virtual museum
Dissident movement in Ukraine

SIRYI Vasyl Ivanovych

18.12.2014 | Vasyl Ovsiyenko | Interview, April 3, 2001

V.V.Ovsiyenko: On April 3, 2001, in Dnipropetrovsk, we are talking with Vasyl Ivanovych Siryi in his apartment on the Slava Boulevard. Mariya Dmytrivna, his wife, takes part in our conversation.

V.I.Siryi: I, Vasyl Siryi, was born in the regional center of Kodyma, Odesa Oblast. Earlier this town belonged to Podillia region, a few kilometers from the border with the Vinnytsia Oblast. The population of our regional center consisted mainly of Ukrainians, as well as small number of Jews and Poles. Almost homogeneous population. There I experienced all horrors of the Soviet system. Ever since childhood I remember the Holodomor, I remember very well the arrests when people were apprehended for nothing. It meant the extermination of the Ukrainian nation.

I was born on April 4, 1926 into a worker’s family. My father was Ivan Vasyliovych Siryi. From times immemorial in our family we had two combinations interchanging: Ivan Vasyliovych and Vasyl Ivanovych. I am proud of my father, because he was an independent and very hard-working man respected by our countrymen. He had a rugged life without a gleam of hope: the World War I, in which he participated, then collectivization set in. He escaped this campaign while working as a railroader. We lived near the station, he had good horses, it was a pity to donate them to the farm, and became a railroader working in a switching crew. Back then the cars were small: he put to them two horses and threw switches… And later he mastered the profession of carpenter. I do not remember what happened to those horses… He worked as a carpenter; he was, so to speak, a professional carpenter. And my mother, of course, was a housewife.

V.O.: What are the years of his life his father and mother.

V.S.: My father was born in 1892 and my mother was born ten years later, in 1902. My father lived until 1973. At the time I had been already in jail and could not attend the funeral, it was such a tragedy. It’s, you know, many people had such feeling.

V.O.: What were your mother’s name and her maiden name?

V.S.: My mother’s name was Lebziak: in Kodyma many people have a name of Lebziak. Lebziak Liubov Petrivna and my father was Siryi Ivan Vasyliovych, he was born three kilometers from Kodyma in the Village of Ivashkiv. When he married my mother, they lived in Kodyma and they lived all their lives together. My mother died in 1992, here in this room, there was her small room, and we buried her over here.

My biography is as follows. From 1941 to 1944 I was on the occupied territory in Kodyma. There had been a change of invaders, i.e. the red invaders had expelled the brown invaders, expelled the invaders, and I was immediately called up for military service. In the army I served six and a half years. In the army I was in four branches of troops: at first I was sent for instruction courses where infantrymen were prepared for the front, but then came the commanding officers from a tank unit and ordered to select the most talented and healthy infantrymen for the tank unit. I found myself among other selected infantrymen. It was a small group as compared with that division: it was a training division in the Ryazan Oblast, Siltsy; in this known location they trained specialists for the front. From there I was transferred to the Horohovetsky tank camp. At the time they called them camps. There I passed out a full course.

Before send me to the front, it so happened that one tank that was called an “in-house manager”—it supplied water, firewood, its tower was removed--drove to the lake to fill a cistern. And the cistern stood on ice. Having been filled the weighty cistern fell through the ice and pulled the tank along. The commander called me: “Start your tank, drive there and pull it out. “We arrived there and the commander was with us. I reckoned that it would be difficult to pull it out with the towing cable we had. We hooked onto it, but I warned in advance that this cable would not hold. We started to pull, but no way, we got nothing by it. Then we inserted a piece of wood into the track and pulled again - nothing made. The commander ordered to jerk, and I objected that it wouldn’t be to any avail because the cable wouldn’t hold. But an order was an order, I jerked and the cable broke.

We drove to the station or some railroad shop and brought a good cable. And then I had to hook that tank. It stuck out from water surrounded with ice. Ice was everywhere; I slipped and fell into the water. By the time they pulled me out of water my body became too cold, and when they brought me to the medical unit, there was no doctor. By the time they found him, by the time they changed my clothes, the body cooled down, and I ran a very high temperature.

I was sent to the hospital. In the hospital I met frontline soldiers for the first time: we hadn’t met frontline soldiers before (I saw the front line passing through Kodyma). In the hospital the frontline soldiers told me about Bandera formations.

V.O.: When did it happen to you? In what month were you called up for military service?

V.S.: I have it jotted down somewhere, I do not remember now: either the end of 1944 or the beginning of 1945, it was in winter. I was called up in May 1944.

I completed the course of medical treatment in the hospital. According to the laws of the time they did not send me back to my unit, but to a transit camp. And from the transit camp they sent me to an artillery unit.

I served in the artillery up to the end of the war. This unit was disbanded. The militia officers arrived and our entire battalion was taken to Moscow to serve in the internal security troops. There the captain and lieutenant boasted about the internal troops. I did not want to serve in these units because I knew what they had done. And I asked, “Tell me, if, for example, my heart is not with it, and I would like to get demobilized and get education in humanities?” Here he raised his voice and ordered to shut up. I was summoned to the dugout of the battalion commander. Here they swore dirtily at me. I said: “I cannot. Unless you force me…”—”No, you’re under oath and you shall go!”—”Well, well, you may make out an assignment. Just for your information: if you send me to a jail, I will open the gates at night and set free all prisoners. If you order me to convoy the prisoners, I’ll set them free on the nearest corner.” He started dirty-mouthing me: “Cross him out and let him go to grass! His arms will be shovel and stretcher!” I was struck out. And they all went to Moscow, and I was sent to the transit camp together with several young children, who had criminal records.

So a number of soldiers from that unit were sent to the transit station in the city of Vladimir. The so called, “buyers” go there to pick necessary men. I was taken to the air unit near the City of Noginsk. It was a military unit, to which the lend-lease aircraft and spare parts were sent. I stayed there until the end of 1950. Then Defense Minister Vasilevskiy issued an order (I have in my archives somewhere) and I was demobilized. But in Noginsk in the postwar period, I had no rank whatsoever because they wrote in my personal record that I refused to serve in the internal troops. But they saw that I was a good soldier-- it is inconvenient for me to speak positively about myself--and they designated me to various posts. Initially they appointed me a container storehouse commander; then they made me the switchboard operator.

When I was the switchboard operator they asked the deputy commander in charge of policy if I was allowed to go to the evening school in Noginsk. He allowed, and for two years I studied because in prewar period I finished only seven classes, and the war began. And so it was with all children of my age. In Noginsk I finished the eighth and ninth grades and entered the tenth grade, but they forbade me to proceed with my studies: the commander summoned me and said that he received written requests from other soldiers, who wanted like Siryi to go to school. This is army and you will continue your studies after the demobilization. Therefore I completed only nine grades.

But when the order of the minister about demobilization was issued, I went to second in command for political control again and said head that the school year is about to begins, I have to be demobilized these months, and I will lose a year, let me go to the tenth grade to continue my studies. After the demobilization I will finish the school and join an institute of higher education. I obtained a permit, I went to school, and on October 16, 1950 I was discharged.

