OVDIYENKO Mariya Hryhorivna
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Mrs. Mariya Ovdiyenko tells about herself in Brovary on April 15, 2005. Vasyl Ovsiyenko is recording.
M.H.Ovdiyenko: I, Ovdiyenko Mariya Hryhorivna, was born in the Village of Trebukhiv, Brovary Region in 1948. My parents: my father Hryhoriy Kalenykovych Ovdiyenko was born in 1914 and died in 1998; my mother was born in 1914 and died in 2001; her name was Fedora Andriyivna Kalynchenko or Ovdiyenko by her husband's last name. Both of them were born in Trebukhiv, in Trebukhiv they lived all their life; that is they were of local origin.
V.O.: Well, but tell us your birth date for the record.
M.O.: May 6, 1948. I grew up in an ordinary peasant family. My parents were not sort of national-minded; my mother had two weeks of illiteracy classes and my father finished four grades. However, my father was very clever. My father was my most holy man in my life and when my father died I kept thinking that year that I would die as well, day in and day out I waited for the death to come, I could not survive, I could not imagine that my father could die, that he could be no more; for me it was a terrible tragedy.
My father had an ill temper, he was not an easy-goer in family life as well, but had a very acute and extraordinary sense of justice. When I was in the first-second-third grade, he had no one to share his opinions with and he told me, still a kid, about the injustice at the collective farm. He told me and I wrote letters to the newspapers, and he signed them, because, he said, he could not put it into words like me, and he considered me more literate than he. He signed these letters and sent these letters about the injustice at the collective farm. They were not anonymous letters: all letters were signed. Obviously, I inherited this my father's trait.
By the way, my mother was also very smart by nature. Both of them were my special people. It, you know, was the influence of this land. They were smart and they were resourceful. No, my mother was very smart and my father was slowcoach, but he had agile mind. My mother on the distaff side and my father on the side of blokish activities couldn’t put a foot wrong. If there was a hitch somewhere, he said, “Well, I cannot. I cannot, and then I will learn and manage it.” Then he upped and did it. He constructed an electric mill with his own hands; I still have it, as well as a buzz saw and straw cutter; all you need for housekeeping. There were dry years, we resorted to watering the garden; everything was made with their own hands: my mother on the distaff side and my father on the side of blokish activities.
When I was a child, I lived with my family; I did not understand what it would spill over into. When I lost them, only then I realized what I had lost. I was very happy! I was 50 when my father died. That means I had father until 50 years of age and mother even longer. However, I had not a sort of special national education; I just grew up as a normal peasant child. I graduated from Trebukhiv high school. I was already in dispute with my school teachers on the grounds of injustice, including my academic progress and so on. It was disappointing to me but I was in conflict with almost all people with whom I had to deal at the time.
Typically, teachers of Ukrainian were poor specialists and teachers of Russian were good at it. I had teacher of Russian Yevheniya Ivanivna Menko, a Don Cossack woman, and I began to write poetry. She suggested a topic for the composition: "There are much more interred soldiers than soldiers treading the globe". This topic relates to Russian literature. I wrote a poem. She fussed over that poem at school reading it in all grades and saying, "This girl will go directly to the Institute of Literature. She has to study in Moscow, she's very gifted.” Interestingly, I respected this teacher very much and we were on friendly terms with her. Our headmaster taught us Ukrainian language and literature. He did as follows. In the upper school he named me a topic and suggested to prepare and conduct a lesson, because he was summoned someplace. I conducted lessons for my classmates and they listened to me. At first, they were surprised, wondered why I did it and laughed. I remember read them poems by Rylskyi and they kept laughing, “Oh, what is this?” Later they got used to it and everything was fine. Maybe my interest in literature originated in those days.
As a senior high school student I went to our Brovary literary and artistic association Krynytsia which was a studio at the time. I have been its master for ten years now. Our studio meeting was attended by Volodymyr Pyanov (18.10. 1921--...12. 2006. He was Executive Secretary of the Commission for Work with Young Writers under the Union of Writers of Ukraine. He was called "the godfather of the Sixties."--V.O.). We read our works there and he analyzed them. He gave me his phone number and told me that when I would come to Kyiv he would be glad if I would visit him and give him my poems to read. I tell it off records because the telltales used to rumor about his relationships with women... while I know him as a very decent person. Several times he visited my parents and told me: "They are real rural toilers." I believe Pyanov gave me the first impetus to my character formation.
V.O.: When did it happen? Did it happen when you still were a schoolgirl?
M.O.: I graduated from high school in 1966, 11th grade. And I went to school in 1955; I studied at school 11 years.
V.O.: In that year there were two groups of high-school graduates: ten-graders and eleven-graders; I finished ten grades.
M.O.: Well, I was an eleven-grader. At Pyanov's place I saw a lot of interesting young people. There was such a democratic atmosphere, he gave us interesting books to read, he acquainted us with various people and we got to know each other. He created a very good atmosphere. He fed the hungry young people, gave everybody mileage money, or pocket money; it was a really interesting company there. Well, just imagine me, a rural child... We lived at his dacha; those in need might come and stay over. For example, he goes fishing tomorrow. He said that he would sleep in this room, and another room could accommodate five or six guests. At four o'clock in the morning the phone rang, I answered the phone: Malyshko called. Volodymyr Yakovych was wanted on the phone. They kept talking for a while. Or Rylskyi for that matter: they agreed and went fishing. Well, a rural child might be intrigued, you know. All of them were living classics of our literature. In fact, he keynoted us making us nationally minded.
V.O.: He had a Russian last name: Pyanov.
M.O.: Right, he had a Russian last name. As far as I know, he was a military; he graduated from Kharkiv higher college. He lived an interesting life... Thank God, he is still alive (He died in December 2006--V.O.); I have seen him the other day. I know that he helped very many people. When I saw that Ivan Drach came to his 80th anniversary with a huge bouquet of roses and said, "I admire my teacher and I capitalize the word "Teacher", I absolutely agreed with him, because, really, a lot of people in our literature may call Pyanov their teacher. And for me it is important that Pyanov was not only my literature teacher; he was my teacher in the field of national idea. He was not a sharp person. When I met Sverstiuk and spoke with him, and he saw that I was carried away by Sverstiuk for Sverstiuk from the very first day when I met him and up to now for me is a major authority; notwithstanding anybody's views, I always had opinion of my own; you know, I was staggered by Pyanov's words, "You know, it was Sverstiuk who infected our intellectuals with this skepticism." And I said, "Perhaps, we need a sort of skepticism?" Pyanov said nothing but only looked at me. There was such an occurrence. And then I met Ivan Dziuba, late Oles Berdnyk and many, many others.
After school I worked as a Young Pioneer organizer in Trebukhiv; one year after school.
V.O.: Was it in 1966-67?
M.O.: Right. I had unbearably hard time working there. I did not take my teachers properly; I looked at them from another angle. When you see the teacher standing at the table, it is one thing, but when you see these skirts... I was incredibly shocked. We had physics teacher Viktor Mykhailovych Levytskyi, a Pole, he stroked my head and said, "You just sharpen your teeth, you should sharpen your teeth against these skirts"... so he taught me. I realized that I should quit the job, well, in fact it was a make-work, nobody needed it; and I quitted the job.
I told Pyanov that I needed a job, and he said, "Let's find a job". And I was employed as a semiskilled worker at the Botanical Garden of the Academy of Sciences, over there near Dnipro. Over there worked Serhiy Ivanovych Ivchenko, he was Pyanov's friend. Serhiy Ivanovych said, "Well, we'll hire you." I carried out any work in the garden. The researchers conducted scientific work there; there were researchers writing dissertations and certain experiments had to be carried out. At the time there were no computers, so the documents had to be typed. I rendered help. It was a wonderful period in my career. This was in 1967-68.
First, it was a wonderful period because I met people with whom I communicate up to now. During this period I understood, insofar as I was able, the nature of the state we lived in, what we needed and what we were lacking. So I began to grasp the national idea as it should be. Then Nadiya Kyryan was expelled from the university and she came to me: Pyanov directed her and said, «There's already one of our people, go there.» We lived together with her in the monastic cell. The cell was intended for one nun and we lived together with her in the monastic cell at the Botanical Garden. That building is still there. There I experienced the first search in my life; however it happened a bit later. For some reason I've failed to find time and write about it; I feel I should do it as far as nobody has done it by now. I saw with my own eyes and experienced a terrible fire at the Vydubychi Monastery. Moreover, I stole four books from that fire and gave them later to Serhiy Bilokin. I met Serhiy then. I knew a lot of people.
V.O.: When was this fire?
M.O.: It was in 1968. It was in the fall. I do not remember the exact date, but it was in the fall. There was a strange thing to happen. I lived there, there really was such a wonderful aura, and when you're young, when lilacs bloomed there, 30 hectares of lilacs, and our house was surrounded with lilacs... Berdnyk come to us daily, Sverstiuk came there with his son Andriy. We, like ancient aborigines, joined hands, danced, rolled in the grass... it was really something wonderful. Berdnyk guided me around the Botanical Garden telling about the structure of each flower; I was in love with this world. I loved plants, flowers; I loved all of them silly and was so happy that I lived there, that people came there and I guided them about the garden because I lived there. When magnolias, the small ones, were blooming, on my days off I took my blanket and lay down with my book there; with a book and a sandwich I used to lie there all day because people plucked the flowers. I guarded those magnolias. It wasn't in the line of duty; I simply couldn't stand them blotting flowers. You know, on Saturdays and Sundays there were many visitors. In short, it was a kind of paradise, and the Vydubychi monastery was at the center of the garden. There I found the grave, the completely forgotten grave of Ushynskyi, famous pedagogue. I did not know, I never read that it was there. It was a neglected grave. People were already moved from the monastery and only old woman Sofiya lived there. I found Ushynskyi's grave among the tall weeds. I weeded the grave and began to look after it. The site had a very interesting aura there.
In the Vydubychi Monastery, the Institute of Archaeology kept some of its exhibits. I asked the researchers to show me the exhibits that burned down later. I saw the shelves: there were shelves and pieces of broken crockery on them; all of them had inventory numbers, as they always do in the case of scientific collections. It was good I saw it. I asked, “What is over there, in the side cupola?" They answered, "The books are over there.” And then fire erupted one day. It happened at nighttime. I ran there, and Nadiya Kyryan followed me there. I had some kind of jacket on. The skirt and jacket. Everything was already ablaze. Was it true or not, but they said that the head of the KGB arrived personally; at the time Nikitchenko was the chief; the people pointed at him and said, “That one is the head of the KGB”. And I told them, "Guys, let me go inside." They choked the fire a little. They retorted, "Stay away, and keep your distance from it." And I said, "I shall go anyway." And I began to force my way. They would not let me through. And then I came up to the boss and said, "They say you're the head of the KGB." He laughed and said, "So what?" I said, "Issue an order to let me inside.”--”What do you have to do with it?”--”I live here, and it is sacred for me. If you do not let me inside, I will throw myself in the flames in full view of everybody, I am desperate. If you do not let me go, then you will have a lot of trouble." He looked at me and said, "You've gone crackers." He summoned a fireman, "Lead her inside." The firefighter wearing helmet led me inside. All shelves were reduced to ashes. The side cupola remained untouched. They were full of books. Someone called the firefighter. You know, I never pitched things belonging to other people, but then something clicked in my head, I still do not know what it was, and the books smelled moldy, and I had a vision that there would be no books. I stretched out my hand in despair and stuffed books under my jacket; I tugged at my skirt and managed to stuff four books under it... I brought them home and thought... At the time our room was already bugged, I had no idea. Our national-minded group used to gather there; all young people were different, everybody was under surveillance; someone wrote poems. Later the girls told me that they saw how bugs were placed and how agents had climbed upstairs. Well, they did not see what exactly the agents placed, but they climbed into the attic and did not let anyone into this room where we lived. In short, I took these books and then this firefighter came up to me, "Well, have you looked around? Have you calmed down?" I said, "Right, I've calmed down." I went out and got the shakes. I came home and told Nadiya, "You know, I am worried about these books." I told Serhiy Bilokin, "You are ..." Well, he had protection: his father was doctor of sciences, his mother might not be safely ignored, and I gave him these books.
V.O.: Did you keep anything for your own use?
M.O.: By mere chance; something fell in my hands; there was no time to choose; all of it happened very quickly, he was distracted for a moment. You'd better talk with Serhiy; I'd rather get a grip on myself. I guess, later he said that he had traded them with some Jews for Ukrainian publications. One was a book of prayers and one was a history book. But the fact is that those books were from that library.
And on the nearby hill there was a chapel; former priest Dmytrian Hryhorovych lived in this chapel. In the evenings I frequented to this chapel. He wasn't a well-informed man and I did not pester him with questions. I was interested in history, he could not tell me much, but he told me that every month a truck gets to Vydubychi Monastery. He said that all premises were packed with books. Once a month a truck arrived and took out a truckload of books; their destination was obscure. For the first time I heard this information from him.
The fire was put out and the crowd was ordered to break up. I stayed there until the end. Indeed, the crowd broke up, everything was fine, but during the fire I had a vision that everything would be reduced to ashes. When we got up the next morning, everything was gone. The cross form the dome lay on the ground... Everything burned to the ground and there were no books left. Some researchers were going about the territory, collected pages scattered by the wind. They put them into a bag. Clearly, there were all kinds of books, I cannot tell which ones because no one told me about it. Only old man Dmytrian told me about it. People said that the books were evacuated to Moscow.
V.O.: What was the origin of that library?
M.O.: I wouldn't invent things. The next morning everything was gone.
On the eve of it, when everything was still in place, Lina Kostenko came running and said, "Are you Mariya or Nadiya?" I said, "I am Mariya." She said, "I was told that yesterday in the morning they arrested Viktor Kordun, Mykola Vorobyov and all those guys." It is Kyiv School of Poetry. And I frequented cafe "Kyivske" where Nadiya and I hung out with those guys. I said that they had not been arrested in the morning because last night we were in the coffee shop and read poetry, though I had no idea what happened today. This was before the fire. Interestingly enough, she entered our cell, and sat down surprised. I had a three-time pitchfork in the corner. Posters and a three-tine pitchfork.
V.O.: Was it an antique tool or a modern one?
