REBRYK Bohdan Vasyliovych
author: Vasyl Ovsiyenko
V.V.Ovsiyenko: Mr. Bohdan Rebryk is telling his story in Ivano-Frankivsk on February 5, 2000. The story is recorded by Vasyl Ovsiyenko.
B.V.Rebryk: I am Bohdan Rebryk. My father’s name is Vasyl. My mother’s name is Iryna. I was born in the Village of Pavlivka on July 30, 1938. It is not far from here: seven kilometers from Ivano-Frankivsk. My father was twice married. I am the son of his second wife. Somehow, my father had no luck with his wives. With the first one, he lived only 10 years and she died. She left three kids. He married a second time, this time it was my mother, and there were two of us. During the war, my mother died. We were just little kids at the time.
My father is of village ancestry, grain grower’s family. He loved his land and cultivated it. In the village, he was the richest man. When the Bolsheviks came, they ruined his farm, dismantled everything and imprisoned my dad. Based on my father’s farmstead, khata, barn and stables they organized Pavlivske collective farm.
On my mother’s side, my ancestors belonged to local nationalist rural intelligentsia. My mother had four brothers and one elder sister. My mother was a middle child, because there also was a younger brother. The Poles killed all boys, that is my mother’s brothers. Her eldest brother, Olexa, was a sotnyk in the Ukrainian Halychyna Army. He was in Kyiv in 1918. Then, when the Halychyna Army retreated to the West, the Poles captured him. The Poles knew him, because his whole family was nationalist, and they bent two birches, tied his legs to these trees and tore him apart. He was the eldest mother’s brother. The Bolsheviks for taking part in UNO arrested the second one. He served 25 years in prison. He returned. They did not permit him to enter Halychyna and he lived in Donetsk Oblast. There he died soon after his imprisonment. The Poles tortured to death the youngest brother, whose name was Zachary (he was interred in my village, there is his grave). In 1939, he gave a talk on Shevchenko’s birthday in Ivano-Frankivsk where the Prosvita is situated now… At the time, he had to register his text in the police to get a permit and give a talk on Shevchenko’s birthday. He registered one paper and actually used a different text. He had a kind of bullet points on the paper. When he was coming down from the stage, the agent under disguise came up running and grabbed his notes. The following day he was apprehended and given two-year term in Bereza Kartuska prison. He did eight months there. The pols kept him in water. The flesh came off the bones, and, actually, people carried him home. He had only 23 years of age and died.
Moreover, my mother, as I have said already, died during the war. Her sister lived here in the Village of Pavlivtsi and died when I came back from prison in 1989. Thus far my matrilineal relatives. My patrilineal relatives were simple people, grain growers living in the village; they were not political activists but supported the OUN, for which my dad was arrested and convicted.
Well, I grew up. Then came a time when my dad was taken to Siberia. I stayed here with the elder sister from my father’s first wife. I went to school. I graduated from the seven-grade school. At the time, only the seven-year school was free of charge and one had to pay for the upper school. And we had no money for my sister’s husband was also in prison, I had no father, no mother, we had nothing to pay with. Upon my sister’s advice, I decided to enter the Stanislav Music School after the seven-grade school. I failed my exams. I did not pass the “musical abilities test”. Everything was Ok with the rest of the subjects: I had good, pass marks, but I got "three" for the "musical abilities" test and was screened out. I got a three mark for singing "Oh guilder-rose in the meadow”; I had no idea it was a forbidden song. I think the guilder-rose was to blame. Although I’m the world’s worst musician! I went to that music school because there they granted scholarship for good results and the education was free. I had never seen a piano in my life and saw it there for the first time during the "musical abilities test”. They did not put me on the list because I failed my entry exams. My sister said, "Go to the upper school then. We will manage somehow and pay for it not to lose a year.”
I went to the eighth grade, but in October of the same year, which was in 1952, a new medical school opened as the medical institute extension here in Stanislav. I decided to try to enter the school. I went there. I finished the first year and moved to the second year. We had to study for three years. And suddenly there was announced a recruitment of children to Magnitogorsk, Urals. They began recruiting because then the struggle of the UIA was underway, the armed units were acting around, there were security officials and I remember very well men in white overalls. The children where recruited to undergo Russification: the Donbas sent requests. The very word Donbas sounded for us very terrible. The roundups in Halychyna provided people for Donbas. The then Donbas was identified with Russia. Then, in the case of the Urals, the colored posters hung throughout the city: men were needed to make steel, assembly workers, turners… Three-month training. They promised earnings to the tune of 2 - 2.5 thousand.
I left that school and went with them. I was a lonely unconnected person... Therefore, I found myself in Russia, as far as in Magnitogorsk. I arrived there and found no steel makers. There were simple construction colleges; at the time, they were called factory schools. I could not return back, because I ran away. I studied there. I graduated from the factory school and worked as a carpenter at the construction site until I grew up. It was the time of development of Magnitogorsk. I reached the conscription age. The officials gathered us there to attend classes at military commissariat. Maybe they found more able children... I think this looking back. They sent us to another school training radiomen-gunners for heavy military aircraft.
It was my time to join the army and the military registration and enlistment office sent me from Magnitogorsk as far as to Spassk-Dalniy, Primorsky Krai. There I graduated from college. I flew then. At the time there appeared first Soviet aircraft Tu-4, Tu-16--TU-16 is still operated today--they belong to the best modern strategic aircraft. I was a radioman on a heavy reconnaissance bomber. They performed radar reconnaissance covering all American system from Alaska to Manila, to Philippines. This was the operation zone of our air regiment. I served there from 1957 to 1962. In 1962, because of a plane crash, I lost 70% of vision and I was simply placed on the retired list as unfit for military service even in wartime, because I was almost blind.
So I again faced a choice. I might go wherever I liked. This Town of Spassk-Dalniy in the Primorsky Krai, in fact, was a garrison, there was no big industry and military men could find no job here. Therefore, I might go to any city in the Soviet Union I liked. I chose Ivano-Frankivsk. I decided to come back here. When I served in Spassk, just before the plane crash, I got married. I had a wife. Our daughter was born in 1962, on June 10, and this accident happened on June 18. At the end of 1962, I returned to Ivano-Frankivsk. They gave me an apartment and a good job. I worked at the DOSAAF preparing draftees to be in the army. I taught radio engineering in a DOSAAF radio school.
I was an instructor and then the main thing began. Until now, I have told you about the period that I was purely a "Soviet man" like all those from Russia. But I remember a time when insurgents were here, OUN and UIA fighters. I remembered all raid performed by the Cheka men. On the eve of Christmas in 1947, here, near Ivano-Frankivsk, we were going that way to Panas Zalyvakha; at the time, the Cheka man were waiting for us on the bridge and forced us to sing a song about Stalin. On the eve of Christmas. We sang. We carried vertep with us. I was a Strilets. I had a trident on my forehead. It beats me how they failed to see it. We were afraid that they would detain us and ruin our vertep garments. After the war, it was difficult to get crepe paper to make angels’ wings, crowns of gold for kings, princes… it was quite a problem. We were going here to Kniahynyn to go caroling in khatas. And we are forced to sing about Stalin. We sang it on the eve of Christmas for fear that those 20 agents could just beat us and ruin everything. Such were the times. I kept it in my memory.
In Magnitogorsk, in the army, everything seemed to fade into the background. When the Khrushchev era began, when they began to denounce Stalin’s crimes (not to denounce but to recognize this and that), then everything seemed to revive from my childhood. I recollected what I saw, what they were up to, I remembered my father, my neighbors, and how the village burned and everything.
During this period, I matured as a citizen, as a full-grown man; it happened in the times of Khrushchev’s Thaw in 1956-60. Going here after the plane crash, I thought that Stalin had been, people met with misfortune, many a men were killed, but current leadership headed by Nikita Khrushchev seemed to recognize everything and adduced apologizes: we could not bring back the dead, but we would not tolerate it any more, we would put the KGB under public control. I thought we would try and improve the standard of living from now on. People started to go to America and the Thaw was underway. I really emphasize the fact because in good faith I believed it was true; my dad still was in jail, but then they began to discharge convicts, an amnesty could be granted, a commission was set up, and my dad, by the way, went at large; therefore, I took it seriously.
I arrived in Ivano-Frankivsk in October 1962. I took time to settle here… In December I was working already, I got a job in this radio school. I slowly started to look around and watched how our people lived. I was an activist. Probably my documents from the army were sent here and they made me a member of Znannia Society. There were lectures about building communism and about the Soviet system. From time to time, I went with groups of lecturers to deliver lectures. But, in addition, as a young lecturer, I travelled all over local villages and as far as my relatives lived there I observed how people made buckle and tongue meet in the collective farms. My sister came to see me: her hands were chapped; these chaps looked like cracks in dry earth. Your earnings at the collective farm might make only as much as a stolen bundle of hay or straw for your cow. Wherever you went, to the institute--it struck me most of all--that the language of instruction at the institute was Russian, in our Ivano-Frankivsk Pedagogical Institute.
It was evident already that they began to push Khrushchev back. The change of political course was hovering in the air. The movies about Stalin appeared, they began to justify him as a war winner. I was staggered having seen images of Stalin glued to the rear windows of the cars. I became sick at heart. I thought, "If the driver likes Stalin and maybe considers him his father why he did not stick it to the windshield to adore him? He fixed it so the outsiders should gaze at it.” Therefore, I started to look around. Once I was standing with my students on the street; my cadets were not much older than I was. It was lunchtime; the lunchtime made then an hour and a half. We see a car with Stalin. I asked them, "Do you not know whose car is this?" I wanted to look at that driver. Today you can differentiate private license plate from non-private one, but at the time, it was not so easy to tell what car was this one. It took them ten minutes to find out and they said that this car belonged to a KGB official. I explained it to myself that they did it intentionally to make people accustomed to the image of Stalin, Stalin, Stalin…
I tell it in a few words but in the meantime, I try to digest it. I met people and talked it over with them trying to find out their attitude. I thought, "There, in the Kremlin, they have no idea what is going on here!" I decided to help them and write them about it. And I wrote to the Kremlin. I was looking for trouble: they summoned me to the KGB. At first, the KGB officers did not summon me; instead, they came to the school and gave a talk in the presence of the director. Only then, they summoned me. Certainly, I held my own and I acknowledged that yes, I wrote and I would write again. I was outraged that I wrote to the Kremlin and they sent these officers to sort it out. How did the KGB officers start the conversation? By the way, they did not bother to flash their IDs; for starters, they asked, "Maybe you are not satisfied with your job? Or maybe you’ve got a bad apartment?" I was stung to the quick that they had my letters, which I had sent to the Kremlin. They thought I was displeased with my job. I was outraged. So, I bickered with them. I held my own. As far as we embroiled in an argument, something had to be done. What is to be done? The Stalin era was returning. Stalin’s terror was returning.
And I started to look for the like-minded persons. Perhaps it is difficult for a loner, but there should be other interested men. Maybe, the OUN had put somebody on the back burner. With such naive thoughts, I began to search. Really, I was looking for trouble; here, where the town hall stands today--tomorrow we will go to see it because we have extensive repairs here—looking for the like-minded persons in the town hall, I came across a man working in the museum. There was a museum of local lore in the town hall, and he made rounds with his cinemobile and showed atheistic films. He visited our regions collecting old books. He collected books that were called nationalistic and brought them to the town hall and piled them up in the attic. He led me there and I saw stacks of books. His name was Hryhoriy Pankiv. I asked him, "They are yours?" He answered, "No, I bring them here and pile up." I asked, "Can I take them?" He said, "Well, for the time being it’s impossible. In a month, the assistant manager for maintenance and supply goes on vacation and then I will stand in for him. When it happens, we will come here and if nobody hangs about you will take as many books as you want.”
And so it happened. I came when he became the assistant manager for maintenance and supply and climbed to the attic of the town hall. I took books I liked: History of Ukrainian Armed Forces by Hrushevskyi, other books and began reading them at home. My inner rebellion grew, because from time to time they summoned me to the KGB for conversations; I felt offended, because I consider myself a "Soviet man," I considered myself a patriot. Especially, because I was 23 years old and I have lost 70% of my eyesight for the "fatherland" and believed that I had the right to participate in social processes. I was reading those books. I had 70 cadets, two groups.
Here began the year 1963-64. The workers rose in revolt against hunger, against misery, in which the "Soviet man" existed, the worker. And that famous revolt in Novocherkassk. How do I know? I started listening to Western radio stations: Radio Liberty and Voice of America; they were my sources of information. I would like very much if my students also knew just a little. So I brought the History of Ukrainian Armed Forces, because these guys were about to join the army. And there was a full-page portrait of Petliura in the book. He looked like he prided on the trident on his sleeve. I wanted very much my guys to see this trident and Petliura. I opened this book and put it on the teacher’s desk. Before that, I led them towards their joining the army, while in Novocherkassk 300 people were shot dead. There, people pressed for food because they had no money to buy bread, and the authorities sent soldiers and the soldiers killed them. Of course, I obtained this information from western sources. And I began to instruct them. That by the way, I have it in materials relating to my case… I told them that each of them being sent to some place in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan or Primorye Krai, beyond the Urals, or God knows where should have a copy of Kobzar with him. Secondly, if they would make you to fulfill an order like this one in Novocherkassk, God would punish you if you would raise your hand against a worker. Therefore, you shall not shoot, because it is a sin, you cannot do it. Thus, little by little I began to instruct them. By 1965, I had already realized that without solving the problem of statehood we would not solve all remaining issues. I realized that all this is the policy of the Kremlin. Conducting conversations in the KGB, they themselves recognized it and said that it was Lenin’s policy. I realized that it was very serious and we must rebel against this, we must become organized. Therefore, I gave a talk. However, I knew that squealers around me kept alert. I said this very carefully, but for the KGB it was a terrible anti-Soviet propaganda and nationalism. They certainly kept an eye on it.
Then came the moment. I had two groups of students in Kalush. 70 men, and also there was this guy Orest Luzhnyi. He may reside in Kalush now. His father was a former KGB lieutenant colonel. At this point--it was in August 1966--he was retired, but now he is the director of Kalush market, makes some money on the side. Once I heard that my fate was examined at a high level. This Orest was late for the class, somewhere about ten minutes, and he called me to go out into the corridor. I went out. He was tipsy. I asked him, "Why are you late?" And he said to me, "My dad said that in the KGB they inquired after you. My dad asked me, what kind of a teacher you were. According to them, you advocate nationalism and they considered what measures should be undertaken” When Luzhnyi told that, I understood that in the near future they are going to arrest me.
Then I dismissed the boys, because at home I had books that I got at the town hall. I took them from Kalush to my home and hid them there, so that the officers would not find them. The next day I returned to Kalush. It was in October 1966 and on February 6, 1967, I was arrested. On the tenth my boys had to take their exams, three days were left until graduation of these two groups. I was arrested in Ivano-Frankivsk. Three officers arrived to get me. Rudyi was my investigator; now he walks about in Stanislav, now he is a great patriot, nationalist, today he is a member of the CUN; two more officers accompanied him. I do not remember those two. But I remember Rudyi very well because he was my investigator the first and the second time. "We go now to the KGB, we will have a talk there and you will go back to Kalush and set exams.” They brought me here, to the Ivano-Frankivsk KGB. He gave me a sheet of paper: "Write. Commit everything to paper.” I did not write anything: what had I to write? I did not know anything.
They kept me there late into the night. At 10 o’clock in the evening, they put me into the preventive-detention cell. I was under suspicion: "We have materials on you. The cadets inform about you.” It is true: they summoned my cadets. They summoned each and every of seventy cadets. Seven cadets did not tell me that they were summoned. When hey were returning from the KGB, they were warned there not to tell me; however, 63 cadets told me and seven did not. Later these seven witnessed against me. That was why they did not tell me: they spilled the beans.
Well, now what? They arrested me and convicted. For the first time they gave me three years. They gave me three years under Article 62, part I (Criminal Code of the UkrSSR.—V.O.). However, just before that, in December 1966, my wife with her daughter arrived from Primorye Krai. I came back all by myself, and she had to graduate from the university. At the time, there was a law that if you transferred from university to university, you had to lose a year: if you were finishing the third year, in the new university you would be a third-year student again. In addition, the baby was born and she didn’t like the idea of transfer. It remained so up to 1966. At last, in December, they arrived on the eve of the New Year, and I was arrested on February 6. And sentenced in May.
I could not imagine that political prisoners were completely isolated in jail. I did not act circumspectly. Only when I was sentenced, the common offenders told me that there existed such concentration camps and where they were located.
And there you are! They sent me to Mordovia. In Mordovia I got somewhere in July 1967.
V.O.: What camp was it?
B.R.: 11th camp.
V.O.: In Yavas Village?
B.R.: In Yavas. It is the center of Dubrovlag: 54 km along the railroad, which started in Potma and ended in Barashevo. If you remember the movie “Road to Life" that was the first Soviet sound film. That film began with the words "There are 54 kilometers from Potma to Barashevo." I remember it very well. Those 54 kilometers were covered with concentration camps standing side by side, and nothing more.
V.O.: It was the first Soviet new development.
B.R.: The first of the Soviet… yeah. In the middle of this appendix going deep into Mordovian forests, into bogs, there was this Yavas settlement. It was the largest town, a township. That township contained three concentration camps: one for common male offenders, one for political convicts, and one for women. Now, they brought me to Yavas. After the jail I was greatly surprised to find myself in a park: flowers, people walking around, bricked paths, very nice. The political prisoners did it all, of course, because they were full of life. They decorated even their concentration camp. It was very good there.
I met there many famous people, among the first ones there were Mykhailo Horyn, Ivan Hel and others with whom I still maintain friendly relations. Some of them were in the 17th camp. The latter was located a little bit further. Some of them stayed in Barashevo, in the third camp. Near the hospital. However, the biggest concentration camp was in Yavas.
V.O.: How many people were there at the time?
B.R.: There were 1300 prisoners.
V.O.: What contingent was kept there? What groups were the largest?
B.R.: By nationality?
V.O.: By nationality as well.
B.R.: By nationality, approximately 70% were Ukrainians, as a minimum. The remaining 30% were all others. The same was in Perm.
V.O.: What is the percentage ratio by articles? Were there anti-Soviet activists? What about other categories?
B.R.: Well, the percentage of anti-Soviet activists was, of course, lower than of the Banderivetses or Vlasovetses. There were also speculators in foreign currency. There were a few people.
V.O.: And those who collaborated with the Germans?
B.R.: What about those who collaborated with the Nazis, that is policemen.
V.O.: Well, and guerrillas.
B.R.: There was the biggest ratio of our guerrillas. It looked like a Ukrainian village. You know how the zone looks like: barracks, surrounded by a fence, tight security. We were free to walk about. Wherever you go, you find Ukrainians. We gathered regularly. Somehow, no one writes about it. The political prisoners had their leaders. We observed all holidays. We met and sang songs. Well, the songs, of course, gave rise to our meetings. We told stories about the past, about the operations of the UIA, political actions of OUN. All our holidays--political and religious—religious ones were out of the question and nobody banned them; however, the Cheka officers held political convicts under observation. We gathered in depots or, in winter, in the stokeholds.
We worked. There was a furniture factory. They brought from Yavas felled trees from the forest to the working zone and exported ready sets of furniture. The work was organized very seriously and people were working efficiently. The production rate was a must. Of course, we had scanty earnings. Then we thought that jail was jail. The uncertainty is always troubling, and now I recall it and I bask in the afterglow. It was really like freedom. Everyone was free to tell anything he liked. You could think anything you liked and even tell about it Cheka officers. There were the KGB offices in the camp representing all republics from which the political prisoners came. There were Armenian representatives and representatives of three Baltic nations. From Ukraine, there were three representatives and the above republics had one each. Well, there were Russians, of course. The Russian representatives played the role of a "big brother" or "boss" pushing all the rest. The officers used to summon us to talk. Tried to recruit us: repent and go at large. This was a kind of work they conducted.
But those three years… the time flew by quickly. There was also a feeling of joy: we were young and our insurgents having done 20 years already looked at us… It beat us at the time… They looked at us and were happy that there emerged young protesters already: the regime punished, tried, accused of anti-Soviet propaganda former Komsomol members.
