MOT Olexiy Petrovych
V.Ovsienko: We are talking with Mr.Mot on February 2, 2001 in Kiev, in Petro Sahaydachny street, 23. The interview is being recorded by V.Ovsienko.
O.Mot: I, Olexiy Petrovych Mot, was born on February 13, 1953 in Mykolaiv. My father Petro Olexiyovych Mot came from German colonists settled in Mykolaiv oblast’, currently Kolosivka station. The German colony was there. That is where he comes from. My mother is from Bashtanivka raion, also in Mykolaiv oblast’, village of Pryvil’ne. We are re-settlers from Poltava region, moved to the new areas in the last century. I was born in Mykolaiv.
My parents’ family was not among the happiest, and around 1957 father left for Donbas, leaving us behind. Eventually my mother mended their relations and the three of us joined him. I have a younger sister Olga, born in 1955, and between 1957 and 1960 we lived in Donbas [ name undecipherable – Amvrosiivsky?] raion of Donetsk, then Stalin oblast’ Nyzhnya Krynka. Father worked in a mine there. That much I remember.
In 1960 we returned to Mykolaiv. I started going to school №45, and attended it till 1965. Then something went wrong in my parents’ life once more and they sent both my sister and me to the boarding school # 7, from which I graduated in 1968 on completing 8 years of studies. This same year I entered construction vocational school, specializing in construction machines and mechanisms. There I studied till 1972.
By that time parents had divided the house. One half was occupied by my father who had remarried, while the other housed the three of us. First the tension was considerable, but then my mother remarried too and went to Stalingrad. I lived there with my sister, and my mother’s mother – my grandma.
In 1972 my father visited me on New Year holiday (New Year was celebrated then). We had a shot or two followed by a conversation full of mutual accusations: who was right and who was wrong; who was a sinner and who a saint. We went physical and one of my blows turned fatal. By the morning my father was dead. I went to the authorities to turn myself in. By the way, in two months I had to defend my diploma. I was locked up, with subsequent trial. Article 94 – premeditated homicide. I refuted this accusation then and I still refute it now, because I had no intention of killing him. But the facts were what they were. I was convicted under article 94 – premeditated homicide, without aggravating circumstances. Mitigating article 44 was taken into consideration, and although it stipulated 7 years as minimum term of imprisonment, I was given 5.
I was taken to Kharkiv, correctional facility #12.
V.O. When were you arrested?
O.M: January 2, 1972.
V.O.: And when did the trial take place?
О.M.: Around March, relatively quickly. I was taken to Kharkiv, correctional facility #12 of most rigid regime. There I did my time till summer 1975, specifically till Soviet Youth Day. I believe it was celebrated in the last week of June, wasn’t it?
О.М.: Then there was a form of prisoners’ protest against violations of their rights, very popular among the inmates. They were cutting their veins and stabbing themselves in the stomach. Thus they demonstrated their disregard for their own lives. Well, if they treated their own lives like this, then what did they care about the lives of others…Administration had no way of making them do anything if they did not feel like doing it. The practice was widely spread; sometimes they took away up to five inmates a day. I remember rather tough commanders, like, for instance, major Pyatachenko, a big guy who was so severe that neither isolation cells, nor cells of special regime were empty ever.
It happened that an inmate was beaten there. Everyone was at the movies because it was Sunday, and while watching the film they heard people screaming in the special regime barrack. Movies were projected outside, and the screams were heard very well. The crowd of the inmates, upset with that, ran to the barrack. Administration first hoped they would stop them and put under control, but they failed. Prisoners swept away everything on their way. The authorities ran away. The riot started. Every building in the facility was destroyed. Of course the prison was surrounded and in the morning the soldiers broke in. In a month or two I found myself among convicts removed from the colony.
V.O.: The soldiers probably mugged everyone, did they?
О.М.: Anyone they met.
V.O.: And you’ve got your share of beating, right?
О.М.: Not really. Others had it worse. So, in early autumn…
V.O.: Hold on. Did they use any weapons or just bare hands?
О.М: Clubs. The camp was surrounded by the troops with firearms, carriers, machine-guns. The soldiers entered the premises armed with shields and clubs. Maybe someone covered them from behind, but I did not see anyone. No, I did not. In the early autumn I ended up in…We were all herded to “stolypin” [kind of a train carriage]. . One “stolypin” was enoufh for the camp. It was in Segezha, Karelia.