M.O.: A conventional pitchfork, but this one was my symbol of defiance. Of course, Lina was impressed by that. She spraddled and a rose fell on her from the window. She looked at me, "Do they often throw you roses?" I said, "Every day.”--”Who is it?" At the time we had courses for florists there, from all over Ukraine boys and girls came to study floristics. I said, "They are our students and there are very many flowers, they pass by and each time cast flower." This is also an interesting point. I saw Lina as far as the corner and told her, "Here, let's take look and see." She looked and said: "I've never been here. Although I live nearby, I've never been here. How beautiful it is here!" I went on with my story and I even recited my poems. We entered into a heart-to-heart talk with her, and it remained a lifelong impression.
A few days later the Vydubychi monastery was set on fire and it burned down. A few more days went by and Lina came back for the second time, she found me and said, "You know, I've heard that it has burned down, and I immediately decided to find you. I remembered how you told me your story, and I thought, God, how she had weathered it all.” My cell was painted for me and spruced up; it was real cool there. There was even an accent light.
CASE OF NAZARENKO
And then they conducted a search over there. This was the case of Oles Nazarenko, Vasyl Kondriukov and Valentyna Karpenko.
V.O.: Oles Nazarenko and all of them worked building Kyiv hydroelectric station in Vyshhorod.
M.O.: He was my friend. Yes, they were in Vyshhorod, where we met with Olexandr Drobaha, I had a slight acquaintance with Volodia Komashkov, we met Liuda Sheremetyeva; there was such a group. Earlier Chornovil also worked there in Vyshhorod.
V.O.: Do you remember the date of search? I have already recorded interview with Oles Nazarenko. (O.Nazarenko and V.Karpenko were arrested on 26.06.1968, V.Kondriukov on 17.09.1968 for the leaflet "To all the citizens of Kyiv" published before the day of commemoration of Shevchenko on 22 May. They were accused of anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda.--V.O.).
M.O.: That was in 1968. I think it was in summer 1968. Nazarenko then dated a woman, I cut flowers for him and led him to a path going uphill saying, "Give flowers to your woman." I never met her, but I said, "Give." I think, after that he was apprehended. Sure, I read samvydav. It so happened that in connection with the Nazarenko case the agents searched my cell.
V.O.: Did they find anything?
M.O.: They did.
M.O.: Samvydav. I remember that they found a book by Djilas, article "On the Pohruzhalskyi trial" and something else. And then there was another search... And, no, it was Nadiya Kyryan who told me. They searched her place before. She expelled from the university on these grounds. At her place they found Internationalism or Russification? By the way, at my place they also found Internationalism or Russification?
V.O.: Was it a photocopy?
M.O.: Photocopy, right. However, the main thing was that the guys made the leaflets and I typed them on a typewriter. The KGBists took my fingerprints and I wouldn't get away from it.
V.O.: What were those leaflets about?
M.O.: It read that the Soviet authorities were destroying Ukraine. They asked me how I could stand the slanderous talk about Soviet regime. However, I was released; I was kept for three days.
V.O.: Did it happen on 33, Volodymyrska Street?
M.O.: On Rosa Luxemburg Street, at the oblast KGB. I was registered in Kyiv Oblast.
V.O.: Were there cells, or what?
M.O.: No, they did not keep me in the cell.
V.O.: Three days?
M.O.: They led me to the toilet; they led me to the dining hall to eat. They told me that they wanted to arrest me, they said, "We will arrest you." I do not know what they wanted, but they went to the village to my father and brought him Kyiv. My father was just after the accident. He was on his way back from mowing, sitting in the middle of the cart, the horses got a fright and darted, the cart overturned and my father found himself under the cart and the horses kept running for a long time. His ears were torn of and his ribs were broken; he was injured very seriously and stayed in the hospital for a long time. He had been already out of hospital for two or three days and they shoved him into a black Volga and explained that they needed him for confrontation, but didn't tell him with whom. Then they told me that they'd brought my father and now they were about to conduct a confrontation. I called them scoundrels and began to rebel saying that my father in a poor condition and they shouldn't have bothered him! They kept running with the papers back and forth. I slept on the sofa: the investigating officer had as sofa in his room. It wasn't in the room, where they interrogated me but in some other room. There was a sofa; they said that they wouldn't take me to a cell for the time being, and ordered to stay there.
V.O.: Was there anybody guarding you at night?
M.O.: They locked the room. I stayed there for three days. On the last day, when they were about to discharge me, they said that they would conduct confrontation with my father. Anyway the things were settled without it. "Now we understand why you are like this: as the tree, so the fruit." Later I questioned my father closely. They told my father that his daughter belied the Soviet regime; they asked him to have a look at the lies written about Soviet power. He said, "I am not a literate man, I finished only four grades of grade school, but, look, there was an earthquake in Tashkent, so people sent there clothes and my daughter sent clothes and some blankets. I lay under the fence during hunger, my feet were swollen and water oozed through the skin fissures. I had neighbors who hid a baggie of flour and dug it out at night and boiled it and fed me, they brought me to their khata and put me on the bench; otherwise I would be long in the damp earth. I am thankful to those people who had rescued me, because nobody helped us at the time." They took him and brought him back to the village and gave confrontation up for the lost, while they told me another story.
V.O.: Do you remember them, at least one of them?
M.O.: The investigator's name was Koval. I do not remember the others. One of them I remember visually, they called him Slava, and he looked like gorilla with his hairy hands, speckled, a repulsive man... I spoke with them... Well, I was young. I was sitting... I had my poems with me... They told me something, and I responded with reading them poetry. "Do not you understand where you are?" I say, "Yes, I couldn't care less." I composed poems: about the rings of cigarette smoke, about sparrows chirping outside the window; and I did it with great relish. I read them my poems, and they said, "Well, impulsive child you are." In short, they went through the hassle... Well, how they managed it? There was a young man; it seems to me, his name was Yura... At the time we lived on the territory of the botanical garden... He drove his Volga. I couldn't tell people who he was, because they would know at once that I was summoned to the KGB. He arrived and I told him that I wouldn't go without call-up papers. He served me a notice and I had to go. He picked me up. They began to interrogate me. I said, "What of it?" The read me a testimony... In short, the boys were sentenced. (On 31.01.1969 the Kyiv Oblast Court sentenced under art. 62, p. 1 of the CC of the UkrSSR O.Nazarenko to 5 years of imprisonment in high-security camps, V.Kondryukov to 3 years, V. Karpenko to 1.5 years.--V.O.).
And there was an interesting episode, when my father returned home from the KGB. Well, he did not tell my mother, where he was. The strangers arrived and took him away, and my mother worried silly, she did not know what's what, and when he returned, he cried, too. My elder brother got married when I was 4, and now I was their only child. My father confessed to my mother that he had been summoned to the KGB and that I was jailed there, and that they told him that I was a terrible anti-Soviet, and that they promised to sentence me. Well, my father gave it to her straight. When they set me free, I came home the following Sunday. My mother was crying, my father sat silent without speech, but very sad. Weeping bitterly my mother entered into the khata, she brought a quilted jacket, she bought a new one, felt boots and woolen dress, "I've bought it for you, my dear, to wear in jail". Can you imagine? It is engraved on my memory... Out of the goodness of her heart, she said, "It is cold in jail, they may allow, I'd like you to be in the warm, to have something to dress." So it was.
Summer 1968 was in full swing. In Trebukhiv I received an invitation from the Agricultural Institute to take entrance exams, but I had not submitted documents there. I took the invitation and went to the KGB. I went to my investigator. I had no documents about me. He went out. I said, "Lead me to your office; I need to talk to you." I was very persistent. I went into his office and asked, "This was your handiwork, I understand." I showed him the invitation. He, "We know nothing, it's not our handiwork." I said, "Shame on you; how you can do such provocations." And they knew everything; they eavesdropped on me and knew that I loved garden flowers. Apparently, this was their bright idea...
V.O.: And what Agricultural Institute, in what city?
This M.O.: The Agricultural Academy in Kyiv; at the time it was Agricultural Institute. Clearly, I did not go to take exams there in 1968; the year was lost.
Then I'd just met Sverstiuk and many other people.
There was a time when Sverstiuk was not married, but he dated his current wife. Once at dinner time he told me--we often dined together, because he worked in "Ukrainian Botanical Journal"--and we used to meet with Stus there... I then had to go to Odesa. Stus told me, "Mariya, you're young, energetic; you may stir up Odesa with its priestly atmosphere." I do not want to talk about it now, but he named me specific persons. He said: "They are good people, but they need your healthy young blood to stir them up." Then, you know, there was expansive mood.
We often went together to dinner with Sverstiuk, we got in touch on phone with him and went somewhere. I worked for the Society for Protection of Monuments, while he worked for the "Botanical Journal", it was situated nearby. Once he told me, "Today we'll dine at Lily's apartment." I knew about her existence and I was impressed. I knew him as a bachelor. Well, I knew his son Andriy, I'd talked with him, Andriy gave me his photo. But it was inconceivable for me that Sverstiuk could marry and that a woman could be near him. I treated him in a very special way. It struck me, "How come? What woman? Nonsense! Maybe she's a monster." I never told it to anyone. "Lord, such a man and now he will be married." He said, "She invites us for dinner." Well, we had our dinner and talked with her. She was a darling, but I frowned all the time. She then worked for the Institute of Psychology. She said that she would go on academic mission for a month or two abroad. She was a lodger in old lady's apartment. She could not leave her alone; it was necessary that a reliable normal person lived there while she was away. She asked me to do her a favor. I said, "OK." She says: "There are no specific obligations: one should buy bread, milk or kefir and someone has to simply be present there, because she is almost blind." She had a weak sight, her TV set was provided with an attached lens, she sat in front of it and could discern something on the screen.
Her name was Olena Mykolayivna. Olena Mykolayivna told me her story. Lilia was already abroad. She was a Russian-speaking Pole. She said, “You know, everything told about Petliura is a pack of lies, it is a shame, it is very painful, -- she even cried. -- I personally knew Petliura".--"That's impossible! How come?" I couldn't believe. She went on, "Anyway it's true. I was a student and Petliura gave dinners to needy students." It seems to me, she said he gave dinners twice a week. Anybody could come and eat. I do not know whether it is true or it is a sort of fantasia, but she did tell me this. She said, “We came to dine and he sat down with us and spoke about various topics: about art, literature, politics, just everything. "I have never seen a more inspiring personality in my life." She was a very convincing storyteller; she also told me this story. His wife was very ill; I do not know whether it is true. She had very nice long hair. There was a big dining room and in the next but one room she was lying on the sickbed. It was a bed case. And she saw such things. Petliura stayed with them, and then he went to his wife, and the door opened, and she saw that the woman was lying and her untressed hair was falling down to the floor. And he knelt before her and kissed her hand. She saw it and thought, "Wow, how happy she is that such husband loves her." I, she said, was a young student and it was so romantic...
I've never read anything like it, and I know nothing like it, and this woman told me this story. Who knows how it really was.
She retold me a lot of interesting things. She told me about Lesia Ukrayinka, about her visits to the Kosachs and how she saw a handsome Georgian—she did not know his name--who was in love with Lesia Ukrayinka. I learned his name from an article in Vitchyzna Magazine; the article was dedicated to Nestor Hambarashvili and his relations with Lesia Ukrayinka. Well, these are details, but what was then important for me? Sverstiuk came there almost every day. Lilia was away and he came to see me. She had a very good library, we drank tea, ate something or went somewhere and did a lot of talking. This I also call a thin gold stripe in my life.
V.O.: In what year did it happen?
M.O.: It was still before Odesa, somewhere in 1968-69. Well, in summer of 1969 I went to enter the higher college. This was before entering. There were many such interesting things in life, though they do not relate to the topic, although they relate to such interesting people.
ODESA UNIVERSITY. NINA STROKATA
Of course, you know that at the time Oksana Yakivna Mieshko organized soirees, I often visited her. Sverstiuk told me, "They will not let you learn." He advised me to go to Odesa. I went to Odesa.
In Odesa, I came to Nina Antonivna (A. N. Strokata-Karavanska, 31.01.1926, Odesa—2.06.1996 USA. Microbiologist. For her social activities, distribution of samvydav on 6.12.1971 she was sentenced to 4 years. She served her sentence in Mordovia. After his release, she lived in the City of Tarusa near Moscow. Founding member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group. Since 30.11.1979 lived in the U.S. Published samvydav works.--V.O.). We established friendly relations from the very beginning. She read Sverstiuk's recommendation letter. I wrote about this in my book Ray of Odesa"(M.Ovdiyenko. The Godmother of My Son Roman // Olexa Riznychenko. Ray of Odesa: Poem. Documents. Memories about the Sixties in Odesa and about Nina Strokata-Karavanska.--Odesa, 2000.--P. 218-231). You know, she had not her own children, she accepted me as somebody very close, we had a very warm relationship. Everyone was terribly afraid of her, especially men. She was a strict woman, and everyone told that she was of strict morals... She lived a very ascetic life, she never had an extra piece of bread at home, everything was made the most efficient use of; she also had material problems and so on. When I came, I saw she tried to cook something. I was taking my entrance exams. She said: you should certainly enter and study. I did enter the university.
V.O.: Was it Ukrainian philology at Odesa University?
M.O.: Right. It took place in August 1969, I entered the department of Ukrainian philology. She helped me to prepare for the exams. She had two small rooms there, a prefab home, 24 square meters, two tiny rooms, the smaller one contained the library of Svyatoslav Yosypovych Karavanskyi. There I first read Hrushevskyi, tiny first collection of poetry by Lina Kostenko, History of Ukraine-Rus by Hrushevskyi, Vynnychenko, that is I read books about existence of which we, graduates of Soviet schools, generally did not know a thing. Well, I cannot say that I had no idea at all, but they were unavailable.
When I entered the university, I tried to stay at the hostel, but I failed. Then I became a lodger. Nevertheless I always maintained a very close relationship with Nina Antonivna. At first I lived in her apartment, when I entered the university, then for a short time I lived at the hostel, afterwards I became a lodger together with Nina Malanko. No, not with Nina at first, but with four girls, and only after that I lived together with Nina. And during all that period I maintained a very close relationship with Nina Antonivna. Iryna Kalynets, Stefa Hulyk and Leonid Pliushch used to visit her. The Zankovetska Lviv Theater gave guest performances in Odesa. I remember Yurko Brylynskyi coming. At the time Leonid Pliushch was in Odesa, when Yurko Brylynskyi came. The present company included Olexa Riznykiv, Leonid Pliushch and some other guests. We were several young persons together and Brylynskyi. The whole company went to Nina Antonivna; it was late already and we managed only to buy a bottle of wine and a loaf of white bread; the hostess had but one cucumber. And we stayed there until morning. In the morning I had to undergo folk or toponymic practical training. Pliushch saw me as far as onto the street, hired a taxi and from there I went straight to the railroad terminal and on to my practical training. Brylynskyi kept singing all night long. This was a happy night, he was a unique performer. He kept singing until the morning and didn't repeat a single song. He took a short respite, talked with us and then sang again. Such unique events took place there.