V.O.: I wonder whether there were outstanding personalities from insurgents. Or anti-Soviet activists?
B.R.: Among the insurgents there was Vasyl Yakubyak. He was an oblast leader. Paliychuk, from Kosmach. These were well known. There was Pavlyshyn. Pavlyshyn was a member of OUN Headquarters. I did not do my term with him, but I met him when he came on the delegation from outside of the camp, which tried to persuade the insurgents to repent and go at large.
At the eleventh concentration camp area there was a big stadium. After working hours, the convicts gathered there just to "cover kilometers" as they say. The political prisoners were walking and talking in little groups.
I saw with my own eyes the arrival of the lecturer of contemporary medical academy, associate professor Vakaliuk. He was on that delegation. Taras Myhal came from Lviv. And Pavlyshyn. I did not hear what the old OUN members, who were subordinates to Pavlyshyn in the UIA, told him at the stadium. He was a top man in the UIA and now he came to urge them to repent. He came to tell, how happy he was at large. And they got at him at the stadium. The KGB officers brought pressure to bear on the OUN members, who were like elite in the camp. "We want to talk with him.” And they gave them the chance. The staff secret agents accompanied that group, which comprised more KGB officers than delegates. They took Pavlyshyn—I did not hear, I saw their gestures and face expressions, emotions when our guys talked to him—and walked with him around, so that the security officers could not hear them. Well, it was not hard to guess what they were talking about: "What are you? You came with the KGB officers. What did you tell us in the underground? You gained over us in the UIA, and now… What are you now?" This kind of talk. This was Pavlyshyn. And there was also Soroka…
V.O.: Mykhailo Mykhailovych.
B.R.: Mykhailo Mykhailovych. He had the say-so. He was an outstanding individual. There was Dr. Horbovyi. However, he was not here. He had no Soviet citizenship; he stayed with foreigners and stateless persons. He was in the zone nearby. However, we met him in hospital, because it was a common hospital. They brought there convicts from that zone, and from ours. In the hospital, we could meet. I am telling you about our top men whom we met there. Mykhailo Soroka was a member of the central leadership of OUN. Here was Pavlyshyn, who had repented already. Horbovyi and someone else. And the rest of them belonged to the oblast-level governing body.
V.O.: There was also Danylo Shumuk, or wasn’t he? Different stories are told about him. How did you perceive him?
B.R.: Shumuk? I know Shumuk very well. He was discharged in 1968. And I was brought to the concentration camp in July or in August 1967. I was interested to come to know that there were quite a lot of people. There were Danylo and Sinyavskiy from Moscow, the writers; the Bolshevik newspapers wrote about them. Around them, one could get a lot of information. At the time I was eager to pick up information. Danylo was a shut-in person, but he came to me and I had a couple of conversations with him. He was interested to know how it was there out of the camp; he asked where I was from. I remembered him. Next time we met already in the cell in 1974. They brought me to Sosnovka and he was there. They arrested him in 1972 and detained me in 1974. They were already in the cell: Vasyl Romaniuk, the future Patriarch of Ukrainian Orthodox Church Volodymyr, who was buried on the sidewalk near Sofia Cathedral in Kyiv, Mykhailo Osadchyi, Shumuk, Edik Kuznetsov.
V.O.: Was it the second time?
B.R.: This was the second time. Well, I mean that when I entered the cell Shumuk had been there already. We spent five years in this cell from start to finish. So I knew him very well due to my second arrest. While the first time those were short conversations only, like with many other political prisoners. I treated them, of course, not like now. They were for me, you know… I did my best to catch every word; I not only listened to what he said but how he said it. It was such euphoria over his heroism. I could see living people who fought Bolsheviks up in arms. Therefore, I did remember him and a couple of conversations with him. About my second term we will speak a bit later. He was undoubtedly a very decent man, very honest, principled, and true intellectual. Although he was a member of the CPWU, he was also a member of the Komsomol, but eventually he was always there, where one must be, where the Ukrainian patriot should be. Even though he was a member of the Communist party of Western Ukraine.
V.O.: Mykhailo Horyn said that when the first group of Sixtiers came to the camps in 1965, there occurred a coup. The information about the camps began to leak outside. This new wave impressed the older people. Specifically, Mykhailo told that they started to organize lectures, debates. You cannot imagine it.
B.R.: I have seen and participated in it. Well, I was rather a listener. I was younger then. The Horyns were already in mature age, they worked after graduation from the university, and they were wrapped up in it. They were, so to speak, our revolutionaries. They were wrapped up in it. I joined it in the sixties. I really wanted to gather as much information as I could and grasp it not to be at somebody’s beck and call only. Because I understand, I know yourself, and I know my character. I took it seriously. Those were not simply my words for which they punished me and I would do my time< go at large and keep silent. I was caught up in a war with them. The KGB has my applications from the time of my first arrest. The security officers did not believe that I could be a nationalist.
Just imagine an episode. In 1967, the investigation was almost finished. I signed the 217th article about the end of investigation. They gathered in the office and kept persuading me to repent, “Do write three sentences.” In the meantime, I wrote and told them urging them to drop it: I am against your Lenin, against you, because you are birds of a feather. One can only fight with you. Instead, they said, "Well, you’re just out of the army, you’ve served five years, you know that we have equipment…” Really! Vasyl, I am not lying: "I know! I know your fearful appliances, the whole world is afraid you. I know your capabilities: you killed tens of millions of people and the voice of one man is the voice of no one. I know that you will kill me. However, you will not win." Word of honor.
The investigation was ending. They gathered… There was such prosecutor Horodko… Three times he pronounced sentence on me, because he tried me three times. The second time they did it in two steps: the verdict was canceled and the new investigation and retrial were ordered. This prosecutor Horodko represented the public procurator’s office under the KGB. There were the Head of Investigation Department Lieutenant Colonel Dolgikh, two my investigators Rudyi and Andrusiv; the latter were ours, by the way: Rudyi was from Lviv Oblast, Andrusiv was from Rozhniatyn Region. There was also another man in the room; later it turned out that he was a psychologist, a silent person; he kept looking at me all the time. There were sitting two strangers as well… a whole raft of people! I shrank into a corner… I do not know if you were in Zhytomyr KGB? There was a table nailed in the corner. All of them were on the couch. This man Dolgikh took my volume containing all-in-all a hundred and fifty pages… He flipped through it for some time, then closed it and remarked, “Not a bloody thing! He cannot go on trial!” He allegedly addressed them, but in reality, he meant me. “He cannot be tried on the grounds of these characteristics.” I had no idea what kind of characteristics they were. I had to sign this 217th article terminating the investigation. Then they give me the file for review. Then they sent the case for consideration of the court of law. They charged me with "spreading slanders about the Soviet Union." Rebryk admonished his pupils that Ukraine was a colony, that there were neither elections nor democracy there, that only an independent state can do away with it, that sent our boys God knows where to serve in the army, and bring here other people instead. In short, terrible things. That Bandera and OUN did what they had to, they were not a gang, but patriots. You will read it; I will give you the verdict. He got up, this man Dolgikh, and said, “Bohdan Vasyliovych—he had nasal twang and wore civilian clothes--well, Ukraine is a colony. No democracy, the collective farm life is awful, I can recognize all of it, but how could you, a Soviet citizen, secretary of Komsomol organization (I was a secretary of the Komsomol organization in the army, I was very active) could call heroes this gang of Banderivetses?” He threw that volume, you know. I spoke to him from the opposite side of the table, "Listen, Dolgikh, probably the Banderivetses broke your nose, and now you are angry with them?" Honest to God, Vasyl. When I told him, and he had this nasal twang, then he put his elbows on the table and began scratching his hair… probably he felt nervous. He is a very clean-cut guy. I went on, "You do not wash yourself, or what? Are you lice-ridden?" Vasyl, in fact I spelled it… He jumped up from behind the table, this man Dolgikh, he came up to me and began pounding this table with his fist and, literally, "Well, you sob, this time you’ll get a minimum term, but very soon you’ll fall into our hands!” And went out.
Then they all went out, only investigators stayed. I signed that 217th that the investigation was finished and started to get acquainted with the materials. Then I saw the characteristics he mentioned. They were from the military unit where I served, from the last duty station. And I was the first man in the Soviet Union, who learned in-flight refueling, plane-to-plane. We were first to be trained, for that was radar reconnaissance, long-range military aircraft. First, we had to learn to refuel. I was the first in our regiment, who was trained near Saratov there, and then I returned to my air regiment to teach others. I had to fly with all of them, because it was necessary to show how to refuel and I instructed them. All Far East aircraft refuellers knew me. I was also a young member of the Komsomol, because I joined Komsomol in the army. Here, in Magnitogorsk, when I worked as a builder, things settled one way or another. However, at a military school all these things come home to haunt you sooner or later. There I became a Komsomol member. They made me the secretary of the Komsomol organization of our unit, I had authority over there; they tried to persuade me to join the Communist Party. I did not want to join the party, because I believed they were some sort of specific people there and I was unworthy of them. Honest to God, I did think in this way… Just a stupid raw youth…
When the KGB arrested me, they wrote to my former unit, "We bring before a court a criminal case against Rebryk for anti-Soviet agitation; therefore, we request that you give an idea of his personality as he served in your unit.” They sent back the best references possible. The KGB wrote for the second time that they brought before a court a criminal case against Rebryk for anti-Soviet agitation; in a way they exerted pressure on them. The military replied and the second references were better than the first one. They wrote for the third time, and even tried to threaten them. But the third references were even better than the first two. Oh God! Dolgikh shoved his finger into this document.
When I had done three years there, my colleagues perished. There was an accident. I attended the funeral and spoke there with them. They spoke. I said, "You’ve written too much." They grew angry. Therefore, Dolgikh shouted that "one cannot be tried on the grounds of such references”. I emphasize that I was in good faith then, and now I was sincere with them. I did not play the hypocrite, and at the same time I was aware of who I was dealing with.
That was my first night in the bullpen. Ten o’clock in the evening. They led me to it and shoved me in. I lay on the plank bed. All day I did not eat and did not want to go to the toilet. I was arrested at ten o’clock in the morning on February 6. The light bulb was in a recess in the wall and this recess was trellised. The shadow of the trellis dropped on the ceiling. This trellis was not rectangular, but somewhat cambered. The shadow resembled many people lying in a spread-eagle position and all of them were dead. Such was work of my imagination. I was looking at the ceiling and saw scattered dead figures and one was smaller than the other was. And I thought, "You, Bohdan, will be lying somewhere over there as well.” I believed that they were people killed by the Bolsheviks. I realized what it was.
You reminded me what Horyn said about the leakage of information from the concentration camp. I had no idea what the atmosphere was like in the camp before. They brought me there a little bit later: they were put there in 1965, and I in 1967. I was two years behind them. In our spare time in the camp, we gathered to drink tea. This tea was like wetting a bargain now, tea or coffee. They brewed a packet of tea per a three-liter jar. Well, it was a cool drink, delicious. Candy. They sat down forming a ring and sent round the pot, two sips, each had a hard candy in his mouth. Then the conversations started. These conversations were highly cultured, intelligent, and political. The KGB officers were going round in circle; they might listen or not, nevertheless they were present and did not interrupt. Indeed, there were such conversations. When a chief in uniform approached the circle, the prisoners went over to a bit softer issues. Or laughed loudly, "Hey, chief, come here, sit down, and drink tea with us." They might switch to a different topic, but such conversations took place in the working zone and in habitable premises. Especially on weekends. They also used such occasions as birthdays of political prisoners or public holidays. Each year they observed the Independence Day, January 22.
I emphasize this date, because a little bit later I arrived in Munich on 22 January; nobody is celebrating this holiday there, they even have no idea what holiday it is, I was very surprised. In our concentration camp, we observed all these dates: the death-days of Konovalets, Petliura, Hrushevskyi and so on. These observances gave rise to literary conversations. They invited me to commemorate Shevchenko because I knew many poems of Shevchenko by heart: "To dead and alive" or "Caucasus" or whatnot depending on the kind of event. For example, his "Dream" or "God’s Fool." We celebrated everything: Franko, Shevchenko, and Lina Kostenko. Symonenko? When I was at large, I did not know Vasyl Symonenko. I came to know him in prison. Hence, the, though they were few, did enormous work. I do not know why they call them the Sixtiers… Maybe because these events took place in the sixties? But this was a continuation of the Ukrainian revolution, so to speak. I reckon the armed struggle ended in 1945 due to the defeat of the UNO. This was followed by the period of struggle against tyranny, that is the era of Logos. Thence the Sixtiers to which I have the honor of belonging, and I contributed my bit as well. They locked us in punishment cells and cell-like rooms, all prisoners helped each other, and somehow nobody complained, it was good, a kind of common enthusiasm. This, of course, influenced the older generation and they were very happy for us, they made no bones about it, our rebels who had done God knows what terms. At the same time, they supported us. I remember how they treated me as a child. For example, this one Mykhailo Zelenchuk who is now a Head of the Brotherhood of UIA Warriors; everybody boycotted him there because he was a nationalist and he went to cooperate with the KGB officers, with the administration, he went on stage and sang there, wore an armband, and they eventually reduced his prison term by eight years, but it was not for naught. They discharged him, though he had an extreme penalty, which was replaced with twenty-five years, and as a result, he spent seventeen years there. How did they boycott him? None of the serious people spoke with him. I talked with him for Zelenchuk was the first one in the camp who came up to me. From the Stolypin car, they brought me to the concentration camp, and this was ten in the morning when the train to Yavas arrived. He was in the second shift; therefore, he was the first to come up to me. I made his acquaintance and he introduced himself as Mykhailo Zelenchuk. He led me to his barrack; he had a collection of books there, he had a glib tongue and I maintained good relations with him to the very last moment. Although all those who began talking with him were also boycotted, but they didn’t reproach me for it, because to their mind I did not size up the situation and then I had only a three-year term… However, I was told not to go to the scene, while he went. And he was on patrol with the internal order section…
V.O.: They also called this patrolling airing the bitch.
B.R.: Right you are! They called this patrolling by policemen airing the bitch. Yeah, this is a characteristic trait only. Therefore, they did not boycott me because I was not secretive and did it in good faith. Well, I thought, let him repent and go at large. I thought so at the time. He repented and indeed why should he serve the twenty-five-year time? Let him get out and he will continue to fight. I even defended this position before our decent people who actually boycotted him, the boycott organizers and bellwether. Therefore, later I was surprised when I came back from Munich… I obtained for Zelenchuk a formal invitation to visit Munich; he went there, returned in 1989 and stopped talking with me.
I introduced him to all circles I knew, because I was discharged sooner: I arrived directly from jail in 1970, and he was released in 1972, and I met him there. I supported him with money as I could, and we kept meeting almost every week on a regular basis. He got a dwelling here, got married, and is living there now as well. His wife descended from the family of Lopatynskyi; she also did a term because she had been convicted. All of them are good folks, and all of it together is life as it is. But I’ve wandered from the subject.
The first three years were rather interesting to me. They brought the group "Christian Union" from Leningrad; they brought all of them to the eleventh zone. (The VSHSON or All-Russian Social-Christian Union for the Liberation of the People. A monarchist organization created in Leningrad in 1964, arrested in 1967.—V.O.). I had already felt that the Russians had begun to revolt. However, they were mostly Jews.
V.O.: You mean "Samolotchyki" affair?
B.R.: The "Samolotchyki" affair happened later, in 1970, it seems to me it was in July. Then Edik Kuznetsov organized a "Wedding" operation: they planned to hijack kukuruznik and fly to Israel. I know all this case, because I was kept in the special zone together with Kuznetsov and he told me that they hijacked the plane so that so that it was only an imitation of hijacking while they only wanted to draw attention to the departure of Jews to the promised land and demonstrate that the Bolsheviks did not allow them to emigrate, and they faced the death penalties, but they only wished to go to their homeland. And they did find the solution; Kissinger (U.S. Secretary of State.—V.O.), Golda Meir (Israel’s Prime Minister.--V.O.), Sakharov’s wife Elena Bonner; and it means their family, connections, they supported them from the outside, and Zionists all around the world. They achieved enormous results, they achieved what they wanted.
But there was also Galanskov’s group, Dobrovolsky arrived and Ginzburg. This was the first group, they were brought when I had been in the concentration camp already. Among them, I also remember a woman Lashkova. Then came this Christian Social Union of Leningrad, students rioted there and they brought them as well. That is one felt that the life raged and Ukraine was almost in the forefront. In 1965, Danylo and Sinyavsky were brought from Moscow and here they arrested the Horyns, Martynenko… Svitlychnyi was not tried, because apparently they did not want to make much ado, he was an outstanding man. And so it going on, three years passed, I tell you, before I knew what had happened.
V.O.: You didn’t like to be released?
B.R.: The time flew by in a flash. However, the discord was brought by disbandment of the 11th concentration camp: some prisoners were sent to the Urals, some to the 17th and 19th. The 19the camp was over-criminalized and those guys were settled in other camps, while we were shoved into the 19th. This was how I got to the 19th.
V.O.: To the Lyesnoy settlement?
B.R.: Right you are, to the Lyesnoy settlement.
V.O.: I was there later, in 1974-77.
B.R.: For the first time I was released from the 19th.
In the 11th camp, I had my ribs broken: I fell on the log truck. There was a large timber yard Exchange was huge, I was a helper in the timber yard. There was Anton, I’ve forgotten his last name, he was a member of OUN, he was the yard manager, and he employed me to collect those metal ties to fix timber so that the logs did not fall from the platform. Otherwise you had to gather those logs and check in them. I went about gathering them there to collect and performed other odd works. I jumped from one stack to another, the bark came off because it was a rotten timber, I fell from the stack and broke my two ribs. So I spent about six weeks in the hospital. At that very moment, the 11th concentration camp was disbanded. This was in 1969. All of us were scattered in different directions, and I after the hospital was sent to the 19th. Because of that hospital and those ribs, I actually lost a year of active life. DURING THE transfer, the convicts were mixed…
On February 6, 1970, I was discharged but I wished I stayed there a little longer. When I was convicted, those three years seemed a long term for me and then they flew by so quick that I really wished to stay there for another year. If anyone listens to us, let him not make a laughing stock of us, but I’m telling the truth. This is because you felt there real life while at large you should mind every word you say. And here you had your say to your heart’s content.
V.O.: There you had persons holding the same views, while at large you cannot meet them as often as you like.
B.R.: Absolutely, all of them herded together. Now the farther we advance in time, the more important those things become: it was really a great school. I obtained so much information out there! You also asked me if I entered in discussions there; I tried to listen in the first place to replenish what I had actually lost from 1954 to 1963, for nine years in Russia. The school, work, building Magnitogorsk, then the army… I felt Ok in the army; of course, I mean financially, they paid enormous money, fed us with what you want. I did not know life because we were cut off from everything, I did not know how people really lived, only from the newspapers. The things are going swimmingly, until the Bolsheviks began to raise prices after that first Khrushchev’s money reform in 1961. The prices went up, then the rehabilitation of Stalin followed, return to the past, to the communist dictatorship. Therefore, Vasyl, it made me think and get down working on it very seriously. I had no illusions that this was anything special. I cannot deny it, because it would be a major sin. All my life… why did they beat me so for the cross? Because I did not give in; regardless of the rank I did not allow them to wipe their boots on me. They shoved me into the criminal camps, although they had no right to do it; I was in the high security camps and they shoved me among the "striped" criminals.
V.O.: Was it during transportation under guard?
