RUDENKO Rayisa Opanasivna
author: Vasyl Ovsiyenko
V.V.Ovsiyenko: December 2, 1998; in the Rudenkos’ apartment. The autobiographical story of Mrs. Rayisa Rudenko is recorded by Vasyl Ovsiyenko and Vakhtang Kipiani is shooting with the camcorder.
R.O.Rudenko: I am Rayisa Opanasivna Rudenko (in the documents my patronymic is spelled Afanasiyivna). My maiden name was Kaplun. That was my father’s name, and my mother belonged in the family of Ocheretnys, well-known at least in our village, because my grandfather Ocheretny Makar Porfyrovych was a known farm owner; such wealthy peasants were called kurkul at the time. And in our Village of Lavrivka, Vinnytsia Region, Vinnytsia Oblast, there were many people with a surname of Ocheretny: close and distant relatives. As a kurkul, he was dispossessed, of course. They also dispossessed my paternal grandfather, Volodymyr Kaplun, who also lived in the Rohizna Village, Tyvriv district, Vinnytsia Oblast, and had a mill. So, he was a kurkul, too. I did not exist at the time; all of it my mother told me later in time. My father Kaplun Afanasiy Volodymyrovych was killed in action during the WWII.
I was born on November 20, 1939. I hardly remember my childhood. Later I’ll tell you why. Though I remember some pictures, mostly sad ones. In fact, I was not born in Vinnytsia Oblast, all my ancestors are from Vinnytsia. I was born in the village of Petrivka, Synelnykivsky Region, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. There lived my parents. My father, it seems, worked in the militia, my mother was also employed. When the war began, my parents immediately moved to Lavrivka, Vinnytsia Oblast, were the maternal parents lived. So I grew up in Vinnytsia Oblast.
I remember how the Germans bossed in our khata, and we, three children, were sitting under the stove on the clay floor. We were very hungry, and the khata smelled of sausage, because the Germans were eating sandwiches. They never shared food with us, but only demanded to bring them cucumbers, eggs, and onions. Therefore my grandmother, mother and Aunt Mariya (mother’s sister) had nothing to feed the children with. Our khata was chosen for some German officers and we were evicted. Fortunately, near the khata there was a huge cellar, divided into three “rooms”. So we stayed in one such room on straw: my grandma, Aunt Mariya, my mother, my brother Ivan, me and my younger sister Hanna. I had also the eldest brother Borys, but he had already died by the time. The German, who evicted us from the khata, happened to be a decent man. He tried his best to explain something, but no one understood him. When it grew dark, he went out into the yard, took shovels and motioned to dig below the kitchen window. And he began to dig himself. Everybody was terrified, but we kept digging… We sapped, he dismantled the foundation and a part of the wall of this cellar, went to the barn, where two cows were, and led those into the cellar. There we also brought hay during the nighttime. Then he mended the wall, filled up the pit and covered it with hay dust, so that not a trace remained.
It turned out that the next day the Germans confiscated all cows in the village for meat. We heard a terrible roar of the cows, and the grownups told that the Germans were flaying live cows. Our cows seemed to understand everything and did not moo in the cellar. In the cellar this German and another one took turns patrolling all the time. And those inside the khata did not go down into the cellar being afraid of the guerrillas. These patrolmen did not give out our cows. They took pity on three small children in need of milk. Because the Germans confiscated all products in our settlement.
Our village is situated on the right bank of the Southern Bug. And on the left bank the Soviet troops were located. When they began beating the Germans out of the village, there was a terrible shooting. The Germans were ousted, and our troops marched in. they had no sausages, but they boiled potatoes, mashed it, crumbled bread, seated all children in their laps and fed us. I remember we ate with pleasure. The Soviet forces went after the Germans, but the din continued. One day there was a perfect calm. I remember the walls pierced with holes in our khata. The broken windows, and the draft in the rooms… We were dressed, brought outside, where the yard was powdered with snow, and my mother said that we would flee. But where to…? Someone across the street advised to stay, because the Germans were on both sides of the village and the battle was about to begin again. Here another neighbor with three children went into the yard. And my grandmother asked, “Where were you hiding?” She answered, “In the khata.”−“You’d better join us in the cellar.” And as soon as they ran up to our door the battle erupted again and their khata was hit by two mines. We came down into the cellar… In spring the front advanced westward. We went out into the yard, and the ground was covered with cartridge cases and bullets of different caliber everywhere. Well do I remember it.
After the war, I was already five years old, I was playing in the yard, and there was a cow Lyska, black with white hairless spot and sharp horns. The summer was hot and I wore reds panties only. It looked like the cow disliked the red color, or something else, but it lowered her head and began approaching me. I did not run away, just thought about the cow’s strange gaze. Another moment and everything went haywire. The cow butted me in my cheek and tossed me up in the air so that I flew over the khata. Our neighbor saw it, she yelled at the top of her voice, all villagers ran out, found me behind the khata with a hole in my cheek, but alive.
There was also another occurrence: I was six or seven years old. My grandmother on mother’s side very often beat me and my elder brother Ivan. Later, when I was an adult, I learned that my grandmother did not like her son-in-law, my father. And my brother and I are like our father. This made her wild: she brutally beat us for any fault. The youngest sister was like her, our grandmother, and she was very beautiful, and the smallest, so we all were very fond of her, and her grandmother, too, and nobody hurt the little girl. Once my grandma put a box of matches into the pocket of her apron and forgot about it… She looked for them and could not find. Then she nagged at my brother Ivan: “You took it.”−“No, I did not,” he answered. She stripped him naked, tied to a pole and began beating with the soldiers’ belt, with a belt buckle. She kept beating until his back began bleeding. I felt sorry for him and I stood there crying. She caught sight of me: “Why are you weeping?” And began beating me…
I was born short-sighted, but no one knew this, and I did not know. Once I was sent to pasture two piglets beyond the village. They woke me up at five in the morning, I drove piglets barefooted, the dew was very cold, and my feet froze, as if I was trotting over the snow. Finally, at about eight o’clock, it became warmer in the sun, the dew evaporated, my legs warmed up, and at nine it became quite warm. I feel so good… But the sun burnt the piglets! What is good for me is not so good for them… They−oink, oink!--lifted their tails and ran to the village. I run after them. I follow them, because once they run off on me for five steps, I lose sight of them again hearing only the patter of their legs. Thus, day by day the piglets ran home. But this time it happened otherwise. I came home but there were no piglets. And then my grandmother queried, “Where are the piglets?” I said: “They ran home.”--“So where did they run?”−“To the village,” I responded. “Where did they leave the road?”−“I’m afraid I did not see.”−“And what were you looking at?” And she started beating me. She pulled out rods one by one and birched me; when one rod broke, she pulled out a new one, and finally she took a belt and belted me. I clenched my teeth and never breathed a word or shed a tear… She kept beating me, until I fell, but she went on beating me on the ground. I could not get on my feet. I do not recollect who and when took me to my bed. Towards evening Uncle Olexandr, my aunt’s husband came. He raised my skirt and I looked and saw: my whole body was blue like a ripe plum. My uncle quietly said, “Well, silly, why didn’t you run?” Where could I run, I was still so little, my grandma could catch the escapee and make it even worse. At that moment we heard the steps of my grandmother in the outer entrance hall. My uncle made a hasty retreat. As a son-in-law, he might fall out of favor, too. We were all terrorized by our grandmother. And my grandmother hit me in bed a couple of times more with a shovel… And away she went. The piglets were found in a yard, in the garden at the edge of the village: they luxuriated in the shade and ate somebody else’s pears. Meanwhile I stayed in bed for a long time. I could not comprehend that all people saw everything far ahead; I did not understand why they I asked me “where I was looking.” I thought all of them see as much as a few steps ahead. And no one understood that I see differently. Obviously, they thought I was just a stupid black sheep.
I remember the famine of 1947. We were suffering from hunger. My granddad traded a little of oil cake somewhere. It was a hard, yellow, and dull stuff. The same as castor oil. A bit of this cake steamed in water was a daily meal for children in winter and spring. This was the only meal… Once in the kitchen, my swept out from under the kitchen closet a dark lump, the size of a nut. At first we thought that this was a ball of soil, and then my brother looked and said, “This is the bread picked by mice.” And I said, “Come show me.” He gave me that lump, I lifted it to my myopic eyes and saw that it was soil and not bread. But just in case I decided to try and bite it. Only then the crouton suddenly crumbled in my mouth and I felt a taste of bread, swallowed it and said: “It was bread, indeed.” And the youngest sister started screaming and crying… The adults came running and asking what happened, and she said: “We found a piece of bread under the cupboard, and she ate it…” I was very frightened and I thought: “Now they’ll make it hot for me.” But brother explained that it was a tiny bit that had stuck in a mouse hole. And I was not beaten. When spring came, we all kept asking whether the soil was edible. I will never forget this constant hunger… We shoved in our mouths everything found in the yard. Finally leaves were out on a pear, we tasted them and they tasted delicious… So we ate all leaves on the pear tree.
Such was the training: the Lord was preparing me for this terrible life with its prisons and concentration camps. Indeed, in the prison I was often hungry as well, because I was allergic to meat and gruel was cooked on the bone broth, or rotten, rusty fish. I could not eat all of it. There remained only bread and water. And the bread was often inedible. Sometimes the breakfast consisted of boiled pearl barley with too much salt; I washed it and ate.
And then the school began. I did well at school. Everybody did. My brother Ivan was an overachieving pupil, he also graduated from the medical school and got his degree with distinction, and my younger sister was also an overachiever. I was an overachiever only in the first three grades. Then I got into trouble. In summer I was playing in the attic. My granddad was doing something and I hovered about. There were pears drying in the attic. I wanted to eat dried pears and went into the corner. But I failed to notice that the trap door was open. I fell down. They rushed, but there was no water at home. They poured dishwater on my head. I do not stir. They brought water from the well and poured again. I was in coma for about two months. I did not talk, was unconscious but breathed and stayed alive. It was then that I lost the memory of my short background.