Our relations with Nina Antonivna were really very interesting. From the very beginning she told me: I want to protect you against all odds, you have to learn, we live only one life, I really want you to be an educated person, I want you to defend a thesis, you have to pursue science. Clearly, that did not work, it is clear that I was under surveillance. We talked over all topics with her, we openly and frankly discussed with her, and she told me about Svyatoslav Yosypovych, there was a portrait made by Duzhynskyi. Now it is at Karavanskyi's house in Denton, and then it hung in her khata. Everything that took place around her... Maybe "around her" is high-flown rhetoric because she retired to a solitary place for a life of seclusion. Now, many authors write that she usually hosted many people, but it's not true, as she avoided society of others. As for me, so if she saw that some guy approached me, she told him: "What do you want here?" On the street, for example, a guy came up to me, and she, "What do you want here? Why are you looking at her?" So she behaved. She said, "Go chase yourself! She must learn." She was so interesting...
She taught me how to behave in the KGB. She said that sooner or later I would run into them. Look here: they tell you something and you put your legs on the table. It is a pity that you do not smoke, but don't start to. Just wag your tongue, do not be afraid and push forward like a tank. If you get scared, you’ll be in trouble. Never be spooked at anything.
Thank her for teaching me a lesson because it was useful for me very soon; she was apprehended. It happened as follows. She was beside herself with anxiety; she had a period of despair. She told me, "You know, I'm just desperate." He was in Vladimir Prison, Karavanskyi. She said, "They told me, "We will leave him to rot in jail, we will never discharge him alive.” And I understand that they will keep promise. I lived here and he lived there, there was no hope that one day there would be a kind of normal life." And then one day it happened that we missed each other with Yuri Shukhevych, I went to Brovary and he arrived in Odesa. I did not meet him at the time, because I stayed just here. When I returned she told me that Shukhevych was desperate, because he lived in difficult conditions and he had two kids there.
V.O.: Did he live in Nalchik?
M.O.: In Nalchik. She said, "I told him to let his wife come here with the child to spend her holiday in Odesa, because--she said--I started to think that it might be appropriate to exchange my apartment for Nalchik. If I die, the children will have this apartment, as they have nowhere to live at all." And it happened precisely at the time when she was expelled from work. She worked at the Filatov Institute, she was a microbiologist by profession. They sacked her; they wanted her to repudiate Karavanskyi, but she never did it. And as it was she was about to exchange her apartment for Nalchik; therefore, she went to Nalchik. She was hired as a teacher at the medical school; she started working there as of September 1. It was already in 1971. In the fall of 1971 there was the first caution; the arrests took place in 1972, and she was the first to be apprehended if my memory serves me right.
V.O.: Yes, you're right.
M.O.: Once she came from Nalchik, it was in the fall, I attended the institute already. I remember there was dud weather for a couple of days and I kept waiting at the airport; finally she arrived. She was a chain-smoker. There were flowers at her apartment. Although she loved them, they were undergrown. I am not a smoker and nobody smoked at my home. My friends called on me, but I turned out my room... She came, looked around and said, "O God, everything is embroidered, everything blooms. Isn't that just beautiful!" She was always a tidy person, an ascetic. And I, you know... I was young and I liked beauty. In short, she was impressed.
We had very warm relations. I wrote in my book that I could remember political discussions as well, but I think that others will write about it, but I had almost family relationship with her, because we lived in the same apartment and chatted till late at night... I remember one day on the beach I got horribly sunburnt as I was white-skinned. I was so sunburnt that when I came home, she looked at me and said, "Oh God, get undressed!" I began to blurt something but she cried, "Strip to the skin! Immediately!" She undressed me and applied some mysterious ointment and my skin did not come off. She was a doctor and knew what medications to apply. Well, it was just an unusual thing.
She went to Nalchik again and arranged to exchange the apartment. Rima Kazakevich arrived; we met with her and saw round the apartment. Her relatives were somewhere here in the Odesa Oblast and she wanted to return here. They agreed to carry out the exchange. Nina Antonivna told me to pack; she ordered the container. The workers will come and send the container to Nalchik. On the day of transporting Lionia Tymchuk came. Dmytro Obukhov, my future husband, helped us to pack things; there were three of us. Dmytro gave us a hand, but Lionia and I made the bulk of work. When everything was packed and bundled, the workers arrived, brought a container and began to carry things out, the phone rang. I answered the phone. I quickly got the hang of things: it was the KGB. They asked, "Are you through with your loading?" I answered, "Is this any of your beeswax?" And replaced the receiver. I knew them by voice. Again they called, I took the receiver. "Hang on. What about your loading?" I asked them, "Who are you? A cultivated person should introduce himself. Please, introduce yourself." They told me that that it was the State Security Committee. I asked them, "Is Nina Antonivna there?”--”It is beside the point." I said, "Well, then I won't speak with you." They told me several times to hang on. I said, "Get her on the phone." And they said, "Can't do it, it's for general to decide." I said, "Go and ask him." I knew her character, I thought, if I insisted on this side and she did the same on the other side of the line, they would go back on their word. They got her on the line and I understood that she was in Odesa. They told me, "Only about everyday necessities." She said, "My darling Mariyechka—she always told me My darling Mariyechka--do not worry, everything is fine, all is clear, all is well with me,--and I know what's what,--what about packed things?” I said, "I've got no idea, we we've just finished taking things out; do you think we'd better carry everything back?" She said, "No, I won't really need them now, let them send the container to the former destination; over there Yurko with his children, the whole family will be able to use the library and." And before that Valia—the last name of Yurko's wife was Valia Trotsenko-- came with her daughter Irina, a little girl. She came and went to the theater or somewhere else with Nina, and I babysat. Or Valia and I went out and she babysat; we did it by turns. In short, we sent these things. And Nina was jailed.
Nina's father was in Odesa; he was a candidate of sciences, an elderly man. The KGB intimidated him and he was very afraid. I came to warn him, I said that Nina had been arrested and that they might call on him to interrogate or search the apartment, so he'd better be ready, just in case he had some materials or something. He listened me out with inadequate response. I understood that he could mistake me for provocateur or something, "I do not know you--in Russian--I do not know you, why have you come." And he began to push me out. I told him, "Well, you may not believe me, you have the right to do so, but if you have something at home that may relate to your daughter, I beg you to get rid of it, because everything might happen". And when I started for the door, he began to cry and asked me to return and tell him how she was faring. I said, "I do not know how she's faring, I do not see here, I bring her parcels." In jail she said that she had no one but me, and there they allowed parcels and I brought them.
V.O.: Once a month, five kilograms.
M.O.: Right, and during investigation, I put different items together and brought her these parcels. Lionia Tymchuk helped me.
V.O.: Nina Strokata-Karavanska was arrested on December 6, 1971.
M.O.: She was arrested under the same case as Olexa Riznykiv.
V.O.: He was arrested as early as on October 11. And Prytyka was arrested on 9 August.
M.O.: Perhaps even earlier, and Olexa Prytyka, he was a doctor from Odesa Oblast. I do not recollect the exact dates, but this was one and the same case.
FIRST END-OF-TERM EXAMS
I forgot to tell you that when I entered the University in 1969, I attended lectures in September and in early October I was summoned to the first department of the university administration. One such Yaremenko or Yeremenko, he introduced himself as a major, said, "I have to talk to you; we have received documents about you from Kyiv." He informed me and I have no idea how it was on the ground, but I remember the conversation very well; he told me that they confiscated an archive in Kyiv containing materials on active national-minded people, a sort of card file with personal folders. I do not know whether it was true or he invented it, but he told me so. And there was one big folder, and documents in it stated that I was an up-and-coming nationalist-oriented person. As far as we understand you can cause a lot of damage to Soviet power. They sent us a letter about this and now we have to take measures. And I had no end-of-the-term exams at the time. I asked, "So, I will you expel me?" He said, "We cannot do it on our own and expel you. When we will be instructed, then we will expel you, but in the meantime we cannot do it." I understood that this had to happen, but I never expected it to happen so soon, after a month of training. So I pondered over it, what had to be done? I longed to turn my back on them and go off. I decided to go on and proceed with my training. What will be, will be. Until they leave me alone, I will attend the institute.
In Odesa, there was a chorus, I tried to go there several times... You know, it’s a gone case. They believe they did something big, but in real fact it's a hot-air session; it's like pouring water into a sieve, an age-old business here. I was active, and to this day I hate to waste my time, I like doing real work. I said, "It does not suit me." I went there no more. I kept myself busy and did real work, I carried out work with students. What do I mean by it? Firstly, we came to study Ukrainian philology; the stream combined students from Ukrainian and Russian departments. We started to protest against lectures given in Russian. I started writing applications, going to the dean, explaining that we were Ukrainian philologists and wanted to be given lectures in Ukrainian. Many subjects were presented in Russian only. It was pretty tough confrontation. They sent us a whatshername sea captain's wife to conduct practicals in Ukrainian literature though she did not know a B from a battledore in Ukrainian! Can you imagine? She said: "Read page so and so until page such and such." I got up and said? "Sorry, but do you speak Ukrainian?" She said, "No, I do not." And I said, "Why have you come here?" She, "I am a lecturer! How dare you!" I said, "Yes, I dare, we will collect signatures against you; you wouldn't read about it!" I had hard times. Although we were mostly rural children, but, you know, in Soviet times we were all intimidated. At first they didn't back my initiative. And then I made friends there: Nina Malanko, we became friends with her; later were lodgers with the girls, but the girls remained non-conscientious, but Nina, she was from Kamyanets Podilskyi, Khmelnytsky Oblast, she was well-disposed to become national-minded. Then her eyes were opened. We made friends with her, she was my closest friend. Then Liuda Naboka, we lived with her, she also stuck to our group, then Fedir Pashuta, course leader, he served in the Navy, he was from a poor large family, he saw a lot of grief in his needy life, he was a cool man. Sashko Pylypenko, sometimes Tolia, I've forgotten his name. In short, we were members of this small group and set the tone on our course. Just in case, I take a vote, raise my hand, and they follow me. It was hard for rural youth to study in Russian; they saw that we raised our hands and they followed us either the whole course or a group depending on the kind of lecture it was: lecture given to a group or to a stream. And the lecturer had nowhere to turn. Either to quit or to speak Ukrainian. I treated them very kindly; I said, "If you don't speak Ukrainian, I will teach you." For example, we had a Russian-speaking graduate student whatshername, she was a good girl; she carried out practicals in foreign literature. She told me in a strange mix of Russian and Ukrainian, "Sorry, my Ukrainian is poor, but I will try very hard." Do you know how I did it? I put down her lecture and on a separate sheet I quoted her and then wrote the correct expression. I was very tolerant and after the lecture I came up to her and said, "Svitlana Ivanivna, please," -- and gave it to her. She, "I am very grateful to you." Such were our relationships. There were all sorts of people, you know. And then, when they were expelling me, by the way, I ran into her and she said that if I took exams she wouldn't grade my work as very poor event if they started shooting at her. This was an interesting period.
After that conversation in the first department of administration I kept thinking for what they might expel me. Either "immoral conduct" or "academic failure." For anti-Soviet propaganda they did not expel a person. The "immoral conduct" they could not pin on me, because I was a lodger. I stayed for a short time in the dorm and saw what was cooking there, and at once became a lodger, because I realized that they could pin the "immoral conduct" on me any time, as later they did it with Liuda Avdiyevska. A stranger crept into the room through the window, and the dorm supervisor was on the spot as the witnesses in no time and they fixed the “immoral conduct”. To avoid this from happening, I began lodging at an apartment and realized that they would concoct academic failure.
My first examinations. Come what may, I will go and take exams. It is clear that the lecturers were instructed to grade my work as very poor. Anatoliy Zhaboriuk was our dean at the time, a truly good man, I remember him with great respect. At first he told me nothing, but in our year of study someone haunted his threshold—we had four exams and all those zaliks; once I took an examination card our dean used to enter the lecture room and wait until I get ready and answer. The moment I finished to answer, he got up and left. The lecturers cast prudence to the winds... We had one such Markushevskyi, Petro Trokhymovych, we cold him Petrohymovych; he lectured to us on old literature and folklore, very nasty person, you could order him anything and he'll lay himself out. Obviously, he was instructed to grade my work as very poor, but he could not fix it: I answered the question and the dean was present. These were my first exams. They did not expel me. Someone gave me three out of five, or four, but "two" was out of question, as far as a student answered. I stayed. And then they sacked Zhaboriuk and appointed Ivan Duz.
V.O.: Oh-oh-oh! He wrote against Stus ... (Prapor Magazine.--1984.--no. 2.--P. 98).
M.O.: We called him Ostapovyshnescholar. He was a horrible person. Just then Nina Antonivna was apprehended when he was a dean. I think, it was in December. I knew that I would be expelled. It must have been in January, in early January 1972. Nina was taken in December 1971. Vasyl Symonenko's birthday is in January, right?
V.O.: Right, January 8.
M.O.: The Symonenko's birthday approaching, I understood that they would expel me as far as they interrogated me on end in the KGB about the case of Nina.
As long as I lived in her apartment I was summoned to the KGB. Prystaiko interrogated me.
V.O.: Volodymyr Illich.
M.O.: Right, Volodymyr Illich Prystaiko. And I must say that he interrogated me within reason. Compared with the same in Kyiv, he did not put anything into words, but with all his front he showed that I could do and say what I wanted, because he did not care.
V.O.: What was his rank then?
M.O.: I won't tell fibs... Captain, I think. He was still young then. I was rude to him, he stood it, I told scurrilous things, like Nina Antonivna taught me, he smiled without a word. He did not interrogate me under tortures: mere formality, I realized. And then, during the trial of Nina Antonivna (I had been expelled at the time), they said--I do not know whether it's true or not--that he brought to the court a flower and that after the verdict he handed Nina Antonivna the flower and said, "I hold you in high respect." Maybe it's a legend, but it is a beautiful legend. Anyway, I did not hear bad words about him in Odesa. He worked there, but in any case he was different in that he was not a lickspittle, he looked like a normal person.