B.R.: Yes, during transportation. Well, in Kyiv, they were transporting me to a concentration camp, and I was dressed like a teacher setting an examination. I was properly dressed as a teacher. They apprehended me on 6 February and transported me in the same dress. And then there was the first transit prison in Kyiv, an enormous cell containing something to the tune of a hundred men; it was terrible: these smacked out creepos were playing cards, making very strong tea brew, God knows what, dressed, stripped, all sorts of tattoos. When I went in, they immediately figured that I was well dressed and asked, "Which article?" I answered, "62-a". But they did not know what it meant: they knew all criminal articles only. There was their main squeeze Nozdria, "What do you mean by 62? Cock-and-bull story!" He smoked low-grade tobacco, this Nozdria I mean, he began pushing me, "What the hellfire!" He poked his cigarette at me. I was just shoved into the cell and I just gave him a smack on the jaw so that he almost swallowed the butt. His underlings jumped at me. However, the main squeeze stepped in, hushed them, and began to talk with me. Later I became their friend and they did not pick on me anymore. True, I had a stock of food, I was allowed to receive packages during the investigation; I shared with them because I was not a slob; I opened my bag, "My treat." They would take it away anyway. There were many occurrences with those criminals. This conflict, which I told you about, arose by chance. There were designed tricks, they told me, but they failed. However, I did my best to confront secret police to the very last. I had a lot to bear, because there were a lot of them, but I never resigned, Vasyl, not a single moment where they abused us and I swallowed the insult. They knew it very well. Therefore, I am pleased to remember it all. I went against them all by myself, but with the sense of responsibility and understanding the consequences of what I did. I was conscious of it, and I am doing the same now and I will go on doing it as long as I live until we finish what we are expected to do.
However, I’ve wandered from the subject. Well, I did my term and went away. I took information out of the camp.
V.O.: Were you released directly from the zone or maybe they transported you home under guard?
B.R.: No, directly from the zone. It was written in my record that I was arrested at nine o’clock in the morning. The train heading from Barashevo to Potma via Yavas arrived in Yavas about nine plus o’clock. As a rule, when criminals were released, there was a bus service from Lesnoy to Yavas, for civil persons, if you remember.
V.O.: I was not there myself; they transported me under guard to Zhytomyr to release there.
B.R.: Were you not? There was a special bus service to entrain the heated goods car heading for Potma, that is to the main line to Moscow. They released me at nine, they did not want to release me earlier, and I had to reach Yavas, wait there until twelve o’clock and wait until the car would make the second round. However, I had the opportunity to walk around Yavas and have a look at those zones, so to speak, from the outside. When I arrived in Potma, I did there the same walking about the town, because I missed the two o’clock train to Moscow, and the next train was due at ten in the evening. Therefore, I spent the daytime doing the sight-seeing tour. As a result, I know that Mordovia both from the inside and outside.
What struck me most? When they handed me my documents, they gave me the worst document possible stating that my wife had divorced me. I had no idea about it, she just stopped mailing me. However, the interrupted correspondence is a usual thing there, for example, they terrorized Vasyl Stus interrupting correspondence, you know.
V.O.: Yes, they just confiscated letters and did not let them through.
B.R.: In fact, terror was their goal. I also thought they did not let them through, and my family did not want to write me about it, because I could misapprehend it. I learned about it only when they issued me my documents. I had three hundred karbovanetses of earned money and release certificate, but I had nowhere to go. I was going… but where?
I arrived in Kyiv, stayed there for ten days, and called on my friends. I’ve mentioned them already: Vasyl Kondriukov, Valentyn Karpenko and Oles Nazarenko; they organized this Vyshhorod Group; these Kyiv students were tried for leaflets and samvydav; they lived in Kyiv, and so I called on them, ten days I spent in Kyiv walking about the city, because previously I hardly knew Kyiv. Well, they published Tychyna’s poems featuring his poem "At Askoldova Mohyla they were laid to rest…” about Kruty. Nobody knew where the Askoldova Mohyla was situated so that one could go there. Even Tychyna wrote about them. We went to Vyshhorod to visit all those our historic sites.
Then I came here and things began to take off. Terror set in: no registration—no job. I hardly got registered. Eight months they evaded registering me, although they had the permission of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, they avoided taking into consideration all permissions and didn’t register me all the same. Well, finally I went to kill the prosecutor.
V.O.: What do you mean?
B.R.: I went to kill. There was oblast prosecutor Paraskevych; he gave sanction to arrest me in 1967. When I had gone through all channels and brought the resolution of the Minister of Internal Affairs permitting to register me, Captain Zayets, head of the passport office, refused to register me. The eight-month drag. They said, "Go to the east of Ukraine, beyond Volga, there, and quit sticking here." And I was ready to go already for I had to earn my living.
I also visited the KGB, I went to the KGB before Paraskevych. It was somewhere in August. I came and there Warrant Officer Honcharenko who led me to the interrogators stood at the door. He did not recognize me for I was in civilian clothes. I asked him, "Honcharenko, do not you recognize me?"---"I do not recognize you."--"I am so and so."--"Oh, well, how are things?"--"Is our lot here?"--"No, all of them are on vocations."--"Anybody alive there?"--" Colonel Spirin."--"Let me in to see him." He called. Spirin said to let me in. I went in. He was in his office; I told him that they did not register me because the KGB did not give permission. And I already knew that it was the KGB that did not authorize my registration as far as Head of Oblast Passport Office Colonel Sapa was the first to okay my residence permit. However, Zayets did not register me and then I came back to Colonel Sapa and said, "How come the captain disobeys you?" Sapa said, "You have the right to be registered. You see, I permitted your registration and I do not back-pedal, but I cannot defend you: go and settle the affair with the KGB, for they do not give go-ahead." Later this information was confirmed. I did not cash in on him because I considered him a decent man. I never showed off but I knew it. In short, I came to the point when the KGB officers nearly beat me. Of course, I insulted both Lenin and Dzerzhynskiy whose works were on his desk. There sat a colonel in civilian clothes and I asked him, "Why do not they register me? Put me behind bars because I cannot buy my food because I am out of work for six months.” He said to me, "It’s all the same in Vladivostok or here: you commit a crime and we put you away." I then began swearing dirtily at bald Ulyanov and bearded Felix, until the colonel turned green. Then I was a little bit afraid, because I thought they would call the duty detail and beat me, and I retreated and off I went. He accompanied me to the exit and ordered Honcharenko to let me in no more.
I wrote my last letter to Paraskevych and was about to leave as far as for Kherson or anywhere. I wrote him that they had punished me for nothing the same way they had been punishing my people for 300 years. I did my term. You do not permit me to work and keep pushing me to commit a criminal offense. I want to eat, but I’m not going to steal and I do not want to die, too. Since you gave sanction for my arrest in 1967, you will be to blame for what I may commit if you do not register me in a few days. All of you will bear responsibility for it, and especially you. And I sent the letter.
One week passed uneventfully. I decided to go and ask the secretary of the prosecutor whether they had received my letter. I went there and asked and she said tat the letter was probably on his desk in the office. I said, "Go and tell him I want to see him." She returned in a few minutes later and asked me to proceed to the office. I went in. Good morning, good morning. I saw him alive for the first time; I knew only his signatures. I introduced myself as if he did not know. I said, "I wrote you an application."--"When?" There was a heap of papers on the desk; he found my application and read it. I also carried a folder with permissions with me, as far as I had residence permits but the officials refused to register me. He even began jumping on me. It was a U-type desk: he was sitting at the head of it and I stayed next to it. There was a cut-glass ashtray. I did not intend to hit him during the conversation, I only wanted to scare him; I grabbed the ashtray and went for him. As a simpleton, I did not imagine they had an alarm there. I thought I hear clatter of horses’ hoofs on the parquet in that good old Polish building and two men burst in, came to a stop and stood without moving. It was he who signaled them. He said to them, "Will you sit down on the couch, please." Well, they sat down, then I sat down as well. I was sitting and speaking with him.
V.O.: Did you put down the ashtray?
B.R.: Yes, I did. I said, "I have no choice but you push me to commit a crime." And he said to me, "Did Kaikan (chairman of the executive committee) give you permission? Then tomorrow go to his office at 4 p.m." Kaikan was a Bolshevik, but from our village here. But it was a kind of Bolshevik, which instructed to register me. However, the KGB did not lend ear to him. And the prosecutor asked: "Did Kaikan give you a permission? Now you see for yourself: tomorrow go to his office at 4 p.m., and I’ll be there, too."
I came. During 15 minutes the affair was settled. Kaikan asked me, "Well, are you in for the anti-Soviet propaganda?"--"I was never engaged in the anti-Soviet propaganda. And I never cast aspersions on the Soviet reality." I did not tell him that I did nothing. He told Mayor Babenko, "Register him!" It was about 5 p.m. In short, on this day I was registered, the ashtray settled the affair.
After my registration, it was easier to get a job. By pulling strings, I got a job of a loader, because the court prohibited me to hold positions related to teaching and working with young people. Then I gave up education. I always stated in all documents "illiterate" because I did not recognize the Soviet system of education. I wrote an application that I did not recognize it, because your Bolshevik communist education only crushed a person. Therefore, I stated in all documents that I was uneducated. However, they always stated that I had a secondary education. My investigator scribbled "10 grades".
I had to get a job. They imposed five-year ban on teaching activity, and I knew that it would be forever, because as long as there would exist the Bolshevik regime, they would keep me on a tether. By pulling strings, I became a loader at a storehouse and lugged sacks, cement, and paint; I settled down to a task and was very active: I flew into rage, dealt in politics and fought with the Bolsheviks. What did I mean telling about strings? My colleague became a manager of the storehouse. Before my jail, he was a commodity expert and we went out on dates together. His name is Perovych; he works with the tax agency now and heads a department there. Then they put me behind bars and he carved out a career for himself and became the head manager of the storehouse. At the time, I came back and was unemployed. Once I ran into him and he asked, "Well, Bohdan, how’s tricks?"--"Am hard-core unemployed!"--"I can take you."--"What do you mean?"--" I’m the head manager of the storehouse of Oblast Union of Consumers’ Association, household goods". And employed me as a loader for all other vacancies were filled. "I’ll take you as a loader, and once there is something better, I’ll transfer you."
I worked for six months as a loader and then he made me a traveling merchandiser. They introduced such a position. The merchandiser had to go to the shops and check whether they had all the products that were in stock at the storehouse and refill the stock of commodities. In fact, he instructed me to communicate with the railroad. For me it was a big field of activity: I had freedom, railroad, coordinating managers, and weighers. A lot of people and I have loads of time. I just went about and propagated anti-Soviet ideas, while the security officers sensed that something was wrong. After they guessed what’s what they began asking the director, why he employed me, and started to put pressure on him. Moreover, I had established such relations with the railroad and the storehouse that all workers, especially the accountants and storekeepers began to prizes for the quicker discharge of freight cars. Before they paid terrible demurrage, tens of thousands of fines. Why? Because this head manager gave me all authority I needed. There was a shortage of goods, it was difficult to get even a porcelain plate; he told all storekeepers: if Bohdan says, you must give everything from the stock of scarce commodities. I bribed all railroad there: all those coordinating managers, switching crews, stationmasters, heads of cargo departments. How did I bribe them? Do you need a refrigerator? Go to the storehouse and buy yourself. I helped them to buy dinner or tea set or roofing slate. They respected me very much for this possibility to buy. Therefore, I stayed at home and issued instructions like a controlling manager: the cars came in to the storehouse on time, or if they had already come in, they filled out forms for their own benefit: the unloading might take two days, while they clocked two hours only. Then the storehouse got bonus payments; the railroad was pleased and I was pleased.
The security officers kept quarreling with me for about two years. They fired the storehouse manager and appointed another one. The other one took my side as well: Mykhailo Boychuk, he is here in Stanislav now, retired. And then they gave me the third chief, Melnyk. Melnyk was on a string, he was their man. He began to terrorize me and I quitted the job and went to the furniture factory, also as a loader, I loaded furniture. I quitted that storehouse.
In December 1973, I went to the furniture factory, and on May 23, 1974, I was arrested at the furniture factory and for the second time they filed a suit under article 62, part two. They accused me of malicious anti-Soviet nationalist propaganda. This time I did not hole up. If for the first time, with those cadets, I tried to maneuver, this time I called a spade a spade, because I knew they would put me behind bars: they shadowed me, and if I would even say nothing and do nothing, they would fix me all the same unless I go to them and say: take me, for I am yours. Therefore, I didn’t nook and, if possible, I carried out educational work only and did it very actively. Many people were in the know. There were those who testified against me: there were both true testimonies and false once, a sandwich of good and bad. In short, I was arrested on May 23 for the second time, tried in November, they gave me seven years of special jail and three years of exile. I filed cassation; they satisfied my cassation and sent my file down for a new investigation. I was very cautious, because they found no evidence against me.
V.O.: They found no literature and there were only oral statements?
B.R.: Right, oral statements. Well, they found the poem "Vertep" by Hryhoriy Chubai from Lviv; he gave it to me as a New Year present; I met him here in Stanislav. He gave me a manuscript; I put it in a book and forgot about it. They found it when they were searching my apartment. What else? Yeah, the witnesses said that I had Ukraine-Moscow agreements of the 17th c. and that I gave them to read "Internationalism or Russification?" by Ivan Dziuba. It’s true, I had these publications and I lent them these books, but they could not find them at my place. By the way, the first time the cadets told that I had books that I took at the museum. I stuck out and did not tell them where I got those books; when Hryts Pankiv admitted that he allowed me to take them, I still maintained that I bought them at the market, where some guy was selling handbooks. Where did I put them? When cadet Luzhnyi told me that the KGB had asked about me, I came home and burned them. And I held out. Hryts admitted that he had given me the books, but I still said no. I had a rule: I knew that you could not sell people who were good to you, were honest and helped. You stand it and not let them smart. Therefore, they failed to confiscate anything at my place. Meantime, I had an article "Genius is the creator of the goal of the struggle." It was not a complete variant. I wrote it, but how a man writes it? I have such habit even now: sometimes it goes on swimmingly, you try and formulate your ideas harmoniously, and then you put it aside on the back burner. Therefore, they confiscated only fragments of the article, which I had left in a book and forgotten about it. They took nothing else. Just people gave evidence that I gave it to read. The whole accusation was based on this evidence.
But the main point, certainly, was Internationalism by Dziuba; for this book they sued at law. I really had it. In photocopies. During the search, they were holding it in their hands but failed to find. Although they held it in their hands. They even tore off the floor: I was a tenant. They did anything that they pleased! A man gave evidence that he saw it and they failed to find. They were in a bad temper..
Well, well, they found me guilty of a repeated commission: 7 and 3. I filed a cassation and thought: Lord, probably I may be released. They canceled the sentence and ordered the first instance to hold a new investigation. Ten days later, they brought a second document stating that a team of investigators was appointed to look into my case. They kept me for two months without summoning and then conducted a new trial and sentenced me again giving the same time and sent to Sosnovka in Mordovia.
I arrived in Mordovia, and Danylo Shumuk had been there already; he was one of our oldest political prisoners; he did the longest term behind bars: in Poland he was jailed as a member of the Komsomol lived, and as a member of the CPWU…
V.O.: His summary term behind bars made 42 years 6 months and 7 days.
B.R.: Right. There were also Vasyl Romaniuk, our future Patriarch of the Orthodox Church, Mykhailo Osadchiy, Edik Kuznetsov, and I, five prisoners in total.
V.O.: Was there Saranchuk?
B.R.: There was Petro Saranchuk, but not in our cell. He worked as a barber there.
Oh my, there we are again! It happened in 1975 already, there was the Helsinki agreement, Sakharov rebelled, the Committee for Human Rights was established. In the concentration camp, we went on a hunger strike for the status of political prisoner, established contacts with all other camps. The hospital was a sort of a gateway: the prisoners from various camps met in the hospital. Sakharov won the Nobel Prize; the information from the concentration camps began leaking to the outside, and a new life was at the door. Carter met with Brezhnev in Vienna; they signed the SALT-1. (Strategic arms limitation treaty.--V.O.) The riots in the concentration camps were underway. We thought that as far as there was SALT-1, then there would be SALT-2. However, the newspapers wrote that we had no political prisoners.
The biggest problem we faced emerged just after the signing of Helsinki Final Act. It was a long-standing problem, but then it became topical: we had to prove to the world that we existed, that there were political prisoners in the Soviet Union. We made it our primary goal, because we understood that we had to engage the world community in order to solve the problem of our statehood, because we could not make do without it. We debated these issues despite the strict security because it was a life-and-death problem. These people were not indifferent because they dedicated all their life to this cause. The very atmosphere forced them to think in this direction. We achieved a lot with the help of Sakharov Committee, our Helsinki Groups, Lukyanenko, Rudenko. These groups were active for a long time already, and things got going. We went on hunger strikes, entered protests against the concentration camp routine, fought for political prisoner status.
We, Ukrainian, had a huge problem with our Valentyn Moroz; I do not know if you had heard about it.
V.O.: I had, indeed.
B.R.: By the way, Shumuk and I in that situation eventually became isolated, because the people misapprehended us. We turned to Horyn for Mykhailo Horyn remained at large and enjoyed great authority. We asked him to help us, because Valentyn was brought from the jail to Sosnovka in Mordovia, and he made headlines in Bolshevik newspapers. I myself remember a half-the-page article in "Izvestiya": "Spiritual Aristocrat and His Transatlantic Patrons." It was about Valentyn Moroz. He came to us in the concentration camp, and we already had information leakage to the outside.
V.O.: When did they bring him?
B.R.: In 1976. Valentyn came, and we had a showdown to clarify whose inmate he would be. This was rather important. At first, in Sosnovka we had seventy guys from criminal zones.
V.O.: Were they the ones who had “chosen a political platform"?
B.R.: Right. We fought with them by all means, including physical fights. Obviously, the security officers backed these criminals; they used them as provocateurs. Moreover, we had a goal to get rid of them somehow. Of course, we understood that these people were not to blame that the security officers used them, made them political prisoners for nothing: simply the had lost all their money playing dominoes or cards. In order to get out of the zone, he dropped handwritten leaflets "Down with Lenin!" or "Down with Stalin!", and they increased his term and put him into a political concentration camp, but here they used him as a provocateur. Of course, the security officers inspired them, but we eventually won and they took them away to some other destination. But we paid dearly for it, as well as who and with whom should stay in the cell.
When Valentyn came to us, he was a world-renowned personality already. Carter spoke with Brezhnev about Moroz; we had such information from the outside. We knew that we were mixed up in the affair as far as Valentyn was the first to be arrested.
V.O.: On 1 June 1970.
B.R.: Yes, really. He did five years in Vladimir jail; he had a creative mind and carried with himself his store of knowledge; therefore, there was a need to transfer this knowledge to the outside beyond the bounds of the Bolshevik empire. We had a possibility. The leaders of Ukrainian political prisoners told me, "You will take Moroz to your cell." At the time, he was in the quarantine cell. In the morning, we go out of the cell to clean close-stools and wash ourselves in the common corridor. "In the morning, when the cops open the cells to clean close-stools, you walk into Valentyn’s cell—they will open it as well-- take his mattress and say, “Follow me” and bring it to your cell. The cops will not take it away, they never take away things here.”
V.O.: Did they open all cells simultaneously?
B.R.: Yes, they did it simultaneously for us to clean close-stools and wash ourselves. They did not open the cells where the fights occurred; there were such conflicts. It usually concerned one or two cells, the inmates were led out separately. The night shift ended in the morning and the cops wanted to be in time and therefore they opened all cells and the prisoners enjoyed the opportunity to meet. Such was the routine in the high security Sosnovka concentration camp. Therefore, we were able to meet in the morning. We adopted a decision because Valentyn… [inaudible] Victor’s brother-in-law, they lived on the same landing; he was from Ivano-Frankivsk, and I was from Ivano-Frankivsk. “So, you take his mattress and say," Valentyn, follow me!” And he will stay in the cell with you. You will get 15 days or maybe 10, but Valentyn will remain in your cell. You will serve the punishment and you’ll stay together. “I had to arrange and transfer Valentyn’s writings out of the zone and further abroad, where they might be published. I knew how to do it and to keep on the windy side of the law. To this end, we had to stay in the cell together.
