ARSENYCH Petro Ivanovych
V.O: June 20, 2008, Morshyn town, “Hoverla” spa. We are talking with…
P.A.: Petro Arsenych, head of Ivano-Frankivsk oblast’ “Prosvita” society, associate professor of Prykarpattya University, honored worker of culture of Ukraine – these are all my regalia. I come from a peasant family that lived in Nizhny Bereziv, Kosiv raion. This village was visited by Ivan Franko, Bohdan Lepky, Bohdan-Ihor Antonych and others. It has glorious history with strong national traditions; many leaders of national liberation movement come from there. In particular, a distant cousin of my Mykola Arsenych who was one of the OUN founders in charge of security. I was born in 1934…
V.O.: And was Myroslav Symchych from Vyzhny [Bereziv]?
P.A.: Myroslav Symchych was from Vyzhny, he was the commander of a “sotnya”[a military unit, company] and fought “moskals” courageously in Kosmach, where colonel Dergachov perished.
V.O.: I believe, Dergachov was a general.
P.A.: That is how he is referred to in the documents. I was born in 1934.
V.O.: Give us the date, too.
P.A.: January 24, 1934. I remember everything that had happened in our parts. I have seen rebels more than once…That is what the boys proudly called themselves. I saw commander Orlyk riding his horse, and others. More than once my mother would give them food in our house. We lived in the town center. Whenever the rebels used to blow up the bridge to prevent the military and party and soviet officials from entering the village, we were always warned beforehand, so we lay down on the floor and mom and dad would cover us with pillows. Under the influence of our elders we became members of the OUN Youth organization in1949. And then, in 53, after Stalin died, the policy changed- the leading administrative positions were to be given to the local officials.
V.O.: It was Beria’s order.
P.A.: Right. At that time the most prominent students were sent to bigger cities for further studies. They summoned me to Yablunivka party committee and told me there were vacancies in Kiev, in Kharkov and in Moscow. I went to Kiev and graduated from Kiev University in 1958.
V.O.: Department of history, right?
P.A.: Right. I was sent to Ivano-Frankivsk to work in Ethnography and History museum. In 1962 I started working as assistant in Prykarpattya, then still Ivano-Frankivsk, pedagogical institute. I was teaching archeology. At that time Khrushchev’s “thaw” began. As a museum docent I have met former Sich fighters, the officers of Ukrainian Army of Galicia. Later when members of OUN and UPA were getting back after doing their time in jail, I was much impressed with their stories. I understood they had to be recorded. Even under the soviet rule, when these things could not be revealed, I collected their stories, recorded them and encouraged everyone to do the same. Sometimes bizarre situations occurred. I was interviewing a Sich fighter. He was telling me about his fight against Russia in the World War I. I asked: ‘And have you fought for Ukraine?” – “No I haven’t”. Then I said: “So you fought for the emperor, but when you had to fight for Ukraine, you did not. That is why we don’t have Ukraine till now. Well, he was not sure how to answer a person whom he did not fully trust…I saw he was embarrassed and then he said: “I did fight…” I asked him to tell me the truth without fear.
It was very hard to persuade people to share their stories for me to record them. I understood the value of their memories. Sometimes they would come back asking to give the records to them, because they could not sleep peacefully unless they had them.
V.O.: How did you record them? There were no recorders at that time…
P.A.: I was just writing down whatever I heard, or asked them to put their memoirs down. Some people did. I remember a guy who was convicted, served his term in Siberia. He wrote everything about his family and brought the text to me.
And at the era of Khrushchev’s “thaw” I started disseminating samizdat books, first among students, whom I trusted, M.Maksymyuk, who later became school principle, I.Ivantsyv, the painter’s son, who was later the deputy rector of our institute among them. In 1964 Valentyn Moroz came from Lutsk to teach history in our institute, he was the youngest among us. Vynnychuk, he and I. We were three of us confronting old professor who adhered to Marxist-Leninist philosophy.
V.O.:What samizdat books have you started with?
P.A.: First of all we got B.Kravtsiv from Germany. That is what I had. We managed to make photocopies, or retyped the books. As a museum employee I collected many old editions like “Chronicles of “Chervona Kalyna”, “Prosvita” society calendar” etc. We distributed some articles of interest, like the ones giving evidence against Bolsheviks, against famine in Ukraine. Moreover, anticipating search at my place, I sent these materials to my co-students – B.Korhot, from Sumy oblast’, Mykola Shudrya and others…
V.O.: I know Shudrya.
P.A.: I disseminated materials among many people and received something in exchange. I tried to keep in touch. Chornovil was still in Lviv at that time. I dropped by the Writers’ Union and saw M.Kosiv, B.Horyn’, I.Hereta from Ternopil. He is not alive any longer, unfortunately. Then in Kiev, I met Yevhen Proniuk, who was working in the Institute of Philosophy researching Ostap Terletsky’s work.