V.O.: Later it came to light. As soon as it became possible, he and Professor Yuriy Shapoval wrote books: Union for the Freedom of Ukraine Trial and The Case of Hrushevskyi. (Prystayko V.I., Shapoval Yu.I. Union for the Freedom of Ukraine Trial: unknown documents and facts. Scientific and documentary edition.--Kyiv: Intel, 1995.--448; Prystaiko B., Shapoval Yu. Mykhailo Hrushevskyi and GPU-NKVD. Tragic Decade: 1924--1934--Kyiv: Ukraine, 1996.--335 p.).
M.O.: I know. I've listened to it on the radio, I think, it would be good to go and talk with him, it would be interesting.
V.O.: By the way, he invited me to attend the presentation of the first and the second book, and he invited Horyn as well. It was the club of the SSU. Earlier there was the KGB, in the courtyard there is another building. Such was our "friend”. And it turns out that he related to my case and sympathized with me remembered me.
M.O.: He produced a good impression upon me.
V.O.: He, incidentally, headed the rehabilitation department of the SSU after proclamation of independence and then they moved him aside. He was out of favor.
M.O.: For some time he was deputy head of the SSU; nothing has been heard of him lately. Well, he was probably of the retirement age.
M.O.: He was older than me, then it is clear that he is already of retirement age.
V.O.: But, among other things, here is the book of Oksana Yakivna Meshko, it contains a name index. Here it reads in black and white that when he came to Oksana Yakivna to perform a search with Lieutenant Colonel Hanchuk and Oksana Yakivna gripped a letter from Ivan Kandyba and refused to give it to them, they wrung her hands and she released the letter. Oksana Yakivna walked with a sling for two weeks after that incident. No word of a song can be dropped, the materials of Oksana Yakivna Meshko prove it. (I Won't Go Back On It!: To the 100 Anniversary of Oksana Yakivna Meshko / Kharkiv Human Rights Group; Compilation: V.V.Ovsiyenko, O.F. Serhienko, Designer: Borys Zakharov.--Kharkiv: Folio, 2005.--P. 20, 102, 180. Major General V.I.Prystayko died in January 2008.--V.O.).
M.O.: I see. Well, maybe it's romance. The thing is they chucked me out of the courtroom during the trial of Nina Antonivna, all three of them. On the first day I came they did not let me in, they said I had no manners.
V.O.: Did they examine you as a witness? Or you were up to something earlier?
M.O.: No, nothing special, nothing but facial expression... I just couldn't sit with a dead-pan face. I might blurt out something, because I was young.
V.O .: Once they accused a dumb man of anti-Soviet propaganda campaign: he was "mumbling something ant-Soviet”.
M.O.: Exactly, perhaps, something of the kind and they kicked me out of court and no longer let me in.
V.O.: For "mumbling something ant-Soviet”.
M.O.: But I knew that I would be expelled, I understood. At the time the Congress of the Union of Writers was underway, and Duz went to attend the Congress, and I thought: "Well, if I have to go, I want to do it in style."
EVENING of VASYL SYMONENKO
Therefore I decided to organize evening of Vasyl Symonenko. At that time it was something unheard of in the Odesa University. Understandably enough, they did not allow carrying it out at the philological department or in the main building, I tried, but I went whistle. Then I sent guys to the dorm saying, "Guys, pass a hat, and collect 50 kopecks per student, I want to stage the evening of Symonenko." There lived not only philologists, there were also geographers, historians; the dorm was situated on Dovzhenko Street - different hostel on the street Dovzhenko, five-story building. They passed a hat, collected 50 kopecks per student, and I rented Lesia Ukrayinka Movie Theater, I paid for it. I do not know if then in Kyiv such thing was possible or not, but it was possible in Odesa. I arrived in Kyiv. From the time of my stay in Kyiv I knew Viktor Storozhenko, an interesting filmmaker; I've got no idea what has become of him, Mykhailo Sachenko studied at the Theater Institute, we used to go to them to see all sorts of films, graduate works, term papers; the student's works were very interesting then. We went to see the viewings. During one viewing I could leaf through a graduate work or a term paper about short stories of Symonenko. I remembered that there was such work as "Roosters crowed on towels”. And another short story. I came to Kyiv, went to Olenenko, at the time he was the dean cinema department of the Theater Institute, and told him that once during a viewing I saw such and such movie. Now I was a student of Odesa University--I showed him the documents, I wasn't still expelled--we organize the evening of Symonenko, I would like you to give me this film either on the grounds of my document or against a receipt. He at once wrote a note for the archive and said: "You're welcome." They gave me the film. I brought it to Odesa and conducted the evening and we showed this film as far as it was a movie theater and they could show. I wrote the scenario, and Sashko Pylypenko and I were hosts. Drozdovskyi, deputy dean, was a reciter, he recited three short poems of Symonenko. The KGB agents were also present and took notes. They sat in the second row, I saw these two men. Well, it couldn't be helped?
If we do something, we do it to the fullest. At the time it was a great event in Odesa. It was on January 8, 1972, Symonenko's birthday. I already understood that during January exams they would expel me. The investigation was underway, they interrogated me, because I knew all and everybody in that case, they questioned me about all three of them and I realized that they would expel me. So I decided to get up to it. There was no portrait of Symonenko. There was a graphic portrait somewhere in his book. I asked guys-students, and they painted a large portrait, we put it into a frame. There were a platform and yellow curtains. The scene had yellow curtains, we fixed the framed portrait to the platform and covered the platform with blue crepe paper. Sashko Pylypenko and I were hosts and wore embroidered shirts; there was a table with a table cloth, and Drozdovskyi laid his hand on his heart. Sasha Mohylnytskyi is already dead, brother of Halia Mohylnytska, he was a researcher and worked at the university, and he read. According to my scenario Drozdovskyi also had to recite three short poems and he did agree. Imagine Sashko reciting:
“I for you saw pearls in souls,
Make creations day by day --
Let America and Russia stall,
When to you I have my say.”
Can you imagine what it meant then? I brought this poem from Kyiv, because, sure thing, there were no such poems in Odesa. My intimate friends knew it. You may understand that we were young and these poems were inciting! A wonderful life it was! By the way, when joining the Odesa University I wrote a free essay based on the works of Vasyl Symonenko. It was not forbidden, familiar essay about my motherland or something like that. Remember, "Choose what you like, my son, you can't choose your homeland." I quoted this. Familiar essay, and I based the discourse on the works of Symonenko.
In short, the evening was a success, everything was OK, but I understood that everything would happen tomorrow. We went to the dorm afterwards. We took all those props with us and went to the dorm and the dorm was in the flap. There were crowds of people, all and everybody's speaking at once, the guys grabbed me and began to toss me up. There was universal joy... They say the evening was nationalist, curtains were yellow, the platform was covered with blue paper... The exultation was in full swing.
EXPULSION FROM THE UNIVERSITY
Very soon after this I was expelled. How did they manage it? During the end-term exams. First there were zaliks, Shvets examined us in Russian language, I do not exactly remember what her name was. She was a very decent woman, her husband also worked there. She told me, "Please, I ask you to resit the exam together with the poor achievers. I understand that you are not a poor achiever, but, please, come and resit the exam. I was asked to do so. Come and resit." And she asked for pardon. I looked her in the eye and said that I wouldn't come to resit, because they want to expel me from the university. You are the first swallow. I said that I understood they arrange with some teachers to give me three out of five. You are the first to do this. "No, I will never give you two out of five. You know, I work here and I cannot do otherwise. Please, come and resit." And she fixed the date for resitting. She wanted a compromise like she fulfilled their instructions; at the same time she would pass me later. Time. Then there was the history of Ukraine, one such Kaliushko. She did not put me any questions and gave me two out of five. Then there was one such Zuckerman, Russian literature. I did my best to prepare, I read all program works, I knew what awaited me, I was prepared very well. I came, but she did not want to hear anything and said: "You know next to nothing". She gave me two out of five and let me go whistle. So, I had three poor marks. If you had three poor grades, they could expel you.
They also instructed Yevhen Mykolayovych Prisovskyi to give me two out of five. He taught us Ukrainian literature. Duz called him and said, "You shall give her two out of five." He told me about it later. Duz reviewed the register: I had missed four lectures because I had to stay with my family at home. What did Prisovskyi do, to his credit? He called me to his study before the exam, on the very same day, and told me, "Take Nina—Malanko, my girlfriend, with whom we had a similar handwriting—here you have topics you missed. Go double-quick to the library and write essays, scribble anything you like, copy off the books, no one will check. You have to bring me four essays on these topics, just anything in your handwriting. I will examine very slowly, and you will come and submit me four essays covering these topics, and I will examine you because I was instructed to give you two out of five. He told me that Duz told him give me two out of five on the grounds of four missed lectures. Prisovskyy said, "I will not do it, I will examine you." He gave me five out of five. I remember I recited a poem and he exclaimed: "Well done! Excellent! Brilliant!" Such was his response.
V.O.: Did you recite the long poem "Moses" by Franko?
M.O.: I think that it was the introduction to the poem "Moses".
V.O.: Right, because Olexa Riznykiv told about this.
M.O.: I told him about this. You know, he encouraged me. I spoke--and we were sitting alone--and he kept showing me his finger that way, and it encouraged me. In short, he gave me five out of five. But there were lecturers who gave me twos out of five, and for this reason I was expelled.
When the trial started, I had not been a student any more.
V.O.: The trial lasted from 4 to 19 May 1972.
M.O.: Right, I was about to leave Odesa. We went to my husband's mother, and then we moved here, to Brovary. Thus ended my Odesa epic.
V.O.: Olexa Riznykiv said that you got married at the time of their investigation; his investigator informed him, and he, Olexa, was very pleased. When was that?
M.O.: No, it happened not during the investigation, but later. You see, we did not register our marriage at first, we had such an interesting situation.
V.O.: And who was your husband?
M.O.: I'm going to tell it now. The situation was as follows. My father came to Odesa, I told him this and that... He had never been in Odesa. And I said, Dad, you know, we probably will get married. He said, "If you register your marriage, you will not acquire the right of permanent residence at home”. My father was a clever man and he knew these KGB tricks. He said, "Be careful so that they do not transfer you from jail to jail. At least, if you are registered at home, you will keep your registration." He understood the value of registration under Soviet conditions. He said, "If you register here, you will not be registered in Trebukhiv"; such was the practice. I said that obviously they were going to expel me. And he said that if I saw that they were about to expel me and I would have to return to my village, I'd better return here without prior registration of my marriage, acquire the right of permanent residence at home here and only then register my marriage. Then your husband will be registered at your address. Otherwise they will not register the two of you at your father's address. Such was the practice at the time.
We arrived in Trebukhiv. It is clear that my father worried and my mother worried that I was expelled. It was the way it played. We went to his mother and lived there for some time, and we saw that it was very difficult to live there, and we came here.
V.O.: Where did you live then?
M.O.: This was in the Odesa Oblast, Balta Region, Village of Akulynivka, a small village in the Odesa Oblast. Therefore we came here and lived with my parents for a short time, then we left them, and lived the whole life together. His name is Dmytro Semenovych Obukhov, he was born on June 22, 1941, on the day when the war began. His father was a serviceman and on that day he went to the front. Dmytro was born on this day in the morning. Mother learned about it on the operating table, after the delivery, and she lost the use of her legs. For two years she could not walk. On that day her husband went to the front. He just dropped in the hospital--she gave birth to Dmytro in Balta—he asked and they told him that he had a son. He knew that his son was born; and became unaccounted-for. Before that he managed to write a letter and asked to name his son Vasyl, but he had been named already. It came to be that he grew up without father, while his mother could not walk for two years. Their last name was Obukh, and they changed it to Obukhov. His Granny Hanna brought him up, and then his mother began walking little by little. His mother had a bad heart, and he was born with congenital heart disease. He underwent two heart surgeries and a little less than six months before his death he had a severe heart attack. In short, it was difficult for us to live for his health was very poor. Such was our transitory life.
But, you know, there are such funny things happening... He was a friend of Olexa Riznykiv and was at loggerheads with Halyna Mohylnytska, his wife. It objectively followed that Halyna and Olexa could not live together. Olexa chummed with Dmytro, and looked as if he took away Halyna's husband. Halyna and Dmytro continuously could not get on. When Halyna came to us, they were on bad terms. He was prickly and had a difficult nature, it wasn't that easy to come to terms with him. But strange things sometimes happen. On the day he was to die, in the morning Halyna called. Before that she also had a heart attack. She called me and began to babble. She said, "Mariya, I am out of sorts, I feel bad. You hear my babble". She suffered articulation difficulties. I asked, "What's up?”--”You know, the drugs are too expensive, I cannot afford buying those medicines I took immediately after resuscitation, and now this has happened." When he heard it, he took the handset. All his life he was a heart sufferer; he knew better than any doctor how to be treated, and said, "Halyna, take a pen and write down." He told her all and everything: what drugs to take, thee imported drugs on sale were priced ₴82 while Ukrainian drugs were sold at ₴1.80; he also told her about side effects, how to manage them. He told her everything and she jotted it down. It was in the morning, and later the same day he died.
V.O.: When did he die?
M.O.: He died on 17 September 2003. He said: "Hold on, Halynko." Can you imagine? The next morning, I called her and said, "Halyna, Dmytro died." She wailed, "Mariya, well, how come, he told me how to medicate myself yesterday." I said, "So, it was necessary that he handed over to you this knowledge." So life may be funny.
Well, I was expelled from the university and we left Odesa.
V.O.: Do you remember the date of expulsion?
M.O.: It happened in January 1972, I cannot recollect the exact date now because nobody showed me the order. We went to Odesa Oblast and later came here, Kyiv Oblast. My fellow students came to visit us. On October 30, 1972 I delivered Roman. My girlfriends and boyfriends came to see me. Before that they sent me a parcel. I know who contributed to this, but still do not know how it happened ... When I was about to leave the University, they took away my record book. They stole it and sent me. There was this grade "two out of five". I think it was the doing of Nonna Mykhailivna Shliakhova, which later became the dean of the Department of Philology. By the way, she has quitted the job recently. In recent years, they tittle-tattled a lot about her. I've never seen her during her deanship, and in the past she taught me literary criticism. She was a very good lecturer, nationally-minded, though she did not advertise this, and behaved modestly. We were in good with her, she encouraged me to conduct research, saying, "I am very glad that you are my student, because I come--and I saw that she seemed to instruct me personally-- and I look for your eyes and begin to speak to you.” Therefore I think that it was she who gave my girlfriends my record book and Nina forwarded it.