We did arrange it: he stayed with me and wrote everything he had to. There was no time to read: the cell was closed and I had no idea what he wrote there. Saranchuk rewrote it because he was our scribe who could write in microscopic letters, because he was also an artist. Petro was a miracle: he was a patriot and an honest, decent man, very decent. He did his term in Norilsk, he organized the uprising there. Everything went through Petro. I was responsible for Valentyn’s security conditions so that he could write, and then I took away the written text, Petro rewrote it in microscopic letters, and then we transferred it to the outside. When the outsiders informed us that all Valentyn’s writings reached their destination, the guys said, "Listen, we want to know what it was all about.” For we do not know what will be. Maybe somewhere it will set tongues wagging… He may have rough copies.
Before we received the confirmation, Valentyn had already stayed with me somewhere about two months. No cellmate stayed with me for a longer time. He also stayed about a month with other cellmates after me. He made a round of all cells, and he was thrown out from all those cells. And now he stayed alone in a solitary confinement. They told me, "Bohdan, ask Valentyn to give us draft copies so that we know what we had transferred." I said, "Well, tomorrow morning, when they open the cells to clean the close-stools I will go and ask him." I approached him and he began to play tricks!
We used to receive in our letters Japanese winking stereoscopic post cards. And we, in order to let Valentyn write and so that he didn’t weary himself for he did five years in the jail, we paid those criminals with post-cards. We had them still. And those guys bought from the cops’ tea for those post-cards. We could not do it on moral grounds and gave them to the criminals; the latter fulfilled Valentyn’s glass grinding norm; therefore, our Valentyn did nothing because he was the hero! Father Romaniuk said when the fight broke out, "Lo! The fur-tree has come!" He meant that he had too many nationalist awards. And he went on playing tricks and the foreigners held it up to ridicule: his shoe-laces were not tied, his fly was always unbuttoned, his towel always hung here, and after a small talk with you he immediately rushed to wash his hands. He had washed his hands, spoke with me and again went running to wash his hands. He used to sit between the glass grinding machines for crystal luminaires; making those plates was a terrible job, dirty, they used sand… and he was lying between the millstones. Fog, emery powder and he as a great yogi was lying in that mire. When he went out into the yard (it was an enclosed court 6x10 near the shop) he said, "The American satellite is going to land here and take me away from here!”—“And where will it take you, Valentyn?"--"They will take me with them because there is a revolutionary situation in Ukraine now, and Bandera said that only I should be the leader of the revolt; he left a will, you know." What else? He told Shumuk, "Do not open your mouth here, because you bear a communist infection." To Romaniuk: "You are not a priest, you are a traitor!" Well, in short, he was up to all sorts of nonsense. But his gravest crime was… Karavanskyi had to kill him… Do you know Karavanskyi? If not for a dimensionless sock, Valentyn would be killed. He escaped death because Karavanskyi missed the target. He took a sock and put in it the electric shaver "Kharkiv". The reveille was at six o’clock: everybody jumped out of his bed but the cops said nothing to Valentyn, because Moroz had a soul above buttons and the security servicemen doted over him: don’t touch him! The world screams. Moroz slept in Karavanskyi’s cell. Karavanskyi was an old political prisoner, he spent his life in prison, a kind of a "professional spy”. This untouchable was sleeping and he took a sock with the Kharkiv electric shaver in it and hit him on the head with it! (Laugh). But when he made to hit, the sock lengthened out and the shaver hit the pillow, and the sock as much as rubbed against his forehead. Valentyn jumped up. The inmates asked Karavanskyi, "Svyatoslav, what are you doing? The strangers laugh at it!”—“Even when he is asleep, he jars upon my nerves," he said. Moroz was a spiteful guy indeed!
Now look, we transferred information. We had recruited cops. At noon, their shift ended. We worked until two o’clock. We used former Lviv policemen: they brought our notes from the working area into the habitable zone. In the working area, we used to socialize and decide what to write and how to write. These former policemen transferred written staff to us, but only then when it was the venal cops’ shift. There was one such Ivan Lozynskyi. "Well, Ivan, get ready and go now to the cop and say that you have a headache, and he will let you go to the habitable zone." At two o’clock, there will be other cops and not all cops are ours. And criminals worked instead of Valentyn while he stretched his legs in the yard. He saw that Lozynskyi went and: "Let me out!" The cops immediately gave Lozynskyi a send-off because they had no right to arbitrarily let anybody go. So, man, he almost foiled our plan! And it doesn’t mean a thing to him, "Let me out and that’s that!" Such kind of sows he put on.
Then we decided to turn to the activists outside the camp to tell Valentyn where to get off. For he did terrible things, immoral things! We knew that Carter had meetings with Brezhnev; it means that Moscow would make concessions to the West, i.e. two or three convicts would be released and the rest will stay; they would simply confuse them. And who will be the first? Valentyn will go the first, because his name caused a hell of a noise in the West. Truly, this idiot will go there! Well, look, he received a letter: he received many letters from abroad. Every recipient of a letter read it at once, and Valentyn used to put it down in the yard and beat about it for four hours. He said the letter contained instructions for him. The Jews were laughing, other men laughed at him while he kept walking around. We asked the outsiders for low-key help through Sakharov, our Lviv activists came to know it at once.
V.O.: Did Shumuk write this letter?
B.R.: No, no it happened before that letter; we simply asked our men from the outside to write a letter and admonish Valentyn. In 1970, when Valentyn was arrested, Olena Antoniv, Iryna Kalynets and others went to the KGB and suggested to put them behind bars and release Valentyn. Our patriots, you know… We turned to them and told them what he was up to and that he refused to lend his ear to inmates. We all were nothing, riffraff, and he, Valentyn, was a great leader. From the outside, we received a letter from Mykhailo Horyn: "Have your soul above buttons, look at those around you: he is worth his name!" We saw that we found no support, we could not do anything. I wrote Olena Antoniv a secret letter and created complications for myself: who is this Rebryk? For Valentyn Moroz is a hero, hetman and successor to Bandera!
We saw that there’d have to be a big change and they’d begin to release. Shumuk maintained contact with his brother Ivan, one letter per month. Ivan wrote to Canada. They were from neighboring villages: Shumuk from Liuboml and Moroz from near Horokhiv. Shumuk wrote to Ivan "Valentyn Horohivskyi" (we called him "Horokhivskyi" as well). We took this decision because there was no way out: a mad man will go abroad! They will say: this one is the best (as it did happen when he arrived), who are the rest of them, what are they? it’s a crying shame! Ivan Shumuk gently hinted that they were not leaders, as they imagined, and in fact everything is more complicated…
We knew that the letter would be censored and we were aware of it. The security agents saw that he was one of the kind. They read what Shumuk wrote and they had a completely clear picture. Then they published several articles: there was a KGB journalist from Dnipropetrovsk, whatshisname, a Jew, Havronskyy or Haisynskyi…
V.O.: Leonid Hamolskyi. He wrote against Ivan Sokulskyi as well.
B.R.: He specialized in this. I mean the article "Leaders: big and small" in Molod Ukrayiny Daily about tricks of Moroz and Shumuk’s letter. They did not published an encrypted letter as Shumuk wrote it but called a spade a spade because they understood what Shumuk meant. They used that stuff and published in the newspaper.
V.O.: Right, approximately in 1977-78, in my village I received an envelope with no return address containing a letter of Shumuk about Moroz. Of course, the KGB was the sender. They controlled my correspondence.
B.R.: Then everybody attacked Shumuk, attacked me, because we wrote those letters. All and everybody defended Valentyn. Popular sympathies were on his side; except me, Shumuk and Romaniuk a bit, after Hel hit Romaniuk…
V.O.: Hel was a supporter of Moroz, right?
B.R.: But why? Hel had hit Romaniuk before Moroz arrived. Hel had his shortcomings as well. He was a patriot, cool guy, but… Well, he made himself higher heels and maintained that Bandera did so, and began going here and there, and told security officers the same story. He invented that Bandera was his uncle and stuff like that… well, he liked to blow his own trumpet. He did not like Romaniuk that much. Well, you may love or not love, but he hit him. However, Romaniuk was a priest, and be it as it may, but it should be respected. Hel hit him and Romaniuk fell down. Hel did not like Mykhailo Osadchyi very much, since his first imprisonment. Mykhailo worked for the oblast communist party committee, he was an easterner and the KGB officers treated him quite differently even in the concentration camp. The security officers approached him as their pal, they believed that he was not a hopeless case. In addition, they knew Mykhailo’s weaknesses: Mykhailo loved to eat, and they played this card. Hel: "He is a traitor, he will give us away tomorrow or the day after." Still being at large, he used to set rumors afloat, he loved it indeed. He hated Mykhailo and we had to defend Mykhailo. Until you have reliable documents anything may happen, but he took it into his head. Romaniuk told Hel, "Stop terrorizing Mykhailo." And Mykhailo began seeing fiends; he used to say, "I do not want to go to the cell, because there are fiends in the corner and many imps nearby”. Hel drove him into hallucinations. Then Vasyl Romaniuk interfered and began to exhort Ivan, to admonish him. And Ivan hit him, Vasyl fell. It happened in the working zone, in Sosnovka. The priest fell down, we intervened in that conflict, and Ivan Hel went on a hunger strike. He went on the deadly hunger strike.
V.O.: Was it a one-hundred-day hunger strike?
B.R.: Yes. On the ninetieth day Valentyn Moroz returned from jail. We welcomed Valentyn. He was a handsome guy all right! Based on those publications we imagined that they beat him there, that he was hungry, and he was a handsome guy gaining weight. We told him all this, he said, "I will sort it out. Tell me more." The cell in which Ivan went on hunger strike overlooked the exercise yard. Valentyn used to come up to the cell and say, "Ivan, how are you? Good? Hold on, Ivan! Do not stop the hunger strike!" We asked him to tell Ivan to stop it because there was no reason to proceed and die. He went without food for three months. In short, Valentyn began to support him. And he thanked him very much for his support. However, he stood the test for ten days more and stopped it. They resorted to forced feeding. Nevertheless, Ivan was stubborn: the word and deed of this man were never at variance. Yes, he was a supporter of Moroz. Soon it turned out that they really took Valentyn, then Ginsburg, Kuznetsov…
V.O.: It happened in 1979. On June 18 they signed the SALT-2 and they were taken away somewhere before that.
B.R.: Yes, they took them away at the same time. I remember very well, that we were all shut inside released, the concentration camp was almost surrounded, and the chiefs came from everywhere. Edik Kuznetsov was in our cell. The camp commander came and asked what size of clothes he wore, shoes.
V.O.: Who was released then -- Kuznetsov, Dymshits, and Moroz?
B.R.: Ginzburg and someone else from Jews. Moroz and Kuznetsov went away from our cell. In my opinion, seven persons were released.
V.O.: Four, it seems: for two Soviet spies who did thirty years each.
B.R.: Maybe. In short, Valentyn went and all further activities confirmed that we were right. However, thank God, he did not misbehave as we thought. But, in fact, he made a real mess of things just as much, and Slava’s men (Slava Stetsko.--V.O.) had to pull him away from the scene, almost beat him. He arrived there as a leader to boss them about, but they refused to grovel before him; they let him a peg or two. In short, they knocked him off track there. There, from hearsay, he began to publish a magazine or created a radio station… He’ll never pull off anything worthwhile for Ukraine.
B.R.: Well, we did our terms. As it happens, those men were released, and we were transported to the Urals. The Soviets brought troops into Afghanistan…
V.O.: When were you taken to the Urals?
B.R.: It happened at the end of 1979.
V.O.: To the Urals? And not on March 1, 1980?
B.R.: That’s an idea like another.
V.O.: In my opinion, it happened on March 1, 1980. You were 32 or 33. One man died on the way, right? Or was it not during this transfer?
B.R.: No, not during this transfer. There were 33 of us. They might bring us there on 1 March.
V.O.: There were Olexa Tykhyi and Levko Lukyanenko with you, members of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group.
B.R.: I went into exile in 1981. I met Stus there once.
V.O.: When were you deported under guard from Kuchino?
B.R.: On April 28, 1981, they led me out of the concentration camp. My term ended on 23 May.
V.O.: They brought me to Kuchino at year-end.
B.R.: When did troops invaded Afghanistan?
V.O.: On December 29, 1979.
B.R.: Then you are right: it happened in the eighties; they brought us there in March. For when the troops invaded, we were still there in Mordovia. Then Sakharov rebelled.
When they brought us to Perm, there were fearsome barracks, isolation. In Sosnovka, we could meet in the morning, during washing. During film show, we could meet in the corridor. They opened all cells, everybody went out, sat down, and they showed a movie. During working hours we could meet in the shop. We could also meet while going to the bathhouse, though not all, but some could. However, in Kuchino, they organized total isolation. If you stay in the cell, you can see nobody, except for your cellmates. The same during the airing and in the bathhouse. True, there was sewage already and toilet bowls. The enclosed courts were… Were you in Kuchino?
V.O.: I spent six years there.
B.R.: There were wells covered with iron. We were there together with Shumuk.
V.O.: In which cell?
B.R.: When you enter the corridor, there was this the first one… what was its number?
V.O.: It seems number seventeen. The first door led to the office of the boss, then medical unit, then the kitchen, and then the cell number 17.
B.R.: No, no. The first door on the left when entering from the walking courtyard. Then nobody lived there, there began working cells and punishment cells.
V.O.: That was the cell number 12. For two convicts?
B.R.: Right, for two convicts. I stayed there with Shumuk, until Shumuk his ulcer aggravated and bled; he was hospitalized at once. For a long time, I stayed alone, for they thought that he would return, and then they decided that he would not return, and they brought him to an open zone because he felt bad. (After one third of strict security term and in the absence of violations, a prisoner could be transferred to an open low-security zone.--V.O.). Then they gave me Berdnyk.
Well, I had one hell of a time with Berdnyk. While in Mordovia, we learned that he had been arrested. He was a character famous in story and song; he authored such novels as The Cup of Amrita and Starlit Corsair…
V.O.: Those were great books, indeed. I admired them. Berdnyk is our best science-fiction writer.
B.R.: Absolutely. I knew it. One witness, who had testified against me, wrote an article… Kovtun, a great nationalist, and in fact the man who opposed us. He tells what a great man Berdnyk was and how he did not eat for 40 days, and students went uphill Hoverla, and they ate regularly, and he was among them. He did not eat for forty days, but was the first to conquer Hoverla. He was familiar to everybody! The Bolshevik newspapers wrote about Berdnyk: a tall man came to lecture, but before the lecture he looked up, raised his finger up and said, "And yet there he is!" We read it with enthusiasm, even though we knew that the Bolsheviks distort facts. And all of it was for the benefit of Berdnyk. He headed the Ukrainian Helsinki Group in Kyiv after the arrest of Mykola Rudenko, and now they wanted to bring him and Vitaliy Kalynychenko to us. It was Berdnyk’s second prison sentence. With Kalynychenko I did my first time inn Yavas. The jailers had to bring him. They did not know what to do with him. They were about to bring him to us. I stayed in the twelfths cell… Yes, Vasyl, it was the 12th cell. The wooden board there had a hole from a nail and through that hole I could see how they led men for a walk and how they brought them back. In this way I could know who was in the camp and who was not. After my cell there were quarantine and punishment cells. The jailers brought food there and led out someone. I looked through that hole and saw a tall grey-haired man in prison garb. I thought at once that it was Berdnyk! And in my cell, Shumuk’s place was free, and I really wanted to stay with him. I got a kick out of it… I remember how I wanted to stay with Berdnyk. And you watch where the door slammed, who was put in solitary confinement…
V.O.: Yes, in jail you determine what’s up by the sounds.
B.R.: There was KGB officer Chepkasov. The KGB officers litigated in Mordovia who would stay with whom. Although in the end they took our opinion into consideration, but still they mixed us to neglect individual choices. In Perm, as we arrived, they immediately changed their tactics and began asking who preferred to stay with whom. Why did I stay with Shumuk? Because the very moment they brought us, before the search they asked everybody who preferred to stay with whom. Therefore, they did change their tactics a bit.
A week later Chepkasov summoned me: Well, how are you doing? Well, everything OK. "We want to move somebody in on you.”—“Well, it depends.”—“He is intelligent, good guy, you come from the same parts." I had no idea whether he put me to the test; if I just said yes, he could shift around. Meanwhile I preferred to stay with Berdnyk! I played with him not to show my hand. I said that I gave preference not to a man but his qualities, if he is a terror or not. When he said, "You come from the same parts; he is a science fiction writer," I asked, "Berdnyk? Well, the writers also are different, but I do not mind, of course. My fellow countryman, writer… let it be." Fifteen minutes later, they brought him. He came in, we made the acquaintance of one another, I said to him, "Oles Pavlovych," and he said to me, "Do not call me Oles Pavlovych.”—“Excuse me, but how can I address you?”—“Mr. Oles or Mr. Berdnyk.”—“I beg your pardon. I’m very pleased, but I know that our people from Eastern Ukraine do not like the word mister or sir. "I am pleased to call you so, and I will call you so."
I was charged with the duty of bringing him up to date, about the daily routine and so on. Firstly, I was on the bottom plank bed, and I gave my place to him: you will sleep here, and I will climb to the upper tier. The cell was so cramped that if one wanted to go, the other one had to sit or lie down. There I had some margarine and candies. He’d been on the road and I shared with him, "Everything in the bedside table is ours, Mr. Oles". Well, I was very glad! We made acquaintance of one another, as it should be. I informed him that if a KGB officer summons you, when you come back, you have to tell what he wanted. Why was it done? Not because we did not trust each other, but simply inform and that’s it: their questions may give away what they wanted. It’s a routine here; I tell it because I will soon be released, and then you should instruct the newcomers about the rules established by inmates.
Vasyl, I tell you what, maybe during a month everything was fine. And then it started: before dinner it was one man… before dinner it was Christ, and in the afternoon it was Satan, honestly. What else? He wrote something and hid from me. I have poor eyesight, and he wrote something, and when I approached, he hid it. I also do not like when somebody peeps at me when I am writing. The more so he was a writer; not many authors write clean copies at once, I understand everything. He might feel uncomfortable and therefore used to hide it. At the same time, he read me his letters he sent home or received from home. For my glasses are not for reading, I cannot see wearing these glasses. He read everything aloud. He told a lot about his wife.
V.O.: Yes, I know her; we are of the same age. Somewhere a year ago I had a long conversation with her. She told me a good story about Berdnyk, but only since 1971, when he came together with Valentyna Sokorynska.
B.R.: At the time, they had a three-year-old daughter. They named her… like a flower… Hromovytsia. And when he started, "Bohdan…" The evening glow was marvelous there, there was a forest. "You see, [inaudible] you come home, open your fridge, and find there a bottle of horilka covered with frost. It was covered with frost, you open it, you also find there sausage, salo, and finally you pour it and starts gurgling. And here your wife near you is lying on the bed or a lass…" I told him, “Mr. Oles, forget it… you cannot imagine such things, because this is terrible! God forbid, your enemy may overhear it… they may play this card knowing that you like such things and forget that gurgling as well. Otherwise, you should not have started it! Before choosing the path of struggle, you should have taken into account that gurgling. Now as far as you’ve come here, there is only one way (he had six years) to serve your time without “gurgling”. Do not remind and put it out of mind, even one that is there! When you will be released you will be able to remember that gurgling. Slowly-slowly, our conversations boiled down to such topics. One day he considered Sakharov a savior, and the next day he was a venal man. I usually backed off because I knew that all writers had funny ideas from time to time.
V.O.: Especially he was a science-fiction writer…
B.R.: I backed off and we never quarreled over it. But the cops knew me better than him, because I began doing my term before him. Berdnyk and Rebryk are similar names for those representatives of ethnic minorities. Once the door opened. And we attached shoestrings to the panels for irons. Across the corridor from the cop shop there was our working cell, and the next door but one there was our living cell. The door opened, "Rebryk, let’s go!" It was in the afternoon. Well, I went, maybe a boss summoned me for conversation, because I was going out in a little more than six months, it might be a sort of sighting conversation.
