TERELYA, Josyp Mykhailovych


author: S. Karasik

(b. 27.10.1943, village of Kelechyn, Mizhhirsky district, Transcarpathian region)

Defender of the rights of believers, author and circulator of samizdat, victim of punitive psychiatry and twice a political prisoner

Josyp Terelya grew up in a family of communists. His father organized the first collective farm in that area in 1949, while his mother graduated from the higher Party school under the auspices of the Central Community of the Communist Party of Ukraine. Josyp himself from childhood loved going to church with his grandmother.

He was expelled from school three times for ‘hooliganism’ provoked, in his words, by insults to his national honour. By 1961 when he finished a construction technical college, he was already on the records at the police station and had to report there twice a week.

In 1962 Terelya was convicted under Article 222 § 2 (“illegal acquisition, position, carrying, preparation and selling of firearms and other weapons”) and Article 223 § 2 of the Criminal Code of the Ukrainian SSR (“theft of firearms, ammunition and explosives”) and sentenced to 4 years deprivation of liberty.

In 1963 Terelya tried to escape from prison and in punishment was sentenced to 5 years harsh regime labour camp.

In 1965 he made another escape from the camp.  However he handed himself in 7 months later to the KGB (after KGB officers told his mother that he would be let off as he had committed no crimes except escaping).

On 1 March 1966 Terelya was arrested and on 7 May sentenced to 7 years harsh regime labour camp. In the camp he was subjected to beatings and humiliation.
On 22 December 1967 he was tried by the Kirovohrad Regional Court under Article 62 § 1 (“anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda”) “for his tendentious presentation of Ukrainian history and his slanderous fabrications about the policy of the government and Party” and sentenced to 3 years labour camp to be added to the part of his sentence not yet served, in all 8 years harsh regime labour camp. He was accused on the basis of his poems and notes. However even this court acknowledged that Terelya had been bullied, that as a minor he had become drawn into a criminal gang, yet aside from escapes, had never committed any actual crimes and that he should therefore not be declared a particularly dangerous repeat offender. He served the eight-year sentence in the Mordovian labour camps.

On suspicion of trying to dig a passage to escape, Terelya was sentenced to 3 years prison, and between September and October 1969 was transferred from the Mordovian camps to Vladimir Prison

In 1969 Terelya wrote a letter of protest to Brezhnev and Yury Andropov, then Head of the KGB, comparing unfavourably the food ration of a prison and that of a guard dog, as a result of which he was sent for the first time for examination in a psychiatric hospital.

On 1972 a new case was launched against Terelya for circulating the poems of Z. KRASIVSKY and for a collection of his own poems, under the title “Hirkoty” [“Bitter thoughts”] and up to 1975 held in the Sychevsk Special Psychiatric Hospital in the Smolensk region, and then moved to a general psychiatric hospital in Chelyabinsk.

Terelya was released in April 1976, declared fit and even subject to military service. Terelya made determined efforts to become an Orthodox priest.  He was on several occasions summoned to the police station and accused of parasitism. However as soon as he found work as a churchwarden, he was dismissed on instructions from above, following which he was forced to take a job as joiner in the district hospital.

On 2 November 1976 he was admitted against his will to the Vinnytsa psychiatric hospital and only released on 30 November.

At the end of December 1976 Terelya sent Yury Andropov an open letter of an autobiographical nature. In it he described the humiliation he had been forced to endure in the labour camps, prisons and Special Psychiatric Hospitals (SPH).  At the end of the letter he renounced his Soviet citizenship. A copy of the letter, translated into Russian by P. GRIGORENKO circulated in samizdat. Terelya also sent a letter to the Presidium of the Verkhovna Rada of the UkrSSR protesting against the arrest of M. RUDENKO.

On 24 April 1977 Terelya was arrested again. He was informed that the decision of the Mukachevo Court from April 1976 cancelling his compulsory treatment had been revoked and that the Berehivsk court had again imposed forced treatment. Terelya was placed in the Berehivsk regional psychiatric hospital from where he fled, being caught on 2 June.

On 10 June 1977 the Berehivsk District Court considered the case involving his escape from the psychiatric hospital and ruled that he should be transferred to an SPH. Neither he himself, nor his wife and lawyer, were present at the court hearing.

Terelya’a wife, a doctor, addressed a complaint to the World Psychiatric Association.

At the beginning of September 1977 Terelya was placed in the Dnipropetrovsk Special Psychiatric Hospital.  As symptom of his illness, the doctor ‘treating’ him named Terelya’s desire to leave the USSR.

On 17 October 1977 P. GRIGORENKO, A. Sakharov, S. Kallistratova and N. Meiman issued a statement in support of Terelya, saying that they believed his arrest and forced admission to the SPH to be a reaction by the authorities to the publication in the West of his account about the Sychevsk SPH

In December 1977 the Working Committee against Psychiatric Abuse for Political Purposes also came out in support of Terelya.

