virtual museum
Dissident movement in Ukraine

MARMUS Volodymyr Vasyliovych

05.01.2015 | Vasyl Ovsiyenko | Interview given for KhHRPG in Kyiv on 17.10.1998

V.V.Ovsiyenko: Mr. Volodymyr, the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, where I work, prepares the Ukrainian part of the International Biographical Dictionary of Dissidents in Central and Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union. It covers the period from the death of Stalin to perestroika. The common name of the project is as follows: Eastern Europe: a Common Ground, its center is in Warsaw. This is a non-government undertaking. It is based on active civic stand of individuals and enthusiasm. We are supported by foreign benevolent foundations. In Ukraine, we haven’t received any grants yet.

The part of the Dictionary telling about the Polish resistance movement includes 150 names, the part covering the former USSR with the exception of national movements contains 210 names, Ukraine lists 120 names (among them, there is your name). The rest of the countries will be assigned less place in the book. This dictionary shall be printed in English, Polish, and Russian. It will lay open to the public on the Internet. In addition, each national partner gets the right to publish the Dictionary in his language amending his national part at his sole discretion. We will certainly use this right. We will include several hundreds or even up to two- three thousand names of the participants of national liberation, human rights, religious, labor resistance, and refuseniks. According to our data, from the mid-50s to mid-80s at least four thousand people demonstrated in Ukraine political or civic activity for which they were repressed in court or out of court.

To do this job, we need to collect documents, photographs, books about this moral opposition to the totalitarian regime. Now, while the majority of the participants of these events are still alive, we hasten to record their autobiographical stories which is an invaluable and sometimes almost the only source! The materials of lawsuits (to which we still have no access) do not always reflect the truth: the court had its own truth, and the defendant had her/his own, which s/he often concealed for obvious reasons. Now, a former political prisoner can get it off her/his chest.

One wise person opined that, unfortunately, the history is not always what it was, but what was recorded. Let us write down how it was and let the truth be history. For though we are not yet old, but if we do not write it now, then we can forget something with time, and some more shifty people will write the story of our time, as they imagine it in order to get the most benefit or depending on someone’s order…

Please tell us where you come from, who were your kin, what was the environment in which you grew up, and, most importantly, for what activity you were accused of anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda and were imprisoned, and how you did suffer torments? And then in a few words you will tell about the work you have been doing after your release.

V.V.Marmus: I am of humble origin. I was born in the Village of Rosokhach, Chortkiv Region, Ternopil Oblast. My parents were simple peasants; all their life they cultivated land. My father, Vasyl Mykolayovych Marmus, was born in 1904; as a child he lost his parents. He had a large family. My father still well remembered the First World War, told about Petlurites[1], about the known Chortkiv breakthrough operation in 1919. Still as a boy I took interest in the past realities and course of war. Therefore my father often told me about those far-off days, and how Petlurites passed through the village to give assistance to the then West Ukrainian People’s Republic in its war against the Poles. He told about life under Polish rule and how he fought against the gendarmerie. He was not some undergrounder or revolutionary, he had to make a living, but it was difficult to realize. He also told about communist agitation in Poland. Once he and a dozen other guys were persuaded to cross the Zbruch border. So they approached the Zbruch riverbank and stopped, and a woman went outside her khata and said, “Guys, where are you going, who do you listen to? There’s a terrible misfortune in the Bolshy’s land!” So we, my father said, caught that agitator, give him a sound thrashing and returned home.

My father told me a lot about the Second World War. Not only he but my mother also remembered a lot. With the arrival of the Germans in the villages of Halychyna the Ukrainian state was proclaimed and local governments were established. My father was a member of a rural government, told about hardships, because under such rural self-government sometimes human characters did not coincide and there were frictions among people. In addition, there were many Poles in our village. There were such Ukrainians, which insisted on elimination of the Poles. My father stood up for the Poles, and on this ground misunderstandings arose.

At the time my parents already had three children, and then two more were born. Now I have two brothers and a sister. One brother died due to illness−Volodymyr. Perhaps I was named in his honor, because my parents wanted to have a Volodymyr. He died sometime during the war. The oldest brother was born in 1928, but in 1944 he was blown up by a grenade at the age of 16 years. Then the guerrillas came and said, “We’d better taken him with us, he would have been alive, perhaps… Anyway, a preposterous death…” The guys were throwing grenades and one actually exploded in his hands. Now Stakh is my eldest brother or Yevstakhiy; he was born in 1932. Junior was born in 1941, Petro. And then Mykola followed in 1947. I was born on March 21, 1949. Our sister Hania was born in 1951.

So my father stayed at home, supported our family. But for children, he might have gone underground. He knew famed people from the underground; they came to talk things over with him. When the front approached, he was called to the colors. My mother was left with children alone. My mother was of Polish origin. Her maiden name was Pohribna Mykhailyna Porfyriyivna, born in 1910. She died when I returned from prison in 1988. And my father did not live to welcome me and died in 1978.

Our village was convenient for billeting guerillas. On the street near the forest, where we lived, was a sort of guerilla village, because subdistrict or district chiefs constantly stayed there. Sometimes women came because they needed financial aid. The stanychny[2] came and told that it was necessary to bake a little more bread, or something else to prepare to feed the arriving military unit. My mother told me all these things, and it really touched me.

The guerilla songs also influenced me profoundly. They sang them in low voices not to attract attention of the enemy… All of it shaped my worldview.

All local guerilla formations later repositioned in the Carpathian Mountains: at the time it was impossible to hold the field without great forests. Still, even in the 60s we had a case that the special forces caught one Ukrainian soldier in the hiding. The militia cordoned him off, he returned the fire, and then he was blown up and actually burned. It was Petro Basiuk. It was a remarkable event for us and I regretted that I hadn’t met him before, just to have a look at him. But when a person really wants something, it does come true. Time had come in my life that I met people from the legends, from history. In 1973, I had to meet them.