I entered the office of Chepkasov, a KGB officer. His office was in the shorter side of the building. There was a table, on it a snack and a bottle of cognac, and there sat an unknown man. We knew all those KGB agents. Vasyl, I tell you, when I crossed the threshold and said and even stressed, "Political prisoner Rebryk. At your service, sir.” Then it was forbidden to say "political prisoner", but we stressed it all the same. I looked at the table and thought, “Provocation. Just clean provocation. And a stranger…” This KGB officer rose from the table and said, "I did not summon you! Who brought you here?" I said, "The warrant officer, sir." He got up and followed me into the corridor. I thought, "Thank God." I felt relieved. I went out into the corridor and he said to the warrant officer, "Whom have you brought to me here? Berdnyk!" And they returned me to the cell and took Berdnyk. You imagine, I’ve remembered at once his words about gurgling and the fact that he was hiding something!
Yeah, and hunger strikes… At six in the morning, he writes that he is on hunger strike. At half past seven, they collected vessels that had been handed out; he did not take dishes, because he was on hunger strike, but when the dishes were collected, he wrote that he ended the hunger strike. And he did it day after day. I told him that he discredited himself, that he’d better quit doing this: you either go on hunger strike, or not. In this way, we had a clash of opinions. I even tried to look at it in a different way.
An hour and a half elapsed: not a whisper of him. I cannot make a go of anything. Finally, they bring him in. He entered the cell, sat down and began to knot those shoestrings again. I stood at the window, and he sat at the door; there was a small compartment there. I kept waiting a minute, two, five, ten, but he kept silence. Then I asked, "Mr. Oles, what’s boiling?" And he said, "What do you mean?" Then I took him by the hand and said, "Leave alone those shoestrings. What do I mean? I mean cognac and this, and that.”—“It’s none of your bloody business!”—“None of my business? You are Ukrainian and I am Ukrainian. We stay here for the same cause. My second term is ending and they did allow me to keep even a single candy after a meeting, and the jailers confiscated all food given to my friends. It never happened otherwise. And here they bring you all that stuff… Is it a fee for something?” He buzzed for the jailers who waited in the opposite room. The first door immediately opened, only bars stayed in place, and the captain and two warrant officers twittered as sparrows, "What’s up here?" And he tearfully turned to them, "I am an honest Soviet man, and you shoved me into the cell with a nationalist, Banderivets!" He meant me. "They’ve sold themselves to Americans and I am an honest man!" Yeah, to "Jews and Americans." I approached him and pasted it to him.
V.O.: Well, he was a huge man. How did you dare?
B.R.: I hit him.
V.O.: And the cops gazed at it?
B.R.: They stood at the door, beyond the bars. They listened to this confused babble. But when he said that we were venal creatures… He said that we were nationalists; I considered myself a nationalist, I am and I try to be a nationalist. But I was not going to take shit from anyone. Therefore, when he said that we sold ourselves out, I hit him once. They immediately opened the door and the second door, the barred screen, and took him away. They took him and slammed the door. It happened somewhere at half past four, and at five it was an end of the working day. They led us back to the living cell and I saw an empty plank bed. Where is Berdnyk? Where is Berdnyk?
Then in the fall and in winter there was a heating season. They needed a stoker. I was a professional fireman in Sosnovka. In Kuchino I also was a stoker. They employed a wartime policeman Knapp as a stoker. He was sentenced as a wartime Lviv policeman. He worked in one shift and I worked in another.
V.O.: Did they lead you from your cell to the free access zone?
B.R.: At the time, they used to escort me from the cell, but after I did one third of my term they transferred me to the open-access zone. (If a prisoner does 1/3 of the high security term without violations s/he can be transferred to the open access zone.--V.O.). In the meantime, they led me along the opposite side of the barracks and along the walking yards; they put me into the stokehold and locked the door. There I always met Knapp, who lived in the open access zone. I said, "Listen, Ostap, when they deliver coal (usually they delivered coal for our stokehold at daytime; the day shift stoker transfers that coal with a wheelbarrow, then locks the stokehold and then tends the furnace) which they do at daytime and I work in the second shift; you’re in years and I need exercise; therefore, please, let me transfer coal to the stokehold.” Actually, I needed the door to stay ajar, so I could transfer coal and then maybe meet with someone.
And so they took me there. Shumuk was brought back from the hospital. They put him not into the jail but into the medical unit. There was the doctor’s consulting room next door: there was an isolation ward and a consulting room. However, there was no doctor, and the jailers turned it into a studio for Oles Pavlovych, for Berdnyk. When they led me around the exercise yards into the stokehold, Shumuk one day saw me, began to track me down, when they led me, and cry. I heard Shumuk’s voice, "Bohdan, I am suffocating!" I thought why he suffocated. Shumuk’s voice… how come? But I was intrigued. I told Ostap Knapp, "Always leave me coal, please." Because I wanted to find out. When Knapp was in the stokehold, the cops did not hang over his head, but when I was there they stuck around because they wanted to gain favor with their superiors. They told the sentry on the tower, "Keep alert, if need be, give us a call.” And off they went to play dominoes. There were bathhouse attendants here from former policemen…
V.O.: Did Hryts Kondratiuk work there?
B.R.: Yes, Kondratiuk, a good guy. He was, I think, somewhere from Eastern Ukraine.
V.O.: We come from the same parts; he is from Koziyivka, Korostyshiv Region. To take across the field it is five kilometers from my village.
B.R.: I say so, he was a good guy. From him I learned that Berdnyk worked as an artist here; you see, they took him from my cell and put him in this studio; there were many paints there and Shumuk was suffocating while Berdnyk painted slogans!
Then one day Knapp left coal for me, I played for time waiting for the cop to go, and I reached my goal: the cops told the sentry on the tower to be on alert and not let me go anywhere. I threw up that coal and found my way into the closed zone, I looked about and saw paintings there: there were agitation paintings in the corridor. I asked Danylo through the closed door, and he said, "This beast, Berdnyk, is painting here, I ask him not to use acetone because I am suffocating."
At the time, Ivan Hel was in the open access zone; he and I held it against Berdnyk since the time of Sosnovka. We were not really friends, because he had hit Romaniuk. He saw that I was nearly out of my mind! I crushed all Berdnyk’s paintings, honest to God, tore everything and crushed. I threw away all paints and brushes; I sent them flying through the high security zone. When I had scattered and crushed everything, I started to look around. The open access zone was separated with a barbed wire fence and gate. Then I caught sight of three cops and Berdnyk approaching me from the other side of the barbed wire. I saw Berdnyk and those cops and heaped unprintable words on Berdnyk. He took to flight! Anyway, I couldn’t get over the barbed wire fence. He fled, and those cops remained, "Go to the stokehold!" They opened the door and I quietly went to the stokehold, carried coal inside, because there remained a lot to be done.
I was no longer allowed to bring coal, they informed Knapp about it. After that incident I saw Berdnyk no more and had no idea where he was.
V.O.: They transported him to Kyiv and he stayed there for a long time. He came back with a broad and thick beard. At that very time, Oleksa Tykhyi was punished for his mustache. I saw him once when on Sunday we were led to the bathhouse.
B.R.: Everybody was sure to talk that he was writing something and a film was made. The one where he sits on the bank of Dnipro?
V.O.: KGB officer Chentsov told us that this movie had been released to various movie theaters. Berdnyk had his photo taken. In embroidered shirtsleeves, with bandura near Dnipro. This movie was against dissidents, against Sakharov.
B.R.: I saw this movie later. However, after some time I was transferred to the open access zone.
V.O.: How come? After such pogrom you were transferred to the open access zone? Without any reprisals?
B.R.: Absolutely! I waited at least 15 days. Well, I hit him still in the cell, Chepkasov summoned me, I waited in the morning that the concentration camp commander would and I read a resolution about the cooler. Then there was the captain whatshisname…
B.R.: Dolmatov. He was the chief tight security officer. Not the concentration camp commander, not Zhuravkov. This one would come and read. Vasyl, honest to God, it’s funny, Chepkasov summoned me. "Yes, I hit him in the face… Know why? Well, for what do you pay him? I wouldn’t him for that cognac, or sausage, or apple… I would not hit him, but he told that we were venal creatures! Who bribed me? Why am I a venal creature? I hit him. I do not regret; you may sentence me to 15 days of imprisonment now or whatever, you may try me for beating.” Such was the conversation. But absolutely nothing! Next time I smashed everything, threw away all brushes, spilled paints in the tight security zone and outside it. Nothing came of it, only a month later they transferred me to the open access zone. Probably, they took into account that my term ends… On April 28, 1981, they took me out of the zone. I still spent a little time in the open access zone. Shumuk was discharged from the isolation ward, he stayed a bit, then he was taken to the hospital once again, and I never saw him again. When I was leaving the zone Shumuk had not been there already, he was in the hospital. And I got nothing, I was not even rebuked. I do not know why, it beats me. Nevertheless, it is a fact.
On April 28, 1981, I went out from there. How did I go out? They took me, transported me, on each forwarding station they changed my clothes but I kept my striped clothes on principle. First time they changed my clothes in Perm, then they transported me to Sverdlovsk. I had no idea of the destination. They brought me to Tselinograd jail on the night of 20 May 1981. In the small hours of 20 May they shoved me into a paddy wagon and the duty detail brought me Kurgaldzhyno. It was a regional center in Tselinograd Oblast, about 120 km from Tselinograd towards the steppe an on to Dzhezkazgan. They brought me there. There was a bullpen at the regional militia station. The time was about 3 p.m. A district militia officer came to fetch me to Kembidaik. I know that according to my sentence, my term expires on 23 May and they have to discharge me. They brought me about 3 p.m. on the twentieth, let me out of the truck, gave some gruel to eat and… “Take your things and make your exit."
I came out of that bullpen and there was an open corridor leading outside. I looked and saw many greenery yellow dandelions! They grew near the front of militia station. Open. I put my bag down in the hallway. The cops were sitting there and laughing and I was standing in the hallway. I thought it was probably a provocation, but I moved a bit from my bag toward the exit. Then I didn’t smoke, I quit it in 1975. They checked but never breathed a word. I came out and stood on the stairs in front of the militia station. I left my bag in the hallway. I sat down on the bench where those yellow dandelions grew and nobody uttered a word! Then they came out as well; they were coming and going. I went on and lay down on the grass; it felt so good, you know, like on a carpet. And then I caught sight of the lieutenant, his name was Nurbay, he said that he was my overseer from Kembidayik and that he is paging through my file. "Do you see Zhiguli over there? License no. 46-10, as I remember now, because I had not seen the car earlier. Take the bag and get into the light colored Zhiguli; I’ll be right there. I have to be through with the formalities.” I took my bag and went to the car thinking that they had some bullpen there. However, there was no Nurbay and the car was closed. I stood there for a while. Beer was on sale nearby. I went to the beer stand (I had 500 karbovanetses, but they were hidden still) and decided to buy a glass of beer. I came up and the guys saw me (there were many exiled criminals), they surrounded me because I was in the attire of a repeater, striped clothes… in short, they bought me beer and I drank a couple of glasses. It was warm there.
I saw Nurbay came and hang around the vehicle. Get into the car, we took our seats. Let’s go. It’s a 60-km drive. In the cabin, when we had covered 30 km, I asked him, "Nurbay, what’s in the file? Not a jail?" He said, "What do you mean by jail? There is no jail. There is one bedroom apartment for you in the Finnish house, you will live there.”—“I have not done my term yet!" He said, "How come?!” He stopped the car. He looked into his bag where my file was. I said, "Is it the 20th today?”—“Right.”—“My term expires on the 23rd." He looked inside once more: really. There was also one more document signed by the prosecutor. He said that the prosecutor signed the document; therefore, he would be to blame. He hated to return, brought me to Kimbedayik, and said, "Here you will live." I went to that house: it was not a garden house, but a smithy, everything was dirty there. Well, how can I live here? Cobwebs everywhere. Here lived an exiled criminal. Something terrible: hoofs, rats. Nurbay said that tomorrow he would instruct the warden and they would whitewash the premises and arrange everything; in the meantime, I should live in the dorm for domestic prisoners.
I really lived there, maybe for a week, until they made repairs in the Finnish house: made whitewashing, laid flooring and painted it. It was a fine garden house, though in the center of the village, everything was in sight, and I lived there.
I established good contacts, not knowing that the authorities enjoyed prestige with the Kazakhs in the first place. I had to have good relations with the head of the village council, director of the Soviet farm, with various political supervisors so that they would treat me well. I established contacts with all of them. My situation was saved due to many small packets and parcels I was receiving. I had no idea that the jeans might cost three hundred karbovanetses at large because I could barter it for the three-liter jar of sour cream. Ceylon teas (you know, they used to send me the best brands of tea!) I just handed out to them and it helped me to tame them. The security officers ran over here and tasked Kazakhs and the latter told me everything. They actually helped me. So I was all tight there.
I worked repairing stables, for at this Soviet farm where they fattened up bulls for meat. Then the boiler exploded; there was a washhouse in this village; there worked two men: one exiled criminal and a local German. The German was a director while the criminal was responsible for facility security. Over there solar oil was leaking from oil burner while the power was cut off. He was on duty there. The electricity was switched on, a spark jumped, oil took fire and exploded. It was a women’s day at the washhouse and they say that women were running here and there covering themselves with basins. The old washhouse was ruined and the new one was built with modern super boilers. Now they needed a boiler operator. I had a document certifying that I was high-pressure boiler operator. The Kazakhs did not know a thing or two about machinery for that was a remote village. So this German offered me a job. It was a soft job: everything was automated and all you have to do is to look and control. When Andropov left the KGB and replaced Brezhnev, I immediately began working in the boiler house.
I performed my job thoroughly, but I attempted to go abroad. I received a lot of parcels and letters from all over the world. Swedish, English, German Amnesty International sent me letters, maintained contacts, and I had many formal invitations to visit senders abroad. I made six attempts to leave. At first, they told me that I could not leave until the end of exile, because I had no passport. I finished my term of exile, but I had prepared them earlier that I would always live in Kazakhstan, I did not want to go back to Ukraine, because in Ukraine they would put me behind bars once more; therefore, I wanted to live in Kazakhstan. I told this to all and everybody spreading rumors with the help of black propaganda methods.
I made six attempts to leave for eye treatment in the West with an interval of six months, because if you were refused, you could apply again only after six months. Six times, I got the mitten. The last time was when I wrote to Gorbachev. This was in 1987, perestroika was underway, and even Gorbachev refused. Not he, of course, but a commission. In the meantime, I began dreaming about mushrooms, forest, and I already wanted to go home. I let things rip and went here, to Ivano-Frankivsk.
V.O.: When did you arrive?
B.R.: In July 1987. I volunteered to prolong my exile for three years believing that it would be easier to go from there. No way; and in July 1987 I came here.
Here everything went back to square: are you a repeater? If you don’t register and find work within 21 days, you’re considered a sponger and be run in for over four years in a criminal zone. But, thank God, I managed to register with good people and be employed as a loader. I had good old ties and I worked as a loader. This was in 1988. Here the UGG recovered. I have already forwarded my letters to Stanislav. I had three invitations: Swedish, German and English. These were the invitations to undergo treatment. I took all these three invitations, shuffled them and picked the German invitation. I decided to make a gut check for the Ivano-Frankivsk KGB. Without hope, I submitted my documents for the visit abroad and went home. On December 10, 1988, in Lviv, there was a large rally observing 40 years of the Declaration of Human Rights. I came home on the seventh and in the morning I looked into my mailbox and found a postcard: come to the visa-and-registration department and bring 201-karbovanets. I knew already: 200 for visa and 1 for form.
I realized that they let me go. However, I still went to Lviv, to Lviv I returned two days later, got my passport and on January 22, 1989, I was in Munich.
I arrived in Munich and the state of our diaspora impressed me very much. I imagined that it was much more serious than it actually turned out.
V.O.: Whom did you meet there?
B.R.: I met the whole Bandera center of Slava Stetsko.
V.O.: What about Anna-Halia Horbach in Munich?
B.R.: I visited her apartment! I was in her home, not in Munich but near Frankfurt am Main. Her children and her husband Olexa were decent folks. I haven’t heard from them recently, though. They were the most active helping us, political prisoners…
V.O.: Oleksa has died. And she visited Kyiv a year ago or less. She conducted presentation of the book of her husband Oleksa.
B.R.: He was a great Slavicist.
V.O.: Slavicist, yes. There was the evening in the Writers’ Union. I managed to be photographed with her.
B.R.: I also have her photo somewhere. They played host to me for a week, they invited me. Anna-Halia constantly maintained contact with me. And now, when I was elected to the Verkhovna Rada, I lost everything. You see, I have read a lot of pamphlets against nationalism, which were printed by the KGBists, and for me the ZeppelinStrasse 67, where the anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations is situated, was the crest. I prayed a lot and asked God to let me get there!
And now imagine, on January 22, 1989, 16:00, my liner was landing and a crowd came to meet me. I immediately said that I would return back, so they did not think that I arrived here for good; I came here for medical treatment and to tell you about the situation in the Soviet Union and Ukraine, and I would return because the center for fighting the Bolsheviks was now in Kyiv; the whole world knew it. I was greatly impressed that our people came, but no one celebrated neither Independence Day, nor the Unification Day. No one did not even mention this. I thought let it be. I wanted to visit ABN. On the 23rd they brought me there. I went inside. There was no center there; I met only three bums! Beautiful room. I tell you, Vasyl, when I came out of the car, I read on the wall of the building “Zeppelinstrasse-67" in German and in Ukrainian that it was the headquarters of revolutionary OUN and the headquarters of anti-Bolshevik Bloc; in jail I imagined that there worked representatives of oppressed peoples… I entered the premises and saw the whole bloc--three persons: a Chechen, Romanian and Estonian who had nowhere to rest their head. They said that it was anti-Bolshevik Center. Everything was very primitive, and KGBists at every turn in the anti-Bolshevik center. Mostly KGBists. On the second, on the third positions… I feel them from afar.
V.O.: What do you mean?
B.R.: I started telling Slava about it. Here Mudryk is walking about Kashuba (Kashuba was the head of the Security Service, and Mudryk was an editor from the Vyzvolnyi Shliakh, Stepan Mechnyk, who is tilting Slava now at each step). I told them, "Listen, I’m from Ukraine. It’s unthinkable: you still live in the thirties!”
They turned a deaf ear to me. I heard that Nadiya Svitlychna was an enemy. They said so. Petro Hryhorenko was an agent of the Kremlin, Leonid Pliushch was an agent of the Kremlin. Were they nuts? I spoke to them kindly trying to persuade them. It was no-go; they announced me an agent because I was the first to get there and I intended to return. Moreover, the people reached out for me. I will show you, I’ve got it all photographed. The people asked me, whether it was worthwhile going to Ukraine. I say that they should go. Well, if you were fighting there and you know that you could be arrested, you’d better stay here. But if you conducted yourself normally and no one can accuse you, you can go and send your children. And people began to complain: my daughter went to Ukraine, but they (Slava’s people, OUN-B) proclaimed her an agent. Why do they do it? Because they allegedly spend high money helping Ukraine, but in fact, no marks reach Ukraine and all sums they transfer to the KGB Kremlin safes and to Lubyanka. That is why they are afraid that the one who had come from Ukraine would tell that nobody receives any aid; they immediately proclaimed him or her an agent. Similarly, they declared me an enemy, because I’m telling not what they need. They say a revolution is needed and I say that they must return to Ukraine. By the way, they sent this background on me to Ukraine as well. No sooner I got home—I returned in June 1989--and there were already rumors that Rebryk stayed there and made such terrible anti-Ukrainian statements that their hair stood on end. They did and are doing their best to damage my reputation. Only because I know who they are.
They attempted to recruit me in Brussels, there is one such Omelian Koval. They promised oodles of money and hoped that I would swallow a gudgeon. I was not hooked. I told them that there were such ones in Stanislav in 1967 who aspired to recruit me. That was an enemy, and you are great patriots, revolutionaries; do you think I’ll go for that? I rejected it. I broke away from them, because they detained me for three days, I was actually arrested by them for three days without even knowing that I was arrested. They kept me within doors. I tore the door from its hinges and walked around Brussels neither knowing the language nor having money. I had three hundred German marks in my pocket and I went away. They overtook me and began to apologize: forgive us, this and that, let us be reconciled with you. I stepped back, and they again inflicted me another blow, but now they pay for it themselves, because justice is justice and no one can get away from that.