V.O. The name, clearly, please.
О.М.: Segezha, on Belomor Canal. Cellulose and paper plant was being built there. Komsomol organization took it under its patronage. Well, komsomol members could be seen there only when a delegation visited. But otherwise the cons were the ones whole built everything. Komsomol members were herded only to the sites where pictures were taken. Treatment facilities, production workshops – all was built by the convicts with me among them.
At that time I picked up the spirit of protest against cruel treatment of the inmates, regardless of our guilt. We were no angels, that is for sure, but administrative abuses caused natural protest. Probably, I was too active in my protests, because I spent about two hundred days out of two years in Karelia in punishment cell.
In Karelia I was injured – I fell down from 6 meters of height and landed on my back. But anyway I was lucky, because I fell between concrete flagstones. I broke my arm and injured my spine. I was moved to the team consisting of cripples and other invalids.
Maybe, it will be interesting for those who don’t know it…during the transport…It was not very convenient in the camp…Sometimes rats who collaborated with administration were exterminated. Ratting had to be punished, no bones about it. But the cons found the way to do away with them during transport. There were almost no obstacles to castigating those who deserved it. So when I was taken to the hospital in “stolypin” I met a compatriot from Kirovograd oblast’. Former head of a kolkhoz and former sea captain. I learnt it later. He had a famous name – Chornomor or Chornomorets. He was one of the “capo” or whatever they called such people, very servile towards administration. And we ended up together. I had to teach him a lesson. First because I did not approve personally, and, second, I felt moral duty with respect to those whom he had harmed. This man was twice as big as I, but he suffered my beatings and only screamed. Then I was admitted to a hospital. It was one hundred km south from Segezha. Well-known place, as I learnt later, by name of Medvezhegorsk.
V.O.: Oh, I visited Medvezhegorsk past summer. (There is a ravine not far away from it, San-Darmokh, which served as a chosen execution site in the 20-30-ies. About 9 thousand prisoners were buried there. – V.O.).
О.М.: And I did time there, over 20 years ago. I was brought there. Sure the escorting guards reported the conflict and my actions once again were classified under an article of the Criminal Code. And I had only three months to go prior to discharge.
V.O.: Aha! Did you have to stand trial again?
О.М.: No I managed to avoid it. Old jail-birds from Murmansk oblast’ and Karelia, whom I met in the hospital (some of them were seasoned jail-birds, from prison with different regimes) advised me how to behave. I had to open my veins when I had to return to Segezha in “black Maria”. To cut a long story short the case was never brought to the court. I just spent these three months in the hospital. But in Segezha the prosecutor was already waiting for me. Probably my crime was not considered serious enough, because they let me go.
Well, they let me go, but I remained under administrative surveillance. “Never demonstrated the wish to be reformed” etc. In prison I had many friends, Armenians among them. They were bullied as “blacks”. Moscow and Leningrad ruled there, the entire criminal mafia. I took one boy under my patronage. That taunting was intolerable, either by moscovites or by any other Russian criminal “colleagues”. And he felt he owed me for this protection. On my discharge he asked me to visit his father in Moscow. And I did. I was discharged on the third and on the fourth or fifth of January I was in Moscow.
V.O.: What year are we talking about?
О.М.: 1977. I found his father, related what I had to and then we talked. I spent a couple of days in Moscow. After that he helped me to find a proper flight. Well, he did help, but I missed my flight Moscow-Mykolaiv and had to spend a night in Vnukovo. In the morning I flew to Odessa and from there I made it to Mykolaiv. Noteworthy, one of those days a terrorist act supposedly occurred in Moscow subway.
V.O.: the name was Zatikian, right?
О.М.: I did not know the man.
V.O.: Well, that was the name. It was seen frequently in the newspapers.
О.M.: Well, anyway, I attracted attention of the “competent” units. I don’t know why, but probably because I had Armenian friends in the camp and I visited them in Moscow. God knows what really happened. Only later I understood I became a target. On discharge I was duly registered.
V.О.: Did you come to Mykolaiv?
О.M.: Yes, to Mykolaiv, in spring, and stayed with my grandma. At that time she was granted a one-room apartment, where presently my family resides. I got my registration there and went to my vocational school. Director recognized me. Five years have passed since and thousands of students have studied there but for some reason teachers used to remember me. “So, what are your plans? When do you intend to defend your thesis? How are you doing? OK, go ahead and submit an application – we’ll take you back”.