I have already said that I loved songs. They moved me to tears sometimes. In the presence of others I felt ill at ease when I listened to a song and cried. It happened that people asked: “Why are there tears in your eyes?”−“Well, my eyes are watering," answered I. Later I collected those songs and had a pretty good collection of songs. But in 1973 they conducted a search at Stepan Sapeliak’s apartment and seized the whole collection. He was a member of our group and I gave him my copybook, because he said that he wanted to write down a few songs from someone. So they seized those songs. And then there were quite a lot of them. These songs were about local events, about Chortkiv prison, old Yahilnytsia Village where in 1942 the guerillas fought with the Germans, and even about one case in Rosokhach, where three guys were surrounded in the hiding and blew themselves up with grenades. It seemed these songs were created by their friends. Or a song about Penky Hamlet where a unit billeted; it was surrounded and after a hot fight annihilated. in 1990, the Ukrainian soldiers were reburied in Khomyakivka Village, because there were some from that village.

Two major battles were fought in the Galyleya woods near Rosokhach in 1945. There was even air support and guerrillas brought one aircraft down. The tanks and self-propelled armored vehicles also took part in the combat. I’ve been told about it. They showed me several dugouts. I used to visit that place, where three guys blew themselves up with grenades. It’s worth seeing…  The dugout has almost sunk by now, but when you’re 14-15 teenager looking at it and imagining the encirclement and shootout… I even knew one undamaged dugout. I used to steal into it and imagine myself a guerilla. All that shaped my consciousness, attitude to the events and those people.

And to make our exposition reasoned we should mention the Sixtiers’ movement in Ukraine. I heard through the noise of jamming the broadcasts of the foreign radio “Svoboda”. Earlier, I know, there was the radio station “Vyzvolennia”, before “Svoboda”. I listened in since those early days. These broadcasts touched on religious movements as well, since in our village there were many people who did not go to the official church, which was appended to the Russian Orthodox Church. They listened to the broadcasts of the Vatican Radio. But I was still more interested in politics. Therefore I more and more frequently listened to the broadcasts informing about the political life of Ukraine. Due to these transmissions I learned many new names: Ivan Kandyba, Levko Lukyanenko, Ivan Svitlychny, Vyacheslav Chornovil, and Yevhen Sverstiuk to name a few. All of them were in the news and it was interesting to listen to. Then it became known that they were arrested. I had the feeling that there were people around who dared to fight! In conversations with the guys it came nearly to quarrels that we let the grass grow under our feet while elsewhere people are struggling, and so let’s get down to work.

Sure thing, we were not such bigwigs, but still at our level we had to undertake something. And we did. I remember in 1970 in Lviv the officials destroyed the graves of soldiers of the Halytska Army and even the tomb of Tarnowsky damaged. It happened that an ex-member of the CPWU wrote an open letter of to the Lviv Oblast Party Committee, in which he called the actions vandalism. So we manually copied the letter and spread it. There were also some very interesting poems: we copied them as well and handed them round to young persons of the same age and seniors, and sometimes pasted them up.

At the time we got a tape recorder on which I recorded a few times a call to action for Ukraine. We used to switch on the tape recorder, when the youth returned home from the movie theater at night and everybody listened in and nobody could recognize the voice. They couldn’t recognize the voice, nevertheless they listened in. It was interesting to watch them listening and wait for their response to this call.

Once we even made a seal, copied it from Ukrainian money issued in 1918. And we sealed with it all papers at hand for others to observe.

V.V.Ovsiyenko: The seal with a trident?

V.V.Marmus: Right, it featured a trident and Kozak with a rifle, and inscription on both sides: “The Ukrainian State”. I could go on with listing of such actions, but that is enough.

We had the company of ten nationally-minded boys. Later, some began to step aside: two guys married and, of course, in the case of serious actions we couldn’t draw them in, because they were family men now. Even in the case of paramount necessity…

I personally had a few guns and we went into the woods to learn to shoot.

There was one idea: we were getting ready to erect a mound in the village. I mean to restore the mound, which had been dug up in 1959. A man who returned from the camps (and he turned mentally ill: they had driven him mad) set up a cross on it. And then the rural intelligentsia was forced to dig out the mound. Later they bulldozed it; they took advantage of the fact that the military used sand and crushed stone to build runways for aircraft. The local collective-farm party organizer made full use of these possibilities or to some order from the region and they bulldozed the mound. Under the impression of it I said, “If they do not need this mound, then we do not need the one erected to the Unknown Soviet Soldier.” And later two guys went and damaged the monument in retaliation for the destruction of the mound.

We had to restore the riflemen’s mound; therefore we planned to gather people at night, so they did not know who the organizer was. It was above the bend of one or two guys; the action needed many people.

We were outraged with mass arrests in January 1972. Together we heard about arrests related to the arrival of Yaroslav Dobosh. He arrived as a tourist of Ukrainian origin, member of the Ukrainian Youth Association. The officials arrested everybody whom he had visited. Then were published the statements of repentance in Litaraturna Ukrayina Weekly, Radianska Ukrayina Daily.

V.V.Ovsiyenko: The repentances were written by Zinoviya Franko, Leonid Seleznenko, Mykola Kholodny, and Yaroslav Dobosh, and then, in November 1973, by Ivan Dziuba.

V.V.Marmus: Well, the Dziuba’s statement I read in the camp: there was a clipping. When we were under investigation, the investigators told me that Dziuba did time in Kyiv: “You will serve your term of imprisonment here, and he will be on the loose.”

V.V.Ovsiyenko: Tell us, please, how did you manage to create the organization?

V.V.Marmus: I’d like to butt in about literature. I had a lot of printed matter. There were magazines published in the past in Austria, in Poland, various half-religious magazines. There was an interesting magazine “The Missionary”. It was both religious, and anti-Bolshevik. There were such calendars as Chervona kalyna, Prosvita, Zolotyi kolos and various brochures. There were separate brochures by Vyacheslav Lypynsky under the common heading Letters to fellow farmers. Someone of the guys brought me several such parts. And many others like the History by Hrushevsky, Dzvinochok for young people, and an interesting illustrated edition. There was the complete set of magazines.

V.V.Ovsiyenko: Where did you get that literature? It was in the village?

V.V.Marmus: I collected coins; I was interested in Ukrainian money. All the guys knew it. Sometimes I even did not ask, and they brought it to me: “Look here: I came across an interesting book; what is it about?” Certainly, I took it. In this way I have collected a lot of books. But I took ever more interest in the future events. For example, about the Bandera movement I read in the articles under the heading “The Post of Yaroslav Galan”…

V.V.Ovsiyenko: The magazine “Zhovten”, Taras Myhal?