When I regained consciousness, it turned out that I didn’t recognize anybody. The strangers enter the khata and leave it. Some kids came up to my bed, but I failed to recognize them. An unknown woman came and said, “I am your mother. This is your brother and this is your sister. These are kids from neighborhood…” And she named them. And she made me meet them. Slowly I toddled. Later it turned out that I had forgotten everything I learned in school: I did not have a firm grasp of the three R’s. I had to go to the fourth grade, but I could not read and write. My brother started teaching me. The schoolyear was to begin in four or six weeks. I mastered reading and writing, but I wrote a bad hand. Earlier I wrote a good hand. At school I wasn’t an overachiever now: half B and half C grades. So I finished the fourth grade and then the fifth. My mother looked at my school progress record: “Not much of a progress, heh?” I was transferred to the sixth grade, but my mother went to the principal and asked that I be made to repeat a year to pull up to a better standard. The principal agreed. So I pulled up, but did not become an overachiever all the same. I had B and A, sometimes C grades. It seems like I had C grade in algebra. I left seven-year school in Lavrivka and three years attended secondary school in the neighboring Village of Stryzhavka. There I finished the secondary school. This school was five kilometers away. My best school results were in language and literature. I loved literature. Especially I loved to learn poems by heart. Usually, the pupils recite verses rather formally… And I got the feel of the poem. The children mocked me, but the teachers gave me A’s for my intoning. I also loved to write… Once I was sent to my aunt in another village. There I made friends with the girls and later wrote such letters to them! Short stories, in fact.
Now, the children have radio and television and it is easier for them to determine their bent, while we knew next to nothing. The radio was only in the center of the village, in the soviet of the village. At school they asked: Who do you want to become? How did I know? All day I either weed in the kitchen garden, or help my mother in the collective farm, or graze cattle. I remember my mother was going to have collective farm work, and told us to weed certain number of the rows of beets or carrots… And we as kids did it slowly. I had a sunstroke, nausea, and nosebleed and I fell down unconscious. My brother, just a year older, but, although being too little, realized that it was due to the sun. He brought cool water, poured it on the back of my head and revived me. Although I was very ill, I did not dare to relax, because I had to finish weeding. When school started, I had no time to do my lessons. After school the children had to do housework. Only in the evening we settled down to our homework. But we were so tired that quickly fell asleep over those exercise notebooks. So I tried to do my homework at school right after classes, during recreation. All you learned during the lessons and managed to do during recreation was all your school education. But I had no idea who I’d like to become. I loved going to school. I rested there from domestic terrorism and domestic work. I did not plan staying in the collective farm, because I did not like the work and felt unhealthy for such hard work.
I remember how Stalin died. I think I was in the fifth grade. Even then, I had a different outlook than others: even now I wonder at it. It was on March 5, 1953. There was a heavy fall of snow. Under the fences there was a narrow path, the width of the spade; we went to school, and our heads were below the level of the meter-high snow. All lessons were canceled; instead they sent us to the cemetery to pick periwinkles from under the snow, the more the better, because we had to twine wreaths in honor of Stalin. In the center of the village they installed the loudspeakers and from time to time Levitan made announcements followed by sad music. All teachers were crying while listening to the radio, someone wailed, others sobbed… The school, village soviet, the whole village went into mourning. I looked at them and thought that everybody went off his rocker? I did not believe in their sincerity. Even being a child I reckon that Stalin was an ordinary man, he was not a God. Why did people behave as if it were the end of the world?
When I lived in Kyiv and met Mykola Rudenko, I told him about it. I was shocked, because he told me that sincerely mourned Stalin’s death, and even went to Moscow for the funeral. He told how people there crowded to the grave, trampled on each other… So there were people who sincerely mourned! And I, a schoolgirl, thought that they all pretended, and I was indignant at heart. I said nothing aloud, but I was indignant. I was ashamed for adults. And no one taught me this. Instead, they said, “Lenin, Stalin, Molotov, Khrushchev are our leaders!” And at school they taught us to sing songs about “Father Stalin”… And short poems. My response to his death was rather calm. The villagers are dying. The relatives cry and that’s understandable. And a whole village attends his or her funeral… While in this case the whole country was crying like after Stalin everything had to perish…
At times I was grazing cows in the field, looking at the sky and thinking, how can God fix it so that neither the sun falls down, nor the moon, nor the stars collide… Why do they say at school that there is no God? Then who holds it all? Every year a pupil asks about God. And their teachers reply: “It’s nothing but narrow-mindedness; no one has ever seen the God, so it’s only a figment of old superstitious people.” And only in the seventh grade I cast doubt on it. In fact, I thought that if no one had seen, it might really be a fiction? Then I joined the Komsomol. At school they recruited all pupils with predominant good grades. And I was already such a pupil. They even made me help weaker pupils to catch up with the rest. At home nobody was against Komsomol. After dispossession all were sent to Vorkuta, and when they returned 10 years later, they signed a pledge of secrecy. Therefore at home no one said anything against the Soviets so that we would never mention it giving grounds for new repressions. Nobody uttered a word against Stalin or the government. However, I soon was disappointed in the Komsomol organization. I immediately felt a falsehood and insincerity. Everything organized by Komsomol, seemed to me artificial and unreal. I was heavy-hearted. So, after finishing tenth grade, I crossed myself off the register at school and never registered myself again; I threw out my Komsomol ticket. And I heaved a sigh of relief. I told nobody about it at home. I thought they would not approve of my decision.
I came to Kyiv in 1957. After school I was sent to visit my seriously ill uncle Mykola, mother’s brother, who was a patient of the T.B. clinic. In Kyiv, I stayed with my friend; then I came across an ad on vacancy with dormitory accommodations. I got a job of an auxiliary worker at construction site and took up my residence at the dormitory near the railroad terminal. I did not want to return to the village as I hated the collective farm work, for which they didn’t pay; moreover, if you failed to fulfill the quota, you had to pay a fine for underwork. Working in construction, I attended evening classes for nurses. I was in search of myself, for I did not know who I would like to be. After some time I happened to hear a kind of clatter in the corridor. I inquired about it and was told that this was a typewriter and a secretary was typing something. Now I burnt with desire to learn typewriting. I found the typists’ courses. I completed the course. In the meantime I managed to work as a waitress and a cook. Finally I got a job of a secretary, and then I was appointed the Chief of Personnel Department at the Koncha Zaspa Sanitarium for the “servants of the people”. And I worked there for a long time, about seventeen years. I entered the Institute of Culture and studied by correspondence. Later I met Mykola Rudenko. Actually he was already under close surveillance, although he did not know that.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: When did you study at the institute?
R.O.Rudenko: I entered the Institute in 1968, and met Mykola Rudenko in late summer 1969. He looked for a typist. Someone advised him to contact me. I typed something for him because I made some money on the side. Then he turned to me once more, then for the third time… Then he asked if I understood what his work was about. Anticipating things, I will say that those were economic studies. I had no idea who he was; I thought he was a researcher. I answered that I understood and even expressed surprise that he needed to write a treatise on it, because, after all, it was quite clear that you could live only by farming. At least for me it was quite obvious. Then he did not tell me anything and I did not understand whether he was satisfied with my answer.
Once he came in and asked, if I was free after work. I replied in the negative, because I had to pick up children from the kindergarten. He said, “Doesn’t your husband help you?”−“I have no husband.” The end of conversation. They were not my children, but my brother’s; all the same he asked whether they were my children. His neighbor−writer Dmytro Bilous−brought his Oles to the kindergarten and also saw that in the morning I bring two children. Maybe, he thought they were my kids.
Thus, Rudenko thought that I had two children and was unmarried. And he made up his mind. Only later he told me that he would never have dared, because I was younger by 19 years. And then he thought, “She has two children, and nobody would marry her with two children. She may well agree.” Again he asked me to meet and we agreed for a night. Then he told me that he had four children from three women. He had been divorced for four years already. He met another woman and she gave birth to a daughter, but they failed to start a family. And I thought, “What for does he recount me all this?”
Finally, he suggested to get to know each other closely; maybe everything will turn out well. I gave my assent, “Well, let’s try. We’ll rub shoulders with one another, and we’ll see.” He said that he was a writer, author of such and such books. I knew his books; I just did not know that he authored them. He introduced me to his sons. I continued typing for him.
Well, I forgot to tell that I had been married once already. In 1964, I married Victor Onyshchenko, a worker. In a year we were divorced. He was a nice guy, but he was rarely sober. When sober he was wonderful, but when drunk, he became a sadist. I realized that he was hopeless and he’ll rub me the wrong way the rest of my life, and I divorced him. I lived alone, had a separate room in a family dormitory. Disillusioned by the first marriage, I was in no hurry to marry for the second time. But I liked to mix with Rudenko. He acquainted me with the writers, artists, and actors. I loved it and our friendship continued. However we got married only in March 1971. I was all up in the air, because he had so many children, and they understood what we were coming to and made trouble for me. I thought, "How can they love me? They want their father to be with their mother, not me!” Once his wife, Yevheniya Vasylivna Shapovalova, invited me to bring up the situation. She said that she takes no personal interest in Mykola any longer, but she laid a claim to their dacha. We hit it off right, because I laid no claim to their dacha.
So in 1971 we got married. Meanwhile, I got a separate little two-room apartment in Koncha Zaspa and moved there from the family dormitory.
When I met Rudenko, he had just finished the fairy narrative “Born by Lightning” and hired another typist to type it. She typed, then he edited, and subsequently, after further amendments, I made a fair copy. Since then, I typed everything he wrote. Day by day he wrote quite a lot. If something interfered with his work during the day, he worked at night. Whatever it was, the work was his first priority. And I was typing all that once and again at night and on weekends because every day I had to go to work. Reprinting his novels and poems several times, I already knew half of them by heart.
Mykola Rudenko had no apartment: he left his four-room apartment and all his property to his ex-wife and children. In the meantime he lived in the country, where beds were his only furniture. When it became known that there was a secret instruction to stop publishing him and promote his work, there emerged a problem of everyday life. After all, he accumulated an alimony debt concerning his two younger children. He had to sell that dacha. Half of the money from the sold dacha he gave his ex-wife, because it was their joint property, and the other half went to her and another woman to the delayed alimony payments. We were out of money, but for a while we paid off the debts. Mykola moved to my apartment. All he had included two suits and several shirts… But he had the car Volga. So all of my neighbors and co-workers believed that he was rich and I married him for money.