V.O.: It was his dissertation.
P.A.: Yes. He approached me for help – he needed pictures, some other materials. That is how we established contact. A relative of his from Khryplyn was getting ready for priesthood and had been convicted; he had known Latin perfectly. And at that time the scholars from the Institute of Philosophy had to translate something from Skovoroda, I guess… Anyway, the specialists in Latin language were few, so they had to contract him despite his prior conviction. I don’t remember his name; he is not alive any longer… When he visited Pronyuk, he used to bring materials. After Pronyuk had been arrested, it was through this man that I gave some money to his family. But before that Pronyuk used to meet me in Botanical Gardens near University building. It happened sometimes that I had a lot of samizdat on me, like “Re: Pohruzhalsky trial”, “Braychevsky’s “Reunification or annexation?”, Dzyuba’s “Internationalism or russification?”, and, you know, you get panicky when you are scared. On a train I suspected my fellow-traveler of being a KGB man. I would be afraid to step out to use the bathroom lest he opened my bag and found out what it had contained. It was very scary.
V.O.: And not without a cause.
P.A.: Well, anyway I was lucky never to be discovered. Only after Moroz arrived…he was so fond of talking…
V.O.: Was it after he came back after his imprisonment?
P.A.: No-no. It was prior to imprisonment, around 64. Then we intensified our activities. We spoke up against the russification policy implemented in the kindergartens. When KGBists had gathered enough information by September 1, 1965, Moroz was arrested. His wife hurried to warn me in early hours of that day. Being friends, we often visited each other, we exchanged old books. I made students collect old rebels’ songs, and he borrowed one of the transcripts. His home was searched and the transcript taken away. Luckily the correspondence student, who had provided it, managed to go free. He was a war veteran and had war injuries. When questioned, he explained that he had “bribed” someone with a bottle of vodka, got the text in question and gave it straight to Arsenych without a look at it. But it is just a digression. When Raya Moroz came to warn me after the arrest, I had samizdat materials and Ukrainian symbols, like trident badge and blue and yellow ribbon made of glass beads, typical souvenir from Galicia. I gave all this stuff to my wife, she took it to work and then to her friends. But my home was not searched on that day.
It was September 1, 1965. He came to work with us in 1964. The process lasted till January 20, in Lutsk, if I am not mistaken. First, Moroz confessed that his persuasions were such and such, and that he indeed had samizdat in his possession. I negated everything at the beginning, but driven into a corner, as the saying goes, with the actual facts, I had to confess that Valentyn had supplied me with samizdat – because of fire in the library.
V.O.: Are you referring to the article “Re: Pohruzhalsky trial”?
P.A.: That’s right.
V.O.: Were you detained?
P.A.: I was taken for questioning in about a week’s time or about three-four days after Valentyn had been arrested.
V.O.: How long did they keep you?
P.A.: They let me go on the third day…
V.O.: So it was a detention.
P.A.: Right, it was a detention, I was not under arrest. But then they summoned me for questioning more than once. My understanding was they wanted to use me as a witness. They were trying to convince me: “He is a nationalist; how could you, a grown-up man fail to understand that?” I said: “I did not understand myself why kids in the kindergartens should be educated in Russian”. I was ordered to come to Lutsk for trial, as well as my colleague I.Kostyuchenko from the Institute of Oil and Gas, and artistMykhailo Figol’. That hearing was an open one, so to speak. Dmytro Ivashchenko was sentenced to two years, and Valentyn – to four.
V.O.: I have the text of the verdict.
P.A.: In his last word Valentyn used my evidence as defense argument, because, as I mentioned before, first I sang a different tune. At the hearing I stated plainly: “You would also confess to everything, had you been tortured like that”. I don’t remember exactly what I said. Valentyn showed a lot of courage at the trial, as compared to Ivashchenko. We were followed. There was a KGB guy, a head of the Chair, certain Vasyuta…Due to the stand I have taken later I was accused of supporting nationalists and specifically Moroz. I was arguing that I was a peasant’s son, a soviet patriot, who loves his Ukrainian heritage, and that I found nothing wrong with protesting against russification and demolition of the monuments.
Naturally, they tried to recruit me to work with them, and it lasted for a long time – since 1966 till 1986. They kept looking for something…It was kind of preventive action. Whatever happened they would summon me to intimidate and coerce me to collaborate. From the very beginning I wrote to these investigators that I promised to uncover an American spy if he came my way. At that time I thought it was not big sin, if it really came to that. Main thing was not to rat on your own. When they started questioning me about my colleagues I used to say:”Yes, we have meetings, but we are patriots willing to correct the wrongdoings; that is why we are sharing our views among us”. They conducted last search in my home in December 1981 as they knew I had a lot of books.
V.O.: It was the last one, but what about earlier searches?