V.V.Marmus: Right, Taras Myhal. One such Lozovyi wrote “The ear should ripen”. There were also articles by Beliayev “Under the black flags”, “Echo of the black forest”… There were a lot of Soviet brochures. Although everything there was distorted, but I learned to read between the lines and coax out facts I needed. Taras Myhal sarcastically covered the events in Ukrainian milieu abroad…

V.V.Ovsiyenko: Nevertheless it was information all the same?

V.V.Marmus: From it I learned that there was a Great Assembly of OUN, some other events and meetings. My guys and I discussed these events. For example, I had a clipping (the KGB officers pinched it) covering the great assembly near New York where made a speech Nelson Rockefeller and supported the Ukrainian movement. There was a caricature of Rockefeller taking up a trident. The Radianska Ukrayina Daily featured such articles now and then. It even informed about the murder of Bandera. Of course, it failed to mention that he was killed by the Communists, KGB agents. They wrote that he was killed by the Germans, one such Oberlander who did it to cover his tracks, because he supposedly was afraid to be held criminally liable. Anyway the information existed.

It is interesting that the media didn’t published photos either of Melnyk or Bandera. It was done on purpose: no one would know what Stepan Bandera looked like. But there was a half-documentary “Murder in Lviv”. Once in Lviv we saw a movie and went to the projectionist. It was in 1966 or 1967. This movie was shown in the Lesia Ukrayinka movie theater. I went with a slightly older guy (because I’m too young, and maybe wouldn’t listen to a boy). We spoke to him deceiving him a little: we need it for an important business, please, cut us two frames with Bandera. Perhaps, he was impressed, wound off the bobbin, found four frames with Stepan Bandera and cut them out for us. We went through the hassle of making negatives from the positives and then printing proper photographs. It was rather expensive, because it was very difficult to find such photographers… today the process is much simpler.

In short, we were absorbed in such activity prior to the creation of our organization. Therefore, we can say that as an unformed organization we began long ago: it was a group of guys united by common views. Later I got down to write the organizational documents, something like a statute on the basis of Bandera underground organization: it is managed by a chief, his orders should be mandatory for everyone, and everyone should stick to secrecy. Then I wrote the oath, which also obligated to follow secrecy. It began: “Before the image of the Holy Virgin, in the face of my comrades I solemnly swear to faithfully serve the Ukraine, to fight for its independence…” Such patriotic text. And in the end, “If I betray, let the hand of my friend wipe from the face of the earth.” So we took the oath raising a hand up with two fingers. Later the KGB officers asked why two fingers instead of three, and some could not explain it.

V.V.Ovsiyenko: Why?

V.V.Marmus: They said that this was the traditional taking the oath, but we were not aware of such subtleties. Later we learned that in other organizations they took the oath in the same way. And why just so? If someone asked why we crossed ourselves with three fingers and the Poles made it with the whole hand, the simple Christian would find it difficult to explain[3]. Nevertheless we did it. So little by little the oath was taken by nine guys, including my brother Mykola. The first three were as follows: my relative Petro Vitiv, minor, in fact, he was born in 1956, seven years my junior, Petro Vynnychuk, born in 1953, a little older, and Volodymyr Senkiv. We were first four guys who took the oath. They were my main support. And then followed the older guys: my brother, Mykola, born in 1947, Andriy Kravets, Mykola Slobodian, Mykola Lysyi. The last one to take the oath and join us was Stepan Sapeliak. All of them were already informed that on January 22, 1973 in Chortkiv the blue and yellow flags were to stream and proclamations to the 55th anniversary of the Fourth Universal Declaration of the Ukrainian People’s Republic in Kyiv had to be distributed. As well as leaflets. Here you can read their texts. They read as follows: “My dear comrade!”

V.V.Ovsiyenko: Why “comrade”?

V.V.Marmus: Well, we had to take care and resort to a sort of disguise. We could also write a text with the words "esteemed fellows" or "citizens". But we preferred to mislead the KGB officers a little. We were ready that our actions would stir a clamor and they would be looking for us. And the ending read: “Long live the free Ukraine!” The Soviet propaganda used to swear calling us samostiynyks, i.e. Ukrainian separatists. So, we deliberately avoided that formulation and replaced it with: “Long live the free Ukraine!” Of course, we meant the same independent Ukraine. You can read:

“Dear friends, today is the 55th anniversary of the 4th Universal of the Central Rada, which proclaimed in Kyiv the independence of the Ukrainian state.

This historic act demonstrated the will of the Ukrainian nation, its centuries-long desire for independence.

However, the current official Soviet historiography tries to show the event in the eyes of our generation as anti-people one.

This is a gross distortion of historical reality indignantly condemned by the progressive public. Anyone who cherishes the interests of the nation condemns it.

Dear comrades! Let us meet with dignity this landmark date that is considered our national holiday!

Long live the free Ukraine!”

It was written with lettering pens on wallpaper approximately half-a-meter wide, a standard wallpaper. In addition, there were slogans calling for:

Freedom to Ukrainian patriots!

Shame on the policy of Russification!

Long live the growing Ukrainian patriotism!

Freedom of speech, press, meetings!

And other such slogans. It was also written in large letters for anyone to read the slogans at the distance of 10-20 meters. They were intended to be glued on higher up so that they wouldn’t be ripped off at once. All this was neatly written in capital letters, then traces of hands were cleaned off, the sheets of wallpaper were rolled and packed and put in waiting for the appropriate day. In advance a few of us went to Chortkiv, chose appropriate places, found the ways to get there and where to run up flags, designed a plan, so that in the course of the action we could pursue cogitatively.

We executed our plan on the night of January 22, 1973. The whole operation was carried out with lightning speed. It was the winter of severe frost, raging blizzard, our hands numbed, but there were enough guys to fix it, we divided into groups, which efficiently placarded all slogans. Vitiv and I ran up flags. Of course, we also pasted fly-sheets, but in four places we both ripped off those Soviet flags and replaced them with blue-and-yellow flags. The first flag we ran up at the covered market, the second on the roof of the movie theater “Myr”. Moreover, we also wished to fix our flag on the flagstaff near the premises of the regional communist party committee, but it was so fastened that we failed to take it off. So the fifth flag we put up on a tree and left. During the investigation it was not mentioned. There was also a flag on the flagpole of the forestry enterprise across the road.