I missed another point, 1990. I returned in 1989. The UHU initiated a number of rallies. My life was devoted to this: destabilize the system as much as you can. Kyiv, Lviv, and we came together and created the UHU. In Ivano-Frankivsk, this process triggered creation of the Ukrainian language Society and the RUKH; all of sprouted from us, from Ivano-Frankivsk branch of the UHU. In 1990, the Verkhovna Rada elections took place. And Oblast Rada as well. I won both the former and the latter. Then we managed to do a lot, but unfortunately, after the Declaration of Independence the People’s Rada got its lumps, especially people here were hit. The KGBists waged a blow and with the help of our people discredited us frittering away our strength, and people submitted to their influence. In 1994, the Verkhovna Rada was dissolved prematurely. I actually was out of work, until Tkach, Chairman of Tysmenytsia Regional Administration, employed me.
Karby Hir Magazine
V.O.: We continue our conversation on February 11 at the premises of the Republican Christian Party in Ivano-Frankivsk, Nezalezhnosti Street, 65.
Mr. Bohdan, you’ve really missed some very important episodes. In particular, I would like you to tell us about your work in "Karby Hir", for one. You’ve also held back some of your adventures at the halting places for transported convicts and in the concentration camps. In particular, about the much talked-about bit-off finger of the major.
B.R.: "Karby Hir"… it’s about the time when I returned from exile in 1987. As expected, a part of my old friends with whom I maintained contacts walked away on me as I knew that they had testified in court in 1975; however, the most part remained. Everything went on smoothly, mainly in the field of education: we gathered, talked, sang, and discussed current events. At the time Chornovil b Ukrayinskyi Visnyk Magazine. I suggested reprinting it here. By the way, Chornovil told me to send a copy to Stanislav. I…t happened that Dmytro Hrynkiv arrived at our meeting in Stanislav…
V.O.: It was a meeting of the Helsinki Union, or wasn’t it?
B.R.: At that time, it wasn’t a union, but a group; but we had been meeting together already and discussed the ways to unite; Lukyanenko was about to return, Chornovil in Lviv was working to bring people together. We clustered together here, conversed with one another, and Hrynkiv proposed to resume the publication of Karby Hir Magazine. At some time in the past they were giving out this magazine in Kolomyya, Karby Hir, and he suggested me to join. Of course, I jumped at the offer, and we began publishing it. It looked like the Ukrayinskyi Visnyk Magazine: a typewritten text. Hrynkiv was the chief editor, I was the executive secretary. We also employed one such Kachur from Kovalivka, Kolomyya Region; by the way, he still lives there. He worked a mining overman. There was also another editor: Taras Melnychuk, a poet. However, I did not work long, because in 1989 I went to the West and traveled about Europe seven months.
V.O.: In what month did you go?
B.R.: On January 22, 1989, my liner landed in Munich. It is a special day. By the way, you may remember that the political prisoners in the concentration camp observed the day of January 22 all other national and political dates. We marked the days of Shevchenko, Franko. January 22 we celebrated as a holy day. I kept dreaming and reading… What did we know here about the diaspora? We hunted for information in KGB-promoted brochures: betrayal, trident, Star of David. The KGBists published them under pseudonyms. But we understood everything. Oh, what’s the use of talking! You know very well how we were looking for names in the waste paper: if the KGBists criticize this or that person or organization, it means that it is ours. I learned so much from the KGB information brochures, including about the anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations; I thought to myself that if it was the anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations, it had to unite the representatives of not all but people enslaved by the Bolsheviks in the first place, including Eastern Europe, and this very organization was called anti-Bolshevik. Our person, Mrs. Slava Stetsko, headed it and this was very serious.
On January 22, 1989 at 4 p.m. my plane landed in Munich, many journalists from around the world welcomed me. There was Kuznetsov, who was my cellmate for five years; he headed the Russian "Svoboda" in Munich. He knew about my arrival, because I went under advice of Sakharov from Moscow, I got my ticket there, and the Muscovites saw me off. He knew a few days in advance that I would depart on January 22 and invited journalists to the airport. The whole world was informed that I got there only to treat my eyes, talk about the situation in Ukraine, learn what was boiling in the West, and then I had to come back because at that time the center of the fight against the Bolsheviks was in Kyiv. Therefore, I said in my widely spread interview that I would come back. On 22 January, as I imagined, I was going to the very nest of Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism. I was glad it happened on 22 January.
One, two hours elapsed, the whole evening slipped by but nobody as much as mentioned the event. I, of course, in my turn, thought, they simply do not attach importance to such an event and I wouldn’t make waves, because every day counted. I only asked to take me the next day to the anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations on Zeppelinstrasse in Munich.
On the 23rd I got there. Ivan Lemyk drove me; at that time, he was one of the leaders of the revolutionary OUN. Later he became rector of the Free University, but then he brought me there. There were Ms. Slava, Mudryk, Kashuba, and Kashuba headed the security service. I nearly worshipped these people at the top. I was dumbfounded by the fact that they did not celebrate this holiday. Secondly, the anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations consisted of three down-and-outs. Who they were? A Romanian man, one Chechen and an Estonian woman. They were simply persons with no fixed abode. They picked them up and created this bloc. They represented absolutely nothing. And this was all anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations! I placed my hopes on this anti-Bolshevik Bloc; I aspired they could help us and we would now work together, especially as now we were free to go and freely return to Ukraine. But it all turned out soap bubbles.
When I went to the West, I had filmed copies of our Karby Hir Magazine. I took these films with me abroad, gave them and to this day I have no idea where they are. I do not know where they have gone. In all sincerity, I gave them to Lemyk and to this day I do not know where they are. True, there was a poet whatshisname; in the early nineties, he headed Radio Freedom… Kupchynskyi, Roman Kupchynskyi, who was E-in-C of Suchasnist Magazine. By the end of my stay in the West, when I started to make inquiries not knowing of that emigration kitchen… He came up to me, because in Suchasnist they published my articles, and I told him: "I’ve brought the films and handed them to so-and-so…”. Roman found them, according to him, they made copies; but he concluded that they had no value now. He brought them to their archive. Well, I could exhale that they are in the safe place, because Hrynkiv, Kachur, and editors of the Karby Hir could think that everything went haywire. Really, there was nothing special in it, but at that time it contained political and journalistic articles, my poetry, open national-patriotic articles, you might say, revolutionary… It was at the time of the KGB and Soviet regime.
When I returned from the West, the Karby Hir suspended publication; it was already the end of 1989, when we started the nationwide rallies, created UHU, and somehow these Karby Hir receded into the background.
V.O.: The Samvydav was played out; one could publish everything legally.
B.R.: One could publish everything legally and our magazine was played out. If you call the Ukrayinskyi Visnyk a magazine then it is also a magazine. It was a typewritten magazine; we tried to do our best, of course. The magazine united guys. I remember Hrynkiv; the whole editorial office was in Hrynkiv’s apartment in Kolomyya, we conducted meetings there, discussed materials to be okayed for printing or turned down. By the way, I published my article in this magazine… We visited the university today, Lysiuk is a department head, and there was Liuba Kilinichenko. You will read it; I was sentenced for keeping the long poem "Den" by Hryhoriy Chubai, father of Taras Chubai. In the manuscript. His son’s name was Taras and his name was Hryhoriy Chubai. We observed New Year’s Day in Stanislav, I think in 1972, and he was here with his friends, and the Radio Freedom was broadcasting the poem "Den", it was a very serious poem. He gave me part of it, not all, for it was a long poem. I put it into a book and thought away. When the KGBists came to conduct a search, when I was arrested, they leafed the whole book and they found it. I was arrested and they gave this poem to Department Head or Dean of the Faculty of Philology Liuba Kilinichenko for review; she’s been dead for some time now. I want to tell about my article published in the Karby Hir, it was very serious.
She reviewed it for the KGB underlying that it is a very nationalistic poem and anti-Soviet. HAVING returned from prison, I worked as a loader at a depot; walking by the newspaper kiosk I found Ukrayina Magazine. This was in 1988. This issue was stylized in national spirit. I leafed it and came across the long poem "Den". I thought it was an edited version. I brought it home and looked into it: no, it was an unedited version as I knew it. I knew it almost by heart. Then I immediately contacted Hrynkiv and decided to go and interview her, Dean Liuba Kilinichenko. He said, "It will be great."
We arranged to meet and I came to her at the university: the same place where we’ve been today. I did not know her by sight; I knew only the filed review, which incriminated me. I met her and introduced myself as a member of the Karby Hir Magazine, I told her that this magazine was unofficial, we publish it. Before that I gave her Ukrayina Magazine and suggested to read the long poem and express her opinion as Ukrainian philologist. She read it and said: "Passably. A normal long poem.”—“Do you see here anything hostile to the Soviet state?”—“No, I do not." And this was in 1988. I taped it all and proceeded to tell her why I was so insistent. I said: "I represent the editorial office of Karby Hir; a man came to our office, brought this issue and said that it was for the poem that he got seven years of prison term. She said, “Do you say so?” I said, “Here is his statement that you reviewed it and concluded that it was an anti-Soviet nationalist poem. That is why I came to you with this poem because I have a statement of that person who served seven years for this. Therefore, I want to ask you.” And she said," Well, maybe I did review it… You know that it was the time of… They also demanded to review the works of Pavlychko and others. Those were the KGB men. I do not remember this poem, and yes I might review it. I would like to meet this man.” I told her that I was this man: Rebryk Bohdan Vasyliovych. She remembered and suddenly she had a grave heart attack. I was afraid that the woman might die. I calmed her, brought some water, and called a doctor. She came to her senses and I agreed with her that I would write about all this, I would transcribe it from the tape recorder, and I was going to make it public. She said, "Okay, but I would like to see the text of your article.”
I promised her and did so. In a week I wrote that article, came to the University but missed her$ she was on the sick list or so they told me. I did not go there for the second time. We published this article in the Karby Hir; it was a major publication. When I came back from the West, I heard that they reprinted it there. When there was the World Congress of Ukrainians, some guests mentioned it.
This is only one episode. There was a lot of other incidents. Well, I participated in publication of four issues, maybe.
V.O.: Did this review contain passages included into the guilty verdict?
B.R.: Of course, the verdict contains some such. Yes, both the indictment and verdict.
V.O.: Do they quote it?
B.R.: Yes, they do. Karpenko headed the Oblast Organization of the Writers’ Union; he lives in Kyiv now. He was the second reviewer and the first one was Liuba Kilinichenko. On this basis they tried me. The verdict mentions the Internationalism or Russification? by Ivan Dziuba, long poem Den by Hryhoriy Chubai. Then the books: Ukraine-Moscow: the treaties and so on. In the verdict everything falls into place. The main points were as follows: conducted enemy agitation, distributed Internationalism or Russification? by Ivan Dziuba, long poem Den. It’s like making a long story short. Maybe, I’ve omitted something, then ask me, please.
We talked about the Karby Hir" And then rallies followed. We set up the UHU.
Ukrainian Helsinki Union
V.O.: When did you create the UHU?
B.R.: At the time I was in the West. They did it in my absence. I went before Lukyanenko had to return from exile.
V.O.: In January 1989, he came from Siberia.
B.R.: Right. We contacted by phone. I visited Chornovil about dozen times. He phoned here not once. It was about the creation of the Union. He somehow played for time until I decided to go abroad. He said, "Lukyanenko will come any time now and we will set up it, we will have known already whether it will be a free admittance.” That is there were organizational issues. Then I went about technicalities of my departure. I obtained a permission. Only then the rallies started in Lviv. I attended the biggest one, which took place on December 10, 1988 on the 40th Anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights. And before that in September the famous Ivan Makar in Lviv…
V.O.: He was arrested on August 4; he stayed behind bars up to 9 November, 1988.
B.R.: Right, in 1988. So, I participated in some of these rallies. I went to Lviv to be there on December 10. Chornovil called me because it was an important meeting in the observance of the 40th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the evening of the 9th I went to pick up the newspaper from my mailbox and found there a postcard. It read: come to the Visa and Registration Office and bring 201 karbovanetses. And nothing more. I had already known that I had to pay 200 for the visa and one Karbovanets for passport form. People in the know told me about these payments. I went to Lviv knowing that I was leaving. I stepped aside a little getting ready to leave. And before that I told the guys, including Chornovil, that I had applied for the membership in the UHU. Everywhere in the West they treated me as a member of the UHU. Petro Marusyk was elected as the head of the oblast branch, and I was elected his deputy in absentia. I returned late in June 1989. It all has to do with the Karby Hir. After my arrival from the West, we did not return to the question of Karby Hir. They soft-pedalled the closure of the magazine. We quitted it, because at the time it was already possible to publish, write, and speak freely anything you like. The people supported us, mass rallies took place and the spiritual exaltation prevailed. It was time for practical work. While when we decided to publish Karby Hir, there was a need to agitate community.
V.O.: How did they manage to spin you and make a deputy in 1990? In March elections, right?
B.R.: Yes, on 4 March. I do not want to brag, but here in Ivano-Frankivsk, even after my first arrest everything spun around me. I was at the heart of anti-Bolshevik resistance. And even more so after the second imprisonment. It happened at Nadiya Stasiv’s apartment (Nadiya Stasiv was the second wife of L. Lukyanenko.--V.O.). She had a manor. There we met. The UHU had its headquarters there. They used the same manor to set up the oblast organization of People’s Movement of Ukraine, because they had no organization. Mykola Yakovyna came to us, the future head of the oblast rada, journalist Hladysh, who worked for the oblast newspaper here. They came and asked for assistance to elect Yakovyna the Head of the Oblast People’s Movement. I carried authority here. The world radio stations broadcasted my interviews given in the West in all languages: Ukrainian, Russian, and Polish. All radios. The Western newspapers featured materials about me. They broadcasted various coverages and interviews with me. Therefore, the people knew me.
I actually gave up my district to Lukyanenko. I had to stand for election in Lviv. On the day of reburial of Stus, Lytvyn and Tykhyi in November 1989, he came up to me. He lived in Sedniv in Chernihiv Oblast. Once the funeral was over, he came up to me and said, "Bohdan, the election campaign is about to start. I want to be nominated. I have no chances to win in Chernihiv.” And I told him, "Levko, what’s all the palaver about? Come to Stanislav and we’ll settle it here. We will find you a district and a constituency." I was a member of the Rada of the National Organization of People’s Movement. The UHU was active there and I was a deputy head; all the resistance around Ivano-Frankivsk was based on UHU members. I knew that the Rada of Rukh would listen to me. In the meantime, the Rada of Rukh that I would run for Stanislav. There were two constituencies: Chuchuk and I. In the winning constituencies they nominated four candidates per each, but a week before the elections, three nominees had to withdraw in our favor, because they, too, were Rukh members. Such was the decision of the Krai Rada of Rukh. I told Lukyanenko, «Come as soon as possible, and we will settle it." He came and we decided that he would run for the town, because he was better known there: people listened to the radio, read newspapers and more. I ran for Tysmenytsia, because people in villages around Stanislav knew me. I myself came from this Tysmenytsia Region. They knew me, and for me it was all the same. Lukyanenko with Chuchuk ran for the city. I did not hope that he would win. I had no illusions. My goal was to travel freely about the oblast and it was better than beat about Stanislav.
V.O.: Did you deliver many speeches?
B.R.: Quite a lot. It so happened that among 450 members I had the highest percentage. 87%.
V.O.: Did you win in the first ballot?
B.R.: In the first ballot. I did it wham-bam.
B.R.: Yes. In the first ballot. Wham-bam. I enjoyed great authority. Just imagine: financial position. I went bandwagonning. I had three karbovanetses in my pocket. People gave me a lift in their cars. Mykola Protsiv, the same Bilichak whose sister we’ve met, he got others involved in it. People voluntarily offered assistance. I traveled alone. The car was decorated with our symbols. My guys carried flags. Andrukhiv obtained the same number of votes as I, he’s an archivist here. When he lost, he became the secretary of the Tysmenytsia Regional Party Committee.
V.O.: Of what party?
B.R.: The Communist Party. He was a Rukh member. Until recently, Vivcharenko was the Dean of the Law Faculty. He also ran from the Rukh. And only Zvarych, CEO of Fur Company, ran from the CPSU. In fact, Zvarych worked for me, though he ran for the Communist Party. Toward the end of his speeches he used to say, "I’ve told you everything, and you vote for Rebryk." These were the words of the Communist! Andrukhiv and Vivcharenko who had to withdraw in my favor, filed a lawsuit to remove me from the electoral register for the use of nationalistic symbols. That was that. Therefore, I won on the first ballot and found myself in the Verkhovna Rada. Levko also won on the first ballot with majority of votes. Both of us became deputies of the Verkhovna Rada. I was not only in the Verkhovna Rada; I also ran for the oblast rada in the city constituency and became a deputy of the oblast rada.
No wonder: people were on the upbeat, great revival, many rallies. I delivered speeches in all regions. Basically, I was the top speaker. I do not want to brag. I was present at all sanctifications of the graves of Sich Riflemen and UIA in the villages; they drove me over the country: Rebryk, Rebryk, Rebryk. No wonder, the people knew me. But like in the case of Jesus Christ, they looked, watched him working miracles, pretended to listen, and then said, "Crucify Him!" And they crucified Him. In 1994, it so happened that the people who had made a fuss of me rode roughshod over me.
V.O.: And were you again nominated in the same district, right?
B.R.: Yes, in this same district. What did surprise me? I was a member of the URP Rada, Yevhen Proniuk also a member of the URP Rada, Levko Lukyanenko was in Canada at the time, they sent for him. By the way, I was the only one who told him, "Do not go to Canada, Levko!" Why? I did not tell him that he was ineffective administrator, but I knew him in the concentration camp. In the camp, he was always surrounded by people not worth beans. He was very trusting person, and the same Vasyl Fedorenko, whom you may remember, said that Levko made him to set himself on fire. Those who do not know Lukyanenko might believe, but those who know him do understand that he cannot force a man to set himself on fire. But the KGBists sent him riffraff. I know Fedorenko very well: he begins to beat his breast and says that he is from Chernihiv and loves Ukraine and Levko gives the shirt off his back. He is a patriot ready to give away everything he has. And now he went to the Verkhovna Rada; after the declaration of independence Kravchuk offered him to become our Ambassador to Canada. I knew what embassy meant: even a cleaner there was a secret agent working for the KGB. I mean the cleaner who works at the Ukrainian Embassy, especially in a country like Canada. If Levko goes there, they will damage his reputation. How can I tell him that is an unfit administrator? He was already the URP Chairman. I said, "Do not Go, Levko; I invited you to Stanislav, you represent us as a deputy; sit here, show your mustache and our people will be happy." He did not listen to me. Going to Canada, he made a farewell evening, invited all the deputies, but me.
Then there were elections in 1994. In my constituency—I was still Tysmenytsia deputy—they told me "Proniuk was driving about your electoral district!" With who, I wondered. And there was one such Ihnatiuk, Head of the Regional URP Organization, which, incidentally, proved to be a thief, was his driver. By the way, Vasyl Striltsiv came and questioned closely about Proniuk.
V.O.: Did Striltsiv support Proniuk?
B.R.: Yes, for the latter was the Head of the Ukrainian Society of Political Prisoners and Victims of Repression and the former headed the oblast organization. Vasyl, Sir, I would have had nothing against it, I told Lukyanenko about it. At the time, I rebelled, he had been already heading the constituency organization “Ukrayina” on the premises of Central Rada on Volodymyrska Street as you may remember? By then he had returned from Canada from that embassy. I saw that they brought Proniuk. I went to Lukyanenko in that Teachers’ House. He was sitting there in his sheepskin coat. I sat down alongside him, as I’m sitting alongside you now, and said, "Levko, what’s boiling? You’ve sent Proniuk to my constituency; I am a member of the URP and member of Rada, like Proniuk. I understand that there are wise people and stupid, academics and nongraduates, but I would like to be notified, because we are in the same party. You tell me, “Bohdan, for the benefit of Ukraine or our party Proniuk should become the deputy from Tysmenytsia. I still may render help, but why you do it behind my back?” And put his hands on the table and said, "Bohdan, you are from Tysmenytsia? How could I forget that we had sent you there! It cannot be so, I will sort it out in a week." These were the words of Lukyanenko and I thought that it might be a mistake indeed. He said, "I forgot it because of Canada."
