but on the barn floor. “You, Ivan, do not tell anyone what you saw!” I was terrified: only then I realized what the matter was. Why was my dad released? The official motivation was: to gather in the crops. But I am sure that before the wraparound arrests began in our village the KGB raiders uncovered hiding places. It was intended for the district commander of OUN, four militants and a secretary. To ensure that that the hiding place was empty, there showed there someone from our villagers, a shepherd; they were afraid that firing would begin. But the entrance was open, the saucepan contained potatoes and primus oven was warm. That meant that someone forewarned the guerrillas and they were able to escape. I believe that they released my father as bait: they waited to see who would swallow the bait. They kept our khata under close surveillance. There was no other reason. When no one showed up, they re-arrested him two weeks later; he was tried by the so called Special Council or Special Troika. It sent my father to the camps in Taishet.)
So, when I was taken to the washroom under the supervision of the jailer, and, as Vasyl, of course, knows, the toilet time limit makes five minutes there. I eased myself quickly, took off my shirt and washed myself down to the waist with cold water as there was no other water. And all the time the jailer stood over me, pulled me away and hissed, “Your time has run out.” I toweled myself and I felt calm and mobilized. At eight o’clock they served breakfast and only about half past eight they started questioning: again Denisov carried out examination.
Roughly until December, I did not testify. I only confirmed known facts. In December they brought Bohdan Horyn into the investigatory room. This was rather unexpected and it was not confrontation. Bohdan said, “Ivan, we’d rather finalize all our affairs, it’s high time to testify: we all testify, there is such a decision…” Maybe we will not record this?
V. Ovsiyenko: You say that Bohdan Horyn entered the room. How did he enter?
I.Hel: They brought Bohdan in.
V. Ovsiyenko: Into the cell?
I.Hel: No, to the office of the investigator. And I, after my meeting with Bohdan, began testifying in December, that is I agreed with what they had. They found at my place the draft program of the National Democratic Party.
V.Kipiani: Were you the author? Did you write it?
I.Hel: No, those were theses. They didn’t find the program which I wrote based on these theses. I have told Vasyl already that I lost two containers or rather two three-liter jars of samvydav, now we would call that hiding place archives. They contained samvydav and various materials. All that lay carelessly hidden my father stowed away; my father was still alive. The made the search in the whole village and found nothing. And then, when I was arrested again, my relatives put everything out of their sight (my father was already dead). They dug the materials in the garden, nearby our khata.
V.Kipiani: Who did it?
I.Hel: My family: my sister and aunt who, as I said, was a nun. But they did not bury all that deeply. The documents were in jars coated with resin. They were unearthed by our neighbor who obviously cooperated with the KGB. Everyone knew it, because he worked for the police. And in his presence they immediately reduced the documents to ashes. They poured kerosene or gasoline over the documents and burned them. I do not remember what documents were in the jars. Our neighbor did report on it and two men came to the village, they looked at the ashes, but everything was mixed with the earth already. The ashes lay all day and all night, the dew fell and mixed them with the earth: so my sister told me. It really grieves me to have lost those archives, because there were handwritten materials, not just typed on cigarette paper. Some documents were written on transformer paper which is even thinner, but more durable, it was very convenient to write on it. Zmikruvaty was our slang term for the process. I had a lot of such paper in the camp, for always, as my sister or wife sent me photographs, they wrapped pictures with this paper. They knew and it was agreed that in this way they would supply paper to the concentration camp. Actually, this little book The Facets of Culture which I wrote in Sosnovka was written on this paper.
V.Kipiani: I have it with me now.
I.Hel: So, I felt mobilized, strong, and confident.
If they didn’t try to intimidate me, make me to panic, I might have been in two minds; I am not positive about it, but it was a theoretical possibility. I reckon all those moans and screams which they used to exert psychological pressure were recorded on tape. That is I’m not certain whether they did resort to torture, but they were really able to beat because nearby there was a militia bullpen where during the first three days they really wrested an admission of guilt from. In these preventive-detention cells they beat culprits professionally; later I once heard personally how they beat a person. Mykhailo Osadchy and I clearly saw with our own eyes how they wrung out information and heard what happened to the culprits. We were walking in the courtyard and the militia tortured a man and we heard everything. People respond to beating differently. In my case, I reckon that groans and cries were taped and they replayed it in the next cell.
In the morning, after the first night of detention, at nine o’clock or even before nine they led me to the investigation room. It initiated the eight-month period of investigation, then followed the trial; they gave me three years in jail on two counts.
V. Ovsiyenko: Were you the only one tried in the courtroom?
I.Hel: No, initially our case number was 27. The whole group was tried under this case number: Mykhailo Horyn, Mykhailo Masiutko, and Bohdan Horyn (I name them almost in alphabetical order), Ivan Hel, Mykhailo Hryn… He was released. Then Mykhailo Osadchy, Mykhailo Kosiv, Myrosia Zvarychevska, Slava Menkush, and Hanna Sadovska. However, when they began to prepare the case for trial, there formed a relatively big group, and if (this is my opinion, of course, but I think that I am not mistaken) they put all of us in the dock together with all defense attorneys, it would really have been a solid case, it would have been a big group trial which might have caused a strong public response and outcry in the world. They were afraid of this, therefore they formed the case of Hel and Slava Menkush, while the Masiutko’s case they singled out into a special proceeding, and the third case combined Mykhailo Horyn, Bohdan Horyn and Mykhailo Osadchy. And Mykhailo Kosiv and Myrosia Zvarychevska were released: they repented. Especially sincerely repented Mykhailo Kosiv, well-known patriot now. (M.Zvarycheska was sentenced to 8 months of imprisonment and respectively released on 04.24.1966. M.Kosiv was released according to the ruling of the investigation department of the UKGB under CM USSR in Lviv Oblast on 06.03.1967. Subsequently he took part in the publication of Ukrayinsy Visnyk of V.Chornovil.--V.O.)
The camp life begins after a long transportation. They brought me to the concentration camp Yavas via Potma. I think the readers will like to know what that transportation looks like. The most horrible and the most hideous, I would say, moments in the life of a political prisoner are connected with the transportation to the point of destination−to the concentration camp. My first stretch of transportation was from Lviv to Kharkiv. I spent twenty-four hours in the three-berth compartment in the day coach. We were met by a convoy with dogs. We arrived at Kholodna Hora. In Kholodna Hora rats were running all about the cell, because the open sewage was arranged along the wall, opposite the door: they made a concrete furrow which carried feces through all cells. The cell floor was not wooden but concrete. This was a halting place cell. Later, when I was transported for the second time, they brought me to the citadel built in the time of Catherine the Great. In this building the walls were twenty meters or thicker, the ceiling was spherical, and windows were semi-circular. At least there was no moist and there was no sewage in the cell. There was the close-stool instead. However in my first halting place cell, where they brought me in Kharkiv, there was a terrible stench, rats everywhere, cold, and moist. They kept me there for seven days, but could keep for ten days or a month as well. Every scheduled transportation spanned ten days, but in the halting place cell they could keep a prisoner for two months as well.
The next transportation stretch was from Kharkiv to Voronezh. The Voronezh transit prison had a death chamber in the basement. Mattress was not given, the bed was welded of iron bars and welded, I do remember now, to the floor, or else simply attached or concreted and in the middle of the cell they erected a 40-cm-high concrete column and a thick metal ring plate of 20−mm iron on top cut with gas torch. Inside it obviously had welded rods. All of it looked like a concrete cased structure. You sit on iron−whether it is winter or summer, or fall−you can sit on it only, because it was forbidden to sit on your bed despite the fact that it wasn’t covered with a mattress. They looked like iron bunks. The doors were chained with a thick chain and therefore the door could be ajar only. The jailer cries: “Get ready for the exit!” A man would be led for a 15-20-minute walk and then back into the cell. In Voronezh, I spent nine days. From Voronezh they transported me to Ryazhsk near Ryazan. From there to Penza, from Penza to Potma? And from Potma at long last to Yavas, high security camp no. 11, two thousand inmates, 60% Ukrainians.
"Population" of the camp belonged to different categories. Among Ukrainians there were policemen, but for the most part, of course, they were insurgents, i.e. members of underground organizations and soldiers of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. I also met there my fellow-villagers Andriy Hubych, Mykhailo Viter, Vasyl Mysakivets, Yevhen Prukhnitsky; all of them were experienced underground activists. A month later they brought Panas Zalyvakha, a month later they brought Mykhailo Horyn, Bohdan Horyn, Slavko Hevrych and Olexandr Martynenko from Kyiv group, Svyatoslav Karavansky from Odesa. At the camp no. 11 there had already been Levko Lukyanenko, Ivan Kandyba and almost all members of their Workers’-and-Peasants’ Union. I remember that first of all we met the elite of the concentration camp: Mykhailo Soroka, Vasyl Levkovych, Danylo Shumuk, Yuri Shukhevych Ivan Pokrovsky, Stepan Virun, Stepan Soroka, and many more, but now I find it hard to concentrate.
Our arrival caused an extraordinary response. Maybe the reader unfamiliar with camp realities may consider it strange enough, but it is worth telling about. In the jail, in the concentration camp the KGB is constantly carrying out very sturdy and elaborate psychological game trying to demoralize people in any way not only by imprisonment, strict routine, but primarily it is doing its best to psychologically demoralize inmates. I may somewhat simplify it, reduce it to a simpler form, but it is essentially accurate, like photo. For example, they call a prisoner and say, “Well, why are you doing your time here? You might be a lecturer at the university, you could work normally, and you could have a wife and children to bring up. Just look around: nobody else supports your ideas now. Only the inmates you meet here have gathered together and no one else as much as thinks about the independent Ukraine. People live a normal life, speak Ukrainian, have Ukrainian curriculum, think about the high risers, and normal apartments in the city, about how to educate their children. And you are rotting here in jail, and your child has no living allowance, because mother cannot fully replace father. The child will not be brought up properly. And we will not permit your child to study−they just say it openly−because the child will follow you…” And they repeat it continuously over the years for you have a big term. When no new fighters arrive supporting the idea of statehood of Ukraine, when this concentration camp is closed tightly and illegal and objective information cannot reach the inmates, because all mail is censored and all messages which could enliven the prisoner are confiscated whether they are sent from the concentration camp to the big outer zone or from the big zone to the concentration camp. This "iron curtain" and monotony of existence in the strict security concentration camp distress people. Therefore the prisoners enjoyed our arrival; all of them were doing long terms of 25 or 15 years, and those who had shorter terms had already done their time.
Panas Zalyvakha and I became very close friends. Things just happened that he frequently visited me, “Ivan, let’s go and limber up.” We could go out on the path and walk about the zone. My relations with Mykhailo Horyn became closer, but Mykhailo was quickly moved over to the camp no. 17. I also established close relations with Yuri Shukhevych and with Mykhailo Masiutka, but Masiutka was soon taken to another concentration camp. Valentyn Moroz served his term in the 11th as well. Here he wrote his famous Reportage on Beria Reserve.
In Yavas we, young prisoners, started or rather restored struggle dying because of exhaustion of long-term prisoners; this struggle was directed against jailers, stricter special treatment, and, most importantly, we placed on a broad footing the struggle against system in the very concentration camps, set going targeted systematic information supply to the bigger outside zone and from there to the West. From there our statements returned to Ukraine through the radio “Freedom”, "Voice of America", BBC and so on. We announced single and group protest hunger strikes and already on the same day or the next day the information was broadcast, say, by "Freedom" or BBC. Such goofs drove the KGB up the wall, but they had no idea that these protests had been planned well in advance and this information was passed in advance. Therefore, they took jailers by surprise, looked for snakes in the grass among their kind. These actions had a great impact on the prisoners, produced good results for they exposed tyranny of the jailers; however they affected the participants of the action as well: they were nagged at, placed in isolation wards, medium security barracks and denied visits. But despite the penalties we went on with our protests.
From the second half of the 1960s, at the time of our arrival, the Brezhnev clique began tightening the prison conditions. We were forced to go in step in an organized body to the dining room, forbade sitting or lying down on the bed at daytime, demanded to humbly pronounce last name, first name and patronymic, article of the Criminal Code, under which the person had been tried, and jail sentence during the roll call when the work-assignment man put the prisoners in a state of readiness for work.
The march to work was a ritual in itself. Two dozen guards, officers of the concentration camp, chief or his deputies lined up near the gate to the no-go area. Here also stood a platoon or more of guards with machine guns and dogs. The gate to the no-go area was blocked by a line of ten extended service soldiers who search the prisoners led to work. The majority of career officers were already oldish, lazy, well-fed and satiated, but when they gathered together they tried and showed their functional fervor, and sought to please the boss. They were, after all, sadistic by nature for a normal human being would not like to carry on such humiliating and unscrupulous job: to paw people, even their genitals and more. And on the opposite side of the no-go area (I tell you about the concentration camp no. 11 in Yavas) hundreds of prisoners were waiting for the callout on the concentration camp site for they could be punished for late arrival.
So the work-assignment man (without fail it was a snitch, jailers’ trustee opted from prisoners) performed roll call in a strong voice. The prisoner had, as I said above, to loudly pronounce for jailers to hear personal data and then proceed to the line of jailers to undergo personal search. And after being searched he fell in while the column was guarded by guards with dogs. When the team or brigade was manned the convoy cried: “Beware: step to the right, step to the left I consider an escape and I open fire without prior warning. Forward march!” Then the column marches to the site of work in the hell surrounded with a barbed wire.
In this crowd of prisoners I was waiting for my turn. Almost all of them were not familiar to me, but the old-timers see the newcomers and study them immediately. And many a man may remember one man more easily than one man may remember many a man. The work-assignment man called my name. I answer him “Here!” and proceed to the line of guards, some of whom have to paw on me. And suddenly I heard a squeaky voice of Deputy Chief Security Officer of Concentration Camp Yoffe: “Hel, why do not you respond in a proper way?”−“I am not a corporal for you but a political prisoner,” I answered lieutenant colonel loudly. “Get’im and put him in the punishment cell!” frantically shrieked Yoffe. He certainly did not expect this. Two guards rushed to twist my arms and lead me to a punishment cell. Then I was young, brawn, and now I am still a man of muscular presence as you can see, and in the army I was a rated athlete with second class in gymnastics−I turned somersaults−and had first class in football. And the work of a mechanic also helps to pump iron. In short, they seized me by the hands and I moved my hands towards the middle and the cops collided with their bellies and let my hands off. Then the other guards grabbed my neck and my head hanging on my arms, twisted them back and in the best possible way they brought me to the punishment cell. So I got my first 15 days of punishment. There were a few other episodes as well. Olexandr Martynenko from the Kyiv group of Yevheniya Kuznetsov did the same. Slavko Lesiv, when he was brought to Yavas, went to work starting with somersaults. He sped up and somersaulted covering the distance of 30-40 meters until he stopped near the line of guards. They brought him back or just at once led him to a punishment cell, and he repeated his gymnastic antics all the same. In this way we turned hateful, gloomy almost solemn performance of jailers, which was intended to humiliate and taunt human dignity, into an audacious remonstrance and held up to derision our jailers. There is another conspicuous fact.
The KGB and MIA operatives (so called “kums”) attempted to use the episode with Yoffe to discredit me as an anti-Semite. To this end they involved the work-assignment man who approached Yuliy Danylo and in casual conversation allegedly told him that I said not “corporal” but “Jew”. In this way, he concluded, I allegedly meant “I am not a Jew for you? But a political prisoner”. It sounded like contempt for Jews as humans. Outright anti-Semitism. In Yavas there was Veniamin Yoffe, political prisoner from the Leningrad group with who I was on friendly terms. But this provocation had not yet reached me, because I was kept in the punishment cell.
15 days later, when I was released from the punishment cell, Yuliy Danylo came up to me and said, "Ivan, I can understand the Banderivetses who were brought up and lived in anti-Semite, but you are a man from the other era, there were already no Hitler, Goebbels, Kaganovich, Trotsky, Stalin. How did you acquire such malicious anti-Semitism?” Out of the clear sky there fell a thunderbolt upon me. I asked: “What do you mean by my malicious anti-Semitism?”−“Oh yeah. What for do you insult Jews? Among us, like among Ukrainians, or like other nations, there are different people. Take for example Jew Yoffe: communist, fascist, policeman, who jails people and humiliates them. And here is another Yoffe from Leningrad: he is a Jew, who is imprisoned like you and me and a thousand other inmates.”−“But, Mr. Danylo, who told you that it was the word “Jew”? I told Lieutenant Colonel Yoffe “I am not a corporal for you” etc. And you charge me with things I did not tell. Let us verify.” Together we went asking people in order to clear up and we found that I said “corporal” Yuliy apologized. Then we went to all important Jews and there were quite a lot of Jews in the camp. And Yuliy himself denied the insinuation. The last one was the work-assignment man who spread rumors. Yuliy asked him: “Tell me in his presence what Ivan Yoffe said.” He seemed confused at first, and then explicitly said: “Yuliy, I work as a work-assignment man and therefore I have to fulfill orders.” Danylo hit him in the face. The work-assignment man did not even defend himself: he was an experienced convict and knew that he could get even more. It really brought us together even more. Yuliy suggested becoming great pals and the difference in age was significant: it was a war vet, a very strong, noble man. Yuliy introduced me to Larisa Bogoraz. She always sent her love to me or sent postcards; Larissa grew up in Kharkiv. She had a good command of Ukrainian; she translated our poetry into Russian and poetry of Danylo into Ukrainian. Bogoraz together with Lyudmila Alekseeva or separately had to meet Yuri Shukhevych and me at the Moscow railroad terminal. It was Danylo’s suggestion and he also agreed about this with Larissa who agreed about the same with Lyudmila. The occupation of Czechoslovakia interfered. And Yuliy divorced Larisa after his release from custody. They didn’t get along even before the arrest of Danylo, but they kept up their marriage until Yuliy’s return from the concentration camp. Larissa came several times to see her husband. Between the first and second imprisonment I also met several times with Bogoraz, passed through her samvydav to the West. But more frequently I did it with the help of L. Alekseeva. Unfortunately, I had no chance to visit Danylo in Tarusa. It was a pity, because he soon died.
Such was an external, visible side of our existence in Yavas high security concentration camp. One can mention many other facts about fighting with the prison system. There was, however, the invisible, but much more important and more effective side of concentration camp resistance.
Almost all of us, young new prisoners, were aware of the weight of words. Actually, the totalitarian regime punished us for our Words because in the time of rapid development of productive forces and information space the word became the most dangerous weapon and threat to its existence. Therefore we organized the information leak from the concentration camps, and in the first place from the 11th camp, where about two thousand prisoners, more than nine hundreds of which were Ukrainian, served their terms. There was a furniture factory making furniture for both common people and exquisite, beautiful, handmade furnishings for higher-ups and Moscow Russia Hotel, which later burned down. The texture−walnut veneer−came from Austria and Yugoslavia, Karelian birch was supplied from Finland, mahogany from Australia and Africa. There was a sufficient stock of high quality fittings and as a result they started making specialties; we began putting into the gift wrapping the concentration camp information, written statements, and articles.
Many Sixtiers people were involved in the transfer of these “souvenirs”. Among the most active participants of this undertaking there were Svyatoslav Karavansky (he was not a Sixtier, but an extremely energetic and businesslike man), Opanas Zalyvakha and me. The organization was the most important aspect of this work: it was necessary to find a trustworthy person who would agree to deliver our materials to the right address. In the case of failure this person would be threatened by another term, while an unreliable courier could just give away the organizer of this scheme. It was also very important to manufacture things that would not cause suspicion and which we could use as containers of information. The alleged “souvenir” had to be beautiful, functional, and small. We found such variants.
For example, the ex-libris of Opanas Zalyvakha I packed into tabatières for rustic tobacco (a kind of cigarette case for rustic tobacco). In good time, I as a tool-maker made him very good burins of cutting steel and guys turned appropriate handles. Panas was happy and said that even at home he had not such “branded” burins. He used them to cut wooden boxes, birds, small icons, and inside, between the walls or in secretly drilled holes, we inserted prison samvydav. In this way we sent out of the zone my statements, which Chornovil included into his collection of documents Woe from Wit, statements and materials of S. Karavansky. For ex libris engraved by Panas we invented the tabatière for rustic tobacco. In my shop I made an iron matrix on which, having soaked veneer, I made an inner wall. On it placed over or about two dozen ex libris. Again we tightened it up with veneer, which, when wet, becomes elastic and easily bends in the right place. Panas during such work was often joking good-naturedly; of course, he was a very kind man. He use a periphrasis for the Russian saying “necessity is the mother of invention” replacing necessity with Hel and laughed that we got the better of jailers. These gifts through courageous people found their way to my relatives, then to Olga Horyn or Ivan Svitlychny and further to the West.
Here is another example. Having heard together with me and other prisoners the story of our fellow Lithuanians, how their comrades were trying to bolt and how they were brutally murdered, Valentyn Moroz wrote his brilliant Reportage from the Beria Reserve. He gave me and Panas the book to read. The Reportage was a real bomb, but Valentyn was helpless and could not organize on his own the transfer of the material to the big zone. Every moment the jailers could discover everything during searches or someone might squeal because 45-50 people were squeezed in each section of the barrack, 200 in the barrack, and 300-350 in the shop. Panas Zalyvaha and I started looking for the exit to the outside. I managed to convince my fellow villager, Andriy Hubych from Komarne, to take the Reportage with him when he would be released from the concentration camp. We decided to hide the stuff in his footwear. Another my fellow villager, Vasyl Mysakovets, former OUN district leader, asked a Lithuanian, who worked in a shoe shop, to take apart new kersey boots with rubber soles, indent the heels and place there the Reportage; then the heels were skillfully glued in place with rubber and assembled the boots once again. And Hubych calmly, as underground activist and guerilla, passed through the last search, his boots also passed the probation. In these boots Andriy came home, the next day he brought them to my mother. And my aunt from Klitsk, my native village, a nun, brought them to Lviv and gave them Olga Horyn. Olga carried them to Ivan Svitlychny in Kyiv; Ivan Svitlychny ripped open the boots, took out the Reportage, typed it, distributed it in Ukraine and delivered to Moscow, from where it was carried to the West. Such were techniques and routes of carrying materials of prisoners out of the concentration camps. Of course, there existed other variants and other people, but those who did it took chances. In the case of failure they received an additional prison sentence.
A bit later, but still during my first sentence, we mastered the new technology: we discovered the very thin but stiff transformer paper on which one could write a lot in extremely small letters. We sharpened pencils 1T or 2T as needle-points and wrote so finely, tinily and densely that those who deciphered the written text had to use a sextuple magnifying glass. We made capsules that could be swallowed. We sealed them hermetically with polyfilm from plastic bags. The plastic melted on a match flame and glued the capsules. To make capsule hermetically reliable we repeated the process several times. This method was invented by Svyatoslav Karavansky, man of enormous energy indefatigably looking for ways to fight against totalitarianism and brilliant linguist. With time the manufacturing of capsules became the most common way; hundreds of people assimilated the experience, but we were the beginners, developers of technology of carrying materials out of the concentration camp.
If I am not mistaken, in 1967, his wife Nina Strokata arrived to visit S. Karavansky. She was accompanied by Nadiya Svitlychna. Svyatoslav was not permitted to meet her, so the women greeted us during our going to work and return to the zone. It was then that I met Nadiya and Nina. I kind of frightened them then. As a rule, our column marched along the wired corridor about two hundred meters long. All inmates were supposed to remain in the ranks; otherwise it would mean violation of routine. Nadiya and Nina stood on the outside of the wire wall; I left the column and came up to them and introduced myself: “I am Ivan Hel, my kind regards to Ukraine. Please, come to the perpendicular side of the barbed wire entanglement at 20:00. And I pointed with mu hand at the proper place. The security guard hissed at me: “Fall in, sob, or I’ll fire a burst!” I knew that he has no right to shoot at the middle of the corridor, but anything could happen. The rampant German shepherd flew at me from the other side of the fence wire, though it couldn’t reach me. And Nadiya desperately rushed to the guard almost shielding me from him and shouting: “Do not you dare! Have you not enough of shooting?!” In this way I made my acquaintance with Nadiya and Nina.
And I approached them because Svyatoslav asked me to tell them about passing his material directly, across the no-go area and several rows of wire fence. Sometimes we resorted to this method, but it was very dangerous because the jailers could easily intercept parcel having searched the addressees or just intercepting the material. However, Svyatoslav insisted that he wanted to pass this stuff by all means. The girls came to the agreed place, and we had long waited for them lingering among the barracks. Svyatoslav asked me to throw the material because I was good at hitting the target. It was a bar of domestic soap with a well-packed material. We stood on a hill and in the searchlights from the tower we saw very well how the bar landed in two or three meters away from the women. But apparently the same searchlight blinded them. They failed to immediately pick the bar because there was snow. The next day, they were not allowed to look for the bar there; but the jailers were not luckier as well. Only in spring, when the snow melted, some of the Yavas residents picked up this bar of soap and used it until he used up one half of it. He found paper in cellophane, which he handed to the KGBists. The trial followed and this Mordvin was a witness for the prosecution. And Karavansky got one year of prison time. Since then we never met again. The details he told me when we met in the special settlement of Sosnovka. I began doing my second time, and he continued serving his life imprisonment.
END OF THE FIRST IMPRISONMENT
With Yuri Shukhevych we did our terms until his release and we agreed to meet in Moscow. He had to be freed on August 21, 1968 and I on August 24. We had to meet at Larissa Bogoraz apartment or Lyudmila Alekseeva. Anyway, there Yuri had to wait for me. But you may remember that on August 21, 1968 the Soviet troops invaded Czechoslovakia. In Moscow, Horbanevskaya, Litvinov, and Delaunay demonstrated; in fact there were five of them. (Seven: Konstantin Babytskyy, Larissa Bogoraz, Natalia Horbanevskaya, Vadim Delaunay, Volodymyr Dremliuha, Pavel Litvinov, Viktor Fainberg.--Ed.). The protesters were arrested and they could not come out to meet us. Yuri was caught near the train and he could not go to the city. They apprehended him right at the railroad terminal, detained for one day either on the Krasnaya Presnia, or Lefortovo until all documents were prepared and then they escorted him to Nalchik. Actually, they offered him several cities to choose from. As far as Nalchik was the closest to Ukraine, he chose Nalchik. In the compartment he was with the accompanying person, a KGB officer; the latter accompanied him to Ryazan and then said, “If you alight or try going out, you will get another term to serve.” And Yuri went to Nalchik. In the meantime Mykhailo Ozerny and I were released on August 24, arrived in Moscow, and nobody met us as well.
V.Kipiani: With whom did you go to Moscow?
I.Hel: I was freed together with Mykhailo Ozerny, who was arrested in Ternopil; I believe you know that person.
V. Ovsiyenko: Yes, he is included into the Chornovil’s book Woe from Wit.
I.Hel: So, we arrived. (At the time Mykhailo became closer to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a foreign, non-traditional church). Nobody met us, and we had no more contacts in Moscow; therefore we had no other alternative and went to Kyiv at once. Mykhailo immediately went home, to Ternopil, and I stayed at the Svitlychnys apartment. I was acquainted with Ivan Svitlychny somewhere from 1963, but we had no such direct, immediate contact. And in 1968 Nadiya met me at the railroad terminal, led me to Ivan, and I slept a few nights at Ivan’s apartment. Ivan presented me an embroidered shirt, Nadiya along with Ivan made me a tour of Kyiv. Then we met Vasyl Stus, there is even a photo where I have absolutely no hair and in Ivan’s shirt.
V. Ovsiyenko: It was reproduced on the front cover of the book Essays on the History of the Dissident Movement in Ukraine by Borys Zakharov.
I.Hel: Right, maybe there. There I have no hair, Nadiya Svitlychna photographed. We established contacts. I returned: I failed to acquire the right of residence in Lviv.
V. Ovsiyenko: Here is the book by Borys Zakharov.
I.Hel: Right, here it is. Very interesting. By the way, it is the shirt of Ivan Svitlychny: he presented me with it. I came to him in prisoner’s outfit and Nadiya took that outfit as a museum piece. She was going to found a museum of such outfits, personal belongings of prisoners, letters and more.
V. Ovsiyenko: So, Ivan gave you this embroidered shirt?
I.Hel: Right, Ivan Svitlychny, this is his shirt. A month or two later I brought him an embroidered shirt from Halychyna, a Hutsul shirt. He did not want to accept my present, but I said, "Ivan, you presented me with a shirt and I keep it.”
V. Ovsiyenko: So, you can even date this picture. After August 24, 1968, a few days later, right?
I.Hel: Yes, August 26 or 27. Because on August 28 I was at home. In my village the villagers observe the dedication day of the church: the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God; we traditionally solemnly celebrate it, and I had just arrived from Kyiv at eight o’clock in the morning to Lviv and from Lviv to my village I arrived somewhere at ten or eleven o’clock in the morning. Such was my epic comeback.
SAMBIR. “SAMVYDAV FACTORY”
They didn’t issue me a residence permit neither in Lviv, nor in Klitsk, my home village. Well, in Lviv, as I understand, they did not like to have me, because in Ukraine I could get lost and, more importantly, to establish contacts in no time, but in Klitsk they turned down my appeal for registration because in Klitsk they did not have professionals who could shadow me because for the villagers I was their man and could get lost as well. So they chose the City of Sambir with population over 40,000 people, urbanization was under way, constant movement of people and so on. I did not know anyone there, though my sister lived there. In this town they could get lost while I would be in a plain view. In Sambir they also played for time for six months and registered me in March 1969. The KGB kept nagging me through the militia, why I lived without registration, why I did not get a job. I really lived in poverty. My mother was a collective farmer, but she did not work at the collective farm already, my father needed to be taken care of. My father was still alive but he died a year later; my sister worked, but she had two children to bring up. You know that every useless mouth in those days was a problem. I owe my life my sister.
I set samvydav going in Sambir as well, and it was even easier to operate there. They registered me only six months later. Inadmissible nagging: every evening militia came to my sister, performed checkup, and I had to be formally recorded. The KGB did not return me my passport making excuses that it was allegedly in Kyiv because they initiated a new investigation intended to further maintenance of action. And without a passport it looked like a vicious circle: I could not be registered, without the military service record card I could not get registered at the military commissariat, and therefore I could not get a job and I could not acquire the right of permanent residence, because I was liable for call-up. But when I tried to explain it to the KGBists, they retorted: “They hold an additional inquiry into your case in Kyiv. You may be sentenced anew”. It was interesting to know, of course, because I used my going for a passport as a cover: twice a week I allegedly traveled to Lviv KGB for a passport, and actually I went in order to meet someone of my acquaintances. KGBists got to the core of the matter and began forbidding my trips for passport saying that it was in hand and might be returned on such-and-such day. And I retorted them this way: “In this case, please, tell the militia about it, because every day they come to my khata and keep nagging me and my family about my registration and threatened to sue me for parasitism.” Every evening the district militia officer comes at eight or nine o’clock, sometimes even at ten o’clock in order to check if I am at home, and although I were at home I was not registered. He scolded my sister that I had no registration and threatened to fine her and he scolded me for I got no job. The militia could sue me for “parasitism” and the KGB maintained that they “carried out additional inquiry”.
But I managed to get samvydav going in Sambir in the meantime. Firstly, there were proper guys, former guerillas Volodymyr Sorokalit, Ivan Petryna, Vlodko Vasiuta, he is still alive, for was young and imprisoned much later. They were more or less−especially Vasiuta and Petryna−so called haves, and helped to buy typing machine and paper. My sister worked as assistant chief accountant in the organization called "Mixed Market”. There was everything in assortment. I owe my sister that she provided me with more than twenty kilograms of cigarette paper very quickly. We dobbed in to buy a typing machine. The relatives of one of those guys were deported to Siberia and had not returned yet. The repressed relative graduated from the Novosibirsk State University and worked at the Siberian Branch of the Academy of Sciences. They were extremely decent people. Therefore we bought a typing machine in Novosibirsk, for conspiracy, of course. They brought it home and got typing going. It took place in the mid-1969.
I was finally registered in Sambir. I got a job of a mechanic to repair concrete mixers in some Mobile Mechanical Department. Once the Head of Staryi Sambir District Department of Public Education came to my sister’s work. My sister said, “I have a brother who is a mechanic and has a university degree”. “Well, let him submit an application”. She did not tell him what I was. “Let him come and I’ll take him. There are teachers in our schools who did not finish even teachers college. It is the region of Carpathian foothills. The Staryi Sambir Region was considered the backwoods situated far from the villages and nobody liked the idea to be employed as a teacher in the godforsaken place. But Staryi Sambir Region at one point is located close to Sambir. I mean the Village of Nadyby. And the Head of Staryi Sambir District Department of Public Education took me as a teacher there. I worked there for three months…
V.Kipiani: Did you teach history in Nadyby?
I.Hel: No, I did not teach history because head of the curriculum department did it; I taught biology, geography, in one grade I taught natural history. I read to children Symonenko’s poetry. The school had six hectares of land; and the teacher of biology was responsible for all kinds of agricultural work: cultivation of land, planting of different crops, weeding and so on. In previous years, the parents used to chip in to pay the tractor driver to plow and do the rest of the jobs. I together with my children farmed the allocated plot during one week and planted all necessary cultures. The children readily dug and I dug with them gladly, because I was a teacher. According to the tradition, it was very difficult to make a country child to work also at school, because it labored at home: pasturing cows, weeding vegetable patches, and hoeing potatoes… The whole teaching staff was impressed how Hel managed to make a country child− every year it was a standing problem− during the week to neatly plant all plots. The children did it with enthusiasm, and I also worked together with them and read them poems and kept telling different stories. I did not say anything about detention though.
V. Ovsiyenko: It was the spring of which year?
I.Hel: I specify: spring of 1970. It happened that the headmaster built himself a khata in Sambir and wanted to go to work in Sambir. In the district department of public education they told him: “You find a suitable candidate for the principal and we’ll let you go”. That was how the farming of the plots of land, which impressed the teachers, played a cruel trick on me. He submitted my candidacy without my consent, without even speaking with me or letting me know. In the meantime I wasn’t a diplomaed teacher because I had to finish the sixth course yet.
V. Ovsiyenko: In order to become a principal one had to join the Communist Party!
I.Hel: Right. The principal knew nothing about me, because I was sent by the head district department of public education to the village where there was no teacher. Everywhere in the mountain villages there is still lack of teachers, because no one wants to go there. In the district communist party committee the officials began to consider my candidacy. The regional Communist party committee makes a request to the KGB. The latter were horrified. They had my proof of employment stating that I was working as a mechanic for repair of concrete mixers. But how did I get a job at school? They quickly began to examine the problem and just on the eve of the end of the school year, when several examinations had taken place already, the second secretary of the regional Communist party committee convened the meeting of principals, heads of the curriculum departments and, of course, heads of district departments of public education. Formally the meeting was convened by the district department of public education and the second secretary of the district Communist party committee was invited to deliver a speech. And the Communist party secretary said: “That’s what you have come down to! You’ve employed a stubborn nationalist, Otaman of Ukrainian...” “Otaman”: it dwells in my memory. They told me about it in the staff room, because, of course, nobody invited me to the meeting. “You’ve employed the Otaman of Ukrainian counterrevolution and Banderovets! You are tarred with the same brush!” But the acting principal put a bold face on it; he realized that his number has come up and said, “You’d better see to yourself: why you did not provide me the information? You mean I have to have private KGB to be in the know about Hel? He came, a highly intelligent man, he with his children cultivated six hectares of land in a week while we usually hired two tractors and could do nothing as it had to be. He is a brilliant organizer and how could I know his background?” The school teachers thought that I lectured at the university or some other place and held a high position, but obviously as a womanizer or due to some other peccadillo I was sent down to Nadyby. Of course, no one harbored political suspicions. In Sambir, those, who had business dealings with me, did know, but in the village they knew me as a teacher, whom children liked very much and who managed to cultivate the school plots of land.
In short, I was ignominiously expelled from this school. My sister placed me into school as a teacher and I myself got a job of mechanic to repair concrete mixers. I had to hurry up and fill the vacant position, because they threatened to sue me for “parasitism”. No doubt, my sister was in with the right people being the deputy chief accountant at the Mixed Trading and helped me once again: she arranged that I would go to work as a technician in the Department of Drainage Systems and Mountain Rivers. The company went about bank protection, building dams, pipe-draining in the fields, and canal construction. The field walking inspector had to check the condition of banks and canals. My salary made only 70 karbovanetses, but this job was extremely good because you did not bear responsibility for anything. For example, you have eight kilometers of canals in each farm and you have to inspect them. You have to inform the flow controller that there is a need to mow down the slopes near the bank line and put the canal in order. This was also a good job due to the fact that you allegedly went to the collective farm, in the field, and actually you went elsewhere to a secret meeting. You could walk in the fields and you could see if someone was shadowing you and then you could make a turn and carry samvydav or materials for samvydav to a certain destination. In this way during those three years we published a lot of books and a lot of articles.
V.Kipiani: Were it you who published The Set of Rights of Ukraine?
I.Hel: Yes. They didn’t charge me with it for they failed to find it. I was charged only with the Cry from the Grave of Mykola Kholodny, which they found. On November 4 or 5 Stefa Shabatura had her birthday and I gave her this book and wrote there my wishes. So, during the search they confiscated it.
V.Kipiani: Were these books typed or photocopied?
I.Hel: They were typed. The Set of Rights of Ukraine was a collection of articles. I think that you’ve seen this book: conceptual theoretical definitions and arguments concerning the rights of Ukraine for statehood. There were articles by Franko and many other authors. There was Prokip…
V.Ovsiyenko: Myroslav Prokop.
I.Hel: Right, Myroslav Prokop. He wrote the study Ukraine and Ukrainian Policy of Moscow. This book was also retyped. I was personally interested in it too: there is a mention about Hrynko Tershakivets, delegate to the Austrian Parliament and Polish Sejm. He was my uncle. M. Prokop calls him the first victim of the Stalinist terror: On September 17, 1939 the Bolshevik hordes crossed the border; they reached Komarne on September 24. The delegate was arrested on the 25th and already on October 3 or 5 Hrynko Tershakovets was transported under guard to Kolyma. So he is seen as the first victim of Bolshevik terror in Halychyna. The book is very interesting, it was in great demand, and therefore we typed it. After the arrest of Moroz I collected his entire social and political essays, wrote a foreword and we published Amidst Snow, a complete collection of articles and poems of Moroz. The book remained and I have it now. I even wanted to bring it here, but was beyond my power. When I feel better I will bring it here. The book of Mykhailo Horyn Letters from Behind the Bars also contains over three hundred pages typed with my foreword six months before his release.
V.Kipiani: Was it reprinted?
I.Hel: We’d like to. I’ve written the preface, but there’s no publisher yet. Olga was looking for the publisher; she wanted to surprise Mykhailo on his seventieth birthday, but to no avail. It looks like they thought that I would do it, but I failed to find that kind of money. (The book was published on the eve of the 75th Birthday of Mykhailo Horyn. Letters from Behind the Bars (Under the editorship of I. Hel, O. Horyn and V. Ovsiyenko) −Kharkiv, Kharkiv Human Rights Group, Folio, 2005.--288 p., photographs). I helped Mykhailo Masiutko to publish his book, but I did not read it, I only submitted my recommendations, but he… You may know the whole story.
V. Ovsiyenko: Yes, I have his book In Captivity of Evil, published in 1999. Well, you’ve told us about publishing, but what was the number of copies? One carbon copy or more?
I.Hel: It depended, but we made at least five carbon copies. My principle was as follows: one copy if you have a direct link to a country abroad, where they printed the book. This was the case with Iryna and Igor Kalynets and their magazine “Yevshan-Zillia” and Mykhailo Osadchy with his Katedra Magazine.
V. Ovsiyenko: It was later in time.
I.Hel: I know I I’ve told the same. So Mykhailo Osadchy did with his Katedra Magazine. He made one carbon copy, passed it abroad, and there it was either broadcast on the radio “Freedom”, which suited him, or reprinted. And at that time we did not have reliable connections and the materials were mostly passed to Moscow for abroad. There was a sporadic and unfortunately not permanent channel via Poland. And it is worth mentioning that materials carried abroad via Poland reached their destination, but materials passed via Moscow reached their destination only in one-out-of-five or even one-out-of-ten times at best. All openly nationalistic and statist works, where occupants were called occupants and totalitarian regime was called totalitarian regime, remained in Moscow, got lost, burned, perhaps found their way to the KGB archives or heaven knows how disappeared.