P.A.: No, there had not been any searches prior to that. They took away a lot of books wanting to intimidate me and make me collaborate and write an essay against Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism. I had many offers of this nature. I said I knew nothing about their operation but if I familiarized myself with the facts…Give me materials if there are any opponents there, abroad, then I could analyze them and come up with something. They understood it didn’t work. One of them warned me: ‘You won’t be sitting on two chairs at once for long.” Because once I told them: “Hire me, give me materials, and I’ll think about it. Otherwise – no way”. They understood it won’t work, but they kept following me and summoned me now and then.
I told you already that after Valentyn had been released for the first time, I started fund-raising for him. It became known, but only a couple of persons had contributed. I was warned. KGB wrote me a short notice, but instead of sending it by mail, just dropped it into my mail-box (I knew it because the envelope was not stamped properly). It read:”Comrade Arsenych, we advise you to take care of your own folks and not Moroz’ family. That is for your own good.” That was all. At the end I approached the priest V.Romanyuk, who later became patriarch Volodymyr. He contributed a substantial sum and I brought it to Valentyn. This latter expressed his wish to meet the priest, and I introduced them. Romanyuk invited Moroz, Moroz took Chornovil with him and they went to Kosmach.
V.O.: I believe, Romanyuk baptized Chornovil there, in Kosmach, right?
R.A.: Yes, quite possible. The thing is I lost any ties with Romanyuk, after he had become an ardent Russian Orthodox and had spoken harshly against Greek-Catholic church which was quit unexpected of him.
Another interesting thing was that the KGB men requested that I write an essay against Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism. They meant to scare me with their frisk. But I knew that possession of books was not in itself a punishable offense, unless someone proved that I shared them with other people. Earlier I used to work in the museum where I had access to special archives. To use them I had to sign the confidentiality statement. So I created an archive at home. I kept entire anti-Bolshevik library in a coffer – everything that had been printed prior to 1917. I was not much afraid for those early editions because prior to 1917 that current power still did not exist, but I kept them under the key just in case. They were found and confiscated too. I tried to explain that I was well aware of their contents so I hid them even from my parents. They also confiscate three volumes of Kolomya encyclopedia, the Kryp’yakevych’s book “History of Ukraine-Rus”, published in the 30-s. I asked them : “By what right did you do that? The author is a soviet scholar, an academy member.” I wrote three complaints and some books were returned to me, but Dontsov, Mykhnovsky, and god knows why, Osyp Nazaruk’s “Yaroslav Osmomysl”(a historic novel) were never returned. Nazaruk was a Sich fighter, but he also wrote books. My understanding was that it was stolen by one of the KGB officials, that is why it was never returned, although it contained nothing…
V.O.: When was it?
P.A.: It was 1982. Books were confiscated in December 81 during the search and given to specialists for evaluation. It was doubtless hard time for me. I was expelled from the institute, so I returned to work in Ivano-Frankivsk Ethnography Museum. It became my hobby – I loved meeting older people and recording their memoirs, looking for old photos and documents. Once I learned something interesting I would go on a self-assigned fact-finding trip. Scholars studying history of the 25th congress, or the bios of the members of CP of the Western Ukraine were granted business trips but not me. Once I came across two big book collections in Terpylivka village (Pidvolochysk raion). The priest Volodymyr Herasymovch, who lived there, had died, and his daughter Hanna Herasymovych after serving the term of 10 years, had returned. Nothing was confiscated and she managed to keep the whole library intact, including periodical publications of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Eventually I got hold of it and even bought some exhibits for the museum. There was a writer by name of Kychura, subjected to reprisals in 1937. He was arrested in Kiev, and his two daughters continued living there. He left a big library in Kolomya, dating back to the Austrian times, and even first editions of the 20-s which he used to send back from the Soviet Ukraine. His daughter Tatiana took care of it, and then I did. My meetings with a Moscow-lover Havryshko who had been collecting all anti-Ukrainian materials also helped. They became an incentive for my trips to Galicia, where I visited old intellectuals and collected everything they could offer whether as a gift or as an article for sale or exchange. I managed to collect a big philocartic collection –old postcards and books. At the times of perestroika I organized an exhibit of the newspapers depicting Sich gunners’ and UGA. I organized Shukhevych family exhibit in the Ethnography Museum. The topic of my dissertation was “Volodymyr Shukhevych – Hutsulshchyna researcher”. By the time I submitted it for preliminary defense in1974 it was discovered that UPA general was his grandson, so the defense of my dissertation was out of question. Later I used it to publish three books: “ Shukhevych family”, (1995), “Volodymyr Shukhevych” (1999) , and the second edition of the “Shukhevych family” to commemorate his centenary.