Once I had an interesting meeting with Zhaboriuk. When he was sacked as a dean and Duz became a dean, a few days later Zhaboriuk via this Shliakhova made an appointment with me somewhere on the outskirts of Odesa as he was very afraid. We met. He almost tearfully told me, "Mariya, I beg you to hold on, as long as you can. You may have understood that you passed all exams only due to my presence?" I said, "Of course." He said, "They wanted to expel you during the first series of the end-term exams. I went to the KGB and craved their indulgence, I said that I was the dean and I knew the doings at the department, that you were young, that you were gifted, I begged them not to spoil your life, I told that I would stand bail for you, I promised that I would have a way with you, that I would have a talk with you, that you wouldn't divert your attention from studies anymore, that you would study all the time, and asked them to let you get an education. And they said, “Well, you may try.” While I was a dean, I was afraid to tell you something, but I thought I could keep you. But now--he said—they ousted me, and this Duz at his earliest convenience will drive you out. Therefore I beg you to be very careful, very reasonable.” He said to me and cried, "My child, just think how cruel the world is, and you see that they tend to expel you; what will your job be? They make your life miserable. Just hold on, do not put your foot in it; you try and graduate from the university, and then, even if they jail you, you will be college-bred already. Life is life and sometime they’ll discharge you; otherwise you'll be good for nothing."
V.O.: Did they expel you from the third year?
M.O.: Right, from the third. This looked like a fatherly care. And later there was such a strange story. Yaroslava Pavlychko, my girlfriend, Lviv poet working in the library, told me it. She said that Zhaboriuk used to go to Lviv for research purposes. He knew Yaroslava. Once she mentioned me in passing and he jumped at her, hugged her; he said God, she is my student, that is a way it is, and began telling things about me. Once he took a history-of-Ukrainian-art circle. He told that I was his favorite student, and we took one story hard. He told her about lecturer Shvets, as I told you she was the one who gave me two out of five for zalik in Russian language; she allegedly did not understand that this was prescribed as a kind of punishment. And when I was expelled, she was in frustration and was taken to a mental hospital. Zhaboriuk told Yaroslava Pavlychko about it and she told me. She underwent a treatment because it was a hard blow for her that she had crossed up a person. And Prisovskyi, I say, behaved very nobly. Later they expelled Liuda Avdiyevsky and also instructed him to give her to out of five, and he did not do it. For disobedience in my case, he was reprimanded by the party line as all lecturers had to be members of the Communist party. When they were expelling me, they called Liuda to the dean's office. They stole her Komsomol ticket and then threw a crime on her of immoral behavior... They saw that he gave her a top grade and realized that the failed tests formulation wouldn't pass they invented this 'immoral behavior' trick and expelled her. But Prisovskyi in both cases behaved very decently. Already in the years of independence Olexa Riznykiv told me that some Odesa newspapers ascribed this my story with exams ascribed to Avdiyevska. I told him, “Olex, I am in my right mind yet.” He said, “Thus reads the newspaper.” I asked, “Who's the author?” The name didn't ring a bell. I said, “Who knows better: me or a stranger who heard it from someone?” Such was a funny story.
So, we returned here and Roman was born; he was an unhealthy child and we had no end of trouble. Then my husband failed to get on with my parents and had to go and I followed him with my child. However we had nowhere to live, and I went to work as a house-painter at construction in Brovary. They gave me a small room in a dorm: ten and a half square meters. We lived there for eight years.
Mohylnytska came to me. And Duz loved Mohylnytska. She was a very pretty babe, and he treated her with reverence. She came, she saw these things, and said: "O my God, you will be lost here." There was this situation: an unhealthy kid to take care of, husband cannot get on with parents. Stuff and nonsense! Then everything stabilized. He showed some muscle and they stood on their hind legs and squabbling started. In order to have a place to live, I had to work as a house-painter. Mohylnytska said, "Mariya, in such circumstances, you simply will not last." I was sick and she saw it. "Let's fix something." She went to Duz and tried to persuade him, "We need to restore Mariya." He said, "I hate her, I will never reinstate her. She deserves no confidence! She named her daughter Nina after Banderivets Strokata." Halia said, "Well, I spread my wings and said: “Ivan Mykhailovych, what do you mean by daughter, she has a son.”--”How come?”--”Somebody led you astray. I visited her these days and saw her son, not a daughter, she named him Roman after Romanos the Melodist.” In fact, we named him after Roman Shukhevych.
V.O.: And your Roman, it seems, was born in October?
M.O.: Roman was born on October 30, 1972. She says that she says that she named him after Romanos the Melodist. Duz was dumbfounded, "But I was told that she has a daughter.”--”No, it's not true." I do not know whether he had ever heard about Shukhevych but this story aroused no suspicion. And my husband was on friendly terms with lecturer Mykola Pavliuk, who was a friend with Duz. He taught linguistics and was an interesting man and researcher. Pavliuk went to ask Duz: Well, Dmytro, you'd better help them, they've married, they have a little child, you know ... Duz gave some thought to it and told Halia, "Let her do some public work there..." At our construction site we had a cool manager of works Volodymyr Vasyliovych Yurchenko. I came up to him saying, "Volodymyr Vasyliovych, I was told that I have to conduct political briefing somewhere." And he said to me, "Mariya, you are under surveillance and they continuously make inquiries about you, and there are people who spy on you. The KGB summoned me to give instructions about you, so be careful.” I said," I was told that I have to conduct political briefing.”--”No problem, you will conduct political briefing for house-painters once a week.” Then he gave me a testimonial that I was politically active and conducted political briefings and conducted myself well; all as it had to be. Halia sent me a cable, "Make hay while the sun shines." I brought this testimonial to Odesa. Duz refused to receive me and did not let me into his office. Halia went but he said: "I do not want to see her." I was restored. He said, "Let her go wherever she wishes today. I've restored her, but let her take her documents and go wherever she wishes."
V.O.: What did he mean?
M.O.: He restored me and let me transfer wherever I wished.
V.O.: In what year did it happen?
M.O.: They restored me as a third-year student... The third, fourth, fifth course, so I studied for four years... Maybe in 1976. It looks like it. Where was I to go? I went to the Kyiv University, quietly submitted my documents to the correspondence department. And went on working as a painter. It was a difficult period. I was on the list of part-time students and quietly attended lectures with evening students. I loved dialectology, I passed the exam in it in the Odesa University.
V.O.: Who lectured on dialectology then?
M.O.: I passed my exam in dialectology at Odesa University but I wanted to take this course again. In Odesa, my school-dame lectured on dialectology, and I did not like it, and here Andriy Pakhomovych Mohyla lectured.
V.O.: Oh, I know Mohyla, he was my lecturer as well.
M.O.: I sat at the last desk and listened silently. He cast a glance at me once, twice, and then came up to me and asked, "Who are you?" I told him, "I am an external student, but I like this subject, I want to listen." He asked my name, and then once and for the second time we walked together to the underground, and then he told me, "Will you tell me the truth why you're here." I said, "I do not know whether you need it."
Then I was on terms of familiarity with him and we found that our views had much in common, we had good relations, I am extremely grateful to him. Because I was very afraid then. For example, there was such lecturer, as Dubyna...
V.O.: Oh-oh-oh, I remember.
M.O.: He was a stinker, excuse the word. He gave a course on "Falsification of Shevchenko's works by Ukrainian bourgeois nationalists". And he treated Shevchenko's words as falsifications. I simply shrank from him. There was such eloquent lecturer as Petro Kononenko... And against this background Andriy Pakhomovych was a high man and I was glad that his lectures did not sound that official with me. He told me, "Do not choose the theme on literature, because they will be able to drive you out once more during the defense of your work. Let me be the director of your diploma thesis.”--”Let's." He himself suggested the theme "Onomastics in the dramatic works of Lesia Ukrayinka." I handled this theme with pleasure: firstly, it was an interesting topic, and secondly, there was nothing of the kind in bibliography. I studied 468 names, compiled a dictionary, and established lexical meaning of each name. It turned out that in the dramatic works of Lesia Ukrayinka all names were meaningful. We do not give a second thought to the fact that, say, Lukash in The Forest Song was derived from "luxus", "light". In the Boyarynia—this work was banned at the time, though I happened to have read it already at the Vorontsov Library in Odesa--Oksana means "foreigner." All names in the works of Lesia Ukrayinka--she knew many languages--had extra lexical meaning. A found this very interesting aspect.
TEN HAPPY YEARS
In 1980 I graduated from the university and went to work in high school no. 3 in Brovary as a teacher of Ukrainian language and literature. There were also interesting circumstances. Firstly, I could not tell everything I thought, because the teaching staff was rather specific there. I worked with children like this. Here, for example, Tychyna... They made fun of Tychyna. I’ve taught for a year already. I taught in the 9th grade. I had middle grades as well, i.e. the seventh grade, but the 9th was the most senior one. Then there were only 10 grades. In the tenth grade I began to tell them about Tychyna, but they giggled and said, "Tychyna's poem is like a curse, he makes them sound worse and worse." I said: I give you my word that if I fail to make you understand Tychyna, if you do not come to love his poetry, I'll put an end to my pedagogical work as an unaccomplished teacher. They were very impressed and surprised. They told me this later. We went to the museum of Tychyna. They said, “God, if not for you, we would never know what Tychyna was, what a talented person he was. I've already forgotten a lot, and then I knew a lot by heart. I could recite him for hours on, and it struck them, because I recited not "The party is our leader", but early lyrics. There was not such poet in the whole European literature.
They grasped it very well. And another my pedagogic discovery: Leonid Kyseliov. Among them there were some lovers of poetry, but mostly Russian. They said: "Is there Ukrainian poetry? On the whole, it doesn't exist." So I read them poems of Leonid, later they read his poems on their own. Yeah, I forgot to tell you that we wrote a mini-play "The poets do not die on Earth" and put on the stage in school no. 3. Moreover, I had one boy, who was expelled from the first school for bad behavior. I was just going around the school and was looking for a boy to play Leonid Kyseliov and could not find one. Suddenly I looked and saw Leonid approaching me. I came up to him, "Hey, where are you from that I do not know you?" He said, "And I was expelled from the first school, therefore my parents asked to accept me here." I said, "Will you play the role of Leonid Kyseliov." He asked, "Who is he?”--”He was a poet.”--”Yes, but I hate poetry.”--”Don't worry, you’ll come to love him,” we were standing in the hallway and talking. “Come to my Ukrainian language and literature room at the third floor and we'll talk it over." He came after school hours and I began to read poems to him, but he said, "I do not understand it." I said, "Well, let's go to the theater." By the way, we attended without exception all performances of the Youth Theater. I took several pupils with me and led them to the Youth Theater. They delivered a play about the fate of Leonid Kyseliov "Little football team” with Serhiy Boyko as Kyseliov. I previously arranged with him,: "I will bring my pupils with me, and after the play I want you to talk to them. We will put it on stage at our school as well". He was amiable person and agreed. He said, “I am very glad to meet you, because in general people do not know this poet? And this play is very important for me. As far as I know his family and I play him.” It was a very exciting meeting! Later he said: "I went on stage, saw you—and the hall there is rather small—and your pupils with you. You know, my blood stirred and I never played like this. I played for you and for your pupils because I knew that I played for people who love it.” And I wrote a poem because I had seen that play twice. There was such a hero Muravel, it's about Lionia; my pupil Larysa Syplova learned this poem about Muravel by heart. We came with armfuls of flowers, it was the fall, these were chrysanthemums, it was October. There's such a final scene: Lionia dies, the play ends, general coming-out of actors, linked arms, music is playing. All actors were on stage, arms linked. Larysa came out, a little girlie, probably the eighth grade, she came out with an armful of white chrysanthemums, signaled to the orchestra to stop playing. She began to recite the poem. She did not announce the author, she just recited this poem, and then she ad-libbed that the pupils were terribly happy that there was such a theater and that they saw this play and they loved works of Leonid Kyseliov and that they saw the poet alive as the actor even had a similar appearance. In short, she said to the best of her ability.
Then I said, "Children, go get dressed." And I went to take Serhiy. I went backstage, and he embraced a column and stood crying. I said to him: "Serhiy, what's wrong with you?" He then started hugging me, “Lord, let you be in good health, let you live two hundred years. You cannot imagine what it means for me; it's a creative happiness that people perceive me like this here. In the theater it happens very rarely". He came down to us and we agreed that next Sunday we would go to the grave of Leonid Kyseliov, because I did not know where he was buried. He took us to the grave of Leonid Kyseliov at Baikovyi Cemetery. You know, I taught my children not to be ashamed of their emotions. Both tears of grief and joy are normal, it's only human. We were standing there and Leonid had such a poem in Russian : "This is the fall", there was something like ta-ta-ta and "These circling leaves... two leaves fell on my chest"... it's the final line. We came up to the grave, and there was a small tombstone and two maple leaves lying on it. I read this poem and my children burst into tears, and Serhiy stood crying, we were all confused, and did not know how to come to consciousness. Such coincidences do happen.
It was a very happy period. Maybe it's steering off the topic but several years later I met this boy who played Leonid Kyseliov. He was an entrepreneur and salted fish. He told me, "Mariya Hryhorivna, I want you to know that our doings at the time became the most sacred and bright pages in my life. To my mind, I won't experience anything better ahead. I am very happy that I was kicked out of the first school and that I went to your school." There were many such happenings, and it is not for the press, I'm just telling you that it was a great human happiness.