About two weeks elapsed. In our theater, a meeting with Levko had to take place. And from the platform Levko agitating for Proniuk as if I did not exist. I was expelled from the URP for I allegedly failed to subordinate and fulfill the resolution passed by the URP specifying that party members should make way for each other… there was such resolution. Here Ostapyak as head of the oblast organization took a decision to exclude me from the URP.
MORE ON DIASPORA
You see, I began to tell you that I was exasperated by the state of affairs in emigration. I saw that in the OUN-R headed by Ms. Slava, at least one third were secret agents; they’re even functionaries there and like to boss around. I started to express my indignation and to tell them about it and I reached the point when they began treating me as an enemy and informed people here that Rebryk made wrongful accusations against them. At the time, they rumored about Hryhorenko, Nadiya Svitlychna and Leonid Pliushch, whom I consider saints and who had gone to the West before me, as traitors and enemies. I could not pass in silence and I spoke in their defense and was included in the same list.
V.O.: Mykola Rudenko was also on the list…
B.R.: Right, Rudenko was on the list. Hardly have I returned home (I spent there six months or a little more) as they used their KGB channels to pass information that Rebryk was old so-and-so. Moreover, when I went to Brussels… Why did I go to Brussels? I decided to meet those Yaroslav Dobosh by all means, because I remembered all those events in 1972. I sought to get access to him through our people in diaspora. When I saw the situation with the anti-Bolshevik block there, I intuitively felt that Dobosh was a kind of bait, overt provocation. And our people confirmed me this guess of mine. They tell me that Yaroslav Dobosh went mad when he realized, how many people in Ukraine were subjected to repression because of him. He contributed. He was a decent man, as diaspora newspapers maintained; he simply became the sport of fortune in the hands of the KGB. I also read the same in the diaspora newspapers, how much the revolutionary OUN paid to its former political prisoners from OUN, how much money the organization alloted, and that the party members received less than nothing. We pooled our money for Mykhailo Zelenchuk here in Ivano-Frankivsk, Tudor Street, we donated any sum possible, even one Karbovanets, fifty kopecks… none of the OUN-P members gave money. And they boasted about thousands there.
According to them I took up an unwanted position. They advanced a slogan that in Ukraine there were three million communists and all of them should be shot and killed. The Komsomol members should be sent to corrective labor camps. I tried to explain that those three million were that bad, all of them; I advised to go and ask people about the situation there. For example, there were people who needed a party-membership card to go to the higher educational establishment, some of them had disabled children, some one needed to have some profession, some of them were afraid, some of them needed to operate under cover; every why has a wherefore.
In short, I fell out of favor, so to speak, and they then decided to recruit me. I arrived in Brussels. Why Brussels? Because Dobosh was in Brussels. They nosed out that I was looking for a meeting with Dobosh and came to Brussels airport. The Amnesty International representatives invited me. One such Omelian Koval came to airport; he was one of those dumb nationalists. He dissuaded me from going to the hotel and invited me to their Ukrainian House. I was certainly invited by a Ukrainian compatriot. Koval with his family lived there in the spacious three-story house. For three days they did not let me out. I had no idea that I was shut out, actually I was arrested.
V.O.: What do you mean by arrested?
B.R.: Indeed, it was an arrest! Vasyl, I’m telling you, I’m writing about all this. When I started to demand from them that, look, I came here to meet people… In reply to my words they gave me their ideological circulars; I was out of my wits with worry, It was not appropriate for me to become indignant, because I was their guest. But on the third day I started to say that I did not come there to read their instructions, but I wanted to meet people and tell them about the situation in Ukraine, in the Union, and what had to be done because I would return to Ukraine soon. I wanted to forward my view. I did not know who was Banderivets and who was Melnykivets there, I did not know a thing, it all turned out later. I say that I wanted to meet Dobosh and to talk with him. As I said, they began to recruit me: you should not tell him what you want, but what we instruct you to tell; we want you to join our organization, that is why we gave you all those circulars on the table to read and understand what to say.
V.O.: Who was this Koval?
B.R.: The revolutionary Banderivets. The great revolutionary. The Banderivetses are different, their thoughts are in a muddle, but this one is Slava’s person. When he started recruiting me and promising wonders--word of honor--I told them, "Mr. Koval, in 1967 or even in 1965, there were such wise guys in Ivano-Frankivsk, who induced me to write, and they would set me free and make the like of them. I understood that they stuck to their knitting. But I have come to you, to the revolutionaries and you begin to recruit me? I’ve just come from Ukraine, I know what’s boiling there, it’s my life and I, so to speak, keep abreast and you deem it wise to recruit me? Who are you?”
With DM300 in my pocket, not knowing the language and realizing that I was under lock and key, I smashed down the door and walked around Brussels up hill and down dale. They ran me down. I covered no more than a kilometer. There were three of them together with Koval, "Mr. Rebryk, let’s sit down." We sat down there at some stop, they began to apologize, we treated you badly, we are bad guys. In short, they moved back and asked for pardon. They moved back in words, but in fact, they only changed their tactics. No sooner I came back, as they informed people here through their channels… There were such people as Anatoliy Kaminskyi, Roman Kupchynskyi, Anna Boychuk and others who offered me a job at the radio "Freedom". Twice a week I was on the air in all programs of the radio «Freedom» unpaid. I refused, because I could not work there, I felt ill at ease there. I came back here, because it was my firm belief that the anti-Bolshevik center was now in Ukraine, and I could not maintain aloofness. My life is here and I’ll stay here. They treated me as an agent, who had come to make trouble in the diaspora and return back.
They handed me over to the British and the British Intelligence Service arrested me. And that, see. Before Brussels, I spent about two months in Stuttgart where I met Germans at the Polytechnic Institute. At the time Gorbachev and Yakovlev were on a visit to Germany. After my lecture—like after your lecture here at the university today—a German woman came up to me and started talking to me in Ukrainian. Melita is her name. She was born in Ukraine, grew up in Ukraine and then they were exiled to Russia. She is from Nikopol, but in 1973 moved with her parents to Germany. She said that her husband was a businessperson and he went to meet Yakovlev. He was one of the first who had the "Swabian House" in Sheremetyevo and a restaurant. So far, he has one restaurant in Leningrad and one in Sheremetyevo. How do I know? He delivered for me computers and reprographic facilities, her husband’s name was Hans. When Melita told me that her husband had gone to meet the scheduled appointment, I asked why and she told me about these restaurants. It was in 1989, those cooperatives began to appear, while Moscow flirted with the West. I made friends with Melita and in the evening Hans came. I asked if he could deliver copiers for me. At the time, it was impossible to transport even PC s, as far as they were listed as printers. And Melita said that he would do it for me, for he would transport his pots, kitchen computers, refrigerators and so on with his vans. He would carry this as well. And Hans agreed. But I did not know then what awaited me in Brussels. He said that in two months he would go to Moscow with the load of the pots and kitchen computers.
In Brussels, I was in the house where the Banderivetses tried to recruit me. Those two months were approaching. I decided to call Hans whether our agreement was still valid. And I asked Melita not to tell anybody about it, because the KGB men were teeming everywhere and they might spoil our agreement. I worried about their business plan, because if they found that he was carrying the off-the-book load they might stop him for good. I called her on Friday and she told me to come. In Brussels, it was a 4 a.m. flight, at six it was due in Munich, Hans and she would meet me in the Stuttgart airport, which was 280 kilometers from Munich. And we would do everything as it should be.
I told you about the Germans in order to finish my story about our great revolutionaries. When they quitted recruiting me, I came back and decided to return to my people and let those recruiters go. I held several meetings with Belgians in Brussels; in the morning, they escorted me to the airport; I had a ticket to Munich. They accompanied me to my plane. They led me to passport control, of course. I boarded the plane and went to Munich. The plane arrived in Munich at 6 a.m. They accompanying persons in Brussels called the Security Service in Munich and informed them about my flight. On the eve of my arrival, the guys in Munich got drunk and at 6 a.m., they were past repair and failed to meet me at the airport. They thought I had nowhere to go and they would deal with me later. In the meantime, I didn’t go to Munich because at 6 a.m. sharp Melita and Hans met me and right from the boarding ramp we went to Stuttgart. In Stuttgart, we loaded appliances into Hans’s vans and he via Melita told me (he spoke neither Russian, nor Ukrainian): "You shouldn’t go now. It is Saturday afternoon already, tomorrow will be Sunday, I’ll show you my wine cellars, I’ll show you my enterprise, and you will take a rest." This was in Stuttgart; Göppingen is a town in the Stuttgart Region, like our Kolomyya. He had branch establishments in Göppingen, he was a major businessperson. And I stayed.
It was on Saturday, we had a rest. The same was on Sunday; on Monday morning, I called my landlady in Munich. By the way, she mastered Ukrainian. Geltrud Schmidt, such a kind of woman. She took care of me on the part of German section of Amnesty International when I was doing my term. I called her on Monday, and she was in tears, "Bohdan, where are you?”—“I am in Stuttgart.”—“They told you are in Moscow already." I did not feel like explaining who might say so, though for me it was immediately obvious.
I took a train and went to Munich. They blazed a rumor… Those blockheads got me on the plane to Munich and I failed to appear in Munich and these guys concluded that I was a super spy: the Brussels airport administration helped me to change planes to Moscow, and I pushed forward to Moscow. They told such cock-and-bull stories.
I arrived, they met me on Monday, different conversations followed, and I had no choice but to confirm that yes, I had returned from Moscow. I flew to Moscow, delivered necessary information, and I’d just come from there.
MORE ABOUT ELECTIONS
In this situation I found myself both there, and here. They relayed this info here. I arrived here and at once heard echoes of that situation or their political climate. Their OUN-revolutionaries up to 1993 did not recognize our independence; they aggravated the situation telling that we were traitors, that we went to the Parliament, that the Bolsheviks would swallow us. They did everything to discredit us.
V.O.: They called Rukh and URP the Bolshevik provocation.
B.R.: Right, they called it a provocation. Here, in Stanislav, I drew the most intensive fire on myself. For example, I asked to support Kravchuk, because he was elected president. I asked them: support him, because our people voted for him and we should take into consideration their choice. If he slobbers, we will set him right, we will cry, we will re-elect him… But you cannot say that Ukraine is a colony again. So, I sold myself to Kravchuk, and it became a great cry and little wool. And when for the year 1994 they brought Proniuchko, all this scum of the earth who later created KUN… I know them very well: there is a part of normal, our people, patriots, who truly want to serve the cause, but the whole leadership is very provocative. They hyped up Proniuchko as the head of the Association of Repressed, at the same time they threw mud at me, because they considered me a paltry individual. In fact, they expelled me from the URP. But I stood for election from my constituency, I had no illusions and I told my people so. Now, wherever I go, the people say that I was right; they recognized their fault. I said that I had no illusions, I would not win, but I told them that they were doing wrong. In that situation, I made everything plain, so to speak. Of course, I suffered an electoral catastrophe, winning a handful of votes. I took a back seat though once in the past I was at the top of the list. In fact, they unsettled me: I was a jobless outcast. I felt myself abandoned and the KUN leaders said, "We will drive Rebryk into jumping from the ninth floor."
B.R.: Honestly. Indeed, they created me a terrible atmosphere. From my people, I can bear anything, even if they lie, it did not hurt, I’m ready for it. The abominable thing was that they made it possible for Bolsheviks to laugh at me. Today most Bolsheviks have come back to the oblast and city administration, the ones I fired in the nineties. The removal of Lenin and elimination of monuments were my doings in the oblast and elsewhere. And the very fact that our patriotic organizations treated me in such a way made it possible for Bolshevik to laugh at me: Well, how are you, where are you?
Actually, for two years I stayed out of work. Then Tkach, Chairman of Tysmenytsia administration, when they saw what Proniuk was in reality and how they made a fluff, offered me to become an advisor. So, Vasyl, they threw me in at the deep end.
V.O.: When did you retire?
B.R.: In July 1998.
V.O.: To whom are you advisor now?
B.R.: I advise Vyshyvaniuk, Head of the Oblast Administration, about political issues.
V.O.: I remember how you returned to the party, but this time it was the Republican Christian Party. We were also expelled from the URP, and the RCP organizing committee was set up, did you support it?
B.R.: Yes, of course I did support. I was very worried because I never played the hypocrite. I knew that the URP comprised the most serious and patriotic intellectual national forces. I had no doubt regarding this; my heart ached because nobody interceded for me. When I was expelled from the URP, the former political prisoners had to stand up for me in the first place. They were to do it, even if I wasn’t sinless. But nobody took the part of me, and it was painful for me. Without policy I could not live, because it was the purpose of my life. They proposed me to join the NDP, I went there, and I was the deputy head of the oblast organization of the NDP. But when you were also expelled from the URP, I realized who was behind it; all of it was performed by Hanna Muzyka or Slava Stetsko; it was her agential work. I was very agitated and I left the NDP; the NDP would not get up and go away and I went to the RCP, I followed you, because it was my inner conviction; it is a deplorable business with all that scum, though they are politically literate and are statists. They accumulated all that scum and I had to follow you and forget about what happened. I mean the RCP, because there I saw our kind; the more so they renamed it. I have nowhere to discuss it, but I know that the same Horyn and others were well aware of what had happened. So, I went to the RCP and I think I did well, and did not regret.
MAJOR WITHOUT A FINGER
V.O.: Well, it is good we’ve brought your story up to now. But I would like to return to some past episodes, when you were imprisoned. I know, and the information I’ve obtained reads that during transportation under guard they brought severe pressure to bear on you. What was their motive behind it? What was the story about the small crucifix at the halting place? I’d like you to tell the story.
B.R.: As far as you know, because you also spent many days behind barbed wire, Moscow did its best to deny the very existence of political prisoners. When we broke through that wall, the whole world began publishing articles about us and our works as well, even the works of Stus written on flimsy, as you showed; however, Moscow did its best to expose the ways of trafficking illegal information. They were all the more disgusted that there was a leakage from the special security zone; the KGBists called Sosnovka a cruiser, because we like sailors wore the striped clothing. They started looking for the places of leakage. After the war, they also practiced this prophylaxis: from time to time, they conducted the re-education of convicts. There was a principle "beat yourself," i. e. confess and admit guilt, even if you are not guilty. And a man practically kills himself, he actually shuts himself off for lifetime. They did it. And now they began to look for the leakage of information.
I will tell you about myself myself: two times they brought me to Ivano-Frankivsk and openly told that they wanted to find a back channel. There were conversations before as well, but they never brought me down here from the concentration camp. They said: “Three sentences from you, Bohdan". In the sentence, you will read for yourself: I partially admitted guilt in my first case in 1967. I’ve no idea why I admitted that I addressed my cadets. The second time I did not admit guilt, as stated in the sentence. They demanded that I said: sorry, I denounce my anti-Soviet activity and I won’t do it again! They all told the same story during the investigation and after the investigation, and in the concentration camp. Twice they brought me to Ivano-Frankivsk. They did it twice because I played it my way. I have such a nature and I thought…
V.O.: You’re a risky guy, aren’t you?
B.R.: No, it was not about a risk this time, it was rather a feeler; I wanted to mock at them. That ride was a fun and time went quickly. They brought me there for the first time.
V.O.: When was it?
B.R.: In 1977, it was in June. They brought me to Ivano-Frankivsk and openly asked: we know that you know about the info leakage from the concentration camp; we do not need names and hows ‘ever. We want to know in what way. And nothing more. You shoot this info and we set you free. Well, I began playing cat-and-mouse with them. I knew that I could not cheat, and I did not try to; but I wanted to make them talk. I just wanted to bluff my way and scoff at them.
My position was as follows: I will tell you nothing, for you guys are nothing but Moscow grovelers.
V.O.: Do you remember the names of those people?
B.R.: Kushnir, Medvedev Cherkasov, there was such a colonel, a KGB man. Cherkasov and Kushnir were my main investigators. Now Kushnir works somewhere in Chernivtsi. And Medvedev as well; they were my main company. So you squeal and we discharge you. Such was my stand. Firstly, who are you? You are KGB officers; you can do anything that you please: you can try me and you can discharge me. And I handed them a written statement that the KGB is the main boss in the country; it may be confirmed with my words and charges pressed against me: they may imprison me and they may discharge me.
V.O.: I wonder if the court of law has anything to do with it.
B.R.: The court has nothing to do with it. I asked them, “Who are you?” If you were telling me at the level of Shcherbytsky--Fedorchuk, then maybe I would have thought what to undertake. You were told to imprison Rebryk and you fulfilled the order. If they order you to shoot and kill me, you will fulfill the order, if they tell you to discharge me you will promptly do it. Such were our games. I know about the leakage but I won’t tell you. Only a dupe builds a fire under himself. If you like, you may hold all of us to the bone. I will not tell you anything.
They pulled my leg for two months. They will not have me twisted round their little finger. Then they took me back to the concentration camp. They interpreted my position that I wanted to contact their superiors and that I had believed them. The next year they took me from Mordovia and transported to Moscow by train and there they got me on a plane… Like you told the students about Stus in detail today…
V.O.: In what year did it happen?
B.R.: In 1978. By air, again here, and again with guarantees that Fedorchuk agrees, Shcherbytsky and Liashko, all of them will enter the Presidium of the Supreme Council, she will listen… And I saw that they all were ready for this. I took up an uncompromising position, I said that I would not speak with them and I would provide no info whatsoever; I do not know anything. However, they knew that I knew, the more so that a year ago I said that I knew. I do not know and will not tell.
And when they transported me back…
V.O.: What was the month then?
B.R.: It was in summer all the same, at the time of Kupala Night in 1978, during the transportation. They transported me to Kyiv by train "Ivano-Frankivsk - Kyiv". It arrived in Kyiv at the eleventh hour. They brought me to a transit prison. This was Sunday, no bosses in prison, only an orderly officer. The car was packed with domestic convicts, and I was an only political prisoner.
V.O.: Did they bring you to Lukyanivka?
B.R.: Right, to Lukyanivka in Kyiv. They searched all these domestic convicts and I was last of all. They brought me into a cell for search. I had a bag of food, because packages were allowed here. Usually my sister brought me food, therefore I had some worth of food, I thought I’d bring it to the concentration camp to provide my guys with something to eat. There were seven of them: one was standing behind the table, he had to perform the search; six warrant officers were sitting. When the domestic convicts entered the room, they searched seven convicts at a time to make it quickly. And I was all by myself. I came in, put down my bag, stripped to the skin, stood aside, but I left my crucifix worn on my neck. To this end, it was provided with a string. Well, they ordered me to squat, no sooner had I squatted, the warrant officer caught sight of my crucifix and extended his hand to get hold of it. He wasn’t swift enough to get hold of it, and I hit his arm, that is I pushed it away. Those six warrant officers rose to their feet as they saw that I had hit his arm, and I—being naked--I jumped onto the table, on which they searched prisoners, and told them, “Call your Major! Ivan, now, your mom apparently went to the church to pray somewhere, and you intend to grab my crucifix, Khokhol!” I demanded to call the major. I was standing naked on the table and lectured them. From the table I saw that the corridor was L-shaped. I saw one arm of L only. And I kept standing on the table.
They sent for the major. A few minutes later I saw the major coming. He came up and I jumped down. "What’s the problem?" He looked like a Tartar, shorty, and stout. I jumped off the table and told him that they wanted to grab my crucifix; I called you, because you are an officer. In every cell, there is a list of permitted things. The crucifix is not prohibited. He said, "But it is not allowed as well." And he showed me the list of what was allowed. He moved himself to tear of my crucifix, and I hit his arm as well like I did with the warrant officer. I took the crucifix and in my mind I planned my doings.
V.O.: So you took it in your hand, right?