Later Rudenko learned that Oles Berdnyk went on a hunger strike to protest against the persecution by the KGB. Under these conditions, the writers gave him a wide berth, and Rudenko, by contrast, often invited him and supported him in every possible way.
Years went by, Rudenko wrote the novels Formula of the Sun, Orlova Gully, and a volume of poetry. Each year, he handed a book over to the publishers, but they did not publish his works. His works were banned, but we did not know yet. We were told about it only in 1973, it seems Hryhoriy Tiutiunnyk told it.
M. Rudenko got a job as a night watchman and received 60 karbovanetses a month. I got 70 karbovanetses a month, though I was the chief of the personnel department. My salary was very small, but I could get an apartment. There was a prospect of departmental housing for the employees.
V. Kipiani: How did you meet the dissidents? How did Moscow dissidents welcome you?
R.O.Rudenko: Things were rather complicated. You know, the dissidents usually distrust the strangers. You know, the KGB planted informers in their environment. But our friend, Moscow writer Zoya Krakhmalnikova, was friends with Yelena Bonner. And Rudenko was actively looking for researchers and gave them to read his Formula of the Sun. Especially the political economists. He wanted to hear their refutation of his progress energy formula. While listening to the opponents, he saw, where, what, and how to amend, so that the work would become clearer. Zoya read the book herself and her husband, writer Felix Svetov read it as well. They took interest in the book and they gave it to Academician Andrei Sakharov. He also read it and liked it. Then Sakharov gave it to General Hryhorenko to read. Later we met Sakharov himself, and, through him, General Hryhorenko. The general, having read the Formula of the Sun, immediately wanted to meet Rudenko. This happened in June 1974. And thanks to Sakharov and Hryhorenko the Moscow dissidents began to trust us. Our communication became more active, especially with the Moscow physicists. Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov advised Rudenko to put his discovery not in the form of a literary work, but in the form of scientific work. That means to make it shorter and closer to the point. But Rudenko was a writer and he couldn’t resort to a barren style of science. He rewrote it as the Economic Monologues, which were now presented in academic voice. I made a copy in Russian. The Moscow dissidents promptly manifolded and propagated it. It found its way abroad also not from us but from Moscow dissidents and in Russian. In Kyiv, we saw that the clouds were gathering over us, but we were too smart to show it. The only thing was that I left my job as the chief of personnel department and moved to the position of laboratory assistant in the boiler room. I understood that the KGB wouldn’t allow the wife of the dissident to hold an administrative position in a government agency. So, before my bosses were informed, I left my job in advance: the lab assistant wasn’t a nomenclatural position and the salary remained the same.
Mykola Rudenko had already been a member of the Soviet Group of Amnesty International and sent his letters defending prisoners of conscience in other countries. Our apartment was bugged. It was this way. On April 13, 1973, I was called to the Fourth Department of the Ministry of Health supposedly to charge me with very important work with documents “for official use only.” It looked plausible, because in the personnel department I was responsible for safeguarding of top secrecy documents as well. At my office nobody guessed yet why I changed my position. I stuck to the version that I needed more time to study at the institute. My husband was summoned to the Writers’ Association on the same day. They kept both of us for a long time. They set us free only after the hours. They were simply bulling me, while Rudenko had a serious talk with writer Bohdan Chaly. He asked about the Formula of the Sun and Rudenko gladly explained. After all, he wrote letters to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine over the fact that the Marxism does not lead us to communism, but to poverty, and encouraged to take measures, before it was too late. So he decided that Chaly talked with him on behalf of the CC CPU.
I came home, and under the threshold I saw plaster, I raised the mat and there was a whole heap of plaster. I opened the door and entered. I started cooking and then dropped into the bedroom and there also plaster was on the floor. I looked up at the ceiling and noticed there a hole and with something sticking out. It was a microphone, with which they accidentally punched the plaster. This one stuck out, and God knows how many of them were hidden.
Soon my husband came home, so happy, said that they finally listened. He said: “I dropped in at the store and bought a beer to celebrate.” And I said, "Well, it’s nice they treated you so well, but before drinking the beer, follow me, please.” And showed him the ceiling, then I showed him plaster under the door mat and the new wiring leading from our apartment to the attic, and the new lock on the attic trap door, which had been never locked before. And he said: “I met a pal and invited him for a beer, and he said, “I will not go, because there was a red car and you are some plumbers worked in the attic.” “ And I” he said “was slow on the uptake. Everything’s clear now.”
Our village was rather small and everyone knows each other. Therefore they immediately took notice of the strange car. When someone asked what was going on, they said that they were plumbers. But everyone knows that water pipe here is in the basement, and not in the attic. The rumors of it spread immediately, and people understood everything. The KGB had already interrogated several people if we had carried out the anti-Soviet agitation and so on. They saw that we were under continuous surveillance. Rudenko told in detail in his memoirs, what happened next.
After some time, Mykola Danylovych and Oles Berdnyk went to Moscow to take part in the meeting of the members of Amnesty International. There they found two Georgian dissidents. Those were ...
V.Kipiani: Zviyad Gamsakhurdia?
R.Rudenko: Right, Zviyad Gamsakhurdia and Merab Kostava. Back home, Mykola Rudenko and Oles Berdnyk enthusiastically told about these young, intelligent and brave people.
In 1974, Rudenko was expelled from the Communist Party, in 1975 from the Association of Writers and on April 18, 1975 the first arrest took place. Prior to this, arrest they conducted a search in our apartment, but the warrant was issued by the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office and the search was carried out by Moscow KGB agents. However, due to the 30th Anniversary of the Victory he was discharged after three days as an invalid of the WWII. The KGB agents hoped that this arrest would make Rudenko to hold his tongue. But the opposite happened: he began to work more actively in the field of human rights. He met with Oksana Yakivna. She had a wider circle of acquaintances among national patriotic community members and helped very much to compile information on repressions in Ukraine. She was retired and could go where and when the necessity arose. We were tied to our jobs. However, Mykola worked a day shift and had three days free; so, he too, could go somewhere, however not always he had any money for the voyage.
Meanwhile, in Helsinki on August 1, 1975 the Helsinki Final Act on Security and Cooperation in Europe was approved, by which 33 member states guaranteed their citizens the respect for basic human rights and freedoms based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948.
In January 1976, Rudenko was placed in a psychiatric clinic for examination. Fortunately, the doctors being careful not to hear their names in foreign radio broadcasts (because the whole world already knew about the victimization of Leonid Pliushch in Dnipropetrovsk special psychiatric hospital and suffering of General Hryhorenko in these hospitals), or for some other reasons, did not recognize him mentally ill.
On May 12, 1976 the formation of the "Public Group to Promote Fulfillment of the Helsinki Agreements in the USSR" was announced, which included General Hryhorenko. Mykola Rudenko began discussing with him the organization of a similar group in Ukraine. He suggested that Hryhorenko should lead the group because the General lived in Moscow and had access to foreign journalists.
Well in advance of the signing of the Helsinki Agreements Rudenko seriously told me that the arrest was pending now and asked whether I was ready for this turn in our lives. I said that I was ready. About the intention to create the Ukrainian Helsinki Group Rudenko told me in the summer of 1976. He’s always consulted with me first. I do not think he would change his intention, if I were against it. He would do it his own way, but without my support it would be much harder for him. The Ukrainian Helsinki Group was intended to identify violations of the Helsinki agreements in Ukraine and inform the leaders of the member-states of Helsinki process. General Hryhorenko was the second man, with whom Mykola spoke about the creation of Ukrainian group. They discussed it in Moscow and went on discussing in Kyiv, where in September 1976, General P. Hryhorenko and his wife Zinayida Mykhailivna stayed with us in Koncha Zaspa. In our village everywhere you turned you could see the KGB cars and ambushes were made under each bush. The Hryhorenkos were tailed by the Moscow KGB agents, which were joined by local agents in Kyiv. In the club film box in front of our house they installed equipment aimed at our window. For the whole period of the Hryhorenkos visit and for a long time after their departure they stopped showing films. That lens could be seen from our balcony with a naked eye, for the film box was close enough. They also observed our apartment from the other side of the building, where the bedroom and kitchen windows opened. Across the street the KGB agents took the room of a woman and were there on duty around the clock taking pictures of everybody coming to our porch and our apartment.
General Hryhorenko outright rejected to head the UHG, but volunteered to become a member and promised to represent the Group in Moscow. Finally, in October 1976, Rudenko told Oles Berdnyk about his intention. Knowing that Berdnyk had already been in the Stalin’s prisons, Rudenko did not agitate him to join the group. He just informed him so that he knew whether to communicate with us in the future, or not. And Berdnyk warmly supported this idea and expressed his desire to join. Then the three of us went to Oksana Yakivna on the 16, Verboliz Street, and there in the moonlight over the cliff we were talking about it. Actually, the three of them were talking and I kept walking behind them at some distance looking around if there was a tail. The conversation took place on the edge of a cliff, so from the front no one could approach them. Oksana Yakivna also supported, but she said that all of us would be immediately imprisoned. Rudenko joked that everything was good in its season. He never doubted that, as Oksana Yakivna put it, “once a wolf always a wolf.” He just hoped that arrested would not be conducted immediately, and the Group would have time to do something. The only thing that he believed in was that we would not be sentenced to death, as Levko Lukyanenko in his time. The next day or the after Rudenko and Berdnyk went to Chernihiv to Levko Lukyanenko, who had just been discharged and put under observation. This Rudenko retells in details in his memoirs.
A few days later Myroslav Marynovych and Mykola Matusevych, with whom we also maintained active relationships, arrived. Having learnt about the creation of the group, they joined it without hesitation. Among the new associates were Olexa Tykhyi and Nina Strokata-Karavanska who had just been discharged and lived near Moscow, in Tarusa. A week after the announcement of the creation of the Group Ivan Kandyba joined as well.