I was discharged and went to my native Kodyma. But I’ve missed one thing. When I served as a switchboard operator, I was repeatedly sent to the City of Odesa. We accepted a trainload of vehicles: ZIS trucks without sides; in Odesa Plant the Sichnevoho Povstannia Plant mounted cranes and forwarded there the trainload of trucks. Along with other servicemen I turned over these trucks and while they mounted cranes I had free time. I used it to go to Kodyma. And there I met my fiancée. I knew her since the earliest childhood: she lived next door to my grandfather, whom I came by very often, and we as children played there outdoors. She was junior to me by four years; at the time everybody used to play with the children of the same age. And of course I like a boy ragged, and she ran to the grandmother, who stood at the wicket gate and watched after children’s play, so she ran to complain that “your Vasyl scattered our piles of dust, which we had gathered, reason please with him.” The grandma beckoned Vasyl, “Why are you hurting such a good girl, she’ll be your fiancée in the future.” Such were her words. I grew angry, “Just look at this barefooted daughter-in-law.” In this way we knew each other.

During the war there was a very great fire and the whole street burned out. It was the Palm Sunday. I do not know the cause of the fire, but after the fire, I helped my grandfather to make a new roof over the free-standing storeroom. I helped her brother, who since 1921 was an artisan. Once her mother came with her to look how we were managing there. Then I saw that this growing-up little girl was cute. But it happened on the eve of the draft campaign. When I was drafted and later traveled to Odesa to formalize the transfer of trainloads containing truck cranes, I used to come to Kodyma. I had to give a call to this Sichnevoho Povstannia Plant and ask if our order was ready. I went to the post office and she was a postmaster at the Odesa Railroad Terminal. I spotted a familiar face. I could hardly recognize her over these years: I was in the army for six and a half years. I looked at this pretty girl and asked: “Are you Mariya Shuturmynska?”This was her maiden name. We have many names ending in in “-ska”, but all of them are pureblooded Ukrainians. She said yes and I exclaimed: “Oh, a Leveret!” And on our street we called them hares. “So what, do you have a boyfriend?”—”Not yet.”—”May I see you home?”—”As you like.” And since then we became close friends. I went back to Noginsk convoying the trainload. I took this route many times since convoying trucks and each time we met and agreed that when I would serve my time we would marry.

And so it happened. On October 16, 1950 I was discharged, and on November 6 we got married. I am a bit ashamed of having married on the sixth which was on the eve of the seventh, which we now really hate. But, you know, I was too young at the time therefore let’s consider it excusable… For our golden wedding I ordered a special sign to be made: “1950 – 2000, Kodyma - Dnipropetrovsk, 50 years together.” She kept waiting for me all 13 years when I was jailed.

After the demobilization I finished the Kodyma evening high school. I was the initiator of the creation of this school, because earlier there had been no evening school. For about two weeks I attended day school: we asked the director to admit us as auditors. But it was considered inappropriate for a married man to meddle with schoolchildren. Therefore we asked the principal so that he admits us to the school while we pester the authorities to open an evening high school, and then we will go over there. The evening high school was opened in the mid-year and I finished it. And then in 1951 I entered the Odesa Pedagogical Institute, Department of Geography. I had a calling for geography. I graduated in 1955 and was sent to my native Kodyma Region, the Village of Semenivka. I worked there for two years and then I was transferred to the central basic high school no. 1.

I loved my job; I did a lot of useful things. At the time they required to organize geographic sites; when I came, the high school still had no such site. Before me there worked a woman without pedagogical education. I set up an international-friendship hobby group which was later banned under the pretext that spies used these letters and wrote in color ink. But school tourism was my priority hobby. In this field I did more than anybody else in Ukraine. Now I will show you albums and photos. We traveled all over the European part of the Soviet Union including the Crimea, Carpathians, boat cruise down the stream of Dnipro to Kyiv, Leningrad and Leningrad Oblast, and many cities except Moscow. The latter became the sticking point and they accused me that at the time I already had an anti-Soviet bias and neglected the capital of the Soviet Union… The traveling impressions were written down in albums and I always had my camera with me. At school we had photo-showcases. Such was my love for the school tourism.

The new second secretary of the Region Committee of the Communist Party Mervinskyi was appointed in 1968. And then I came to grief. I was summoned to the regional committee of the party. I belonged to no party: in the basic high school no. 1 all male teachers were communists and I was the only a non-party teacher. Several times I was offered to join, but I refused joking that I was not prepared or something else. And they knew it all and saw everything. And those were terrible years: it was a must that communists should be everywhere. If you are an unaffiliated person, you are a pawn, and you are endangered in many ways.

Mervinskyi was appointed at this critical time. This young man graduated from the Kyiv Higher Party School, and his relative--I did not know this at the time-- headed in the Odesa Oblast Party Committee the department of propaganda and agitation. Therefore Mervinskyi held great sway over the region. You may consider my further story unreal: it’s hard to believe but it’s true.

V.O.: Right, water under the bridge.

V.S.: Many party members were rogues, unworthy people, including this Mervinskyi. He was a boozer who got out of hand when he drank. When he got drunk he used to dump his load in the presence of other people; just that: he moved his bowels.

And so the conflict began, when I refused to give up my workplace. My parents live here, I’ve built my habitation on the estate of my father with the help of my father; why should I abandon all of it and go following my nose because Mister Mervinskyi arrived and his wife needs a place of employment? His wife, by the way, did not even have pedagogical education. But it was the custom. When I was summoned to the district committee of the party and told to share class periods with her, I said, “Excuse me, there are not too many geography lessons at school, just the norm, one wage rate, 18 class periods per week, and no one has the right to deprive me of them.” What do they do? They send for a Jew Fishman (a history teacher) and said: “Share some class periods with Mervinska so that she could get a job at this school and be a full member of the teaching staff.” He asked, “What do you mean? I have only one wage rate, too.” They countered saying, “We have thought about you. You share only a fraction of class periods, and we are about to open regional film library at the school and you will manage it receiving higher wage rate. As a result you’ll have two wage rates.” Well, you know, as a member of the party and a Jew, he agreed. And she got this job. The next year they brought up a question at the staff meeting, because she was already a full member of the team: let’s share the geography lessons, why not? Siryi has two children and she has two children, why shouldn’t they share? But there exists the instruction of the oblast department of public education: I have the higher education. I said, “No, I disagree, I did my best and had no grudges against me, but rather a number of commendations.” I did not agree.

And things began to take off. I expected such a twist because I knew all of these combinations. But I was careless and said wrong words about the party; I said that the members of the party can go too far. They caught at the word and fired me. Well, you know, the way of life at the time.

V.O.: What was the year of your dismissal?

V.S.: 1969. Amid the school year, here it is. (Reads) “On March 28, 1969 according to the order of the Odesa Oblast Department of Public Education to dismiss the geography teacher of the Kodyma high school no. 1 under Article 47, paragraph ”g“ of the Labor Code of the UkrSSR.” This is a de facto ban on the profession. “Due to the anti-Soviet and anti-communist and anti-Russian views. He described Russians as occupiers.” But when I was fired for the first time, I managed to be reinstated in my former job. I wrote a letter to Brezhnev describing the situation in details. I was summoned to the Oblast Party Committee, Department of Schools, and they reinstated me. But I was already very excited and qualified party as a dishonest organization… I do not remember the wording now. In three months I was fired again. That happened in March: the same article, paragraph “g” if you find the Labor Code, which reads…

V.O.: Maybe “discharge for inaptitude”?