V.О.: Right away?
О.М.: He managed to disguise my absence as a sabbatical.
V.О.: Some sabbatical, indeed.
О.М.: He let me work on my diploma project alongside with other students and around April I defended it to become a certified mechanic. At the same time I worked, Director Ivan Varenyk, now deceased, helped me to find job. Half of all employees in our town graduated from our school, so his acquaintances were numerous. I needed a position of mechanic. The fact that I was under administrative surveillance did not help at all.
I do not remember how the idea came around, whether somebody prompted it, or it was own conclusion, but anyway I understood that the only way to have freedom and work as a free man was to take to the wheel, become a driver instead of wasting time in an office or in a workshop. A vehicle is a vehicle and it guarantees certain amount of freedom. I took a driving course and became a driver. Simultaneously I took the tests and in 1978 was admitted to Odessa technological institute, correspondence department. I studied in Pervomaisk branch. But it did not last longer than a year.
I got married in the fall of 1978. In April 1979 my daughter Maryna was born. In July 1979, returning from the plant by truck, I had an accident, i.e. I hit motorcyclist. He had two passengers - his wife and daughter- in his “Yava”.
V.О.: Did his bike have an attached seat?
О.М.: No. Their daughter was sitting between them. I saw her only when they went down.
V.О.: But it was a violation…
О.М: No comment on that. The fact is both his wife and daughter died, while he survived. I know all the accused parties always plead not guilty, and I feel like repeating it too. But people died and I don’t want to dwell on it any longer. I was alive, people died, and the guy survived, although with some injuries, but not many. The fact is I was convicted to 10 more years. Later my wife told me that there had been a way out. Ten thousand and would have let me go free. Naturally, I did not have that money. Judges demanded mentioned that amount. I learnt about it later. The fact is I got ten years.
V.О.: Please tell us the date of your arrest. Were you detained before the trial or not?
О.М.: I was arrested before the trial. By the way, I almost forgot to mention something else. I was driving a big heavy truck МАZ-500, that is why the accident ended so dramatically. There was a guy in the cabin with me. Unlike me, he was unmarried yet. When it happened we both hurried out of the cabin. The woman was still alive. We stopped a car to take her to the hospital. There she died. The child died immediately on site. Actually it was in the village already. A crowd gathered around. Militia was called to make pictures. I asked my colleague.”Please hold on for another day. I need to drop by my house yet.” And for the next 24 hours he kept repeating he was the one at the wheel. Meanwhile I explained to my wife that most probably I would be locked up, and then went to militia to give myself in. Maybe it was a point in my favor. I don’t know for sure. Anyway, it does not matter.
V.О.: Can you name the date of arrest?
О.М.: I believe it was July 28, 1979.
I omitted something and now I want to get back. While I was under surveillance, and worked not as a driver, bur as a polisher in a garage, I was once called to the personnel department. I was not the only one to be summoned. Some people in the civilian clothes sat there and invited me come in and talk with them. Their way of address did not leave any doubts – no one, and especially, not a person under surveillance could refuse the invitation. The address was Spasky, #41- local KGB office. They just summoned me, no subpoena. A colonel Sukhoparov, (I don’t remember his first name) known not to me only, introduced himself. Then he started sermonizing me about enemies and about patriots, about the treachery of the enemies and their operation – what they are doing and how they are doing it how hard it is to fight them. Well, probably many people know how that recruiting went on. He threatened me: “Don’t you forget that…I can whistle just once and…” And, by the way, several protocols have been written already on my violation of the surveillance rules. So, in fact I was doomed.
V.О.: They used situations like that.
О.М.: The technology was so well honed that it needed professional to oppose professional. Which I was not. Not yet. They gave me a choice: either…or…Or another approach – you erred, but you are a patriot, still “ours”, things happen. Or one more scenario: well, how many violations – three, five – we won’t be able to help you with that.
V.О.: Two years for administrative violation?
О.М.: I do not recollect exactly – two or three. They “convinced” me. Sort of convinced – I did not have much choice. Well, I pretended I believed them. Maybe someone else would have proceeded differently. But I pretended I believed them - like I am patriot and they are patriots, and we have common enemies. By the way, it was the era when “Liberty” broadcasts very plenty, so I was aware of the arrests, of Ukrainian Helsinki Group, that came into being after the first arrests. I knew the names of many political prisoners. That information was available to me, and somewhere deep inside I nurtured the crazy idea that due to them I would get closer to these people. I mean I would come to know them not only from hearsay, but personally. Well, these are the facts. In fact, I really met one of them. But it was later, in the camp, in 1980, after I was convicted. Probably it was done on purpose – Mykola Horbal, who had arrived in the camp somewhat later, was put in the barrack where I was staying. The idea was I would rat on him, no doubt about that.