The KGB officers asked the warden later, how this flag happened to be fixed on the flagpole. He answered, “I do not know. In the evening I took over the watch and saw your flag. And in the morning I saw our flag.” This explanation turned into an anecdote later. The fourth flag we ran up on the teacher training college that caused a stir among the directorate. At each point where the flags hung, we placarded fly-sheets, and not only there.

One month went by. Stepan Sapeliak was arrested. I followed Sapeliak, and in the course of six months we all were in the Ternopil Department of the KGB.

V.V.Ovsiyenko: In what order were you arrested?

V.V.Marmus: Sapeliak was the first to be arrested on February 19, 1973. Around 17th or 18th February he was summoned and released. In his innocence he immediately ran to me which I did not like at all. I said, “But you have been tailed here, sure thing!” I told him at once: “Clean you house immediately.” My place was clean already. Now I’m so sorry that I did not know what to do with various documents, I was beating my brains out trying to solve the problem and then reduced everything to ashes. It still hurts me; I wish I hadn’t destroyed everything. The photos including. I actually was going to go underground. I have two pistols, one Belgian brand, the second−TT, lots of ammo.

V.V.Ovsiyenko: In your article “Flags over the city”[4] you wrote that you even went into the woods to practice shooting.

V.V.Marmus: So guys did a little practicing with weapons. There was also a carbine and a sawn-off gun. The situation was such that a variety of plans was considered. There also emerged such thoughts that I’d rather omit now, because they could lead to really grave consequences. All guys had their ideas and plans, too.

But it so happened that after warnings from Sapeliak his house was raided, the search was carried out, and some things were impounded. It was Undesirable that they fell into the hands of the KGB officers. He told me that at home everything had been hidden, but in fact nothing had been done about it. So they impounded evidence. It was on February 19, 1973. A few days later, on the 24th, they searched my home. I managed to quietly slip away.

V.V.Ovsiyenko: During the search?

V.V.Marmus: No, when a car drove up, I slipped away. Can you beat that! I came back to prepare for hiding… I wanted to escape. So I’m packing up, and here I see two faces in one window, then in the next window, too. They entered my khata: “Hands up!” They searched everything and ordered to pack up. District KGB Chief Maltsev was in rubber boots and in a raincoat. There were a dozen men in the room.

V.V.Ovsiyenko: Were they armed? Was it seen?

V.V.Marmus: Sure thing!

V.V.Ovsiyenko: So they knew that you had weapons?

V.V.Marmus: Just assumed. They conceded that boys might have something…

V.V.Ovsiyenko: And so they could put up resistance?

V.V.Marmus: Yes. Maltsev walked around the house, tossed up the Order of Sich Riflemen. Several times he pressed that order to the head of my father craning his neck: “You see, once you wore it, and you brought up your son your way… Get ready!” The last words were addressed to me. My sister tried to give me something to eat, but he objected: “Do not worry, we’ll feed him there.” So I psyched myself up, went out on the doorstep, and there two officers grabbed my hands and put me in the car, they thrust me into the very back of it. They looked tipsy and turned the air blue… I was at a loss… Then they started skidding in the mud: it was springtime outdoors.

V.V.Ovsiyenko: Was it a patrol wagon?

V.V.Marmus: No, rather a jeep, an all-terrain vehicle. Such one with benches on both sides. A whole carload of officers. The jeep drove me out of the village, then on the highway in the valley it stopped, and the officers packed me into an upcoming Volga, which drove me on. Two officers sat on both sides of me. I had no idea why they did so… maybe they were afraid somebody might steal me on the road?

They made a stopover in Chortkiv and then proceeded to Ternopil. It was already in the small hours, about 2 A.M. Perhaps I’d rather had asked them about their IDs and intentions, however they reiterated: “You see the special agents from Kyiv came to take care of you!” Maltsev showed me several books published abroad and asked whether I had read them or not. I did not look his way and he came running up to me, caught hold of my hair, and raised my head: “You’re not feeling like looking at it? Look ahead! They didn’t bring you here to see you sleeping!” We talked for about two hours and then I was sent to the cell. So at various times of day−at noon, in the morning or at night−they twisted me round for a month.

Then they planted a squealer in my cell: they brought this alleged Banderovite from Mordovia. I remember his name very well: Mykhailo Pavlyshyn; later I asked around, but to Banderovites in the camps this name didn’t ring a bell. Therefore he was a squealer indeed. Then there was another one, speculator in foreign currency Valery Furmanov, article 80. He also told that he was in Lviv, and a certain professor was very interested in me. He asked me to remind him the professor’s name. There were such cases.

My guys were also imprisoned: they picked up all of us. The trial took place in September. The sentences were different. I got 6 years of imprisonment and 5 of exile, brother Mykola and Sapeliak got 5 and 3, Senkiv and Vynnychuk got 4 and 3, Slobodian with Kravets got 3 and 2, while Vitiv as a minor, even though at the time of trial he was of age already, and Mykola Lysyi were not put on trial.

After a while we were convoyed to different prisons: in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Sverdlovsk, and Perm. Slobodian, Vynnychuk and Kravets were left in Mordovia, Senkiv, Sapeliak, my brother Mykola and I were taken to the Urals.

I remember quite vividly the first impressions I got arriving to my countrymen in the camp number 35 in the Urals. This was the Vsekhsviatska Station, Perm Oblast. The convoy detrained us into the knee-deep snow. It was in February…

My guts became rotten still during the investigation, then I felt bad, I ran temperature, but they took me from Sverdlovsk to Perm and back again, because both these camps were situated in the Perm Oblast. They detrained me somewhere on the road, convoyed for several hundred meters and then packed into a car and drove to Vsekhsviatska, Tsentralnyi settlement, VS-389/35. A certain expectation of meeting here my acquaintances who did their time here: Moroz, Svitlychny, Kandyba, the Kalynets, I could meet them any minute now… What are they? A sort of youthful romanticism. At the time it was out of my mind that it was a prison, slavery. The main thing: to meet.

First of all we were placed in quarantine. Then we met with the guys from Ivano-Frankivsk: Dmytro Demydiv and Vasyl Shovkovyi; around the same time they set up a similar organization[5]. These guys did nothing at all, but they were given long terms.

They quarantined us and released us into the zone. We began making interesting acquaintances. Starting with the people about whom we had heard a lot. It was exciting to make new discoveries, because in reality it might be quite different. When you do not see people, your mind invents something, when you see them the real image may differ from what you thought. For example, Ivan Kandyba was of low stature, though you might have imagined him a broad-shouldered giant[6].