Rudenko prepared documents, including the Declaration of Principles of the Ukrainian Public Group to Promote the Implementation of the Helsinki Agreements, Memorandum no. 1, a list of the repressed citizens of the USSR with all the data on sentences, places of doing their time, names of judges, etc. (this list included 75 names), and a document entitled “The Credo of Unity”.’" I made seven carbon copies of each document. Rudenko gave them to all members of the group to review and present their comments and observations. Then Rudenko went to Moscow and on November 9, 1976 together with Hryhorenko at the apartment of Alexander Ginzburg they announced the establishment of Ukrainian Helsinki Group to the foreign journalists. The Kyiv KGB agents promptly responded to this announcement: on the night of 9/10 November (at 01A.M.) the stones were hailed at the window of my apartment. Fortunately, the lower large window panes were protected with the mosquito netting; a few stones flew in through the upper panes. The rattle was terrible. At the time I received Oksana Yakivna Meszko as a guest. We had undressed already, went to bed, but did not fall asleep and were talking. One stone hit Oksana Yakivna in the shoulder and seriously wounded her. We called the militia and demanded to draw up a report, but he refused, because, he said, we could not name the culprit, while the act should have the subject of indictment In general, the militia expressed confidence that this was my husband who had broken the window, because he had been jealous in my interest in someone else. I immediately called to Moscow and in the morning of November 10 Rudenko already knew about this pogrom.
After returning from Moscow, Mykola Rudenko started working on these documents. He prepared the Memorandum no. 2 and his appeal to the international community.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Did you type all these documents?
R.O.Rudenko: Right, I typed all initial documents of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group. Rudenko wrote them, coordinated with other members of the Group, consulted, and I typed and handed to the trusted people to preserve them in hiding in case of a search. Why wasn’t I on the list of the Group? Mykola Rudenko did not let me to sign the documents. He said: there is no need to be arrested together with us all, because someone should keep and distribute our groundwork. But I understood that he just wanted to protect me from arrest.
Then the Kyiv KGB agents performed two more searches in our apartment. After the second search, on February 5, 1977, they took with them Mykola Danylovych saying that “for a couple of hours of conversation,” but he was released no more. They put him on a plane and brought to the Donetsk jail. And I didn’t learn about it any time soon. The prosecutor’s office and the KGB said that they did not know where my husband was. Only about two months later, when I was summoned for questioning, I learned that he was in Donetsk jail. And only then I began carrying him parcels.
When Rudenko was sentenced, Oksana Yakivna and Oles Berdnyk asked me to head the group. I flatly refused because I did not imagine how I could lead the group, which includes older, smarter and wiser people than me. And what was I? Also, I was very shy then, somewhat constrained. I had not courage to talk to foreign journalists and other respected people because I did not feel myself clever enough to do so. I was still a timid bumpkin. I was not as brave and relaxed as, say, Olga Heiko-Matusevych. It was she who could lead the group, but she was arrested very soon.
The KGB agents bugged my apartment and knew that I was working illegally for the UHG. So I didn’t manage to avoid arrest. The Kyiv City Court sentenced me to 5 years of strict-security camp and 5 years of exile.
When Ukraine became independent, then all members of the UGG were remembered as heroes, except for me. Maybe, Mykola Rudenko thought that I should feel offended. So he began reminding everywhere that I was the “permanent secretary of the UGG”. In fact, I did not claim to fame. I felt contented with my husband’s fame.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Tell us please, how you protested in Moscow.
R.O.Rudenko: In April 1978 Alexander Podrabinek came to visit me from Moscow. We decided to come to see the parents of Semen Gluzman. The next day we went to them. We introduced ourselves and began asking them how they lived, whether they required any assistance. Of course, they said that they did not need anything. They lived on their pensions. They sat side by side, holding hands, like a pair of shot down pigeons who knew that they would never fly. They were so poor that I still cannot forget them looking crushed. And our questions seemed to me out of place here. After all, no help could bring back their only son. Later, in prison, I learned that they did not live to welcome their son back and died of grief, both of them.
We went therefrom frustrated and depressed. We wandered the streets of Kyiv, talking. And I expressed the intention to protest on May 9 in Moscow against the imprisonment of war invalid and vet Mykola Rudenko. Alexander immediately warned that I would certainly be arrested. But I knew all the same that I wouldn’t escape the arrest in any case. Some day or other…
Alexander returned to Moscow, the days quickly ran by, and now it was May 9. Where and what for I was leaving Kyiv knew only Oles Berdnyk. On May 8, I was on duty, so I went to Moscow by air in the morning of May 9. I took with me my clothes, toothbrush, soap, i.e. all that was necessary in case of arrest. In Moscow, the weather was fine. The parade had ended, and the city celebrated. I called Yuliya, the sister of Andrei Tverdokhlebov. I showed her my poster: “Free my husband, disabled veteran Mykola Rudenko”, and said that I should go to the Lenin Library. She ran to the closet, took out a raincoat and began to put it on me. I said, “Why, it’s rather warm outside!” She: “Who knows how it will be in the cell.” She also put a headscarf on me and I went to the subway. I came to the place, came out, and looked around: no militia nearby, they apparently went to dinner or a break after the main festivities.
I took a position and posted the placard… Suddenly the torrential downpour fell. Wherefrom? After all, the weather was fine. I did not notice any clouds (although they could not be seen in the subway), and now this shower… A breathtaking rain. It turned me into a drizzly drip… And no militia to be seen. The place was empty of people: they hid in the subway seeking shelter from the rain. I stood seven or ten minutes. The square was empty. Suddenly, I see a car coming to a stop nearby. I thought those might be the KGB agents. Someone came out and headed in my direction. The thick rain prevented my seeing him. He came closer, and I recognized Alexander Podrabinek. The noises of the shower effectually concealed our voices. He shouted to me: “Come on, I’ll give you a lift to a place where you could dry yourself.” And I went. I do not remember where he took me. And be the evening train I returned to Kyiv. Although the Moscow militia failed to spot me, the Kyiv KGB agents somehow found out about my demo. I was immediately summoned to the KGB and asked about the demonstration, but I did not tell them anything. But since then I never traveled to Moscow alone and was always accompanied by the tails. In Moscow, at the terminal, they used to bring me to the militia room, procured a search warrant made in advance and searched. During one of these searches, they found several letters given to me by Svitlana Kyrychenko, so that I send them from Moscow (in Kyiv our letters were confiscated by postal workers), and a copybook with a work of Yuri Badzio. At the time Svitlana and I were under constant surveillance. And Svitlana knew it, but for some reason decided to take a chance and gave me these papers. And I kind of anticipated and did not want to take them, but could not refuse her. Since then, I was always searched at the Moscow terminal or in Kyiv before boarding. Once I decided to go to Moscow by air. I arrived at Boryspil, went to the booking office, produced my documents and the ticket agent: “Just a moment,” and ran off somewhere. A minute later she returned and quietly sold me a ticket. But before I had time to move away from the booking office I was surrounded by the KGB agents in suits and ties. Very politely they invited me to a room, then put into a black Volga and drove for interrogation to the KGB. So I missed my flight to Moscow. Since then I never bought the tickets myself, and asked someone to do it for me, and only the train ticket because there was no need to show documents. But it did not help to get rid of the tail and in Moscow I was continuously searched all the same.
My husband was sentenced on July 1, 1977. Immediately some strangers began calling me under the guise of friends of Mykola Danylovych. But I knew all his friends, and simply did not answer the door. I did not like it, something had to be done. I was alone in the house. The second floor balcony faced the tree by which one could easily climb and steal into my room. At the same time Berdnyk with Valentyna rented an apartment in Kyiv and Valentyna used to complain about the high rent. So I suggested: why pay, move to my place and live, because the Rudenko’s room was vacant. They moved within about two weeks after the Rudenko’s trial and lived there ten months. In spring of 1978 they built a hut in Hrebeni, Kaharlyk Region, and moved there.
After Rudenko’s arrest the KGB conducted two searches in my apartment concerning the case of Oles Berdnyk. The rest of searches were carried out concerning my case. They performed the total of eleven searches. When they started the eleventh search, I knew that this time they would arrest me. Still after the first searches in the Rudenko’s case Captain Ivan Ivanovych Kotovenko insisted that I condemned my husband in the press, abandoned him and testified that Rudenko worked for the CIA. But it was a lie. How could I belie my husband? I refused, and Kotovenko said that I would be brought to court as well. And I did not doubt that they would keep their promise. The KGB agents incriminated me the socializing with the wives of the sentenced Ukrainian patriots and Moscow dissidents.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: What did you manage to stealthily carry out during your visit to the prison? How did you fix it, may I ask?
R.O.Rudenko: I went to visit my husband in Mordovia concentration camp no. 19, where he read me poetry, and I learned the poems by heart, and outside the camp I put them to paper and typed at home. The KGB agents waited, when I would stop typing, and came to search the apartment. But I mostly managed to give a couple of copies into someone’s charge.
There was also a problem of trust. It’s true, people were afraid to socialize with me. Especially it concerned the writers: they were afraid even to say hello. There was a chasm between us. Already on the second day after the arrest of Mykola I went out, my heart was heavy. I went to work, and people were joking around, laughing, and music was heard somewhere… And at that moment I realized that I was a different person and that between these people and me there was a chasm now. And with that I had to live. From now on I would socialize only with the wives of political prisoners and former political prisoners. Those were Vira Pavlivna Lisova, Liudmyla Lytovchenko and her husband Hryhoriy Herchak, who had done his time of many years. Those were Oksana Meshko, Dzvinka Vivchar, wife of Oles Serhiyenko, Halyna Didkivska, wife of Yevhen Proniuk, Liubov Murzhenko, Yosyp Terelia… I conversed with the family of Heorhiy Vins, head of the Baptist church sentenced to many years in prison. From time to time we gathered at the apartment of Leonida Pavlivna Svitlychna, from Lviv cave the sister of Vyacheslav Chornovil Valentyna, Olena Antoniv. Nadiya Svitlychna also attended our parties until she left for America in 1978. Those were fine people. I often conversed with Svitlana Kyrychenko and Yuri Badzio, he was still free. I, however, cannot carry a tune, but all other guests sang patriotic songs. We knew that the room was bugged, but there was nothing to hide and we went the hang-out road.