All those years when I was a teacher were the happiest. I do not know why they decided to do it, but the authorities hired some people who cunningly approached me made a movie about me, Lysenko, someone else: "Your views on life." I then told my pupils about the history of Ukrainian symbolism, history of Ukraine; I wore a homemade blue-and-yellow badge. The schoolgirls are less bold, but the boys also began to wear blue-and-yellow badges. The director summoned them and said, "Take it off immediately!" And they ran to me, not only those children whom I taught, but other pupils as well. They came up running and said, "Mariya Hryhorivna, The director threatened us that he would call our parents and he would expel us from school." And I told them, "And you tell him that you will pin off badges when Mariya Hryhorivna pins the badge off." And they said, "We might leave you vulnerable.”--”Do not worry, it's my problem." They told the director, "Well, why the teacher can wear it, and we cannot?" The whole school maintained it. The director summoned me to appear, "You've turned my school upside down, why are you doing it?!" And I said, "You understand that in a year or and the independence will be declared. How will you feel then? Then I will tell all and everybody that you harassed me and harassed these children. How will you like it? " And he told me: "I'm an administrative official. If they tell me to hang out the blue-and-yellow flag tomorrow, I will do it, but today we have the red-and-blue flag; hence, it is a must."
There were many such stories. Then everything happened very quickly. We conducted very interesting Ukrainian studies at school. The whole school made Easter eggs. We had a large room, where we grew wheat on the window sills; it grew up about Easter time, we put the green stalks into boxes and painted eggs and arranged them on the window sills at school. Everybody was deeply touched by it.
I created the Little Academy of Folk Arts. There were such lines of creative training as Easter-egg painting, bookplate making, straw plaiting, embroidery, sewing Ukrainian traditional clothes, folklore section including 72 participants. We participated in folklore expeditions, collected local lore and then showed it on stage in the October Palace and on the scene at the Writers' Union Building. We showed the first vertep at the turn of 1986-87 in the Writers' Union. Ivan Makarovych Honchar wept and said, "I'd never thought I would live to see this in Kyiv." We could not find here a traditional two-story wooden box for vertep and brought it from Western Ukraine, Turka Region, Village of Zavadivka in Lviv Oblast. We performed many interesting things. I say it was a real happiness, this pedagogical work.
V.O.: You told that you worked at school for almost ten years. Did you work as a teacher up to 1989-90?
M.O.: I left school in 1989, but I reckoned that it's a bit short of a decade. Why did I leave? There was such a case. Firstly, we created the Brovary Ukrainian language society and on March 24, 1989 I was elected its chairman. Immediately the authorities stood up to our activities. On May 18, for the first time, we commemorated Shevchenko at his monument in Brovary. On this day, on May 18, 1861, the body of Shevchenko stayed in Brovary on the way from St. Petersburg to Kaniv. The service of burial was conducted here in the Saint Trinity Church near the present monument. It is clear, that the authorities did not approve of it. We then conducted a cross procession. I applied to the authorities and received an official denial, they banned this holiday. I addressed the founding congress of the RUKH and told about this occurrence.
In short, these events were very expressive. The opposition was very strong. We had a lot of problems with the Mayor! Ever since 1989 I have been striving to put in good order Shevchenko's public garden. We have now the third mayor in a row, but no one wants to lift a finger. Now we want to win the Shevchenko movie theater for NGOs. But no one gives a hand or at least stops interfering. The public garden is in terrible condition: after the rain has it becomes submerged and water is up-to-my ankles deep almost the whole summer; usually the sots occupy it, it's a bad place there. While in opposition, our current mayor used to sign my appeals; he promised that when he would come into office he would manage everything; but he does nothing, when he is in the office. The very brutal struggle continued.
And then Dmytro Pavlychko told that they needed such person as I in the Society of Ukrainian Language. Meanwhile, they shot this film... There I told everything as it was; they wanted to expose our true nationalist backbone. But they were weak-minded and showed the film at the factories. And it got the knock as the majority of workers were from Russia. Until then the residents of Brovary knew me as a teacher, and they made me a nationalist. And then it became a collective mind. And everything happened in the same lines. Then at the plenum of the Communist Party... I had never been a member of any party, however they sorted my case at the plenum of the Regional Committee of Communist Party of the CPU. Zayets, the Kniazhytska school headmaster, took floor, "They say that you are very good teacher, in this case you'd rather teach a rising generation than keep running about with blue-and-yellow flags." I said, "During ten years of my teaching at this school, I prepared philologists and humanities dozen times more than you for all thirty years of your work in Kniazhytska School." All started to laugh and applaud.
Then I participated in closing down of the regional communist party committee. But it came to be that Ishchenko, who until recently was the deputy of Medvedchuk, became the head of the city council. We were on bad terms with him, we were at daggers drawn with him, because I live here and I do care what's boiling here. He was succeeded by Petrenko; at the time my life also was extremely difficult because he did not give me anything to do, did not allow me to do anything. I never visited Petrenko in four years; I was looking for workarounds to do something. But before the elections, he invited me and said, "Mariya Hryhorivna, forgive me, I am very guilty before you, I was at fault." And I said, "Ivan Zosymovych, if a normal person is at fault and realizes what is wrong, s/he would come in a month or two and beg forgiveness. It would be another pair of shoes; but four years went by and you now, three months before the elections ask for forgiveness. The pending elections pressed you to say this. You kept driving me off for four years, you did not let me do anything." He said, "I want to somehow redeem my fault, tell me can I help you?" And he allocated money to publish the book The Well. Before leaving the office, he allocated the first tranche. Well, then came this good-for-nothing with who I was in opposition, whom I nursed, educated, and he became such a traitor...
V.O.: And you worked ... what was it you said?
M.O.: After my teaching job Pavlychko invited me to the Society of Ukrainian Language. At first we met at the Writers' Union; there was the meeting place for various gangs, you know. Then we moved to 8, Museinyi Sidestreet. I worked as deputy executive secretary and head of the educational department. Well, you know the doings there. Once I bought a sofa for my apartment and four months I could transfer it from there. It became customary that visitors might come at midnight or in the small hours. Then there were flows of people. It was very difficult to work, but very interesting at the same time. Pavlychko held everything in good order; despite tittle-tattle, he was a good manager, there were no intrigues and everybody enjoyed businesslike atmosphere. Everything began to crumble, when Movchan assumed office. The shady dealings started down the road and the dodgy business is still there now, unfortunately.
V.O.: How long did you work there?
M.O.: I worked there until May 1992.
V.O.: Since when?
This M.O.: From November 1989 to May 1992.
In 1990 I was a candidate for the Verkhovna Rada Deputy here in Brovary. Well, we have a special kind of city here, as Yavorivskyi said already in 1998... Then he lost election here in 1998. When I told him that he would fail, he became indignant. I said, "Well, you'll see for yourself. We will talk after the elections." And after the elections, he said, "God, I was stupid, I should have listened to you." I said, "Two times, in 1990 and 1994 I poised to win a Verkhovna Rada election. I live here, I know all and everything here." I told them, "Guys, call off all but one candidate. I work only against Ishchenko. Pay no attention to small fry, do your best against Ishchenko, because he is the main shark." They settled scores with one another instead, and against this background Ishchenko won. Then Yavorivskyi said that he had never imagined that there was such a complex region near Kyiv. I said, "In fact, it is very complicated." In 1990 I came in the third place, but then we had done a great job.
I remember the then enthusiasm and I think that it would never repeat. This is not the enthusiasm of the Orange Revolution, during the Orange Revolution they stood on the Maidan, cried out. While at the time, as I remember... my husband had bad health, nevertheless he did his best to tolerate me all those years. Usually about thirty persons were squeezed here... And it happened day by day; the whole revolution took place here, ten years on end. I put this place in order; there were heaps of posters, tridents cast of underground metal at powder metal factory, white and yellow, flags were sewed and made here, posters were written, invented, fixed props for posters. We decorated the whole city, organized pickets, distributed thermoses of tea and coffee, made sandwiches as it was already cold outside, people did shifts for several hours. We wrote the numbers, convinced that Ukraine should be independent. We did a great job, we roused these dastardly cowards... I make my excuses, certainly. At the end of the Soviet Union, I asked our head of the city council and he told me that 25% of residents were armed forces personnel. Not their families but the military personnel. This was a suburban zone. You just imagine: everyone had a wife and children. You may conceive this terrifying force. They were strange people; there were a lot of Russians in the residential area, they were not allowed to go to Kyiv and they could live in Brovary only. They were hard to persuade. In 1990, I came third. On the second ballot the main contestants were the first secretary of the Regional Committee of the Communist Party and director of the poultry farm "Kyiv" Kapshtyk. I supported Kapshtyk, I appealed to the people to vote for him, and he became a deputy. The first secretary of the Regional Committee of the Communist Party was driven to a heart attack because he had placed an order with the restaurant to celebrate his victory, and here Kapshtyk won. It was the early years, the beginning, we had duty schedules at polling stations; it was rather scary... The main thing was we had no room, therefore everything happened at my apartment, which was turned into headquarters.
Then came the elections of 1994. I looked and found no worthy men. Again, many people came and said, "Mariya Hryhorivna, we're eager to back you; we simply do not see other leading contenders." I won the first ballot and on the second ballot I opposed not a Russian nominee, but a Ruskie, one such Novikov. He was an insolent fellow, a real arsehole. We went on televised debate and he said, "I am not to blame that I finished Russian school... I am not against independence, but we ought to have common money with Russia, one army, common means of communication... " He itemized all of it. I said, "You say that you are not against independence, but you deny all components of independence. So how are you not against independence?" But our people voted for him.
IN THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
When I ran again, I had been working for the regional department of education already. I worked for two and a half years: from May 1992 to November 1994. I was the first deputy head of Kyiv Oblast Education Department. Kapshtyk then became head of the administration, he asked me, "Mariya, I am not an expert on education. I know that you know about it. I rest my hope upon you." The department was headed by Volodymyr Skrypchenko, former Central Committee functionary. Kapshtyk said: "I send you there as a Commissar, you should do it right." I had power to sign financial documents and I told that oldie, "Well, Volodymyr Ivanovych, do not make any noise here, and everything will be OK. If you do not feel like working here, let it be, but do not put spoke in my wheel." It was in May. In June, all and everybody went on leave; except for me, they all were Chornobyl indemnities. They all fixed "fake" documents for themselves. And June-July they spent on vacation, and 18 years nobody convoked principals of Kyiv Oblast. 18 years! I was horrified. I said that we had to develop a new strategy of education at the time of independence. There were no such official documents yet. I started to think about it. I had no leadership experience, as I was appointed in May that year. They left me alone and sniggered: let her prove herself. While they were away, no one bothered me. During this time I published three leaflets concerning Ukrainian studies, registered oblast educational newspaper "Vytoky" and published the first number for the conference of school principals, prepared the conference, toured the regions, collected videotape recordings concerning really interesting schools, where there was some interesting experience to be popularized, thought over everything and prepared. This was a sort of terrible, infernal work.
Our conference was attended by the Deputy of Moroz. Later they discussed everything at the Ministry of Education. All participants told that there was an amazing Kyiv Oblast conference. No one had seen anything of the sort. We showed video which was a novelty at the time; the participants shared their experience and distributed many printed materials published materials. This also was a novelty. But people told me that they conspired to derange the work. It took place on the same premises as the founding congress of the RUKH: in the conference hall of the Polytechnic Institute. Then I did a trick: I did not let anybody on stage. Skrypchenko said that we needed a presidium table, and I said, "There will be no presidium".--"How come?" The conference was scheduled to begin the day after tomorrow, and here they came, "Well, what's up?"--"Don't think about it". I brought and displayed pamphlets, newspaper, all materials, and they looked at me and did not know what to undertake. I say, "Everything is fine, do not worry, everything will be fine." I offered them seats in the front row and there was nothing they could do to me. I took to the stage a cocktail table, sat down to it and said, "I will preside over the meeting." And I did not let anybody on stage. They were getting ready to foil the conference, together with the head of education department. Well, now it's a thing of the past, but then a tremendous work was done. Ministerial projects, at the same time there was Pohribnyi, and we cooperated with Pohribnyi.
V.O.: Anatoliy Pohribnyi was then Deputy Minister of Education.
M.O.: We worked very closely with Minister Talanchuk, there were many joint projects with the Ministry of Education. We carried out many events together with the Association of European Principals. Everything was carried out based on the resources of Kyiv Oblast. Not Kyiv but Kyiv Oblast. A lot of interesting events.
In the fall of 1994, Kuchma took over the presidential office. He did not do it at once, but he gradually changed everything, and I was sacked. I landed on the street level. I thought it over and said, "No". I went and registered at the labor registry office. This year in my life I was unemployed. Almost a year I was a registered unemployed person. During this time I began to publish books. I started from scratch and brought out for our "Krynychany" one-two-three-fife-ten books--and everything went fine.
V.O.: Were it you who brought out the book of Olexa Riznykiv?
M.O.: Right, I brought out one book. (O.Riznychenko. Alone with God: Poetry.--Brovary--Kharkiv: BMKP "Ukrayinska Ideya", 1998.--384 p.)
V.O.: Was it a kind of publishing house?
M.O.: I officially registered Ukrayinska Ideya Publishers in 1997. Before registration I simply wrote “Krynytsia”, obtained ISBN and published. And in 1997 I registered the cultural and educational center Ukrayinska Ideya. All later books featured the name Ukrayinska Ideya. It's just a brief account, but you know the background. When all my relatives ceased to be, I survived only due to my work.
V.O.: Once I read a brochure of Lithuanian doctor Dineika about heart and heart disease. He cites as an example the Bulgarian song "My heart is heavy, I'd rather work."
M.O.: It's true. In 1994, I came to Krynytsia and found five people there. In 1994, I published a booklet there... I still worked in the Department of Education, when people turned to me, "Mariya Hryhorivna, Mykola Som has been leading us up the garden path for a decade now promising to publish a book. We understand that it is a bad job and the book will never be out. Help us, please, to publish it. " I'd never published books, I had no idea how to fix it. Before that I only published several booklets on ethnology. I said, "Well, let's think it over." I set about the book, made it, and they published. It was unpretentious, on newsprint paper, for it was in 1994, but it came out. It was a great joy for the people: for so many years they beat down doors of Krynytsia in vain. When I came to Krynytsia, I found there five people. Today, this book includes 131 authors. I put a lot of care on it.
V.O.: What's this Krynytsia?
M.O.: This is a literary-artistic association, which includes poets, writers, translators, artists and composers.
V.O.: Since when does it exist?