V.О.: What zone is it? What is its name?
О.М.: It is zone #53, in Mykolaiv oblast’, Olshanske settlement. Number fifty three, with severe regime. For some time I was just observing Mykola to decide whether he meets my idea of these people.
V.О.: I wonder whether you’ve heard his name by radio, or not?
О.М.: Well, other people were referred to more often. You see, before I was sent to the camp, I spent nine months in custody. I watched, I listened, and when I found out that my ideas of people from Helsinki Union…
V.О.: Group, it was still Group then.
О.М.: It was still Group then. And the real people that I saw, fully corresponded to my idea. They were not a legend, but living people, that never disappointed me, nor made me change my mind about them. So I saw this Mykola, talked to him, and I saw these people did not have any slyness or falsity, any mercantile interests, people with firm public stand which they defended consciously, firmly, and decidedly. Then I understood that under the circumstances they were doomed. Naturally I revealed everything to Mykola – who I was, why we were together in the camp and in the same barrack. On analyzing all that Mykola suggested I reveal my position – if I have any - with him, in writing. If I am brave enough.
V.О.: What was his purpose? Sending it out of the camp?
О.М.: We’ll get to that. Yes, he said he would be able to do that. I had my say. Up to that moment I was, so to speak a natural truth-seeker – that was my nickname in the camp. But it was just elemental rebellion, elemental protest. I was twenty seven by that time, in 1980, with my views more or less structured: my attitude to power, to their lies, to their officials and their ideology. I tried to come to my conclusions on the matter. And I was arriving at some conclusions, especially due to permanent listening to the broadcasts from abroad. All that helped me to get better orientation in the situation. And Mykola Horbal added to my development, structuring and systematizing my views, my life position, and my place in the world. There is a saying that a man needs three lucky moments in his life and he will do the rest. I felt many things on subconscious level, he had only to focus it, and as a citizen, I believe I was finally formed under his influence. I was going in that direction, but by very tangled paths. Probably had it not been for him I would have never become a conscious citizen.
Special services visited our camp. They talked to me trying to get incriminating evidence against Mykola. I warned him in advance. By the way, it was Mykola who said to me: “Olexiy, you are not going to win this game…You won’t win”.
V.О.: they were specially trained for that, were they not?
О.М.: "You must somehow…You are incapable of double game. Don’t they understand you have told me everything? It wouldn’t work”. I felt he was right. But it was a scary thought. Why? Because I knew what consequences I would have to face. And it was then that Mykola said to me: “High time for you to make a decision. Either you are playing double game till they uncover it, or choose a stand and forget all the rest for good”. Under these circumstances I decided somehow to present my vision, my understanding of the situation. He, on the other hand, said he would do everything to eliminate any mention of my name from KGB archives, and to make it clear that my break with KGB was final.
I started writing an appeal. It was addressed to Ukrainian Diaspora and to the Ukrainians that listened to the programs from abroad. Preparing this document both Mykola and I were aware that we were spied on at all times. No matter how hard we tried to conceal our activity, once, upon our returning to our barrack, I saw immediately that my papers had been messed with and that the working copy of my appeal had disappeared. I told Mykola: “That is it. Let’s have a break!” I reconstructed everything in one breath, rewrote it in small letters, and gave to Mykola. In the fall of 1980, if I am not mistaken… I don’t remember the dates right.
V.О.: But when exactly did this manuscript disappear?
О.M: At some point in October 1980, around that time. I don’t remember exactly whether it was late October or early November. I was called to the guards’ building. Upon my arrival I saw these “competent bodies” sitting at the desk. I don’t remember what the offcer’s rank was but I do know his name and later he became known as colonel Cherepenko. Another was called Volodymyr Rudenko. I don’t know his rank either. So the two of them asked me: “Well, how is Mykola faring?” But I was aware they knew everything by then, and that I knew that they knew. We sat there till they understood the conversation was not going to happen. Then they produced a photocopy of my appeal: “What is this?” And I go: “Don’t you see?” – “Have you written this?” – “I have. It is my handwriting.” – You could not have written it!” I am not sure, whether they were just pretending or really believed I did not know Ukrainian language. It was a revelation for them. Well, I don’t know…The fact is after that talk I switched to Ukrainian completely. – “How come it was not me? You see, it is written there!” “You wrote nothing. You only took dictation. “ “Who dictated me?” - "Horbal’."