V.V.Ovsiyenko: Incidentally, my first impression of Kandyba was the same.

V.V.Marmus: He was an interesting man, inquired about the situation out of prison. But almost a year had elapsed since we were out of prison, because they arrested us in spring, tried in the fall, kept behind bars for some time, then convoyed us for two months… For a long time they held us in Kyiv, then in Kharkiv and Sverdlovsk. I met Ivan Svitlychny; he was a very interesting man. But the most interesting was to meet the legendary men who allegedly non-existed: the UIA warriors. At no. 35 there were still a lot of them. They included Vasyl Pirus, actually we came from the same parts (he was from Buchach Region), Dmytro Verkholiak, Dmytro Besarab, Olexa Savchyn, Vasyl Pidhorodetsky, Dmytro Paliychuk who became my close friend. There were also Tsepko, Stepan Mamchur, Yevhen Pryshliak to name a few. There followed conversations and questions which even seemed suspicious.

V.V.Ovsiyenko: Who was there from the Sixtiers?

V.V.Marmus: Ivan Svitlychny, Semen Hluzman of dissidents, Igor Kalynets, Zynoviy Antoniuk, Mykola Kots. Later they brought Yevhen Proniuk and Valeriy Marchenko. There were quite a number of people. Mykola Horbal was there from the very beginning. At the time there was Russian dissident Bukovsky, a very interesting personality. He also had some interest in us. We were considered the youngest ones, and he was wondering what brought us to the camp.

V.V.Ovsiyenko: Was Stepan Sapeliak with you as well? I wonder why we were not brought together with Sapeliak.

V.V.Marmus: No, Sapeliak was in no. 36. A little later they brought my brother Mykola.

In the camp, I want to say, different actions were organized. I approached to them with caution. We wrote applications, but I saw, as well as others for that matter, that some guys of Russian origin simply asked for a krytka[7]. But about Igor Kalynets, when his wife arrived and was not granted a visit, we wrote protests to the prosecutor’s office. The same happened with Yevhen Proniuk: there was something wrong with him…

V.V.Ovsiyenko: He had tuberculosis, but was not treated.

V.V.Marmus: Yes, TB. So we also required. Then suddenly they took me for further transit. It appeared that in the Village of Polovinka, camp no. 37, they had set up a new political zone. They created it as follows: they conducted screening in the existing camps and the screened out prisoners transported there.

V.V.Ovsiyenko: In what year was this?

V.V.Marmus: I guess, it was in 1975. I remember that information about the negotiations and signing of the Helsinki Accords we read still in no. 35, i.e. after August 1. So early in the fall me and some other prisoner were screened out. There also brought to the new camp prisoners screened out in Mordovia, including our guys: Slobodian, Kravets, and Vynnychuk. There were also Yaromir Mikitka and a Moldovan Dzhik Gimpu.

V.V.Ovsiyenko: Yes, it really happened at the end of summer 1975. I remember how they screened out guys from the camp no. 19, Mordovia.

V.V.Marmus: Then they also brought from Mordovia Vasyl Lisovyi, Vasyl Dolishny, and Artem Yuskevych… There were about 30 people. And later they brought Yevhen Proniuk from no. 35. With the help of Proniuk we agreed with my brother, who remained at no. 35, on the ways of communication. The relatives are permitted to correspond: to write from zone to zone. There the KGB officers distributed books, something about the bourgeois nationalism. My brother and I had this book. We used the text to indicate letters and compose messages; in this way we tried several times to inform about current and future actions, as well as the names of participants. We tried to make the message long enough to include more data. Later, on the anniversary of the signing of the Helsinki Agreement the KGB officer came and asked: “What are you preparing here for the anniversary?” And he told me that if we’d go without actions, they might bring my brother here. But only if there are no actions! I said that I could not know whether would be or wouldn’t be any action. Although the event took place they later brought my brother there. Obviously, this zone couldn’t be compared with the others, because we did not have such activists. And there were only 50 people. Such a small zone. Later they opened another zone across the fence. They brought old folks there, some of them died on the road. Professor Yuri Orlov[8] was also brought there. We even tried to contact him, wrote, because we were working at the same plant. We were convoyed into the residential zone, and they were taken out to work. We worked on a double-shift basis: ours was the second-shift operation, and theirs was the first.

Once we devised an action against poor diet. There were bad products. And the time Sergei Kovalev was incarcerated in the cell-type room[9]; I think, there were also Oles Serhiyenko and, possibly, Semen Hluzman. We failed to inform him, so that he could stand by us. I took the note, several candies, the guys were on the lookout, and I slid apart the barbed wire, ran across the restricted strip to the cell-like room, climbed over the wire entanglement and knocked on the window. There he sat with his back to the window, he turned around. Perhaps he did not understand what’s what or thought it was some kind of provocation.

V.V.Ovsiyenko: And was that restricted zone exposed to fire?

V.V.Marmus: I do not know. I saw the tower, the soldier was watching, but maybe he did not understand as well. Maybe, he thought that I was doing my job in the restricted zone, because there were a few people there. Dmytro Kvetsko[10] used to go there as well, because he had to do it “for complexion”. Kvetsko did work in the restricted zone, but he wouldn’t deliver a note to the cell-type room. I ran there through that gap because the window was ajar, threw the note inside and ran back unspotted, because, of course, it would have come to a bad end, if they had found out that someone had sneaked there.

Then we one more time delivered him the info. Then I worked in the laundry, and one day they brought the dirty linen from the medium security barrack to wash. The underpants of Kovalev had two letters written on them: “SK”. I tore the elastic thread and fixed at the end a note with info on our prisoners (they said that he was either about to be released or taken somewhere); I joined the loose ends in such a way that when he would try and put his underpants on, the thread would unfasten and when he would try to join the ends anew he would pull out the note. It worked, about which he later recalled. Because later on I had to meet him again.

We collected the current events in the camp. I put down all current developments. Later, when I heard that they would take me out, I turned it over to Apollon Bernychuk…

V.V.Ovsiyenko: Did you manage to pass the information to the outside?