Oles Serhiyenko had a little son Ustymko, Vasyl Lisovyi had Oksen, Berdnyk had a daughter Romashka, and Heorhiy Vins had a son Sashko. Can you imagine what these kids played with? They amused themselves imitating the KGB search. Their search game consisted of throwing toys out of the boxes. The son of Lisovyi Oksen once admitted that he wanted to grow up and lead the sotnia to liberate his daddy from captivity. When we asked little Sashko Vins what he would be as a grown up, he answered: “the political prisoner”. His granddad was political prisoner, his grandmother was political prisoner, his father and elder brother were political prisoners… So he decided that he had to become a political prisoner as well. The children imitate their environment.
When the Berdnyks lived in my apartment, the KGB agents came to conduct a search. Their three-year Romashka fell ill and temperature climbed to 41̊°C. In my absence they started the search. I came home, “How come? You started a search in my absence?” They explained that this was the search in the case of Oles Berdnyk. I said, “This is my apartment, without me you were not allowed to start.” They thrust under my nose the search warrant containing no notehead, no stamp, no prosecutor’s sanction… There was just the text typed on a sheet of paper and investigator’s signature. I said, “What kind of document is this? I can type a fivescore of such texts and search your wives.” I tore the paper to pieces and said that I would not let them boss the show before the fetch proper documents. And it was evening time, the end of working day. They gave a call somewhere and told that I had torn the resolution and triggered a scandal. They were ordered out. Sick Romashka kept crying all the time irritated by those strange guys. And when I shouted at them and finally showed the door, the little girlie running temperature smiled painfully and asked me to take her in my arms. She liked how I ousted the intruders. Then I reproached Berdnyk and Valentyna for their not having a look at that resolution without the prosecutor’s sanction… They certainly read the resolution, but did not pay attention to the formalities. This happens to people taken unawares…
The wives of dissidents had common problems and common topics to discuss. When one of us went to visit her husband, the others kept waiting for her return. They came together to hear the news from the zone. Sometimes we met at the monument to Taras Shevchenko.
By the way, here’s about the monument to Taras Shevchenko. I arrived in Kyiv in 1957. Somehow everybody here believes and Nadiya Svitlychna believed, that they started marking the Shevchenko’s reburial sometime in 1968. But I went in May 1957 went to the Shevchenko Park. My hosts entertained guests, and I decided to go somewhere, so that I wouldn’t stick around. I came to the park, night was falling, and I hear the beautifully interpreted songs of Shevchenko. I conducted my steps toward the singers. All at once I heard voices, “Break away!”, “Break away!” I saw men in black suits bustling about the monument. In the park, in the dark corners, there were two or three tables on which old men played dominoes. I came up to one table and asked: “Why do they disperse them?” They bent down their heads and silently continued playing. I moved on. I saw a man in the black suit running toward me. I shouted at him: “Tell me, please, why do they disperse them?” At first he wanted to grab me, but on the second thought he treated me as a stupid little girl, and yelled: “Chase yourself!” And he went to the monument. I hid in the darkness, went to another table with domino players and whispered, “Who is singing?” An old man replied in a whisper: “The students.” Then the street cleansing machines began arriving, they hosed the students, seized them and dragged to the militia all-terrain vehicles.
I was shocked! I could not understand why? After all, we studied Shevchenko at school. And I knew that the poets were persecuted only by the tsars, while the Soviets power was the fairest… What kind of show are these men putting on? I could not understand anything.
I came home. They guests went away, my hosts were asleep. And I went to bed. In the morning, I woke up, and heard how the owner turned on his radio. The Deutsche Welle broadcasted among other reports that in Kyiv the anniversary of the reburial of Taras Shevchenko was observed and how the students were dispersed and detained, and named some of the students. It was only then that I realized what I had witnessed. I told my hosts everything I saw. They inquired about all details. For one thing is the coverage by the Deutsche Welle, and another thing is the live witness.
Then I realized that the Soviet power is not as good as they depicted it. And then I remembered the sporadic night arrests in my village. And people whispered about it to one another. And we, the little ones, used to ask: “Mom, why was Uncle Vasyl taken?”—“Because he’s the enemy of the people,” was the answer. That’s all. Without any explanation. And I knew that he’s my Uncle Vasyl, so why was he a foe? And why were people talking about it under their breath? Already this gave rise to doubts in my child’s head that there was something wrong. If he were the enemy, why he should be taken at night so that no one saw? This seemed suspicious to me as a child and at the time I was already 17. What I saw in the park stirred up my childhood memories of the “enemies of people”.
Acquainted with Rudenko, I myself listened in the “enemy voices” and he told me a lot and explained. So slowly my eyes were opened. And when the question of my arrest arose, I no longer feared. As a child, I was tortured, and lived through the famine in 1947. In Kyiv, I read Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s One Day of Ivan Denisovich and Gulag Archipelago. I already had an idea of the real world and for some reason was not afraid. The KGB agents were surprised that I was not afraid of them, and said to my family, “Talk to her, she is not afraid because she does not understand what she is facing.” So my grandmother was not the only one who thought that I was a softhead. The KGB agents were of the same mind.
The first prison poems of Rudenko I got from the Donetsk jail. When I found a lawyer, she decided to apply to the Supreme Court to review the case and went to visit Rudenko in the Donetsk jail.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: What was her name?
R.O.Rudenko: Nelia Yakivna Nemyrynska. And General Hryhorenko asked to get the verdict and the “Last plea” of Rudenko in court. I told her about it. She was allowed to meet with Rudenko, went into the cell; she conversed with him audibly, but sometimes resorted to writing with a pencil so that the jailers could not overhear them. Mykola Rudenko gave her several written poems and “The Last Plea” or, it seems to me, the sentence as well, though I cannot recall now…
In Moscow’s it was rumored that Rudenko “started talking” and testified against all. I could not figure out what was going on, why these rumors?
And the fact was that Rudenko asked the Muscovites how they took cover. And they answered: “No, we’re doing everything quite openly.”However, they did operate covertly and gave one another advice on how to behave in case of arrest. But Rudenko still had no full confidence; therefore no one told him how to behave in case of arrest. They said that they were acting openly. So he decided to tell it like it was, that in the Ginzburg’s apartment there was the backgrounder at which he announced the creation of the UHG. He told about his meetings with other dissidents. In Moscow, Ginsburg was interrogated and shown the evidence of Rudenko. And this gave a spur to the rumors. Later, when everyone read his poem “Repentance” and “The Last Plea” and the sentence, they calmed down and then, returning after the visit, I explained them that they had in fact told him: “We’re doing everything quite openly.” It determined his line of action. The Muscovites understood that they themselves had pushed him to do so. A writer is not a diplomat; he is rather a defenseless child that cannot cheat. And then, in Moscow, they drafted a book of recommendations, which explained in detail how to behave during the arrest, investigation, and trial. This book was distributed among dissidents in general and potential prisoners in particular.
At first I helped the UHG members to type all, hide and so on. And after the first arrests the group was eventually headed by Oles Berdnyk. He had a typewriter and he typed his memoranda himself. If he had asked me, I would have continued to work, but he did everything himself. When Berdnyk was arrested, they came to perform another search and found our main hiding place.
V.Kipiani: And where was it?
R.Rudenko: In my cellar. We dug a hole there, wrapped the documents in cellophane and then in oilcloth and buried in the sand. Previously, they had confiscated lots of papers; they had searched the cellar as well but in vain. And then they suddenly found. Then they arrested all Kyiv UHG members, including Oksana Yakivna, Marynovych, Matusevych, Petro Vins, then, in fact, and I became unemployed in this field.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: What were your means of subsistence at the time?
R.O.Rudenko: I worked as watchman at the dormitory of the Institute of Food Industry. After all, the KGB ordered the director of the health resort “Koncha Zaspa” to sack me. But not just to sack, but seize upon something. However, there was no reason. I was a dutiful worker, had a lot of commendations and there was nothing to find fault with. So the director asked me to resign. He said that he would arrange for me with the management of the Olympic Base to employ me there as an administrator. But I refused. She said: “While you are looking for a feasible reason for my dismissal, I will go on working, and at the Olympic Base they will not give me a chance to work even for a couple of weeks: there will be a new instruction to sack me.” So I held out for almost a year; they instigated various check-ups, but no violations were found. And then the health resort was closed for repair and the most part of the personnel was discharged. My position was not subject to termination of the employment contract, but for the director it was the chance: I was discharged on the grounds of staff reduction. I could not find a good job, so I found this one, where they wouldn’t be able to downgrade me. However, shortly before my arrest, I was fired from there at the request of the KGB. When I worked there, Vasyl Stus had just resigned (August 1979−V.O.). He enjoyed his freedom for a very short time. He came with Svitlana Kyrychenko to see me at the dormitory. We talked a little bit. Then I was at his apartment on his birthday in January 1980. And in May, he was arrested again.
During the investigation and trial I was accused even of communication with Vasyl Stus. And, of course, they incriminated me all documents found in the hiding places. I had another hiding place under the bath tub, where heaps of documents were kept. They confiscated everything. They found the “Open Letter” by Vasyl Lisovyi and the biography of Vasyl Lisovyi. There were also Rudenko’s works and documents of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group, documents on Borys Kovhar and Mykhailo Melnyk… there were all sorts of documents. They tapped the bathroom from the side of my neighbors, and then they perhaps tapped it in my absence. The bathroom was tiled, but two tiles were fixed with an elastic band that seemed like cemented, but in reality they could be pulled back and you could put something under the bathtub. This was done for keeping various instruments: the apartment was rather small and had no closet… Then I began using it as a hiding place.
The papers were removed by Captain Ivan Ivanovych Kotovenko. His colleagues told him: “Reach with your hand.” He said, “No, what if a cobra is there?” Then he used his flashlight at first, and then removed everything. After the arrest of Berdnyk they found the hiding place in the cellar as well. Besides Berdnyk, no one knew about that hiding place. Maybe he let slip somewhere… I do not assert it, but the fact is that after his arrest they went to conduct a search not in my apartment, but in the cellar, and began to dig there, exactly under the stairs.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: About your arrest… when it was and under what circumstances?