V. Ovsiyenko: It was a “democratic censorship”.
I.Hel: Right, it was a purposeful censorship. I can tell you that Levko Lukyanenko said the same. For then, until 1972, a lot of materials were carried to Moscow, but they were mostly lost, did not reach their destination, although the KGB did not respond as it was supposed to. This uncertainty, this immoral censorship, this Russian chauvinism were amazing. And I had only Polish contacts, they were credible people, but they rarely visited us. Moscow was Moscow. In the capital there were embassies, accredited journalists, scientific conferences, and so on.
In addition to these books, we also published five issues of the magazine “Ukrayinskyi Visnyk”. The majority of these publications were typed by Roksoliana Danchyn, student of Drohobych Pedagogical Institute.
V.Kipiani: So you had already communicated at the time?
I.Hel: Right, with Chornovil we at that time both were friends and worked together. But Chornovil also used to make one carbon copy; then he gave me one copy and I went about the retyping. At first Chornovil invited me to become a member of the editorial board, but later he renounced his proposition, saying: “Ivan, in the case of failure they will be able to apprehend both of us. And if I am one, they will arrest only me and you will get on with it.” Nevertheless I went on submitting my articles to the Ukrayinskyi Visnyk, including my speech at the funeral of Alla Horska.
V.Kipiani: How did Ukrayinskyi Visnyk look in 1969-70? For later they…
I.Hel: Later I made carbon copies myself. I was the executive secretary during the publication of the first issue of the Ukrayinskyi Visnyk in 1987. It was a standard typing paper format or A4 as they call it now.
V. Ovsiyenko: Right, the standard printing paper.
I.Hel: All pages were typed on the cigarette paper. The first copy on the thick printing paper Chornovil kept for him or passed abroad. If possible, a film edition was sent abroad. In 1970 we managed to get a compact German-built camera Kodak. Since then we used to pass film editions; it wasn’t an easy job, though, because it was necessary to have the required film in stock, otherwise we had to wait. It was difficult to buy such film in Lviv. The Ukrayinskyi Visnyk Ukrainian Herald had an appearance of the typewritten text in a cover.
V.Kipiani: Was it a hardcover?
I.Hel: No, it wasn’t a hardcover like in books, but a thin cardboard binding.
V.Kipiani: What was the volume of those editions?
I.Hel: The volume was up to 90 pages. Not all magazines had 90 pages; one of them, the fifth issue it seems, reached even 130 pages, very thick. Obviously, the issue of 130 pages was devoted to Alla Horska and Valentyn Moroz. Actually Slavko and I made Valentyn so popular that in the West they considered him the leader of the liberation movement. Moroz told me that he saw Amongst the Snow abroad; the book was brought there by Rayisa. So it is possible that in the West they reprinted my edition of the book Amongst the Snow. I will bring the books without fail to show you: Letters from Behind the Bars by Horyn, Amongst the Snow by Moroz, and Cry from the Grave by Mykola Kholodny… They are worth to be reprinted.
V.Kipiani: And do you have the originals of Ukrayinskyi Visnyk from the late 60s?
I.Hel: No, I have not. However, I will ask around. Somebody might hide them in a safe place.
V.Kipiani: There are originals of the 1987 issues, but there are no originals of the issues of Ukrayinskyi Visnyk from 1969-71.
I.Hel: I will make inquiries. There are samvydav publications, but they were so safely hidden that now, when there is nothing to be afraid of, they simply cannot find them. In the early nineties there was no time, and then they became the things of the past…
I.Hel: To my knowledge, there still exist materials built into stairs to the cellar, hidden in the garret, in clay. But the father of a woman who knows about hiding places for the typewriter and samvydav has died and she does not remember the exact place and hates destroying the whole attic. That means that there is still the unknown samvydav.
What have we published? The Lamentations of Captives by Zenia Krasivsky. I’ve got them. Zenia’s handwritten original was confiscated during the arrest, and now I have taken this material evidence from the file. So, probably, I will bring it to the museum of the national liberation struggle, if there is any. We re-typed Yevhen Sverstiuk’s Regarding the Pohruzhalsky Trial, Ivan Kotliarevskyi Laughs, but the latter was lost. However, I have two reels of text read for recording by Sverstiuk. So tell him, please, he probably does not know that tapes on reels have survived.
V. Ovsiyenko: Did he read for recording his article Ivan Kotliarevskyi Laughs?
V.Kipiani: At the time this mag-tape samvydav was very popular. And then it somehow disappeared. Someone told me that there exist reels with the voice of Stus: I’ve mentioned about them recently, but it is impossible to find them. It is good that you have them (In2004, the CD “Live Voice of Vasyl Stus” was issued where he reads for recording twelve poems.--V.O.)
I.Hel: Well, why do you consider them lost? There are also reels confiscated as a material evidence which can be taken back. But if, for example, there is something in the file of Stus, will Dmytro be given them as far as Vasyl is already dead?
V. Ovsiyenko: Dmytro has access to it.
I.Hel: Right, access, but will they give it back? As concerns my material evidence, they returned what they had, but said that some evidence was missing. They destroyed the book which they confiscated from Osadchy The purpose of Ukraine by Yuri Lypa. It was my book, I gave it Stus. And another book by Dontsov, now I cannot remember which one; it was also destroyed; there were also these photographs, abstracts of the program of the National Democratic Party. They didn’t give it back and said that it was destroyed. I ask: “How? Can the material evidence be destroyed?”
V.Kipiani: Were those materials included in the charges?
I.Hel: They also destroyed articles of Ivan Franko. It was a way with the KGBists. About my books they said that they gave them to the Library of the Academy of Sciences. Already in the early 1990s, I asked about them Larisa Krushelnytska, Director. She confirms that they did it; they drew up a record and immediately burned it. Officially they transferred them to the possession of the library, but the special fund in the Library was allowed to keep no more than two copies. So, if there were more copies, the “unnecessary” copies were destroyed. This means that despite the records they destroyed and burned all "anti-Soviet" literature.
I was arrested on January 12, 1972 in the same Sambir, at eight o’clock in the morning. I was doing my morning exercises, I was doing my push-ups. On the snow. As usual I was in gloves and training suit. I was on my hands and toes parallel to the ground doing push-ups, when suddenly in front of my nose I saw someone’s shoes. I raised my head. “Do you know who has come to you?”−“I do.”−“If you do know, then get up.” I jumped up, stood up, and they stood in single file. There were seven of them: five KGB officers and two witnesses, which they picked up on the way to arrest me. I’ve got no idea, who those witnesses were. I was in a training suit and was pumped up; I kept myself in good shape. And I lived in my sister’s apartment. This is an old three-story building, Polish or even Austrian, built of stone, not too big though. The balcony ran along the perimeter of the apartment. You enter into the hall on the first floor, walk up the stairs and enter the corridor. Why am I telling you this in so many detailed? Because it is important. They went in single line, not as a group, because in the narrow corridor more than one person could not pass clear of each other. The arrest was carried out by Lieutenant Bal… No, not Bal. You see, I’ve already forgotten. It seems to me his name was Bal. No, his last name was a little different… Let’s not waste our time… Now, I’ve just remembered: Lieutenant Colonel Shalia. He headed the Sambir Regional Department of the KGB. I did, of course, know him by sight, because they used to summon me before my registration and after the burial of Alla Horska. In short, I knew very well the Head of the Fifth Department and Head of the KGB. I led the way and he was the first to follow me. My sister had double entrance doors: one door opened on the outside and the second opened inside. So I opened the first door wide and left it so, then I jerked open the inside door, jumped inside, closed it and propped it shut with my shoulder and shouted: “Olga, the samvydav is in my bag, take it out and throw it into the oven because they’ve come to arrest and search me!” All of them started knocking at the door. There were seven men, well, you can count witnesses out, but five men that remained brought all their weight to bear on the door but they could not outweigh me. They took a running start and attacked the door: boom, boom! When the door slightly parted, Shalia put his foot into the gap. Then they attacked the door again: boom! But Olga took a cue in a flash: my sister was an extraordinary woman. (Incidentally, she was a liaison, she was born in 1930; she also delivered bran to the guerillas. She was a professional underground activist, that is she didn’t go underground in the forties, but she belonged to the Youth Network and was one of the heroic women.) They banged once more, Shalia moved his foot ahead and the door couldn’t be shut again. But in the oven all documents were flaming…
V.Kipiani: Were all the documents from the bag reduced to ashes?
I.Hel: She threw everything in which was very wise. It was an old building and there was a gas range in the kitchen. It was winter and the flames flared up and everything she threw in was reduced to ashes. Samvydav was wrapped in a newspaper about twenty centimeters thick. The newspaper ignited and all documents on the cigarette paper flared up and burned at once. But the Lamentations of Captives by Zenio Krasivsky were written on the covers of the Problems of Philosophy Journal. These covers were made of thin cardboard, but cardboard all the same. So the sheaf covers was burnt on the edges. Now the finish is at hand… The KGBists when they last hit… the door flew one way, and I was left standing almost on the spot and maybe a bit to one side. And I did not fall down. But all of five attackers fell down one over another.
V.Kipiani: Was it a single-leafed door?
I.Hel: No, they were the two-leafed doors. They knocked out only one leaf and the other was bolted and this fastened the door and I propped it up with my shoulder. At first the door sockets held, but then the sockets and hinges broke and one leaf fell on one side and I remained on the other side. And they all fell down on a heap one over another.
V.Kipiani: As they say, they fell head over heels.
V.Ovsiyenko: Right, they sort of lumped together.
I.Hel: Yes, they also call it domino principle. One of them was Kozhemyakin, Senior Lieutenant, KGB officer, father of the current member of Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc. For his "feat" he was promoted and transferred to serve in Lviv, while Shalia was downgraded to captain. He was lieutenant colonel. For his making a mess of arrest he was transferred to Kharkiv Oblast as militia operative.
The KGBists were taken aback then, because they did a blooper. The operation failed only because, in fact, my resistance became for them a complete surprise. It should be noted that Kozhemyakin, having broken into khata, could hear in the mud room my words addressed to Olga about samvydav, and he with his bare hands snatched from fire what little was left from the burnt papers. His zeal was rewarded and he was advanced. He snatched the unburnt Lamentations of Captives. The cardboard was only scorched, as you can see, because fire did not consume covers with poems. They took the residue as material evidence. And the book Lamentations of Captives has been published already.
After this episode-incident the KGBists began their search. They were looking for self-published books, but did not either exclude or take anything. I had over 500 of old volumes: Nationalism by Dontsov, History of Ukraine by Hrushevsky, History of Ukraine by Ivan Krypyakevych, Little History of Ukraine, History of Ukrainian Sich Riflemen and others, in short, quite a lot. At first they did not take anything, because they’d need sacks to carry al books, and somehow they were taken aback. On that day they took only covers with poems of Krasivsky; they had to gather everything in sacks, but they were somewhat confused. They were looking for samvydav in the first place. The book of Moroz Amidst Snow, such a thick book, was lying under a pillow on my niece’s bed, because she was just reading that my edition.
V. Ovsiyenko: It has started raining, but it is nothing, because we are under an umbrella.
I.Hel: They began to search. They order me to sit down on a chair in the middle of the room and not to move. But my sister as the lady of the house was not under a ban, because she had to show everything. And Oksana who was about 14 years old was a seventh grader; she burst into tears. The child was afraid that they would find samvydav under her pillow for she was reading the book Amidst the Snow by Moroz at the time. My sister ran to the child, and the KGB officers did not object. My sister scorned them and even gave a dressing-down for having frightened the child. Olga ran to Oksana who told her: “Mom, I have samvydav under my pillow, what is to be done?” Olga put that book on Oksana’s back, covered her child with a fur coat, and Oksana in a nightgown and fur coat slipped over her shoulders held on to her belly, which allegedly hurt her, and went with her mother Olga to the toilet. And the toilet had a sewer pipe drain 200-250 mm in diameter, possibly more. They brought the book there and threw it into the sewer pipe drain and the book got into the cesspool. They got rid of it.
And, in fact, they found nothing more, though they rummaged among our belongings from eight in the morning until half past nine in the evening when the search was over. At half past nine in the evening they brought me to the Sambir KGB. There I spent the night on a long bench near the officer on duty, because they had no cells there. At seven o’clock in the morning they drove me to Lviv.
We arrived in Lviv at eighth fifteen or half past eight. Again a thorough search, again the same box, the search, and then they threw me in the cell. The interrogations. At this point I was on top of the situation, because I gave no testimonial evidence until February. Then I paid heed to episodes with which they would saddle others if I did not start speaking or set up a provocation. Therefore I started testifying. Why? For they not only accused my sister of throwing samvydav into the oven, but also of having read and distributed it... A few days later they figured out that there was something wrong with the child; so they climbed down into the cesspool, got the book from the feces and washed it. However, it was found outside the khata. That means that the KGBists did get the book, but formally it couldn’t be a material evidence.
V. Ovsiyenko: Maybe we’d rather go under the protection of tree crown temporarily?
I.Hel: Let’s go.
V. Ovsiyenko: Now we have a heavy shower. [Turning off of the recorder].
V. Ovsiyenko: The rain has seized at thirteen zero six. We get down to work again. Where were we? Right, you sister was charged.
I.Hel: Yes, they accused my sister. Such petty trifles as paper, ribbons, carbon paper and other things I took upon myself because she was accused of supplying paper for samvydav. By the way, they confiscated twenty kilograms of printing paper and six kilograms of carbon paper. When they arrested me for the second time, they did not use the appellation “Ivan…” During my first arrest, Horban and Halsky said: “Ivan”; this time they said: “Ivan Andriyovych, you were going to set up a samvydav factory”. However this time the KGB officers did not take away everything, because I had somewhere else about thirty kilograms of paper, the cigarette paper at that. That paper remained intact, i.e. the KGB officers did not find it, because otherwise they would fly into a rage.
In short, they failed to find some important material evidence. Indeed, it was a great surprise for them. But my audacity and rebelliousness infuriated the KGB officers. They tried to play high and threatened me with various articles, but I did not mind whether it would be self-defeating or not, because I was sure that they would give me the maximum term of imprisonment. It was very important to behave with dignity so that the KGB officers would arrest the minimum number of comrades. I cared the most about the safety of those who had not yet come into the spotlight and produced samvydav.
Already in the cell I heard the voice of Chornovil and realized that he also had been arrested. However, when the questioning transformed into the legal process, it turned out that the number of those arrested was rather big.
V.Kipiani: Please tell me whether there was a sense of despair when you heard that arrests were carried out all over Ukraine? What is the nationwide pogrom?
I.Hel: I can tell you as follows. Approximately in October 1971, possibly on feast of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God, or maybe in the beginning of November Stefa Shabatura hosted a group who initiated a discussion about the arrests. We often met in the apartment of Kalynets. We knew that we were overheard; nevertheless, we were flesh and blood after all and not always we talked about specific facts: distribution of samvydav or transfer of typing machine and so on. Different conversations and discussions took place there, too. On that day all friends were assembled. Then the conversation began about current affairs and evaluation of the situation. Teodoziy Starak expressed his optimistic view and asked me, if I was in accord. I answered: "They will commit pogrom. Two or three months later, maximum six months later they will arrest all of us.” Iryna opposed me: “Get that crummy idea out of your head: they will not dare to do it! Other times, other manners. Do you believe that if Brezhnev is at the helm now and if he starts tightening screws then he will tighten nuts and bolts to the end? They cannot afford putting the screw on the situation anymore.” I did not agree: “No, speaking about Ukraine they will apply a screw on it. You can but see for yourself how they treat Ukrainian national problems, prohibit our schools and language. And we will probably be arrested soon.” “No,” Iryna disagreed.
What do I mean by this? We were getting ready for the arrests. I knew that I would be arrest long before the actual arrest took place. Everyone knew. Unless, maybe, Iryna Kalynets or someone else from her environment was not getting ready. But Chornovil was mindful of his pending arrest and Ivan Svitlychnyi as well. We were seeing each other with Ivan Svitlychny very often at the time. I’ve told you about myself here but wider contacts took place too. Now, let’s go back a little back in time and speak about the arrest of Moroz. He was arrested on June 1, 1970. I stayed overnight at Svitlychny’s apartment. There was broad daylight already and in order not to be overheard Ivan and I went down the overgrown hill to the railroad where shrubs, willow trees, and green grass grew. We sat down on the bench there and started talking. I informed Ivan with indignation that I persuaded and even insisted that Moroz should not publish his article “Amidst the Snow”, after which I later called the book. In his article Moroz subjected to sharp criticism Ivan Dziuba for his repentance. You may know the contents of the article. I told Svitlychny that I had discussed the matter with Chornovil and that I knew that Chornovil was also against the publication of the article. I asked him, “Ivan, try and have a talk with Moroz about it.” And Ivan Svitlychnyi said: “I’ve already had a talk with him. Valentyn can listen to himself only, no one else. No wonder that he had not listened to you and he had not listened to me, and had not listened to Slavko as well. He, of course, wouldn’t consider anybody’s opinion.”
So Ivan and I conversed. Suddenly Liolia leaned out of the window and cried to us, “Ivan, Ivan, come home, Raya’s calling from Ivano-Frankivsk.” We came running home. We’ve run in and Raya informed that Valentyn was arrested. It was June 1; you see how I remember it: for I was in Svitlychny’s apartment. Raya said that Moroz was arrested, Ivan immediately called Sakharov and told him about the arrest. He also called Lyudmila Alekseeva. All of it took him about thirty minutes or maybe less. Half an hour later we again went out of the house and continued our conversation. Ivan said or, to be precise, summed up: “Ivan, no matter how we treat Valentyn, he has been arrested. Therefore we must do everything we possibly can now to rise in defense of him. What measures will you take?”−“You know what: I will type his materials and give them to you.” As usual I gave him one or two copies of typed materials. I also gave him “Amidst the Snow”. [The recorder was switched off].
V. Ovsiyenko: We took refuge from the rain in a cafe. Where were we?
I.Hel: I was telling you that I didn’t testify, but later I afforded evidence on a selective basis. At that time I felt myself an experienced prisoner, a revolutionary, and so I behaved as appropriate: adhering to principles; essentially very bravely, though it may sound immodest when speaking about myself. In a word, I behaved good and proper.
I was tried alone. I’ve already told you about Maryan. Now what? Oh yes, the last statement. I had a previous experience: when they transport you to the concentration camp in winter; it is very difficult to survive under conditions of that transportation route legs. It was terribly cold in each halting place. Therefore I deliberately accelerated consideration of my case giving no evidence, because if I had started to testify, they would have kept me in Lviv for God knows how long. But I accelerated the progress of the investigation and especially aggravated the situation regarding the process. I even went on hunger strike for several days. The trial took place on 6 or 7 August 1972, so that I was behind bars for less than eight months. And during the first arrest we were behind bars for more than ten months. Chornovil was kept for much longer. They transported him under guard only in November. I highly accelerated consideration of my case because, as I said earlier, I was badly hit by conditions during transportation, especially I was very cut up by cold. At the time I didn’t know the destination: Vladimir or elsewhere; therefore I wanted to reach my destination while it was still warm.
The trial took place in the oblast court. I behaved appropriately in every way. I reckon you know my last statement: Taras Batenko quoted it completely in the book. Do you have it?
V. Ovsiyenko: Yes, I have.
I.Hel: You can read there and insert it into this text. (Taras Batenko. I Rebel, Therefore I Am…. Political Portrait of Ivan Hel. (Essays on the history of Ukrainian opposition movement in the late 1950s - early 1990s.)−Lviv: Shevchenko Scientific Society, 1999.--P. 96 - 98:
"In the life of any nation in a certain historical moment there is a complex and extremely important question: How are we to live? The Ukrainian people pronounced on this issue more than half a century ago. In my opinion, this answer was final and based on principle. Therefore, all attempts to incriminate me anti-Soviet activities to undermine the socialist system of society are baseless and frivolous, because all my public activity, for which today I am in the dock, was intended to strengthen the social order in which I grew up and formed, the ideas of which formed the basis of my social views. It is not a matter of anti-Soviet activities. It is inexistent, and everybody understands it. Our tragedy is another matter.
The life and development of every nation is a natural historical process and no nation has neither moral nor, moreover, legal right to change it, influence its course, impose its ideas, culture and psychology treating them as an absolute truth. But since its annexation by Russia year by year Ukraine was losing its autonomy, national identity, and cultural level fell into decay. After each rise of liberation activity Ukraine was subjected to waves of destruction and repression. Those who had not died were sent to settle the North, Siberia, the urban settlements were built on their bones, and their denationalized heirs as janissaries were driven to Ukraine to initiate new pogroms. In the thirties, as a result of famine and Stalinist terror Ukraine lost one million more people; almost all it’s the most talented intelligentsia. The assimilation policy and artificially created for this migration today are truly catastrophic. If If in 1959, according to official data, on the territory of Ukraine lived 7 million Russians with all complex of institutions of national life (educational institutions, press, broadcasting, theaters, publishing houses), in 1970, according to the same data, their number made 9 million. During the same period millions of Ukrainians had to leave Ukraine and none of them has even a thousandth part of the conditions and opportunities which have the Russians in the preservation of their national identity. This is just a small illustration of a thoroughly developed system. What fate awaits Ukraine, who we will become and what we will have in the near future at this rate of genocide?
The fundamental postulates of many Russians always included great-power policy and pan-Russism. And today, when they have rejected the commandments of Christ and morality developed by mankind in the course of centuries, the ethical concepts of freedom and equality, they once again have adopted as their official religion expansive chauvinism and now Ukraine has to respond to the terrible and tragic question not of “how will we exist?” but “to be or not to be”. Therefore every honest man, every man feeling himself Ukrainian must stand up and firmly say: no, we want to live. WE want and will live as Ukrainians according to our way of thinking, our language, and our national culture. So it is necessary to declare this today, because tomorrow it may be too late; tomorrow of our people with their culture reaching two millennia can be reduced to ashes and their language may turn into the language of the archives, as Latin became the language of pharmacies.
However, such words lead to the dock with the label “state criminal”. But we know all too well that in Russia they are good at pinning labels on people. In olden times not only Shevchenko, Chernyshevsky, Hrabowsky were labeled, but also hundreds of thousands of fighters of different nations, whom Russia so brutally oppressed and strangled their spirit of freedom. Their suffering was immeasurable, but they kindled the spirit of liberty. Our philosophy and culture have become the solid foundation on which should be built relations among nations.
Such ideas nourish us today: humanism, democracy, freedom and equality among nations make the flag and the purpose of our life. Those were democracy and humanism that became the voice of people during the political thaw that took place due to scientific and technical progress and partial bringing to life of criminal activity of J. Stalin. As regards Ukraine, the mentioned facts contributed to the emergence of Ukrainian renaissance of the sixties. I stress once more that the reason for the intellectual ferment of Ukrainian intelligentsia is not the revision of the state system, but the objective factors of national vistas. Born as a result of this life, it will continue to develop as its object. And the wide campaign conducted now against the so-called nationalism once again underlines the relevance of our position. This shows that Ukraine is deeply concerned about the national question that it is not solved yet and is far from being solved, the more so if we speak about the objective solution. And many repressive measures convincingly evidence that more and more people have begun to actively defend their national and civic rights as they do not want to live in the old way.
It is proved by today’s trial, the results of which I am willing to accept as an assessment of my personal qualities as a man and citizen. However, you are ineligible to try me: you have neither legal, nor moral, nor historical rights. For me the highest court of law is God, Ukraine, my enduring and my unblemished honor. I am the son of Ukraine and will carry in my heart as a most sacred burden the fate of my people, their pain, anxiety, and suffering. I regret only one thing that I did very little to deeper and wider uphold those ideas, bring them into the wide world of Ukraine and to implement them with the joint effort of all people. Yet I firmly believe that I am here not in vain and that neither prison bars, nor concentration camps, nor even death are able to kill these ideas. They are eternal, as eternal and irresistible are my people.”
It was allegedly the trial open to the public. However, it took place in 1972, and Lviv was still full of Bolshevik debris that participated in the October upheaval. The invited into the courtroom those “r-r-revolutionists” “who saw Lenin”. During the trial, when I spoke, they shouted: “He should be shot in sight for that!” My mother fainted, because she thought that I would be shot indeed. The public delivered accusatory speeches and applauded the prosecutor who did say that if under this article there were the death penalty, he would give Hel the extreme penalty, but we can give him only fifteen years: ten years of special regime and five years’ of exile. Then I read my last statement. It also exerted a great influence on the audience. Especially the words: “you are ineligible to try me: you have neither legal, nor moral, nor historical rights”. The prosecutors, judges, and special public were enraged. When the trial was over, they could not wait until they put me in the cell and in the yard of the KGB prison they took away the text of my last statement. I think the power of the Providence of God overshadowed me: I wrote it in the cell but in the box in the oblast court, where they kept me, I read it three or four times and learned it by heart, and until I passed it out of prison I constantly repeated the text and remembered it for eight or ten years. I could now quote fragments as well. The statement read that my work is not anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda, but unresolved national issues, that I considered the verdict being the assessment of my human qualities (i.e., the fact that I did not testify on my activities), but “you are ineligible to try me: you have neither legal, nor moral, nor historical rights”. For me the highest court of law is God, Ukraine, my enduring and my unblemished honor. I am the son of Ukraine and will carry in my heart as a most sacred burden the fate of my people, their pain, anxiety, and suffering. Yet I firmly believe that I am here not in vain and that neither prison bars, nor concentration camps, nor even death are able to kill these ideas. They are eternal, as eternal and irresistible are my people.
This is the end of the statement; there were three pages of text. They certainly were angry and gave me the maximum sentence: ten years of special regime and five years of exile. They brought me to Mordovia…
V.Kipiani: I’ve got a question: what about your defense? And, if possible, compare the defense in the trial of 1965 and 1972, what about the behavior of lawyers. Who were these people?
I.Hel: In 1965, I did not want to obtain a lawyer and in 1972 I did not like the idea as well. But when you find yourself in prison and outside there remain people, your family, the jailers allow them to visit you, and they say, “Ivan, by your very refusal you are increasing the term! We implore you too to reckon with us”. And you have to agree to obtain a lawyer. Both in 1965 and in 1972 the lawyers believed that I somehow wronged the Soviet regime, but that the maximum term of imprisonment was rather excessive. In 1965 the lawyer did not stick in my memory; I do not even know now if he really existed or not, that is I know what he existed, but did nothing memorable. In 1972, the lawyer stuck in my memory because, at first, he was a Jew: maybe you prefer “yevrei”. Then write “yevrei”, while in Halychyna they say “zhyd”, which is not offensive here but historically determined name. In such matters, they are more courageous, if they were not recruited as, say, Medvedchuk, they are honest and noble. Certainly a man can do no more than he can, especially where the defendant behaves openly hostile. He also stuck in my memory because I gave him my last statement and he handed it to my sister.
V. Ovsiyenko: Do you remember his last name?
I.Hel: It sounded like a Russian last name.
V. Ovsiyenko: It can be found in the documents.
I.Hel: I reckon I still have a judgment and I can find. Therefore I hold nothing against my attorney at law. Frankly, I hate Medvedchuk with every fiber of my being for his crimes against Ukraine and faithful service to Moscow. But the accusation that he allegedly “defended” Stus is ridiculous. But, you know, the reason to criticize him for defending the defendant Stus was cooked up. But he could not speak otherwise. If it Stus had asked him to pass certain information, and he wouldn’t have done it, it would have been another pair of shoes.
I emphasize: I cannot say a bad word about my lawyer. And again I underline that I did not want to obtain a lawyer, because I knew that I would be given the maximum term of imprisonment in any case and I knew that the lawyer would not be able to help me. However, the very fact that he handed my sister my last statement, speaks of his personal qualities, of his honesty. I never met him again. He had a Russian last name. I think he probably emigrated to Israel.
V.Kipiani: Now let’s talk about your imprisonment. I’ll put a question at once. The Mordovia period is very well described in the literature by Kuznetsov and many other people. We know their interpretation of those events. I know that you were often dissatisfied with the way your camp mates wrote about it.
I.Hel: Right, it’s really awful! But I think that not all of them interpreted those events in such a way, because, for example, there were no publications of Karavansky about it. I think that maybe Karavansky as a decent man simply never made them public. I should add that I’ve read none of them so far and I do not know their exact content. I have secondhand information only. At the same time it is one of the most painful topics as it affects not only me but Karavansky and Moroz as well. Karavansky did not get on with Moroz. To a large extent, their relations aggravated for private reasons. But the most essential thing was that we took a stand like Stus later did. Perhaps it was really unacceptable to many people position in the active opposition to the system, but it should not have resulted in scandals and even assault and battery. Because I was even beaten for this, and Kuznetsov was one to begin.
V.Kipiani: Please, tell us how it was.
I.Hel: I am not ashamed of my behavior; I would have behaved in the same manner once more; I only want to say that these facts are extremely painful. I did not even want to tell Batenko about these scandals, because they do not befit Ukrainians, but conflicts have always been among Ukrainian. Therefore the memoirs about them hurt even now.
It seems I’ve already recounted someone else that the Day of the Soviet political prisoner had to be fixed on October 15.
V.Ovsiyenko: Yes, you have already told it, but your words were not recorded while it is very important to find out facts about the emergence of this date.
I.Hel: Once the idea was suggested to establish the Day of the Soviet political prisoner. Every, let’s say, ethnic or national group discussed it in its circle. The Russians and Jews wanted to choose the date of November 5. I considered and explained my opinion that it would look as a direct provocation against 7 November, because we would be constantly terrorized and they would not allow us to celebrate that day. Therefore I thought it best if it we would appoint it on some other neutral day instead of November 5 or May 1, conditionally speaking. We started discussing the issue and trying to find a common denominator. Svyatoslav Karavansky and I began reviewing the variants and I suggested the idea of October 14: it is the Feast of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God and we will be under the guardianship of the Mother of God (I’ve always been a believer). In addition, October 15 is the day of the murder of Stepan Bandera, and it would be nice to choose this day, even without showing that it is the day of the murder of Bandera. All Ukrainians agreed with me.
And Shumuk was not particularly against it. But at that time Shumuk was extremely critical about the position of OUN, especially in the matters concerning the Security Service. He also took a critical view of Nadiya Svitlychna (to say “critical view” is putting it mildly), and of Ivan Svitlychny and all Sixtiers. Ever since his first term he kept a negative attitude towards the OUN, underground and especially towards the Security Service. We were in the same camp; I was there when he was released having served much longer time. While he was doing his term as a member of the OUN, his attitude to the OUN was extremely negative; he admired the Sixtiers, gave preference to moderates and legal or half-legal activities. After his arrest in 1972, he became extremely intolerant in relation towards the Sixtiers, especially towards Svitlychny. He was in sympathy with Stus. They met both before their arrest and in the concentration camp. [In the hospital in Barashevo.--V.O.]. But after the last conversations about the Svitlychnys and conflicts Stus began treating him very hostilely. [Unintelligible]. As we stayed together in the punishment cell, it could not avoid talking about these scandals. Stus did not accept the version of Shumuk. The confusion in the views of Shumuk was not literally a kind of mental confusion, but rather an inconsistency in relation to the activities of both. I, for one, really, not to say admired, but very respected and valued, and even loved Ivan Svitlychny, looked up to this outstanding personality. And no less I respected and valued Nadiya Svitlychna. We had a very warm relationship as between a brother and a sister. I morally supported her when she was pregnant and later. I could not accept calumnies on these people. But Shumuk had not only personal grievance against them: he held it against Nadiya Svitlychna that he gave her his memoirs, she spent six months editing them but in fact did nothing, as a result of which they fell into the KGB hands. To his mind, it grew out of procrastination. I do not know if Nadiya edited them herself, or somebody else did it, but the editing really takes time, therefore she did not publish them and did not pass over to the West. And when Shumuk was arrested those memoirs fell into…
V. Ovsiyenko: Right, the memoirs of Shumuk they took from her. “His manuscript consisted of six copybooks,” Svitlychna told me, “There were also editor’s alterations written by my hand. Oddly enough, however, if I am not mistaken, they gave the manuscript back to me and did not take it away. Such paradoxes did happen at the time.” While in August 1974, Shumuk, when we had an opportunity to meet and talk in the hospital in Barashevo, told me with joy that the KGB officers showed him−during the investigation or later in time−a foreign edition of his book of memoirs Beyond the Eastern Horizon. However, he told that the text was given to the “wrong people”: the publishers added their very extensive comments. “But” Shumuk concluded approvingly, “they did not meddle in my text.”
I.Hel: Shumuk had a grudge against Svitlychny whose stand differed from that of Shumuk. Several times Svitlychny and Shumuk went to the country−Mykhailo Horyn told me that they used to go by suburban electric train to Fastiv or somewhere else for a breath of fresh air and in order to consider some issues. There Shumuk (and he was very categorical) deprecated OUN for excessive discipline and dictatorial style of leadership. In the meantime he himself behaved in the same vein: if someone did not consider his opinion, he literally destroyed his opponent morally and kept out of him being very vindictive.
Several times in Sosnovka, in the special concentration camp, he began and accused the Svitlychnys. I immediately made objections in the matters concerning Nadiya and Ivan, because I could not agree with his attacks. I understand that Shumuk’s anger was personally motivated, because Ivan said something about him, but not enough, but Nadiya simply in a womanish way shared her painful experience, told about his accusations and demands, but she said nothing disadvantageous about Danylo. I knew about their relationship. And in Sosnovka I stood between Shumuk and the Svitlychnys as a barrier, I tried and protected them and disagreed with his intolerant assessment. Certainly, I could refuse to open my mouth. But I’m not built that way. Therefore a sort of aversion emerged. Anyway, I had my own view on Svitlychny and events and relationships that took place in Kyiv. To my mind we worked not as we had to. It seems that at the beginning of this interview, probably on the first audio cassette, I said that we wanted to create an organization but got added evidence that it would take us nowhere, because we could not operate at the level of structured KGB activities, on an equal footing with it, setting up an equal in force opposition. In the conditions of totalitarianism and our purely material weakness and limited professional human resources there was a lot of people ready even to die, but there was a lack of professional skill and everyone had to sacrifice something of his own. And not only to sacrifice. There were ordinary people willing to sacrifice themselves, but there was a scarcity of self-sacrificing specialists, such as operations officer or, say, radiotechnical communication service officers or coders or well-trained fighters, print workers; there were such experts on the other side, while we could not do this because we were not able even to procure or buy weapons; before you could purchase it, you would be detained and sentenced. We tried to search and find old weapons in the woods, I mean rifles used by former guerillas, but they were hardly useful in military operations. There were also other distinctive circumstances that convinced that the forms and methods of struggle employed in the forties could not be transferred into the seventies.
At the same time Shumuk maintained that the activities of the OUN should be carried on but with methods different from those used by OUN; he wanted to apply methods of former underground in the seventies and eighties, despite the fact that they were utterly incompatible.
V.Kipiani: That is the methods should be democratized?
I.Hel: The methods of OUN could not be possibly democratized. But we lacked all the same human resources which could apply those methods. In short, we had differences, because in the concentration camps he became a slowpoke and mentally could not break away from those stereotypes.
Gradually more and negative layers accumulated. In the meantime Yuri Shukhevych had to be transported to our Mordovia prison. There was one such Trokhym Shynkaruk. Yuri hit him in the face… well, Yuri was instructed to do it. Shynkaruk was homosexual, he was arrested as a kid and was formed in the camp. As they say now, Shynkaruk was a racketeer, that is he was an extortionist. Vasyl Pidhoretsky was a different sort of an image of a man in the camp. Shynkaruk had his own methods: he hammered the knees of his opponents. He did not fit into the underground society because then the society of those political prisoners was strictly disciplined and had its own hierarchy: there was Mykhailo Soroka or someone else. At first the question was tackled in a narrow circle, as had always been in the camps, and then it used to become a point of view of all or the majority. Shynkaruk aspired to have his own circle; therefore he didn’t belong to the authoritative group of prisoners. Furthermore, he had the sin that the homosexual roughly seduced young men who came to the camp. The council decided to make public his orientation and to condemn pestering youngsters, which meant to defame, punish, and isolate him from society as well as hit him in the face. Still during my first imprisonment I opined, because it happened before our arrival in the Yavas concentration camp no. 11−that such commission should be conferred not on Yuri, son of Shukhevych, Chief of the UIA, but on a Trokhym’s like, a private. But they instructed Yuri to execute it and Yuri publicly slapped him on the face, just as a sign of shame. It happened still in another zone, and now they had to bring Yuri in…
V.Kipiani: Was it in the sixties?
I.Hel: Yes, in the sixties. Shynkaruk remembered it. When we were arrested in 1972, and Shukhevych in Nalchik, they had to bring him to us. And Shynkaruk deliberately and loudly began to threaten that he would ax Shukhevych or thrust a knife into him. And turned to me once: “Ivan, what about you? Will you protect him?” I said, “Yes, I will, and I will not only protect him, and I forewarn you now that all our men will do their best to avoid this and condemn you. How dare you assault Shukhevych? Try and tell it in public?” Maybe he would not have done it, but when they intentionally drive to work in one and the same shift two warring people and they fight with what they have at hand, then everything is clear: it is very important for the KGB to perform these provocations, constantly build up tension between prisoners. For example, they used to put us in the cells based on principle of psychological incompatibility: pedant and untidy person, believer and atheist, even militant atheist, Russian and Ukrainian, and German police and Jew. They tended to mix it all to maintain tension in the cell. You may know that when the first astronauts were sent into space for a short time they ensured absolute psychological compatibility people, because in isolation, in a very limited space the human factor and incompatibility weigh very much. So, the KGB jailers acted on the same principle doing things topsy-turvy. When Shynkaruk unveiled that he wanted to ax Shukhevych he put himself in a desperate position: all gay persons would have quit respecting him because he claimed to stand up and defend his way of living, homosexuality and take vengeance on the offender.
Karavansky and I began gathering people. In Sosnovka there already were several Ukrainians, in particular, Petro Saranchuk, Bohdan Rebryk seems to have been. But for some reason Rebryk had made friends precisely with Shynkaruk because he apparently looked, say, like a heroic type of person, he knew how to sell himself. But no one doubted that because he was gay he was one-hundred-percent-used by the KGB, he even bragged about it, but if someone put it in his eyes, he would have killed or injured a man. He was sadist and direct agent of the KGB.
V.Kipiani: Was this issue on the agenda in the political zones as well? For in criminal zones it was one of the main themes of the inner-camp life.
I.Hel: No, it was not a topical issue in the political zones, but there were exceptions. The whole point is that at the time the special regime in Sosnovka was not a purely political zone. When I was brought to Sosnovka, I was considered a worldly-wise political prisoner, I knew all the negative aspects of the life of prisoners. I was put into the fourth cell, where Ivan Yona was already kept. He was a war cripple and had one leg 11-cm shorter than another.
V.Kipiani: What he was?
I.Hel: He was Jehovah’s Witness. Moldavian. War vet. He took in tow his second term for his belief. So, of 11 inmates, only he and I were political prisoners, and all others were criminals. There is some reason to believe that in 1984 Vasyl Stus was killed by Borys Romashov; the latter was in my cell and I knew him very well somewhere from September-October 1972.
V. Ovsiyenko: Romashov was in Sosnovka with you?
I.Hel: Yes, Borys Romashov was in a cell with me in Sosnovka. We met there. And there was a man whose name I do not remember; at the time he had as many years as I now; in the 1930s he did his term on Kolyma and fled from there. He had been the kingpin of the cell until the jailers put me in this cell. He boasted how he took two prisoners with him for meat when they were going to flee. When going to taiga, two fugitives take two accomplices with them, but only the former two are in the know that the latter two will be slaughtered for meat when supplies run out. They kill one at first and then the other.