V.S.: No, it reads the same omitting the word “political”. This was like articles in our printed media about prohibition on trade overseas. It’s the same thing, but wording is a little bit different.

I played with the idea of writing a book. I wrote it in Russian: Harmfulness of one-party system and its consequences. It contained chapters which were unacceptable at the time: “Advantages of political pluralism as compared to monistic system”, “The state of Soviets is the state of contrasts”, “Lenin without a mask.” Against Lenin… Later I read Solzhenitsyn, but at the time I had no idea of him while writing my book. I collected considerable material about Lenin. A person who analyzes his decrees, his actions… I would like you to read a few pages… I wrote about executions by a firing squad in the ‘20s before I was born; however I learned about it from my parents and from the residents of Kodyma. It was a great tragedy. After attempt on Lenin’s life they announced the so-called war communism[1]. Then they instructed the oblast[2] punishing organs how many people should be shot to death and oblast officers sent the planned targets down to regional castigators. The punitive expedition consisted of a Russian chief and a bunch of tipplers or potheads who were convinced that “We, who were nothing, shall be all!”[3] During two nights they shot and killed 156 people in Kodyma. It happened in 1920, before I was born. It was very scary, I described these events.

The book being written, I wanted to publish it at whatever the cost. I failed to bring it to an editorial office. I was arrested on April 22, 1970, when the whole country was loudly celebrating the centenary of Lenin’s birth; the preparations went full speed. Everybody was preparing to observe the centenary; I was also getting ready to celebrate it in a different way.

I was so moved by then: I saw and experienced this life for myself, the breach of justice, I saw it not as a party but as a mob of thugs and I wrote about it as such. The party members were mobsters: it was a party of aliens, a Jewish party; its ideology was worked out by Jews abroad and adopted by the Jews of the Soviet Union and Russia, while here in Ukraine it was something artificial. First of all, it constituent assembly took place not in Ukraine but in Moscow in 1918, there were only representatives from Ukraine, and all the rest were Russians. And we were told that it was a Ukrainian Communist Party[4]. I collected a lot of materials. I was so moved, and I strived not for revenge, but for retaliation. I have a translation, but I do not remember…

I wanted to do something. The Odesa Oblast Party Committee was situated on the Zhovtnevy Square near Odesa railroad terminal. There’s already a new building, but at the time the premises were occupied by the Odesa Oblast Party Committee. There stood a big monument to Lenin; opposite the Odesa Oblast Party Committee they were building the high-riser of the Oblast Executive Committee. The building was practically finished and only the woodwork remained. The building was fenced around; there was a lot of timberwork: flooring, baseboards, windows, and boxes. There was a whole pile of timberwork. The thought had crossed my mind that it might be worthwhile to set it all on fire during the demonstration. I saw round the territory and concluded that one could easily get there. At the time they made fences of boards and not of concrete slabs like now. I had a humpback Zaporozhets car of the first model. I pulled out nails at the base of the boards with a tire lever so that the boards were like pendulums. Oh well. I found a partner for this job, but he made the slip of the tongue in the hostel and I was betrayed. When everything was ready, I drove up to this place: it was a usual working day until dinner, and after dinner they gathered at their plants and went to take part in the demonstration at the monument to Lenin.

V.O.: Was it on April 22, 1969?

V.S.: Right, on April 22. In the evening I drove my car and looked in the rear view mirror and noticed that a car followed me. When I pulled up to the intersection where the traffic-controller stood to let the demonstrators pass the car driver waved to this militia officer and he turned about and immediately stopped me. I suspected something, but thought that maybe I was wrong. I tried to control the field of vision but their cars took turns while tailing me. Later I learned for sure that I had been tailed. When I came to the site and took with me my needments--fuel, and primer (fuse), and all--and I also had two homemade bombs. One I blasted on the outskirts of Odesa to see its destruction power, and the other remained in my storage. I thought it might be useful too and the KGB confiscated it. Now, when I wanted to get there, their cars blocked my way. The seizure party caught me in the act, took away keys, opened the doors of my car and took everything away. They put me in their car, on the back seat, the officers slid in the front seats and there was also a uniformed militiaman. I was immediately brought to the department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. There I stayed for about two hours, and then they brought me to the KGB on the Bebel Street. On the way I saw that my car followed us behind.

I was accused under five articles. Here I well on all five articles. First came the article 56: high treason. I had never betrayed my homeland; I betrayed Moscow and its policy. Article 62: you already know it because you were found guilty under the same article. Article 75: preparation for fleeing abroad in order “to initiate struggle against the Soviet Union”. Then there was article 222, part 1: firearms and explosives. Moreover, I had a sawn-off gun. Article 89, part 2: preparation for arson inside the administrative during the holiday demonstration. Such was the whole bunch of my articles.

I truly say that I do not feel ashamed of such articles. I reckon that to be a fighter is better than any other alternative. We must do something about this instead of… Now I may conclude that was mistaken when after my discharge I started working in these organizations, parties beginning with the URP, in Rukh, I wasted my time, and since 1993 until now, for eight years already, I have been heading the oblast organization of political prisoners and repressed. In general, it would be better for me to take the path of struggle.

V.O.: And I’m interested in the details of this case: somehow you had to get those bombs…

V.S.: Well, now, they were gunpowder bombs, just of the common type. I ordered to found me a shell and then I figured out what should be done next. A man needed money and I asked to found a thing. I calculated the strength so that it should have a good kill potential. I made sure that it would burst initiated by a fuse. I had to test it. I took my car, drove to the outskirts, to a woodland belt, tied it there, did necessary preparations, lit the fuse and drove back to the highway. I stood on the wayside and waited. I looked at the clock, in a prearranged time it exploded as it should. I drove home, and only in a few days I returned to see the results and thoroughly checked everything.

The gunpowder then was freely sold in the shops: please come, they did not even ask for a hunting ticket. It was easy to buy, as well as weapons. All this I intended to use not for criminal purposes, but to show so to say…

I will go on now, and then we will return to one instance… to “retribution.” “Revenge” and “retribution” are apples and oranges.

V.O.: “Revenge” and “retribution”.

V.S.: Yes, retribution. You know, here in Kodyma there was a man who also chose this way. in 1920 they shot and killed 156 people, numerous arrests followed, many people were exterminated; all of it is described here. It’s difficult for me to read all that. I wrote it, but it is difficult for me to read it. I’ll give you the copy to read about developments in Kodyma. There came a hero whose family was exterminated: his father and someone else, I do not know. He bought guns and went to the regional committee of the party; you know, at the time one could freely enter the regional committee of the party, they pretended to be lambs doing, in fact, the most terrible things; he killed the first secretary of the regional committee of the party right in his office. And he wanted to run away…

V.O.: Do you know his name? When did this happen?