R.O.Rudenko: I was arrested on April 15, 1981. During the 1980 Olympics, they kept me under strict surveillance, because they thought that I would seek contacts with foreigners. They tailed me everywhere… They also used several cars to this end. I go by bus, and the bus is followed by at least two cars, and on the streets they tailed me in a crowd. And in 1981, I also felt that I was trapped from every quarter. In fact, on April 14 they came to me with a search warrant and the warrant of arrest. But I didn’t answer the door. However, they knew that I was at home… They rang the doorbell several times during the day and then went away. I didn’t go out on that day. I lay in bed all day as if I wanted a break from something or before something… As if I knew… On April 15, in the morning, they came again. The doorbell rings. I opened the door; they all showed their papers, and then the search warrant dated April 14. They began to search. I saw that they took every piece of paper written by my hand. So I knew that this time my arrest was pending. While they were concluding their search records I packed my little suitcase with necessaries, and took with me the available money. In the meantime they finished and said, “You shall go with us for an hour.” I took my suitcase. They: “Why? You will come back in an hour! Leave it!” And I said, “I need my suitcase. Never mind. Maybe I’ll go somewhere.” They repeatedly urged me to leave the suitcase, but I stood by my demand. And I was right because they didn’t let me go home.
As soon as we were about to go out, my nephew Olexandr Krasko, the son of my sister, came. I managed to whisper to him that I was arrested, and gave him the keys to my apartment. The KGB agents warned him: don’t breathe a word about it to anyone. The same instructions were given to the witnesses as well.
V.V. Ovsiyenko: And when did the trial take place and who was the judge?
R.O.Rudenko: The last searches were conducted by Captain Illia Baniev and Captain Mykola Dakhno, there were others, and the investigation was carried out by Captain Baniev and Slobozhaniuk (I forgot the name), it seems the latter was a major. Now they are probably colonels or generals, but at the time they had the said ranks.
The chairman of the bench was Feshchenko P.I., people’s assessors included Portna H.S. and Kobzunenko Y.V., and the secretary was Tkachenko N.H. Pohorily V.P. was the prosecutor.
During the investigation Baniev behaved with restraint while Slobozhaniuk behaved aggressively as a Stalinist. Maybe such was his tactics and he wanted to intimidate me, or maybe he showed some muscle… But I was not afraid; on the contrary, it was funny to watch how he raged because they had to participate in the staged investigation… In Stalin’s time you could take it out on someone with impunity, and now I could complain to the prosecutor, and that might have consequences, and you may be not upgraded…
Toward the end of the investigation Prosecutor Pohorily V.P. came to my cell. We had met before: I worked at the Koncha Zaspa health resort where he was on the health promotion program each year. He asked about maintenance, or possible complaints. We talked like old friends about Koncha Zaspa and other trivialities… And in the court, of course, he demanded the maximum punishment for me under Article 62, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the UkrSSR, i.e. seven years of strict-security camp and five years of exile. But I was given two years less: 5 years of strict-security camp and 5 years of exile, as judge Feschenko put it, “in view of the characteristics of good works.”
By the law, at the time the persons under investigation were not allowed to have a lawyer. A lawyer might be hired or appointed only when the case was referred to the court. I required to be defended by Nemyrynska N.Y., but I was told that Nemyrynska was on a long business trip and they could not wait. They appointed another lawyer. I refused from him and conducted my own defense.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: What was the date of the trial?
Rudenko R.O.: The trial took place from August 20 till August 30, 1981 in the Kyiv City Court on 15, Volodymyrska Street. When they brought me there the spacious courtroom was empty. I asked if it was a hearing in private. They answered that it was a public hearing of the case. Then I requested that my friends and family were admitted to the courtroom, otherwise I would not answer the questions. The judge asked me to specify whom of the relatives and friends I wanted to see in the courtroom. I named my brother and a few other people. And they immediately closed the hearing. The next court session took place on August 24, and the courtroom was already packed, but none of my friends or relatives was present. As they began to call witnesses, the latter couldn’t even take a seat: they were interrogated and let off. I protested and demanded that witnesses after questioning remained in the courtroom. The judge agreed and they brought additional chairs for the witnesses. Perhaps they had planned that I would repent and the Supreme Court would reduce my punishment, but I did not appeal to the Supreme Court. Why? Because I went to all the sessions of the Supreme Court, where the cases of the victims of political repression were considered and knew that there were no reviews, they only confirmed the judgment automatically. So I thought for a while and decided not to linger for two months. The sentence would be confirmed anyway, and then the cold weather would set in and I hadn’t warm clothes and shoes about me. And I refused to file. In the meantime the KGB agents peddled about rumors for abroad that I supposedly got three years (although in reality I was given 5 and 5). And the first info about three years reached Rudenko at the zone. When they brought me to Mordovia, particularly in Barashevo, where Rudenko did his time, then the next morning Rudenko was transported under guard to the Urals.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: And when did you arrive there?
Rudenko R.O.: I have a hazy recollection of the date, but it seems it happened on September 25. When we were taken out of the car, I was approached by the zone detachment commander: I was taken to the zone, where Rudenko had been. His last name was Hanychenko. I immediately told him that I required seeing my husband because I, though condemned, was not denied the right to visit. I knew that by law, if the husband and wife were in the same zone, they had a right to see one another. The zones for women and men were separated, but the zone number was the same. Hanychenko said that nothing would come of it. That was really true. The next morning I went out into the yard and saw the prisoners were plowing the restricted area. One of them asked: “You’ve got a newcomer?” I answered: “Yep.” He said, “Then tell her that today, in the small hours, her husband was sent under guard to Sverdlovsk.”
V.Kipiani: How many people were in the women’s zone at the time?
R.O.Rudenko: As I arrived, there were not many of them. Of Ukrainians there remained only Oksana Popovych. There were two aircraft-case prisoners from Leningrad, whose husbands skyjacked the aircraft to go abroad: the wives got jail terms and their husbands were executed by shooting. There were two followers of the True Orthodox Church (i.e. old believers), from Moscow there were two dissidents−Tatiana Velikanova and Tatiana Osipova. Two Lithuanians−Jadwiga Byelyauskenye and Edita Abrutenye−were brought after me. Then came Latvian Lydia Doronina. Then arrived Estonian Lagle Parek who after the collapse of the Soviet Union served as the Minister of the Interior of Estonia. Then came Olga Heiko, Iryna Ratushynska, Halyna Barats (Ukrainian, Pentecostal), Natalia Lazareva, Tatiana Vladimirova…
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Maybe there was Lithuanian Niyolye Sadunayte?
R.O. Rudenko: No, Niyolye had already been discharged. Many beds were empty because the Ukrainians were already transported into exile. Previously, there were: Nadiya Svitlychna, Iryna Kalynets, Iryna Senyk, Kateryna Zarytska, Darka Husiak and many other famous Ukrainians and many old believers. Before they knew where they were they were arrested again and returned to the zone. Most of them died there. The jailers literally tried to physically destroy the particularly disobedient and sharp-tongued women and often sent them to the punitive isolation ward. It was as clear as noonday: two or three times more and they would die. In particular, it happened to Olga Heiko, Iryna Ratushynska, and Tetiana Osypova. There were severe frosts and the jailers kept them in the punitive isolation ward for 10-15 days in thin bib-and-tucker in sub-zero temperatures for water was freezing in the bucket. It beats me how they survived… Iryna Ratushynska was first whose health became worse; she wouldn’t live out for six months. However the meeting of Reagan with Gorbachev was approaching and the Soviet President was going to ask the Americans to help, especially to give bread to the Soviets, and he understood that Reagan wouldn’t go in for it if the Soviets continued to keep in jail poets for their writings and beliefs. Iryna Ratushynska was immediately discharged and let her go abroad. I was still in exile, and Iryna Ratushynska was already in America.
We had no chance to discuss it, but my husband told me that without good reason he did not squabble with the jailers. He considered that it was unnecessary. I also did not strain relations with the supervisors, for I understood: it was their job and they had to be satisfactory in their job performance. Sometimes a new prison matron was employed, and at first she was a jailer of some standing. And later she becomes the same as the other guards. They get used and modified. However, I have seen good prison matrons, although with experience. Our detachment commander was especially cruel. Her last name was Podust. In the men’s zone Hanychenko was the commander of the detachment, and Podust was responsible for the women’s zone. Our men called her Ilse Koch. At the end of it our zone boycotted her, refused to communicate with her, and they had to transfer her to another location. Do you know where to she was transferred? To the reformatory. We were horrified at the thought what she would be up to with those minors.
Ovsiyenko V.V.: What about your health there?
Rudenko R.O.: I became very ill still before the arrest: pyelonephritis, kidney stones, allergy, at the zone I acquired anemia and let the sciatic nerve to take a chill and I could hardly walk… I couldn’t meet the norm, for which they punished sending to the punitive isolation ward. Just to save me from punishment Tatiana Velikanova helped me to meet the norm. Then another position became vacant and I was appointed an orderly. I didn’t find fault with the chiefs. However, I never wore the breast badges and participated in hunger-strike protests which occurred in our zone from time to time. There were plenty of reasons. I was careful not to be sent to the punitive isolation ward, although no one could say that I did something dishonest or dishonorable. Once everybody went on strike in the zone, and I was in the prison hospital. I was discharged from the hospital and immediately they transported me under guard to Kyiv, to the KGB prison on 33, Volodymyrska Street. On passage, in Moscow, I almost froze to death in the patrol wagon. I was saved by the fact that in the transit prison they announced the bathing day and I managed get steamed thoroughly. Oles Berdnyk was in Kyiv at the time. They tried to break me down and failed. Then said, “Oles Pavlovych is behaving wiser and he will be free soon. Do you want to meet him?” I answered: “Let it be.”" I did not believe that Berdnyk gave up because his term expired in a year. Several days went by, they saw that I did not give up, and changed their mind and didn’t arrange the meeting with Berdnyk: they were afraid that they might get the opposite result: not he would exert influence on me, but I would exert influence on him. They offered me to prolong my stay in Kyiv for two months. I said, “If you think that for it I’ll repent, then do not waste your time.” After that they left me alone and soon sent back to Mordovia.