Briefly, whatever they did, their main goal was to hang that case on Mykola. Naturally I could not let them do it: handwriting was mine, my Ukrainian was fluent and to prove it I switched to Ukrainian. “Do you know what we have in store for you?” –“What is it?” – “You are never getting out of here. Are you aware of the place where you are? You will never get out!”
So what? What could I do? [ Indecipherable ]. Just consider it! To cut a long story short I was taken back to the zone. Some days later Mykola was suddenly taken from the camp to be escorted elsewhere. He was transferred to the zone 93, also in Mykolaiv oblast’, village of Novo-Danylivka.
I stayed behind in the zone 53. But after Mykola had been tansferred, I do not remember the exact date, I was sent to the medical unit. I was met by our camp doctor; I don’t remember his name, Podhorodnyk or something close. I don’t remember his medical specialty either. He said: “See, my boy, do you know why you’ve been brought here?” – “No, I don’t”. – “We will check, whether you are an idiot or not”. “Well, check whether you are an idiot or not. I don’t know who supplied him with information, but he asked:”Do you understand whose order it was?” I said I did. “Do you understand what the end will be?” “I do”. “So you will spend a couple of months in the loony bin. Or you will be convicted again. Just dance to their tune.” Then he gave me some tips on how I should behave. I said I couldn’t do it. Finally he wrote something in my medical history (it was some intricate definition), either by recommendation or simply by an order from KGB, sending me for medical examination. That is how it was recorded in my medical history.
By the way – and here I am anticipating the events – later, around 1984 or 1985, Petro Saranchuk was held in the same camp and, as it happened I needed my medical history chart immediately. I had a gift of persuading people, including those who had access to medical charts. They stole it for me. We read it together with Saranchuk. I wanted to get it out of the camp, but did not have a reliable liaison to do that so I burnt it and Saranchuk witnessed it. It is an interesting fact – the fate of my medical chart. I was taken to Vilnyansk, Zaporizhzhya oblast’.
V.О.: Oh, Vilniansk? I was there in 1979-80, in a nearby zone, # 55.
О.М.: It was a part of another zone ...
V.О.: Number 20.
О.М.: ...Number twenty and some buildings housed mental facility. It is not like it was in Kazan’, for political prisoners – I was an exception there. After the physicians read who brought me there and why, the entire hospital was running back and forth to take a look at me. I was kept there for three months and I have to pay their due to…
V.О.: What were the conditions like – did they give you anything? Were you kept in a cell or what?
О.М.: They have a cell there that houses ten to fifteen inmates, malingerers in their majority. I was among them. Frankly speaking my term was not very short. How many years? – Fourteen. But these three months were the worst despite very lenient treatment I received there. I had no idea of what was going on. There was no information at all – no radio, no TV. I did not know how long I will have to stay there – a month, or two or three, or till the end of my days. I was surrounded by jail-breakers and malingerers, who behaved like zombies due to psychotropic drugs. They were injected with haloperidol or with sulfur. No one to talk to, no straight-thinking people, everyone “stoned”, mere zombies. Scary. The scariest was the uncertainty of my future.
V.О.: You did not receive any shots, did you?
О.М.: I did. I was upset with something, although I was treated by the doctor better than other patients. I have no memory for names, and I can’t name all the doctors there. Anyway, for some reason I disobeyed an order. I sat to dinner with some other convicts and the orderlies got mad and so did I. They started injecting me with haloperidol. I was also transferred to an isolation cell. And the winter of 1981 has already set in. The cell was not the warmest one. And after haloperidol one is not very agile. After lying there for several days I developed pneumonia. I will be frank with you – I still remember the fear in the doctors’ eyes. Half of personnel were whirling around me. They were afraid something might happen to me, God forbid!