But my point is different. You see, I knew many people and some of them didn’t trust me. From the very beginning I used to introduce myself: “I am so-and-so, such and such things happened to me. If you trust me, let us talk.” I could see their point – Valentyn was serving his term in prison, while I was free, hence…Technically they had no grounds to arrest me, because the fact of samizdat dissemination had not been established. I never confessed as to whom I gave the books. Had I confessed I would have drawn a lot of people, students included, into the abyss. Thank God, no one had been subjected to reprisals because of me, neither had I been detained. The main thing is I never wrote an anti-nationalistic essay they wanted from me, because otherwise now I would be very sorry. So, my conscience is clean, as the saying goes. The only thing I regret is that I was not courageous enough to correspond with Valentyn. Later we had a very vivid correspondence with Taras Melnychuk. And I always tried to help Valentyn Moroz’ wife. She left their young son Valik with us, because she had no place of her own. Later she was dismissed from job and persecuted. Once I wanted her to help me in delivering our protest against russificatin of the Ukrainian science to Sakharov and then abroad, but she was afraid to take it. We wrote this protest together with Roman Kys, the son of a Lviv University professor.
V.O.: Valentyn was thrown out of the country on the night of April 27/28, 1979, and she followed him abroad.
P.A.: But there his behavior was ugly.
V.O.: It is common knowledge.
P.A.: When I visited Canada in 1990, I mentioned once that Valentyn Moroz used to be my pal. Someone advised me not to mention this fact again because he was not very popular in Canada…But let us not dwell on that. Anyway he was a brave man. His obstinate nature, though, would not allow him to consider someone else’s opinions. For example, we were having a meeting at my place. Valentyn was there as my older friend, the editor of “Respublikanets” newspaper in 1919, who personally knew Bachynsky, Petrushevsky, minister of defense Vitovsky. Other people were present. A discussion started and Dmytro Demyanchuk said “I have nothing to talk to you about, I witnessed the events with my own eyes, and I know better than you”. But Valentyn would never yield, he was very stubborn.
V.O.: it became obvious later, in Sosnovka, in Mordovia.
P.A.: Were you with him…?
V.O.: No, no, he was on the special regime, while I was on the strictest regime, but some hearsay reached us.
P.A.: He was such sort of a man, that even people who helped him were offended by him. In Yaremcha he hurt P.Rohozhynsky’s feelings. When medical treatment was in order, he had to arrange it through physicians he knew, but he even did not thank him or visit him, although he had been invited. Well, these are personal things. Main thing is we survived. Reading your memoirs I was pleasantly surprised to find out that you, the younger generation, had the courage to oppose the oppression. That is the way it should by. For all my life as a history professor I have been trying to awake the sense of national dignity among my students. Even now I would not give a credit to my female students if they cannot sing a lullaby or two, because as future mothers they must know how to bring up children in the spirit of patriotism and Christian values.
In soviet times, of course, we were coerced to…But I was lucky to have avoided it. Apart from my essays on the CPZU (Communist party of the Western Ukraine) and its members who used to be Sich fighters, I have written nothing to praise the soviet power. I wrote commemorative articles about Ukrainian writers – Shevchenko, Franko, Kotsyubinsky, Lesya Ukrainka. But when I wrote an essay “Lesya Ukrainka in Hutsulshchyna” where I mentioned that Lesya had been visited by Franko and Mikhnovsky, someone recognized Mikhnovsky’s name and the essay was never published. Another instance – I mentioned Fedir Vovk, who was also labeled a Ukrainian bourgeois nationalist, and faced some difficulties for that. Once they made me really mad. I came to Kiev and learnt that my colleagues were fired. They published a bibliographic catalogue about Carpathian Mountains region – it was1972 – and put there an article by Kubiovych “Sheep breeding in the Carpathians” edited by Hrushevsky. For that they were dismissed from work and deprived of the scholarly title of the candidates of history. The deputy director of the Ethnography Institute Zinych was also fired. I was on the “black list” too, not to be edited or published. It was only after Malanchuk was dismissed and his wife quit the editing board of “Narodna tvorchyst’ I ethnographiya” [Folk art and Ethnography-Ukr.] Skurativsky, now deceased, started publishing my work on the regular basis.
V.O.: I knew him well. Vasyl’ Skurativsky worked in raion newspaper in Radomyshl in 1963-64, and I come from that raion myself.
P.A.: He visited me more than once – in Frankivsk and in my native village of Bereziv. He showed interest, and recorded things. Once, by the way, he organized an expedition “Following the chumaks’ route”. We were part of the “salt route”. I accompanied him on that trip. I also want to mention Yevhen Pronyuk. I knew him and I am very grateful to him for not turning me in…
V.O.: He took a very firm stand at the trial.