V.V.Marmus: We tried several times, but, unfortunately, I did not know if it reached the outside. There was one such Izrael Zalmanson[11]. He gave the address of a girl in Moscow, who was an alleged wife of Paruyr Hayrikyan[12], her last name ended in –ko and sounded Ukrainian…

V.V.Ovsiyenko: Yelena Sirotenko, she was a Jew, but she had a Ukrainian last name.

V.V.Marmus: Once I managed to pass the info outside, but that man later told me, when I met him at large, that he went to her, but she was not home. Her father or some other roomer received him coldly. So he tied a stone to the cellophane with the information and threw it to the midstream of the Moscow River. He said, “No more to add! I was scared.”

V.V.Ovsiyenko: People tried to pass it from captivity and it went to rack and ruin…

V.V.Marmus: Right. There was also another case. The current developments were constantly monitored, and it grieved me to learn that the info might be lost. After I was taken out, I had not heard what became of Apollon Bernychuk or to whom he had left the job, and whether he was still alive.

At the end of 1977 I made a statement that I would continue as a political prisoner.

V.V.Ovsiyenko: The struggle for political prisoner status began in late 1976 - early 1977.

V.V.Marmus: Yes, I did not go to work, and tore off all stripes. They gave me six months in the cell-type room. At first they put me in the punishment cell so that I could review my thoughts and reject them. They sort of beat around the bush with me. I stayed there for some time, they transferred me to no. 36 in Kutchino, put in a cell with Semen Hluzman and Lithuanian Šarūnas Žukauskas. He was also an interesting person. Later they brought me to Oles Serhiyenko and Yevhen Proniuk, I had already stayed with them. At that time somewhere there, in the neighborhood, Yevhen Sverstiuk was kept. I remember how at Christmas we went round carol-singing for him and shouted. Then Anatoly Zdorovy returned from Kharkiv. They drove him somewhere. It was fun staying there; we kept writing and passed on information. I also forwarded somewhere my indictment, but it later turned out that the KGB intercepted it.

In brief, such was the situation in these camps. From there I was brought into exile. That was in February 1979, about 10 days before the end of the term. At that very time I received info, but all of a sudden they picked me and the info remained hidden in the zone. I refused to budge, because they took away a lot of my things: notebooks with notes, etc. Later, however, they returned this, that and the other. And then they took formal note of confiscation of tendentious anti-Soviet information. I then lay down on the ground and said that I wouldn’t move if they wouldn’t return my notes. By the way, I had interesting portraits there… One of them told that by the officer’s word of honor that they would return… They took me and brought to Sverdlovsk, and from there Tyumen Oblast. There I had to wait for a long time for the permit to proceed into exile.

It is clear that there were already other conditions. Then it turned out that in the neighboring district lived Semen Hluzman, a little to the north was Zenoviy Krasivsky. And down south, in Kurgan, did her term of exile Stefaniya Shabatura. We were in correspondence. I also corresponded with Iryna Senyk. We had a very active correspondence. Later the contacts improved with foreign countries, with Amnesty International.

They kept me in the Tyumen Oblast, Isetsk Region, Shorokhovo Village. There is such a river Iset, thence the name of the town and region. my brother Mykola was also there in exile. They gave me a sort of easy time; in fact, I couldn’t hope to live with my brother in exile. When they released me in Tyumen, then warned: just refrain from your freaks there, because we’d convey you apart. Still, we were there together.

One year of exile went by. Major Shubin, Chief of Commandant’s Office, was not a bad coot. My brother’s term of exile was at the end. The major told me: “Actually I have the right to give you a vacation so that you could go home with his brother to.” Which he did. But the vacation was rather rough. We were not given any documents, but an accompanying letter, I went without a passport. They wouldn’t permit us to board the plane. Though finally they offered us seats. A week-long vacation. We arrived by air “Tyumen – Kyiv” and at once went to the Lisovys, because I had contacts with Vira Lisova. Maybe not immediately, because we also wanted to call Oksana Mieshko. We walked around, but at that time she was out.

V.V.Ovsiyenko: She was sentenced on January 7, 1981.

V.V.Marmus: Later we started corresponding. My brother and I also visited Vasyl Stus. There we drank a bottle of cognac. He gave us a photo and books: Chronicle of Samovydets and two-volume Shevchenko’s Dictionary.

V.V.Ovsiyenko: For informational purposes: Vasyl Stus was in Kyiv from August 1979 to May 14, 1980.

V.V.Marmus: Yes, it was in 1980. He asked: “Haven’t you got company?” It was this way. We drove up to Lisova, came up to her house and there a car pulled up, they checked our documents. My brother had a passport just issued to him, while I tried to search for it in my pockets, but they say: “Stop it, you have no documents all the same.” They put us in the car, brought to the KGB and locked there. They searched us there, took away everything they liked… They made a bad showing. I said, “Let me have a piece of paper, please: I will file a complaint to the prosecutor’s office about the grounds for my arrest. Are we not allowed to walk around Kyiv? The destination letter reads: “Travel line: Tyumen - Kyiv.” And they told me that I had to go straight from Boryspil to Ternopil. I said that I had to go by train, so I went to the terminal station, but here it was out of my way. At midnight we were released. I do not know what militia station it is or where it is situated.

When we arrived home, there also constantly summoned us for conversation; we were sick and tired of them. On my way back, they kicked up a row: they believed I would secretly go to Kyiv. They took me out of the Kyiv airport, held all day and drove to dinner. I really did not want to eat, but they said, “Are you going on a hunger strike?” And I say, “What do you mean? You arrested me, all my luggage remains unattended, you can plant there anything you like and then accuse me of illegal traffic?” They kept me almost until the departure time.

In Tyumen Major Shubin was unhappy, saying, “I thought that things would settle one way or another, but I was given a reprimand for allowing you to go.” So the journey ended. However, I was glad that I visited my friends and dropped in at my home.

What else can I say? In Shorokhovo there was a considerable contingent of “chemists”, about 500 of them. They were building a pig-breeding complex there. It was fun to talk with them, though there was nothing for it: they were not about talking, but about deriving an income. They could not believe that somebody wouldn’t take advantage of the situation. They told me: “It cannot be that you are not hooked by the CIA, that you are not paid dollars for the job.” Naive guys they were.

Once, when my brother was still there, we wanted to go to visit Stefaniya Shabatura in the Village of Makushino, Kurgan Oblast: we intended to hire a car and go secretly. But for some reason the plan was spoiled. We all were registered and checked. The militia were favorably disposed towards us, we weren’t their headache, unlike those “chemists” who were fighting, killing, raping etc. all the time. And we were a different kettle of fish.