By the way, I probably helped them myself. By that time I already knew about S.Gluzman’s book “penitentiary medicine”. [Probably the author means Bukovsky and Gluzman book “Psychiatric manual for dissenters (January-February 1975- V.О.). I have not read it myself, but I knew bits and pieces from radio programs and other sources. So I warned the doctors:”Beware!” Probably it had its effect. Possibly, I do not know. The result was doctors cured my pneumonia and quickly convened an expert conference. I do not know who participated in it; they were about 20 altogether. They summoned me, asked me a few questions and sent me back to my zone 53.
О.М.: So I got back to the zone 53. Mykola, the only person with whom I could share all my troubles and relax, was no longer there. Before he arrived in the zone I had no one to talk to, so our separation was a big loss for me.
But life goes on and I had to go on with it. There were other inmates, convicted mainly for non-violent crimes or torts. I was surrounded not only by idiots and rascals. As it happened I was surrounded mostly by the inmates from the so-called “ethnic minorities”. I was guardian of sorts to them. To those, naturally who were not rascals. Alik or Alikhan, Umarov – an Uzbek from Fergana valley. I remember few names. There were other Uzbeks, Armenians. I was drawn to them. Later even Uygurs came under my protection. It was interesting to know these people better. I also detest it when anyone is hurt. I believe I helped them to avoid it.[ Smth. about Chinese – undecipherable] . We managed to buy a radio –it was brought to the zone.
V.О.: You mean, a radio set? Interesting!
О.М.:I am from Mykolaiv myself and zone 53 is located 40 km from Mykolaiv. Half of the inmates were my compatriots, known to me since my childhood. Same applied to the administration. Everyone knew who lived where, who studied where etc. That gave us an opportunity to negotiate some deliveries to the zone. Of course, it was risky for the people who did it, but still it was doable. The guards helped as well as the drivers. We had our ways. I do not remember exactly how many radio sets I had. One would be taken away during the search, and soon I had another. Sometimes I had two at a time. When one was taken away I would listen to another.
V.О.: And you were not punished for that, were you? Let’s say, in the zone for political prisoners it would be…
О.М.: I understand the difference. But the jail-birds are very creative people. Had I been holding that set in my hands, then I might have been accused, but it was not done like that. Therefore they did not catch me. When I listened to the radio someone would stand watch to warn me. There was time to hide everything, so when they arrived you had nothing. During the search, of course, the radio might have been taken away. No matter how well you stashed it, they know their drill well: we hide, they find. But everyone was aware of the fact, even the commanders knew. For whatever reason, they were afraid of radio sets and cameras. By the way I had camera as well, but I am no photographer. My pictures came out bad. Besides it was stolen from me. Not by the guards, by the inmates. So it did not work out well with the camera. But I listened to the radio, on the regular basis.
V.О.: I wonder, did you have that radio when Mykola was there, or later?
О.М.:I got my personal radio after Mykola was taken away. But it was not an only set in the zone. There were two thousand inmates, so anyone could listen to whatever one wanted.
V.О.: What did you listen to? “Liberty”, obviously?
О.М.: No doubt, that was all I needed “Liberty” and the “Voice of America” sometimes to “German wave”. So to a certain extent I was informed of the current events.
Then year 1984 came.Petro Saranchuk came to the zone. By that time I was on the hook and spies were following me. I knew them, so they were no spies any more. If you know him he is not dangerous any more.
V.О.: Did you and Saranchuk stay in the same barrack?
О.М.: No, we stayed in two different barracks. By the way I was told about Saranchuk’s arrival by the stooges. “Do you know who is here? – “I wonder who?” – “Another prisoner arrived…” Inmates who had known Saranchuk before also recognized him. I don’t remember where he had come from, Berdichev or some other place. ( Saranchuk did time in Izyaslav, Khmelnitsky oblast’ and then in Sukhodolsk, Lugansk oblast’ – V.O.) Anyway there were a lot of inmates from the same “striped” regime saved for most dangerous criminals. I came to them and asked:”Do you know this man?” – “We do. He is a great old man!” But we expected some trick or provocation. So I came to see Saranchuk myself.
V.О.: Communication there is complicated because of inside division of the zone into local subzones. How did you manage to get there?
О.М: In our case it was possible. We had a work zone where the machinery was kept. So we had a chance for communication. Local zones were in the residential area, not in the working one. And I usually kept my radio set in the working zone. It was easier to hide it between machine tools. So we had some opportunities. Sometimes Stepan would drop by and hear a couple of words on the radio. We managed to set up a corner in a workshop and listened in. But he could not stay for long, because he was followed.