B.R.: No, I pushed away his hand because he wanted to tear it off. My crucifix remained with me. The major moved ahead to tear off my crucifix. I pushed away his hand as well. I had a plan before he moved, though I did not know how he would behave. Then I quickly removed the crucifix from my neck and put it into my mouth. The major kept saying, "Yeah, bolt it down!" They were accustomed there that the domestic prisoners used to swallow dominoes, spoons. I hid the string as well, it absorbed saliva, and my mouth was dry. I stood in the corner and told them, "You, Khokhols, you’re killing me, but I won’t give away my crucifix. I will pull your eyes away, I’ll blind at least one of you." I began talking and the Major got his hand into my mouth, he was about to pull my crucifix away; he heard that I did not swallow it and he wanted to pull it away. You know, it is easier to keep a chain in your mouth, but the string make your mouth dry. He reached into my mouth and wanted to pull it out; I let him insert his finger. But then I bit and something crunched in my teeth. I looked he pulled his finger out, but a phalanx remained in my mouth.
V.O.: This first phalanx? Which finger? The index finger?
B.R.: Right, the forefinger. He reached into my mouth and probably wanted to hook on the string and pull it out. I was bewildered when I saw that a piece of his finger was still in my mouth, but blood was not flowing from his wound, the wound was white here. He was also looking at his finger and it began reddening and then it began bleeding and he started jumping on one leg and waving his hand. These seven warrant officers jumped at me, I just had to stand in the corner with my back toward them, because I was naked.
V.O.: You stood naked, even without panties, right?
B.R.: As it had to be during the search. I was star naked, in my birthday suit, and with my crucifix in my mouth. And as they laid their hands on me… They wore boots…
V.O.: Did you spit the finger out or what?
B.R.: I spat it out, I had no idea where it disappeared later on. No, I spat it out. When the Major began to jump, I spat out his finger with nail. They began to beat me but I thought in my mind about glasses; then I had my first glasses? It was very difficult, because one could neither buy nor order glasses here in the Soviet Union. I thought they would beat me, let it be. I said that I would pull out at least one eye of a jailer. This was what I remember I said. I tried to beat off, but they kicked me off my feet and pummeled me. It happened at noon.
I regained consciousness in the evening; it was dark in the basement, in solitary confinement. It was messy there: there was no gutbucket there, only a cesspit. When I showed vital signs, the guard opened the trough and said, "I’ll switch on water for you." Water piping is in the cell, but the faucet is in the corridor. He turned on the faucet; I washed myself a little and began to think where my glasses could be? Then I saw them lying on cement floor.
A V.O.: What about your clothes?
B.R.: They threw it down beside me, I was lying naked.
V.O.: What kind of a floor was there?
B.R.: Concrete. Vasyl, this was perfectly terrible. They threw me down and half of my body was on my clothes, and the other half on concrete. I was beaten to a pulp and all my body was aching like hell. I went and washed my face a little, washed my eyes and thought where my glasses were. They were lying on the cement floor, unbroken. I picked up those glasses: they must have thrown them there. I said, "Give me a piece of paper." I began to write and demand a prosecutor to come. In the morning, they came with a stretcher. I did not want to climb onto the stretcher, nevertheless they brought me to the "Stolypin" car and transported to Kaluga. For two months, they were transporting me here and there across the Empire pulling up at various transit prisons. Once I start writing and request a prosecutor, they transport me somewhere else, so that the hospital couldn’t record the beating which I demanded.
In two months, when all these bruises healed, they transported me to the concentration camp in Sosnovka. I told prisoners there my story and then all concentration camp went on a hunger strike. I wrote statements to various authorities, both civil and non-civil, prosecutorial and party instances. All of them gave me a runaround stating that it was a pack of lies, that I was sentenced for lying, for slandering Soviet reality and here you’re up to your old games again and continue your dirty business. And then Sakharov got involved and informed the world community. Now I was ready for a drastic measure: I asked to institute criminal proceedings against me for causing bodily harm to the Major (there is such article). I do not know the name of the major, but it happened on such a day in the Kyiv prison, at such time and such day of the week. I waned him I would bite off his finger if he would try to pull out my crucifix from my mouth where I had hidden it there because the warrant officers wanted to grab my crucifix. He reached into my mouth, and I bit off his finger for this. And this is a proof that he really wanted to take away my crucifix. Bring an action against me; I want to answer for the consequences because my Christian conscience does not leave me alone as far as I have bitten off his finger. Maybe he does not understand that but I do understand. I was ready, Vasyl, to take the punishment, but for me it was important that they recognized that they tore off crucifixes.
I got the following response: I was given 15 days of cooler. They threw me in underpants into a solitary confinement for 15 days. In underpants. The cell, five-centimeter slit under the door to the corridor, the entrance door was too short, one stove per two cells. During daytime, a convict had to heat the stove; the policemen were usually firemen; if you turn your back, you feel warmth. I stood barefooted on the cement. At night, you had a folding plank bed. However, this one didn’t fold, because it had no coupling bolts, as in Kuchino, it was provided with a simple lock. A stool made of concrete was used as a support, and you could lie down. During the day you could sit down on that concrete column. I was naked, therefore even at night I did not ask them to unlock my plank bed. For you could not lie down naked on those planks. The planks were painted, the window was broken, and the temperature during those 15 days was as follows: from minus 17 to minus 25, from warmest to coldest. I kept running 15 days in this khata, just for a moment I stood on one leg near the stove, warmed one leg, then the other. I kept running 15 days. Only prayer, anger against them and hope for God. Honest to God, Vasyl, I went out and I even didn’t catch cold. This was a kind of miracle.
V.O.: It was a miracle of God.
B.R.: And I didn’t care a straw! I returned to me cell and saw the answer: all their majors had all fingers, they had no fingerless majors. However, I calmed down when they wrote that all their majors had all fingers. And I quited down. I thought whom should I write to? I wished I didn’t feel nervous about this fingerless major.
There was another accident when I came back for the first time in 1977. It happened in a Stolypin train car. Before transportation they give you salted sprat to eat and on the road you grow thirsty, especially in summer. They do not give you water to drink. The domestic convicts asked permission to visit lulu. And the cars were driven to a siding. It was somewhere in Russia, at some distance from Mordovia. During the day the car was kept on a side track baked in the sun and starts out at night, because it had to make way for a train going in the same direction. The lulu was locked. And one domestic convict, my neighbor in the compartment, eased himself in the compartment. Well, it was involuntary urination. They broke in and began to beat him. There were about twelve of them, and eleven kept silent. I said that I heard that the man asked to lead him to the lulu, but they did not let him to go there and now they began to bash him up, what for? Then they rushed at me. I was lucky that behind the partition there was the convoy commander who had a sort of office there. The convoy commander, captain, heard a scream here and rushed to our compartment. They were about to whomp me, but the captain stopped them and order to let the convicts go to the toilet. I was the first to go to the toilet. You know how it is in the car: they lead you through a car, and the door to the toilet is open, and you cannot do the deed in front of other people, though you have an acute urge to defecate. They look and I cannot. I asked him, "Close the door a little, please." This Komsomol member, sergeant, pulled out a pistol--you know, they can kill during transportation, and no one will bear responsibility--and he aimed this pistol at me. He boasted a Komsomol badge with the head of Lenin. He put his pistol to me ear and said, "Well, sob, I may shoot you down and we will write that you jumped at the convoy." It’s as easy as rolling off a log. I pointed at his badge with my finger and asked, "Did this bald Mephistopheles train you to treat people in this way?" Perhaps he did not know who the Mephistopheles was, but he angrily looked at his badge and at his gun and put it in the holster. Such was an incident I had.
When the KGB used to come to reform us, we called them propaganda teams; those were very specific and principled discussions, and not only with me. Here we are, why are you intruding, why are you coming here…
V.O.: Did Yevdokymenko come or whatshisname? It seems he wrote a book about Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism.
B.R.: Yevdokymenko… a lot of them. Especially Taras Myhal from Lviv, professor Wozniak from Ivano-Frankivsk, he is working still at the Institute of Oil and Gas. Then Vakaliuk… Vakaliuk is already dead, Associate Professor of our Academy.
V.O.: How did they arrange it? In Kuchino, when we had guests, they summoned us one by one. I also heard that once they allegedly made everybody to go out of their cells and conducted group conversation in the corridor.
B.R.: Yes, in Sosnovka they did the same and brought all of us into the corridor. They made it in two stages. At first, they worked around the cells to see the accommodation and spare time doings. Usually they brought with them propaganda movies from Ukraine but then they did it in the corridor (it was in Sosnovka), we took stools with us from the cells and watched movies. We did it not so much to see movies as to meet each other. Few of us were eager to see their movies, we ignored movies they brought. Nevertheless, they showed four movies a month according to the plan. We gathered there to see each other and communicate news.
Generally, as this prison period is seen as a thing of the past it becomes dearer and more important as it really was a very significant page in my life. It is interesting in all respects; first of all, spiritually, of course. If one recollects that it was such a terrible state and there was a handful of people who bravely faced the… I do not want to say so; I thought then, and now I’ve got no illusions about them as heroes or not heroes, but against that background… Today you very vividly told students that when the large majority has morally fallen below zero, the normal behavior is really considered a feat. Vasyl, I do not want to overstate it, but at the time one had to have courage.
What we have missed if anything?
V.O.: End of conversation with Mr. Bohdan Rebryk in Ivano-Frankivsk on February 11, 2000.
In September 2008, B.Rebryk added:
AT THE TIME OF MAKING UKRAINIAN HELSINKI GROUP
I, along with other political prisoners-repeaters was in special security camp ZhKh-385-16 in the Village of Sosnovka, Mordovia ASSR. In December 1976, immediately after publication of the first memorandum of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group, I offered Sosnovka political prisoners to join the Group. Three political prisoners--S. Karavanskyi, V. Romaniuk and D. Shumuk--supported me. The main goal of our Group was to turn over to a contact outside the camp of information (for informing the world community) concerning the implementation by the USSR of its commitments in Helsinki in 1975, about discharge of obligations according to the Declaration on human rights, about censorship, freedom of speech, safe passage from the USSR and return back and so on by all citizens of the country and especially by us, the political prisoners. In addition, in a too risky manner and threatened to be additionally punished with a new term we secretly handed over to a contact outside the camp our op-ed articles informing global community about true economic and socio-political situation in the Soviet Union. Personally, in addition to joint memorandums and appeals to the international community signed by all members of the UHG or all members of our Sosnovska Group, I wrote and handed over to a contact outside the camp a number of op-ed political articles. They were published by various printed media outside the USSR. Here are some of them:
a) Appeal to the President of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) George Meany (USA); December 1976;
b) Appeal to the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. January 1977;
c) Open Letter to citizen of England Denis Miltser. June 1979;
d) Open letter to the so-called progressive Ukrainians in USA and Canada. June 1979;
d) My "last plea" at my trial in Ivano-Frankivsk in March 1975 and many other articles.
In fact, our Sosnovska group began its activity in 1977, although they say that she began to act since 1979. The reason for this is living in captivity in special security camp and difficulties linked to handing out information to a contact outside the camp.
SUMMARY OF THE ABOVE
As a citizen and individual, I was formed in the 1950s in Russia. It was a very interesting and politically important period in the life of the Soviet state, which was called Khrushchev’s Thaw. It made a special impact on me as well.
In 1962, I served in the military long-range airforce. As a result of my plane crash in 1962, I lost 70% of eyesight and returned to Ivano-Frankivsk. Here my new life began. My environment made me to seek an answer to the questions, what I was, why Ukrainian people were so poor and am I to do to make people’s life easer. Being naïve, I decided to complain (in writing) to the government of the miserable existence of my people. As a result, I was summoned to the KGB, and later arrested and imprisoned. In the concentration camp, I met many wise people, who dozens of years stayed behind bars for the word of truth and freedom. I learned a lot from them, both in terms of history and national-patriotic and political ideas. In addition, in captivity I had enough time to think over everything, weigh and estimate all pros and contra, and, what is the most important, make correct conclusions for my future life and struggle. I made them. Later life confirmed that they were correct.
During my first imprisonment, I realized that the socio-economic and national problems our people could decide only after the independence. The independence may be obtained in two ways by either force, that is militarily, or through word and wisdom. In the twentieth century, we twice tried to gain independence by force. For the first time, in 1918 we lost everything giving the western part of Ukraine to Poles. For the second time we did it in the 1940s. The struggle waged by OUN ended in 1945 with complete defeat and terrible senseless sacrifices and suffering of our people.
The WWII ended in 1945 culminating in strikes at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The tragedy of two Japanese cities shows to all humankind that further development of militarism leads to the annihilation of humanity on the planet. Therefore the era of power and totalitarianism, the era of revolutions is to move away completely into oblivion, and it should be replaced with the era of the Logos (word), the era of democracy.
It did happen. The entire Western world began to live freely under democratic conditions in the postwar period. This was the key to freedom and prosperity in those countries. We, Ukrainian dissidents, had to begin our struggle for independence with our word in the State, which was not different from the Nazi one. The Bolshevik regime did not tolerate dissidence and we had to bring the word of truth to the Ukrainian people, to set them in motion, make them to think. We had no choice but to resort to samvydav. It is a simple and primitive method, but soon it brought its positive results. It took Bolshevik regime just a few years to respond with force to the word of truth. Already in January 1972, the second wave of repressions rolled over Ukraine. Though in vain. It was impossible to stop the urge to gain freedom and build our own independent Ukrainian state. In this situation, we, Ukrainian dissidents, needed the support of the world community as the breath of life. It seems that God Himself intervened and helped us in this difficult situation gathering in Helsinki in 1975 leaders of 35 countries from Europe and America to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. At this meeting, the Soviet Union made a commitment to fulfill the Declaration of Human Rights, to guarantee its citizens freedom of speech, free exit from the country, and so on. Of course, we were well aware that the USSR would not carry out commitments. Just once again, it intended to deceive unsuspecting democratic world. We understood it very well, like A. Sakharov understood it in Moscow. In his circle emerged the idea to create a Helsinki Group in Moscow, Lithuania, Georgia and Ukraine. The Helsinki groups began to help Bolsheviks to fulfill their obligations. However, the Bolsheviks instead of being grateful for the aid started repressions against the Helsinki groups. This fact riveted attention of the international community to the domestic life of peoples of the Soviet Union and Ukraine as well. The rallies began in Europe against repression in the USSR. The biggest powers imposed vindictive sanctions against the USSR in trade, humanitarian and other spheres. The isolation of Bolshevik regime was growing and it had but to begin perestroika in 1985. A few years later the Berlin Wall was torn down, without a single shot the Warsaw Pact was disbanded, the Bolshevik empire collapsed and Ukraine became a free and independent state. The goal, which we, dissidents, had set, was achieved: the USSR disintegrated. That is the period of messing up the empire came to an end and we had to build our own independent state.
Unfortunately, many times in the history of our nation there were much more forces of destruction than the forces of construction. The examples of the Princely days, Kozak Hetmanate, UPR, and WWII prove it. The same we have today. It turns out that Ukrainian society and its intelligentsia, even former political prisoners, know what they want, but they do not know how to achieve this. Seventeen years they have been baying the moon, triggering a backlash, but they have failed to draw appropriate conclusions. Instead of moving ahead and making Ukraine a world power, they pull it back into the past. As a result, we are on a brink of national disaster. Why? Because the Ukrainian elite does not see the on-the-ground realities of Ukraine and is daydreaming. Everyone understands that nothing can come out of it, if we do not consolidate the disunited Ukrainian people around the national idea. They understand but they sing to jig and dance to church music, "only racketeers and Muscovites live in Donetsk Region while Halychyna is the land of professional patriots." By the way, the referendum held on 01.12.1991 showed that the Ukrainian people to a man aspired to gain independence: 92% of respondents expressed support for Ukraine’s independence. In the meantime, our patriots instead of multiplying national consciousness in the East and South of Ukraine gathered in Halychyna and sow discord and hatred toward our eastern brothers. Eventually, the ideas of Ukrainian statehood emerged not in Halychyna, but in the eastern Ukraine. Among the founders were M. Drahomanov, P. Kulish, M. Kostomarov, Taras Shevchenko, S. Petliura, M. Mihnovskyi, D. Dontsov and others. Halychyna produced only Franko, whom it brought to bay.
The second serious problem is our treatment of the past and understanding of historical events, especially the events that occurred in the 20th century. You cannot mythologize or distort them and especially deny the obvious things. As is known, neither Vynnychenko nor Hrushevskyi, nor Petliura did not have in their minds to declare Ukraine’s independence while there existed imperial Russia. They wanted only autonomy within Russia both during the imperial regime and after the February 1917 revolution. Only the Bolshevik coup in October 1917 in Russia made the UPR to think about the complete independence of Ukraine. They declared the independence of Ukraine, but they failed to hold. The Bolshevik internationalists seized power both in Russia and in Ukraine; they were called the Soviets. When we speak of Arsenal, January Uprising in Kyiv, about Kruty, Bazar we should know that they were not Muscovites but the Bolshevist Red Army under commandment of Kotsiubynskyi’s son Yurko in Ukraine. We must remember this. We should also bear in mind that the Bolshevik scab was brought to Russia by Europe good at thinking in hindsight. Due to European aid and funding of the Bolshevik Party Russia and Ukraine ceased to exist as nation states for 73 years.
Today, when we do our best to build a nation state, we should understand our recent past in a proper way. All of our neighbors, including Russia, came out of Bolshevik paradise. We should all try to live in harmony instead of treating someone as the source of all the ills of our native land. In Moscow, for some reason, Lenin was guarded not by Russians, but Latvians, L.Trotskiy led the red Army, F.Dzerzhynskiy created Cheka-OGPU and Stalin, a Georgian, organized the repressions and famine. If we do not understand it and do not assess it objectively, we bring about defeat.
The UkrSSR was the state of a part of Ukrainians, which followed the Leninist socialist ideas. They made the majority of Ukrainians, therefore they won. And they had the right granted to them by God. That’s a totally different matter that Bolshevik ideas turned out to be utopian. Their state could bring only trouble to the people. That is why it had to be eliminated. We did it in the last decade of the 20th century, unfortunately, after 73 years of its existence. We did it without help of military. We should congratulate us on it, we should understand it and properly evaluate. Unfortunately, we see and hear around us discordant opinions. They blow up myths, attempts to use myths to create new history, falsify historic events and facts. This negative and harmful process has reached a level that threatens the existence of Unified Ukrainian State.
Before Ukrainian independence, we had the right to resort to propagandist and populist statements and slogans. This was justified because much the enslaved nation may be forgiven, it may be absolved on its way to freedom. But… when we pull up to other nations of the world, we are to be honest, fair and objective. That is we have to show the world that we are the same as they are. In this case, we should bear in mind that the world listens to us and evaluates us by our actions.
Instead of serious working on unification of our nation and making of the state, we are busy looking for enemies and frighten the world with our difficult past: repression, famines, and Chornobyl and Donetsk racketeers. Who needs it? We are cursing Jews, Russians shouting: "Ukraine for Ukrainians" and do not think about the consequences. Do not make our friends to clutch their heads and our enemies to die laughing. For all our troubles we should blame ourselves. The life and political activities of our nationalist diaspora in the free world (especially of the post-war wave) only confirm it. During 50 post-war years, we were engaged in bickering. They failed to reconcile even after the most holy event for Ukrainian patriot: the proclamation of Ukraine as an independent state. At first, they were shocked by the very fact of the resurrection of Ukraine, and then they recovered and managed to transfer the political bickering into Ukraine. Today we are witnesses to the state of Ukraine: "Worse then Poles own flesh and blood crucify her."
 Car with opaque windows for transportation of prisoners (translator’s note).
 In fact, their ideal wasn’t a monarchy, but social Christianity (translator’s note)
 The American resources prefer to call this case The Dymshits–Kuznetsov aircraft hijacking affair also known as The First Leningrad Trial or 1970 Operation Wedding (translator’s note).
 Ukrainian An-2 plane of “colt” type made in Kyiv (translator’s note).
 Underground literature banned in the UkrSSR (translator’s note).
 The traditional Ukrainian puppet show performed with the help of the puppet show booth (translator’s note).
 Maybe, the author has confused stables with stalls (interpreter’s note).