One day, somebody from the Melbourne University in Australia wrote a letter to the Isetsk District Party Committee demanding to release us. They summoned us to sign a refutation that we were not persecuted there. We refused: "The letter is veracious. Are we here knowingly and willfully? Do we have any rights? We do not have any documents and we’re bowled out.” Later I answered the letter, but I guess it wasn’t let out of Tyumen Oblast.

V.V.Ovsiyenko: Did this event provoke the article in the local newspaper “Flying Canards”?[13]

V.V.Marmus: No, it was a different case. Then the radio "Deutsche Welle" broadcast informed that political prisoners were used in the construction of gas pipeline “Urengoy - Pamary – Uzhhorod”. Personally I did not work directly on the pipeline, but the undertaking, where I worked, to some extent served that system. It was impossible to say that I worked directly on the pipeline, but somehow remotely connected to it. The said feuilleton maintained that I, Krasivsky, Hluzman, Usatiuk (a Moldovan) and several political prisoners in the Tyumen Oblast were used on the construction of the pipeline.

In fact, there were such cases; the KGB officers used to visit us and give a talk. Such ceremonies did take place… I corresponded with Zorian Popadiuk who at the time was in exile in Kazakhstan. They arrested him there and came to us to carry out interrogations. Taras Melnychuk sent me a letter that he planned to risk to break free for the cost of publication in the newspaper. I do not know why he wrote me about it, because I was not his close friend. Well, we stayed for some together at the zone no. 35. And so he wrote this letter. He was kept in a zone somewhere in Vinnytsia.

At the time I was in correspondence with Halia Horbach. She was a bit surprised that she received in-depth information about us so late. I didn’t take care of it hoping that Stepan Sapeliak had sent such information. He was in the zone no. 36, and it was considered that they had better opportunities. And it turned out that the info had stuck somewhere. Now, many years later, it is another pair of shoes. I look through those self-published issues, and the info on the imprisoned guys is missing.

I was released and on the eve of 1984 came to Chortkiv. It gave me a lot of trouble: before my imprisonment I lived in Rosokhach, for that reason they did not want to register me in the regional center. In the village, at home, my brother lived already. And in Chortkiv my sister wanted to register me as her dwelling space permitted it. They did not want me to register because I did not have a job. I went to look for a job and they said that I was not registered, so they couldn’t hire me. I spent about two months seeking employment, and then said: “You know what? Under such employment ban, you’d rather bring me back to where you kept me.” I had high words with them, but they did register me at my sister’s dwelling. I was continuously shadowed.

When I returned, they gathered all our family in Rosokhach, from the propaganda department came one such Podoliaka and informed that your brother Volodymyr had not reformed. If he continued to make anti-Soviet propaganda, they would reconsider the question of his residence in the region. And you would also receive the appropriate treatment. It was a little scary for members of the family. He insisted on my public promise to stop the anti-Soviet agitation. To this I replied: “You know, these conversations make me sick.” My answer outraged him.

V.V.Ovsiyenko: Were already married then? You threw a veil over this question.

V.V.Marmus: I was single: Iryna arrived later and we were married Chortkiv. In Shorokhovo (in Tyumen Oblast) they assigned a young teacher. I met her. It turned out that her parents were beginning to press for the KGB officers told them that their daughter had contacted a Banderite. maybe I did not have such intentions, but the KGB officers maintained that I courted her just for fun. If I left her, I would have confirmed their version. I saw her regard for me, and so when she came to Chortkiv we married. She got a job as a teacher. It was also not that easy: the school director, the third secretary of the Regional Party Committee, one such Polyniak, and even the head teacher and the head of the regional KGB department Chernysh met with her, saying, that I was a hopeless case, you’d better go home and so on. They manipulated her.

At that time, in 1986, several students at the Chortkiv pedagogical school planned to create an underground organization, they mad ID cards or rather party membership cards with the slogan “Ukraine for Ukrainians”. Maybe there were other certificates as well, I did not know, and I hadn’t seen those cards. They were soon caught and the officers immediately summoned me asking if I knew them. Colonel Sinitsyn came from Ternopil; he was still a lieutenant when we were tried in 1973. He asked if I knew them and what I thought about them.

In the same school student Liuba Kavchuk incautiously spoke negatively about the Chornobyl Disaster. They exerted such pressure on her that she took poison and nearly gave up the soul. I wanted to meet her, but they at once went at me: look, they said, it is not advisable that you rede her, because you will have a lot of trouble.

At the time the elections to the Supreme Soviet drew nearer. Then, in 1988 - 1989, the events unfolded quickly. In spring of 1989 I went to the founding congress of the "Memorial" in Kyiv. There was a rally at the stadium: Yuri Badzio had been released recently and addressed the crowd. Earlier I took a picture of the grave of the victims of the Chortkiv prison and handed the photos over to Ivan Drach. Then the young fellows and I created a “Memorial” in Chortkiv. Interestingly, all Rosokhach organization fellows participated in the creation of “Memorial”, but the KGB disbanded us. Then we went into the khata. I had already been a member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Union; the head of the oblast branch Levko Horokhivsky was present at the founding meeting of the Memorial Society. Although he and I had been warned. This was done through the UHU: the new NGOs were created, I shuttled to Ternopil, the meetings were held at Levko’s apartment.

V.V.Ovsiyenko: The Ternopil Oblast Branch of UHU was founded in January 1989.

V.V.Marmus: Right, on January 14, right on the eve of the Old Style New Year. We scheduled the meeting, but we were arrested at different places. Mykhailo Horyn went together with Zynoviy Krasivsky and they were detained in Lviv. I wanted to get to Ternopil the previous night and was stopped at Chortkiv Railroad Station: they took away my passport, because a woman maintained that a man who allegedly looked like me robbed her! I was kept in a room at the militia station; they kept writing records into the small hours, and then released me. I walked down the road, but I was followed by a car and the passengers called me, invited to get in the car and kept laughing on end. So, it was the time that they could not do something serious, but all the same tried to do something. Then all of us came together from the regions on January 26 and voted Levko Horokhivsky into the chair.