Then year 1985 came. It was high time for Mykola to be released after his 5-years term. New transport came from zone 93. Some people who later testified against Mykola were on it. I remember some names – Vysotsky, Chupryna. I knew who came there. Jail-birds know a lot about each other – who they were, what was to be done with them, how they could be manipulated. I do not know whether it worked or not but I remember saying to Vysotsky: ”Just remember – whatever you do is registered somewhere”. “But what is to be done? What can be done?” – “Whatever you do, keep it in mind - history will not forget you”. Well, Mykola would know better what happened after that, I don’t. Leaflets – not made by me – started circulating within the zone. Even special service came and told me to write something in printed letters, the way it was done on the leaflets. They tried to establish whether it was not me, or if I had any contacts with the author. But they did not find anything and were mad for having lost full control – something was going on, people were listening to the radio, others were doing god knows what, keeping in touch with the outside world. And as I mentioned earlier we had all these opportunities. They’ve had enough of that.
So in 1985 they put me on a transport and brought me to zone in Kirovograd, via Odessa prison. Saranchuk stayed behind in zone 53. We lost contact and I know nothing about his fate. By the way, on leaving the camp, Mykola left me names and addresses of people who had to be contacted now and then. I sent a post-card to Kara-Kalpakia to Pronyuk. I did not know why I had to do that, but as a smart man he probably did. I got Gluzman’s address –he was in Tyumen’, or somewhere not far. I don’t remember other addresses. And when I was already in [undecipherable – Oolshanske?] Saranchuk supplied me with more addresses – in Moscow, so that I would have whom to contact. By the way, when I was taken from zone 53, Mykola was still there, after his second trial..
М.Horbal: And Saranchuk stayed in Mykolaiv, right?
О.М: He did, but I do not know in what cell you stayed.
V.О.: (To М.Horbal who just came in): Please take a chair and move here to us.
О.М:. Then Kirovograd, camp number 6. They had a special facility for those under severe observation. And that is where I was put. I spent there about a year and a half. Then they got tired of me in Kirovograd. The “perestroika” led by Gorbachev was gaining momentum by then, Tykhy, Marchenko, Stus and other Marchenko – who served his term in Siberia – died.
V.О.:.:Anatoliy, also Marchenko.
О.М: Right, there had been two Marchenkos. Everything was under re-construction [“perestroika”]. I was taken for another transport, with other inmates. The whole group was taken out of the zone 6 in Kirovograd to be escorted to the north, Vyatlag, in Lisne settlement.
V.О.: Is it Vyatka oblast’?
О.М: Right, Vyatka oblast’. I finished my term there. Well, under Gorbachev’s amnesty my term was shortened by one year – from ten to nine. So, I finished my term and was discharged in1988. My wife came to meet me. We left and then spent a couple of days in Nizhny Novgorod. My sister still lives there. Her husband was an officer. Then I moved to Mykolaiv. Perestoika was gaining momentum, but some people still had to do their time…
V.О.: In what month did you come to Mykolaiv?
О.М: In early August, I believe.
М.Horbal: And in late August Vasyl and I were let free too.
V.О.: Right – I was discharged on August 21, and you – on 23.
О.М: my wife took me to her father, who resided in Zhytomir oblast’, Andrushivsky raion. We had to pass through Kiev. We arrived in Kiev. But I had no address on me. How can one find Мykola Horbal there? I asked in the city information and was provided with some stupid address. Meanwhile, people started gathering in Maidan. I asked one person, then asked another, and someone finally provided me with right phone number and address. That is how I found you.
V.О.: When did you find him?
О.М: it was some time in 1989.
V.О.: Just to remind you - Микола Horbal is here with us.
О.М: And after we came together, Mykola generously shared new printed materials with me. By that time the group of Rukh activists was already set up in Mykolaiv.
V.О.: So did you too participate in these events?
О.М: Not yet. I remember my first or second visit to Kiev…There were some protesters in Bankova street in front of Central Committee. Me, Shevchenko, you, another guy with some words of protest printed on his T-shirt. He then left for [undecipherable]. And then it rolled.
V.О.: What organizations where you in under perestroika?
М.Horbal: First we were in Ukrainian Helsinki Union.
О.М: First we were in Ukrainian Helsinki Union
V.О.: Can you give us at least approximate date of your joining UHU?
М.Horbal: 1989. I told you to found UHU.
О.М: It was January 11, 1990. By the way, I still keep the minutes of the founding meeting.