According to what his wife found in November 1979, Terelya had changed almost beyond recognition. He had put on a lot of weight, had become slow and phlegmatic and very seldom wrote letters. This was presumably the result of his “treatment” with haloperidol (an anti-psychotic drug).  Around that time the medication was ceased. At the beginning of 1981 Terelya was moved from the Dnipropetrovsk Special Psychiatric Hospital to a general psychiatric hospital near his home (in the Transcarpathian region).

In June 1982 Terelya was permitted to return home. In September 1982 he founded the “Initiative group to defend the rights of believers and the Church in Ukraine” and became its first chairperson. The group was joined by Stefaniya Petrash, wife of the political prisoner Petro SICHKO and mother of the political prisoners Vasyl and Volodymyr SICHKO.  The Group made an approach to the Ukrainian authorities, calling on them to re-open churches and monasteries of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church (the Uniate Church), to open seminaries in Lviv and Uzhhorod and to send Ukrainian theology students to Rome and other European cities to study.

On 24 December 1982 Terelya was arrested and charged with “parasitism” and on 24 April 1983 in the town of Irshava, the Transcarpathian region, he was sentenced to 1 year harsh regime labour camp.

On his release, he returned to his position as chairperson of the Group, however from 1 March 1984, due to poor health, he stepped down in favour of his associate, Vasyl Kobryn. On 14 November 1984, after Kobryn was arrested, searches were made of the homes of both Terelya and his aunt, Mariya Fales in the town of Svalyava. Expecting to be next, Terelya stayed away from home but was still arrested on 8 February 1985. A search was carried out that day and personal notes and a large number of poems were removed.  He was held first in Uzhhorod Prison, then from 16 February in Lviv Prison.

In connection with Terelya’s case searches were carried out in Moscow and the Chytynsk region.  The focus was on finding out about Terelya’s involve in the publication “Khronika tekushchykh sobytiy” [“Chronicle of Current Events”] (CCE), “Ekspress-informatsia” and “Bulleteni SMOT” [Bulletins of SMOT – the Free Inter-professional Union of Workers]

On 20 August 1985 Terelya was sentenced by the Uzhhorod Regional Court under Article 62 § 1 of the Criminal Code of the UkrSSR to 7 years harsh regime labour camp and 5 years exile. He was charged with having edited eight numbers of the “Khronika Ukrainskoyi Katolytskoyi Tserkvi” [“Chronicle of the Ukrainian Catholic Church”] as well as with circulating “anti-Soviet” literature, writing appeals to the authorities and verbal utterances.  Terelya rejected the lawyer offered and defended himself. His final address was interrupted by the judge.

A local newspaper “Holos Batkivshchyny” [“Voice of the Motherland”] published an article in which they published supposed extracts from the case demonstrating Terelya’s “repentance”, however these “extracts” are contradicted by information about Terelya’s behaviour during the trial.

Terelya was taken to Camp No. VS-389/36, one of the Perm political labour camps.

He was released on 22 February 1987, however he declared a hunger strike, demanding that he be allowed to leave the country for treatment in the USA or Canada. His first application was turned down, however the second was granted.

On 19 September 1987 he arrived in Amsterdam. Since 1988 he and his family (wife and three children) have lived in Toronto, where Terelya publishes a religious journal.


J. Terelya. Vidkryty lyst Holovi KDB pry Radi Ministriv SRSR Y. Andropovu [Open letter to the Head of the KGB under the Soviet of Ministers of the USSR]. // The Ukrainian Human Rights Movement. Toronto – Baltimore: Smoloskyp, 1978. – pp. 235 256

J. Terelya. Try roki Dnipropetrovskoyi spetsvyaznytsi PB YE-308[Three years of the Dnipropetrovsk special prison PB YE-308]  // Samizdat materials. No. 28/83.— АС №4984. 


L. Alekseeva. История инакомыслия в СССР. /  The History of the Dissident Movement in the USSR. – Vilnius – Moscow: Vest, 1992, pp. 33-34

Г.Касьянов. Незгодні: українська інтелігенція в русі опору 1960-1980-х років.  / G. Kasyanov.  Dissenting voices: the Ukrainian intelligentsia in the resistance movement of the 1960s to 1980s — Kyiv:  Lybid, 1995.— pp. 148, 153..

“Visnyk represiy v Ukraini” [“Bulletin of repression in Ukraine”]. External Representation of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group. – New York, 1980, No. 9 – 16.

“Visnyk represiy v Ukraini”. External Representation of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group. – New York, 1984, No. 1. – p. 9.
“Khronika tekushchykh sobytiy” [’Chronicle of Current Events’] (CCE). - New York: Khronika, 1976, No. 41. – p. 47; No. 43 – p. 55

CCE.— New York: Khronika, 1977, No. 45.— pp. 61, 101; No. 47.— pp. 135, 151, 152.
CCE.— New York: Khronika, 1978, No. 48.— pp. 87-88.
CCE.— New York: Khronika, 1979, No. 54.— p. 81.
CCE.— New York: Khronika, 1980, No. 56.— p. 120.
Vesti iz SSSR [News from the USSR].  V. 2. 1982-1984.— Munich : Prava cheloveka

S. Karasik

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