P.A.: ...so when he decided to run for deputy – and he ran in the same election district where B.Rebryk, also a UHG member, was running – I gave my vote for Pronyuk, believing that he was a learned man of philosophical mind. We canvassed the entire Tysmennitsa raion. People trusted me, so they voted for him. True, Rebryk was a bit offended, but Pronyuk could do more, as the head of political prisoners Association. It was not an easy thing. I tried to bring them together because it is not good when political prisoners cannot find common language among themselves. V.Striltsov, a quick-tempered man, was the head of our branch. He could not respect people who did not share his views, although they did their time in prison, just like him. He never, though, spoke against me, even when I criticized him. He even accepted me as a member of the political prisoners’ Association. Although I had never been imprisoned, I had been persecuted between the years 1965 and 1986. I was always active in the Association operation, was its deputy head for some time, and still now I am a member of the oblast ’board. I am glad that now the Association is headed by a decent man, a former rebel, who had suffered the reprisals, a priest’s son Orest Dychkivsky. I often do the presentations there, collect materials on the people sentenced to prison. It is important to have governmental support in that matter. The Institute of the National Memory should participate. But it needs funds to collect materials, while people, who had witnessed these events, are still alive. The rebel songs, the memoirs should be recorded. Our people remember a lot and not everything has been recorded yet.
V.O.: That is right. I personally have taken down the memoirs of three persons – participants of Norylsk rebellion. They retold their entire biographies.
P.A.: That is what I keep repeating: “You have no right to die before recording all your memoirs and stories, for your children and grandchildren, for other people, so that they can be used as testimony against that horrific soviet Bolshevik system”.
V.O.: On Monday I will be talking about V.Stus here again and I will stress it once more. Let us take a West European country – a mere housewife who had not done anything special, - is sure to write her story for the grandchildren and further generations. And those who participated in the most important events are simply obliged to do the same. After all, no one is afraid any more to be put to jail for a mere written word.
P.A.: We still have a lot of people who did time in jail, who had been persecuted, followed for dozens of years, fired for “nationalistic views”. I think they are worth mentioning too.
V.O.: Indeed, even those who contributed a tiniest bit, but are not remembered. They should be mentioned, because people die. And some even were very active in the opposition, but evaded KGB attention, dismissals from work, reprisals, although they were doing great job. And now they are taking all that with them, and nothing remains.
P.A.: There is another side to the issue. Some people are trying to puff up their own role. And that is one of the reasons why honest and decent people did not want to do anything with UPA Fraternity or Political prisoners’ society, because they see that often undeserving people want to pose as worthy members.
V.O.: That is unfortunately true.
P.A.: I am encouraging people all the time to put down whatever they remember.
V.O.: Right, you have told us about yourself. Now would you like to tell us about others? Is it possible?
P.A.: It is. When perestroika started we used to get together in a close circle. Even earlier, under the soviet rule yet, when Valentyn was still among us, we used to meet on the pretext of some holiday. We invited an autodidact musician Vasyl Ivasyuk from Hutsulshchyna, Biloberezka. He played the Hutsul flute and other musical instruments. Moroz loved listening to him. For Shevchenko’s commemorative days I did a presentation, because I had old Shevchenko’s books in my possession: “Women in Shevchenko’s life”. The circle of friends gathered around me – Moroz and his wife, his colleague who had studied in Lviv University, historian Yaroslav Melnychuk with his wife and me with wife. We took turns in hosting the meetings, but predominantly it was at my place, because it was bigger than others, at Melnychuk place, and, sometimes, in the hostel, where Moroz stayed. Then a friend of mine, who had taught German in the Institute of Oil and Gas, and another professor, who had taught Latin – now he is a priest Ivan Kozovyk from Ternopil region, and others, too. We discussed the matters of interest, exchanged samizdat books. First we had a source of information: I subscribed Lemky’s newspapers “Nasha kultura”[our culture Ukr.] and “Nashe slovo” [our word – Ukr.] printed in Poland. There we could find information which was missing from our newspapers. Besides, I was disseminating old editions printed in Galicia – newspapers, magazines, books by Trylovsky, Lepky, Mazepa. I had a big library and book collection. Eventually I presented some of them to Lviv museum. Some editions were even bought from me: I.Franko. Lesya Ukrainka, O.Kobylyanska works edited during their life time. I made a gift of “Zorya” magazine, where Lesya Ukrainka first poem had been published in the 1880-s, to Lesya Ukrainka museum. I have always believed that books must be available for public, that people must read them. Whatever I had collected I gave to the museums around Ukraine. I have always lent books to my friends. Some things, of course, disappeared, because not everyone returned them, especially, the books on history, like the ones describing the events of November 1918, Books about Sich gunmen, like “Chronicles of Red Guelder Rose»", were very popular. Some elderly people like [the name undecipherable, something like “Bokas”], who still remembered Austrian times, had a three volume encyclopedia, which I had bought from him. When at Brezhnev times the propaganda concerning the formation of the “new historic entity of the soviet people” gained momentum, he came to me and said: “Guys, you’ve got to do something! How is it possible to remain silent as if nothing is going on? At least let’s throw a bomb in front of the city hall, to scare these Bolsheviks a bit, because they’ve become too insolent”. There was an old man by name of Oliynyk, who constantly wrote some recommendations, instructions… So my views were formed predominantly under the influence of former Sich gunmen, UGA officers, teachers, intellectuals. I remember O.Fedanko who had initiated the setting up of the first museum in Manyava Skete [monastery]. He is not among the living anymore; a female teacher, who had been imprisoned for ten years. I have mentioned already Pryhordska and Duchyminska, with whom I stayed in touch. To spite the enemies she died at the age of one hundred and six. I was present at the celebration of her centenary and one hundred and fifth anniversary. In Uman’ there were and it is from them that I learnt about celebrations from Hanna Herasymovych and Nadia Surovtsova, who had lived in Uman’, and attended them.