V.S.: I do not know. I describe him more or less in my writing. At that time I was in the junior school. All Kodyma was stirred the, all residents went to the funeral, even the school was drawn in, too. I was a third-grader then. The junior classes were not allowed to go to the funeral, and I stood in front of my school, when people were carrying this corpse. But everyone knew what’s what and there were virtually no sympathizers, only pretenders. I described this case. Moreover, a local plant was burnt there as well: it was a big cannery of all-union importance, from which the swirls and jars were sent to all oblasts of the Soviet Union. In pre-war period it was also put on fire. I approve of such action of these people. It was an inadmissible behavior, but, look, how do they treat us now? We are old, we are superfluous people. I am past my 76th birthday. We are helpless. And young people are eager to get high and nothing more. They are fighting for their lives, for their existence, and for their children. They do not give a damn for their homeland, the state; the nationhood does not ring a bell for them. They do not read our press. There are many books, magazines, newspapers… who read them now? The likes of us go on reading, while they are not accustomed to reading. They speak a foreign language. Such is the case.

V.O.: What court of law judged you and when?

V.S.: Odesa Oblast. (He reads): “On October 13, 1970 the Odesa Oblast Court on the basis of submitted Moscow documents considered my case without my presence, without my lawyer and without my witnesses. The judge and the prosecutor were Russian chauvinists. It was not a proper trial but a judicatory initiated by Moscow mobsters. According to the court order, I was sent to a special jail without determined jail term, and in fact, until further notice of the Moscow KGB, i.e. I was sentenced to a life imprisonment. After thirteen years in prison, I miraculously survived, was released and returned home. I should give Ukrainian diaspora the credit for it because it constantly stormed its Washington government for human rights and rights of Soviet political prisoners in the Soviet Union calling many of us, including me, by name. As a result, many countries broke trade relations with the Soviet Union.” You may remember this. “Only then the Brezhnev government came round and we miraculously survived and were released.” Thus reads my autobiography.

V.O.: And where were you?

V.S.: Presently I will tell you. At the time I was truly angry with them: they were nothing but a common gang! I then wrote that they were professional criminals. I was the one who formalized it writing that they were real bandits. Now, wherever you go—at the market or in transport, or elsewhere—you may hear that they are gangsters, gangsters, gangsters. Then I was alone, and now everyone says it.

V.O.: Did they take away your texts?

V.S.: Right, after the search in Odesa and at my apartment they took the documents away. I kept all my drafts in a shed. It was easy to find my hiding place: I hid the documents in the stack of one-meter-long firewood. I cut out a sort of pockets and put them there. The KGB officers carried out a search when I was in Odesa and simultaneously the drove to Kodyma and performed a search over there. An officer entered the shed, looked around, saw nothing special and went away. They went down into the cellar, looked around, but nothing was hidden in the cellar. They performed a thorough search in my house: they turned over every page in the books, looked through every document page by page expecting to find inscriptions of sorts or something. They found nothing. My wife preserved this archive and on its basis I restored everything. I have a great desire to write about all this, but I haven’t touched this archive for eight years already. This is what happened.

You are wondering where I was sent. You see what they did: when they read this and when they conducted the investigation, I accused them of gangster attack against me. It was a violation of the law: nobody had the right to sack me if I had been sent there by the order of the oblast department of public education. The order stipulated that I had to work there until my retirement. They could fire me only if I compromised myself. It wasn’t my case; the only reason was their wish to vacate a place of work for the wife of Mervinskyi.

I’ve missed one very important point: when drunk this Mervinskyi behaves inadmissibly. One day, in the evening, he was crossing the yard of the culture house. At the end of the yard there was a latrine in unsanitary condition. He went there and fell into the cesspool with feces and went to sleep. Some guys were going by; they struck a match and saw a man lying there. They went to the public-call box and called militia. Militia arrived, the guys followed the militia officers, but the officers kept mum thinking that those guys would help them. When they switched on their flashlights (and they knew Mervinskyi!) they turned the guys out at once. Somehow the officers wiped him, dragged him to the car and drove home. But the next day the story was getting about: in our school, among local intelligentsia and then among all people. The party bureau under the regional party committee had but convene a meeting and discuss his behavior. The bureau scolded his behavior. However his relative was a department head at the oblast party committee… I even know the name of this relative: head of the department of propaganda and agitation of the Odesa Oblast Party Committee Onufriyev, and they took his opinion into consideration; therefore the things moved as follows: they hauled Mervinskyi over the coals, and then the first secretary of the Communist Party took the floor and said, “You see, we’ve thoroughly studied the problem and seen that it has nothing to do with the alcohol abuse, because it is a result of illness. And that is why he found himself in the cesspool. In fact, he was drunk but it happened for the first time and was a result of illness, therefore we will issue a reprimand.” And they entered a reprimand in his registration cards.

After a while this Mervinskyi was sent to the Budeyi Village, 12 kilometers from Kodyma; he had to inspect the collective farm. While he carried out the inspection, they set the tables, because he was too fond of the bottle. He got drunk, and when the sun was setting and many people were returning from the field, he squatted down amid the collective farm yard and started evacuating the bowels. The villagers make him the butt for jokes. The first secretary of the Communist party committee got informed. In this case he didn’t gather the bureau members but summoned him, gave him a good scolding, and he promised that he would turn over a new leaf.

I was arrested and was already doing my term. My wife came to see me and told me that there was in Kyiv a conference of the secretaries of regional party committees. Mervinskyi went there and met with the students in the same year of the higher party school and after the conference they went somewhere and got drunk. They were just folks, but he could not hold himself in check and somewhere in Kyiv he put off his pants, squatted down and defecated. Suddenly a militia officer popped out: “Hey, you, let’s go, move, move!” And he retorted: “Fuck off! Do you have an idea who I am? I am the regional party committee secretary!” The officers thought that he was nuts and took appropriate measures: they pinioned him, thrust him into their car and brought him to a detox center. In the center they searched him and found documents: he was regional party committee secretary indeed! They reported up the chain of command and despite the interference of Onufriyev from the oblast party committee he was safely ignored and the respective order read: to gather the party bureau and sack him immediately. And it worked.

And now consider this: my whole life was soured because of that rogue! They acted regardless of everything. He was fired and sent somewhere as the village party organizer, the Serby Village, it seems, where he had worked in the past. He went on drinking there and showing off, but that was a far-away place. Until very recently, until the latest presidential elections, he worked in the editorial office… well, you know, even today the Communists are in great esteem. During the elections he stood for Symonenko and Kuchma used to oust all his opponents. He was fired again, and now he is a retiree. Immediately after I was arrest his wife was sacked because she had not pedagogical education.

Now, how they treated me. It is awkward to say so, but during the investigation I comported myself heroically, and it was true. When they brought me the documents to sign I looked them through and found that they made wrongful accusations against; I tore them and threw away. They put me in the cell at once. During the investigation I maintained that as far as they cooked articles for me, there were articles for those who committed injustices. There is also a punishment for those who abuses authority, humiliates or remits. There is the Brezhnev’s containing these articles and I will stand my ground. So they saw my line of behavior in court: I would demand and expose them.

Then Synytsia was the secretary of the Odesa Oblast party committee; he managed to stay in office for a long time. He was a drunkard like Mervinskyi. They picked several times the intoxicated secretary on the street and drove him home. Once they failed to recognize him and brought him to the detox center; when he awoke, he gave them a good talking-to; after that they came running and asked him to forgive them. I have a clipping from the newspaper “Izvestia”: the article is called “It is only a beginning”. The article covered this Synytsia case. On the eve of my arrest, the Moscow commission arrived to check the work of party organization. There were facts of the sell-out of plots of land along the Black-Sea shore; the numerous machinations were carried out and therefore the secretary was on the booze.