We founded the People’s Movement in the region. There were teachers, friends of my wife, several my acquaintances and I suggested to create an initiative group to establish the movement. I told them that they would come as if by chance to a meeting of “Memorial” and pop the question that everywhere the creation of movement was under way and that Chortkiv shouldn’t be a contrarian. We would set a date and post up notices. I still have that poster. At the Movement setting-up time Horokhivsky came from Ternopil. Although he was warned, he came all the same.

We founded all those NGOs and finally created the regional branch of UHU. Horokhivsky was even surprised that the Chortkiv branch of UHU was established so late. I was voted into the chair. Actually we were not about to create it, but Horokhivsky insisted otherwise. The members of the Ukrainian Helsinki Union came to the regional meeting.

And so it happened that when we created the Ukrainian Republican Party on the basis of UHU in April 1990, I became the chairman once again. So until now they reelected me every year. In 1997, we reorganized into the Republican Christian Party. It is desirable that someone else be voted into the chair, although we are not very old. I am not fifty yet, but some people might think that we have a kind of monarchy and the leader is irreplaceable…

I also remember how we created the Association of the Victims of Repression in Kyiv.

V.V.Ovsiyenko: It was on the Lviv Square in Kyiv on June 3, 1989.

V.V.Marmus: We were not let in the House of Artists. The militia interfered with us. They hurried us and demanded to quickly break up. So we gathered around the flowerbed. Bohdan Horyn chaired the meeting. All turned out well, I liked it.

V.V.Ovsiyenko: Are you an oblast rada deputy now?

V.V.Marmus: Yes, for the second time. I was the regional rada deputy in 1990. Then in 1992 there was by-election to the oblast rada to replace the drop-out deputy. So I was the oblast and regional rada deputy. Now I am a member of the commission for combating crime and corruption, while in the previous convocation I was a member of the commission on ethics. In the regional rada I am also a member of the commission for combating crime and corruption[14].

V.V.Ovsiyenko: Please, tell us more about your kids.

V.V.Marmus: I sometimes think I’m too little old already, but I become younger looking at my children. I have two sons. Olexandr, my elder son, was born in 1985, and the younger one, Vasyl (named in honor of the grandfather) was born in 1992. I would like them to become normal citizens. Hopefully they will not have to spend time in prisons, like we. I want to let them be educated and work under the normal conditions for the country and for themselves.

I have been working in the regional administration for a year now as adviser on religious issues and relations with political parties. These are my spheres of action. These functions are not written on paper, nevertheless this is my duty.

As for religion, it so happens that we have it is a very slippery issue with us and no one wants to deal with it. We have interdenominational conflicts involving a lot of people. Situation sometimes becomes hopeless, because two confessions are struggling for the same premises. For example, there is one church in the village but two denominations – Greek Catholic and Orthodox. And both claim the same church. They decline to share. We spare no effort to build another church and hush the quarrel. But such solution needs money. And ambitions impede progress.

In our region there are different parties. They are as follows: the Democratic Party, the Peoples’ Movement, the Republican Party, though there are a few members who declined to go over to the RCP; the NUC, Hromada (3 members) and CDPU. There are such NGOs as Prosvita, the Union of Ukrainian Women, Association of Political Prisoners and Repressed, and Brotherhood of UIA Warriors. from time to time we have to convene and talk things over with them to design future actions and ways of coexistence. Such is my job.

V.V.Ovsiyenko: Please tell me where do your colleagues live now?

V.V.Marmus: Andriy Kravets died two years ago. Mykola Slobodian, Petro Vynnychuk and my brother Mykola reside in Rosokhach. There are also two other men that were not tried, but they’re honest guys: Petro Vitiv Mykola Lysyi. Volodymyr Senkiv married and remained in exile in Tomsk Oblast. Several times he tried to buy around here some housing, but failed somehow. Maybe he will be back here in future. Stepan Sapeliak lives and works in Kharkiv[15]. He comes to visit his mother here.

This year, we celebrated the 80th Anniversary of the Universal IV and 25th anniversary of our celebrated of the event in 1973. So we met and socialized. Of course, we meet more often, but then the anniversary was observed in the village and in the region. The Regional State Administration issued a special decree on celebrating the 25th anniversary of the raising of the national flags in Chortkiv.


Published in:

Юнаки з огненної печі / Харківська правозахисна група. Упорядник В.В.Овсієнко – Харків: Фоліо, 2003. – С. 15–35 (Young men from the fiery furnace / Kharkiv Human Rights Group. Compiled by V.V.Ovsiyenko – Kharkiv: Folio, 2003. – P. 15–35)


[1] Followers of Ukrainian politician, statesman and national leader Symon Petliura (translator’s note).

[2] A chief of local self-government (translator’s note).

[3] In the Eastern Orthodox Church they make the sign of the cross with three fingers and Catholics prefer to make the sign of the cross with five fingers (translator’s note).

[4] Molod Ukrayiny Daily, no. 7 (17638), Jan. 22, 1998. – Ed.

[5] The Association of Ukrainian Youth of Halychyna was formed in Kolomyya in 1972; all of them were arrested in March 1973. – V.O.

[6] 7.06.1930 - 8.12 2003. Founding member of the Ukrainian Workers’ and Peasants’ Union, later a founding member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group. Prison terms: 1961 - 1976, 1980 - 1988. – V.O.

[7] For systematic violations of camp regime the prisoners, after deliberation in court, were transferred to the special treatment prison for three years and afterwards convoyed to the Vladimirskaya and Chistopol prisons. – V.O.

[8] The Head of the Moscow Helsinki Group to Monitor Soviet Adherence to the 1975 Helsinki Human Rights Accords; he was arrested in February 1977. – V.O.

[9] The cell-type premises, the same as the medium security barrack; the prisoners were incarcerated there for violations of the regime for up to 6 months. – V.O.

[10] Born in 1935, the leader of the Ukrainian National Front,  sentenced in 1967 for 15 years of imprisonment and 5 years of exile. – V.O.

[11] One of the group of Jews-skyjackers, who in 1970 tried to steal a plane for flight from the USSR. – V.O.

[12] The leader of the National United Party of Armenia. – V.O.

[13] Tyumenskaya pravda, 24.12., 1982; Author: V.Hrenov. – V.O.

[14] V.Marmus was elected to the oblast rada in 1998 and 2002. – V.O.

[15] Stepan Sapeliak died on February 1, 2012 (translator’s note).

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