M.O.: It has been existing for fifty years now, ever since 1955. There were attempts to create various circles. The first attempt of organized life was here in 1925. Then, at Brovary Rural Builders they created literary circle under the Union Rural Writers "Pluh". In Ukraine there were three such circles. One of them emerged in Brovary. Then, in the 30s, the groups were created, over time they ceased to work, the new manager came, the activity revived and then died away. Since 1955
... We reckoned that it started in 1954, fifty-four, but I searched old newspapers and found that the first meeting took place in late March 1955. And on April 3 we celebrated 50 years of Krynytsia. I have been managing it for a decade now, I've put much effort into it. And then came this one, "This Krynytsia doesn't cost anything," he said. I thought, "My God, this good-for-nothing has just arrived here and permits himself to opine though he has no idea how people live, what is being done." It's rather complicated, it means that there is a need to fight again .
V.O.: But you can do something constructive!
M.O.: Yes, I do something constructive and more. You can see for yourself these results; isn't it a constructive work? (She shows books).
M.O.: What if I'm penniless, I have no material basis, and I do it for nothing. How many poetry books have I published! I've published about 60 books during this time.
M.O.: Yes. And here's a book by Halyna Mohylnytska (Litos or stone from a sling of truth intended to crush the disingenuousness of Metropolitan.--Brovary: Ukrayinska ideya, 2004.--104 p.); I've also published the books of many girls here. There are unpretentious and sophisticated books, all sorts of them.
Once the Department of Education intended to rehabilitate itself somehow; they collected children's poems after the poetry contest and gave them to me. I've spent this past night working on them, all of them are in this paper-case; I've put them in order and typed them on my PC. I've systematized them, because there are three age categories; I typed everything and left a column for my commentaries. I've read all of them. There are instances of poor versification, but I marked the best poems in each age category. And then I will give these poems to two members of Krynytsia group so that it may look like a decision of the jury of this competition. This inconspicuous work is very important. This public work leaves me ten percent of time to earn my living, and social work takes 90% of my time.
MORE ABOUT MOTHER AND FATHER
You know, somehow I do not regret. All my folks expired and I saw how brief the life is, and how it suddenly ends... My mother said when dying ... She was 88. On April 6 she was eighty-seven. We congratulated her with her birthday, and she said, "Oh my kiddos, if you only knew... I look like a golden-ager but if you only knew how short my life was, I had no time to see the world, I only saw my hard work and nothing more. What sort of life is this?" She was such an interesting person. She was a bed-patient, she lived here with me; my father died sometime in the past and she died here. She stayed in bed all day long and spoke with God. She said: "God--I thought what she was was talking about? She was lying right over here--forgive me that I turn to you. I did not steal, I did not cheat, I slaved all my life...Why am I a burden to my kid now, why is she engaged in drudgery? She's working hard and now she has to go all out at home. She has to do all the washing, wash and dress and feed me. But I am so insatiable; I remain in bed all the time and I want to eat three and four times a day and I even could eat five times on end. Woe is me!" And she stayed in bed all day and kept talking. I listened and played with the idea to write all of it down, to take notes. Strange things happened indeed. They were peasants and stuck to old traditions... My neighbor told me, "Keep your mind off it! Your parents were old regime folks. What did they eat? They ate vegetables." I said, "You're wrong. They kept a pig, they bought fish ..." I now analyze what they ate and I conclude that they had a right diet. Rural diet was very rational. For instance, I do not remember a single instance when they ate tomorrow what they cooked today, never. If they stoked a Ukrainian oven, they left all meal in the oven, when they cooked on a kitchen range, they ate it only once. They gave the rest to the dog, and if there remained something, they gave it to the pigs.
You see, all my family died within a short period of time. My father died over a span of one day. My mother kept to her bed for eight months, but what was her condition? She could not do anything but she got up to eat, leaning against the wall she could go to the bathroom, she could walk a bit with a stick. To the bitter end nobody of them went in their bed. That is, until the last second of their life they could attend to themselves. Evidently, my father felt that death was nearby, but he kept it to himself. Mother told that he was messing about the house and did his best. It was in August, he did mowing and grass cutting, as in the fall the weeds grew everywhere, if not uprooted. He cut all. He repaired sheds and pigsties, renovated bins in the cellar, and brought order to everything. My mother said that three days before his death he became like in the first days after their marriage. He was very rigorous and silent, and then he began talking and said, "Hey, old girl, come and sit here beside me." He caused me to sit down on the threshold, looked at me crying, stroke my head and cried again. And then he said: "I am going to die, but you may know that I have done everything about the house for you." So he spoke with her on Monday, he said this on Tuesday, said this on Wednesday, and on Thursday he died. On Thursday he got up early in the morning and everything was fine. At six o'clock, as usual, he had to eat soup. Not borsch, not potatoes, but hot soup. They were used to get up at 4 a.m. He ate his soup and said, "My old girl, I'll tell you something funny." She, "Well, give it.”--”You know what, I want to drink 50 grams of horilka.”--”Come and do it." He poured 50 grams of horilka, had it with something and left. It was at six in the morning. And he worked until eleven. Our neighbor Victor came and said, "Old man, the pegs on my scythe have rotten through; can you replace them for me?" He said, "Ok, will do." He was Jack of all trades, he could net: landing nets, lave nets, lifts, gillnets, just all sorts of nets. He knew how to weave baskets, how to carpenter, he could lay the floor, and build khata. We had a paved road in the village, and he was employed as a road worker who knelt and hammered big stones to pave the road. He was an electrician, before the war he was a GAZ AA driver, an important profession in prewar time; during WWII he was also a driver. In short, he was not a lazy bone but a knowledgeable man. He hollowed out the rotten pegs and fixed the new ones. The neighbor came and said, "How much do I owe you?" He answered, "Vitia, you know what? You will bear my coffin, when I die." He said: "Old man, your ass won't fit in the coffin, such robust person cannot die." He looked very well, he died when he was 84 years; his face was not wrinkly; he just had a big bald patch, but he looked younger than his age. Such was their dialogue.
The yard was paved with asphalt, there was German-style order; both of them kept order, the kitchen garden was weeded, the footpaths were leveled. My mother said he swept chips on the asphalt and went to throw them into the cesspit. He was on his way back, but suddenly I thought, my mother said, "God, he's gone crazy, or what?" My father was kind of whirling under the nut. She said, "Hrysha, are you Okay?" While she ran he fell down, became numb and paralyzed. They called an ambulance, the medics gave him an injection, he fell asleep, woke up, breathed for 15 minutes, but said no word. My mother said that he pressed her hand, and she could not understand what it meant. Then she realized, "Are you taking your leave of me?" And he confirmed. He died being conscious, he only sighed deeply, there were no death-rattles, nothing, he sighed deeply and died.
My mother died in the same way here. I was translation a Polish book before the arrival of the Pope, it had to be published before Pope's arrival. I was in time trouble and at 3 a.m. I was still translating. She, "My daughterling, I cannot get up, please help me to the bathroom." I tried to lift her but because of dropsy she became too heavy for me. Although she was so small, she grew too heavy of late. I led her to the bathroom, and she reached the bathroom, "My daughterling." She extended her hands, but it pulled her back from me. And she died in front of me.
And my brother also died in the same in Kyiv. He went to the store to buy food, and when he was exiting the store, he fell down at the door, people rushed to his assistance, but he was dead already. And my husband followed after him. Well, my husband suffered from a long-term illness, but he was a walking patient and took care of himself. Then he felt unwell. He fell asleep and then woke up and said, "It is stifling in the room. You've shut the windows." I said, "No, everything is open.”--”Then why do I gasp for breath?”--”Got no idea". There was a desktop I worked with, and he slept on the couch. He said, "Mariya, I feel bad." I said, "Shall I call an ambulance?”--”Do, please." I called an ambulance and gave him medication. The ambulance arrived quickly, they immediately made cardiogram and said, "We see no heart attack, but he needs hospitalization for stenocardia." We arrived at the hospital, went in, the doctor asked him, "Do you feel netter?" He said, "No.”--”Does your pain lessen?”--”No way." And the doctor said, "Now we'll give you I.V. fluid giving set and you will feel better." And Dmytro told him, "Unfortunately, this time it is of no use.”--”Why are you so pessimistic?”--”No, I'm not pessimistic, I've been ill for many years now and I know what it is. It's for the first time I feel such a pain. Now my life is in God's hand, if he thinks I've got to live he'll bring me back to life, and if not, I'll die." A minute later he died. We've just managed to lead him in; he kept standing there, I said that we'd better put him down. He said, "I'm flat-out." I said, "Now I will help you to sit down, then I'll take up your legs and you'll lie down." I did not even have time to sit him, he extended his hand, looked at me and said, "Oh-oh!" and fell on me. Fancy how it is?
MAN MUST WORK TO THE LAST DAY
So all of a sudden they all left me. Fancy how difficult the life is? It is hard to go through. I understand that people should work to the last day of their life... So I worked a lot with NGOs and concluded that you can't be down and out. You spend a lot and get next to nothing. Today you've mentioned three NGOs; those who worked with them know how they sapped all their strength. I registered this “Ukrayinska Ideya” here in Brovary, now I occupy myself with “Krynytsia”; it's a concrete work, I work every day and I see the results. I do depend neither on Movchan, nor anybody else. I myself plan the amount of daily work. In fact, the level work does not matter because in each case you strike home. I consider it a very important job and I think I get it right; I'm too busy to waste my time on Movchan; I wouldn't hush all his doings. And I don't care to fight others as well. No one should waste her/his time to look into their fiddles. I saw that the man has no right to spend life on it. In your life, you have other fish to fry.
I WAS LUCKY TO MEET INTERESTING PEOPLE
Early in my life I met people whom I still hold in respect.
V.O.: Lucky you are.
M.O.: I think that I was lucky enough in my life. I met Sverstiuk early in my life. Even Dziuba, one time he played a very important role in my life. We met rather often, we conferred a lot, such talks create an impression upon young people. I was deeply moved by Oles Berdnyk. I am still on friendly terms with Halyna Mohylnytska, I love her very much, although they tittle-tattle that she isn't that simple. They also maintain that I'm complicated as well, but, you know, we are all both complicated and simple. She is a special person in my life. We made Olexa Riznykiv, when he stayed behind bars, our godfather. When Roman was born, we registered Nina Strokata and Olexa Riznykiv as godparents; the same action was brought against both of them. I was greatly impressed by Nina.
In general, I was lucky in my life meeting many interesting people. Take, for example, Stus. We were not on friendly terms, but we were acquainted, we greeted one another, exchanged a few words. Once Nadiya Kyryan and I ran into him on the street, he said, "Girls, I beg you, Valia and I are going somewhere on holiday..." Dmytro was still a little boy, and Sashko Teslenko (he is no more), he was from Donbas and later became a fiction writer, and then he was still young and was joining the Medical Institute. Vasyl said, “Now Sashko lives there, and he conducts chemical experiments, so he may set the house on fire and so on. So you, girls, please visit him from time to time and stay there for the night to control him." And so it was. These remembrances are like a flashlight. When we went there...I can't recollect the number of the glade where Vasyl Stus lived...
V.O.: Glade no. 4.
M.O.: ... but we stayed for the night there. I remember how we walked to the lake at night... A sort of romantic memories. And about the same Sasha - too. I wasn't friends with Stus, you know, but I remember the exhibition of works of Borys Dovhan and there was the sculpture of Stus. Oh God, how glad I was! There were sculptures of Kholodnyi, Stus, we came running there. There was a tag "Head of a Man," and we were very happy: we were running and happily exchanged remarks, just look, it's no telling who it was...
V.O.: And then, they say, arrived Tamara Hlavak (Secretary of the Central Committee of the Young Communist League of Ukraine); she recognized Stus and ordered to take the sculpture away, is it true?
M.O.: They say so.
V.O.: I've got here a photo of the sculpture.
OXANA YAKIVNA MESHKO
M.O.: I already do not remember who introduced me to Oksana Yakivna, but we visited her many times and communicated with her very closely. I visited her together with my husband and my child, we celebrated her birthdays with her. There is somewhere a photo: Roman was born in 1972, he was already one or two years old and Oksana Yakivna's birthday is in January, on the Eve of the New Year...
V.O.: 30 January.
M.O.: Right, 30 January, I know that her birthday was in January. He was about two years old, and we went to celebrate her birthday. There is a photo somewhere: there were three of us, that is Mariya Hlushchuk with Valentyn, she was a former wife of Kholodnyi, she married again, she married Valentyn. She's no more. They were some other people as well. It happened only once; my husband and I systematically communicated with Oksana Yakivna, both my husband and me. From time to time she asked us to go somewhere and deliver something. Oksana Yakivna was a peculiar woman. She was already old, and when we are aging, some oddities become evident. Many people said that Oksana Yakivna became fussy, somehow the words came out the wrong way. But I saw how she took care of the Helsinki group. Once she complained about Berdnyk and cried, “Tell me? Mariyka, how come our husbands are so weird? Look and see how clever and handsome he is? However he's afraid of Helsinki group,” she said. “He has a sin on his conscience. It isn't correct." I said, "Well, you know, it's a, to each what rightfully belongs to him.”--”But he is intelligent, he's not stupid, he's conscious, he's smart, why does he act like this?" She was rather categorical, you know, in many cases, but I can tell you that she was an extraordinary woman.
V.O.: The Helsinki group always relied heavily on her for four years.
M.O.: Not only this Group. I remember her advanced in years but she remained rather active and organized many soirees. She worked both intellectually and physically; once and again she busied herself with the kitchen garden. I said, "Oksana Yakivna, it's beyond your strength.”--”Well, but I cannot stand such a disorder."