That kingpin was cannibal. And the jailers used to put us in such cells. The peculiarity is as follows: the tight security political zone−the eleventh zone in Yavas, where I served my first term−contained different categories of people, including criminals, but political prisoners prevailed. However, in Sosnovka criminals were a majority until I went on a hunger strike, and the others took after me−Karavansky was the first to follow−demanding to clear the zone of criminals. If we are political “state criminals” you should keep us separated from the criminals. There were about 50 political prisoners or maybe even 40 and there were 120criminals, and the cells were packed. But after the hunger strike of Karavansky and me the jailers began taking criminals away. Therefore later the cells became more spacious and it became quieter at work. The criminal could not do without homosexuality, chifir, trading in production rates and diets. It was a heterogeneous contingent. You may ask about how they got into political zones? Say a person has lost at cards and has nothing to pay with. So, according to the rules of the underworld he is sexually abused and becomes a gay person if he hasn’t been gay already and then he is jabbed with a knife, that is killed, if he fails to square up. In order to save themselves, they made themselves tattoos: “I am a Brezhnev’s slave”, “Down with the CPSU”, “The slave of the CPSU”. Such was the policy. Sometimes they dropped primitive leaflets in the zone, and the top men isolated them immediately, because they knew what was going on. They were charged under a political article, added a sentence and transferred to us. But the essence of the newly-fledged “political prisoner” remained as it had been: murderer and robber. These ones terrorized us.
So, when the jailers put me in the fourth cell, somewhere on the fourth or fifth day that kingpin, cannibal, came up to me… You may be surprised that there were cannibals. How did they did it, how did they flee? Two prisoners might agree to flee and they took three inmates for meat. One could not take a lot of food out of the jail: one could take away the maximum of several dried loaves, certain amount of sugar, salt, and nothing more. Maybe also some tea. Then they flee and cover, say, three hundred or four hundred kilometers, and their stock of food comes to an end. They slaughter one of those “sheep” they have taken with them, because only two are in the know and the rest of them do not know that they have been taken for meat. They slaughter them, boil, eat and go on. When the new stock of meat comes to an end, they slaughter the second companion. Then the third one may guess who the next is, but they somehow calm him down. And there is no way out. When the stock ends, they slaughter the third. Then there remain two of them. Both of them would like to slaughter their companion. He told us that he wanted to kill his companion and that one wanted to kill him. They watched each other, once there even was a close fight, but nobody won. Then: “Let’s go off in contrary directions, and one who is fated to survive will survive”. He survived, and now he did his term in the political concentration camp. For what? He traded in gold and currency, resold them or there was something else for he was too old for looting. However, he blabbed something negative about Brezhnev and they put him into the political zone.
V. Ovsiyenko: Did you name his name?
I.Hel: No, I did not, because do did not remember it. He was a criminal, and they took him away from me very quickly. But now I am going to finish the episode to make the situation clearer.
Hardly had they put me in the cell, on the third or the fifth day he came up to me: “Tomorrow is your turn to donate sugar and fish”. As the kingpin he collect extortions and maybe even gave somebody palm oil. He took it from Yona Moldovan: Ivanesku or Zhoresku or something like it. He was a Jehovah’s Witness; it was his second time or third time and ended up here. He was a war cripple: I cannot bring myself to say “Patriotic”. It was the Second World War. He had his hip fracture treated with screws or a sliding screw/plate device and as a result one his leg was 11 cm shorter than another. He was imprisoned for the confession of faith. He was a very decent man, Jehovah’s Witness. And all the rest were criminals. And now the kingpin came up to me. I answered: “I will give you neither sugar nor fish.”−“You will!”−“I will not.”−“No, you shall!” And I did not know whether the gang was behind him or he operated single-handed. Then my turn came to donate fish. I deliberately started eating with fish, though I used to leave fish for dessert. Vasyl knows that it was a small piece of fish weighing 30 or even 40 grams. The standard portion had to include 80 grams of fish, but waste and theft had to be accounted for; as a result all you got was a tiny piece of fish. I had eaten my fish and put sugar in a cup. Then I climbed onto my plank bed. The cell had bunk beds and accommodated eleven inmates: seven or six slept on the lower beds and four or five slept on the upper beds. He slept on the lower bed and had a privileged place at the window. We, the newcomers, slept on the upper beds. The upper beds were not from-wall-to-wall structures. The plank beds had a compact surface, the bed-to-bed height made 70-80 centimeters and the height between the upper bad and the ceiling made another 70-80 centimeters, so that you couldn’t stand up straight and could only sit on the bed huddled up. Therefore, when a newcomer was brought in or they took away somebody, the upper bed inmate altered his position. The best places were always occupied by kingpins and old-timers.
So I climbed up and sat on my plank bed with my feet dangling; I was reading or holding a newspaper in my hands. He kept silent. And I kept alert, because I might miss something if I had screened myself with the newspaper. The cell had a cement floor, there was a T-shaped swab with a massive handle. He grabbed the swab and with all his might intended to hit me in the head. I responded in the twinkling of an eye: I dodged the hit and parried the swab with my hand. Afterwards my hand hurt badly and I even thought that it might be broken, but everything ended well as I was still young. I parried the swab, and I began immediately (he was then like me now, but clumsy, of course, like all elderly people) beating off with my hands, I raised my legs and thrust them into his chest. I hit him like I pushed him. He fell backward hitting the wall with his head and back and lost consciousness. I immediately counteracted, grabbed the swab and stood up with my back against so that nobody could assault me from behind. I feverishly tried to consider who else was at one with him. But it seemed that inmates were fed up with him; all inmates in the cell were criminals, but if they were deprived of the best part of the portion−a lump of sugar or a piece of fish−they had to defend them. Frankly speaking, I did not see all those who donated him and who did not because they donated silently; therefore I took no heed of it until he came up to me and said that tomorrow was my turn to donate sugar and fish. Being decisively repulsed he attempted immediately after the meal to teach me a lesson and have me at his feet. And there he lay and could not stand up.
Someone came up to him, maybe it was Romashov, I cannot remember who exactly, because I also was under stress, and I remained in that cell only a few more days. So somebody poured water from the kettle on his head, the kingpin became conscious while lying on the floor. For some time the tense silence prevailed. I thought that someone would try to leave the cell or tell me to go out, but I didn’t ask for it. When he had got over it, he came up to me. I was sitting at the table, not against a wall and without anything handy. Frankly speaking I was struck dumb as well. Nevertheless I was on the look-out because the criminals might stab me in the back. And at the same time I was embarrassed for it was a new experience for me. I only later, not even then, but much later realized with what categories they kept us. The prisoners kept under conditions of tight security or “black” confinement wear black overalls, while we differed from them with our striped working clothes; theirs is a health resort if compared to special security cell. In the case of tight security one can go out and relax, have a talk with another prisoner, while in the level-6 institution one spends 24 hours a day in the cell, around the clock, if you go to work, it is also a sort of cell work, and there is nowhere to go in particular. And one constantly stays with the same contingent of inmates.
Anyway, I sat down in such a way that I had nobody behind me, so as nobody would strike me on the head, and, having come to his senses, he came up to me and said: “From now on you are the kingpin”. Frankly speaking, at the time I did not know the proper meaning of the word “kingpin”, I surmised at most. They used different varieties of prison cant, while in the eleventh, where I was serving my first term, there was nothing like that. I spontaneously replied: “No, as of today there will be no kingpins here, we will implement justice, and no one will owe anything anyone. And nobody donates anything anybody”.
And the incident was settled. But for a long time I was on guard so that in the cell at night or elsewhere no one hit me with a knife. I could not sleep for two or three nights. But the squealers in the cell remained all the same, and they ratted on the incident. He was sent to the hospital in the third, in Barashevo. In the end, there was only one hospital. There was a special cell for our “striped” ones. Later from there they sent him somewhere else. They took him away, and in that cell there were no more incidents while I was there.
The following year, in spring, I was the first to go on hunger strike demanding to separate political prisoners from criminals. I hunger-struck for twenty-eight days, until they resorted to forced feeding.
V.Kipiani: In what month did it happen?
I.Hel: In March or April, I do not remember for sure.
V. Ovsiyenko: In what year?
I.Hel: In 1973, because I was brought there in October 1972. But in 1973, I was the only one who went on hunger strike demanding separation of political prisoners and criminals. Before me, Karavansky also hungerstruck, but for other reasons. We united. But at the time Karavansky had already been on hunger strike for 15-20 days, and then I began to hungerstrike. He finished 20 days, and I started so that about five or six days overlaid. Ultimately, all this can be reconstituted, but nobody knows whether the documents have been preserved. However, when you have to recollect under the pressure of dictating machine, when you have to get the past out of you, everything pops up in a flash, and it is hard to remember all episodes and details of events, but if you write it down, you can calculate everything and recall more details.
I went on hunger strike demanding to separate us and to permit us (you see, this is another point, which was later entered into the Rules of Political Prisoner) to select cellmates based on the principle of psychological compatibility, because it is extremely important in prison life. So, the first point included the separation of political prisoners from the criminals, and the second one included the right to select cellmates. There was something else about the letters. We were allowed to write only one letter per month. But now I do not remember the exact wording.
V.Kipiani: On the correspondence from abroad…
I.Hel: This happened later: and the above point did not deal with the receipt of correspondence from abroad. The problem arose already after the Helsinki Accords, when the so called “third basket” of human rights was placed on the agenda, then it all started. And in 1978, when Carter became the president and included protection of human rights in the agenda; at the time this matter was thrashed out in all concentration camps; then we had already formulated 24 or 25 points of the Rules of Political Prisoner. They were all-inclusive: voluntary appearance or non-appearance at work, receiving correspondence from abroad, right to unlimited exchange of letters and more. In March or April of 1973, when I stopped hungerstriking and returned to the fourth cell (well, rather I was returned), the cannibal was not there anymore.
What does this mean? This was the backdrop for our life. Why was the issue of homosexuality included in the agenda? Because there was the preponderance of those criminals. And Trokhym Shynkaruk was also one of the abusers and practiced it there. When they had to bring in Yuri Shukhevych he began to threaten that he would either knife or ax him, Karavansky and I stood up to defend him and began to speak with other people. Balis Gayauskas said that he condemned it, but he wouldn’t put his head under the ax. Karavansky and I approached Shumuk; I started telling him that there was a trouble, that he and Shynkaruk were both from Volyn (they had known each other mush earlier), and it might be up to you to try and influence Trokhym to help Yuri out because Trokhym had promised to ax Yuri and he had talked loudly about it. And Danylo Shumuk also heard it all personally as he also attended the working cell. And Danylo’s response was as follows: “What is Shukhevych to me? Let them chop one another. Why did he then hit him in the face?” I said, "Danylo, it’s another pair of shoes. Yuri is the son of Shukhevych!”−“And what is Shukhevych? To me his daddy is not an authority, and the more so his son. I know Yuri: he did a lot of foolish things. What is he to me? I’ll repeat you once and again that I will not defend him. Let them get square with one another”. I asked him once more: “Danylo, we are political prisoners! How can we respond in this way? The thoughts you are expressing now are unacceptable.”−“Maybe they are unacceptable to you, but they are acceptable for me. Because you are just beginning to serve your term, and I am about to be released.”
It was the culmination of our disagreement…
Now I’ve just remembered one episode that happened earlier. It is connected with my first imprisonment. In 1967, we were kept in the 11th zone. Roman Duzhynskyy was about to be released. He is now known as Veniamin Duzhynskyy, a kind of icon-dauber. By now he has created himself a very interesting image in Halychyna and, perhaps, here in Kyiv Oblast as well. There was such an episode in our relationships: Duzhynskyy, Shumuk, Hel, Bohdan Horyn, and perhaps some other prisoners. Duzhynskyy was about to be released and tried to get out of inmates Kyiv addresses. At that time I did not know Lina Kostenko. And by now we have had no more than three or four encounters: at Alla Horska’s funeral and in company of the Svitlychnys in Kyiv. But we had no personal contacts whatsoever. Before my first arrest I did not know Lina personally: I knew her as a talented oppositional poet. So before his release from the custody Duzhynskyy did his best to get addresses of Lina and Svitlychny and some other Kyivites. Bohdan Horyn gave him the address, but somehow did not tell anybody about it. And Duzhynskyy began bragging among older political prisoners saying he would wander about Kyiv streets, and visit different people. And the milieu−−Mykhailo Soroka, Vasyl Levkovych, and Shumuk−considered Duzhynskyy as a too talkative, frivolous, and irresponsible man. Moreover, they reckoned−maybe it was really so but I had no evidence either pro or contra−that he was an informer. We never were close friends with him; I kept him at arm’s length. So when Duzhynskyy boasted to someone that he had the address of Lina Kostenko, Shumuk decided somehow that Hel gave the address, and he sent Vasyl Levkovych to me to ask why I gave the address of Lina Kostenko. I answered: “What do you mean by address? I’ve never heard about that!”−“How come? Only you was able to give the address, no one else!” And then he reprimanded me: “If you did that, then you would be put under boycott as one of the comrades of the agent provocateur and villain!”−“And who told you this, Mr. Vasyl?” He said: “We have concluded so privately. And it was Danylo Shumuk who spread the information and suggested boycott. Unless you put yourself right with us you will be put under boycott.”
Thus, in 1967 this first incident took place. And quickly it turned out that I had nothing to do with it and it was Bohdan Horyn who gave Duzhynskyy the address. They did not apply such drastic measures to Bohdan Horyn. Or maybe they did it only personally. But in any case, the question of boycott stood no longer. It’s good, I’ve just recalled it. This remembrance is to the point because I’ve failed to mention it above. It is possible that Shumuk’s aversion, dislike or suspicion to me dates back to that incident, because he was wrong.
But now it had to do not with me but with Shukhevych. I have already mentioned the strength of the language of Levkovych. After this he spoke in the same way to Shumuk. So it was the first barrier. To say nothing of the purely psychological barrier, but it did not make us enemies even with his cock-an-bull stories about the Svitlychnys. Frankly, I understand Shumuk: maybe now I would have behaved in the same way. However, I doubt it: even at 66, if a man is internally programmed for good, some constructive activity, then if someone is planning to put to death with an ax or knife your ally, colleague, you have to respond and that is understandable for all normal people. Shukhevych and intrigues around the name of Svitlychny became one of the reasons of cooling down our relations. After all, he expressed his attitude to these people not only for me but he also did it in public attracting attention of all present during the discussion of these issues.
That’s nothing! We met, said hello, there was no conflict situation. The conflict situation emerged when Petro Saranchuk had to be granted a visit. His father was going to come to see him. Karavansky and I designed… neither Shumuk nor anyone else before could have come to the idea of it, because they had never written and had not proper skills for such work. I have already mentioned about the cigarette paper and especially transformer paper of which we made such little, a sort of one-inch-thick containers, wrapped with cellophane, welded them completely while heating with a match and producing a sealed package. I am sorry a priori, because we have to say how it was. Such container was usually swallowed and then in a day it evacuated from the bowels. However, the timing was rather approximate… If, for example, the container was evacuated earlier in time, you had simply to push it back into your anus. So, I prepared in advance a couple of materials about the camp routine and statements and asked my cellmate Petro Saranchuk if he would agree to do it. Saranchuk said he would. And the exact time of his father’s visit was unknown. So, I prepared the container and constantly carried it with me hiding it under my tongue or elsewhere in order to pass it at the right time. In the meantime nobody knew when he would come. It was also possible to pass it after we would be led out to work: every working shift included inmates from several cells.
One day Saranchuk said that his father was arriving any time now. I double-checked if he was ready to take my materials, and he said, “No, I will not take.”−“Why?” If he said that his father was old and wouldn’t be able to do it, I would have believed it and accepted the situation. But he very clearly and honestly said, “Shumuk forbids me because I have to take his materials; Shumuk says, that Hel has enough fame and has a lot on his plate.” It was totally incomprehensible and unacceptable. Why sort of reasoning that was? And why did Petro tell me this? Petro saved Shumuk’s life in Norilsk. Or vice versa: Shumuk saved Saranchuk’s life, I do not exactly remember. Saranchuk even added: “For me he is in charge and I greatly respect and appreciate him; therefore I’ll take Shumuk’s materials and yours for the space is limited.”
I turned to Shumuk to hear his explanations. He said, “That’s right, I forbade him for who you are, pray? We are fighters from the early forties and you are just starting this work, and you have enough fame so far. We have to realize ourselves because before we had not such opportunities. Your whole life is before you. I arranged this visit, because if I had not asked Petro, his dad would not have arrived. His father is coming and he will take only my materials because I had organized it.” For me it was terribly annoying, and most importantly such moral was incomprehensible… Shumuk wrote his personal materials. I wrote a review of the life of prisoners in the concentration camp, i.e. approximately what I’ve told you: generalizing political documents and materials. Of course, I signed "Hel", but I was not against the signatures of other prisoners. There were no people willing to take part besides Karavansky. Karavansky also had his materials, but his wife also did term and he was not able to carry them out. I for one was continuously denied visits: only three in 10 years.
In short, this incident triggered a scandal. Therefore I concluded that it was immoral and no one of our inmates might have acted so; if somebody had arrived to visit me, I’d have taken your materials, maybe your materials I’d have taken first, and then my own. After that incident we stopped greeting each other. However this conflict was a local one, between two prisoners, and it could be called a scandal.
V.Kipiani: The car will arrive in ten minutes so it is desirable to come to a logical conclusion.
CODE OF HONOR. RULES OF POLITICAL PRISONER
I.Hel: I am just driving at it. It was already 1975 on the calendar. Karavansky and I suggested the idea of struggle for the Rules of political prisoner. It is a very painful, but at the same time indispensable issue: both the Rules and the struggle for it. The very hard, exhausting, and thankless struggle, because you have to hungerstrike, refuse to go to work, remove the stripe with your name on your chest… It was an extremely powerful idea, but it took dedication and true devotion.
At that time, the psychological atmosphere had a very characteristic trait. They didn’t keep in the special regime zone at least one or two political prisoners from the Sixtiers: Ivan Svitlychny, Levko Lukyanenko, Vasyl Stus, or even someone of smaller caliber. And who was kept there? Criminals. As well as Danylo Shumuk, Balis Gayauskas who were tired people. Eduard Kuznetsov, Alex Murzhenko, and Yuri Fiodorov who were refuseniks in the Dymshits–Kuznetsov aircraft hijacking affair (Russian slang: samoliotchiki; they tried to steal the local flight Leningrad-Priozersk on 15 June 1970.--Ed.); they aspired to flee abroad to live better. They did not want to participate in that. I think that I should say it openly here. We must tell the truth, the true facts, the most significant ones. Karavansky and I were always initiators. Therefore when I told Kuznetsov about the Rules of political prisoner and about the hunger strike, he replied: “Andriyovych, we are both heavyweights. We will not be asked how we survived; it is very important that we survive and due to it we’ll become national heroes. And how we survive is another kettle of fish. Why the hell do you need these hunger strikes? Why the hell do you need these protests? You’d better quit it and live jolly.”
And the samoliotchiki also had stereogram postcards (some of our guys also had them, especially Mykhailo Osadchy and Vasyl Romaniuk, to my regret) which were sent from Israel and from Moscow. The prisoners and jailers called them simply “morgushki”. If you look at it angularly, you can see boobs and a doll winking at you. Sometimes you saw a hot ma wearing only a smile. The criminal prisoners and cops got a head from such morgushki which were more expensive and more important than a hard currency fund. These stereograms were a real convertible currency.
V.Kipiani: It was the most important equivalent of everything.
I.Hel: Yes, everything. A criminal offender obtained five such morgushki from Eduard Kuznetsov and gave him the whole month diet in return. And he was a lunger. But diet is not very different from the general ration, but it includes about 30-40 grams of butter, 50 grams of sugar, white bread, it had more meat, rice when it was given instead of pearl-barley gruel and millet. That is, it differed from the usual rations of camp prisoners. He added five morgushki more and criminals began working for him and fulfilling his monthly quota. It was hazardous work: abrasive machining of rock crystal; we had to fulfill the monthly norm. Criminals had to fulfill two monthly norms. So Eduard buggered about: he appeared at work, where he had time to read books which he brought with him And Shumuk was with him. He was over 60 and he already had the right not to work. All labor time they spent sitting and chatting. They did not read and they did not work, while somebody else sweat his guts out for Eduard. Such status of the prisoner is very contagious. This contagion is like the greed of oligarchs. It is very difficult to withstand it and remain morally sound under those conditions, because you were always hungry and always sweated. So Kuznetsov and Murzhenko infected all our inmates. Then Karavansky and I wrote “The Code of Honor of the Political Prisoner”. That Code of Honor included around 20 points. It contained first principles: the political prisoner has no moral right to buy someone else’s ration; the political prisoner has no moral right to buy work norm from other prisoner capitalizing on human foibles. After all, why did criminals sell their rations and norms? Because they were drug very-strong-tea addicts. A criminal offender gives a postcard to a cop and the cop brings him five packs of tea per postcard, can you just imagine? Five packs of tea in the special security zone mean the ability to drink very strong tea as a narcotic for five days. He gave a postcard to another and that one brought him five packs of antitussive pills containing codeine. This criminal is sick, he is a drug addict. In this way the samoliotchiki piggybacked on them quickening the death of the lungers. Taking the ball before the bound, I can tell you that with the arrival of Alexandr Ginzburg the trading in morgushki came to an end. He deliberately took up the hard work: he did not rub elbows with Kuznetsov and the open conflict between them was brewing.
So, Karavansky and I wrote the Code of Honor and gave it all political prisoners to read. However, the majority went on trading in silence. However the criminals did not keep silence. Though they continued selling their rations and norms, but they expressed their indignation at being fleeced and resented that those guys fattened at the expense of lungers’ diets. Meanwhile the samoliotchiki were very outraged by the code itself. How dare you teach us to live? Especially active was Kuznetsov. And Osadchy: “What’s the matter with you, Ivan? Do you want to be a saint? Aren’t we in the prison?” It was a commonplace: you remind him about the hunger strike, say, on 10 December, and he says: “They may deprive us of buying in the booth…” For four karbovanetses in the booth you could buy buccy or a kilogram of cushion candy, or half of kilogram of lard compound, or whatever. In short, life is hard, and that ordeal is an important period in the life of a prisoner. You may hold out and you may not hold out.
The combination of all these factors led to the split of the zone into two parts. Karavansky and I remained in the minority. Balis Gayauskas maintained neutrality. The samoliotchiki were at the top. They knew how to put it threw: Murzhenko and I stayed in one cell. He used to throw in some negative information… And on the other side were Shumuk, Saranchuk, Osadchy, and Father Romaniuk a bit. (When Ivan Svitlychny died I attended the funeral in the Cathedral of St. Volodymyr. Romaniuk invited me to the sacristy and apologized for what happened in Sosnovka. He said that he felt better having been purged from sin. We kept talking for a long time, I did not blame him, but he actually was among those who joined). Kuznetsov was a cunning guy and, by the way, not a bad organizer living like a kingpin: he bullied ones, gave a carrot, i.e. a morgushki, to the others. So, if you are against, he would not give you anything. And I would not take certainly, but he had enough such postcards to give Osadchy and Romaniuk. Shumuk appeared at work all the time, but they did not demand him to fulfill a norm. Concerning the labor duty they left him alone. It was the cell routine in the prison in the first place that was the main reason of division of into two parts: into pure and impure ones. Life is life though.
When Moroz returned from the jail, he aggravated the conflict. As a political prisoner Moroz held an untarnished reputation concerning morals and in every other way. He participated in the hunger strikes and was a very active political prisoner. But Moroz had trouble communicating with people as required by the situation. There emerged two groups, and he was asked as an arbitrator to settle the dispute. But these groups tried to win him over to their side. And Moroz committed a tactical error. Moroz said, "Guys, you staunchly endured all investigations and behaved yourself heroically everywhere, but now you are manipulated by two lousy Yids.” If he had not said this the conflict would have been calmed, perhaps. Maybe it wouldn’t have disappeared, but certainly it wouldn’t have exploded. But this phrase of Moroz was like an atomic bomb: when the critical mass is reached, it explodes. Why? Because Moroz replaced the purely moral factor with a national one. And Shumuk deliberately provoked a conflict: Moroz said it only among Ukrainians. One could blame him, period! And Shumuk met Kuznetsov and spat the opinion of Moroz out. That is he conscientiously gave Moroz away. Since then the reputation of Moroz was irreparably injured. And Shumuk being an experienced schemer gained allies. They immediately wrote to the outside world that Moroz was anti-Semite and then began writing that I hobnobbed with criminals in revenge for my position on the purchase of diets and norms. And they outweighed us because they united and gained the majority. Indeed, they were hunting me: Eduard Kuznetsov and Murzhenko were inciting and provoking others, especially criminals saying that Hel was against the delivery of morgushki. We ought to teach him a lesson. At the time I was on a hunger strike for the Rules of Political Prisoner. Saranchuk was sent to my cell to convince me to stop hungerstriking. But a little later it became easier to breathe. Upon his arrival Alik Ginzburg joined our group. He demonstratively fulfilled the norm. Demonstratively in order to devalue the said morgushki: he freely distributed them among sick criminals because he also received a lot of them by mail. And the conflict between Kuznetsov and Ginsburg began brewing concerning that immoral behavior. They stopped greeting one another and talking with one another.
In this already rather tense atmosphere, but long before the conflict, Karavansky and I proposed the idea and wrote the Regulations on the Rules of the Soviet political prisoner. S. Karavansky wrote the preamble and I formulated 14 points of requirements. In the final document, as it later turned out, the preamble and the first 14 points remained unchanged. Later there were added nine or ten points formulated by V. Chornovil.
The succession of events was as follows. At the time, the jailers kept in one cell Kuznetsov, Murzhenko, Saranchuk me and also Ivan Lozynsky and Ostap Knap (soldiers of the German battalion that was used to combat Belarusian guerillas, which were treated by Kuznetsov and Murzhenko with great disdain and intolerance). Naturally, Kuznetsov, Saranchuk, Murzhenko were among the first readers of the document, though all political prisoners familiarized themselves with it. Kuznetsov was an outspoken opponent of the struggle for the Rules and Shumuk called it “a stupid idea” because nobody would support it, because it needed huge resources.
We packed the document in cellophane. It could be sent to other zones only through the hospital. At the time they were about to transfer Kuznetsov to Barashevo. And in addition he had to be transferred from our cell where the document had been awaiting its time. On behalf of the “boffin” we were passing the document to other zones through Kuznetsov. I reckon that, having met Chornovil in Barashevo, he had to name the authors, because he knew who wrote “The Regulations…” And Kuznetsov sold himself to Chornovil as the author of the document. Chornovil finalized it and passed it over to Moscow naming (as an honest person) his co-author. Therefore it is understandable why Lyudmila Alekseeva in her work called these names as authors of the idea and the document about the Rules of Political Prisoner.
And in your note of information about O. Murzhenko you, Mr. Vasyl, write that for the first time about the Rules of Political Prisoner in Barashevo spoke Kronid Lubarsky with O. Murzhenko. It is quite understandable: long before the transfer to Barashevo Murzhenko familiarized himself with the Regulations and expertly discussed it with Lubarsky. And Lubarsky, when released from custody, also honorably and honestly informed people about participation of Murzhenko in composing the Rules of Political Prisoner. (The authors of the information note on O. Murzhenko in the Dictionary of Dissidents were V. Kipiani and V. Ovsiyenko.--Ed.)
Ironically in this way two samoliotchiki, who most ardently opposed the idea of struggle for the Rules of Political Prisoner, due to their ability to steal and assume the right to someone’s property, went into history as the authors of the idea and Regulations about the Rules of Political Prisoner. Why had they to fight for the Rules when they bought the cut-down version of it for their morgushki?
After returning from Barashevo Kuznetsov somehow hastily and without apparent reason was moved to another cell. We parted quite amiably. Although Karavansky spotted: Eduard was up to something if he without reason whatsoever moved out of your cell, where he lived like a lord. Kuznetsov and Murzhenko spurned Karavansky considering him German henchman and Shumuk just hated him because Karavansky did not recognize him as the regional OUN leader, which Shumuk impersonated. Mykhailo Soroka demonstratively did not offer his hand to him which I observed several times in the company; however Mykhailo did not explain anything and just said: I will never offer my hand to this man. It happened during my first imprisonment in Yavas. And already in the special camp when Shumuk again during a small talk about old days called himself a regional leader, Karavansky could not contain himself anymore and in the presence of several persons quipped: “But you, Danylo, every day once and again remind everyone that you were the regional leader. Those who were such do not talk about it. While you were sent to Zhytomyr Oblast with thirteen militants and were instructed to create an underground network. If you created it, then maybe you would become its leader. But you succeeded to travel 40-50 km only and were apprehended by the raiding party. According to your guys you even failed to fight off the charge: you immediately made Hände hoch (Hands Up).”−“It’s not for you to judge me: it was you who was remorseful of your deeds,” hysterically exploded Shumuk, jumped up and left. But he had still to wait for the convoy to bring prisoners from their work back to the camp. All of us also went to their workplaces. It meant adding oil to the flame of the conflict to come.
In early 1976, I also committed a terrible mistake. The father of Petro Saranchuk did not arrive to visit his son. And he did not intend to come anymore. Therefore the issue of the transfer of the capsules fell away. I was preparing myself for the hunger strike for Rules of Political Prisoner, but I waited for spring to come because they usually stopped heating cells in mid-April and up to mid-May it was beastly cold. Having acquired a considerable experience of hunger strikes, I understood that if I went on hunger strike in the offseason, my organism weakened by hunger and cold would not endure for long. Therefore, I planned for mid-May, when it would be warmer outside and in the one-man cells where the hungerstrikers were usually isolated.
Approximately in February and March, or perhaps in April, from the "big zone" we received an information that Osadchy wrote home desperate letters about the intolerable conditions of prison life and that in the state of depression he was ready to repent. It was very serious and regrettable though Osadchy himself didn’t show such signs. This information was provided by Father Vasyl Romaniuk. He obtained this info during his meeting with his wife. Another piece of info which he brought to the camp from his meeting concerned Rayisa Moroz who was allegedly co-working with the KGB. (On R.Moroz see: Http://archive.khpg.org/index.php?id=1226043346). Regarding Osadchy Shumuk proposed to boycott him. Since we did not communicate, this idea was brought to me by Father Vasyl. (By the way, it was I who began calling him Father, because upon his arrival in the concentration camp he introduced himself as Vasyl Romaniuk and he continued to be called so by criminals. Demonstratively I started calling him Father Vasyl and explained him the importance of this for him and even helped him as a clerical person to fulfill the norm. He had a fragile and decrepit constitution, after all). I told Father that I could not agree with it, because Osadchy had not repented yet and we shouldn’t boycott him in advance. This might push him to repent, if he nursed such a thought. Instead, we should give him every attention, support morally and lend him a helping hand. Shumuk, Osadchy and Romaniuk were in the same cell and so they might exert influence on his psychological state. As regards Rayisa, I pressingly requested Romaniuk not to share with anybody this dirty info, because it rather looked as a provocation on the eve of arrival of Moroz. Romaniuk promised and for some time kept his word until Valentyn came and gave them a scolding for the scandal, on which I seem to have spoken above.
A few days later Father Romaniuk again worked in the same shift with me and said that Shumuk agreed with the idea that Osadchy could not be boycotted in advance and that he should be taken care of and helped in any possible way. He added: Shumuk recognize you as a leader in the camp and ready to be your deputy. It looked like putting a wet blanket on me, I was beside myself with anger because suddenly it came to me: that’s about the size of it and instead of combating the regime he contested for leadership and illusory power. Obviously I was expected to "graciously" accept this “recognition”, express gratitude or just respond calmly. Instead I angrily blurted out: “It isn’t a matter of leadership and I do not need his recognition!” This reply I consider an awful mistake. Such types either on their own define themselves leaders and ruin everything around them if they are not heard or recognized or they are looking for a leader for themselves and revenge on those who have “insulted or hurt” them with have failed to recognize them. Shumuk found himself a leader in the person of authoritarian Kuznetsov. And things began to take off…
I still do not know what Shumuk, Kuznetsov or others have written about the cause of the conflict in their books. In particular, about the cause of the conflict. For their books are rare books. But I never searched for them. For at my time of life it is all the same already. It was as much as my ears were worth and for many years I could not be indifferent to it. And analyzing my own behavior and the behavior of other people, or rather, types of characters, I have concluded long ago and, for the exception of individual nuances, I have not change my mind until now: this conflicts was as if programmed, inevitable under those conditions of life and among people which at the time were kept in the special treatment concentration camp in Sosnovka.
Studying myself as if from outside, I long thirty years of age, that is already during my first imprisonment, I knew or was aware that I had no traits of leader’s character and innerly despised authoritarianism, categoricalness of judgments and respective decisions. I sought for the spirit of brotherhood and harmony in relationships and obsession for action. Therefore still in Lviv I became close friends with Mykhailo Horyn, not with Bohdan with whom I also had business contacts. In Yavas I drifted together with Mykhailo Soroka, Vasyl Levkovych, Ivan Pokrovsky, and Stepan Soroka. Panas Zalyvakha and Yaroslav Lesiv reached out for me and I for them. In Kyiv, such people included Alla Horska, Nadiya and Ivan Svitlychny. They had an attractive force as spiritually inspired and holistic personalities. They never sought leadership and simply put their back into the cause. It was not even a duty or self-mobilization but an internal call and dedication.
In the concentration camp and in the level-6 institution I engaged myself with self-forgetful inspiration in the activities: hungerstruck, on my own initiative protested or organized protest actions, including the Rules of the Political Prisoner, the days of the Soviet and Ukrainian political prisoners, Human Rights Day and more. There was no case when I did not respond to requests to support someone’s personal protest action. So, going back to the conversation with Vasyl Romaniuk and offers of Shumuk to recognize me as the leader and him as my assistant, I have to say that it could not but provoke my anger and resentment. Today I adhere to the same opinion, because it was instant and instinctive response to the cynicism of Shumuk. I still do not decline my share of responsibility for the past events. At the same time, those were our personal relations with Shumuk and my response to his proposal did not grant him the moral right to discuss it publicly, complain in his letters, which the KGBists published in newspapers further inflating the scandal and especially to set up conspiracy together with Kuznetsov in order to get revenge: one wanted to vent his anger because of alleged offense, and another in connection with the “Code of Honor of the Political Prisoner” and morgushki.
In March or April 1976, but before the breaking out of the scandal, Kuznetsov suddenly and without a visible cause moved from our cell, though before that we were on normal and friendly terms. During the whole time of our staying together, and it lasted for a year or two, we had neither frictions nor scandals in our cell. But there was no friendship, too. Just gentlemanly relations. Therefor his behavior as the main organizer of the conspiracy was initially unclear. Only later I learned from Karavansky that Kuznetsov became actively involved into incitement of the conflict after that sacramental phrase of Moroz. This very phrase triggered the scandal, though Shumuk much earlier started scribbling his whistle blow letters.
On 10 or 15 May, I announced a hunger strike with the requirements to be given the status of political prisoner and also expressing my protest against the confiscation of letters: five letters in a row were confiscated during more than six months−one letter per month−and my family did not hear from me, and of course, they worried what had happened. It was one of the first and in our special regime zone it was the first hungerstrike with demands to grant the status. The information about it had to be passed by Murzhenko long before the hungerstrike: we were the same-cell inmates and capsule with the statement and demands I gave him personally. Nobody knows where it vanished: in Sosnovka or in Moscow…. That information about my hungerstrike appeared only a month or a month and a half after I had gone on a hunger strike, and it was distorted at that: Hel allegedly hungerstruck requiring registering his marriage and demanding to stop confiscation of letters. And not a single word about the status. In fact, while hungerstriking during twenty-eight days I demanded registration of my marriage in 1973 combining it with the demand to mop up criminals in the concentration camp and the right to form the contingent of cells based on the principle of psychological compatibility and voluntary consent of the people. And my marriage was registered in 1974, when I was first brought to Lviv for the so-called preventive work. So I could not make demands of marriage for the second time. And who was advantageous to convey such information one can only guess: those who did not want to widen and push forward the campaign for granting the status of political prisoner.
Abut further development of the conflict, its concentration on the personality of Moroz and all arrangements intended to discredit us, including letters of Shumuk addressed to the "big zone, I learned much later from Karavansky and Moroz, that is sometime in November or December. This happened so because I was on hunger strike for exactly one hundred days. Such a long time was not my goal, but I was able to endure so much, and jailers made some concessions. On the eleventh day after the hunger strike when I started more or less shuffling off, two orderlies accompanied by a jailer brought me to an aid station for examination. They weighed me. My weight was 44 kg. After another few days for the requirements of the Status they gave me three months of one-man cell.
But during the hunger strike−and the isolation was very strict!—they brought Petro Saranchuk who on behalf of Shumuk and Kuznetsov demanded to stop the hunger strike because I allegedly discredited people−there was nobody willing to continue−-and the very hunger strike as a form of protest for no one in the future would endure so long, while if to declare it for a few days only then the jailers would not make concessions and the hunger strike would lose its value as an effective form of protest. I said I would not refrain from hungerstriking and he was probably the first one who instead of the moral support for a hunger striker sided with KGB agents and demanded to stop the action. Petro felt himself insulted and saying “we will not forgive you such obstinacy” he quitted the cell in the company of the jailer.
During my stay in the one-man cell (which is in the same cell where I hungerstruck), I managed to write the book entitled The Faces of Culture. The cell was well isolated and had three iron doors; hunger weakened me and they paid less attention to me and did not control me through a peep-hole so often making it possible for me to write. Even more important was the fact that I took with me transformer paper to the one-man cell: for the sake of conspiracy I wrapped with it my daughter’s photograph, postcard with Shevchenko and so on. And everything I wrote before dinner time I re-wrote on the paper after the dinner time and hid in the rough plasterwork. My technology was developed on the basis of scanty opportunities. Everything turned out as if to order. I had just finished writing and inserting my whole work into a container as in a week or maybe two (i.e. the three-month loner came to an end) the jailer entered the cell and said: “Prisoner Hel, get ready with your belongings for the transfer!” I was at a loss for my loner term was not over yet and−what was the most important−my container was still in the wall and the jailer hang about in the cell. And suddenly, as it happens in the deadlock, it dawned on me: “Well” replied I “but I need, sorry for the word, to do number two.”−“Ok, do it,” said the jailer and shut the cell door. He did not observe me through the peep hole. I quickly scraped out my container from the plaster and hid it where it was necessary, as you know. I began packing my scanty belongings. From the warehouse, or store-room, another jailer brought my knapsack, searched it and me, took me to the no-go zone, put me in the patrol wagon and transported me to Potma. From there they transported me under guard to Lviv.
It was a brilliant plan. The KGBists proceeded from the fact that I was weakened by hungerstrike, depressed by the conflict and therefore would not offer strong resistance and they would break me. A week later, as a “carrot” they allowed my wife to come. We could meet in private. She was permitted to stay for three days! Having learned the hard way, I did not postpone it anymore and immediately got rid of the container. Mariya hid it. They took me away from the room for the visits after thirty-six hours motivating it by our violation of regime regulations: we were not talkative and my wife did not agitate me to repent. We really just discussed everyday topics and, although we had neither paper nor pencil, we communicated in writing: Mariya mixed a big portion of dough, rolled out the paste and we used matches to write on it as on the blackboard. It turned out great: you write, read, and erase the text. She wrote again, I read, and we erased the text. Several times the guards broke in, searched the room for visit, found nothing and went out, because in the meantime Mariya was rolling out the paste “for noodles”. However, our silence out them on their guard, therefore they prematurely stopped our meeting. Though, perhaps, it was conceived in this way. Taking me away from the room they thoroughly searched me, and Mariya had to be examined in a gynecological chair. Nobody paid any attention to her indignation, but all the same the container was elsewhere… So quite easily, happily and without incidents my work reached the “big zone”. Mariya rewrote it or rather deciphered it with the help of sixfold magnifier. Then she typed it. Zenio Krasivsky made photocopies of the Faces of Culture under the table allowing for the possibility of surveillance in the apartment of Mykhailo Horyn. With the help of the good friends of Yaroslava Menkush who came to Lviv from England (remember that this was the time of the so-called détente), the films also without incidents were passed over to the Ukrayinskyi Vyzvolnyi Shliakh Publishers in London in January 1977. They asked Leonid Pliushch to write a closed review in which he, having given generally positive assessment of my work, drew several categorical conclusions:
a) in Ukraine at the time there is no publicist of such level who could write this work. In fact, it would take Dziuba to write it, but he has already written Internationalism or Russification? Based on the tenets of Marxism, and this book has been written from the idealist and nationalist positions of statism which Dziuba could not do;
b) the annotation states that the book has been written in prison while in the Soviet prisons and concentration camps this couldn’t be done even theoretically; it should have been a feat, which once again proves the falsity of the history of the transfer of the book from the USSR;
c) according to Leonid Pliushch, the Faces of Culture was written by one of the ideologists of the OUN in the Diaspora to show that the OUN has direct connections and participates in the processes that take place in Ukraine now.