V.O.: When did you visit her?
P.A.: In 1975, because spending a month in Talnivka raion, I learnt about her. I did not want to ask for directions, so I followed a map to get to her home. I was lucky to have visited her. In half an hour trust was established between us. During the visit I took some of her manuscripts. I was fascinated with the story of this heroic woman. The map I used to get to her one-storey home was drawn by my friends. I did not want to ask the way, lest someone would follow me. I mentioned already that all the materials I have taken from her, I returned later to her relative. The first name was Fedir, but I forgot his last name. Her memoirs were published in “Ukraina” journal. The correspondence was based on other materials as well. A large book about Surovtsova was published too. I have it.
V.O.: It was Lesya Padun-Lukanova who had prepared the book for publication, am I right?
P.A.: May be, I do not remember. So we had a lot of interesting people. I have been always collecting materials testifying to the spiritual unity of Ukraine, so that Galicians are not accused of being separatists. I’ve heard such accusations. We understood that without Great Ukraine we are worth nothing…Anyway it is my pleasure to mention that the people who were sent to us here – teachers, nurses - worked diligently, married mostly our Galician boys, and took our side, like a teacher of mine, Valentyna Sirenko.In 1948 she supported the rebels, provided them with literature, subscribed a newspaper for them. Someone reported her and she was sentenced to 25 years, later changed for 10 years, but I could not find her traces after that. I wrote an essay about her based on her personal file from KGB and other materials.
On the other hand, I remember a case when a female teacher was killed by the underground fighters. First, she received four warnings, but she was a fanatic. She was guarded by a whole garrison. But once the guards went to take a shot of vodka, and our fighters, using the opportunity had killed her. It was the only occurrence, nothing similar ever happened. For example, my wife’s two brothers married the girls from the eastern Ukraine – Ivan married a teacher from Poltava oblast’, and Mykola married a nurse from Mykolaiv oblast’. My brorther-in-law was a soldier of “Galicia” SS division, and had to face reprisals. All of them are dead by now.
I always call for unity. I.Franko himself set an example by marrying a Kievite. Then, an attorney Teofil Kunevsky, followed by others. I can give you a lot of examples of such unions. Among the “easterners” who came to us Drahomanov, Mikhnovsky, Hnat Khotkevysh were the most prominent. The latter escaped to our terrains to set up Hutsul theater. Later he moved it to Kharkiv . As it happened, before World War I, Kryvorivnya became the center of cultural life, because Hnatyuk and Franko lived there, Hrushevsky used to visit and finally bought a villa there. Lesya Ukrainka, Kotsyubynsky, people from Eastern Ukraine, from Galicia.
V.O.: Franko also bought a house there, right?
P.A.: No, he was just renting. And Hrushevsky bought a villa from a landlord. Unfortunately the house was burnt during the World War I by the “moscals”. They set fire to the Ukrainian centers of culture, but did not touch the Polish ones. So many things perished in fire. Then the center moved to Churche village. There a house for the Lepky brothers, especially for Bohdan Lepky, who had been a professor in Krakow University, was built using the money given as donations. Levko Lepky, former UGA officer and composer, was the manager of the villa. Artists and intellectuals used to come there in the 30-s, up to 1939. The building stood till 1985. Unfortunately the soviet power demolished it to erase the traces of this famous writer. To my knowledge they want to restore the museum there. All the monuments of culture should be restored. The only project which has been implemented so far is Galicia Museum in the open, but it has to do mainly with the epoch of princes.
V.O.: Is it in Halych?
P.A.: Yes, in Halych. And do you know how much tumult there was around Kosmach, the unofficial rebels’ capital? They had a church dating back to the 17th century, and is chaplains used to give their blessings to the rebels, who were sworn there. So the authorities made a point of destroying it. The movie “The shadows of the ancestors forgotten” was filmed there. So the iconostasis was taken by Paradzhanov. Then he had to return it on public request. As a museum docent I went to Kiev personally to retrieve it. We ordered its restoration. Then we started writing letters to Tron’ko, who headed the Society for historic monuments preservation. The experts came for evaluation of the church and did not object to its renovation. I was trying to prove that it was a branch of Manyava Skete, and used to be an Orthodox church, hoping it will help to save it. But the officials bribed some drunkards who set it on fire.
V.O.: So they burnt it?