Halyna Mohylnytska told me how she was arrested. Halyna came to Kyiv from Odesa and dropped in on Oksana Yakivna but Oksana Yakivna was not at home, there was nobody at all inside. Her in-law Dzvinka had gone somewhere. She might go to Oles Serhiyenko who lived in exile at the time while they lived here with Dzvinka and children. The neighbors said that Dzvinka was absent but Oksana Yakivna had to be home, but she was not. Halyna went to the neighbors and ask: "Do you know where old woman Oksana is?" They said they did not know, but Oksana had been absent for a few days already. Halyna asked: "May anybody have seen her?" No one saw. At long last she found out that an ambulance arrived. This was in 1980, the Olympics were approaching. Halyna said that she sat down to smoke--Halyna was a heavy-smoker--near the hut and immediately it came to her that they took the old woman to the mental hospital. She sprang to her feet and went to the Cyril Mental Hospital. She went there, but she had no idea where to look for her? And she was young then and was endowed with good looks. She sat down, crossed her legs, and smoked near the windows of a department. The windows there were barred, and all patients climbed onto the window-sills, "Let me have a smoke, let me have a smoke!" She bought many cigarettes and displayed them. And they started screaming. She said, "Find me such and such old woman." And she gave them the full name of Oksana Yakivna. "Here,” she said, “when you find her, I will give you all these cigarettes." And they found old woman Oksana. She said, "I saw how they led her and she was like Jesus Christ crucified on the frame of the barred window, old woman Oksana". I saw through her the window. She said, "Oh, Halyna, it is very good that you've found me." And she told how they apprehended her. She said, "They may well kill me here." Halyna said, "I played the fool, went to nurse of that department and said in Russian, “Hey, I'm a grand-niece of such and such woman. I've come to find out the level of her health.” She says: "I reckon she's been here for some time now. What about her analyses?" The nurse took the medical report, looked at it and said, "Oh, if only we had such test results, like your granny. She's as healthy as a young girl." Then Halyna came to me to stay for the night and said," Mariya, I have gone through hell today, and that's how we learned that they apprehended the old woman."
V.O.: Look here: "June 13, 1980, questioning in the framework of the case of Stus and forced hospitalization in the psychiatric clinic for 75 days until August 25. Conclusion of psychiatrists: "Healthy. We would like to have such health". (I won't give up!: To the 100 Anniversary of Oksana Yakivna Mieshko / Kharkiv Human Rights Group; Compilation by V.V.Ovsiyenko, O.F. Serhiyenko, Designer B. Ye Zakharov.--Kharkiv: Folio, 2005.--P. 21).
M.O.: Right, Halia told me the same. Can you imagine? And when she returned from exile, she told me everything. They also sent her in exile to her son in Khabarovski Krai, to the Okhotsk Seashore. There are regions difficult of access, you need a copter to get there; the ships moor there once a month.
V.O.: If the navigation ends, then during the whole winter they live in isolation.
M.O.: In general a very bad combination. She said that Oles had the end of his term in six months, when they transported her there...
V.O.: Three months. (Oxana Mieshko was transported under guard to Ayan on July 3, 1981, her son O.Serhiyenko left there 19 October.--V.O.).
M.O.: It seems she said about six months. Maybe I've forgotten. During that time he tried to bring that khata to a certain state permitting to live in it.
V.O.: He chopped wood and repaired the khata.
M.O.: She told me that the window faced the port, and one could see when the ships arrived. When Oles left, she sat, she was cold, she was shaking, she covered herself and sat looked into the distance, looked how my child moved away, and she wept bitter tears; she said she thought that he went away forever and she would never see him again, because no one knew what would be. And she told me about the snowfalls there. The snowstorms blocked up everything for several days. It was hard to walk, then I gave children several kopecks and they brought me bread and other foodstuff I asked them to buy. And then, they summoned their parents and ordered not to allow children to help me. I had to go myself so that I always had in store biscuits and water in the khata, because during the snowstorm I could die of starvation and without water. She told me many such episodes.
V.O.: Did she write you letters from exile?
V.O.: Here I give you the book by Oksana Mieshko I won't give up! The Kharkiv human rights group published it. You may know most of the texts.
M.O.: I will certainly read it..
V.O.: But there are many statements, which you might not read, and the book also contains a lot of letters. She movingly tells how she survived, how she prayed. It's a sort of, you know, popular psychology.
M.O.: I know a lot of such things. Here is one example. Roman was still a baby and I was a young mother... So we went to her with our baby. Dmytro and I came to show our Roman to old woman Oxana; she had not seen him until then. He was sort of stocky, fair-skinned, a lovely boy. She, "Oh, what a charming boy, oh my!" She asked how he ate. I told her. Though a baby he could make a couple of steps already. She said: "You know, if he does not eat up, you have to finish up after him. You shouldn't throw away anything after your child, it's out of the way to throw away anything." She taught me this. She said, "Throwing away may harm a baby." She taught me popular wisdom. She liked Roman. She went to the Carpathians and bought there a sleeveless jacket for him. I still have it somewhere. He was then too little to wear it. She said, "This is a gift for Roman. The last time you visited me, I looked at him and ordered this jacket." I thought that time elapsed and she forgot. She said, "I brought it, they made it to order and embroidered". He wore it for a long time, and now we keep it as a relic. Nina Strokata learned about Roman while in concentration camp and she sent me a letter with enclosed embroidered child's tie; Stefa Shabatura embroidered and she sent it. I've got it somewhere as well. It is not easy to find now, because they turned everything here upside down. After the funeral, I have not put everything in order yet, I have not found all documents as well because there was pandemonium here. However, Roman wore it and loved very much.
MORE ON NINA STROKATA
You know, there is one more interesting thing. Nina Strokata, before she and Karavanskyi went abroad, arrived in Brovary. (The Karavanskyis left on November 30, 1979.--V.O.). Then we lived in a TORGMASH dorm. The microdistrict here is called Torgmash, that is commercial machinery construction plant. She arrived there. Under the pretext that I had her personal belongings; she wrote this statement because they did not let her come here. She wrote that I had her gold wedding ring and golden watch. It was gilded, and she wrote gold. When they imprisoned her I wrote a receipt and the Odesa KGB gave me these things. At the time they did not permit to keep gold things in the jail. Therefore during her stay in Tarusa these things were with me. Then she came to Brovary. She told that they did not allow her to come under another pretext, but they permitted to go and get her things. She entered the room. We lived in a dorm, our room was 10 sq m. She entered and Roman, I do not know how old he was at the time, well, he was of preschool age... He was restive and gave a hostile reception to strangers. Not because he was afraid, but just avoided them. He wouldn't go to meet a stranger. Nevertheless when Nina entered the room he immediately went to her and sat in her lap. We were so impressed... She never had her own children. And he came and sat in her lap and said: "I love you". Dmytro and I were very surprised... we did not even imagine that our child could tell this to a stranger. She stayed with us one day, I think, she stayed for the night and arrived at midday. The next day we saw her off. And all the time he was sitting in her lap, put his arms round her neck, and from time to time told her, "I love you". For us it was a shock and a revelation^ neither before, nor after this he behaved in such a way. There was something strange about her.
V.O.: At the instance of Olexa Riznykiv you wrote about Nina Strokata.
M.O.: Right. I never thought that I would write my memories, I am prejudiced against it. And the situation was as follows. I said, "Olexa, let me bring out a book about Nina Antonivna because it is high time now." And he told me, "Well, I do not know ..." He was here in Kyiv, so we talked with him and parted. But he silently took it into his head and began to play with the idea. At the time my mother was ill and she just lay there, I nursed her, I felt miserable. And then he told me, "Mariya, you know, write about Nina, as far as you knew her well, write it because I want to publish this book." I lingered on it for quite some time, but he insisted on my doing it. I did it. Unfortunately, I didn't title it, and he did it himself: "Godmother of my son Roman”. And there is also a photo of Olexa and me for he had it. (Olexa Riznychenko. Ray from Odesa: A long poem. Documents. Memories of the Sixties in Odesa and the Strokata-Karavanska.--Odesa, 2000.--Remembrances of s M.Ovdiyenko on pp. 218-231).
These are the only memories I wrote in my life; my heart is not it. To write something worthy of notice about a person, you need to think about it, concentrate upon this, try and remember everything, but I really don't care for it. Ordinarily, when we talk with people, they say, "Oh God, just write it down." Sverstiuk always told me, "Please, commit it to paper". Once we talked over our parents and he said, "Put it in writing the way you tell me, that's interesting." I said, "I may not."--"Come on,” he said, “Let's write a book about our parents."
V.O.: He told me the same as well.
M.O.: He suggested, " Let's gather a group and write about our parents, they were all remarkable people." He told it to Tania as well. Once we were sitting here drinking tea: Mykola Ivanovych Semynoh, Tania Usanovych, and I. It was at the time when we together with Olexandr Suhoniako made a trip to Hoholiv. We waited for Suhoniako, and he was here. We talked it over, but nothing came of it. I do not know, it may be a worthwhile idea. For example, Pyanov wrote many interesting books. He knew many people, he knew all Ukrainian literati quite well. In his declining years he published really good books: Famous, outstanding and others; or something like it. He made a good book, he did. In his old age he published three or four books about what he saw in his life, about people with whom he communicated... really good books. Maybe one day the time will come for us to write as well.
V.O.: We must document the epoch. Now there is an opportunity to record the whole truth, and there is no fear to be pursued for it. Nobody knows what will be, but now the times are favorable.
HRYTSKO CHUPRYNKA PRIZE
M.O.: Now tell me what is your attitude toward Sverstiuk?
V.O.: I believe he is one of the wisest people in Ukraine now.
M.O.: It's a bit an awkward situation because I involved him in one affair. He spoke at a meeting in “Krynytsia” marking the fiftieth anniversary of the organization. It only a nominal event, but I asked him and he agreed, "I would rather do not get involved, but since you ask, I will not turn you down." I had managed to found Hrytsko Chuprynka Prize here and now this "miracle" came just in the process of jury consideration. I asked Sverstiuk to head the jury and I was the secretary. I did it in order to boost the prestige of the event because it came hard way to me as far as we had a terrible Regional Commission for Education and Culture with my namesake Rayisa Mykolayivna who cast prudence to the winds in order to kill the prize. She was a good friend of Mykola Som. Som was my fellow-villager. Fortunately, we rarely see each other... Som astonished and insulted me.
They pressed for making Som a member of the jury, and when they learned that I suggested Sverstiuk as a head of the jury, this Rayisa told me during the meeting of the commission, "Mariya Hryhorivna, why do you suggest to make Sverstiuk the head of the jury? What is he?" I said, "Rayisa Mykolayivna--she was a math teacher--if you do not know who Sverstiuk is, you'd better be ousted from the school, especially if you head of the regional deputy Commission for Education and Culture."--"And how old is he? He can hardly walk." He was already 76, but I said, "He is seventy-five." And she said, "Why not Mykola Danylovych?" She meant Som. And I in the presence of the commission said, "I despise Mykola Danylovych and I hold Sverstiuk in great respect. People like Sverstiuk are a rarity in Ukraine. This man answers for his every word, while Mykola Danylovych is a blabbermouth." The teachers asked me, "Mariya Hryhorivna, how to respond to this?" I laughed, "In a proper way." One teacher told us that she invited him to the village school, he came, he spoke to the eleven-graders; he told pupils that he was a great crusader for freedom. But we then knew him for what he was. In 1989 he joined the Communist Party; in 1989! He explained that rats were abandoning the sinking ship, while he came on board the ship. He took pride in it. I know two such personages who joined the Communist Party in 1989: he and another activist. This teacher went on, "Mariya Hryhorivna, he blabbered on his being three times expelled from the Komsomol." I laughed, "No one cast him out, never." He constantly invents cock-and-bull stories. And then he began to throw mud at Lina Kostenko telling that she is a stupid old woman, that she is a hysteric woman, and that she is untalented. He said, "Is she a poet? She is a nonentity. Vingranovskyi is a poet and she is a nonentity." And the eleven-graders had to sit and listen. The eleven-graders sat silently casting down their eyes. That time I gathered myself up and saw him out of the classroom, but now I'm afraid to go to the children, because now they will come clean of this trash. The teacher said that she entered the classroom and stood before the children tacitly. She is a good teacher, I love her, and I love the village very much. The “Krynytsia” often organized literary soirees there. However children told her, "Olga Ivanivna, do not worry, we've immediately realized that he is a dolt. And Lina Kostenko has not become a second-rate poet because of him. We've just realized who's who. Well, if they expelled you from the Komsomol, why did you join it once more? He told that he was expelled three times; in fact, he was not expelled even once. " She said, "But he told these stories to the children. Who will make a background check?"
V.O.: When did he join the Communist Party?
M.O.: Wait, I will tell you when. On April 03 we had an evening, and it happened about 25-26 March, 1989. "I'm not a patriot of Ukraine, I am a patriot of Trebukhiv, and I will join the Communist Party." Then I rebuked him. Usually, I invite Sverstiuk to take part in our events, and he came here a few times, everything is all right with him. The first time he came to us for the presentation of his book, he thought that there would be 50-60 people in the assembly hall, and when he saw the hall packed and heard how people responded, he said: "Listen, when I entered this hall I was surprised to see so many people." We decorated the hall with embroidered towels... There were the heads of village radas, secretaries of village radas, librarians, teachers of Ukrainian language and literature, history teachers... Everybody saw that it was done from the heart and the audience was enthusiastic about it. And now I fear what will become under the present government.
ABOUT VASYL BARLADIANU
V.O.: What can you tell about Vasyl Barladianu?
M.O.: I met Vasyl Barladianu when Shaikevych, Prof., examined us in foreign literature, and he was a lab assistant at the Department of Foreign Literature in Odesa University. I drew some parallels. When after zalik I left the room, he followed me and said, "Let's get acquainted. I liked your answers, I see such student for the first time." We became acquainted. The next day--and I was already dating my future husband Dmytro--we met at the railroad terminal. Dmytro said, "Meet my friend, please." And we laughed, "We became acquainted yesterday." This was an acquaintance. He was expelled from Odesa University; I do not know, whether he told you or not. He is Moldavian and concluded Russian philology studies; he was imprisoned for Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism. When he was expelled from there, he came to us and lived in Brovary. He was jobless, and it was a time of stress for us. I worked as a painter, my husband worked in the library, the salary was very small and we had a baby. He did three years and we thought that he would return. But he was added a three-year term. My husband and I visited him in jail. My husband said that he was a second cousin. Somebody had to bring him a parcel every six months... I pity Vasyl, I am sorry for him...
 The author has confused cupola with nave (translator's note).
 The proper title: “Ukrainian Botanical Journal” (translator's note).
 At least two authors retold the likely stories: Przybyszewski in his novel The Sons of Earth and Mykhailo Rudnutskyi in his memoirs (translator's note).
 At the time Petro Kononenko was a Komsomol and Communist Party activist attacking Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism and then lecturer of CC of the CPU fighting bourgeois aesthetics (translator's note).
 Correct Latin lux (translator's note).
 Ξενία also means traveler and hospitality in the first place (translator's note).
 Old Ukrainian mobile puppet theater (translator's note).
 In fact, the Komsomol leader wasn't authorized to make such decisions. Such decisions could be made by the directorate of the exhibitions by order of the Communist party bosses or KGB (translator's note).