This review by Leonid Pliushch meant no to publishing of the book for up to seven years. Then Mariya published this typed variant of the book in samvydav. It was distributed as a whole and in parts, while in London the book remained unused. Only when one of the parts once more reached the West they began to bustle about my book in London and published it in 1984. However, it was prefaced by outstanding Diaspora individual Bohdan Stebelsky. My manuscript was again hermetically packed in cellophane and hidden or rather buried in a vase with flowers, where it quietly decayed because the flowers were regularly watered. I thought that this work, like many other materials, was lost. And only in early 1990 Zenio Krasivsky made me as the author a present of two copies of the book sent by Slava Stetsko. The package contained a commentary: “Ivan, having read your book, I realized that you were nearly related to the Ukrainian nationalism, while I previously thought that you, like Chornovil and other, were an ordinary dissident”. The book obtained the recognition and became the Winner of the Antonovych Foundation Prize in 1985 and was published in English in the same year. But that is a different topic.
Let us return to prison life. After the visit of my wife the KGBists got down to subdue me. They promised that they would immediately release me if I repent, I would be able to graduate from the university, defend a thesis, I would be given an apartment, would be employed and so on. And they threatened me also: I would rot in prison, my daughter and nephews would not go to the higher educational institutions; they blackmailed me that during the transfer they would keep me with the criminals who would knife me or abuse, i.e. rape. As usual in such cases, one KGB officer resorted to threats and the other one gave promises. On the outside, it seemed as if they did not know each other. In fact, the together with psychologists developed action plans and schemes of their work remained standard. So despite the fact that due to hunger strike I was terribly weakened I remained spiritually strong and my position step by step ruined their psychological constructions. I kept calm and did not call them fascists, but they−both the "good" one and “bad” one−began losing their temper, screaming, going off into hysterics. Perhaps they were acting, maybe expectations were too high, and the pressure of their chiefs threw them off-balance. They conducted examinations two or three times a week. And then suddenly four or even five weeks later they took me away, like they accomplished it in Sosnovka, from Lviv: about an hour before getting-up time, that is about five in the morning, the warden in the KGB prison on Lontsky Street awakened me and in a low voice asked, “Whose name begins with G here?”, though there was no one else in the cell: still on the day of my arrival I made it a condition that I would be by myself, the more so the one-man-cell term had not ended yet, otherwise I would keep silence. And the KGBists left me alone. So when I answered that I was Hel the cop a bit louder ordered: "Get dressed! Get ready with your belongings to go out!” However, he gave me the opportunity to wash myself in the toilet. An hour or an hour and a half later, after compulsory procedures of search, transfer under control of convoy, thrusting of the "striped" prisoner into a one-man box of the paddy wagon, I was transported to the Brygidki prison, where they loaded several criminals into the common compartment and drove us to the “fifth park” of the railroad terminal, where in the classification yard the isolated cars were made into trains and divided according to their destinations; there they coupled a Stolypin car; there was also a special platform for transported incarcerated convicts with convoy and dogs from which the prisoners got into the prisoners’ compartment of the car. Thence the train arrived at the Lviv Central Railroad Terminal, boarded normal passengers and departed traveling across the immense spaces of the USSR. Our halting stations were shorter: Lviv−Kharkiv “Kholodna Hora”−Voronezh−Ryazhsk−Ruzaevka−Penza-2−Potma and our “native” Sosnovka.
In Sosnovka I was put into the cell, where Svyatoslav Karavansky, Valentyn Moroz, Yuri Fiodorov, Ivan Lozynskyi and Ostap Knap had already been. The exchange of information began. Karavansky told how the conflict unfolded after Shumuk tried to attract Moroz on his side and true estimate of Moroz; they arrive at a conclusion that generally the courageous people with the help of intrigues and crafty plotting, like Medvedchuk and Tymoshenko are doing now in Ukraine, are being manipulated by Kuznetsov and Murzhenko. Moroz complained that during the hunger strike Rebryk rudely shouted offensive phrases at the door of the cell. I heard them myself in the one-man cell. I knew the source of unwholesome information and the fact that Moroz supported my hunger strike for the status of political prisoner: I was hungerstriking for 65 days and stopped it because of bedsores. But I didn’t know about the fact that the Ukrainians discussed the conflict and that after the views were stated Moroz became the principal “instigator” and the object of persecution number one. It was then that Romaniuk told about Rayisa and, when Moroz went on hunger strike as a continuation of the struggle for the status of political prisoner, Rebryk “helped” and rendered moral “support” shouting at the cell door […swearwords about Moroz and Rayisa]. He kept shouting every day during leading prisoners out to work and leading them back from work. I reckon this was the main reason for scandalous divorce of Valentyn with Rayisa already in the United States.
This hatred of Rebryk, Shumuk, and Romaniuk to Moroz stirred up by Kuznetsov−“Just wait, I’ll write this old bag (Yelena Bonner) and Sakharov that you are anti-Semite and nobody will as much as remember you and you will rot and belly-up here as a political corpse−was caused by a usual envy.
Svitlychny, Chornovil and I did our best to make V. Moroz renowned. Once and again Ivan informed the West about the arrest and trial of Valentyn while he remained in the “big zone”. Vyacheslav devoted the fifth issue of “Ukrayinskyi Visnyk” to Alla Horska and Valentyn Moroz, I collected all writings of Moroz and published with my foreword the thick book Amidst the Snows, which I conveyed abroad and which was printed in the West. (Correction: the 4th issue was dedicated to Alla Horska; the issues number 4 and 5 feature several materials on Valentyn Moroz.--Ed.). So, when the local conflict broke out, Valentyn was at the height of his fame. The senators, congressmen, public figures, and so on wrote to him and much of the correspondence reached him both in Vladimir and in Sosnovka (Valentyn was sentenced to six years in jail and he served his term in Vladimir). This provoked inconceivable envy.
And Rebryk, for example, was extended service master sergeant in the Soviet Army and served as an air force radio operator. When he and his crew flew to drop the test A-bomb or even H-bomb on the island of Taimyr, there something went wrong and the bomb exploded before time, the bomber had no time to secure the safe distance and the shock wave overtook their aircraft and shook it hardly; Rebryk hit the cockpit wall with his head and as a result he began to lose his vision. The army didn’t handle the invalids with kid gloves, the more so the “westerners”; they wrote him off to the civvy street and granted him a small pension. Living in Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast he pressed for higher pension and found himself among the anti-Soviets. He used to express his opinion, for which he received three years of tight security. And then we met in Yavas in 1967 and in Sosnovka in 1974 for similar actions. I tried to win him round to hunger strikes and other forms of protest, but for this the man had to have a lofty aim, self-dedication, will to act and so on. Therefore he quickly found himself in the company of Shynkaruk and mastered his method of fighting for “justice”: hammering the knees. After the scandalous self-exposure of Shynkaruk’s homosexuality− he was caught in the act with another prisoner by the jailers and cellmates when they were brought in after the second shift−in order to avoid making him an object of derision, Shynkaruk was isolated in the one-man cell and they did not lead him out to work and soon they sent him to Vladimir, where they transferred Shukhevych as well. But Rebryk bypassing the cell of Shynkaruk cried out nothing offensive. He used foul language only about Moroz. In the absence of Shynkaruk Rebryk was at Kuznetsov’s beck and call. And then this group zeroed in on Moroz. Rebryk used bad language in everyone’s hearing, others ridiculed him for his practicing yoga, and others mocked his appeals to fair play and national solidarity, when only a simple victory was required. Hits below the belt, letters of Shumuk, accusations of anti-Semitism, setting up a committee manipulated by Kuznetsov and trial in absentia by special troika−Kuznetsov, Shumuk and Romaniuk−arose from the passions aroused by Eduard Kuznetsov in order to morally destroy his rivals and opponents and dictate to people rules of the game. It is well known that when an informal group of people comes together and rebels against previous (before the uprising) values or leaders earlier acknowledged by it, it at all costs is trying to ruin those values or appropriate them and transform the leaders into outsiders. The situation in the tight security concentration camp is a classic example of the above thesis.
So after my coming back from Lviv I heard from Karavansky and Moroz about the development of the conflict and the events that took place during my absence. I met Moroz for the first time in years; from the time of our discussion about publishing of the article “Amidst the Snows”, in which he subjected to criticism Ivan Dziuba and against publication of which I insistently objected, our ways did not intersect: he was arrested on June 1, 1970, I was arrested on January 12, 1972, and we met in late November or early December 1975. He managed to shout a few times into my window that overlooked the walking yard: “Ivan, hold on, I will back you.” But for this he got 10 days of cooler and after the cooler he was taken for a walk in another yard. He went on a hunger strike and was able to keep it for 56 or 65 days. Unfortunately I do not remember the exact figures. Very long, but he had no capacity to go on any longer. That Rebryk’s badgering dealt the final blow. And the hunger strikes in Vladimir and Sosnovka differed according to cruelty of medical staff in connection with force-feeding: in Vladimir they began force-feeding from the fifth or the tenth day and fed continuously every other day, after a while they did it every day, but in Sosnovka they began to feed after the final exhaustion on the 20th day, on the 25th in my case, physically weak Father Romaniuk was fed on the 16th day, and during my one-hundred-day hunger strike the jailers and medical attendant came on the 32nd day, twisted my arms, handcuffed them, the medical attendant opened my mouth with the steel gag, fixed my tongue with forceps, and pushed the feeding tube with a funnel through my throat down to my stomach and poured into me two 450-gram cups of cooked semolina. (Now, these few details are intended for those who do not know what hunger strike and artificial, forced feeding intentionally degrading human dignity are. Often prisoners failed to psychologically withstand such humiliation and stopped their hunger strikes). Moreover, V. Moroz got bedsores. The thing is that during the long hunger strike a person should keep her/his nose to the grindstone and get up and, leaning with her/his hands on the wall, and make at least a few steps in one direction and back, again to and fro, so that the use of legs will not be lost due to lying motionless for a considerable time (as was the case with Anatoly Lupynos), and roll from one side to the other, though it is also difficult for an utterly exhausted person, otherwise constant lying on the back leads to bedsores. The hunger strike is a powerful and efficient tool of political prisoners fighting against jailers. They are very afraid of hunger strike and are willing to make concessions, especially when the outer world speaks about it, that is when the hunger strike has been prepared in advance. But often and again the hunger strike tests the fortitude of a person. Therefore, a winkling would rather not embroil in it and resort to another method for otherwise it will be a kind of profanation. Therefore on Sosnovka the hunger strikes for the Rules of Political Prisoner were announced only−naming in time sequence−by me, Moroz and Karavansky, and later on in the Urals in Kuchino those were again I, Viktoras Pyatkus, and Vasyl Stus. It was before the beginning of 1982, because in December 1981 they transferred me under guard into exile in Komi Republic. In Sosnovka, Father Vasyl Romaniuk also was on hunger strike for 16 days. I will leave aside December 10, Day of Human Rights, January 12 and October 30, Days of Ukrainian and Soviet Political Prisoners because then most of Ukrainians and Lithuanian went on hunger strikes from one to three days. But one day fasting should not be considered a hunger strike.
My trips to Lviv and back were not good for my convalescence after such a long hunger strike. But jailers immediately upon my arrival order me to appear at work and fulfill the norm. Therefore, in order not to be thrown into the cooler in winter, I had to work. Our cell was taken out to work together with the cell of Romaniuk, Osadchy, Rebryk, and Shumuk as well as Lithuanians and Murzhenko. It happened during the second shift. The time was 22:00. I was still working in the shop, and Moroz with Romaniuk had a white-knuckle show in the stroll yard trying to establish who had spread the information about Rayisa in the concentration camp. It haunted him because when I arrived it was a run-of-the-mill topic and everyone put in his two cents’ worth: some prisoners felt indignant about Rayisa’s behavior for in imprisonment anyone keeps worrying about the fate of the family, children’s health, strength of family, therefore some were sympathetic, while others did not believe this info and still others gloated over it and jeered at it. We had not time yet to speak with Moroz about this sensitive topic. But Karavansky asked whether I knew anything. I answered that Romaniuk told me about it long before the scandal and the hunger strike, but I pressingly requested that he did not tell it to anyone. Having gone on a hunger strike, I did not see Father Vasyl anymore. “Maybe before your hunger strike he kept quiet about it, but after the scandal with Kuznetsov the dirt on Rayisa was on everybody’s tongue as an “argument” against Moroz. Therefore Rebryk screamed out that dirt to please Kuznetsov,” Karavansky explained to me.
So I was still polishing crystal on a big cast iron disc when Moroz approached me and asked to come out into the stroll yard. He went there again without waiting for me. I finished polishing crystal “chocolates” lying on the disk, switched off the polishing machine and went into the yard. Over there on one side of a high fence Moroz and Romaniuk were walking up and down emotionally gesticulating hands and talking on a higher pitch of voice and on the other side Shumuk was walking to and fro in the yard. When I came up to Moroz and Romaniuk, Valentyn asked me, “Ivan, did Vasyl told you about Rayisa, because he says that he was not the first to tell it.”−“Yes, it was he who said it first, he brought the news from his meeting and I really asked him not to disperse this news, because it might be a KGB provocation against Moroz before his arrival in the concentration camp.” Vasyl was a very emotional man and he broke into hysterical shouting: “Do you want to make me a snitch?” But neither he nor I and Moroz could not even imagine that someone would strike anyone. But Shumuk, as later Karavansky and Murzhenko told, went from the yard to the shop and started screaming hysterically that “Hel and Moroz are beating Romaniuk!” Rebryk and Osadchy broke out of the shop and went for me, began beating me on the head, and booting me. For me it was a surprise attack and I even did not defend myself, because I was as if shocked and I did not expect this. Romaniuk shouted even louder and tried to shield me. But the outbreak of rage was uncontrollable. Only when Murzhenko ran out, he together with Romaniuk blocked access to me of two “militants”. And Moroz, when Rebryk and Osadchy ran out from the shop, remained standing as he was and somewhat behind Vasyl and me, because we continued walking like we did before. Seeing that battered me Moroz did not rush to defend me but took a flight to the shop, where there were other prisoners who did not hear what was going on in the yard.
The next day, neither Romaniuk nor Shumuk nor Osadchy appeared at work in the second shift. Only Rebryk directed by Kuznetsov conscientiously went to work with our shift to keep an eye on the goings-on in the shop and warn: this will happen to everyone who will not follow the rules established by Kuznetsov. Once we entered the shop, he came up to me and said, “Did you like the yesterday’s lesson? We’ll set you down.” This sassy cynicism got me blood up. I asked him a counter-question: "Why do you beat me yesterday?” He smiled, and I punched him in the face. I kept hitting him again and again. Now he was taken aback, but then he began to fight back. He wanted keeping a distance to hit me in the groin. But I caught his leg with my hands, twisted it and Rebryk plopped on the floor. The inmates came up running and separated us, and after a minute the jailers came running in because someone pressed the alarm signal. Rebryk was taken away to his cell. The next morning Rebryk was pompously transported to the hospital in Barashevo from where the info about scandal in the special regime zone spread over all zones. Obviously, it was disseminated in the interpretation of Kuznetsov. During all this time, none of us was taken to Barashevo, where we could meet prisoners from other concentration camps: neither Karavansky, nor Moroz, nor me in the first place, though after the hunger strike I felt faint.
After Rebryk Shumuk was taken to Barashevo where he met Chornovil. Vyacheslav started reproaching Shumuk for his letters-squeals which Shumuk kept sending to his friends in the “big zone” and intriguing in the special regime zone. Shumuk responded hitting Vyacheslav in the face. When he returned from Barashevo he boasted everywhere that he slapped Chornovil in the face. Having returned from Komi in 1987 I asked Vyacheslav what really happened between him and Shumuk and what for was he hit in the face by Shumuk because we interpreted that hit as Vyacheslav’s support to us. Vyacheslav gave a brusque answer resenting the fact that Shumuk bragged before each newcomer of letters he wrote and that together with Kuznetsov he brought to reason Hel, Moroz, Karavansky that for vainglory invented different causes for hungerstrikes: rules and days of political prisoners, Code of Honor, Day of Human Rights and demanded that inmates follow them, why the majority did not want to protest. Chornovil said that Shumuk obviously did not have information on how prisoners in other concentration camps treat the protests and counting on Vyacheslav’s support was honest with him. He did not expect a different response from Chornovil, so when Vyacheslav called it meanness and intriguing and his letters he called squeals, Shumuk really hit him in the face.
But Vyacheslav did not strike back, but just grabbed his hands preventing Shumuk to hit again, and started beating Shumuk with words. Vyacheslav told me, "Ivan, I carried him to a condition that Shumuk fell to his knees and began begging and repenting. I said that about his meanness in relation to the Svitlychnys the whole world will come to know as well as about inciting scandal to satisfy his selfish motives. After this Shumuk felt morally destroyed and during all our stay in Barashevo he felt guilty. And the fact you say that he boasted in Sosnovka with having hit me in the face confirms his internal treachery, meanness of spirit, and mendacity.” According to Chornovil such were relationships between him and Shumuk in Barashevo during their stay in the hospital.
Upon arrival of Alexandr Ginzburg (in summer 1978.--Ed.) in the concentration camp the psychological atmosphere changed drastically. He demonstratively began working. Though the work was hard and dirty, he did not buy the norms for morgushki. What’s more, he began to consciously devalue them: he received a great many of them and distributed them for free to persons interested. Therefore neither Kuznetsov, nor anyone else could buy for a song diets or norms. Ginsburg immediately joined the protest actions. This caused considerable tension between him and Kuznetsov. Arrival of Tykhyi (in the fall of 1977.--Ed.) also softened the situation. But he remained neutral, and it did not contribute to either one or the other party. And Olexa soon after his arrival, as if expressing his solidarity with us, went on hunger strike for the Rules of Political Prisoner. He held it for more than fifty days, and when he stopped it he had to choose between two methods of getting out of hunger strike: Karavansky had really strong body and his stomach worked as a tractor and having stopped his hunger strike he began eating everything that his portion of food included on the second or the third day. And he had no problems. While I, having a long-standing experience, followed the rule that the way out of the hunger strike should take no less than 10 days and only on the 10th-to-12th day one could start eating the entire ration. Olexa listened to the advice of Karavansky and after a nearly two-month hunger strike immediately started eating the prison ration−sauerkraut soup and underbaked bread−that instantly ruined his stomach. For four months Tykhyi had lienteric diarrhea. This condition resulted in gastric ulcer, from which he suffered until his death, because he wasn’t prescribed a diet. And he demonstratively refused to buy his food.
The arrival of Levko Lukyanenko (in the second half of 1978.--Ed.) finally put an end to the conflict, though he called the letters of Shumuk as squeals and went on doing this in the presence of Shumuk. And, obviously, that was why some people moved away from Shumuk and Kuznetsov and shifted to Lukyanenko and Ginsburg. And they gradually became more and more convinced that the conflict had neither ideological nor anti-Semitic character as it was maintained by provokers of the conflict instigated in personal selfish interests, as Chornovil put it. In the course of time Moroz and Levko were moved to my cell, which Murzhenko had left, as well as Lozynskyi and Knap a little later. The three of us were on good terms both psychologically and spatially, because this cell initially contained eight people, then six, and finally three. Not long after Moroz, Ginsburg and Kuznetsov were transferred under guard to Moscow, and from there they were banished from the USSR or rather exchanged for Soviet Spies (April 27-28, 1979). In this cell, I wrote a letter of protest, in which I for the first time, in 1977, used the term “satanic empire”, for which they gave me fifteen days of cooler. The KGB officer officially warned me about the possibility of a new prison term. In the same cell (no. 8) on the basis of my overtures and individual items Levko Lukyanenko wrote and I edited the famous “Appeal of Ukrainian National Liberation Movement in the Case of Ukrainian Independence.” (See: To the United Nations. Appeal of Ukrainian National Liberation Movement in the Case of Ukrainian Independence. Published: Levko Lukyanenko. I Believe in God and in Ukraine. - Kyiv: Small-Scale Enterprise Pamyatky Ukrayiny, 1991.--P. 126-131. http://archive.khpg.org/index.php?id=1348385108).
My most important objective was to formulate the theses of the document in such a way that they would include such terms as "independence", "statehood", "liberation movement" and so on. For most applications or complaints of prisoners contained such terms as "violation of human rights", complaints against willfulness of jailers, protests against toughening of prison regime, etc. Therefore I insisted on such wording of the document and, while editing it, I added several formulations. There was no special need to persuade Levko of the urgent necessity of such terms as he was a true statist, but some prisoners were still afraid to use such combination of words as “independent Ukraine”. This was done. We also jointly selected the names of people who had to sign this appeal and who would not give up in case of failure. Levko also rejected the names of Shumuk, Romaniuk, and Osadchy, because he didn’t like the idea of putting his name next to their names. Obviously, I did not mind. Therefore there were no other signers from the special regime besides Levko, me and Olexa Tykhyi. Eventually there was no possibility of obtaining consent of all signers from the other concentration camps, whose names were put under the appeal. But we planned it this way: the Appeal had to contain the names of prisoners of all generations in order to show the continuity of the struggle for the independence of Ukraine. In the West, such things were not particularly favored−we knew it−because the USSR accused the West of supporting the policy of encroachment on the territorial integrity of the USSR, while the Final Act asserted the inviolability and integrity of the post-war borders of European countries. But the Ukrainians deemed it the most important to seek the collapse of the USSR and self-determination of Ukraine.
This does not mean that I underestimated the human rights movement. Immediately after the arrival of Olexa Tykhyi, that is approximately in November - December 1977, I put in a written request about my admission to the UHG, but the response of Morozov was negative: “Ivan, what are you expecting to do in the UHG? You are a mechanician.” My request did not get either to Kyiv or to the West. I did not know it at the time, but I did not repeat my request. When I returned from Komi in 1987, I did not try to find out whether I was a member of the group or not, and did not try to find who was to blame. Besides it there was a good deal of work outstanding. Among my regular visitors were Chornovil, Krasivsky, Mykhailo and Bohdan Horyn, Vasyl Barladianu, Pavlo Skochok who discussed various issues, and I was executive secretary of the “Ukrayinskyi Visnyk”, so there was no question of my formal admission; I participated in all conferences and was in the know of all events. But I did not submit a new request all the same. However, before I returned home from the imprisonment my wife Mariya filed a request about the admission to the UHG. But she also was not on the list as a member of the UHG. Neither she, nor I consider it a heavy loss too; it is only a matter of record keeping: some people were admitted without their knowledge (Shukhevych, for example), others were ignored even with the requests submitted.
V. Ovsiyenko: At this point the conversation with Ivan Hel on June 27, 2003 is over.
The conversation is continued in the apartment of Mykhailo Horyn in Kyiv on August 18, 2003 at 12:00.
V.Kipiani: Vasyl Ovsiyenko and I are recording Ivan Hel on 18 August 2003.
I.Hel: It the beginning there may be some confusion caused by repetitions, memory lapses, etc…
One of the reasons for the conflict was, in fact, an ethical aspect, as well as political one. There were also everyday occurrences. The jailers continuously mixed cellmates to their liking. We allegedly could form the contingent of the cell on our own, but the inmates could never make it so that in a cell there would stay only desired and compatible people.
There cropped up plenty of room when they took away from our zone about twenty criminals and killers, including Romashov. I was in a cell together with Murzhenko, there were also Ivan Lozynskyi and−a German name−Ostap Knap who later died in the zone. They were volunteers from the Ukrainian battalion, which was formed as a tactical element of the Ukrainian armed forces. After the arrests, including the government of Stetsko, they were redeployed in Belarus to combat guerillas; for this they had the death sentence replaced by fifteen years of imprisonment. They became our new cellmates. A bit later they brought Eduard Kuznetsov, Petro Saranchuk and Yuri Fiodorov to the cell as well. And immediately the atmosphere changed. Before it was more or less normal and human. Indeed, Murzhenko intensively hissed at two Ukrainians from Halychyna. He blamed me that I kind of defended them, supported them, while they killed the Jews, and so on. Well, I said that these people did not kill Jews, they were in Belarus. It was interpreted like I sided with them. I certainly did not side with their activities, we talked as Halychyna Ukrainians, and they were humane and quiet. But Murzhenko always tended to be a domestic leader. He studied at the Suvorov Military School and in barracks there was considered a leader among cadets. For this kind of people it is one of the most important concepts. They are trained to become future officers-commanders. Their leader is like criminal kingpin in the cell. Who could be a kingpin? Lozynskyi and Knap were elderly cellmates: they wanted to close the ventilator window for it was cold, but he opened it again. And he opened not the ventilator window facing him, but one where they sleep. They repined of draft at night, and he maintained that he had not enough air. He swore or threatened to deal shortly with them, because he was a strong man. Or he invented another martinet cause to nag at them. He constantly terrorized them. Therefore I just had to protect them, because he did hating the policemen.
And when Kuznetsov appeared in our cell, the intolerance skyrocketed. Later Lozynskyi and Knap were taken away from the cell. And Kuznetsov became the kingpin in the cell. For him it was also extremely important. Of course, he did not call himself a kingpin, but he became an actual leader demonstrating his force like Shynkaruk. It was an overt psychological pressure on everyone, including, apparently, those outside our cell, because when we were taken out to work, he was not working, but was in training of sambo. In the cell he organized sparring. Though it was very primitive, because none of us knew judo, karate, or sambo. It was a demonstration pressure. He started it at once. Once I was astonished out of all measure when I saw that Petro Saranchuk gave him fish from his helping. I have already mention that this helping was your norm and for each prisoner it was untouchable. You can give it yourself freely. I asked, “Petro, do you give up that fish of yours?”−“I promised him.”−“What do you mean by promised? If you want, I can tell him.”−“Oh, he treats me to tea.” And Kuznetsov, as I said, regularly got tea for the morgushki. I explained to Petro, “He can treat you to tea, or he cannot, but this is your helping. Do you pay a tribute to him?”−“Oh no.” We had no frictions over leadership with Kuznetsov for I was always like a spiritual leader, I always initiated actions, while they refrained from actions. But as regards the everyday leadership in the cell or the use of violence, Kuznetsov was the boss. I was about to speak with Kuznetsov about fish but Saranchuk objected: Don’t do it, please”. But he apparently told Kuznetsov himself, because he came up to me and said: “Any problems, Andriy? Do you care about it?” I said, “I do care about it, because then you will request it form somebody else as well.”−“I did not request anything: it’s a sort of barter for tea.” I argued: “Tea is not a helping. You bought it on the side. If you like, you may treat anybody to it. But neither I, nor anyone else wouldn’t have done it to you, if we traded in morgushki.” And we had a sort of tiff: a psychological tension emerged.
It was one of the first episodes. At first I did not pay attention to it but with time I noticed several times that he was trying to distort the meaning of my words: he used to tell Rebryk something negative about me, or he invented something else. Although in the cell the relations were completely normal. But when Karavansky and I wrote the “Code of Honor of the Political Prisoner”, not that many inmates were exasperated by me; they reckoned I had moral right; however, many inmates expressed their indignation at Karavansky; they ripped into him and traduced: Karavansky failed to do this and that, Karavansky failed to do something in a proper way, Karavansky “had got wrong in the past, and now he tries to rehabilitate oneself.” in 1961, Svyatoslav Karavansky was released from the concentration camp and repented; he was 25 years old then. He was released not in 1956 but only in 1961. He explained me that he deliberately did so to continue to fight and I believe him, though I would not have done so. Karavansky is really a decent person inwardly and now I still do not doubt his words: “I went out only in order not to waste my youth and to go on working in the “big zone” and keep fighting”. He is extremely strong physically, he just tremendous inner power and enormous physical strength and remarkable health. He did not look like a strong man, of course, though he is not less than 187 cm in height, but lower than Oles Berdnyk. Strong back, officer’s bearing, person of fortitude, and true devotee. He went to the “big zone” in order to fight, but when we were arrested in 1965 he was brought back as well. For in Odesa, he immediately started working and found Nina Strokata… The Prosecutor General did not give him an additional term: he said the Karavansky was incorrectly released. They found a legal pretext, which was easy in the Soviet legal system and locked him up again. But Karavansky was a restless person, hard-working and sacrificing for Ukraine. I always deeply and genuinely respected Karavansky and I will respectfully talk about him in the future, because there is nothing to choose between us. He encouraged me to work. Generally, I had a good command of the language, no doubt, but not so good as to believe that I could be an editor or publicist. He translated, for example, Jennie Gerhardt, something else. He asked me to edit the translation. I began to immerse into the language; it was a discovery for me: subtleties of language, vocabulary richness. I was not a philologist and generally I was only the sixth year student at the university, although I had a considerable knowledge base. But I was always discontent with myself. Complex. Karavansky and I became spiritually closer. Karavansky also greatly resented the fact that Petro Saranchuk gave Kuznetsov fish. “How can he take it!” he was exasperated. Probably Petro also had a complex like Kuznetsov’s complexes of supremacy and impertinence to demand.
Karavansky initiated the “Code of Honor”. This could not be written and published as they do it now. At the time we just wrote it and gave to read, but Kuznetsov understood it as an attack upon him. The “Code of Honor” did not mention specifically that you cannot barter your helping or any parts thereof for morgushki; it states very clearly that you cannot use the weakness of one person in your favor; you cannot take away a person’s portion of bread. And Kuznetsov considered such compromises with conscience the norm of life.
I do not remember whether I’ve told you that on the eve of 10 December or Human Rights Day adopted by the UN Levko Lukyanenko and I always voluntarily agreed to go on hunger strike. We even used to come to an agreement about the duration of the hunger strike: one day or three days. And sometimes someone started it, say, on December 8 and continued hungerstriking until December 15: so long as he endured or for a period agreed upon. But on that day, December 10, all Ukrainians tended to go on hunger strike, except for those who could not or would not. There were some such who did not go on hunger strike. I wouldn’t name them now. But before the action the organizational work was carried out even among those criminal offenders in order to attract more people. We prepare it in advance. So it was necessary to agree it with everyone, and I had the code and the information encoded in a letter. I wrote, for example, that fifteen inmates would take part. It was better yet, if we could list the names; it was a special challenge for the KGB officers because today we announced the hunger strike and today the radio "Freedom" started talking about it at eight o’clock in the morning during the changing of the guards. It was a challenge for them, they sought for leakage even among themselves, and there was none. When I approached Kuznetsov: “Eduard Samuilovich”or simply “Samuilovich” as we used to call him “10 December is approaching, it is desirable to go on hunger strike.”−“Oh, well, will do, but for no more than twenty-four hours.”−“It’s a deal.” When only a month remained we had to know it for sure; I came up to him again, “Eduard, does our agreement stand? The 10th December hunger strike is on the point of coming.” He tells me: “Andriyovych, why on earth do you need it? Why the hell are you doing it? You and I are heavyweights together and it is important for us to survive and so how to survive but simply to survive. We are doomed, we are condemned men. If we survive here and manage to get out, this will be something and we will become national heroes. In the meantime you are constantly poking and prying? Why do you need it? I will not go on hunger strike.”−“But you pledged your word!” I told him. “My word is my bond. I give it if I look like it and I take it back when I wish so,” he replied cynically.
Against that background some sort of psychological barrier emerged between us or maybe rejection. And that barrier increases when we expected−I do not remember precisely when it was−Yelena Bonner and Sakharov to come. I do not remember whether he met Sakharov, or Sakharov was not admitted, but Yelena Bonner he did meet.
V.Kipiani: Was it in Mordovia or he was taken to Moscow for this?
I.Hel: No, in Mordovia, in Mordovia. Bonner and Sakharov came to Mordovia to support everyone morally. His mother was ill and Bonner as a relative formally requested to see Kuznetsov.
V. Ovsiyenko: When did it happen?
I.Hel: Somewhere in 1975-76. Now it is difficult to recall the date, but most probably it happened in 1976. Then, after the visit, he abruptly changed his position: I want to be active, but I do not want to share. And at this very moment the struggle for the Rules of Political Prisoner reached its climax. However, Kuznietsov did not want to go on hunger strike: why waste power? I do not remember if I told you how Yuri Shukhevych was threatened to be killed? Well, did I tell you this? Yeah, well, then I will not be repeating myself. I asked Shumuk and Shumuk said, “Well, let him be killed, I would not defend him, because for me Shukhevych was not an authority. The Security Service had a hand in it…” He was irreconcilable in the matters concerning the Security Service of the OUN.
When this matter settled one way or another, a new serious conflict emerged on, so to speak, again on ethical grounds. They−Petro Saranchuk and Danylo Shumuk−were kept together in Norilsk where they took part in the uprising. There arose the complex twists of events and either Saranchuk saved Shumuk’s life or Shumuk saved Saranchuk’s life−unfortunately I do not remember the details now−but I’m sure that this fact was real because it was much spoken about. Petro Saranchuk and I were kept in the same cell. Then I wrote a lengthy review of the concentration camp, as well as a statement of protest. In fact, it was a collective statement on behalf of Shumuk and everybody else: it contained not only my signature. And at the time Petro Saranchuk’s father was expected to visit his son; he was a senior man of under 70 or over 70 years old.
V.Kipiani: He was a UHA rifleman, I know.
I.Hel: He had to come. We agreed with Saranchuk to pass these materials. He said, “Okay, I’ll take them.” the time was near, and I prepared the container. You may know how it was done, or I’d better tell it again?
V.Kipiani: Tell, please.
I.Hel: By the way, Karavansky and I developed the method together: our writings we copied in microscopic letters on cigarette paper or even better on transformer paper with H2 pencil. We sharpened the pencil rubbing it against the cement floor and making it sharp as the needle-point and then used it to write the text. For example, I wrote my book in the one-man cell; it seems I catch the ball before the bound. (Stepan Hoverlia. Faces of culture. The series “The political lectures for Ukrainian young people”. Foreword by Bohdan Strelbytskiy. Artistic design by Rostyslav Hluvko.--London: Ukrainian Publishers Association, 1984.--184 p.; Ivan Hel (Stepan Hoverlia) Facets of culture.--Lviv, Shevchenko Scientific Society in Lviv.--1993. - 216 p.). In the “big zone” they needed a six-or even tenfold magnifying glass to decipher our writings. Petro was a good hand at it. He had a copybook hand, but he wore glasses already as far as I remember. The portions of the text written by him were almost perfect. I was quick to assimilate the experience; we wrote texts and Saranchuk copied them in microscopic letters. Since we were in the same cell, we excelled at it. Then we folded the paper up to the size, say, three centimeters long and 10, 12 or 15 mm thick. How was it done? We folded it up making it as hard, as a pencil, but thicker than it. We rolled it and wrapped with cellophane. Then we took a match and scorched it making it tight. This was the first layer. Then we wrapped it with cellophane once again and it became more reliable. And we repeated the process for the third time: the container became securely hermetic; now you could carry it wherever you like, you could even swallow it and in a day or more it would void from the bowels loss-free, because the gastric juice cannot erode cellophane. It also happened that the inmates inserted it, sorry, into the anus and went to meet their visitors. The KGBists usually did not inspect your anus. At the butt ends on both sides we made a cotton plug and the container voided like rectal suppositories: rounded, no pricks, and all this process was painless. I prepared this capsule and when Petro was about to go and see his visitor I asked him: “Well, Petro, will you take it?” And I carried it all on me. He said, “I will not take, I will not carry it.”−“Why?”−“Shumuk forbade me to take it. He said to take his capsule only.” I went to speak with Shumuk.
V.Kipiani: What did Shumuk say?
I.Hel: Shumuk forbade him to take my stuff and said to take his materials only. Two containers would not be too much, in fact, for that place is capacious. For if you take something and put it in your mouth under the tongue, it should be very small. I spoke to Danylo. Well, of course you are not going for in a special regime zone there is no free exit, except for the case when they lead you to work. And Danylo was already of pensionable age, over 60. He was able to abandon labor duty; all the same he appeared at work every day: not for the sake of work, but in order to communicate. We were working, and he was speaking. I came up to him and asked: “Danylo, what’s up, why did you forbid taking my container?” He answered: “We were together in Norilsk. It was I who arranged the visit and therefore I have more rights”. I answered: “But it is possible to take both.”−“You already enjoy sufficient fame.” Such motive amazed me. I exploded with anger. At that time I was still a relatively young man, of your, Vakhtang, age, 37 or 38 years, and he was 60 years old. Of course, he had a richer prison experience. I rebutted as follows: “So, you mind only your personal business. And you think I’m doing it for the fame? For the fame I could choose another road because this one leads to prison and not to glory. How dare you say such things?!” I was rude enough and stopped communicating with him. We did not say hello to each other unless demonstratively in the presence of jailers or at work, and rather affectedly.
Some time went by. Maybe it is not worth telling here… Nevertheless I’d better tell it today, because his behavior was unacceptable, the more so for such idiotic reason: you already enjoy sufficient fame. That is it was about my popularity abroad, in the West. And we were all the same, because, frankly speaking, there was only scarce information about the realities of the concentration camps. We were still in Mordovia, and all prisoners of the tight security zone were transported to the Urals: to the 35th and 36th zones. And after 1979 we all were moved to the Urals.
V.Kipiani: On March 1, 1980 you arrived in Kuchino, the Urals.
I.Hel: Right. On the eve of the Olympic Games. This transportation was pertained to the Olympics. The jailers tended to hide us. And the information about all of us testified that I had no claim to fame. I said to him: “You write about yourself, while I write about the zone and the conditions here and not about myself”. And I broke with him at that. But it happened−in fact, why I say that maybe it is not worth telling about that−because Saranchuk’s father did not arrive and did not take both his and my materials. His father’s health deteriorated and he might be short of money. After all, we were terribly poor then, and all relatives had to pool their money so that somebody from the family, wife or sister could go to visit their kin.
V.Kipiani: Saranchuk had no wife, only father.
I.Hel: I am talking about myself and other inmates. Anyway his father did not come. Not long after I reckoned that Shumuk realized that he should not have acted so, to say the least. Vasyl Romaniuk came to me. Vasyl came from the closed zone before Moroz. He came and said, "Ivan, Danylo says he made a fluff. He recognizes that you are the leader and he thinks that something should be done with Osadchy.” I believe that the main qualities include willpower, ability to control oneself when you are still young and strong. Therefore I did not doubt that he was wrong, and it played a major role in the deterioration of relationships. Rather than smile quietly, I said, “It is a matter of leadership. Do I really need his recognition?" And we mentioned Osadchy.
V.Kipiani: Could you tell us, please, what was with Osadchy?
I.Hel: I’ll tell it right away. I’ve already told that I had a code in my letters. Not that much could be written in the letter. When Oksana Osadcha came to visit him−still before the divorce− Mykhailo complained to Oksana that he was in a terrible condition and the jailers offered if he repented, to release him, and he was ready to repent, because in the tight security concentration camp the circumstances were intolerable. Oksana brought this news to my Mariya and expressed her regrets about the situation and that she would be very upset if Mykhailo repented. Mykhailo had repented once. He was in the 11th camp and had a very little term.