My friend Hennadiy, a taxi driver, told me about these machinations: we lived together in the apartment of my uncle, who was a doctor. I could not believe: I thought that nothing like this could happen with the first secretary of the party committee. I still have those clippings telling how they picked this drunkard on the street. It reads that nobody could get into the boss’s office but Solianyk who used to open the door with his foot for in his hands he carried a “weighty suitcase” with foreign goods. Solianyk was the captain of a diesel-electric ship of the whaling fleet “Slava”. All of them were fired: Solianyk, Synytsia, Major General Haidamaka, and harbor master, but I do not remember his name…

When they brought me back from Moscow, where they conducted the expert examination—I will tell you about it a little later—they gave me a paper to read, and in the KGB I read an article about the consequences of the Moscow controllers. This was a red tape period. And they saw that I would talk about it in court, but they were also eager to save face of the party. What did they do? They sent me to the Serbsky Center in Moscow. They did it without consultations with the psychiatrists in Odesa or Kyiv, were a lot of expert examinations are conducted…

VA: Yes, they are usually carried out locally.

V.S.: Right. But they didn’t show me to anyone: simply packed me into a car and saw me out. When I arrived there, the trial was conducted without me: my wife coaxed them into admitting her into the empty courtroom.

V.O.: Now concerning the examination: in what month was it conducted and how long did it take? How did they treat you there? These details are important.

V.S.: Right, I’ll tell you. They treated me very well. I have no reasons for complaints: the bait hides the hook. I stayed there two terms: they wanted to prove that the assessment was absolutely legal; the length of testing was twice longer than necessary. They examined me thoroughly to exclude any possible error. And they made the diagnosis.

Colonel Kaliko was the investigator of cases of particular importance; he examined my case in the Odesa KGB. You may have heard of him? He was from the Kyiv KGB. He had a team of subordinates. Colonel Vasiliev came from Moscow to participate in my interrogation in the Odesa KGB. He began to persuade me to plead mental illness so that they could write off for the disease; then there would be no trial and everything would be easier. I did not agree. They went to Kodyma and called my old mother. My mother was semiliterate; she finished four classes of the ecclesiastic school. They treated her politely: you know Liubov Petrivna, we have considered the case of your son, he committed such terrible crimes that he’s slated for capital punishment, he may be sentenced to be shot. My mother broke down and wept… They showed her the fifty-sixth article: high treason, capital punishment, but we are humane, and our system is humane, and we want to resolve it somehow, so we have called to ask whether he suffered mental illness to write off everything for the disease, and undergo a treatment in a hospital, we will release him and that’s all; he only intended to commit a crime, but we stopped him just in time; therefore we ask you to remember whether he had any behavior deviations. My mother thought for a while and said, “Yes, in his early childhood he sometimes complained that he had a headache.” He takes notes. “Was he vomiting?”--“Yes, from time to time.” It isn’t true indeed: I belong to a family of healthy long-livers. My Grandfather lived up to 95 years. The second uncle, however, was exposed to radiation during navigation abroad and died of cancer. And my mother: she would have been 91, she fell ten days short of 91 years; she was a long-liver, too. Her mother lived for 93 years. My splendid health helped me to pull through all adversities.

This Vasiliev took this recorded information with him and later called my wife in this same connection. She said, “No, I lived with him for him and did not notice anything like this. There was no departure from the norm.” At the Serbsky Center they had no choice but to quote my mother’s data, even there they mentioned it to me. And Moscow KGB Colonel Vasyliev monitored my case. How did I learn about it? Once, during the doctor’s round I asked to be allowed to write a letter to my wife and tell her where I am, that I am alive and so on. The doctor told me he did not know how to do it. But there was an intern who was about to fill a position and she blabbed: “We might turn to Vasiliev.” I jumped at these words: so that’s the case! And they, apparently, danced to his fiddle.

After that I was sent from the Serbsky Center back to Odesa. I was kept there for two terms…

V.O.: For how long?

V.S.: For two months, while the time limit for such examination makes one month. So, it follows that they could say with absolute confidence that I was a sick man. Diagnosis… Have you managed to note it?… ” (Inaudible) …paranoid form.” After that they brought me from Moscow back to Odesa. Moscow trumped up all these cases; their conclusion contained a lot of silly things, however they sent it to the oblast court.

There was an oblast court judge Semionova; I do not know either her name or patronymics; and Dubravina was a prosecutor. From my side there were no witnesses. We hired a lawyer. The lawyer was recommended by the KGB officers, but in order to legalize him they tricked money out of my wife saying: “If you do not pay, I will go to court and you will also pay legal costs.” And so she had to pay; it was also a separate story. It was customary with officials in our country. It was the time when Brezhnev presided over the country. There was no final sentence. For those whom they had recognized mentally ill they wrote the court determination in Russian.

I served in captivity 13 years and 3 months. Initially I was sent to Dnipropetrovsk Oblast prison on 101, Chicherin Street. On the territory of the prison two buildings were allotted for the so-called mental hospital. They called it a psycho-prison, not a hospital. Nor was it the hospital. It was very awful. There they forcibly administered terrible poisonous drugs. None of the prisoners, who were with me, were punished with such cruelty as they punished me, especially with the so-called sulfazine, sulfur. This was a terrible thing: this drug was forbidden in the whole world, but the Soviet doctors administered it. After injection of sulfazine (sulfur) the patient runs a very high temperature of 40 degrees: you burn with fever, the pain is unbearable, and they do it again and again.

There were other toxic drugs; now I cannot remember all of them but I have them written down somewhere. I was dismissed in 1983 and I was transferred to the “civvy street” for a few months; it was a kind of a procedure when they gained time to set traps, to register and so on. I was brought to Dnipropetrovsk oblast nuthouse according to the place of residence of my wife. My wife brought me the first food package, I ate high-fat food and something terrible happened to me because I had never endured such pain in the stomach. It turned out that my stomach was already severely damaged: another year and I would never quit the institution as it was the case with many people. The next time she brought… and the same happened. When I was finally released… It is interesting: usually when they released a patient they handed her/him the discharge documents, but I received no documents. I have no documents as if thirteen years and three months I was not in the land of the living. This is true. I went to the Odesa court and wanted to see my file, I kept going there from Dnipropetrovsk but I was never allowed to see my file. Take note of it. They alluded to the recording official who was either absent or on vacation and nobody covered for him, there were other reasons as well. And so up to now I have not seen my case.

I was sent free and went to Dnipropetrovsk whereto my wife had moved. There lived her brother, who helped her to register, so that she could buy a shabby hut. That hut had to be pulled down and after a while she bought a cooperative apartment; it was a cooperative organized at some enterprise. She worked at the streetcar-and-trolley-coach depot; they built this house and she was given this apartment in the course of five or more years while I was jailed. She submitted registrations of my mother, two children, and my jail certificate, and so we got this apartment.

V.O.: Here is Mariya Dmytrivna.