P.A.: They did. And before that, a certain Bobyak from Kosmach came to one of the meetings of our Society for historic monuments preservation. He was also trying to save the church, and someone reported that he had spent the night at my place. I was called to KGB again and accused of supporting a “bandera” church. I replied I was a museum docent, so it was natural for me to defend a historic monument and I saw nothing wrong in setting up a museum in the church. They ordered me to write a justification. I understood they requested it because I used to write complaints to Bobyak and he signed them. People complained against shutting the churches down. One of the complainers, certain Kozlan from Mykytyntsy was regularly questioned for full 4 years. Only under Gorbachev they allowed to reopen the church – the one where Yakiv Hlovatsky, an outstanding writer and scholar, used to work. Later he became a big lover of Moscow. A lot of damage has been done, many monuments destroyed. For example, a church in Dovhopillya, with Ivan Trush’s paintings, has been dismantled. But I’ve studied these occurrences, and, noteworthy, the majority of people who had participated in the demolition of temples have met with violent death. It is not just hearsay, I could give you facts…
V.O.: That is right. In my area we also remember such facts. You mentioned the church burnt down in Kosmach. When did it happen? Vasyl Romanyuk was chased out of it in 1971.
P.A.: No, it is older church which was burnt down. And Romanyuk served as a priest in the other on. He often spent night at my place and I always asked him: “Order Hutsuls in your sermons to stick to nationals traditions”. And he did so. For that he was accused of disseminating nationalism.
V.O.: Some nationalism, indeed.
P.A.: And he was a very committed patriot. I believe more priests should do the same now, a lot depends on them. They call to unity in their sermons, but in fact they are not able to join their ranks even among themselves,– Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Autocephalous church. Sometimes, I criticize them for that, even openly.
V.O.: Priest Ivan comes here to “Hoverla” spa. I have listened to his sermons several times. His position on unity is very firm. I do not know where he comes from, but he will stay till June 29. He was on vacation here, but everyday he held service twice a day. He offers good sermons.
V.O.: June 22, 2008. Mr. Arsenych continues his story.
P.A.: I wanted to dwell on another period of reprisals that started in 1965 and lasted through the years 1972-73. These were times of persecution for me and many others. For example in 1972 or 1973 Malanchuk came to Frankivsk. He convened a party conference for the entire oblast’ to give instructions. He analyzed and criticized Shelest book. The museum employees Klapchuk, Skvoriv, Bolekhov and others were called to the event.
V.O.: Was it about the book “Our Soviet Ukraine”?
P.A.: Yes, and then he switched to the negative facts at the local level. He mentioned me, too, saying that Arsenych had written 20 articles with no class-based approach in them, that I was fascinated with archaic traditions, misinterpreted activities of CPZU, that I praised “borotbist” Savych who had been arrested in 1933. By the way in soviet times, specifically in 1979, the entry about “borotbists” was not accepted by the Encyclopedia, because Malancuk had his own view on the point. I mentioned already that they wanted to fire me, and that I lodged a complaint with KGB and oblast’ party committee. But the most unpleasant thing that had scared my parents and sister was that the kolkhoz head had taken away our land plot, adjacent to the house, ”because the son of the family was a nationalist”. They were deeply upset about it, but I consoled them pointing out that other people were taken to jail, so the land plot was not a big deal…They will return it. And actually that’s what happened. Then my family and I were once again in trouble due to Malkovych. I advised him that Halan was killed not by the underground fighters, but by KGB and that it was a provocation. I believe one of the assassins was actually a KGB man.
V.O.:They were Stakhur and Ilary Lukashevych.
P.A.: And three sons of the priest Lukashevych were shot to death. But probably they had nothing to do with it. The priest himself was sentenced to 25 years.
V.O.:The priest Denys Lukashevych finished his prison term in Mordovia in mid-70—s, I met him there. He told me, among other things, that his youngest son Myron who had 16 years, had been executed, although he had nothing to do with anything. And Ilary was accused of participating in the shooting.
P.A.: And, by the way, Duchyminska was punished because of these events. Supposedly, she had provided priest Lukashevych with Halan’s address. Later I found out it had been a provocation. Compare Kirov’s assassination with Halan’s assassination – both were used to boost reprisals against intellectuals. By the time these facts became known, I wasn’t able to talk at the rallies, so I shared them with my nephew Ivan Malkovych, who made them public in our village. The head of kolkhoz Panchenko was not happy to hear it, as the kolkhoz was named after Halan. He was mad. New troubles encountered our family – the land plot was taken away again. You see, the authorities used any weapon to hold people in submission.