V. Ovsiyenko: The first time he had two years: 1965-67.
I.Hel: Two years. He had three - three and a half, well, let it be four months left before his release from prison and he wrote a letter of repentance. At first Bohdan Horyn and I talked softly with him. But he did not realize the depth of the fall of the political prisoner and therefore he so easily agreed: the jailers promised Mykhailo to re-employ him at the university and that he would be engaged in teaching activity again. So he wrote a statement of penitence in which he regretted that he had fallen under the influence of nationalists and committed the crime. That is it was a purely "pragmatic" approach, because the Soviets had a sort of "soft" immoral morality and such behavior was widespread and considered acceptable. After all, you know that repentance in the concentration camp was considered a terrible and shameful act, which meant moral decline, and psychological and even physical downfall. Then Osadchy did not agree with us. So we imposed a boycott on him, which was with the blessing of Mykhailo Soroka. Why? Our arrival filled old political prisoners with enthusiasm; we developed a new format of behavior: active and permanent resistance. Mykhailo Mykhailovych used to say: “God forbid. Of course, we see all of you, we know who’s who according to the level of your self-dedication, we trust you, but if there is one occurrence of such behavior, others may well follow.” It is a domino effect. To prevent this, he advised to demonstrate a very strict boycott.
In the 11th camp the jailers also kept Slavko Hevrych, Olexandr Martynenko, later Yaroslav Lesiv and Vasyl Kulynyn were brought in. What did the repentance of Osadchy mean? It meant the shame in the face of all prisoners. And there were approximately two thousand people in the concentration camp, maybe two thousand and fifty, maybe nineteen hundred and fifty, or around two thousand people. More than nine hundred or even over a thousand of them were Ukrainians. 50-60 percent of prisoners were Ukrainians. He had only three months to serve ahead, and there hundreds of inmates served 25-year terms and new replenishment continued to arrive. For all and everybody it was a strong moral blow. Why do I dwell upon it? Because he dealt an unexpected moral blow to all of us and every prisoner separately. Such disgraceful information is instantly spread by the agents. In the zone of the 11th concentration camp I had an aliased name “special serviceman”. Things just happened that I was urged to stand surety for moral safety. The generally accepted moral leaders in Yavas were Mykhailo Soroka, Vasyl Pidhorodetsky, and Mykhailo Horyn. But, unfortunately, Mykhailo then was not in the zone already; he and Levko Lukyanenko were moved either to the jail or to the seventeenth at the time, I do not remember.
V.Kipiani: Apparently, they were sent to a jail, but it is not important now.
I.Hel: In a word, he was gone. Those who remained included Bohdan Horyn, I, and Shumuk, who kept out of the picture. Olexandr Martynenko, Panas Zalyvakha, Slavko Hevrych, and Osadchy. Osadchy did not understand the burden of his act: he turned to Vasyl Pidhorodetsky for protection. Vasyl was a man of honor devoted to the cause, but he misunderstood something; he came to me raising the problem of pressure exerted on Osadchy; actually, he asked why I pressure Osadchy. I answered: “You just go and ask Mykhailo Soroka”. He went to Mykhailo Soroka who was a patriarch and a recognized authority. Mykhailo tried to explain something to Vasyl, and again he failed to understand. Then Mykhailo sent someone for me. I came and he said, "Ivan, do not say Vasyl anything, because even during a conversation with you he understood nothing, and with me he understood nothing as well. Levkovych will speak with him in the military manner.” The issue dealt with the psychological moment. In short, the boycott so affected Osadchy that he took that he called back statement and tied it up. A priori, it was expected that the KGB would not want to give it back. Therefore, we advised Mykhailo to say the KGB agent that he would like to deepen the meaning of repentance and add a couple of thoughts. When the KGB officer gave Osadchy the statement for amending he tore it to pieces.
This happened in 1967, and for the second time at the end of 1976 or in early 1976. Oksana Osadcha came to visit Mykhailo and he told her that in Sosnovka the regime was awful which it was impossible to endure, and therefore he was willing to repent only to escape from this hell. Oksana said that she would not support him in this, but after her return from Sosnovka she terribly worried wishing he did not do it. She sought support and advice among inner circle: my Mariya and Olena Antoniv. Mariya sent me coded info and later Romaniuk’s wife confirmed this during her visit. Prior to her arrival, I felt it necessary to share this bad news with Karavansky, Romaniuk, Saranchuk. And Father Vasyl informed Shumuk. And although we were not in contact, all three of us met together concerning the case of Osadchy. Danylo immediately suggested boycott. But while he did nothing, the boycott was impossible. Instead, it is well worth paying special attention to him, as well as to help and take care of him which was my advice. Romaniuk was in favor of this opinion. We decided that we should handle Osadchy’s case delicately, not to blame him and not to reproach. And if he is denied the services of vendor kiosk, we’d rather share with him, because the kiosk for Osadchy is a very important element of life in a concentration camp. He refused to participate in group hunger strikes, because “he would be denied the services of vendor kiosk.” So that he felt no difficulties with this view, we agreed to support him. From the work we were taken to different cell: the three of them were brought to the fifth, and I was led to the eighth.
Though the scandal, in my opinion, was inevitable and programmed, it is difficult to say how it would have unfolded and when it would have exploded if that day I had not committed a horrible mistake. Before meeting with Shumuk, while talking with Romaniuk, he said that Shumuk recognized me the leader, and himself the deputy, and heard my response to it: “It isn’t time now to talk about leadership. It is high time to try and save Osadchy. And finally, I do not give a damn about his recognition.” It was kind of a bifurcation point when it is impossible to return to a previous state. Shumuk nursed a grievance against me… and found a leader in the person of Kuznetsov. The latter, in his turn, began to present Osadchy with morgushki which Mykhailo used to cover his expenses for kiosk and norms buyout. “Life has improved and we can whoop it up.” And Eduard released all and everybody from all sorts of protests; the majority conscientiously and even defiantly refused to go on hunger strike and fight for the status of political prisoner. Everyone quickly appropriated "pragmatic" and "flexible" course of conduct. After all, the majority, which mostly consisted of the elderly and already tired people rarely took upon themselves this drudgery. But Kuznetsov immediately felt himself master of the situation. In order to consolidate his status, he began stirring up Ukrainians against each other. I was planning my hunger strike for mid-May. I was isolated in the one-man cell. Then Moroz was brought from the jail to Sosnovka. And Kuznetsov Osadchy, Romaniuk, and Shumuk vented their anger on him. But I do not know for sure how events unfolded, because I was on hunger strike for 100 days and after the hunger strike I spent three months in one-man cell and then was taken to Lviv and, it’s a pity, the main dramatis personae −Osadchy, Romaniuk, Shumuk−are no more.
I also do not know if Svyatoslav Karavansky wrote on the subject. He is in the United States. Actually, it is interesting today only for its participants and researchers. But all the same it is a howling shame that Kuznetsov boosted the image of him excessively and used him for his own purposes. So the conflict was brewing: Eduard Kuznetsov and Saranchuk’s fish, especially the “Code of Honor” was disliked by the majority. After his meeting with Yelena Bonner, Kuznetsov started confronting me and Karavansky. One could tell! Maybe the situation might be improved over time, but those who made their life easier with the help of morgushki were not interested to win our favor. And still another episode occurred. One criminal prisoner−unfortunately I do not remember his name, but he was generally drawn towards political prisoners−when talking about Kuznetsov used to say, “With whom are you on friendly terms!” In prison, of course, there is nowhere to hide; once in the shop or in restroom he heard how Kuznetsov admonished Murzhenko− he did not know of whom he spoke−about Moroz or about someone else−“It is not a shame to give away a goi.” It was a shock for us; therefore I remember it. Everyone thought he was more or less normal person. Well, he bought prisoners’ helpings, he bought work norms, but such moral lapse was unthinkable…
Karavansky gave Kuznetsov to understand that he knew about this episode. But it was a criminal who announce it publicly; he could hear it, but could also pour oil on the flames; even if you heard it might look tactless to accuse Kuznetsov or make a hint, because you had no proof. Even if you one hundred percent sure that he did it, but if you have no proof by direct evidence, you should not disclose such information. And Karavansky said it.
Two groups were formed. On the one hand the people were extremely discreet… I reckon that one of the major reasons, why the groups were formed, was that at the time in Sosnovka, in the special regime camp there were no Sixtiers, there were no people who could create general aura. There were only Osadchy and me. Karavansky may be psychologically and by the mode of activity was also a Sixtier, but the rest… Shumuk was the prisoner of Polish, German and Soviet concentration camps, Saranchuk was the prisoner of Soviet concentration camps who went through Norilsk. The Jews…
V. Ovsiyenko: They have their own cases.
I.Hel: Right, their own; this case was officially called the Dymshits–Kuznetsov aircraft hijacking affair or the First Leningrad Trial; in Russian they were popularly called samoliotchiki and in Ukrainian we called them letuny. Yuri Pavlovich Fiodorov was a very decent man, though rather passive; he was a refined intellectual, brilliant translator from Polish, author of The Diary, which was "borrowed" by Kuznetsov. But Fiodorov, of course, took no interest in those cases, he wanted to be left alone. Lithuanian Balis Gayauskas never refused to take part in the actions, but the initiative, so to speak, was not his. Balis had already served 25 years and got 15 years more. Well, there were also criminal prisoners. There was also a diplomat Paulaytis…
V. Ovsiyenko: Petras Paulaitis.
I.Hel: Yes, yes. He was a senior man, no doubt much older than I am now, he had spent in prison many years by then.
V.Kipiani: The diplomat of independent Lithuania?
I.Hel: Of independent Lithuania prior to 1940. He was either consul or ambassador to Spain.
V. Ovsiyenko: He was ambassador of Lithuania to Italy, Spain, and Portugal.
I.Hel: Yes. When he was arrested, he was ambassador to Italy, and perhaps his second job was ambassador to Spain and Portugal. The groups created were targeted at different activities. One of their objectives was hunger strikes. We also were not, say, masochists of hunger strikes fixated solely on hunger strikes, but the prepared hunger strike always produced the best result. Therefore it was the most effective way to oppose jailers. There also emerged the group of Kuznetsov: “the main thing is to survive and it does not matter how you manage it.” These were two different approaches to our activities. And on these ethical grounds the conflict deepened. In fact, it was not a conflict yet but two different approaches to prison life and behavior; the difference of opinions step by step increased because we continually had to do something, while the hunger strike may be prepared and passed only jointly. For example, I during ten years I had only three or four visits: I was deprived of the rest. Shumuk had no visits at all.
V. Ovsiyenko: Actually, he had nobody to visit him.
I.Hel: Karavansky had no visits for his wife Nina Strokata also served her time. There was a possibility to pass parcels through letuny, but they did not want to be involved in such dangerous activities. That is they did not want to take our texts out of the camp, because it was a dangerous risk indeed. They didn’t take their materials out as well. No, in fact they did. For example, Yuri Fiodorov told me that he diarized for three or four years. The samoliotchiki began doing their terms a year or two ahead of us…
V.Kipiani: Somewhere in 1970.
I.Hel: Right, in 1970. He diarized and had abstracts of records. After his meeting with Yelena Bonner Kuznetsov asked Fiodorov to give him his diary to verify certain facts, because he was sure that Fiodorov’s diary contained accurate records. Yuri gave him his diary, even decoded parts of the text, because there were encrypted passages, so that the KGB officers would not be able to understand. Then Kuznetsov rewrote the diary or did not exactly rewrite, but in any case he amended it and committed plagiarism; he told Yuri that the KGB officers had confiscated the diary and it had been lost.
V. Ovsiyenko: And what appearance did Fiodorov’s diary have?
I.Hel: Well, what do you mean by appearance? It was written in a copybook: just the notes jotted down. We could not write diaries, but we could take notes. I had an article of Jaspers from the Voprosy Filosofii Journal, extracts from The Phenomenology of Spirit and Lectures on the Philosophy of World History by Hegel. I used to take notes there.
V. Ovsiyenko: Right, and you could interline or else insert your own text.
I.Hel: And I knew where made those insertions. They remained in this way; I had many such conspectuses, however it was forbidden to take them out of the prison. If I had tried to take them out, all of them would have been destroyed. But in 1979-1980, when we were transported to the Urals, such a pile of books… well, not so big as I have shown, but much more, maybe the number of books which might be kept in an apartment, because only I had more than 450 books. The jailers adroitly, in a purely Bolshevik way, specified that you may subscribe to magazines and newspapers and books by mail, but for your earnings in prison only. That is they stimulated you to fulfill the norm which would provide you money to buy books. You could not do it for the expense of mail transfers. For example, the samolotchiki had big receipts on their accounts, but they could order books and subscribe to newspapers for their "earned" money only. They could afford to buy something in the camp kiosk. They could also barter kiosk goods for the morgushki. Even more than that: they had cash. We had no cash, and this was not necessary. However for the money we earned we subscribed to newspapers and books. I usually ordered through the Book-by-Mail Service, and Levko Lukyanenko, when he came, read many of my books. When we were transported to the Urals, he had not managed to load yet. I had 450 books weighing 200 kilograms. When we were transported to the Urals, the jailers laid down conditions: 48 kilograms of books and two kilograms for white goods and that’s all. You could take a pair of underdrawers, a shirt and books. So I took my norm and gave Levko Lukyanenko 48 kilograms of the most valuable books and the rest they burned. Then they burned the pile of our conspectuses. Those were plain exercise books used for maths, all space was covered with writing. They burned them all. Moroz said that he had three manuscripts of monographs and five novels; they burned them as well. It is significant and interesting that everything that was kept in Vladimir jail has been recently returned him. And the then burning of manuscripts, conspectuses were horrible, dramatic events, demonstration of tyranny and terror.
V.Kipiani: I’ll try to introduce more clarity. Thus, The Mordovian Marathon is the best known book of Kuznetsov of Mordovia period…
I.Hel: I do not know.
V.Kipiani: I heard that it existed. Do you mean this book?
I.Hel: No, I do not know, because I, unfortunately, did not read it, did not even see it.
V.Kipiani: Did Fiodorov not tell you?
I.Hel: I was told that there were some shameful things about me in Shumuk’s writings, but I do not have Shumuk’s memoirs. Somebody showed me: such a big book. (Danylo Shumuk. Experience and Endurability. Recollections and Reflections of the Ukrainian Dissident and Political Prisoner from Years of Wandering and Fighting During Three Occupations of Ukraine (1921-1981). Preface by Nadiya Svitlychna.--Detroit: Ukrayinski Visti Publishers, 1983; the same: K.--O.Teliha Publishers, 1998.--432 p.). There is also such book as The Diaries by Kuznetsov; they were published when he was still in prison. Then Osadchy told me and was outraged by the fact that Kuznetsov wrote in Israel his memoirs about Mordovia and portrayed there all and everybody, including Ukrainians, and me as well, certainly negatively. But this happened already in the early 1990s.
V.Kipiani: This book was published in Israel, I bought it for I was recently in Israel, but I have not read it yet.
I.Hel: Will you give me it to read later?
V.Kipiani: I will read it and then I will give you. Maybe this is the Fiodorov’s diary mentioned above. And I know that this Mordovian Marathon was published as well.
I.Hel: now Kuznetsov is the editor-in-chief of some newspaper.
V.Kipiani: He is not the E-in-C anymore, but simply a public figure. Recently, a reporter went to Israel and I gave him the whereabouts of Kuznetsov to record the interview about Ukrainian-Jewish relations, because we were working on such a show. He said on the phone that he did not want to meet, because this topic was of no interest for him.
I.Hel: There is no doubt that he is Ukrainophobe. I am not an anti-Semite by nature and, for example, again and again I will warmly speak about Alik Ginsburg, also a Jew, but he was a direct opposite of Kuznetsov. And that one− I’m talking about him not as a Jew, but simple as a person. I first met Eduard in a punishment cell during his first imprisonment in the 11th concentration camp in Mordovia in 1966. There he was playing a terrible role of a person with a pull. All cellmates had to obey him. It is interesting what Zenio Krasivsky told me: he also stayed in jail together with Kuznetsov. I was released from the cooler and he was immediately taken to jail in Vladimir. Zenio said that the man was worth hearing. He pointed out that he expressed himself very delicately. Kuznetsov was omnivorous in terms of ethics. About Murzhenko he told me personally: “Why do you treat this half-Gipsy and half-Jew as a humane? He is simply a lazy bone…”. And added something else about Murzhenko. That is he treated everyone in patronizing and cynical manner; he held in high respect only himself and, of course, auntie Bonner. He was chary of words about his mother. About Sakharov he said, "Sakharov? If not for Bonner, there would have been no Sakharov as such: it was she who made him Sakharov.” Of course, he distinguished between Sakharov as a physicist and as a public figure, but he spoke about him with utter cynicism.
ONE-HUNDRED-DAY HUNGER STRIKE
So we’ve just approached the point when the "population" of Sosnovka divided into two groups: a) prisoners interested in active struggle; b) prisoners who tried to survive apathetically waiting for the end of the term. Vasyl Romaniuk told me that Osadchy had refused to repent. In the concentration camp the inmates never went frowning and turning away from one another. Initially, this was interpreted as a misunderstanding. For example, through the same Kuznetsov Karavansky and I passed our version of the Rules for Political Prisoners to the inmates of tight security zone. From the hospital Kuznetsov brought the idea that each concentration camp had to have a group of people or even one prisoner ready to go on hunger strike in connection with the Rules.
I have already mentioned above that I used a code in my correspondence. The jailers entertained suspicions, looked for it, but my code was reliable. Maybe it stood because it was simple. From the perspective of today I cast a glance at encryption machines: perhaps they could decipher, but for some reason the KGB officers failed to decode. And it was very simple. The text began on the fifth line: after fifteen squares−and that is why I used exercise books− I inserted the first syllable of the word. After next fifteen squares I had to choose a word with the second syllable, and so on. Maybe not fifteen but twenty squares, I do not remember now, I’d better look over the letters a big pile of which has remained. In a letter you could write forty words, fifty, and sixty.
V.Kipiani: Did you agree this code with your wife before the imprisonment?
I.Hel: I agreed it with my sister: my sister Olga Hel, married name Khort. I agreed with her, because in exile I lived in her apartment in Sambir. We labored with her this point, and she read and wrote. There was an exchange of information. For five months they with no reason at all confiscated my letters. The jailers did not say overtly that the letters contained coded information, but, I think, they suspected something, or maybe even knew, but failed to decode. They confiscated my letters, I immediately went on hunger strike and announced at once my transition to the status of a political prisoner. Karavansky had to carry on with my hunger strike. The second group was against. Kuznetsov set up a committee to determine the policy in order to back away, as he put it, "muddle", spontaneity, so that could manage life of many people in prison. The sent Petro Saranchuk to my cell; I had already been on hunger strike for 40 days, maybe 35, maybe 32. Or at least thirty days. Acting on advice of Yelena Bonner, Eduard forestalled me and hungerstruck for 15 days and then he found himself on the turn, because the hunger strike is not an easy undertaking… At the time the criminals shouted bloody murder that he was summoned to the office of the KGB officer and from there he took out chocolate and gobbled it up in the walking yard as he was let into the yard immediately after visiting the office. But someone might be intentionally sent there to watch when he was doing those things. After all, the criminals did not like Murzhenko and Kuznetsov because they exploited them. They would like to get more morgushki for their work. At the same time he didn’t want to devalue morgushki to avoid glutting the “market”. He could determine: the monthly rate of output was worth five morgushki, diet also was worth five morgushki. Instead the criminals had five packets of tea for every five morgushki, which equaled about a half-month dose of tea consumed by a chifirist. Much cheaper were the cough suppressant pills with codeine.
So, they sent Saranchuk with wardens (I wonder who took care of it and who then allowed it under such strict isolation?). And he said: Kuznetsov, Shumuk and Romaniuk decided that I had to stop the hunger strike because they considered the hunger strike inappropriate. That is, my thirty-day hunger strike would prove ineffective. We understand that we wouldn’t achieve the status, but someone had to strive for it, otherwise the things would look black. In other concentration camps the prisoners had already begun to strive. It’s one thing to write a document and quite another thing to go on hunger strike for the status. And I had yet another reason: for five months they neither sent nor gave me my letters. In addition, I had prepared in advance and passed the information about the future fighting for status. And Karavansky knew about it, too. Karavansky had to relieve me. That meant that he had to go on hunger strike the moment I stopped it. Such was the lay of the land. And out of the clear sky came this stop order! It was a premature decision. However, I was, not yet on forced feeding though maybe they did it once or twice.
The wardens led Saranchuk to me. And Saranchuk and I were on friendly terms; we had been in the same cell before. So, that triad sent Saranchuk to me: not someone else, not Kuznetsov, and not Shumuk. And the wardens let him into my cell that was unprecedented. There were two unprecedented things in this case: firstly, the prisoner was allowed to try to persuade another prisoner to stop the hunger strike, especially to order to stop, and secondly… During the hunger strike in Mordovia prison you are usually isolated behind three doors: the first iron door, small corridor, then another iron door, and only then the corridor of one-man cells. They sent Saranchuk and Saranchuk said, “The guys instructed me to tell you to stop your hunger strike.”−“Petro, What do you mean by stop it? Who says?”−“It does not work, you only discredit the very hunger strike because you hungerstrike for a long time, while others cannot endure for so long, so it will take us nowhere.” I said: “The hunger strike has been prepared.” Although in the presence of a warden you’d better not tell it. I said: “I will not withdraw.” Then Petro said, “If you do not submit, you will be boycotted.” This was the first time I learned during the hunger strike that there existed some committee, because there was no committee before. Even in the 11th camp there was no formal structure, although there was a “narrow circle” and even Mykhailo Soroka did not permit himself to speak on behalf of a committee or Mykhailo Horyn. Five-to-seven people gathered together, talked, held council and that was it. And here they invented a committee. Of course, I refused to stop my hunger strike and endured it for one hundred days.
V. Ovsiyenko: Can you make the dates more exact, please?
I.Hel: Approximately from the middle of May. Maybe the end of May, but not earlier. For when the heating season ends and the cell is not heated and you hungerstrike, it’s rather cold inside. Cold wearies me more than hunger. We already had a considerable experience. Therefore I stopped hungerstriking at the end of month only: June, July and August.
V. Ovsiyenko: What was the year?
I.Hel: 1976, middle or end of May. I was hungerstriking, strictly isolated, and with no info on goings on in the zone. At that time arrived Moroz, and the three of them convinced Moroz that he also had to submit to them and support them in boycotting me for the continuation of hunger strike and disobedience. But Moroz said: "Guys, I’m really surprised, because I know Ivan for many years. It beats me why you boycott him. They could not openly explain that, actually, they boycotted me for activity that violated their lifestyle. But Kuznetsov was adamant and discredited himself with such attitude: "Valentyn, here is the decision, it has been adopted and you either ... or…” And Moroz retorted: “No, I cannot accept such decisions.” Yuri Fiodorov was not involved in this exchange. Only Shumuk, Kuznetsov, and Romaniuk. Even Murzhenko was not a member of the committee: he only voiced and spread their instructions. Moroz told me this. Karavansky also told me that Moroz, when they began exercising pressure on him during the meeting of Ukrainians, said: "You guys were all heroes opposing the KGB, you withstood the investigation, you went through Norilsk, and now two lousy Jews manipulate you, as they want.” He said not Jews but Yids. And this opened the Pandora’s Box. In this way Moroz rolled with the punches. Therefore they didn’t press me anymore while I hungerstruck in isolation, I had no idea about the goings on in the concentration camp, while Moroz was blasted no matter what.
At the time the wife of Romaniuk came to visit him, and besides rumors full of slander about the alleged repentance of Osadchy she said that Rayisa [...] was a woman of back morals. Of course, the KGB officers knew that Olena Antoniv and Rayisa Moroz were emancipationists, in spiritual sense: they believed that women should be equal to men in all respects. I reckon that the KGB officers put some provocative ideas into her head. Why? In order to understand the psychological condition of Moroz, I have to take a sting out of it now. I want to emphasize that when I stopped hungerstriking, Moroz immediately went on his hunger strike. But Moroz announced his wish to be left severely alone, because his hunger strike was not prepared. He wanted to be left alone and hide somewhere because there they terribly persecuted him, slandered, and badmouthed… Kuznetsov was demonstratively shameless, cynic, and resorting to terror he was immensely cruel. Therefore he set up for Moroz real moral terror. Moroz began a hunger strike, and before that they made concessions to me sometime in September or late August: just on the hundredth day they sent my letters. I reckon, it was just a coincidence, because they constantly pressured me, so that I stopped my hunger strike, but I disregarded the pressure and continued hungerstriking. But I really was terribly weak already. In order to move around on the plank bed from side to side or just to sit down I was hanging on by my eye-lids. I had to do it in order to prevent bedsores. More than that, I forced myself to rise to my feet and leaning with my hands against the wall I shuffled towards the close-stool. It was also a sort of muscle training (if my muscles were still functioning) and the way not to lose the use of my legs like it happened in the case of Lupynis. The KGB officers came to my one-man cell to persuade me. This time they were not jailers but the KGB officers. Even Olexandr Shumeyko came down from Lviv. He’d just replaced Halsky; he began persuading me but it was already difficult for me to speak; however, I responded, "No, only on condition that you send my letters and I will get the telegraphic receipt. Only then I will stop my hunger strike, otherwise I will not do it." I also laid down conditions about the status.
They took all five letters and brought them to me, and I could not already even to raise myself a little and sit on the plank bed. To my regret, I tried my best to raise myself and plopped into the bed. Shumeyko stood nearby, because the cell was small. The warden and the censor held all five letters together; I wrote letters−you will sometime see them−filling in small hand a thick book at a time; I wrote on both sides of pages in the copybook. One reason for this was that it was not an easy job to encrypt my text, I had to select proper words; in order to choose a right word with the needed syllable it was necessary to scribble many silly words. But on the outside, when you re-read the text, it looked very wise. While you write the only your objective is a needed syllable; therefore the sentence might sound clumsy. So, the jailers stood nearby: Major Shumeyko, KGB officer from Lviv, warden and censor: they packed all five letters, applied a common stamp, not a wafer, and Shumeyko said, " I take it, I go by air to Lviv, tomorrow Mariya Yakivna will receive the parcel, I guarantee you. Now you may stop your hunger strike.” I answered: “No, I will do it when I get a telegraphic return receipt. Then I will end my hunger strike.” Of course, they could forge the telegram. It was the ninety-ninth day, probably ninety-eighth, on the hundredth day because I stopped my hunger strike: my wife wired me that she had received the letters. That is, Shumeyko came by air from Mordovia, gave her letters, she made sure that these were the authentic letters for I added a note to the parcel. However, the note reflected my condition: it was very laconic, just three lines, maybe five at the most.
So I stopped the hunger strike, and Moroz announced the hunger strike. And the jailers led prisoners past the cell, where Moroz hungerstruck. After twenty days of hunger strike I was isolated somewhere in remote places of the prison, where one-man cells were situated, but Moroz stayed in the cell, which was adjacent to the corridor. And then Rebryk in order to please Kuznetsov… I tell it for you to understand the psychological atmosphere that erupted as a volcano consuming Moroz. They hounded Rebryk on him. Despite the fact that he had no pre-prison or pre-camp relations with Moroz, except, maybe, for those two or three weeks that Rebryk stayed in the same cell with Moroz, he yelled in the corridor with all one’s might [...]. It was incredible abomination… I personally heard those cries, because I was no longer hermetically isolated after cessation of the hunger strike. About twenty days later, when I started to walk without aid, they brought me to the office of the chief jailer and announced three months of the one-man cell for “major violation of security”. Therefore I heard it all which was disgusting to hear and to think that people were driven to such bitterness. I had a prison experience of many years, but I never had heard anything like this, except for the cell with and the cannibal, where people curse a blue streak. Rebryk went to work and yelled when passing by the door of the cell, where Moroz lay. And when he returned from work, he yelled again. This went on for a long time. Osadchy did not cry, and Kuznetsov also did not cry: he used Ukrainians to do the dirty job.
We are approaching the day when I was taken to Lviv and to that most traumatic place for me where I was beaten. They informed the “big zone” that I scuffled. “Stop thief!..” that’s ridiculous. It’s no laughing matter. Nothing is sacred to Kuznetsov, even basic decency. The main thing was to make me guilty so that they might take me away…
V.Kipiani: When did it happen? After the hunger strike?
I.Hel: After I stopped hungerstriking. On the tenth or eleventh day I got to my feet. I could not walk yet. I used to sit down or roll on the plank bed: you sit down with your legs dangling and then you can turn over. I leaned with my hands against the wall and then with a great effort of will I shuffled a meter and a half to the close-stool, because I was afraid that my legs would be paralyzed and my muscles would be atrophied. And then in the same way I shuffled back to my bed. There was nothing to void from the bowels; I just flushed it twice a day, well, maximum of three times; I drank a liter and a half of water for I had to, sometimes two liters depending on my ability: I did not want to drink, but I had to drink forcing myself. It can be excreted bit by bit, part of it is also voided through pores. Therefore, leaning on the bedside table, I rose, passed over, grasped the plank bed, and then little by little I turned over to that or another side. It was the most difficult thing to return. But these movements helped me to remain healthy after 100 days of hunger strike, because, drained of all strength, I used my will power to get up.
But Moroz got big bedsores on his buttocks, and they hurt terribly. I think−then and now−that he was more demoralized by yells of his “colleague”. I think that follies he committed with Rayisa in the United States were also due to these doings of Rebryk. He was taken together with Ginzburg and Kuznetsov to the United States: they were exchanged for two Soviet spies arrested in the US. He sent Rayisa a formal invitation to her as a wife, but when she arrived, [...] they divorced with the public scandal. Obviously, the prison conditions affected his psyche. Not everybody can stand such defamation and suffering caused by close friends.
V.Kipiani: People who knew or know Rayisa think highly of her.
I.Hel: I also know her well; she is like a sister to me. There are four more women, except for my wife Mariya: Olga Horyn is very close to me spiritually, Olena Antoniv, Rayisa Moroz and Nadiya Svitlychna. They are the examples of self-sacrificingness. I could also name Iryna Senyk. We also use the diminutive of her name: Orysia. And know her less because she was an undergrounder in 1940s and served a very long term. I met hundreds of times the above women. They were extremely honest and absolutely pure people inside. An innocent person always suffers the most, because if a person is active and is programmed to do good, someone can dig some dirt on him/her. These, of course, are my assumptions, analysis of behavior of many people; therefore I do not doubt these conclusions.
So, I understand Moroz: he was utterly demoralized. And the atmosphere was very tense: they set up boycott against me, then Moroz (in my case it was rather a theoretical action, because I was hungerstruck in one-man cell), and Karavansky. Not long after my hunger strike I was given three months of one-man cell; therefore I stayed in one-man cell and I could not walk. When on the tenth or eleventh day I by myself got to my feet, I was brought by a medical orderly and food distributor, an Azerbaijani, under supervision of the warden to the medical unit. There I was examined and weighed. I walked without assistance, but I weighed around 44 kilograms only. I had already added 3-4 kilograms: the famished body very actively absorbs water.
V.Kipiani: What was your weight before the hunger strike?
I.Hel: Seventy-five, I guess. In prison I was like Vasyl now, maybe more skinny. I had a well-knit villager’s physique−big-boned, though I was skinny, but forty-four kilograms−my organism was such that when I started to drink water and eat something, it instantly began trying to compensate for all that was lost. On my belly, on my body, here on the chest small blisters were formed, millions of blisters from which water or air came out. I had those blisters all over me during first ten days or maybe even longer, maybe two weeks. I looked like a man made of blisters. They did not hurt, of course.
So after spending roughly a month or a month and a half in the one-cell cell, I went home. How did I go? They transferred me under guard to Moscow. The transit prison Krasnaya Pryesnya. I spent a week in a big cell. Therefrom they seated me in the plane and I went by air to Lviv. They took me out of the plane, and I instinctively knelt and kissed the ground. Many years later I saw: Liubachivsky did the same. I understand him very well: nostalgia for his native land. They didn’t expect it and raised me. I walked a little, felt the space, but not far from the aircraft I caught sight of the patrol wagon.
I stayed in Lviv for about two months. It seems that at the same time they brought Chornovil as well; later he also was scandalously sent away from Lviv. For two months they treated me psychologically; they thought that I was physically exhausted. Of course, in this way they achieved nothing, but they allowed my wife to visit me.
V.Kipiani: Did it happen at the end of 1976 or early in 1977?
I.Hel: No, all of this happened at the end of 1976.
And later there were no more scandals. They brought Ginsburg, Lukyanenko and the atmosphere changed. Eduard was taken away. No, it seems this happened much later. But now I will finish this episode.
My wife was allowed to visit me and she told me: “Ivan, tell people that all speculation about Rayisa is a lie [...]. That’s all not true, it’s a provocation. She said that it was Romaniuk’s wife who spread a rumor. In general she was a decent woman, but, as every woman, she loved to gossip. And probably she was used: someone of her “confidant” brought her this news. You know how it is done: through a third person, who is a close confidant, but who may be an agent or even not an agent. But if the operation is designed by the KGB, most likely s/he is an agent, a secret informer, who spreads information furnished by the KGB. In this way the abominable information about Rayisa reached Mordovia and from there it boomeranged to Lviv. Therefore Mariya said, “Rayisa is a saint woman, she cares about Moroz, she went to Moscow to visit Alexeeva, Bonner, and Sakharov. She is innocent of all charges; it is necessary to calm down those people! Tell them about this for now Valentyn Moroz will not trust Rayisa. Tell them that it’s not true.” As you can see for yourself, in Ukraine everybody already knew about the scandal with Rayisa. It was found it was Shumuk who wrote about it. When Levko came to Sosnovka, he said it right to Shumuk’s face: “Danylo, you whistle blows.” They cut down the time of the allowed visit; however it did take place. And during the visit the scandal with Rayisa remained the main topic of our conversation.
Back to Mordovia I was brought not by air but under normal guard. They brought me back prematurely and with a scandal, because, it seems, during this my stay in Lviv General Poluden undertook to recruit me (as I said), and in response I began recruiting him. This episode also became notorious for the prisoner dared to recruit general. Therefore they took me rapidly away and they even did not permit me to say goodbye to my family during a short visit. When my wife and my mother brought came and brought me a parcel they rudely retorted that I was on my way back. At the same time, they initially intended, Shumeyko said, to hold me for a long time hoping for a positive outcome and thinking that exhausted by hunger, psychologically stunned by the scandal I with their help would easily crack and write application-repentance. When instead of remorse I boldly began recruiting the general, it produced the opposite effect: the KGB officers were outraged and as punishment and psychological blow they ahead of the game transferred me under guard to Mordovia.
The estimated time of arrival in the concentration camp: late November or the first half of December. A day or two after my arrival I was led to work in the second shift. I couldn’t still work at full capacity, that is I was not able to fulfill the norm yet, because I felt weak having not recovered completely; nevertheless I appeared at work because it was a chance to talk. I began speaking with Vasyl Romaniuk. Of course, we spoke about Rayisa and Valentyn Moroz. I told him that I had a date and that in Lviv they already knew about the conflict among the prisoners and dirty slander of Rayisa. Mariya said that in Lviv, Kyiv, and Ivano-Frankivsk all deeply honored Rayisa and felt that it was a provocation against Moroz and Rayisa. And Romaniuk said in response: "It was not I who brought this into the zone.”−“But you told me this after your date with your wife,” I reminded him. At this very moment we were joined by Valentyn Moroz; we continued walking on with Moroz between us and then he said: “I would like to know, Vasyl, who began spreading that abomination in the prison? Now, Ivan has returned already. Pease, tell.” Vasyl disavowed rudely: “It was not me! It was not me!” However, in my presence he could not negate the fact that he told me about Rayisa after the date and that I asked him not to set the rumor afloat. Before we had time to respond or simply to thrust in a word Romaniuk stopped dead and started crying blue murder: “It is no concern of mine and leave me alone, she’s not my wife!” Such explosive behavior was typical of Vasyl: he was choleric and often exploded. Therefore Valentyn and I also stopped and held ourselves in check, as if waiting for him to calm down. Neither Valentyn nor I ever breathed a word and it never even crossed our minds to lift our hands against Vasyl. But in the yard, opposite us, Shumuk rambled. He suddenly jumped, ran into the shop with the cry: “Hel and Moroz are beating Romaniuk!” Rebryk and Osadchy ran out of the shop and attacked me. This happened unexpectedly, it was like a bolt from the blue. Moroz ran into the shop, and Romaniuk did not beat me: he even tried me to shield me and simply stood dead in his tracks having been taken aback. At the same time Rebryk and Osadchy flew into a rage and thrashed and hammered me. It was a great surprise and I neither resisted nor kicked back. Then Murzhenko ran out of the shop and pulled them away from me. When Moroz came out of the shop, he heard, “Why have you fled? You could cover me.” And Valentyn said: “I have not run away: I ran into the shop to call someone to come out and drag fighters apart.”
One of the prisoners gave a signal and the jailers came running. They tried to take me to my cell, but I refused and stayed until the end of my shift: my self-esteem didn’t permit me to hide. And Rebryk felt himself a hero and proudly, as the winner, went away with the jailers. The next day all members of the clash were also led to work in the second shift. I went up to Rebryk: “Why were you hitting me yesterday?”−“Smell my finger! We will teach you a lesson,” he answered. And at this point I gave him a smack the face. The blow was for him, like yesterday to me, unexpected. He momentarily was taken aback, and I gave punched him one or two times more. They immediately dragged us apart, because it took place in the shop. He again was taken away by the jailers.
The next day Kuznetsov went to the concentration camp commander and reported that Hel beat Rebryk. They made it a sort of political action, he said; the beating was so heavy that Rebryk must be hospitalized. After a while the information was spread from Barashev Hospital to all concentration camps and to the “big zone”.
Since that time, we worked in different shifts. But prison is prison.
I suggested different shifts in order that the KGB couldn’t cash in on this conflict. However, the division of shifts were interpreted so that I kind of ran away and during a walk, when we were taken to our cells at one and the same time, although this was against the rules: the inmates of adjacent cells well never walking together; in one of those cells were Kuznetsov, Rebryk, and Osadchy. Then they once again attacked me and beat me retaliating for Rebryk. It was not like the previous time, when I was so badly beaten, because I was, well, psychologically ready to attack, and though I did not kick back, internally I intended to offer resistance. I can honestly say: I vowed that when I would meet Kuznetsov face to face, I would give him a good lesson, at least I would knock him into the middle of next week for that humiliation and all nasty things he did. This was the end of the conflict. 1977 had come. The KGB capitalized on the scandal, Shumuk cashed in on it when he wrote open letters to the “big zone”. Levko Lukyanenko wrote him, “Mr. Danylo (or Mr. Shumuk), you wrote a report to the KGB.” For every experienced prisoner understands that s/he writes letters not only to the addressee and the KGB censors would sure use them for their purposes. And he dragged all and everybody through the mire.
And how did it end? After appearing of a few people in the concentration camp the psychological thaw set in. The newcomers included Levko Lukyanenko, Alik Ginzburg, and Olexa Tykhyi. Olexa Tykhyi condemned both sides and remained strictly neutral. Obviously, each side had its share of guilt, more or less, and each side would interpret it to its understanding. Certainly, it would be better to have more such men as Olexa Tykhyi and Levko Lukyanenko on the Ukrainian side, or such as Stus or Horyn or someone else from later “repeat offenders”. Because these people were sacrificial and eager to fight. After arrival they did so, as we had planned our actions and worked from 1972 to 1975 before the scandal erupted. That is there were no conflict problems at the time, we had an extremely friendly team, like a family. Everyone understood everything in a proper way, there were no misunderstandings, let alone scandals, until letuny, including Kuznetsov, intruded into the active forms of prisoners’ resistance movement. Later everything resumed its normal course and the scandal faded away. Of course, the parties did not show any friendly feeling on the outside, but they did not show anger either.
The conflict was a misunderstanding fanned by Kuznetsov: this was my personal estimation at the time. I have not changed my opinion until now. It would have been of purely local character, if there had not been intentional information leak. Between Svyatoslav Karavansky Valentyn Moroz and there were also certain personal misunderstandings, but not of political and moral character. When it all comes down, I also do not dispute the decency of Vasyl Romaniuk or Petro Saranchuk. But Shumuk is an intriguer: he’s always frowning, a sort of malcontent. Such he was in the 11th zone as well. Everyone there knew him as neurasthenic, intriguer and pathologically ambitious person. The rest of the prisoners fell victims to the "union" of Shumuk and Kuznetsov. Obviously all of it was a provocation. I do no doubt that the operation was designed by the KGB, but performed by the hands of Kuznetsov. Perhaps earlier, Trokhym Shynkaruk to some extent provoked the split, broke the unanimity threatening to knife Shukhevych which I have mentioned above.