M.D.Sira: I am the wife of Vasyl Siryi. When I visited him, sometimes I came, and he was normal, and sometimes I came and I did not recognize him: his face was square and twice or even four times as big as it normally should be. He could not talk with me; I am really sorry to go into details but he looked at me and shed tears and foam ran from his mouth alike in the case of rabid dog running and foaming. Many times I saw him in this condition

V.S.: Switch it off, because she may fail and her heart ... [The recorder is switched off].

M.D.Sira: When I arrived in Dnipropetrovsk, the head doctor who “treated” him said that he would stay there for quite a long time. So I decided to leave everything in Kodyma. His father had been paralyzed for fourteen years already, and I left him with my old mother, left my parents, took only my kids and went here to Dnipropetrovsk.

V.S.: She was called “the wife of a Decembrist” at the time.

M.D.Sira: I went to Dnipropetrovsk and I bought a shed there--he said that it was a hut--it was a shed. I boarded up it along the perimeter to make it habitable, because there was no money, nothing. I managed to land a job and was glad that I would be around and would see him twice a month. I had no idea what the future might hold. I got a job and worked as a conductor. I was not interested in the job: I wanted to live not far from him.

And then I saw such horrors as I told you. And it happened once and again. He later explained me that that was a result of continuous injections. However, at the time he couldn’t understand anything, couldn’t speak with me, nothing, he just kept looking and that’s all. They led him here and there like a figurine.

I will skip it now because my nerves will crack. I went to see him here for a very long time and then he was taken to Tatarstan.

V.O.: To Kazan?

M.D.Sira: Right. And I went there. On the way I thought that he would be completely different because the conditions there would be not identical. When I arrived there I barely found him; I had to visit three jails there until I found him. I found him and he came out looking the same as I saw him here: he was big, thick; in fact he was not thick but swollen. He was foaming. I looked… I made my way here to see and talk with him, but he did not utter a word, he just looked at me. I said: “Vasyl, I will come to you tomorrow, I have to go, because I cannot stay here, I left my mother at home and all, and I need to work.” And he was indifferent, insensible, he did not care and it was all the same for him because he was not in a position to speak. I saw that I could not talk with him; at least I could see him. Then they promised that he would not stay there for long, and he would move to Dnipropetrovsk.

V.O.: In what year was he brought to Kazan?

M.D.Sira: In 1979, on April 1. On April 1 he was already there, I went to see him there. It’s true, he didn’t stay there for long… it seems, eighteen months.

V.S.: No, three years.

M.D.Sira: You see, he was there three years, and then they transferred him here. Nevertheless, his condition did not improve: he moved like on crutches and shuffled his feet. He could not raise his legs. In such a condition I saw him in Dnipropetrovsk. I came more often and they admitted me more often because it was like an ordinary hospital. What could I bring him there? I could feed him and they took away everything that was not consumed. They shared it among themselves and never returned it to the patient. Once I came when he was in jail. At the time, however, he still was able to talk to me unlike later times; he said: “Mariya, why I have you brought so little sausages: if you had brought at least 200 grams I would have eaten all of them, because I hardly tasted it.” I asked, “Ivan, how?” I was afraid to say more there; I brought everything I could. I was allowed to bring a kilo of sausage. I denied myself but brought him a kilo of sausage, a portion allowed officially. I tried my best… I returned home and cried because I denied myself but he saw nothing of it. But I was happy because I could feed him during the meeting. Here, too, they did not give him everything I brought.

What else can I tell you? I kept waiting and waiting and waiting. I took him home because they did not let him to go alone. Towards the end they administered fewer injections. So when he was released on February 25, 1983, he eagerly looked out of the window on the way home as if he had never seen it before. I reckoned I’d better ask him at home because it was a shade awkward to start asking there.

We came home, ate, he looked about the house. A sleepless night followed: we kept talking all night until dawn. He told me that after each injection he ran temperature up to forty degrees or more, and lost his unconscious, and then they got him on a drip to restore his condition and keep him alive. After alleviation of the emergency, says he, they brought him to norm. Then they repeated the procedure again. I’m so distressed for him, and he is distressed for me when he is normal. And they continuously threw him off balance.

V.S.: I think I will continue. You know, it’s very hard to remember, for example, about food. I will tell you as follows. Meals were terrible: everything was dirty, a whole package of salt fell into the plates… Can you imagine such amount of wet salt? I picked the package up: “What is it?” For these deliberate words they administered me further injections. You might as well find cigarette ends and matches in your food… it’s simply a disgrace. Now, look at such meanness as follows: in stores the canned fish got spoiled, the cans bulged, and they sent those cans to the jail on 101, Chicherin Street, and issued these cans to us, but did not allow anyone to open them. We bought these cans; they carried out a deduction of the amount from the accounts of those having money and warehoused the cans. And the next day they told us that this canned food was inedible, because it got spoiled. They took away all cans and fed them to pigs which they kept near the jail.

V.O.: What was the regulated sum allotted for such purchases and how much could you buy?

V.S.: I do not remember… the course of actions was the same as in jails. I do not remember now how much. The packages had no specific limits, although you had to oil the wheels. If you grease their palms, they accept the package, if not they resort to weighing. This is how it was.

Now, in Tatarstan. My brother sent me a fruit parcel. He had a dacha and sent me good fruits. For two weeks they declined to hand me that parcel, and then they came and said: “Siryi, go get your parcel. Please, sign here a receipt.” At first they suggested to sign a receipt, and then they led me to a small room where I saw a parcel which was oozing already. I opened the parcel and saw rottenness inside. Just think: they withheld it for two weeks refusing to hand it over to me! They deliberately resorted to such meanness in order to mock at me. They treated us worse than people treat dogs or other animals. And where had they found and employed those female medics who behaved like beasts? They sweetly talk to killers, and treat political prisoners with cruelty, hysterical shouting and humiliation. It was something terrible. The German concentration camps were not as scoffing and cruel as ours. This is awful. This horror is indescribable. I have already written about it for the whole world to know.

I would have never been released, but for the efforts of Ukrainian American diaspora. I had no idea about it, but after my release on February 25, 1983 I began receiving parcels from abroad in great numbers.

M.D.Sira: In a week and a half.

V.S.: No, no, Mariya, a little bit later. They learned that I had returned home already. But how did they come to know? You know our mutual friends: you talk and I talk with Californian Olexandr Skop. Earlier, I communicated with Olga Shapka, she died. We had meaty conversations with her. Volodymyr Romaniuk also died, and now the Skops keep on their efforts. They somehow learned the names of political prisoners, including my name. There was no sense to talk with Moscow; they enlisted the support of Washington government compelling it to break trade relations with Moscow because of its violations of human rights, and many major countries also followed this policy. And only then the regime slightly softened and a little later we were released. They told us later that it was they who sought our release. I would not have survived another year… When I returned home, I felt awful stiffness in my stomach. I had to adapt, and only then I began to recover.

I have nothing to do with psychiatrists here. They came to see me, but I never let them set foot on my threshold. But once they tried and found out (because everything here is controlled by communists and Jews, who are out-of-staff members of the KGB) that I went to dacha, then this Russian woman Ivanova came to my wife and asked with tears in her eyes: “We beg you to convince him to attend the meeting of the medical board so that we could call off the diagnosis for sure.” Why do I need to revoke the diagnosis? I needed complete rehabilitation for one, and I already had rehabilitation. When I ran for nomination process as a nominee, they demanded that I should undergo reexamination. I was sent to a central hospital in Kyiv named after…

M.D.Sira: Pavlov, Vasyl, Pavlov.