V.О.: And who was present? Saranchuk, obviously, you…...
О.М: I, Saranchuk, Katsan, Malytsky, Tsarynny…
М.Horbal: And the one with missing fingers, or was he?
О.М: He was not there.
М.Horbal: And was Anatoly there or not? He was later in the Ukrainian Republican party, the musician…
V.О.: Ivanyuchenko was there. I have the protocol of the meeting if you need it for the record.
V.О.: In fact we are interested in this period only in general terms.
О.М: It was later. We participated in electing delegates to the first Rukh congress and faced some attempts to create alternative Rukh. We counteracted these endeavors as best as we could and sent our own delegation to the fist congress (September 8 – 10, 1989 – V.О.). Once there we managed to ban them from participation. The preparatory work for setting up UHU followed, and Mykola joined us in January 1990, to give us his blessing, so to speak. Then the UHU congress was held (April 29 – 30, 1990. – V.О.). URP came into being.
Despite all that, working with Mykola and on my own, I never regarded myself as a politician. In the vacuum of that period we felt deficit of people and, at the same time, inherent moral duty and understanding that one had to do something. Moreover, after Rukh was formed, followed by URP, I announced to my comrades from UHU : “Guys, I am here till [undecipherable]. I said I was only manure to fertilize the soil for those who would come after me. And later, when the results of the referendum were made public on December 1, when the independence was proclaimed, I announced that I was getting out of public politics to give room to the next generation.
М.Horbal: When still in prison, Oleksa offered some interesting economic projects. He did some studies on fisheries. He researched the opportunities of digging special ponds for breeding fish in the sweet water, specifically, sturgeon, estimated the profits it could bring for Ukraine, and described the type of fisheries. It was his baby. The projects were really interesting. But now he…...
О.М: Unfortunately I failed to put them into practice. I got back to them, but…
М.Horbal: He made calculations as to what Ukraine could contribute to the world economy, considering its current increase in population. Today I introduced him to Valery Kolosivsky, because their thinking coincides. Kolosivsky is just the same – he resigned from the Soviet Army because he had to return to Ukraine. He joined UHU. After independence was proclaimed he became a farmer. He is like that till now…
V.О.: And what did you do on your return? You worked somewhere, didn’t you? Or are you still working?
О.М: I worked as a driver for a year. Then between 1989 and 1990, during preparation to the elections, the head of my company was very eager to become a deputy. He was courting Rukh members and even me to that end. I was the first Rukh member both in Mykolaiv and in UHU. Did they try to threaten us? They did not know how to treat us and so balanced between courting and caution, just in case. They were treating us with reserve. So he was one of those courting, but when he tried to become a deputy I spoke up against him. I did not only speak, but I also did something. I was warned not to interfere with his pre-election campaign, and right before the New Year I was sent on a business trip to the Caucasus. At that time my wife was recovering after hospital stay. So I disobeyed an order and was fired under respective article. I wanted to oppose. Even Lisitsky (?), who now works with Yushchenko, - he had been a deputy in Soviet times, and is now state secretary of the Cabinet of Ministers or what’s its name – tried to help me. But, frankly speaking, I did not insist, so he let go.
Then I worked in Rukh and in URP for ten years. Specifically, my friends and I were setting up and printing newspapers, and distributing the newspapers brought to Mykolaiv. I worked as a journalist and as a courier. I still have pals there. I took direct part in all the actions, starting with “Down with the Moscow patriarch!” in St. Sophia Square; in the celebration of 500 anniversary of the Sich, in the chain of unity. At the time of referendum and presidential elections I naturally supported Lukyanenko and when he visited our region, helped with rallies’ organization and with transportation.
But finally I said I had enough of politics, I didn’t want to continue. Maybe, Mykola forgot, so I’ll remind him. If I am mistaken, he will correct me. When I had to make my position public, I used to say: “Just fancy,Mykola, what it looks like: I make my public appearance in politics for everyone to say: look what kind of character is running for office, referring to my biography”. In fact it was a big hindrance for me. And Mykola retorted: “Are you going to run for president?” I was not, and I don’t see myself in politics at all.
V.О.: So, you don’t want to be a president?
О.М: A president, no.
V.О.: Good. Please state your address and phone number for us.
О.М: Mykolaiv. Sevstopolska street, 47-А, apt. 38.
V.О.: And the postal code?
V.О.: Thank you.