When Lukyanenko was brought to the special treatment zone, there were three of us in the cell for perhaps a year or a year and a half: Moroz Lukyanenko and I. And all KGB schemes failed: they expected that three virile and different persons wouldn’t get along together in the same cell and the scandal would erupt. However, they miscalculated. The hunger strikes continued. We developed mutual sympathy, kindness, friendly attitude, and deep mutual understanding. We wrote common (and personal) appeals, statements, and protests and passed them. Ginsburg demonstratively sided with us, he made friends with everyone. In 1979, Moroz, Ginsburg and Kuznetsov were taken away. They were exchanged for spies, and in March 1980 we were transferred to the Urals. Over there the jailers had organized an incredibly tight isolation. Yet the year 1976 was for me was the worst one, especially its second half.
You may not believe me when I say that six or maybe ten months ago I was again painfully hit on the face (I was without a leg at the time): by chance I learned that Shumuk had written his remembrance about me and Kuznetsov had written a book, too. He speaks there negatively about Osadchy as well. Unfortunately, I have not seen that book, those who read it told me what it was about. Of course the author writes about me, about Mykhailo Osadchy that he allegedly repented because he was terribly weak. Mykhailo really was a trencherman; he was a pragmatist, but, compared with Kuznetsov or Murzhenko, he was a model prisoner. Murzhenko was a pathological sybarite; Kuznetsov considered him as a lazy bone and nonentity: half Gypsy and half Jew who prefers to do nothing but to lie on his plank bed and read detective stories. Like Oblomov”. And Kuznetsov also did not like to hungerstrike or fight. But Kuznetsov was at least a good organizer, so to say, the kingpin, but kingpin, who went any length, that is, he could play hard, let’s say, like the Bolsheviks; he was not too scornful to eat dirty puddings. If he thinks that it is necessary to throw mud at a person, morally ruin her/him, he will do it without a twinge of conscience.
I also took hard the retelling of Shumuk’s remembrances that touched upon me. But I have not seen or read the book, though I was looking for it. I failed to find it in Lviv: neither Canadian, nor Kyiv edition. Before you asked me I never touched upon this issue and I never uttered a word about this conflict in public, considering it an internal affair of the prisoners. Now I have the moral right to change my position.
Long absent, soon forgotten. The year of 1977 was utterly different.
Let’s have a short break now.
V. Ovsiyenko: I’ve got a question about the one-hundred-day hunger strike. It is clear that you were nourished in that way or another, right?
I.Hel: Nourished, fed? Oh, technologically the procedure is very simple for the jailers. They have great experience in this field. Did you mean that cons supplied me with nutriments?
V. Ovsiyenko: No, no, no, I meant doctors or other personnel there.
I.Hel: Well, paramedic.
V. Ovsiyenko: How it was done? And on what day did it start?
I.Hel: They make it very easily. I was on hunger strike many times. Their summary duration is over three hundred days in the course of ten years, of course.
V. Ovsiyenko: But the one-hundred-day hungerstrike was the longest, right?
I.Hel: Right, that one-hundred-day hungerstrike was the longest in my life, and the longest in this concentration camp. No one else endured for a longer time. Moroz was on a hunger strike when Rebryk started yelling at him. He stopped hungerstriking on the fifty-sixth or sixty fifth day. It also was a remarkable hunger strike. In spite of his personal flaws, Moroz was a very powerful figure as a political prisoner, as a prisoner of conscience, and as a man of honor and dignity. He used to share his last crust with a prisoner. His arrogance and high hat is another kettle of fish. In Halychyna they say: stiff as a poker, straight as a die. Moroz really is a steadfast and not a delicate person. But had solid moral criteria, purpose and focus of life.
Now about feeding. It depends. If they know that you are focused on the fact that when they begin to forcibly feed you, then you stop hungerstriking, and they begin to forcibly feed you on the twentieth day, the eighteenth, or twenty-fourth. How do they perform it? Two mugs-wardens come into your cell, pinion your arms and you are not able to resist. After fifteen days a person begins to have difficulty walking. A person is able to walk approximately until the 22th-25th day. I moved even later, but it was not walking in a proper sense. They enter your cell, pinion your arms, handcuff your hands or tie your hands this canvas belt. Later or together with the wardens comes a paramedic: “Open your mouth”. You do not open your mouth. Then he begins to press here, i.e. this spot on your throat to cut off breathing and then you will but open your mouth, and the wardens hold your hands behind your back and press them to the chair you’re sitting on. You lean against the wall if there is a stool: this way against the wall depending on that cell. You are tensed up, they hold you, the paramedic starts pressing your throat, you involuntarily open your mouth, and he thrusts in the mouth-gag which looks like pincers. When you press on the handle, they spread apart in different directions, while conventional gag looks like pincers. Several times−not always, of course, but obviously following the instructions of the KGB officers−they intentionally separated my jaws in this way, and then two weeks after the procedure you feel a terrible pain in the gonial angle here.
V. Ovsiyenko: Do they exert pressure under your ears, or don’t they?
I.Hel: Yes, yes, here, a bit lower. They block your breathing pressing your neck and holding your nose. The hungerstriker in order to breathe opens his mouth and they insert the gag and keep his mouth open. The paramedic moves the gag leftward or rightward and mouth stays almost fully open, then he grasps and holds your tongue with forceps, if you do not protrude it voluntarily. This is force-feeding. Usually you do not want to be fed, therefore he grabs and pulls out your tongue, the warden fixes your head with one arm in backward position; now that you are immobilized, even if you try to wrestle, you’ve no power to do that. So your head is restrained, the handles of the gag are moved to one side, your tongue is pulled is pulled out and fixed on the other side; then takes a funnel with a feeding tube; that is at one end of the device is a funnel and at the opposite site you have a sort of enema syringe: a rounded with a side hole. He dips the hose in the food that will pour down into your stomach. What does the food consist of? It is fluid semolina gruel; they add 30 or 50 grams of sugar depending on what day the forced-feed is performed and the future schedule of feeding. I was given the biggest portion of 60 grams of sugar. And two partially filled 450 g bowls. This is not a half-liter aluminum mug for prisoners, but an enameled pot with ears. He spoons out gruel. He keeps food either in a bowl or in a small pot in which it was cooked. There he puts 20 or 30 grams of butter. I do not know the exact norm, but he put it in my presence, it is warm, and he mixes that butter and sugar. Semolina was cooked in great amount of water or maybe some broth; I do not know because you do not feel any taste. It is so watery that it can be easily poured. While pulling your tongue out, they open guttural sinus and obtain free access to the esophagus. The paramedic quickly smears the hose end to make it a bit slippery, and without interference thrusts inside you the hose until he feels that it has reached the endpoint.
V.Kipiani: Down to the stomach?
I.Hel: Right, down to the stomach. He feels that the hose has stopped, raises the opposite end of the hose and pours food down into the funnel, and you can feel warmth spreading inside you. He pours inside two bowls; that means 900 grams of food. Then he pulls out the tube, releases the gag, and takes away forceps freeing your tongue. Sometimes those forceps with blunt ends may hurt your mouth. They pulled everything out and the wardens relieved you having fulfilled their job. Then they remove handcuffs or undo the belt, and that’s that, you’re fixed.
V. Ovsiyenko: On what day do they begin to force-feed: on the eighteenth, twenty-second day? And then what?
I.Hel: On the twenty-second or twenty-fourth day. When I started one-hundred-day hunger strike, thee began to force-feed me on the thirty second day. Well, I was strong both spiritually and physically; not everyone can afford such things and endure such hardships. But then the jailers began to force-feed me only on the thirty second day, for they understood that I would not take off hunger strike even in the case of force-feed. They hoped at first that I would no longer endure. After that they carried it out on the fortieth day, i.e. they decided to do it once a week. You still have power. Then they extended the interval from the fifty-fourth day to the sixty- first, and I almost died. But I knew that I would not die. A person in such a condition… You know, I want to say that when a person is fasting (for example, I understand Jesus Christ who did not drink water at all, while we can drink), s/he becomes so inspired that s/he begins communicating with God. Of course, it does not take place on the same level, but it is somewhere very close - bright thoughts and bright ideas, bright mind and remarkable feeling of unity with God. Catharsis. Obviously, I would never have written that book (Faces of Culture.--Ed.) if I lacked the necessary concentration of will, especially in prison. However, in the one-man cell the book was written quickly and easily, without referential literature. It was written after the hunger strike in 1976. However, some sections were written in the early days of hunger strike. In the one-man cell they didn’t perform a thorough search and I wrote something like a conspectus. After a lengthy hunger strike a person becomes extraordinary: it is not so much the body as spirit, really strong spirit and strong illumination inside.
Why do I say that I almost died? They began to force-feed me after fifty-four day: on every fourth day. Once it turned out to be Sunday, day of rest, and they did not force-feed me for they did not order foodstuffs. The force-feeding is carried out only by a paramedic from the concentration camp medical service together with two wardens. The paramedic was absent because he had a free day, foodstuffs were not ordered, and I was force-fed not on the fifty-fourth day, but on the sixty-first. So a person involuntarily is geared up for force-feed and therefore I remember it in details. Afterwards you may not remember, but when you know that you would be force-fed you get ready for it, because after the pouring-in of food your blood pressure goes up and you return to life little by little. But if they do not force-feed you… So physically on the sixty-first day I was in a reduced state. I still did not flake out, I still retained my conscious. And I heard my inner voice or the voice of God: if you lose your fortitude, you will die. Let your fortitude win over them. They called a paramedic because jailers during the hunger strike usually come to monitor whether you are still alive. You are lying on the plank bed, a standard plank bed in the one-man cell, the cell is two by twenty two by one and a half meters, so there may stand only one narrow plank bed, close-stool is standing in the corner, and on the opposite side at the head there is a bedside table.
Maybe I’ve omitted the most significant thing: when you are announcing a hunger strike, before the initiation of the force-feed−whether it makes 16 days, or 18, or 24, or 32−every morning they put kasha on the bedside table at the head. But if the convict’s kasha is cooked only in boiling water, they bring it to the hungerstriker together with fried onions to tickle nostrils, start salivation and leave lasting smell. They do the same during the dinner. They bring the first and second course and take away kasha. There was one man−I will not name him−and he decided to fortify himself. They brought him the first course and counted: there were seven pieces of potato, he ate three and four were left. They told him: “Get stuffed with your hunger strike, I beg your pardon. Start from the very beginning or get back to your cell and start working”. The paramedic in the presence of two jailers counts the number of pieces of potato which they put into your bowl. Then comes dinner, in the evening it is taken away, and you have kasha for your supper which will remain until breakfast in the morning. This round-the-clock cycle keeps working for many days. The temptation is colossal: a man wants badly to eat, but he has to suppress the instinct of self-preservation. Obviously, this is the hardest thing for you have to win over yourself.
But the first ten days are the most difficult. You are terribly hungry, especially on the fourth, fifth, sixth days. The first three present no problems, but the following days… After eight days the stomach ceases to secrete gastric juice, the body resorts to eating itself up and self-procurement. Despite your physique you can die all the same, because after thirty-to-forty days everything depends on the level of health: whether your heart and other organs are in good shape, how long you can endure. But the most important things are your fortitude, dedication and readiness to go to the end, that is to fight to the bitter end. After ten days everything isn’t worth a hooter for you, or you do care, but you are not so eager to eat. And then you are losing any interest in food.
I am sure that after twenty and more days of hunger strike, when you lie motionless, you become closer to God, you feel that you really like the Forerunner turn to God and begin to say things that hurt you the most, or what you want most of all, or you ask God to fortify you. Well, you do not do it like an old woman or yourself, when you pray in the church: Oh Lord, help me to do that, but like you are offering Him yourself. It’s hard for me to put into words this state, but it is a real feeling that you yourself directly speak with God, you do feel yourself a God or son of God or simply a son of man, who has reached the summit. This is not a diabolical pride or the desire to dominate. Because with you feel more acutely that you’ve overpowered yourself; you have a feeling that in your thoughts and in your heart you come nearer to perfection. And the longer you go without food, the lighter you become physically, so to speak, biologically and spiritually approach the perfection. I’ve never again had such feelings, as during my hunger strike: neither before nor afterwards. There were different points of readiness for self-sacrificingness, but hunger strike is a special state of mind. I firmly believe that such a long-lasting state of mind is God’s Providence; it is beyond the scope of something personal, selfish; it is giving oneself to an idea. It is the only way a person can endure for so long. After forty-to-fifty days it becomes very difficult physically, when you feel more and more your physical imperfection, because it is difficult for you to get up and go. And you have to go anyway, because why did Moroz stop hungerstriking with all those bed sores? For put the close-stool near his bed, he simply lowered his leg and, barely moving, relieved himself directly into the close-stool. In the meantime I forced myself to take those few steps… You know, Anatoly Lupynis went on hunger strike in the eleventh as early as in 1966. They didn’t feed him for quite a time. The jailers did not have experience at the time and feared that he might die. He lost the use of his legs then. But he endured tremendous trials. Anatoly was a very strong and inspired person, capable of self-sacrifice. I admired him then. It is unfortunate that his hunger strike was not prepared; otherwise it might be more productive.
V.Kipiani: How long did he endure then?
I.Hel: He was on hunger strike for some two hundred days; he lost the use of his legs then. We were only beginning then. He was taken to Barashevo.
V. Ovsiyenko: Do you remember how in 1981 the guys from the IRA, the Irish Republican Army, were striving for the Status of Political Prisoner, of which they were deprived by "Iron Lady" Margaret Thatcher. Then Bobby Sands, their leader during the hunger strike became a member of the British Parliament. Ten strivers died then. One of them endured for the shortest period of 39 days, and the longest period made 69, as far as I remember. Bobby Sands died on May 5, 1981, the 66th day of hunger strike. (See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49WlHG9FaRE)
I.Hel: Mr. Vasyl, I am sincerely thankful for this your remembrance. I followed their example then. To this day I retain their portraits. I have a notebook, well, and in it, as in the passport, there is a bookmark; I carry there pics of my daughter, who 17 years old, and of those ten guys. They are saints, they are devotees.
V.Ovsiyenko: They, at least, were kept warm and they were not force-fed. They made it incumbent on their relatives that if they lost consciousness, the family would not allow to force-feed them.
I.Hel: Well, Mordovia is not England, by the way.
V.Ovsiyenko: Yes, there they fulfilled their will.
I.Hel: Such is background story. Well, guys, maybe we will call it a day, because I am tired a little. It is for the first time that I dwelt upon the goings-on in the concentration camp. I’ve never spoken on it in public. It is rather painful and disgusting. And if you had not asked, had not stirred up old feeling in me, I would have carried this burden on. And now they are only episodes that are stamped in my memory. At the same time an interview cannot disclose everything. And is it necessary indeed?
V.Kipiani: Today, it is September 11, 2003.
I.Hel: I will read aloud this inscription on the book: “To my dear Vakhtang (without the last name), an expert in the national liberation movement in Ukraine, in particular, the Sixtiers movement, brilliant journalist, publicist and historian, continuer of the cause of Heorhiy Gongadze, with all due submission author Ivan Hel.”
V.Kipiani: Thank you. It is a very high assessment.
The third part of the conversation with Ivan Hel, September 11, 2003 in Lviv.
Mr. Ivan, during our last conversation we approached the 80s, Kuchino. But I would like to ask you how did you apprehend “as large as life” as Mayakovski put it those changing times in 1985: the perestroika. You received Soviet press, listened to the radio, right?
I.Hel: Right you are.
V.Kipiani: How did you begin to feel the changes and whether you did begin to feel them? For example, other dissidents from Kuchino said that just these years 1985-86 were the most difficult for all of them understood that they wouldn’t be released alive. I mean the succession of deaths: in 1984 died Ivan Mamchych, Oleksa Tykhyi, Lytvyn, and Valeriy Marchenko. In 1985 Vasyl Stus died. Someone of elderly people died there as well.
I.Hel: Kurka, Mykhailo Kurka. He was my fellow countryman: his village Hrimne was situated four kilometers from mine. He was in the battalion which voluntarily began to emerge as a Ukrainian battalion, but in fact the Germans used it against Belarusian guerillas. By the way, many of them would like to run away and actually ran away and joined the UIA, because it happened in Belarus, not far from Volyn. They were not far from Katyn. There were eighteen of them: they sent out a reconnaissance party of three soldiers to find out how to contact with Belarusian guerillas.
V.Kipiani: With the Communist guerillas?
I.Hel: With the Communist guerillas as well. They showed them the way how to get to Ukraine. And those three men, according to Mykhailo Kurka, and one such Ostap, prisoner with a German last name…
V.Kipiani: We will find out, it is a known name… Knap.
I.Hel: Knap, let it be Knap. He recounted how they sent three men forward to reconnoiter and establish possible connections with the guerrillas. When the scouts returned they told that Bolshevik guerillas pursued military action there, like here in Medvedivka, Volyn. The vast majority of guerrilla groups operated under the auspices of the NKVD. They just tortured people: on the chests of people they found bayonet punctured wounds, superficial and non-lethal. And they also saw tridents branded on the chests. They also saw tridents and stars branded on the foreheads; I do not remember those details, torn out tongue, crushed genitals; all of it they did when people were still alive, they tortured them. When they found the corpses of these people they no longer wanted to run away and return to Ukraine, to Volyn Oblast because they understood that on the road they would be annihilated. These corpses were brought to the regiment, and of course, the Germans found out about it. Then the Germans planned that punitive action, which involved those our guys as well.
V.Kipiani: And how many Ukrainians were in this battalion?
I.Hel: Quite a lot: there were about a thousand men, maybe 850, as I now remember. Ivan Lozynskyi who served in that battalion is still alive.
V.Kipiani: Did Lozynskyi also served his time in Kuchino?
I.Hel: Right. There were three of them: Ivan Lozynskyi, Mykhailo Kurka and Ostap Knap.
V.Kipiani: Does he live in Lviv?
I.Hel: He lives somewhere in Zolochiv Region; I believe, it is easy to find him. Actually, he was… but, Vakhtang, I want to clarify…
V.Kipiani: You know, Ovsiyenko never calls them policemen; he says: “The people which served their times for participation in military operations”.
I.Hel: Right, I also like the term “for participation in military operations”. Moreover, it was a voluntary army fighting for Ukraine, and the Germans cowardly used them like they did when they stirred up Poles against Ukrainians and Ukrainians against Poles… Now, I could understand it rationally, but my I had no liking for it. They were brought here, to Kyiv, allegedly for training and for further defense of Ukraine, and then from Kyiv Oblast or from Kyiv, I do not remember now, they were redeployed to Belarus: the Germans carried it out at the end of 1941. In 1942, this battalion was formed and underwent training, and then at the end of 1942 or early 1943 they were already in Belarus. All Ukrainians in the battalion were terribly unhappy about it and they wanted to return to Ukraine in an organized way and in full strength. Therefore there were not only those three scouts but eighteen men who had deserted the German unit. Therefore when the group in an organized way sent people to establish contacts, those three did not just deserted the battalion, but they intended together with the whole team to return to Ukraine. They wanted to establish connections with the Byelorussians, but they failed. The NKVD guerillas tortured them to death. According to Knap, and, in fact, Mykhailo Kurka and Ivan Lozynskyi, but Knap recounted about this most of all, he was the most sociable and frank, although Lozynskyi, too; all of them were from the detachment redeployed by the Germans. I know that Knap was from a village near Horodok. Mykhailo Kurka was from the Village of Hrimne, three or less kilometers from my Village of Klitska where I was born. And Lozynskyi was from Zolochiv Region or Radekhiv Region, somewhere from there. They consciously, like the "Nachtigall", went to take up arms to develop the Ukrainian Army.
V.Kipiani: Did they go into details of this Khatyn tragedy?
I.Hel: They did not go into details, but they expressly maintained that everything was done by the Germans. And these people had no motive to lie, because the court had already taken place. They made no secret that with Belarusians they fought according to the laws of war; they took vengeance for those tortured to death not spare them. I believe that this cruelty was deliberately provoked. The NKVD deliberately organized brutal massacre in order that both sides could not return to their primary positions in the future.
V.Kipiani: Violence in response to violence.
I.Hel: Right. It is common knowledge that the NKVD officers used to disguise themselves in foreign uniforms: not only, in the UIA uniform as in Halychyna and Volyn, but also in German uniform in Belarus they attacked villages, ruined and burned them down. I do not exactly mean Khatyn. By the way, Khatyn was called Katyn to conceal their crimes: shootings of Poles. And that village was not named Khatyn. I think that this fact is known to you. And if not, it is very significant and telling. The village was called quite differently in Belarusian: Hlopchytsi, or something like that. But the village annihilated by the Germans after the war was quite deliberately renamed Khatyn by “competent authorities” in order that the names of the crime scenes were in tune. There also existed the Village of Katyń, where Russians executed by shooting Polish officers. This was done in order to hide their crimes. When tourists arrived from the West, Poles and relatives of the killed officers, they were first taken to Khatyn to show that in Katyn and Khatyn the crimes were committed by the Germans… The special operation “Khatyn” was devised as a counter-action against Polish charges of crimes.
V.Kipiani: Sort of ordinary manipulation…
I.Hel: Right. I do not remember how the village was called, but they told me about completely different name. Later I read about it in some publications. It is very important to know truth about the coverage: they tried and covered their crime in Katyn with the German crime in Khatyn. I emphasize that Khatyn was not called Khatyn: the name of the village was different.
And the second thing I want to clarify: in those days I was no longer in Kuchino, in 1983, 1984, and 1985.
V.Kipiani: Did you serve there only a part of your term?
I.Hel: No, I had “five and ten”, and was a particularly dangerous recidivist, especially dangerous state criminal. I was given a maximum sentence of 10 +5: ten years of imprisonment and five years of exile. But I was arrested on 12 January 1972. My ten-year term of special regime expired on January 12, 1982. They took me away for transportation under guard on 21 or 22 December 1981. I was taken out of the cell where we stayed together: Vasyl Stus, Mart Niklus, Balis Gayauskas, I, Semen-Pokutnyk, and Ivan Mamchych, the principal…
V.Kipiani: From Horol Region, right? (From Myrhorod Region.--V.O.)
I.Hel: Yes, one that did his term for participation in military operations. There were six of us. I was taken away from this cell. It is very interesting in which way they took me away. I had a store of two or three sets of long johns. One I gave Stus, though it was not his size, but it was of a larger size than I needed as well. But Semen refused to take anything.
V.Kipiani: They said for a long time he stayed in the cell in his underwear only.
I.Hel: Yes, but he was lying in bed trying to prove the jailers that he had his spine paralyzed. (Semen Skalych-Pokutnyk. From 16 years of age he had Pott disease, which began with catching cold. For the rest of his life moved on crutches. From time to time infected ulcers with purulent discharges appeared on his legs.--V.O.). And according to the rules of his faith, he could not take anything free of charge: he had to either buy or work off. It is interesting: Mykhailo Horyn, when we spend the night together during the World Congress humorously recalled: “You, Ivan, are a resourceful guy!” I remember that Semen was brought at a time when I was taken away for transportation under guard. But, lest we forget, I will resort to digression again. Before the arrest Mykhailo Horyn told Mariya, my better half: “Mariya, you will see for yourself that in good time for the discharge of Ivan, I will be arrested again, because they will not stand such two powerful individuals in Lviv.” He truly had second sight: I was taken away for transportation under guard on December 21, 1981 and Mykhailo was arrested on November 3. And in 1982, in June, I was brought to Lviv as a witness for the defense during Mykhailo’s trial.
But let us return to Semen and how I put off two pairs of underwear upon him. He had some liquid medicine, and two empty vials were left. I said: “Semen, I really need them! I will buy these two vials for two pairs of underwear.” These vials contained either motherwort mixture or tincture of valerian. Semen obviously realized the disproportion of this barter, but agreed: I convinced him that I badly needed these vials during my transportation under guard. He stayed there, and then started walking. And he also took the socks because I “had to throw that garbage away”.
I was taken away for transportation under guard from the cell, in which we lived with Stus. The regime became tougher at the time.
V.Kipiani: Before the death of the regime its terrible agony began.
I.Hel: Yes, agony is the word. It is like a case when the condition of a dying man allegedly improves; the same was with the regime: the jailers became very active. It started in the late seventies. Despite all peripeteia of the regime and psychological pressure in Sosnovka in Mordovia, Kuchino, where we were transported it was oil and vinegar. In my past remembrances and conversations I said that the tight security camp in Yavas compared to a special regime looked like a health resort. Because there you could walk about, and here we had cell regime and inmates were always accompanied by a warden. From one cell to another: the cell to work, the cell to live in. The cell, where the KGB officers manipulate you is called a room, but the window are grilled. You go accompanied by a warden if you are summoned by the concentration camp superior or a KGB officer. A warden or two are always hanging around the door. Such was the level of hermetic isolation in Kuchino as compared to Sosnovka. The regime was allegedly the same but in Kuchino it was much tighter than in Sosnovka. In Sosnovka we had the faintest possibility to select cellmates sometimes leaving aside psychological compatibility issues. If a person was really snoring, the snorers were collected in a separate cell. For Levko Lukyanenko suffered his first heart attack only because Yevgraf was in the cell…
V.Kipiani: Mykola Yevgrafov.
I.Hel: Yes, Mykola. He was young...
V.Kipiani: They say he is still alive. Was he from Horlivka or Odesa?
I.Hel: Haven’t you interviewed him yet?
V.Kipiani: Not yet. I asked one person requests to find him there, but they did not give me his coordinates.
I.Hel: If to speak about the events and conflicts in Mordovia, he was a direct active participant of all actions, but then he got his bearings, especially when Ginsburg arrived, and withdrew from all that. Later we were together in the same cell and he even apologized to me.
V.Kipiani: Was he snoring loudly?
I.Hel: Oh, he was snoring, just like howling: he was master of “artistic” snoring. It affected me so that I could not sleep, too. But keeping wake one night and keeping wake second night… By the way, in Kuchino I slept on the lower bed and he slept on the upper one. For some time we stayed in one cell. But later the cell was actually disbanded primarily because Mykola was snoring horribly. In the cell in Kuchino lived Viktoras Pyatkus, Oles Berdnyk and I. There, by the way, was also an intricate conflict, but not only political but also ethical one. Oles Berdnyk, let him repose in God, worked as an artist and wrote posters and slogans “Out of prison with a clear conscience!” and so on.
V.Kipiani: Was it in Kuchino?
I.Hel: In Kuchino. He was taken out to work, when the employees of the so-called club came, because there was a movie theater. There he worked. His workplace was at the club. There was also a club manager, because everywhere were positions in the manning table intended for the wives of officers or someone else. And he poked around other people’s bedside tables. You could have two or three cushion candies a day… There way 87 cushions to a kilogram. So you might eat three candies a day. The first day you allow yourself to eat five-to-six cushions, on the kiosk day, and then you stretch out and stretch out your stock reckoning that you may be deprived of the kiosk. Each one counted his candies carefully and he pinched them. The inmates counted them not in order to control someone but in order to control themselves. And several times Pyatkus took him red-handed. And I did not catch him.
V.Kipiani: Wasn’t it just embarrassing?
I.Hel: Yes, I said nothing, though I observed the deficiency. And it is not acceptable in the camp or in prison. He deliberately farted very loudly. This is life, I’m sorry, but among inmates there was reached an agreement; in prison life we even took into account the fact that someone could have incontinence.
V.Kipiani: It also depended on food and the fact that people were all of a jump…
I.Hel: Right, people felt nervous, but still they opened the ventlight, used the close-stool and alerted the guys before farting because they could not contain themselves for a decade. Therefore about everything, even about such episodes of prison life an agreement was reached. But only he did it so shamelessly and demonstratively, especially when someone was eating or praying. He had, unfortunately, this idea of himself that he was the second Christ. Therefore, he despised all and everybody.
V.Kipiani: Ovsiyenko said on another occasion and about another person: he has a delusion of grandeur.
I.Hel: Right, that’s it. He had a high opinion of himself. He used to say: "Why are you going on a hunger strike here?!” He thought that someone simply liked showboating.
By the way, someone said about Stus: “Why is he showboating?!” And this was the very essence of Stus. All and everybody cannot be very reasonable and pragmatic deciding that if it is beneficial for me I hungerstrike, if not I quit. Or I protest only when it is beneficial for me. The protests were a form of struggle and sort of a form of self-preservation, because usually if a person begins to compromise, then s/he will crack sooner or later. When a man grew old and tired it was another pair of shoes. But with time a man became so proficient convict that he knew: these things should be done, and these would take him nowhere. If, for example, you do not prepare your hunger strike and other protests, nothing would come of it. At the time they contained people, but did not persuade or oblige a person to stop the protest. So, Vasyl made an apt remark: he had a delusion of grandeur. It wasn’t like the feeling of Slavko Chornovil that he was a cut above the others, though he had no such demonstrative haughtiness. And Oles Berdnyk treated other people demonstratively contemptuously. He literally told me as follows, “All of you are worthless individuals here. I am second Jesus Christ, I’m still above you!” It is not my discovery, but a person who has an inferiority complex, goes the limit and often resorts to a criminal act to prove her/his “superiority”. S/he then says: “Wir sind ubcemensch”−“I am of superior race” [sic; translator’s note]. This is the complex of an individual, who was defeated in life. Oles was such individual. There were also moments of conflict with Pyatkus. If I had not separated them and had not stood in-between them… We were in the same cell, and psychological incompatibility did mean a lot. We stayed in the cell with Levko Lukyanenko and Moroz. As a cellmate Moroz was a holy terror, too, but above all he is a very decent man. As concerns Levko Lukyanenko…
V.Kipiani: Was Lukyanenko easy to get on with?
I.Hel: As fellow prisoner he is an easy to get on with. We were like family, we were not at variance. The three of us lived together for a year: Moroz was a difficult person, but we were not at loggerheads.
V.Kipiani: Did you try to soft-pedal his obstinacy?
I.Hel: Yes, we did. Once and again we tried to settle controversial issues. Moroz was very categorical and uncompromising in trifles. Everything in cell life had to be the way he wanted. When somebody tried and contradicted him he triggered a scandal. He frowned. He refused to deal with anybody. Indeed, he did it at every turn. For example, it might be the issue of opening or shutting a ventilator window. He categorically denounced smoking and so on.
And with Levko we had a very good relationship, almost complete compatibility. Partnership. Then he and I churned out and passed to be published in the West the known document about the national liberation movement and statehood of Ukraine, which was signed by eighteen famous political prisoners. Levko wrote it and I edited and supplemented it. He and I together chose the signers and did not include certain names. The document reached the West and had political resonance. (See: http://archive.khpg.org/index.php?id=1348385108).
Speaking of Sosnovka, we later were at loggerheads only with Kuznetsov. Yuri Fiodorov, Russian, was a good cellmate. Calm and balanced. Decent. He joined protests more often than other letuny. Not always though. He kept his diary since the day of arrest, which Kuznetsov "borrowed" form him to “to clarify some facts”. After a while the diary was published abroad under Kuznetsov’s name. But Fiodorov was afraid to protest with written statements so that Kuznetsov would not be able to make him an anti-Semite.
A good, if not perfect cellmate was Svyatoslav Karavansky. Bundle of energy. A powerful intellect and willpower. Permanently busy with important work: he either compiled a rhyming dictionary or carried out a translation from English, or wrote petitions and protests, or participated in those protests. Most of the older prisoners and letuny did not like him because of his restlessness in the protests because he inspirited them to take part in protests. And they do not like it and kept aloof from Karavansky: by what authority did he do these things, they said, he had no moral right to call for hunger strikes or other actions when he had repented himself. We went all the way with him as with Panas Zalyvakha still in Yavas and, of course, under conditions of special regime in Sosnovka. Together we wrote “The Rules of Political Prisoner”, “Code of honor of a Political Prisoner”, a number of statements and so on. I edited his translation of Jenny Cherhadni by Jane Eyre [sic; translator’s note]. Editing was rather a special one, because I did not know English, though I had a good command of Ukrainian. So Svyatoslav told me the exact Ukrainian translation of the English word, and, according to the context, spirit and style of J. Eyre, we chose an adequate word. We did it lying on the second tier of solid cell plank beds, because there were our sleeping accommodations. Only having conducted prolonged protests we at long last were given separate iron two-tier beds free of bedbugs.
Vasyl Stus was also an excellent cellmate. In addition to the fact that as a man, so to speak, as a psychological type, as a character, personality, Vasyl was very knotty, firm and principled in his conversations with the jailers. Unpredictable way of thinking. That is in his communication with the cellmates he brought out in events, facts or phenomena such nuances, details, aspects which were unnoticed by his company. Therefore, for his environment Stus was always interesting. At the same time, he was extremely intelligent and tolerant, refined intellectual in the third generation, although in actual fact he was a son of a peasant. He was intolerant, even rough with jailers and KGB officers, but actually Vasyl was very subtle and delicate person, well-wishing and candid in his relations with people. He never insulted and hurt even Mamchych, a former policeman, who was treated with hatred and contempt by Russians, Jews, and such Ukrainians as Shumuk, Osadchy, and Rebryk. They danced backup for strangers even for Ivan Lozynskyi, Ostap Knap, and Mykhailo Kurka, who did not consider themselves policemen. “We went to fight for Ukraine,” they said, “and our real weird is another question, because we were ordinary soldiers and had to follow orders, there was no escape from it.” And Vasyl encouraged Ivan Mamchych, did not make any comments, though the latter was a man with a wasted stomach and had non-stop problems with gases and so on. However, Mamchych was also an educated man, he knew the rules of cell conduct and followed them, especially when a cellmate was chewing rusk or praying. After all, the horror of cell life can be understood only by those who have come through it.
So a prisoner of special treatment camp, Vasyl soon outgrew the status of a novice. He quickly fitted in with the cell life and became quite at home there due to his striking modesty, endurance, and good will to men in the first place.
Another example. They brought a “neophyte” into our cell: Estonian Mart Niklus. Usually Russian comes hardly to Estonians and they slowly get used to the conditions. And this one was a special treatment camp. Mart saw that each of us was writing something. So he set himself to writing. He intended to make a book. However, the manuscript had to be in Russian only so that the jailers could read and understand the written text, otherwise it would be burnt or, at best, it would be sent to undergo an examination by experts in Estonia (in Ukraine etc.); the material would be kept there for a year or a year and a half and would be either destroyed or even returned to the author in about a year. And during this time it may lose its topicality. The book itself presented an attempt to improve national policy of the Soviet Union, that is, it stipulated that a Communist could write to the Central Committee or Oblast Committee about the matters of national policy maintaining that there was something wrong with the policy. All of it was put to paper in terrific Russian, in Estonian Russian so to say. Mart gave his manuscript Vasyl, me, and Gayauskas to read. All of us criticized the journalism of Niklus. First of all, we criticized him for trying to "improve" the Soviet power under the cover of moderate dissent. That is it was a sort of loyal criticism, which was abandoned by Ukrainian samvydav in the early 1960s. Vasyl privately, when Niklus stayed elsewhere, laughed at and skeptically estimated the scribbling of Mart. But when Niklus asked me: "Ivan, please, help me and edit my writings” I refused him, “Mart, try and write serious things, do not hide yourself behind the screen of loyalty to the regime; the Estonians had their own state and Russia destroyed it and occupied its territory. Then I will help you and edit your work.” Niklus continued writing and turned to Vasyl with the same request. Meanwhile Vasyl was so tolerant, I would say sacrificial, that he, poor thing, took those texts and edited them. He read out the sentence, asked what it was supposed to mean, and then re-wrote it. In terms of language and of style the texts were certainly not perfect, and its content was very weak.
We wrote applications using the terms “national liberation movement”, “totalitarian regime” and so on. Today I can boast, though it is not of great importance, that I authored the term “satanic empire” while writing an analytical statement of protest in 1976. I sent it to the Central Committee and to the West, for which I served 15 days of isolation ward. And Reagan used the term “evil empire” much later. And the title of the document−“the statement” was intended just to prevent early confiscation. In fact, it was journalism that addressed…
V.Kipiani: The real addressee was a foreign country.
I.Hel: Right, a foreign country, either “Svoboda” or “Voice of America”. So, Kuchino in comparison with Sosnovka was awful. Firstly, there was terrible isolation, In Sosnovka, we went to work and some cells could communicate, while in Kuchino there were only a cell to live in and a cell to work in: opposite doors across the corridor.
V.Kipiani: Could people from different habitable cells meet together in a cell intended for work?
I.Hel: No, never. It happened so in Sosnovka, while in Kuchino it was not the case.
V.Kipiani: So, those with whom you lived in a habitable cell where your co-workers as well, am I right?
I.Hel: Yes, you are. We were co-workers, together we went to the bathhouse and exercised in the walking yard. You might not converse though. When I heard Levko’s voice in the next walking yard and shouted: “Levko, how are you? Will we go on hungerstrike?” I was immediately tied up. The cop on guard who was watching from above, pressed the alarm button, two jailers came running; they twisted my arms and then led to the corridor and right into the cell. Later they gave me seven days of cooler, as if the conversation contained something like a protest. The camp routine in Kuchino was designed about ideal. In 1980 the Olympic Games were to take place in Moscow and they decided to conceal us farther away and transport us to the Urals in 1979.
V.Kipiani: No, the prisoners under guard arrived in Kuchino on March 1, 1980.
I.Hel: I do not really remember, but Levko had just arrived. I had about 400 books, almost 200 kilograms, because books were big, from “Books by mail” service, basically. A convict was allowed take on the road only 48 kilos of books and two kilograms of underwear, i.e., one could carry up to 50 kilograms only. And Levko and I were in the same cell, so I gave Levko the books he chose and the rest, or rather, all books collected in other cells the jailers reduced to ashes.
V.Kipiani: I still have a question about your camp-mate and cellmate Semen Skalych, Pokutnyk. Mykola Horbal told me that he was still alive.
I.Hel: Right, he is up and going here. He is still working. (Skalych died 29. 04. 2003 and was buried in the Village of Vytvytsia, Dolynsky Region, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast.--V.O.)
V.Kipiani: Please, tell me a little bit about him, because, you see, I knew that he had bone tuberculosis and that he served his term for being a Pokutnyk. Did you have any conversations with him? Did he try to persuade you? What kind of a man was he? Because there is only scarce information is available about Pokutnyks.
I.Hel: The Pokutnyks in Ukraine are members of the doxy severed from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. There is practically no difference between them in terms of the canon, dogmas and theological science. At the same time, there was an essential difference between them in terms of missionary predestination of Ukraine and UGCC. Since the formation of the UGCC, that is since 1596, it has considered itself a part of the Universal Church. The very act of the Union of Brest meant the return to the bosom of the Universal Church after the schism of 1054 and the decisions of the Council of Florence, 1439. The UGCC is a kind of the first ecumenical step in the process of unification of Catholicism and Orthodoxy into one Church with its capital in Rome. I underline: in Rome.
The UGCC of Pokutnyks was closer to the first three centuries of Christianity: the prohibited, persecuted and martyrly Church. It originated in 1954. Fathers Mykhailo Soltys and Potochniak were its creators and apostles. Unfortunately, I do not remember his name. (Anton.--V.O.). They formulated the missionary purpose of the Church. Its core idea consisted in the fact that the clergy and members of the Universal Church transformed, like the rest of the Western society, into sybarite consumers incapable of fervent prayer, fasting, becoming in the case of need martyrs for the faith and Christ. For the West, the God essentially has ceased to exist and the temples have become deserted. All that has remained from Christianity includes norms of ethics, code of conduct, which are not recognized by western society as Christian values.
Another fundamental idea of the ecclesiastical mission of the Pokutnyks’ Church of the UGCC was the fact that it did not consider itself a part but the core, the pivot axis of the Universal Church. Fathers Soltys and Potochniak proceeded from the fact that demoralized and sybarite hierarchs and clergy were largely to blame for the two world wars, because they were not able to and often did not want to stop the Christians rulers unleashing bloody wars, whose victims were tens of millions of people that turned into killers at the same time.