And at that time, after Malanchuk’s visit, many intellectuals were affected, especially writers and historians that collected materials, even though they did not participate in any actions challenging the authorities. Not everyone could stand it. Sometimes people were included into KGB inspections visiting camps. You must know my elder colleague Mykhaylo Klapchuk. He spent 10 years in camps. He had four children, lived and did his research in Karaganda. But wishing to protect his children against russification he returned to the village of Delyatyn – his wife was from there, and undertook the work of a photographer. Then the KGB officials said: “You go to a camp, to spread your propaganda there…” He was born in Kornych, in 1920. He was one of the OUN leaders in Kolomya and a very smart man – as a geographer and geodesist he taught future rebels in the special courses. He was caught and sentenced to ten years. He sought my advice as to what he should do, and finally decided to participate in these inspections, to find out more about people he used to know, to warn people etc.
V.O.: So he was included into these “delegations of members of public” that were sent to the camps to persuade us, right?
P.A.: Right, right. He went, but later related that he had done no harm to anyone. He could have refused, but he said it gave him the opportunity to warn someone. By the way, he even wrote about it, collected the materials for his archives. He kept that ticket, and in his memoirs he had written about where he was, what he said.
I know an instance when another, younger guy, certain Melnyk from Kalush, was sent on the similar mission. He loved literature, so he was sent to Czechoslovakia – to Prague, to Pryasiv. I told him: “If you decided to go, then at least warn the people that KGB is following them, so they had to be alert”. And so he did.
V.O.: These “delegations of members of public” headed by a KGB official were brought to camps. And it was obvious that some people were coerced to participate, it was very difficult for them.
P.A.: By the way, M.Zelenchuk was visited in the camp by doctor of medical sciences Petro Vokalyuk. In the course of their conversation Mykhaylo mentioned that he would be released soon, and professor offered his help and support. Indeed, upon his return from the zone, he came to me, to help me get in touch with Vokalyuk and seek his support in the matter of registration. Only after he married a priest’s daughter Luda Lopatynska he was registered in her 2-room apartment in Ivano-Frankivsk. But Vokalyu, deceased by now, had nothing to do with, despite his promises. So it was common to send people to the camps with the goal of persuading the inmates, or even to recruit them right here.
I was summoned to the second hearing in Moroz trial – I had to be there and to report everything later. I entered the court building and saw a whole bunch of people. I recognized some people from Lviv and told them to talk as little as possible because of the surveillance – and went away. I was reprimanded later:” We assumed you would repent and help us, but you didn’t go, you found out nothing, you reported nothing”. I retorted:” I told you already, hire me properly, then I will work, otherwise… And I will do my bit – if an American spy happens on my way then I’ll report, but I will not rat on my own people”. And thank God it worked. Because I was worried – just fancy, the very idea to write that article against the Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism was tantamount to hanging oneself. But God saved me from doing it and I put no one to jail nor caused any trouble for people testifying against them. But they were recruiting everyone. Quite recently my neighbor confessed that he was recruited too, to report on my visitors. But it was only in 1992. These things must be recorded, these methods, the collaboration. All these facts must be made public, so that all these turn-coats would be stripped of all their privileges. Some people are so double-faced that they pretend to be real heroes while in fact they were nothing but henchmen. It should be checked. I myself am not afraid of such lustration. There is no evidence against me - I harmed no one, although I was not a saint either…Now it makes me feel bad to think that I did not refuse point blank, but pretended I was a model soviet citizen and would report an American spy if I come across one.. It was unnecessary. But you know what their methods of persuasion were. They terrorized people. Once I was even beaten. They grabbed me by the hair and I started screaming: “Fascists! What are you doing?” They used no force on me after that. They had other methods of psychological pressure – dragging people from one room to another, from one officer to the next one, ending with KGB commander himself -oh, they could torment a person infinitely. Later during the hearing I explained that I lied under torture like any one would. But my final word helped Valentyn Moroz in his line of defense. Finally he received lesser term than he might have. It was a first open hearing so he was convicted to a shorter term. The second one was closed, though.
V.O.: Right, the wave of 1965 arrests was not that severe. The longest terms were given to M.Horyn and Masyutko, while the other s received even less.
Р.А.: In 1990 I was elected a deputy to the oblast’ council and to the city council. Roman Krutsyk was also a deputy then. We organized oblast’ commission for commemorating the victims of bolsheviks’ terror and for taking down monuments erected under Bolshevik regime. I headed the commission in charge of dismantling Lenin monuments. It was not easy, not everyone had courage to sign the decision, but the demolition of Lenin’s monument in Ivano-
Frankivsk had to be somehow justified. It was made by Kalchenko and had certain artistic value. Still we gathered enough people willing to sign. Anyway, we managed to do it. The authorities did not support our commission in our efforts to retrieve the archive materials on reprisals. It would be good to have an independent organization that would collect the data, while people who had witnessed the crimes are still among us. Because earlier or later we have, with the help of international organizations, to bring the terrible communist regime to trial for ruining so many people’s lives. By the way the authorities are also reluctant to return the houses lost in the course of reprisals, to their lawful owners. I believe the task of your partner organizations is supporting the patriots in their efforts to be recompensed, at least partially.