Ovsiyenko V.V.: It was in 1984. Berdnyk was pardoned on March 14.
Rudenko R.O.: Right, from Mordovia, I was transferred in February, and I was freezing on the road for a long time. But in Kyiv, it was still very cold. They suggested, “Maybe, you’d like to go to the restaurant? Or to a theater, or on a tour of Kyiv? You have not seen yet the new Lenin museum!” I said, “No, I do not want.” They: “Why? Are you afraid that you won’t stand it?” “No,” I said, “I may stand it, but I do not want to: I have no money and how I will pay for it?” One of them was Ilkiv…
Ovsiyenko V.V.: Vasyl Ivanovych Ilkiv? I know him.
Rudenko R.O.: So he introduced himself: “Vasyl Ivanovych, but not Chapaev.” The second one was Honchar and he said: “I am Honchar, but not Oles.” One of them was lieutenant colonel and another was a colonel, or both of them were lieutenant colonels. I’ve forgotten already. And they are expert tormenters. They have been fine-tuning this whole machine for years and decades. They close round their victim like the hunters hunting a beast… And the victim is doomed. They failed to break me down, not because I was a hero. Simply that is my nature: the more they press, the more I rebel against it.
And in the area, it appears, Podust or someone else had given guidance to the prisoners telling that I wouldn’t return, because I had been discharged. And everybody believed! The gossiped about me: Rayisa broke down, Rayisa repented… Meanwhile Rayisa popped up like jack-in-the-box. Everyone was stunned. I told them about my trip to Kyiv and about my failed meeting with Berdnyk. In the meantime Gorbachev launched his perestroika campaign. They brought the TV set to our room and after work we could watch TV. We heard from the screen such things, for which only recently they imprisoned people… We were filled with wonder. It became clear that something was happening! Suddenly they telecasted the news that Berdnyk was already discharged, stayed in Hrebeni tossing up his daughter on the slopes of Dnipro. And then someone gave us a newspaper which featured his repentance.
Ovsiyenko V.V.: Literaturna Ukrayina Weekly, dated May 17, 1984.
Rudenko R.O.: I have recalled. We had the head of the political department, a Belarusian, what’s his name. So he came from Kyiv, brought us the newspaper and said, “Oh, I’ve seen such things there! Such things.” It turned out that he went to celebrate the 1500th Anniversary of Kyiv. On the day of celebration the neo-Nazi skinheads, who called themselves “the grandsons of the Third Reich” paraded on Khreshchatyk Street.” When the militia tried to stop them, they dispersed those militiamen…
It also surprised us. Such as we were sitting in prisons while the neo-fascists marched freely down Khreshchatyk and the State Security Committee did not touch them and did not notice them at all. On the contrary, it seemed that these thugs were bred and reared under the roof of KGB. After all, they had uniforms; they apparently had facilities for training and everything else. How could the omnipresent eye of the KGB overlook them? Even after they paraded down the Khreshchatyk Street? Now, looking back, I think that the participants of the coming coup instigated by The State Committee on the State of Emergency prepared in advance those thugs to pacify the Soviet people with their hands. So it would be if the authors of the State Committee on the State of Emergency had won.
Subsequently, we all were transferred to the KGB prison in Saransk. When the majority of our women were sent to the punitive isolation ward, this info was broadcast from abroad. The KGB agents summoned Tatiana Vladimirova and tried to find out the ways of security leak. After all, there were no visits, our email was censored, and the leak took place all the same. How? Knowing that our premises were bugged, Ratushynska, Osipova and others started joking aloud that, well, we should get our underground radio station and send congratulations to Ronald Reagan in connection with his electoral victory. Then we were transferred to Saransk, and in the area they pulled down the pryzba, tore off floor, and dug all over the site looking for a radio station.
V. Kipiani: You also did time in exile?
R.O.Rudenko: Yes, after serving five years in the camps I had to spend another 5 years in exile. My husband had already done seven years in the camps and lived in exile in the Altai Krai. My camp term ended on April 15, 1986, and so that I didn’t take away with me the information about the latest developments in the area, I was transferred under guard two months prior to my discharge and placed in the Saransk KGB prison. From there I had to be sent to the Krasnoyarsk Krai. Meanwhile, my husband in exile was looking forward to my arrival and somehow mentioned this in his conversation with the chief of KGB of Altai Autonomous Republic. And the chief said, “That may be not true: she can be transferred to a different place.” Rudenko worried about it and immediately sent a letter to either Gorbachev or Chebrikov (I do not remember), which referred to the relevant article of the Constitution, according to which the husband and wife had the right to serve their exile together. The letter did its bit, and literally on the night before my transfer to the Krasnoyarsk Krai a high official from Moscow called Saransk officers and ordered to send me to the Altai Mountains, to my husband. It saved me from the exhaustible transfer because they could not detain me in prison after the end of my term and the group of persons under arrest was already on its way to Altai. Therefore, under personal escort they brought me to Barnaul by air. However, in Barnaul the prison was horrible, and I was kept there for ten days, but still it was not as tedious as the transfer by train. There was an incident aboard. They got me aboard. On both sides of me the soldiers were seated. Then the boarding of passengers was announced. One passenger came and told me to free her seat. I advised her to contact the flight attendants, but the woman created a scandal: it was her seat, and that’s it.
Ovsiyenko V.V.: She wanted to be taken into custody?
R.O.Rudenko: It lasted long enough. Finally the aircraft was full; one man took notice of her cry, took her by the hand, took aside and whispered something. He looked a worldly-wise person and he realized that I was under guard. The woman shut up at once. She sat silently in another seat and stared at me terror-struck! Perhaps she was told that I was an American spy or some killer… God knows, but all the way she sat in some daze not to lose sight of me.
From Barnaul they transferred me to Kyzyl-Orda prison. There was very clean and jailers treated me humanly. Another week went by and I was taken to Gorno-Altai, but not to the prison, but to the Oblast Committee of State Security. There they placed me not in the patrol wagon, but in GAZ car and a KGB agent drove me to the village, where Mykola Rudenko had done six months already.
V.V.Ovsiyenko: What was the name of the village?
R.O. Rudenko: Maima. Before us and even in the same room Ivan Svitlychnyi did his term in exile. It was on April 26, 1986. At night we did not sleep and kept talking, and in the small hours we switched on radio and heard the terrible news: there was a catastrophic nuclear accident at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant.
Our room was bugged and later they also installed spy cams. The TV sets were not on sale there, but even if they were sold, we had no money to buy a set. Once the oblast KGB officer summoned me for a conversation. Since we were under surveillance, we were not allowed to go to Gorno-Altaisk and the KGB officers had to drive to Maima for the educational work, but they did not really like it. So I was allowed to go to the oblast center. There I had a conversation with the chief of regional KGB Nikolai Nikolayevich Kuzmin. At first it was a kind of blabber. Then he said, “I’ll give you this TV set, and you will at least know what is going on in the world.” And he pointed to a brand new compact TV on his desk. I said, “No way! I do not need your TV.” “Why? No trouble. I can…” He began to persuade me. Yet I refused. When I returned in Maima, I told Rudenko, what gift I had turned down, and that’s that. However, in a few days Kuzmin arrived bodily and brought that TV with him. “Stop bristling up! I get TV sets for official use, and I need nothing in exchange for it, just watch it to your heart’s content, and so forth.“ He said goodbye and went away. Rudenko said: we should not trash it anyway. We will watch TV. At the time in the USSR the import TVs were not on sale. It was a peculiar thing showing excellent picture. Indeed, it was interesting to look at Gorbachev’s attempts to launch the perestroika and we, after years of isolation in prison, took interest in the turbulent life of the state…
In exile we already had new friends: legal expert Stepanida Ivanovna Zubakina, lawyer Genrikh Rudolfovich Gaas and Regional Party Committee official Victor Mikhailovich Ukhnal. The latter found a lot about Lenin and other persons in the archives), and his inner life changed. His wife, the daughter of the former secretary of the oblast party committee, remained a convinced communist and was ready to divorce him it because of his anti-Soviet views. He could talk about these issues only with his friend, Genrikh Rudolfovich, who had been of German origin. They both were in need of communication. Therefore via Zubakin, who frequented our dormitory, they made friends with us. We met in the woods at night or on the stadium and socialized. It was risky for them to come to see us at the dormitory. However, someone noticed that Ukhnal talked with us in the forest and oblast KGB officer Kuzmin immediately summoned him for a talk and asked to look after us and report. Kuzmin trusted Ukhnal and showed him how he kept watch on us in our room.
On the appointed day, as soon as it got dark, we went to the stadium to meet with friends. Then Ukhnal said, “Now your room is not only bugged, but it also has spy cams installed.” He told us everything. Though we did not throw away the TV set. We continued using it not to give away Ukhnal. In addition, we had been observed in prisons for such long time that we used to disregard the watchers…
Kuzmin abhorred perestroika and Rudenko had added fuel to the fire, saying: “Soon everything will change and you will replace us…”−“What? It will never happen!” and his eyes kindled with fire. “Just wait and see!” calmly but firmly retorted Rudenko. Over there, in the Altai Krai, also did their term in exile Latvian Lidia Andreyevna Doronina, Zoya Krahmalnikova and her husband Felix Svetov. They were in other populated places, but we communicated by phone or mail. And now our terms of exile were cut short and they started to discharge us. For Kuzmin it was a shock. Perhaps for that reason he withheld information about our release. Then it turned out that the Supreme Soviet ordered our release in May 1987 and we got the documents only in the late September. So only in October we were able to go to Moscow. When we were already abroad, i.e. in 1988 or 1989, Moscow newspapers reported that in the Luhansk Oblast they laid off and allegedly tried or demoted the KGB chief, and not only him. (By the way, lawyer Nelia Yakivna Nemyrynska contributed to it). Altai officer Kuzmin panicked and died before the age of 50. Zubakina wrote about it in her letter to us.
Ovsiyenko V.V.: So your term of exile was cut short, or what?