In the meantime, the Ukrainians as an enthralled nation did not have free will, they could not choose the best type of behavior and by force of circumstances they shot each other. Meanwhile, in the 20th century Ukraine lost tens of millions of innocent murder victims, its sons and daughters through starvation, repression, deportations, occupation policy of genocide of the oppressed. With their martyrdom the Ukrainians have atoned for the sins of the world and saved humanity from moral destruction. Therefore, spoiled Rome cannot be the capital of Christendom and Ukrainian land of martyrs has the holy seat on the Serednia Mountain in Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast. During His Second Advent the Christ will stay there. His name is Emmanuel II.
Frankly, I was impressed by this motivation of the foundations of the Church until I began to comprehend the underlying fundamentals of the faith. In particular, the good news: the Advent of Christ, his martyrdom for the people and Resurrection, to which a man can tend through the immortality of his soul. In addition, I realized that this motivation is a kind of inferiority complex: we are enslaved people deprived of the nation state and the national church. So, looking for the exit, like Pokutnyks, we go to another extreme: we declare ourselves the chosen people. This is not a genetic Ukrainian mentality. I know two chosen nations: Jews and Muscovites. The first nation is characterized by abnormal, that is criminal in its nature, aspiration for money and power of money, and the second nation is characterized by fiercely pathologic ambition to carry out bloody conquest of foreign territories, wealth and world domination. In both cases it led to billions of betrayed people, harm, robbery, and shedding blood like water. Even the Germans tried to become chosen nation, and everyone knows what happened in the end.
Therefore I did not accept the idea of Pokutnyks that the Ukrainians were God’s favored people. In my view, the historical mission of Ukrainian is in the fact that they contain genetically programmed ability to elf-sacrifice, deep inner spirituality and freedom, self-abnegation and sense of justice. Having established our own state and the Church, we are called to restore these traits in Europeans. We show them Christian gratitude for humanitarian second-hand: the second-hand pop-art, automobiles, and rags that still destroys Ukrainian souls. But we will clear ourselves of this as we clear ourselves of “chosen” occupiers and spiritually gimpy and desecrated souls of Homo Sovieticus.
But let’s be done with this spontaneous long parenthetic remark. Formed during the 1950s, the Pokutnyks’ Church had many supporters and parishioners in Halychyna already in 1960 - 1970. The occupation regime feared of the spread of influence of Pokutnyks over the entire territory of Ukraine and considered them a very dangerous force to the state, or rather the empire. The fanatical Communists have long disappeared, inside the party, bureaucracy, and army the terrible moral decay, corruption, and embezzlement of the state have spread; and at the same time among the people the Pokutnyks emerged that attracted people with their asceticism, moral cleanness, missionary propagation of Ukrainian ideas and that remained unvanquished by invaders.
It is clear that the KGB severely dealt with Pokutnyks, carried out "black propaganda” calling them a fanatical sect, forced Orthodox priests to anathemize them, to inform against them to the bacons if they came to the village or town. They, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and banned Protestant branches, were tried and railroaded to the labor camps. And there, in conditions of camp life the criminals used to abuse them. Multitudes of them were kept together with the criminals in different regime zones. They sacrificially bore their cross for faith and did not complain.
And Semen Skalych was brought to our special regime zone as a “particularly dangerous hard-core criminal”. During the liberation struggle of the 1940s he was in hiding. He served his time in prison. He preached Pokutnyks’ faith as Ukrainian messianic idea that was classified as “anti-Soviet activities intended to overthrow Socialist order”; he was given an appropriate term of imprisonment with respective regime. (About Semen Skalych and Pokutnyks see: Http://archive.khpg.org/index.php?id=1300956201; http://archive.khpg.org/index.php?id=1121777234&w =% D1% EA% E0% EB% E8% F7; http://archive.khpg.org/index.php?id=1162802886.--Ed.)
About Pokutnyks I knew already in the “big zone”, because, as I’ve mentioned above, two sisters of my mother, my aunts, were nuns of the Rule of Saint Basil the Great (Basilian sisters). So in our khata and in Lviv apartments with curtained windows the Divine Liturgy was continually served. Therefore I knew and frequently talked with many highly educated Greek Catholic priests of the previous generation.
This, incidentally, was the cause of persistent requests, not to say pressure, to head the UCC Protection Committee after completion of exile in Komi and return to Ukraine: I was a deeply religious man, had a monastic and priestly environment, and honorably served two terms of imprisonment. Already in August 1987 I gathered around me a group of Greek Catholics and initiated the exit of the Church from the underground. That is why my environment pressured me to head the Committee.
in the cell Semen Skalych also stood close to me, since both during the first time imprisonment, and during the second one in Mordovia and the Urals I was, in fact, the only one in the cell who did not conceal that I was a believer and parishioner of the Greek Catholic Church. Skalych prayed as well. Therefore we stuck brought together, though Semen kept aloof from the inmates and did not vent his soul in public because he was an experienced undergrounder. However, he was a sociable man and told this and that about the features of the Church, including its mission in Ukraine. He used to capitalize the word “Faith”. But I say “Church” because faith is a complicated concept. He offered me to become a Pokutnyk but I flatly refused and told him to stop proposing me such things.
By the way, during my first imprisonment in Yavas (Mordovia) the Jehovah’s Witnesses tried the darndest to make me Jehovah’s Witness. They are also sacrificial and dedicated believers. They are very disciplined. The Jehovah’s Witnesses in the camp looked like a military organization on the outside. They were almost the only who had well-established and constant contact with the “big zone”. Their periodical “The Watchtower”, which was published in New York, they received in the labor camp in a month. I speak responsibly for I myself held in my hands the fresh issue. In strict confidence, the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ recruiting agents deliberately showed “The Watchtower” in order to impress the alleged neophyte with their capabilities. They aggressively and rudely caught people in the net of their belief, gave them to read magazine articles that were copied in handwriting in dozens of copies. At least two Jehovah’s Witnesses spoke with a man. There was no point in debating with them about biblical themes, because Jehovah’s Witnesses were perfect connoisseurs of the Old Testament. In this way they drew into their sect Mykhailo Ozerny, who was looking for a spiritual asylum, but failed to turn to his own roots, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses quickly "took care of" him to such extent that he tried to avoid the Ukrainians.
Dozens of times they made overtures to me, because often our ways overlapped: before the rise and lights-out time I used to go out of the barrack, find a quiet corner in the labor camp and pray there. The Jehovah’s Witnesses did the same thing looking for deserted places to pray. In such a time everyone looked after himself because it was necessary to finish praying before the order was given to rise or lights-out and go on fulfilling the daily routine. They carried out recruiting at your workplace during working hours. There were more opportunities there. Say, they came together to the workshop where I was polishing a three-door wardrobe; we manufactured furniture for the Moscow Rossiya Hotel, which later burned down. They took the sandpaper and began helping me to polish. In the course of it, they initiated a conversation. Their conversation with me was fruitless. But they stop at nothing and continue to persistently or even aggressively agitate and persuade. They really hound you: the same team or their fellow-helpers would come back tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.
Their last argument was very straightforward, even cynical, “Ivan, we need very much educated and religious men. We will provide for you everything: house, apartment, clothing, food and other necessities. We will also take care about your family, relatives, father, mother (all of them were still alive: these events took place in 1966-68), but give consent to be our bishop. We will fulfill all your wishes.” I answered them, “I cannot change my faith. I was born a Greek Catholic and my faith cannot be changed.” Panas Zalyvakha saw all of it and was astonished by their insistence. Jokingly, of course, he fascinated their example: “We’d rather follow their example: you tell them to never darken your door, but they barge and barge again”.
The vast majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses were Moldovans, and occasionally there were Muscovites. I have never met Ukrainian Jehovah’s Witnesses in the political camps. For faith suffered Ukrainian Greek Catholic priests, including Metropolitan Velychkovsky, Father Yosafat Kavatsiv, Father Hryhoriy Budzynskiy, other Pokutnyks and Protestants from the branches, which were banned in the USSR.
WHY I AM AN UNAFFILIATED PERSON
V.Kipiani: Are there any Pokutnyks now?
I.Hel: Maybe there remain some groups consisting of those faithful who are still alive. However, they have neither active clergy, nor legally registered parishes. During the Gorbachev’s glasnost the Greek Catholic clergy intensified its activity and it, so to speak, forced out a few and not sufficiently hierarchized Pokuttia priests. And in mid- 1987 we announced the withdrawal of the UGCC from underground. In October, I began to form the UCC Protection Committee, which during 1988-1989 placed its work on a broad footing: publishing of the “Khrystyyansky Holos” Magazine, collection of signatures for the legalization of the UGCC−just imagine, we collected more than 120 thousand signatures of believers who no longer feared the regime,−conducted dozens of several thousand strong divine services- meetings, at which participants advanced, in addition to the rights of free speech, broad political claims. In Moscow, I organized a chain hunger strike. It began on 15 May 1989 and lasted until October 14-15. On September 17, 1989, the day of fiftieth anniversary of occupation of Halychyna by Bolshevik hordes, I organized a divine service and a march from the house of the oblast party committee to St. George’s Cathedral. According to the KGB estimates, about 250-260 thousand faithful and 50-60 thousand idlers participated in this street procession; the KGB called idlers those who did not join the procession, but stood on the sidewalks, along the sides of the road and so on. Naturally, the Pokutnyks, the majority of whom lived in the mountain villages and small towns, could not organize something like this in their area. Therefore, at the time of the collapse of the USSR, they mostly ceased to exist. After all the people perceived the UGCC as a national and patriotic church and strived after it, while the occupation regime considered it nationalist and used all means to fight it, which all the more attracted people to the church. At the end of 1989 and beginning of 1990 more than a thousand churches and bodies of members that had come out of the Moscow Patriarchate returned to the fold of the UGCC.
V.Kipiani: And what methods did the regime employed to fight with the activities of the Committee of the Protection of the UGCC?
I.Hel: This topic deserves a thorough scientific or journalistic investigation. But I will be brief.
Combining the fight for the legalization of the UGCC (or freedom of conscience in a broader understanding) with the struggle for the restoration of independence of Ukraine produced a tremendous effect. I was the first of the “holy trinity” as arrowy tongues in Lviv called Mykhailo Horyn, Vyacheslav Chornovil and me, to realize it. Therefore, the overall activity of the Committee for the Protection of the UGCC mobilized the populace and our divine services-meetings always and in all cities were the most frequent and attracted many people−as they took place every Sunday and feast−and were the most radical as well. Not without reason in Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Ternopil for participation in religious assemblies the authorities imprisoned for fifteen days dozens of priests and lay people, including Father M.Havryliv, Father M.Voloshyn, Fathers H. and M. Simkaylo, Father M.Kuts, Father Ya.Lesiv, Father I.Senkiv, Iryna Kalynets, and I got fifteen days twice. The authorities inflicted hundreds of fines. At the same time, neither Mykhailo, nor Bohdan Horyn, nor Vyacheslav Chornovil were sentenced to fifteen days of imprisonment. (M. Horyn served a term of fifteen days for trying to give a lecture to students of Chernivtsi University, which the court qualified as “unauthorized meeting.”−V.O.).
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine and KGB of Ukraine regarded the activities of the UCC Protection Committee as one of the most dangerous for the regime, because this Committee commanded the widest support and the widest social base. A man might hesitate whether to attend a political rally but he went to participate in the divine service-meeting without saying. Therefore, the Central Committee and the KGB held in Lviv a meeting with Yelchenko and Halushko, first secretaries of oblast committees and heads of KGB departments of three western oblasts (the initial information provided by Bohdan Kotyk contained different data on the participants: according to him, except Yelchenko and Halushko, there were Pohrebniak and Malyk, the former was the first secretary and the latter was the KGB General).
Only one question was on the agenda: methods and means of fighting against the UCC as a form of religious and political movement. The materials for the meeting were prepared by Head of the Department of Atheism of the Institute of Social Sciences Yevhen Hryniv. The Museum of Atheism under Lviv Oblast Party Committee was also committed to work. At that time, there worked such researchers as Volodymyr Hayuk, Serhiy Zhyzhko, and Mykhailo Kosiv at the museum. But I do not know whether they were directly involved in this meeting.
Following the recommendations of Yevhen Hryniv the participants of the meeting approved the following measures intended to control the uniatism:
a) to immediately establish religious committees of trusted men (called “the twenties”), which would be headed by authoritative persons of teachers, agronomists, heads of village councils, heads of collective farms, etc., as well as party members or representatives of other government bodies and register the above committees as representatives of religious communities in the settlements--villages and towns--where they do not exist and the churches have been closed;
b) to immediately open and pass the churches to the newly established Orthodox communities; otherwise they may be occupied by Uniates;
c) at all costs to preserve the Orthodox communities and churches assigned to them in the villages of Prylbychi, the birthplace of Andriy Sheptytsky, Zazdrost, the birthplace of Yosyp Slipyi, Klitsk, the birthplace of Ivan Hel, and also Hrushiv, Zarvanytsia, Unev which attracted thousands of pilgrims;
d) to "encourage" the likely Uniates with such critical materials as cement, brick, wood, planks etc.;
e) to ensure full support for the religious communities of the Rus Orthodox Church in their activities by the Soviet authorities and law enforcement agencies. To prevent unauthorized divine services and meetings in all settlements of the western oblasts of Ukraine.
The above points are in fact theses of the document, with which the members of the bureau of the oblast party committee were familiarized and which was given to me by Mayor of Lviv of blessed memory Bohdan Kotyk. I will write a separate article about this colorful figure, but here I will merely add that having become the Mayor Bohdan Kotyk on his own, unsolicited, contacted me through his man, let us say, messenger, who agreed with me upon holding a conspiratorial meeting with me. He gave me a lift to Morshyn and there I first met Bohdan Kotyk. We had a few such secret meetings, and from spring 1989 Bohdan Kotyk participated in rallies even as a representative of the authorities; the meetings with his participation were not dispersed, people were not sentenced to 15 days of imprisonment and each speaker could enjoy freedom of speech to her or his liking.
But let us return to the meeting, or rather its results. Within the next few days, in all regional centers of the western oblasts of Ukraine the similar meetings were held at district levels: the participants of these meetings included heads of collective farms and village councils, school headmasters and party organizers from different structures. The officials started mass Orthodoxization of Communists, who ex officio ought to be militant atheists. They became the heads or members of church committees. The committees were hastily registered as members of religious communities and they were given the keys to the churches. As far as the committees consisted of officials and were protected by the state, the heads of village councils and collective farms provided their associates, actually henchmen, with the means of "protection" against the Uniates: in caches near the churches they kept in readiness one-meter-long metal rods, metal pickets, chains and thick awls impaled on the handles. For example, in the Village of Cherniava, Mostyska Region (Lviv Oblast) Father P.Zeleniuha, I and driver Les were severely beaten with the assistance of district authorities and the direct participation of the Moscow Patriarchate priest who made it worth their while with 40 bottles of horilka at the expense of the church. There are zillions of such examples. But Moscow’s propaganda spread rumors about the "aggressiveness" of Uniates and that those were Uniates who, using iron rods and violence, took away churches. The authorities carried on a drive at the international level in the first place.
Let’s say, the western press (influential newspapers such as the French "Le Monde", the American "New York Times", the Italian "Republica") and television were flooded with information that the UGCC Protection Committee is nothing but a disguise for persistent nationalist Ivan Hel, who only takes refuge in religious issues, but actually he is trying to dismember the USSR and separate Ukraine from the USSR. His goal is the creation of the so-called Independent Ukraine. This propaganda deceived even UGCC hierarchs. In telephone conversations Most Blessed Myroslav Ivan Cardinal Lubachivsky asked me, “Mr. Ivan, less nationalism, please, for the press and TV channels in the West are flooded with facts that all your activity is aimed at obtaining independence of Ukraine.” To which I replied: "Your Beatitude, the dominant of the life of a human being is spirituality and culture, not a material factor. Without relying on spiritual Christian values, without having them as moral criteria, we will not be able to build a strong state. Therefore my priority is a strong National Church, because having revived the faith of our predecessors we will be able to revive--sooner or later--our state”. “Theoretically” the Most Blessed agreed with me, but he continued to warn me against “my” nationalism.
Many years later the Lithuanian friends sent to the Lviv Center of liberation struggle several issues of the magazine "KGB USSR", which was published as classified information for the officers of this service. The Lithuanians after the Emergency Committee Putsch caught the KGB Archive and were able to use it. And guys from the Center for the Liberation Struggle gave me a photocopy of one issue featuring an article by the developer of operation “The KGB Against the UGCC Protection Committee”. The author enthusiastically informs his colleagues how well and timely the KGB developed the information intended to discredit the activities of the Committee for Protection of the UGCC and its Chairman Ivan Hel having accused him of pathological nationalism. He proceeded to boast of how great a benefit produced the operation to the USSR and derided the naiveté of Western media.
Along with "black propaganda" and counterpropaganda operations, the KGB and competent authorized persons in matters of religion in all western oblasts intensified repressive measures against priests, members of the Committee and Greek Catholic activists. Hundreds of people were fined for their participation in divine services. Dozens of priests served administrative detention for 15 days with bums and thieves. Some of them did it twice and thrice, in particular, in Ternopil Oblast Father I.Senkiv and Father T. Senkiv, in Lviv Oblast Father M.Havryliv, M.Voloshyn, Father Mykola Kuts and I did the term twice. This went on until late fall 1988.
But by the time I had already put on a wide scale the work of the Committee: I had created and had been editing and bringing out the Khrystyyansky Holos Magazine. The Committee collecting signatures for the legalization of the UGCC; we collected over 50 thousand signatures and submitted them to the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the USSR. In Lviv, I conducted two services: the meeting on February 26, 1988 and the service for commemoration of Taras Shevchenko and on April 16 a service for the commemoration of victims of Chornobyl. In each of these actions more than 30 thousand participants were present. The divine services were conducted in other regions as well: about 20 thousand pilgrims came to Zarvanytsia in Ternopil Oblast, to a place where the Mother of God is said to appear. The Divine Liturgy was led by His Grace Pavlo Vasylyk with 4 priests and I with the guys from the Brotherhood of St. Volodymyr the Great broke through the militia cordon (this our event was guarded by 500 militia officers, but they did not use force) and brought loudspeakers. All speeches were acutely political. In Drohobych we conducted two services: on May 2, the participants of the demonstration in the number more than 15,000 faithful broke through the militia cordon, 400 people entered the churchyard of the Church of St. George, 17th c., and the priests M.Havryliv and M.Voloshyn served the Holy Liturgy. A similar celebration was held on the Day of Assumption of the Birth-Giver of God, on July 7 in Sambir the majestic Holy Liturgy was conducted with over 15,000 worshippers. The speakers honored the memory of 1115 Sambir townspeople murdered by the NKVD officers in 1941 before and during the first days of the war. Now, a majestic church has been reared up in the place of divine service. But before that we erected a high cross, which the Communists had dug out and dumped in the Dniester. On the same day a similar celebration was held with the participation of 5000 people on the Shchyrets Cemetery, where there is a mass grave of martyrs killed by the NKVD officers.
1988 was the year of Millennium of Christianity in Ukraine. The UGCC representative delegation consisting of 10 people went to Moscow, where it met with the Vatican’s official delegation led by Cardinal Casaroli. The very fact of the meeting of two delegations was of great importance for it de facto recognized the existence of the UGCC which was so fiercely denied by Moscow. In addition, the meeting was not pre-arranged because Casaroli was a Muscophile and he considered our UGCC a barrier to the ecumenical process. I was the author of this idea and of such a meeting knowing that this would be a touchstone testing the attitude of Rome to the Church. Therefore I asked His Beatitude to persistently request that Pope John Paul II instructed Casaroli to meet with us. His Beatitude and Father Ivan Datsko had an audience with the Pope and they convinced him of the need for the meeting. During the repeated telephone conversation, which was this time initiated by Father I. Datsko, His Beatitude said that the meeting would take place, the Pope so instructed Casaroli and the meeting was included in the Protocol of the Vatican delegation attending the jubilee celebrations in Moscow. In the same conversation His Beatitude instructed me to tell His Grace Sterniuk to form the delegation of the Church. His Grace Volodymyr took this into account, but he himself refused to go shifting this task onto Bishop Fylemon Kurcheba. The delegation included Bishop Pavlo Vasylyk and Sofron Dmyterko, Fathers Mykola and Hryhoriy Simkaylo and Mykhailo Havryliv, as well as lay people Olga Horyn, Zinoviy Krasivsky and me. Despite all difficulties raised by high state and church officials in Moscow, the meeting took place, which was, as said above, very important for the process of legalization of the UGCC: declining to recognize the UGCC de jure, Moscow was forced to recognize it de facto.
Upon returning from Moscow, where the Millennium of the Baptism of Rus was pompously celebrated--as if this anniversary was directly related to the Muscovy--we were unable to mark the date solemnly in one of the churches of Lviv because all of them were still owned by the Moscow church. Therefore I arranged divine service in the Village of Hrushiv where the figure of the Mother of God had appeared. It happened on July 10, on Sunday, when in the St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome the pontifical Holy Liturgy was served for the same occasion. More than 15,000 pilgrims and 12 priests arrived in the Village of Hrushiv. We set up a high memorial Cross, served the Holy Liturgy, sang “Oh God, Almighty and Only…” there were also many orations and speeches. This continued throughout the year of jubilee.
In summer Father Petro Zeleniukh and I organized and held a big celebration service and honored memory Yuri Lypa, member of the Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council, who was tortured to death by the NKVD in 1944 and whose grave was in the Village of Buniv, Yavoriv Region. At the same time, along with Fathers Mykhailo Voloshyn and Mykola Kuts we organized divine service with participation of about 7000 worshippers in the woods between the villages of Sprynia and Nedilna at the site where the Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council had been created. On this particular spot, I together with the guys from St. Volodymyr Community erected a high Cross. On Yaniv and Lychakivsky Cemeteries in Lviv, we always conducted memorial services on the graves of UHA soldiers and riflemen. As can be seen from this list of activities of the Committee, we did not stand apart from political actions. What is more we kept looking for opportunities, names and dates to undertake actions. But they always combined faith, prayers and patriotism, national consciousness, the ability of a person to accomplish self-sacrifice and selfless devotion to the cause.
I.Hel: Right, with the participation of KGB Department Chief Major General Malik and Pohrebniak, First Secretary of the Oblast Party Committee. It was an extended conference; they were sort of jailers, because the UCC Protection Committee worked here and here was a powerful movement for the legalization of the Church. They held a conference and instructed the ideological department of the Central Committee of the CPU to develop the concept. And here in Lviv, Yevhen Hryniv, Volodymyr Hayuk and Serhiy Zhyzhko joined this team.
V.Kipiani: I do not know what Volodymyr Hayuk was.
I.Hel: At the time Volodymyr Hayuk was the chief of Serhiy Zhyzhko, director of the Museum of Atheism and now director of the Museum of the History of Religion: very quickly the ardent atheists re-trained and became ardent Christians, i.e. Greek Catholics and Orthodox as it went. By order of the KGB Yevhen Hryniv formed "Memorial" and goes on controlling the "Memorial" even today.
V.Kipiani: Zhyzhko told a lot about the "Memorial" that he, in fact, dedicated almost two years to it.
I.Hel: Sure, he went about it, they know how to go about it.
V.Kipiani: Was the work of "Memorial" destructive?
I.Hel: No, just unremarkable. It was rather destructive, in my view. For example, the Holodomor of the 30s for them is more important than national liberation struggle. Once and again Yevhen Hryniv stresses that primarily a museum of repression and victims of totalitarian regime should be created in Ukraine and not a museum of national liberation struggle (or, as I call it, the national museum of liberation struggle). For the foreseeable future, then, it is hardly to be created, but all the same I want this name. With Yankiv (the then representative of the President in the Lviv Oblast.--Ed.) we reached an understanding that even now, without a leg, I’ll be the director of the museum. He appointed me saying that a symbolic figure was needed for the job. And it had to be arranged. But Yevhen Hryniv constantly pushes forward through the current primitive Oblast Rada and Deputies the idea that the museum of the victims of repression and victims of totalitarianism should be opened in the first place in Lviv. But neither in the Rada, nor among the deputies can a suitable person be found. He carries out excavations in various prisons, but those remains, pierced skulls have been there for five-to-six years now. He did it while heading the department of atheism and he goes his own way now; he does not care that his shows of those skulls to dozens of attendees lead to nothing. But when they say and even reproach him that they should be reburied because they cannot be preserved: you dig it up, take a picture, rebury and that’s that. But he has arranged the skulls on the shelves, about one hundred of such remains and skulls are on the premises of his "Memorial" now. That’s impressive; usually all visitors were under the impression and every one put money into the collection box. A lot of money collected there disappeared. The donations were intended for re-burial, but far from it. I’d never expected it to such a degree, and Zhyzhko was involved in it as well [...].
V.Kipiani: Why then Slava Stetsko reconcile herself to him for so many years?
I.Hel: Well, she did not believe it.
V.Kipiani: She did not believe, didn’t she? Did anyone tell her about it?
I.Hel: I do not doubt it, because I for one told her myself, but she repulsed it. We held several such substantial conversations, not about Zhyzhko though, because we talked with Slava Stetsko in 1990, when I arrived as the head of the delegation, though there were bishops also, to participate in the German Catholic Congress in 1990. It took place just after the Berlin Wall fell. It was in May. We’d just formed the Oblast Rada. In Berlin, Haidamaka and Oleg, it seems, Koval constantly stuck around me.
I.Hel: Right, Omelian Koval. They worked with me. And then, when Liubachivsky asked or rather took us to Munich, Slava Stetsko immediately met me the next day. It was not far from there: they drove me there and back. Our conversation lasted for two hours and more. Slava offered me, though Zenio Krasivsky was still the Head of OUN Territorial Command, to become one of her deputies; it was a position later filled by Serhiy Zhyzhko for a decade. I addressed her “Mrs. Slava”, and she said, "I call you “comrade Ivan”, so you can call me the same. Why… because she had known about me for eighteen years already and everything was clear. Eighteen years of prisons, concentration camps and exiles spoke for themselves. "But I knew and personally met several times with your uncle Zynoviy. I was very active at that time. Then we were all very young, highly patriotic, devotion and motivated by the national liberation movement, so we had several appointments. We had no close relations, but if you’re with the family, then you may use the complete trust. I want you to represent the OUN in Ukraine.” Already then--I was in the know—the ideas of Bandera and Melnyk began to penetrate here in Ukraine, although it was only the beginning, 1990. And I said to her: “Mrs. Slava, the empire is falling apart, and sooner or later you will return to Ukraine. In Ukraine they do not differentiate between the OUN-B and OUN-M, they know only the OUN in Ukraine and all heroic guerrilla deeds are known under the aegis of the OUN; nobody knows about the above subdivisions. And if mutual destruction goes on, we will achieve nothing. I will not be able to work”. Slava told me: “Comrade Ivan, our relationship with Melnyk’s faction and even twofold members and mutual destruction, as you call it (because it was our word, and not westerners’’, not of Diaspora), has become our essence, we cannot move away from this for we have to stand in those positions where we stood. We will not be able to unite and we will not be able to cooperate, it’s like that. All our born days all our generation will be hardworking for the cause and we will not be able to away from it”. And it happened indeed. I have already told about this, I write about it, about Slavko Lesiv who perished, but who would not be able, as we have already told it, to fit into that dirty politics and corrupt political intrigues, all that we have today in sovok or post-sovok society. Without doubt, such revolutionary as Zenio Krasivsky would not take seriously Slavko Chornovil; and I am of the same breed, I deliberately went away from it. Maybe as an office employee he might help political prisoners or even do something like it, and as such he might be satisfactory in his job performance. But he was far from being a party leader or a deputy! As a matter of fact, Mykhailo Horyn also stepped aside, Sverstiuk was never involved in politics. In the beginning he was in the Rukh, we were members of the Grand Rada of the Rukh and co-chairs of the Commission for the national revival. But then I quitted; well, I went away because Slavko Chornovil began to privatize Rukh. Lukyanenko was the first to set the example when the Helsinki Union dropped out of Rukh and became the URP. Chornovil wanted to be once more nominated the candidate for the Presidency, and that shouldn’t have been done. I quitted the Rukh and ever since I act not as a public figure or something else out there, but simply as a man. But I did not join any party and I am member of no party. Just because I knew that I would conduct in the same way. I very clearly told Slava about it.
V.Kipiani: Did you know then that Krasivsky was the Chairman of the OUN Command in Ukraine? For some people say that there was no Command in Ukraine; there was only Krasivsky who was during a meeting in Germany instructed to represent the Command in Ukraine, but in Ukraine there was no Command whatsoever.
I.Hel: Well, actually there was no Command. Zenio was a very active person, but as organizer he, no doubt… Why did not he head the Helsinki Union of and stepped aside? He obviously is the same as I am.
V.Kipiani: it was more interesting for him to create than to head.
I.Hel: Not only that. The thing is that any structure, any organization or party or even the Prosvita Association must be headed by a person who possesses not only qualities of an organizer which Zenio had and I have to some extent as well, but who should be able to carry on intrigues, compromises, be able to take steps back, that is steps that are, in terms of ethics, dubious, to say the least. I do think that Slava saw capabilities in me, because I was the organizer and chairman of the UCC Protection Committee, gave impetus to the activities of the Committee, so that the Church triumphantly emerged from underground. I’m not saying that I credit only myself for it, because the processes sooner or later would evolve on their own. But even today, ten-to-fifteen years later, I have no doubt, Vakhtang, that if we did not act the way we did act, we would not have the Church. Now Diasporan hierarchy, e.g. Guzar, believes that the seizures of churches were a sin: the churches should have been left to the Orthodox, and only closed churches could be rightly taken. And I call it the return of churches. If we did not actively smooth the way--I leave aside the aggressiveness as such--because they imputed to us that we used iron bars to oust the adherents, that we had sort of bouncers. I actually created the Brotherhood of St. Volodymyr: they were boys utterly committed to this idea, but above all the idea of independence. Because I do not separate the church from the state: the nation has a spiritual support in the Church, such as our Greek Catholic Church. I told Guzar, for example, when he was sitting here in your place, and I had been telling him the same before: “Your Beatitude, I am without any doubt, a Greek Catholic, but today, assessing the social activities of Patriarch Filaret and hierarchy of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, I am more Orthodox than Greek Catholic. That is I am to such an extent statist and nationalist, that for me the concept of spirituality as the foundation of the Church today is by far the dominant, but constituent of national statehood and life. As far as Patriarch Filaret has an active civic and public or even some degree of political position, his Church is much closer to me than the Greek Catholic one, although I fought for this church and even suffered for some degree, and now I am ready to sacrifice my life for this Church because I am already on the edge of my grave. And not because I am on the edge. The current Diaspora clergy believes that we should have left to the Moscow Patriarchate both churches, and all because it supposedly was the seizure. And I said: no, it was the return.”
Now as regards the processes of the nineties. We were good organizers, we were real men of faith, revolutionaries in the positive sense of this word, ready to sacrifice our lives for Ukraine, but we were not politicians. And perhaps Slava, seeing a devotee in Zenio, offered me the one role later played by Zhyzhko. In other words, I was supposed to be a little bit in the shadow of Slava, but to carry out the rough work. I was not ready to undertake it. Maybe my about-face was too quick, but in 1992-93, when the Rukh began transforming into a party, I abruptly cease to be a member of the organization and quite deliberately stepped aside from the party life. Then Chornovil blamed Levko Lukyanenko for his secession and creation of the URP. But he himself transformed the Rukh into a party. Khmara kept fighting against Levko, Chornovil, Horyn and flung mud at them. Horyn was filled with indignation at Chornovil’s activities at the time of their "triumvirate"; he quitted and created the Republican Christian Party. They share it with Levko… I was amazed with all that filth and mud, with all that froth.
I was not ready and is not ready today to accept all of it. Maybe it is an excessive modesty or inability to weave plots. Because really I was brought up without slyness, as the son of a peasant. I think that due to my education and state of mind I had but to conscientiously step aside. For in point of fact I might work somewhere, there might be a success or a failure, defeat, and somewhere I could carry the day, but nevertheless I decided to step aside and devote myself to those thousands of people: political prisoners and victims of political repression. I think that I did decently. And Slava Stetsko probably understood this. For in Munich I had other meetings and proposals, but that one was very clear and unambiguous. I think she wanted me not to oppose Zenio but to supplement or replace Zenio. But it turned out that I was the same as Zenio.
The Lviv newspapers indicate that they have a circulation of 20,000, and a weekly has 60 or 80 thousand; in fact, their daily circulation makes 10-11 thousand, and maybe even 8000, and weekly makes 20 thousand. But for the sake of image making they puff out their cheeks.
At that time, the OUN as a structures did not exist in Ukraine. There were personal connections of Zenio because Zenio served a term of twenty-six years which means a huge baggage of ties with political prisoners, personal ties. For example, what was my modus operandi? The Committee consisted of around 12-15 people, and I did not hide this fact. But when there was a need I went to Horodenka, found there Petro Klepey, Yevhen Hrytsiak (who was the participant of Norilsk uprising) and with their help I did my job there. Why? For those people were very honest, I knew that they were not squealers, and which was the most important they were not cowards, and if he said something, then he would do it. And I contacted Bishop Pavlo Wasylyk… [Noise, switch-off of the recorder].
TRANSPORTATION OF CONVICTS
V.Kipiani: I would like to return to 1982. At the end of 1981, you, by your words, went into exile.
I.Hel: They transported me under guard.
V.Kipiani: Right, they transported you under guard. Tell us, please, about the transportation under guard and exile so that we could review all the way until the year of 1987.
I.Hel: Well, let it be transportation under guard. In my remembrances about Slavko Lesiv… Unfortunately, I have no more copies in order to make the long story short: I told there about Potma. Every halting place prison is a form of abasement of human dignity of the prisoner, especially a political prisoner, and a form of terror. There may be better organized and worse organized transportations. Speaking about this, I mean authentic facts for 1966 and then 1972 and transportations under guard, especially when we were taken to the so-called preventive treatment, but in reality it was a form of terror from Kuchino to Lviv.
V.Kipiani: Were you taken there only once?
I.Hel: I was taken three times I drove, but everywhere--in Potma and Perm prison—there were thousands of bedbugs. In Kharkiv Kholodna Hora there were thousands of bedbugs, cockroaches, and even rats running about the cell.
V.Kipiani: Sapeliak wrote in his memoirs about Kholodna Hora that if after fasting a political prisoner was exhausted, they fell on the body.
I.Hel: Right, I also write about it. Now I will give an idea of it: it may be interesting for contemporary reader.
Kholodna Hora, the first floor. The prison was built by Catherine II. Sanitation is absent. On the first floor the waste drain is carried out through an open ordinary concrete channel-like groove. It is not even covered with concrete slabs: it is open like a ditch.
V.Kipiani: From floor to floor?
I.Hel: No, not from the upper floor; it flows through all cells on the first floor. The stench is unimaginable. Therefore, the rats are running around. And the transported prisoners call to one another for the convicts should no longer be hidden from each other. There certainly exists the interfloor sewer-pipe drain. The horrible, terrible odor is all over the premises! And who are the inmates? The first floor is intended for political prisoners only. And all that stench there spreads to the upper floors, I have no doubt. But if there is water and close-stool or conventional toilet, kind of john, there is, so to speak, a water cushion, then it is easier there. And below there is stench and bedbugs and cockroaches are climbing up and down the walls. And rats are running to and fro along the grooves. And when a person falls asleep, they just become brazen and fumble here and there: they can get into your kit-bag, knapsack. They climb all over, and on a sleeping person as well, they climb on a man and spread the stench everywhere. And bedbugs are cunning…
There, in Potma there is a proscenium and everything is wooden. The prison itself is, of course, made of bricks, but inside the plank beds are made of wood, so bedbugs crawl there, literally teeming thousands of bedbugs. We were given kind of straw beds officially called mattresses. The three-to-four-centimeter-thick covering of strong cloth is stuffed with already compressed cotton and nobody knows who and for how long slept on them, but they are considered good for the transported convicts. Anyway they are better than bare boards. The prisoners got used to it and do not really feel it. But bedbugs and cockroaches… The cockroaches do not bite though, while the bites of bedbugs are rather painful. We met with Paruyr Ayrikian in Potma and conducted an experiment. I already had some experience, but he had not had, and I taught him how to protect himself from bedbugs. Though it was also an illusion. There is a proscenium like a usual scene: a sort of dais but in fact it’s a plank bed. The double-level plank beds do not occupy the entire cell. Opposite the window, if the cell is five or six meters wide, the first floor is a 50-60-centimeter dais like a scene, and above it on one side there is a one-and-a-half meter wide plank bed for two people and one-and-a-half meter on the other side and in-between there remain two or three meters of open space. You do not climb to the second floor, except in winter when you wish to warm up. In summer or when it is not too cold, you lie down on the first-level plank bed or the proscenium, as I called it. It is made of solid planks. In order to control bedbugs we used a kettle to make a water barrier around us. Water neither trickles nor leaks out for the planks were painted, which made them waterproof.
We watered the space around our mattress, lay down and talked. Paruyr looks: “Oh,” he says, “Ivan, you’ve missed something, just look here,” and he shows how the flock of bedbugs purposefully climbs to the ceiling in front of us and jumps on us from the ceiling. So bedbugs are able to mock at the prisoner. If you isolate yourself from it, it climbs up the wall to the ceiling, and not one, but dozens or hundreds of bedbugs at once fall on you and bite all the same. While you’re awake and toss and turn, they do not touch you. But when you lie still and it sees that you are lying, and it wants your blood, for it is the source of its life, it climbs to the ceiling to fall down on you. And you wake up at night or in the morning because your whole body is itching covered with bedbug bites.
V.Kipiani: How long does the transportation under guard take from Lviv to Kuchino?
I.Hel: I am about to tell it. So, Lviv--Kharkiv, Kholodna Hora; Kharkiv—Voronezh, the death row. There’s a cell on a chain, inside there are iron welded beds fixed with cement on the floor. In the center of the cell there is a forty-centimeter-high or so concrete column with in-built ring made of twenty-millimeter iron. It seems to be drilled through and welded, with protruding dowels. They like anchor bolts are sunk into cement floor. This cemented structure looks like a stool, but it is a round concrete column and twenty-millimeter iron. Even when outside there is 30-degree heat, the column remains cold because it is made of concrete and and is always wet. If you sit down on it, you may injure your genitals by cold or…
I.Hel: Everything, because cold is coming from below. Therefore you try your best not to sit down. There also occur foldable plank beds which are folded away for the night and folded down for the day like they do it with berths in a railroad car and you have nowhere to sit and therefore you keep standing the whole day. So, Lviv--Kharkiv, Kharkiv--Voronezh, Voronezh--Ryazhsk, Ryazhsk--Penza, Penza--Ruzayevka, Ruzayevka--Potma. If you go further, then it will be Ruzayevka--Gorky or also more Ruzayevka--Kuibyshev depending on the trip. There are more stations between Gorky and Kazan, or direct trip to Kazan. And if they still would like to torture you, between Perm and Kazan there is one more transit prison. There are also such headings as Kazan--Perm, Perm--Chusovaya. To Chusovaya they transport you in a Stolypin car and 36 kilometers from Chusovaya to Kuchino they bring you in a prisoner transport vehicle. All these transit prisons are a refined, you even may say ideal form of mistreatment of political prisoners. If they need to have you beaten, they take you to the cell with criminals. They do it despite the fact that officially they are not supposed to resort to it. They do it under the pretense that there is no other place. If you have two-to-three pairs of underwear, for example, you are going from Lviv where your family equipped you, they will take everything away leaving one pair at the best. They deem that political prisoners are provided with much better upkeep than the criminals, so they conduct expropriation very unceremoniously. In each cell, though they are temporary ones, there is a kingpin who controls the whole process and carries out the redistribution. If you still have some foodstuffs, they take them away for the “obshchak”. For example, if I had something I gave it away on my own because I knew what hunger meant and I knew that they had no family, although their living conditions was much better than ours. They could buy a visit for 50 karbovanetses for a long one and 25 karbovanetses for a short one. At the same time we were strictly isolated, primarily because they were afraid that we could pass to the outside some kind of anti-Soviet scribblings as they called our works.