V.S.: Pavlov? I do not remember. It was in 1994. They called me several times there.

V.O.: was It the Association of Psychiatrists of Ukraine headed by Semen Gluzman?

V.S.: Yes, this very Association. I remember a woman there… Nelia Vergun, and several doctors, they reexamined me. They requested from the Dnipropetrovsk psychiatric hospital my clinical record. But it turned out that it was a hush-hush clinical record. And they did not send it. And here is why it was a top secret: when I was here on 101, Chicherin Street, in this prison, all personal files, including those of political prisoners, were at the disposal of these so-called doctors. What sort of doctors were they? All of them had shoulder boards with stars on them which were visible under their white overalls. Such were these uniformed doctors. And moreover, all of them were Russians. Alekseev Nikolai Karpovich was the chief physician who treated me. He was the fiercest doctor. He was squint-eyed, nevertheless they appointed him the head of the department; he was my so called “attending medical doctor”.

Now I would like to tell about the insulin coma, as they were called. It is a forbidden regimen. This insulin is administered in large doses, the patient in a state of unconsciousness is tied tightly across his chest, his hands are bound, his feet are bound, and s/he is tied to the bed. And in this fixed position you are prostrate for three hours. Then they begin resuscitating you. It is very, very horrible thing. It’s so hard to bear, that, as they say, “There were no words to describe it.” A literate person should not resort to such words because any phenomenon can be described with proper words, but I say that “there were no words to describe it.” What did they do? They injected glucose intravenously and pour glucose into your mouth. You start coughing, your nose is running, tears are showering and you wake up with pounding head. Later a patient feels better and regains her/his consciousness. Thirty-five times I underwent such treatment.

And there is a separate story about sulfur. The world psychiatrists made a fuss. The World Psychiatric Congress was held in Hawaii State; Major General Hryhorenko and my friend Leonid Plushch, who is now in France, attended the Congress.

V.O.: Did you know him?

V.S.: Sure! He is my friend, but until now I cannot raise a connection with him: they intercept my letters. I found out his address when I was in Kyiv recently.

V.O.: He occasionally comes to Ukraine.

V.S.: I cannot meet him: I do not know when he arrives. I know Leonid. He is lame. I saw his wife and two children. Coincidently he and I had visitors. And then somebody snapped out: “Out with him!” And his wife was chased out.

V.O.: Plushch was released in 1976.

V.S.: his wife literally pulled him out. If not for his wife, he would have never been released and would not go abroad. I know his whole biography. He was friends with late Victor Parfentiyovych Rafalski, a wonderful man, he published a lot. Mykola Bereslavskyi also wrote a lot, and I began organizational work. They say that I make a big mistake: Bereslavskyi did not join any organizations, he sat at the table and kept writing and therefore he authored many good books! He made it.

I have already told you about medications used there, about food, how they restrained us and snarled at us with incredible hatred. You hardly say a word and they immediately administer “sulfur”, a terrible thing. And if not for my strong body and if I had stayed there another year, I would have returned home, it was apparent.

When I returned, I had to rescue my son for he was jailed, too.

V.O.: Please, name your children by name and indicate the year of their birth.

V.S.: As for my family, it is scary to say. During this period, the children scattered all over the Soviet Union. One lives where the sun rises in the BAM region, the second lives where the sun goes down, here in Ukraine, Kharkiv Oblast. The elder’s name Borys, he was born in 1953, the junior’s name is Oleg, he was born in 1956, and both of them were born in October with the difference of a few days. Borys fell under strong influence. He was called up for military service, he served in Kyiv. He finished our Dnipropetrovsk Railroad Technical School. When he was discharged, he was advised to go to the BAM. And he went there. From there, many people fled having spent there a year or two. There were no volunteers to stay permanently. In 1992, I went to visit him in Tynda where he lived, and I entreated him to return back here. But the KGB engaged in another very bad job. They offered incentives to encourage mixed marriages between Ukrainians, especially from the western regions, and Russians…

V.O.: International marriages.

V.S.: Not international but rather mixed marriages. And the elder son married a Moscovite. When I came to beg him to return to Ukraine, he promised me, he wanted to. But his political views already differed from my convictions. He thought that I was doing it in vain; everybody saw this lawlessness but people learned to bear it, and I had to stand it. And he refused to return. In 1992, when I returned home from Tynda (I spent there about two weeks), I stopped corresponding with him, it made me sick. His earlier letters were strongly-worded and he did not want to write to me in jail, he was ashamed of me. And what was my fault? Did I rape a girl or what? And we repudiated him. Where is he now? We know that he is in Tynda. In Kodyma the school arranged an evening meeting of former pupils, they obtained his Tynda address from the niece and phoned him--there were some wealthy former pupils—but he had already left Tynda. And we have no idea where he is now and we do not know whether he is alive.

Now, about my junior son. He worked at the chemical plant in Pervomaisk, Kharkiv Oblast, and in 1979 he met with an accident when they were loading bulk solids into a freight car. It happened early in the morning, at five o’clock, in November, it was already dark. The accident prevention was on a very low level. He wanted to estimate the amount of loaded cargo, and he stepped on a ledge and his foot slipped and stuck in the spinning cogwheels. He was lucky that there was another man who turned off the switch; otherwise he would have been grinded there. He lost his right leg, he is an invalid. He now works at that plant.

You see now how this tough Communist Party, which they praise to the skies, put a jinx on me. It still exists; it is a party of criminals which has been entered into the Book of Guinness World Records, it is the most criminal party of all parties in the world and it still exists. Because of it I suffered great losses! My wife, who moved to Dnipropetrovsk, left in Kodyma the house that I had built with these hands together with my father. My father, as I said, was a professional carpenter, we built a beautiful home, there was also a plot of land, the trees and vines grew there, everything was very nice there and I had to sell it because we were not allowed to have two homes. And it was sold without my consent; they deposited money at a savings bank, and then they were gone. They stole my children, they stole my estate…

I have been managing the oblast organization of All-Ukrainian Society of Political Prisoners and Repressed for eight years now. And there are scoundrels who were recruited still in the camps--you know that they did it by hook and by crook--which blame me as a partocrat who came here and was given a two-bedroom apartment and was registered in Dnipropetrovsk while he was sent to the 101-kilometer.He is from Pershotravensk, his name is Yelchenko. Such a smart aleck. We expelled him from the Society, because we suffered great losses because of him, he repaid good with evil. We even required that Kyiv had but send a commission because our patience gave out. He wrote that we received humanitarian assistance and misappropriated it. And the tax office checks it all every three months and now I am preparing a report: the deadline is on the 15th and on the 10th I go. I have to submit a report and I have no money; I must go there, because otherwise they will refer the case to the prosecutor. Such is the law. So he complained to the base distributing humanitarian aid that we misappropriated all supplies. I was summoned to the tax office and for twenty-two days they microscopically checked everything. They found no violations and drew up an act stating this very fact. Therefore we expelled Yelchenko from the Society for libel. At my insistence on March 2 a commission arrived from Kyiv; it included Mykhailo Stus whom you know as the Deputy Head of the Kyiv Regional Fraternity of UIA, and Ivan Vasylevskyi, who is responsible for the scientific sector, he worked at the Agricultural Academy during 40 years. We went there together because we were afraid to go there alone: he uttered intentions of injury. We called a meeting and at that meeting--I have minutes--in the presence of Stus and Vasylevskyi all members in attendance told, what a terrible person he was. He combined five of his organizations, managed them for six years and none of them registered. And now he wanted to destroy our organization, but he failed. Now he has no organizations to manage: he was discharged and expelled as a result of re-election procedure. The way it plays.