Rudenko R. O.: Right. Gorbachev was going to meet Ronald Reagan and we were freed. In the case of Rudenko the reduction made eighteen months, and in my case it made three and a half years.
Ovsiyenko V.V.: The summit conference took place in Reykjavik on December 8, 1987.
Rudenko R. O.: Right. At the time Gorbachev released many prisoners from concentration camps, including Iryna Ratushynska, and we were in exile…
Ovsiyenko V.V.: What was the order forbidding you to go back to Ukraine?
Rudenko R. O.: After my arrest the government confiscated our Kyiv apartment. Mykola Rudenko appealed to the KGB of Ukraine requesting to return it to us, and they said that we could get housing “only on the general basis”. Then Rudenko appealed to Moscow, to Chebrikov, demanding the return of our house, because after our release from exile our room was also taken away. Moscow did not reply; they called Kuzmin instead and ordered to permit us to go abroad. Kuzmin told us about it and advised to get an invitation from foreign friends. To which we replied that our mail would be stopped and wouldn’t reach either Ukraine or anywhere. He said, “Now, it will.” We sent a telegram to Germany to Ms. Halia Horbach. She arranged for us an invitation. On December 13, 1987 we went to Germany by air and lived in Munich with Doctor Volodymyr Myalkovsky. They appealed to the U.S. Embassy and received political asylum for us and in January 1988, the Americans covered the costs of our flight to New York. We arrived in New York on January 27, 1988.
We were not able to return to Ukraine all the same. We had no money for the voyage. In Altai we sold out our property and even borrowed some money from Moscow acquaintances to scrape up the price of the plane ticket to Moscow. There we stayed with our companion and were busy obtaining visa. It took us a long time. And we continued borrowing money in Moscow for we had to have something to live for. Well, we were lucky to have such friends who gave money. Once in Germany, we got our first money and I immediately forwarded them to Moscow to everyone who had lent us.
In 1987, it seemed that we would never see Ukraine again. Upon arrival to the U.S., Mykola Rudenko was immediately deprived of his Soviet citizenship. And they didn’t touch me. The rapid development of events in the Soviet Union permitted Gorbachev in summer 1990 to restore Soviet citizenship to twenty-four persons. Among them was Mykola Rudenko. The Ukrainian writers read about it in the newspapers and immediately invited Rudenko to Kyiv to participate in the poetry festival The Golden Reverberations, which was held in October 1990. Rudenko went at once, and I was working and had to wait for my vacations. When I finally submitted my documents to the Soviet embassy, they turned me down and did not issue an entry permit to the Soviet Union. I kept corresponding with the Soviet Embassy in Washington for almost a year, and they found more and more reasons to refuse and withheld the issue waiting for the passport validity to expire. They refused to renew my passport. Rudenko’s daughter-in-law in Kyiv worked for the KGB and tried to persuade Prudence that is not true and that they did not issue a permit because I had an admirer there and did not want to come. I conducted properly and preserved all my correspondence with the Soviet Embassy and subsequently showed it to Rudenko. Because at the time he believed everyone except for me. A year later the Soviet Union collapsed and it was not necessary to ask permission to travel to Ukraine any more. In September 1991, I was able to come to Kyiv. I filed to the Visa and Registration for Foreigners Office to get citizenship. I was told that I had lost the right to citizenship, because at the time of collapse of the USSR I was outside Ukraine. Indeed, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted such a law at the time. But there was another law. After all, I had here both husband and mother, and all my kin. If a man’s wife was a Chinese or Spanish and came to him, she would be immediately registered at her husband’s permanent address. But it was not the case with me. Then I started the procedure of obtaining the permission to live with my husband. At first this status was granted for two years. And so it had to be several times for two years. Only after that they could issue a permit for five years, after which one could aspire to obtain permanent resident status in Ukraine. They also delayed the issue of permit for two years as well. I was afraid that would also lose my status in America, it would be a real disaster. I returned to the U.S. There I arranged my business trip to Ukraine, because Rudenko became blind, and my mother was lying paralyzed. By the American law, I could not be outside the U.S. for more than six months because I would lose my status. So I shuttled every 6 months while they declined issuing a permit for residence in Ukraine. Here I was treated as a tourist and I had no right to stay in Ukraine more than two months. That is, even after the collapse of the USSR the KGB continued to interfere in our personal lives and even controlled my mail. Therefore I obtained journalistic mission permit for six months from the newspaper Svoboda in which I worked. Only four years later, I managed to win this status. It took me a lot of effort and a lot of money: to shuttle in such a way for years on end… So I obtained the U.S. citizenship so that at least evade exit problems on this side. The U.S. passport enables you to travel outside the U.S. for an indefinite time and return whenever you want. In addition, the U.S. passport allows visa-free entry into any country in the world (except for Libya and Ukraine.). Ukraine did not sign an agreement with the U.S. on visa-free travel to and the relations of Libya with the Americans were bad. Finally, I turned to Olexandr Moroz, who was the Head of the Verkhovna Rada at the time. I describe him my painful experiences with the Visa and Registration for Foreigners Office, and he called them and all my problems disappeared. I was promptly granted the status of permanent resident in Ukraine. That was in 1994. When the chief of the Visa and Registration for Foreigners Office saw my American passport, he immediately assured me that there would be no problems with the Ukrainian citizenship, but I should renounce my U.S. citizenship in the first place. But I did not believe him, because two minutes before that he said that “we have a flawed legislation”.
V. Kipiani: But you are not a citizen of the United States?
R.O.Rudenko I am… Then I was a stateless person. And if you are a U.S. citizen, you can be every 5 years visit the embassy, and say, that you’re alive and can continue to live in Ukraine or anywhere I want. And being granted a permanent residence in Ukraine, I can entry and exit the country without a visa.
V. Kipiani: Did you take documents out from your case file?
R.O.Rudenko: I have not gone there yet. Maybe one day I’ll start writing memoirs, and then I’ll have to pay a visit to that institution and to brush up on it, because a person becomes oblivious. And the biography cannot contain everything.
V.V. Ovsiyenko: Yes. And many things are not fixed in any way, because we used to hide this and that from the KGB, held something back, and sometimes if we did say something, it might have been done out of need, but still it wasn’t a reality. Similarly, the KGB interpreted every fact in its own way. Therefore it turns out that the most objective history is in our minds, and not in the documents. So this memory should be committed to paper.
R.O.Rudenko: Yes, it should be committed to paper before it is completely lost, because the memory grows weaker over the years.
V.V. Ovsiyenko: You know, not so long ago I went to Mykola Samiylenko, who was a lively and high-spirited man, and now he is stricken with paralysis, stroke, his mouth is distorted, he barely speaks, and then makes slips of the tongue. He won’t tell anything now.
R.O.Rudenko: Samiylenko told a lot, but it would be better if he wrote his memoirs…
V.V. Ovsiyenko: His daughter Lesia said that he just got down to write memoirs, but his wife died and it was a big shock. And now the illness has devastated him.
V. Kipiani: And about the originals of those documents, Helsinki Group memoranda, are they still in the KGB?
R.O. Rudenko: They are the KGB. I think, Rudenko did not take them out. And perhaps they do not lend originals, only copies…
V.V. Ovsiyenko: Oles Berdnyk once told me that he had a lot of UHG documents and that he might send them to me. But of late I cannot speak to him directly: he is ill and his wife permits nobody to talk with him. I have no idea, what to expect. I would write to record his autobiographical narrative.
R.O.Rudenko: He has also suffered a stroke. If she lets nobody in, it means that he is in serious condition, and documents are already the property of his wife.
V.V. Ovsiyenko: I do not know. She says he does not like talking about the past; he is all in the future. She says that she herself will try to record, but not any time soon.
R.O.Rudenko: She recently phoned me and told me. His condition is like that of Samiylenko. And I also closely communicated with Heliy Snehiriov before his arrest, and afterwards I visited him in the hospital.
V.V. Ovsiyenko: So we also are much obliged to you! We kept you talking for more than four hours.
R.O.Rudenko: I thank you as well.
V. Kipiani: This valuable acquisition will be recorded and preserved. After all, it will be online soon.
R.O.Rudenko: I do not regret that I had such schooling: I mean the concentration camps.
V.V. Ovsiyenko: You know, after all we are a happy generation, for many generations worked for liberation, but they didn’t live to enjoy it.
V. Kipiani: Seven hundred years, seven hundred years!
R.O.Rudenko: and we have lived to see the independence of Ukraine.
Kipiani B.: It’s good that you think so but a man in the street does not think so.
R.O.Rudenko: A man in the street thinks along the following lines: there is nothing to eat, so let us go back to the Soviet Union.
V. Kipiani: Do you remember Kyiv of the 70s? The tickets in hand to buy something and endless lines…
Mykola Rudenko: The colony for over 500 years.
V.V. Ovsiyenko: I was going by trolley-bus today and held in hand your book, Mykola Danylovych. The controller approached and spoke to me in Russian, and I answered in English. Then we resorted to Ukrainian. He says: “This one like one of those who did time with Stus?”− “Right. And with this man, with Rudenko, they did time as well.” He saw your book in my hands.—“And don’t you think,” he said, “that your efforts were in vain? In fact, it grew worse.”
R.O.Rudenko: They all listen to communist propaganda… Grew worse. You just restore Soviets for them at least for a week and they will at once immediately come to consciousness: worse or not. It’s like the visit of Verkhovna Rada’s delegation to China two years ago. There was a Women’s World Forum. They returned and told that it was like returning to the Soviets again. That is, they immediately opened their eyes and remembered the Soviet Union. They were weary for t5he Soviets to return, but after their visit to China they recovered at once.
Mykola Rudenko: They are young, and they do not know the Soviet Union.
R.O. Rudenko: They know everything all right. One was a Verkhovna Rada deputy, and the rest were members of women’s organizations that advocated the Soviet power. After they return from China they stopped agitating for the Soviets. Nina Karpachova seems to have been among them.
V.V. Ovsiyenko: Now we have to switch off the recorder. Thank you. It is December 2, 1998 today, in the Rudenkos’ apartment. We’ve ended recording at 19:20.