Among those people one could meet noble persons sometimes. That is if they see how you behave with cops and how you perceive the authorities, if you stay there a few days with them and they see how cops treat you, they will begin to respect you and will not bully you. It happens that they ordered to beat you and then they will beat you.
The same happens in Stolypin cars. During the transportation under guard political prisoners, or “state criminals cannot be mixed with ordinary criminal offenders, perpetrators of everyday crimes.” But they say there is no place. Indeed, sometimes it happens that there is no place, but sometimes it happens that in the Stolypin car the joint intended for political prisoners has been crowded already. And there are eight-seat and four-seat compartments. Then the guards pack eight-to-ten men into a four-seat compartment. Men grow faint from it, the stench becomes unbearable. The guards do not give themselves the trouble to lead the convicts to the toilet in time. The more so it applied to political prisoners. For six to eight hours you cannot go the toilet. And you may not even water until they lead you. Your urinary bladder is about to explode, but they don’t give a damn.
There is a pure everyday form which is very easy to realize for them. They give you packed meal for those lengths of road and those sections are rather lengthy indeed, because they almost never couple Stolypin cars to fast trains, and the ordinary passenger train stops at every station. You’re going and jolting in the car. In the compartment they have to provide you with a berth if you travel for a day or a day and a half, especially if the period is two days, and there are eight-to-ten prisoners per three berths, so you can neither sleep, nor even sit there. What is even worse: they do not give you sausage and milk but a loaf per day on the road and one or two herrings. You eat herring and you are thirsty like hell, and they do not give you to drink for three to four hours, even five. It’s a form of bullying.
I especially remember the stench at Kholodna Hora. They used to strip you naked. In every transit prison on the way you have to wash yourself upon arrival. They search you, strip you naked, take your clothes away for heat treatment; there is no hot water, the concrete floor is cold and you can get sick. You are looking for a wooden place to stand on or to climb on a stool, because you feel shivery. Then they turn on water, when your clothes have already undergone heat treatment, for half an hour for every 10-15 people, though there are only two or three nozzles. One pushes the other aspiring to warm up, they press together bellies first in that warm water. This time it depends on the contingent of people. If people are normal they understand it, and if a local kingpin and a king is going to wash himself, then they push the criminals away. There’s a cult of strength.
At the Kholodna Hora they put me into the ground floor cell, and they did it already on the way down here. Sometime in 1974, after a major hunger strike, not as long as the 100-day one, but a 28-day hunger strike I dedicated to my requirement to leave in Sosnovka only political prisoners i.e. 50 people in numerical terms. Moreover, there were 150 or more criminals. In the cells only criminal law was in force. So I found myself on the ground floor of Kholodna Hora. I had a heart attack because of the stench; so I knocked on the door and told the cop: “Give me a drink of water and give me a cardiac.”—“Fuck you!” And that’s that. I am kind of normal, a worldly-wise man, but in such cases sometimes a man is looking for some arguments and I said, “Right, I will write about this, I will write Sakharov, that you maltreat here people.” And—I beg your pardon for the rude language--he retorted: “Fuck your Sakharov and you as well. Just wait and I’ll fix your wagon now!” And smacked me between my shoulder blades with the keys. Those were big old keys. And I was really sick and lost consciousness. When I came to my senses, I felt that I was lying on the cement floor all wet: they splashed water on me from a bucket or kettle, I do not know. Such was the attitude. And so it went on all the time. There are nuances, of course, both on the better side, and there are nuances on the worse side as well.
MORE ON PEOPLE IN KUCHINO AND MORDOVIA
V.Kipiani: Were there cases of human treatment?
I.Hel: There were such among convicts.
V.Kipiani: And what about administration?
I.Hel: There were no cases of human treatment among administrators, not a single case. There were such among soldiers and guards. I’ve just told you that I promised write to Sakharov. I wrote the letter in the car. The letter reached its destination and the Western newspapers published it. I asked a soldier to mail it and he threw the letter in the mailbox.
V.Kipiani: Was it the same soldier who hit you?
I.Hel: No, that one in the Kholodna Hora Prison was a warden, an extended service man. On my return way to Lviv, I described all of it and gave secret address of my first cousin, whom they didn’t suspect--57, Lysenko Street, which I still remember. They read and were horrified and terribly surprised that I wrote a four-letter word. And I did write it. They rewrote it word for word and sent on. They gave it to a woman, that woman copied it and passed it on. And it reached its destination after the soldier-guard put it in the mailbox. I had a couple of such cases with soldiers.
This cannot happen to the jailers. He may inwardly sympathize with you, but the thing is that the jailers always go in pairs. The jailers are selected. In Yavas they have a big Gulag administration. And in Kuchino there was a redhead one (Novitskiy.—V.O.); it was he who told Vasyl Stus: “Fuck you, Stus, I will search you at every turn!” And Vasyl was a head taller than he, sculptured figure, held his own, and looked down his nose at them. Not precisely looked down, but Vasyl knew how to behave himself properly. Once he told me about his voice. Vasyl had a stentorian voice, very strong. He said, “When I looked like it, I simply scoffed at my investigators. The investigator begins to ask me questions and I interrupt him starting to talk; and only my voice is heard and nobody else is heard around me. Two investigators came to examine me. I start talking, they both begin shouting, but their voices are not heard. They were furious indeed!” He despised such human nits; unfortunately, I do not remember his name.
V.Kipiani: Was it Gatineau or Tatarintsev? (Major Gatin appeared in Kuchino sometime in early 1983, and the name of the second investigator I do not know.--V.O.).
I.Hel: No, the redhead had freckles and was bald. (This was Warrant Officer Novitsky.--V.O.).
V.Kipiani: Ovsiyenko told me that there was such a jailer, he had smallpox scars on his face… (This was Major Sniadovskiy; he appeared in Kuchino around 1982, when Ivan Hel wasn’t already there.--V.O.) .
I.Hel: There were such guys In Sosnovka that if you had something, in particular those morgushki, they could bring you tea, but nothing else. If they were met somewhere, they immediately fell under suspicion. In Kuchino they also had a couple of more or less humane officers. But in general they were screened… They managed twenty-five camps containing 30,000 prisoners. They employed thousands of workers including security guards and officers, and almost as many, maybe a little less jailers. This contingent comprised three, five, maybe two thousand supervisors-extended service men. The administration chose natural sadists, the cruelest and the most unruly. In this way the administration carried out testing and conscription of employees for our jails and camps. All they were sadists, but there were also some more lenient jailers. However, I never met such employees in Kuchino.
V.Kipiani: Was there such one Ivan Kukushkin.
I.Hel: Oh, Kukushkin, in fact I don’t remember much of him and I do not know whether it was he or not.
V.Kipiani: Ovsiyenko says he was like everyone else, but there was something in him… Once he saw how Akper Kerimov, Azerbaijani, it seems, Niklusu, delivered bread to the punishment cell, and he saw and did not raise a ruckus. (It was not Kukushkin but King.--V.O.). Kerimov was already old, and, he said, if he were thrown in a punishment cell, he might have never got out of there. Then Stus said, "Kukushkin, of course, you will be in hell, but not in the very center, but at two-meter distance from the center.” I met Kukushkin, he works in the Kuchino Museum. He himself served a term: he waged a fight with a cop and was sentenced as a criminal offender. Maybe after that he grew wiser. By the way, he told me that Stus hanged himself. He described it in great detail. And Ovsiyenko does not believe him.
I.Hel: And I do not believe, too.
V.Kipiani: But he recounts in great details, on which pipe in the working cell. (When Stus perished Kukushkin had not worked in Kuchino already. He reproduced the legend concocted by the KGB.--V.O.).
I.Hel: I read the version of Leonid Borodin.
V.Kipiani: Right, I wrote it.
I.Hel: It was published somewhere, I do not remember whether it was a Russian newspaper, or Ukrayina Moloda Daily.
V.Kipiani: This was my text, I recorded Borodin in Moscow a year ago. The interview was in Ukrainian.
I.Hel: But there was no your signature under it, only Leonid Borodin’s.
V.Kipiani: Nevertheless, this text of Leonid Borodin was brought out in my redaction.
I.Hel: There are some very interesting points. When Vasyl Stus and I were talking, I said, “Vasyl, the uncompromising position is the foundation of our existence, but the aggressive uncompromising position is a road to death.” He said, “Maybe Ivan, I want to die.” We conversed a lot together and sometime in the future I will write about it. Of course, one shouldn’t say a word too much there and open your mind to all and everybody, because people at large are on the qui-vive, especially regarding the cases of such attitudes and conversations. We met somewhere in the middle or at the end of 1981. Somewhere in the second half. Chepkasov (KGB Major) "prescribed" me three months of one-man cell, and he was brought down there. But we quickly met in the punishment cell for our attempt to talk. The punishment is isolated, but we had a common wall because Vasyl was in the next cell. We started talking, and then we began opening ventilating windows of the barred prison windows and conversing. But the tower guard caught sight of it and immediately called the cops. The cops broke into my one-man cell and transferred me to the punishment cell. At first it was a separate cell and then, I reckon, the thought washed over some prison kingpin or KGB officer and he said: “Talk your head off!” and threw both of us into one cell. Stus had his term to serve in the cooler and I had mine, but they equalized us adding each one ten days of cooler. So we had a week, maybe eight days to spend in the punishment cell; we could sit on the floor, because it was timber floor. Vasyl was a large man: he preferred sitting cross-legged like Kozak Mamai and propping his head against his hand. I preferred other poses: on one side or on the other. But Vasyl kept sitting in such Mamai-like posture, and then we really had the time of our lives talking.
So, this conversation I remember very well, and I was surprised that Borodin noticed it as well. Maybe that was some reason for it, perhaps something connected to family relations, I cannot tell specifically. At some period of his life Vasyl might lose sort of backbone. They all consider themselves condemned men; some men clutch at straws to survive, others skip it and do not get caught in an endless loop, they are not taken up with the idea of death. Sort of life became out of his field of vision. He was serious about it; he said it with full inner openness, in a confessionary way: “Well, maybe I want to die.” And I said, “Vasyl, and who will continue to take action?” We also discussed different things like our creative work, talked about Shumuk whom I very respected at first, and later I became disappointed with him and despised him. He was glad that his collected poems Palimpsests came out. He said that he had the intention to write the Camp Copybook, but he was not sure whether he would manage to realize this plan. When I was taken away, Vasyl was still alive, but he already quitted fighting for life, he not trying to survive at any cost, there was no question of that because he lived as a stretched string.
There remained no such men who could fight obsessively. That is all and everybody complied with ethical norms, even those who were relatively passive, as Balis Gayauskas, he just did his term, the same about Mart Niklus. Later he became more active, but at first, maybe, he did not know that life. Let alone those who did their terms for the war. Semen-Pokutnyk openly sabotaged the regime and we all saw it. But we do not know whether he was sick or not sick indeed. That is we considered him sick. He was, without a doubt, a discreet man. A person may be silent, but a time comes when s/he has to speak out. But at times Semen eventually he couldn’t keep the lid on and he began talking to me or to Stus, or to other people, the rest of the time he was restrained, or, maybe not so restrained as cautious. For Vasyl and I and Balis were straightforward men, we spoke frankly, despite the fact that were overheard. You know, they eavesdrop there on prisoners using fixed recording installations. Then they replay the recordings and store valuable information. But a man cannot be in this state continuously. There are important things to be told: when we will go on hunger strike, how we will hungerstrike, or whether we can pass something. A man is going to see his visitor: “Ivan, will you take?”—“I will” So you go about making a container, you write something. They also keep vigilant watch over you. For example, when I wrote, Vasyl--he was a tall man--stood before the cell peephole and shielded it with his shoulder, the cop yelled, raged, Vasyl stepped aside, in a minute he returned to his previous position. The cop already began to suspect something, because he could not see what was boiling in the cell. “Stus, I will jail you once more!” Well, Vasyl steps aside, sometimes he teases them. And the redhead one--we called him the Redhead, it is worth establishing his name (Novytskyi.--V.O.) said: “Fuck you, I will search you all over!” All our cellmates are going to work and he searches everyone; then Stus was searched in the first place in the most careful and very detailed way, although there was nothing to look for. And then: “Take off your jacket!” He takes it off. “Take off your shirt!” He takes it off as well and throws everything to the floor. The Redhead deliberately mocked Vasyl. He searches the shirt, although he knows that there is nothing in it, throws it back to the floor. "Take your kicks off!" He picked up one shoe, then another, looked into it but found nothing there. Then he took puttees or socks while Stus was standing barefoot on the floor. “Put down your pants!” Vasyl puts down his pants. We protest, express our indignation at it, but the cop is either not responding, or searches everybody in detail in order to cover up his personal hatred for Stus.
V.Kipiani: Was it done in public?
I.Hel: Right, in public. There were five cellmates in our cell. And he performed the search not in the cell but in the hallway down which the prisoners are led to work. Five or four because Mamchych not always went to work, and Skalych did not go to work at all, therefore only four of us went: Balis, Stus, Niklus, and I. The working cell was situated across the hallway from our cell, the corridor was two meters wide, maybe even less. The Redhead undressed him right in the corridor in our presence. Then followed Niklus, but most often it was I. But Stus he undressed demonstratively. In order to cover this demonstrative character of the search he, for appearance’ sake, called up someone else and gave the same command “Undress!" He used to undress me once or twice a day, Niklus once a day, Balis Gayauskas he left alone, and Stus was another pair of shoes: breakfast at seven, at half past seven we go out to proceed to the working cell, the passage time expires at eight hours, and only then the working hours reckoning begins. The working hours are from 8 am until 5 pm. At half past eleven they lead us to the living cell for dinner: “Be ready for teardown!” We leave the working cell for our living cell. Again he searched everyone so that nobody could carry a screwdriver away, once more searched for appearance’ sake and then: “Stus, undress yourself!” The dinner time was thirty minutes. Akper Kerimov was food distributor, because they did not cook our meals here but brought it down here from the 36th zone of high security or black, as we called it. There is a great difference between “black” and “striped” security. We ate. “Be ready to be led to work!” Everybody made necessary preparations. We go out of the cell. “Stus, undress yourself!” And it was performed five times a day if the Redhead was on duty. The search takes place during morning exit for work, during dinnertime, during exit for work after dinner, during our return from work, during exit for a walk, during return from the walking yard and every time he strips us naked.
V.Kipiani: It is humiliating indeed!
I.Hel: It was very humiliating for Vasyl, but Vasyl stoically endured it all, he understood everything. Vasyl never gave up. When it was necessary to bang the door, because someone over there was beaten or abused and we heard voices of prisoners, usually I was the first to whirl off, until Stus arrived, we cried: Levko Lukyanenko or someone else. And when Stus was with us already, he was always the first… Stus was there like an internal spring.
V.Kipiani: A nerve.
I.Hel: Right, a nerve, he was a nerve and conscience of the concentration camp. Before Stus it happened in different ways, because there was also Fedorenko; Levko got mixed up with him, and then Fedorenko sold him out, there were such cases, too.
V.Kipiani: I would like to ask. According to various estimates, from 56 to 60 people had to go through Kuchino from 1980 to 1987; about one third of them did their terms for alleged war crimes, and the rest of them were political prisoners, and there were also criminals, such as infamous Romashov who attacked Stus and Gayauskas with screwdrivers. Do you think that in this Kuchino zone there were inmates who rubbed elbows with the administration and behaved unworthily, or don’t you?
I.Hel: No, there were no such inmates.
V.Kipiani: Were there exposed informers among the Kuchino population?
I.Hel: Well, no one was afraid of informers because all of us knew the informers. In each cell, as a rule, there was one of those who did his term for alleged war crimes. They were different people. There was one such shortish man, I do not remember his name now.
V.Kipiani: Can you remember his name, or can’t you?
I.Hel: No, I cannot remember. Maybe I will remember later. They were immediately transferred to the “one-third” (i.e. the zone without cells.--V.O.). They were brought to Kuchino. This one was not even in Sosnovka, in Mordovia. There was a tall militiaman, Russian, and that one was a lieutenant of the NKVD and he swore allegiance to his Motherland. Then his unit was encircled or he even voluntarily surrendered. Well, at the time everyone believed that the Germans would win. In 1941, nobody believed in the victory of the Red Army. Men fled beyond the Urals, or fought because somebody had to fight. There were, no doubt, also normal, decent people, officers, they knew that they had to sacrifice their life for their Motherland. But there were those who were concerned for their own skin, and that NKVD lieutenant found himself among the latter ones. He told it himself and even boasted about how he managed to survive: “It was necessary to survive and I survived”. He surrendered to the Germans at once, was sworn in, and went to work for the German SD. The Soviet NKVD and German SD are related structures. He fought with the same guerillas, signs of Soviet or Byelorussian. He, like the Redhead cop above was redhead, too, but much lower: one meter fifty eight centimeters.
V.Kipiani: There was one such Komisarov…
I.Hel: Well, Komisarov was a tall one, I’ve already mentioned Komisarov. He was one who raised the production rate for us in Mordovia; he used to say, “You should snatch”. We strictly fulfilled the task until the notorious scandals erupted. Even if you make your daywork because someone wants to be allowed a visit, you can fulfill the quota for not more than one hundred and one percent. Such prisoner got paid 16-18 karbovanetses, he saved something for the kiosk, personal account, and could every two-to-three months subscribe something through the “Books by mail” Service, because, according to the rules, a prisoner could buy something only for his earned money. It took us two or three hours to meet the norm. We manufactured chandeliers and grinded cut glass. Someone tackled the first operation which was terribly dirty and disgusting.
V.Kipiani: Did it cause silicosis?
I.Hel: Yes, it did. The prisoner was appointed to tackle this first operation for one day only and if you were strong enough and sufficiently agile, you could lay the groundwork for a week. And then you spent a week working further on it. They took turns: you work on the machine on Monday, me on Tuesday, and you on Wednesday. You get it out of your system if you made, say, 20 pieces per day. The initial production rate was eight or ten. And Komisarov made the daywork for 300%, and demanded that we were ordered to make higher norms, up to 40 pieces. In this case we had to work almost every day. Komisarov was a scum indeed, snitch, and Ukrainophobe.
V.Kipiani: Did he also do his term for war crimes?
I.Hel: Yes. He was pardoned, and they charged him with several killings. They put into our cell those who did their terms for war crimes. They were prisoners sentenced to death who received capital punishment. After the abolition of capital punishment by the Supreme Court they were sent to a tight security jail. And only those who had been pardoned by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet were brought to our jail. At the time Leonid Brezhnev, it seems, was the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet, or Podhorny, I do not remember right now and it does not matter. Only such people were brought there. All and everybody knew Komisarov and openly despised him. He is also an NKVD officer who surrendered to the Germans and served in their SD or political militia. After the war he took cover, changed his name, lived in hiding and was greater patriot and communist than any other citizen of the Soviet Union because he had to disguise himself so that he did not arouse suspicion. However, he was disclosed. When someone was exposed a chain of exposures began and they sold each other out. Among them was Ivan Mamchych, though he was a decent man. The same was Akper Kerimov, Azerbaijani. There was also a decent Georgian who did his term for the war crimes.
V.Kipiani: Did all of it take place still in Mordovia?
I.Hel: In Mordovia, yes. A very decent man. He told me the following episode. It would be good to establish his name: a very decent man he was. He also did his term for war crimes; he was allegedly in some Georgian unit.
V.Kipiani: In my opinion, in the East battalion.
I.Hel: Yes, it was something like that. He told me. When I was hungerstriking for one hundred days and then couldn’t walk for quite a time, he was sent to me with a cop: as an aid-man he took me by my arm while the cop went by my side leading us to the first-aid station. They weighed me: I weighed 44 kilograms. When I came out of the one-man cell, they supported me, because I was literally like a grass blade, skinny, a bag of bones. And so he told me as follows.
A KGB Major entered the first-aid station and asked, “Do you have anybody here?” The medical assistant—his name was Vasyl, Lieutenant—answered: “No”. And he did not noticed that there behind a screen that Georgian was sitting. The major says: “He has to die, do not feed him.” They were on familiar terms, though one was a major and the other was a lieutenant; the latter didn’t address him, “Comrade Major” (at least the Georgian told me so). The medical assistant said, "Give me the written direction.”—“Fuck you! How can I give such written direction? Do something so he dies.” He says: “I cannot do it. I will be held responsible, and it wouldn’t concern you.” Meanwhile the Georgian sat quietly behind the screen and listened. A true policeman would not say so, because otherwise he would be expelled from there and maybe even killed. And he did not know how I would react: I might as well write about it. However, of course, I could not write such things, because it would mean that I sold the man out. This he told me then that the KGB wanted me to die during the hunger strike. It was already somewhere on the sixtieth day. I endured one hundred days. If I were force-fed, only the cops could carry it out. And he was not entrusted with carrying out such procedures, because, firstly, he could give me more, and, secondly, they did not like the idea of anyone seeing it. When the force-feeding was carried out only two cops and medical assistant entered the one-man cell of the hungerstriker, sometimes three cops and medical assistant. And this Georgian was later brought there with a cop to clean the premises for medical assistant sometimes spilled that dishwater, with which they force-fed the prisoner, on the bedside table…
V.Kipiani: I’ve read that this was a kind of milk and egg mixture.
I.Hel: Now I’ll tell you… Milk? No…
V.Kipiani: Sapeliak writes so. I’m reading him now…
I.Hel: Well, maybe, but, first of all, there is no milk in the labor camp. So what do they do?
V.Kipiani: This is a mixture of milk powder, that is dried milk, and egg solids.
I.Hel: Maybe, but I do know this: it is either water or they boil some bones. The bones are boiled separately, they take that broth and put semolina in it. We never had milk. They mash a boiled egg: it is a lightly-boiled egg; then they add 30 grams of butter and 50 grams of sugar. Finally they mix it all and get a sort of thin fluid, but not the same as water. He pours the mix into two small jars… I saw it once and again, and—I won’t plug you any idle talk—I thought in the meantime: you pour just a little more and I would endure longer. You do not know when the next time you will be fed, but you know that you’ll endure it to the end. The very remembrance makes my mouth water even now.
V.Kipiani: [Inaudible] … A man recalls the torture which makes your mouth water; it is a kind of double-charge and you should stand by your word, too…
I.Hel: Right, for you will stop to respect yourself, though your body says otherwise. I want you as a journalist to understand it. For the self-preservation instinct demands that you eat. But you promised yourself; therefore it isn’t your instinct that governs, but your will of conscience: the strength of mind, reason, and will. So, it is the unity of will, dedication and, obviously, dignity. These factors are the most important, because without personal will you will not dare to accomplish it. Or you may torpedo your plans. I quitted smoking there, though I had been a chain smoker. Everyone who was there was amazed. For Valentyn Moroz, whom I hold in high respect, though as a man he does not deserve any special respect, endured for 56 or 65 days which is a big difference, though not essential, if you did endure 56 days… However, he stopped his hunger strike. I seem to have mentioned above that he had bedsores and he experienced pain. It is not that easy. I escaped bedsore problems because I forced myself to move leaning against the wall and so I stretched my feet. Maybe it has a profound effect on my health now but then I endured it all right.
When they allowed me to go to my cell to take something and appeared in striped prison wear, no one recognized me. There were Saranchuk, Murzhenko. Nobody recognized me! Only when I called him: “Alik, don’t you recognize me?”—“Ivan, is that you?” So I looked like a hell. I took some things to my assigned one-man cell and I was locked up in the same cell again. Latterly they moved me to the next-nearest one because they had to put there a man sentenced for 15 days of –one-man-cell imprisonment. So the self-preservation instinct, the demands of your body come into antagonism with your strength of will. You go with your hands behind you…
V.Kipiani: In handcuffs?
I.Hel: In handcuffs, even when on the hundredth day they force-fed me as well as before the ninety-ninth day. Then came the KGB officer, brought all those letters, which contained cryptographic text about the Rules of Political Prisoner (I understood that we would not secure the status of a prisoner). They made concessions, but before that I was force-fed. Even on the hundredth day I stayed in handcuffs. I’ve already mentioned above one nuance: on the one hand, you desire that they pour two full jars (they already poured two and a half jars) or take bigger jars. And he obviously had the norm, the food was in the bowl, and there remained a little at the bottom… Such two small vessels containing 450 grams each, not aluminum ones, because aluminum jars contain half a liter. And you desire that they pour more (you see, my mouth is watering, damn!), but instead you scream, “Do not feed me! Do not feed me!” He then twists back your hands and you become helpless. Of course, offer resistance, maybe you resist even than you should to, you hang on by your eyelids, you do it for all you are worth, but you look at that bowl and you know that as far as the aid-man and cops have come together they will feed you by hook or crook. They pinion you easily and then use the mouth-gag… The aid-man over there was more humane, because here, in Ukraine, in Lviv KGB when I went on hunger strike and they force-fed me, they contracted the handcuffs in such a way, that I had edema and depressed lines on my hands, two nippers. By the way, their word for handcuffs was also nippers. The mouth-gag to such extent opened my mouth that my jaws ached for two weeks or so. Although they force-fed me several times, but the first time the use of mouth-gag hurt me like hell. And then everything was easy as breathing: he had such flat-nosed pliers, he took you by the tongue, and if you did not want to open your mouth, you could then automatically suffocate. But if you just open your mouth a little bit he immediately insert the mouth-gag. And then he obtains an access, because your tongue is fixed and your further resistance is to no avail.
V.Kipiani: Does he pull your tongue with the flat-nosed pliers?
I.Hel: Right, he grips the apex of the tongue and pulls your tongue out to fix it. When he pulls out your tongue on your chin, there open small valves which close your throat. They open, he dips the end of that tube into the fluid and then quickly inserts it into your mouth, because the rubber end is very stiff. Slavko Chornovil said that the tube scratched his vocal cords. And Vasia, who was Senior Lieutenant saying “Give me written direction, that you relieve me of responsibility”, did it differently: he first dipped the tube in that liquid food and only then inserted it in your mouth. When the tube slid along your tongue your mouth began watering. For when they poured food directly inside, you felt no taste.
V.Kipiani: Was this food hot?
I.Hel: No, but you feel warmth in your stomach. You feel no taste either, even when the tube end dipped in this food touches your tongue: maybe because your gustatory glands become atrophied and also because food goes directly into your stomach.
V.Kipiani: Some prisoners tell about burning feeling and resulting cramps in the stomach.
I.Hel: Well, maybe. I felt differently. In this respect I was lucky. Concerning this Vasia… It was not hot. Medicine adheres to the rules it has. I do not think it was hot. Maybe you know what? If the KGB officer ordered or obliged Vasia to stop feeding and, in fact, kill, because in such cases if you skip one feeding and the prisoner may be up the flume… In my case they missed once, I think unintentionally, because the force-feeding had to take place on Sunday and on Saturday they had to order foodstuffs. However, they, like all jailers, worked a five-day workweek and so had a weekend: Saturday and Sunday. The stockkeeper failed to order foodstuffs and was out these days. Maybe that was the case, I have no reason to blame the man. At the time they force-fed me every third day. They fed me on the fifty-fourth day and then had to feed on the fifty-seventh or fifty-eighth, instead they force-fed me only on the sixty-first day. That is they skipped a week, but I survived. I do not know what caused it: whether it happened intentionally or because of the weekend…
V.Kipiani: Do you have anything else?
I.Hel: I’ve got a pre-recorded cassette here, my true memoirs. Unfortunately, only the chronological outline: in such a year I was transported under guard… It’s not that. I am going to ask you to transcribe the recording. I will need it, when I will sit down to write my memoirs.
V.Kipiani: Yes, I will transcribe.
I.Hel: They took me to transport under guard. It is very good that I’ve told this and that about Vasyl Stus. Sometime in the future we might return to other prisoners as well.
V.Kipiani: Also we will speak about those who did their terms for war crimes. Of course, I would like you to tell about Piatkus, about different people in different situations. After all, when a thought occurs to you it occurs as a result of something…
I.Hel: Right. We won’t manage to do it this coming Saturday. We will sure meet again to talk about those people, because I think too much of Piatkus, a very decent man, and of Balis Gayauskas, just everyone as there were no come-and-go people. Even the Yevgrafov mentioned above: it seems his name was Nikolai.
V.Kipiani: He had seven criminal convictions, and then he became a political prisoner.
I.Hel: Yes he, so to speak, turned over a new leaf. From this perspective, he is a very strong and resolute man. And about Skalych who was a no less strong personality, resolute, because in order to endure so many years of overt malingering and to make it so believable one has to be an a very extraordinary man. I do not know, someone told me that Skalych is right as nails and he remains a Pokutnyk. I have a great regard for him and his Greek Catholicism, Messianic role of Ukrainian Church, and Ukrainian people. At the same time I understand: they need to be exactly such as they teach to fully carry out their own mission. I used to tell Oleg Vitovych when he headed here UNA-UNSO. He shouted that we were masters. So I say, "Oleg, you just try and be a master, rather than shout at the top of one’s voice about it.” But, they say, he has left UNA and is now somewhere serving Medvedchuk faithfully. So it is here: we must be strong. And we are haunted by continuous disunity, fighting each other, and maybe this is the most important trait of Ukrainians.
LAST TRANSPORTATION UNDER GUARD AND EXILE
They took me on December 21, 1981, it seems, to transport under guard. Well, it was an uneventful trip, because I was already an experienced convict: thirteen years of concentration camps and jails. We went through Kazan, Gorky, and then some other transit prisons: Tver, I think, or Yaroslavl, and then Kotlas. Kotlas is engraved on my memory. For some reason or other I began to raise a fuss and they said, “Look here, Uke, stop showboating and insisting on your rights. From Kotlas here to Vorkuta two Ukes lie under each sleeper. If you like, you will companion them.” Sure thing, he didn’t crack me with this, but I saw, indeed, that insisting on your rights in a transit prison was like speaking to the deaf. Maybe I’ve told already about bedbugs, maybe about something else, but such episodes also took place. He convinced me of the truth of his statement. From Kotlas I was brought to Ukhta. And there were no more transit prisons.
V.Kipiani: Syktyvkar is a night’s drive from Kotlas.
I.Hel: No, no, not Syktyvkar, I beg your pardon, I meant from Kotlas to Ukhta. I was not in Syktyvkar. They brought me to Ukhta. There was another memorable experience. They brought me to Ukhta: it happened either in January or December… Nay, it was in January, I kept Christmas on the train. In January, they brought me and I celebrated the New Year’s Day in the transit prison. They brought me to Ukhta, packed me into a patrol wagon and transported me 180 kilometers to Troitsk-Pechorski. It wasn’t any highway, but it took them two and a half hours to drive me there. And I was put into a small box. The body of the prisoner transport truck is divided into two parts.
V.Kipiani: A sort of cage.
I.Hel: Right, it is a sort of cage. The prisoner boxes are separated with small corridors for cops; one can neither shake hands with another convict, nor pass something. This truck can carry ten women or men prisoners per one trip. And there are two boxes on both sides: about sixty by sixty centimeters. Each box has a tightly fixed bench and you can see nothing. The cop sees you though a peephole and there is also a small side window in the body of the truck for light. I suffered from travel sickness there as they sped along the way and I threw up right there. I few years have not been transported under guard and have not traveled by automobiles, the more so with such speed on bumpy roads. And the truck sped like blazes. The truck arrived, I stepped out, they saw vomit all around, “What do you think you’re doing, bugger?” And I said, “I kept calling you,” and I really knocked and shouted that I felt bad and that I suffered from travel sickness, “I kept crying and knocking, asking to admit fresh air. You’re lucky I try to behave.” And they said: "No, bugger, you don’t know when you’re well off, you are lucky to be alive because usually we finish off the like of you here.” I retorted that I survived, because otherwise they would catch it in the neck, they would be punished… Such naïveté at a mature age that is.
I provide a reasoning for the fact that a new public mood began to emerge. Both we felt it and people who were coming to visit us. The society underwent changes and we really plugged in. We felt our weight and authoritativeness. And in Perm it was much harder than in Mordovia, and on the eve of the agony of the regime they raged; there was exorbitant psychological pressure exerted on Vasyl Stus and me; of course, everyone was under pressure but Stus was their primary target for his martial spirit. We all also were irreconcilable, but not so aggressive, while he was very adamant.
In January I was brought to Komi, to Troitsko-Pechorsk. There three episodes occurred when my life was endangered. I began to raise a fuss and they said, “Look here, Uke, stop showboating and insisting on your rights. From Kotlas here to Vorkuta two Ukes lie under each sleeper.” I understood how they treated us, the Ukes.” There were hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians… And my first impression: the room, the dormitory were free people lived. We were lodged there. They put me on record in the Troitsko-Pechorsk Region, but I had to live in Milva.
V.Kipiani: The Village of Milva?
I.Hel: Right, the Village of Milva. Mykhailo Osadchy lived in the same dorm, but in the next room. And Mykhailo was taken from there. He went, because he had 7 +3 and I had 10 +5. That is Mykhailo was given the term of ten years, he finished his term and went to Lviv, and I was lodged in his lived-in place. People over there remembered him and showed the room where he lived. I also lived on the first floor, but in another room. In that room no one lived for two or three weeks. The numerous settlers were lumbermen; a lot of people worked there, especially in winter. And I arrived in winter. There was central heating and dorm supervisor showed me where I would live. She switched on light: the bedbugs ran every which way on the wall; in the dark all of them return. They were everywhere. And there was a rug one meter by fifty or seventy centimeters, maybe one hundred and twenty centimeters, so they started hiding there from the light and they also were falling in other places all over the room. She started to say, “You certainly see the bedbugs here but it is not worth paying attention to them. Usually we spray dichlorvos to control them.” She briskly pulled the rug and then thousands of bedbugs were swarming there! My God, I remembered again the transit prisons: the cells were bare and were no such swarms. And here I was at large, in exile! I asked her: “Do you have a bedbug breeding station here?” She said, “You’re a queer customer! Haven’t you seen bedbugs? Where are you from?” I had a prisoner’s haircut and stayed in prison wear, only I was given not a striped uniform, which I used to put on in prison, but a black one, which we were wearing in the tight security zone. We differentiated those uniforms as stripes and blackies. Black uniform is usually used in sanatoriums and health resorts… She asked again: “Haven’t you seen bedbugs? From where have you come?” And so I lodged in the room and then turned to her in a friendly manner: “Oh, how can I drop off to sleep today? Maybe, you’ve got another room here… “—“I will try and see: maybe that smaller one where Osadchy stayed?” I did not know anything yet and asked: “Really? Did Osadchy stay here?”—“Yes, he left here a month ago, maybe, less or more.” He had to finish his term on January 12 but it looks like they reduced his prison term and discharged him, anyway he did go.
V.Kipiani: I think they had to take into account the transportation delay counting one day as three, or hadn’t they?
I.Hel: Ah, yes. And they did not make such counting in my case: I was released from Milva on January 14, 1987 and I was arrested on January 12… If those transportations under guard were accounted for I would have been released much earlier. On January 13 they issued me the Soviet passport instead of the certificate, not the “certificate of the exile”, I will show it to you later.
She came: “No, the room is unavailable.” I started asking: “Did Mykhailo Osadchy live here?”—“Yes. Will you be drinking as much as Osadchy?”—“Did Osadchy drink?”—“Did not you know it?”—“No, I did not.”—“He was constantly on the booze here!” I was at a loss: I knew Mykhailo liked to drink, but hard drinking is another pair of shoes. At the time I did not yet know what hard drinking meant there and when I saw how the lumbermen were drinking… When my wife arrived, we at first lived in the dorm, and a year or a year and a half later we were given an apartment. A neighbor came to me to ask for money because he had nothing to live on. I lent him two hundred karbovanetses. He took rather long to pay a debt. And then the prohibition law was passed, when Mikhail Gorbachev was in power, because I went into exile when Brezhnev was still alive. Then Andropov, then Chernenko, then Mikhail Gorbachev and then they passed this prohibition law of Gorbachev-Ligachev. I could not even imagine that people could own such sums of money. I knew how much they earned. I came to him to borrow money. “Andriyovych, take as much as you need!” He kept money in the linen cupboard: after the adoption of the prohibition law he had nothing to drink. “Mykhailo, please, give me yourself.”—“You just take as much as you need!” I opened the closet and saw there not stacks of linen as a houseproud woman would arrange but heaps of money: twenty-five-karbovanets, fifty-karbovanets and one-hundred-karbovanets notes. He did not know, where to spend them. When vodka was sold, he came to me to borrow money. I worked as a fireman, or even not a fireman, but ash-remover, assistant fireman. That means I had eighty-seven karbovanetses, 30% of North increment because it was my first year, and no increments were provided for. That is, I had 130 karbovanetses, and he came to me to borrow. That means the people there had a whole lot of money and lived to squander everything on drink. I saw it all: when they got money they used to go on the booze and stay out of work. There were also our migrant workers from Halychyna, there were many migrant workers from Zakarpattia, they did not drink or if they did they never outraged all decency.
Otherwise my life in exile was rather uneventful. There were interesting Communist party and Komsomol meetings. I will tell about it if there is a chance. Let’s go for the lady of the house is getting nervous.
[End of recording]
 Or “Village Farmer” (translator’s note).
 Ukrainian National Democratic Alliance (translator’s note).
 From 1943 the Russians officially call it the Rus Orthdox Church while the Ukrainians call it the Russian Orthdox Church to tell it from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which is considered the true heir of old Rus Orthodox Church (translator’s note).
 District in Western Ukraine (translator’s note).
 Headwear of Ukrainian military (translator’s note).
 Rank equivalent with captain (translator’s note).
 The West Ukrainian People’s Republic, a short-lived republic that existed in late 1918 and early 1919 in eastern Halychyna (translator’s note).
 According to the handshake etiquette, the person in a higher position of authority or age should be the first one to extend a hand (translator’s note).
 The territory of land near and along the banks of Dnipro River (translator’s note).
 The Franko’s booklet What is Progress? Contained no criticism of Lenin and even didn’t mention his name (translator’s note).
 In the USSR the special fund was a library holding for banned literature (translator’s note).
 Shchedrivka is an old Ukrainian genre of folk songs sung in connection with the New Year and Christmas celebrations (translator’s note).
 The Vechornytsi is a kind of Ukrainian traditional entertainments during long evenings in the fall and in winter (translator’s note).
 For Kyivites the main Polish transmission link was organized by the editors of Nasze Slovo Weekly. At the time Stepan Pawlyshche, a Polish student at Taras Shevchenko University in Kyiv, was one of the main messengers (translator’s note).
 Kum (prison slang) is a prison officer listening to information given by squealers (translator’s note).
 There is a play on words in Ukrainian: “yefreitor” (corporal) and “yevrey” (Jew) (translator’s note).
 The military rank in Ukrainian army or officer of local administration (14th c.) (translator’s note).
 In fact, it was an almanac (translator’s note).
 At the time it was called in Ukrainian “magnitvydav” (translator’s note).
 At the time there were two main collection of tape recordings belonging to Ivan Svitlychny and Yuri Shcherbak (translator’s note).
 Very strong tea (criminal slang) (translator’s note).
 Russian slang: mince pies (translator’s note).
 Jennie Gerhardt is a 1911 novel by Theodore Dreiser (translator’s note).
 His correct name is Eduard Samoylovich (translator’s note).
 In fact, they began serving their prison terms in the early 1971 (translator’s note).
 Kuznetsov’s Diaries were published in Russian in 1973 (translator’s note).
 In the source text there is also an uncompleted sentence (translator’s note).
 Chifir addict (translator’s note).
 The Katyn massacre took place in the Katyn forest not far from the village of the same name (translator’s note).
 Member of the Slavic Church of the Holy Spirit (translator’s note).
 The subsequent text is a rather personal view of certain theological realities maintained by Mr. Hel (translator’s note).
 "The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom" is an illustrated religious magazine, published semimonthly in 220 languages by Jehovah’s Witnesses via the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania and printed in various branch offices around the world. Along with its companion magazine, "Awake!", Jehovah’s Witnesses distribute The Watchtower—Public Edition in their door-to-door ministry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Watchtower (translator’s note).
 Sovok as an adjective expresses the condemnatory attitude towards the realities of Soviet past (translator’s note).
 Common fund of a criminal community (translator’s note).