What else are you interested in? In which prisons I did my terms?

VA: Yes.

V.S.: I did my terms in eight prisons. Let’s count: Odesa detention center under the KGB: one. Then followed the Odesa Oblast prison where I was held until the transfer. Then Lefortovo… Did you happen to be in Lefortovo prison?

V.O.: No, I was held in the Krasnaya Presnya transit prison.

V.S.: I spent about four months in Lefortovo prison. It is a horrible building. There are wire nettings instead of ceilings in the corridors; there are just passageways and doors like honeycombs. So you look downwards and see only these nettings: if someone feels like jumping or something s/he will land on that metal netting. And routine there is awful. Now, we’ve counted three prisons. Further, there was a prison in Kharkiv on Kholodna Hora; four. Dnipropetrovsk prison: five. Well, in Kazan I was in two prisons: the one where Pugachev was held, an old Kazan prison, and a new one. So, I’ve counted all eight prisons. Well, they were cocks of the dunghill. You see, Moscow is to blame, because people appointed by Moscow tried me here. In this case both human rights and laws are out of question: it was nothing but iniquity. Previously the resorted to shooting, then they stopped shooting, but all the same they tried hard to destroy Ukrainian nation. You are lucky to live in Kyiv. God forbid, you remember how they pitched the tents here during the Putin’s visit, pickets near the department store…

Now, I was released and my son had been jailed as a juvenile offender… what was to be done? Kind people suggested: “Go to Sakharov.” But how? He was in exile in Gorky. And they told me that he at so-and-so time goes for a walk, so there was an opportunity to meet him…

They advised me to go to Academician Sakharov and explain him where, what and how. Only they didn’t know his address. I went to the City of Gorky. There I went to the barber’s and put out a feeler; I was told that he lived on the Gagarin Street. Then I found out the exact location and had a look at two houses. In one of them he lived on the first floor and the high-riser nearby had the similar entrance. I took a good look at everything and had to wait until he came out for a walk. But I was incautious: I entered inside and saw a militiaman on duty. Therefore I took the elevator up. And they’re aware of all the inhabitants of the high-riser. And they already spotted me there. And when I came out, they already followed me. I waited for Sakharov to come out for a walk in order to meet him. And I would like that information went to the West via Elena Bonner, who still had the right to go abroad while Andrei Sakharov had not. She met with foreign correspondents, often gave interviews, and I wanted her to pass on this information. And what happened? The moment I appeared there a plain-clothes officer came up to me and presented his ID card: “Follow me please.” He led me to the nearby high-riser. And there: who you are and what you are… and he made the air blue! In general, in all the militia offices they are used to effing and blinding…

V.O.: That is the “big, mighty, beautiful Russian language!”

V.S.: Right you are. While they were interrogating me--there was a direct transit communication service there--they established my identity. He entered and said: “A big noise we’ve got here!” This info read as follows: graded offender, currently released from prison and working as a receiving clerk at the bottles redemption center (I needed a track record in order to retire at the required age of 60 years), on vacation at the time, came to meet Sakharov.

V.O.: In what year was it?

V.S.: (Reads): “On September 17, 1985 was detained by police in the City of Gorky on 204, Gagarin Avenue, near the apartment of Academician Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov for trying to meet deported from Moscow Nobel Laureate Academician Sakharov A.D. during his walk .” That’s all that I have noted here.

V.O.: Well, it’s good you have such a memo.

V.S.: I noted all dates by month and by year.

They did not retain me there for a long time. They put me in the car, drove me to the station, told me to give them money, and bought tickets out of turn: “Here’s the price, here’s your change.” So, they entrained me and that’s all.

I returned back here and worked, and then right in a supermarket they arrested me in public and detained for four and a half months. The last Congress of the Communist Party was underway… when was it? After the Congress they released me. (Reads): “I was shut up for 4692 days and then another 140 days for my trip to Academician Sakharov. It amounts to 4832 days.” For comparison, I write below that the war between the Soviet Union and Germany lasted for 1418 days. So compare these two figures: 1418 and 4832 days. My wife insisted: “When will you release him?”--“He will be released immediately after the end of the Congress.”

V.O.: And you were kept four months without any sentence? Where were you kept?

V.S.: The oblast nuthouse. (Reads): “October 25, 1985: the second arrest at the workplace in the supermarket, for a trip to the City of Gorky to Academician Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov. Served four and a half months, 140 days.”

M.D.Sira: I worked as a senior controller at the street-car-and-trolley-coach administration. I had about 60 subordinate controllers. Our chief was Olexandr Yeremiyovych Kolomiyets, a KGB officer. Once he said that he knew Mariya Dmytrivna before he saw her. He had known everything before he entered upon office. In what way did he persecute me? At first I didn’t feel it; I saw only his coldness and harshness in relation to me. But I reassured myself that it only seemed so to me. And then it happened: I did my best to work well and people expressed thanks to my superior and he concealed the document and didn’t show it to me because it was unacceptable to encourage me. Or when I was passing by him and he told to his interlocutor “Here goes the wife of the murderer and enemy of the people, traitor of our country.” All information was negative.

V.S.: I can tell you a very interesting story recounted by my wife. She was instructed to tell all controllers that an ID card had been stolen, which allowed for a free pass in the public transport, and to announce the name of the owner. And so they looked for the thief all over the city and it happened so that she was personally checking the passengers and found that identity card and wanted to detain that man. He rushed and fled leaving the ID card. This ID card belonged to a high-ranking oblast trade union chief, and it was stolen in some way. Then it was announced that he who finds the ID card would receive material remuneration. And when the remuneration was sent down from the House of Trade Unions for recipient Mariya Dmytrivna Sira, Kolomiyets decide: “Anybody, but not Sira. We consider Sira a wife of the enemy of the people.” And they returned the remuneration back to the House of Trade Unions. When she told me this--it was four or five years ago--I thought I would try and write an appeal and hand it the Head of the House of Trade Unions. I described this episode. And what do you think? She was handed this remuneration after these many years. Such was the chief’s attitude.

V.O.: That’s what it means to be a wife of the “enemy of the people.”

M.D.Sira: And now, when I occasionally meet him he tries to talk to me, but it is too difficult for me, and I even refuse to say hello. This is all that I can say.


[1] The author confuses War or Military Communism with the Red Terror policy (translator’s note).

[2] Oblast as an administrative unit was introduced as a result of administrative reform in 1923-1929. There were no oblasts and regions in 1920 (translator’s note).

[3] This text is from the first stanza of “The Internationale”.  This French song was rather popular among Socialists since the end of the 19th c. (translator’s note).

[4] The author confuses the Ukrainian Communist Party with the Communist Party of Ukraine (translator’s note).

Recommend this post