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13.12.2002

After 30 years.

   

On 12 January 1972 a new wave of arrests swept over Ukraine. Leaders of the figures of sixties (60-niks) appeared behind the prison bars: Ivan Svitlychny, Evhen Sverstiuk, Viacheslav Chornovil, Ivan Dziuba. In the following 18 months lot of other Ukrainian patriots were arrested: in Kyiv -- Vasyl Stus, Zinoviy Antoniuk, Nadiya Svitlychna, Danylo Shumuk, Ivan Kovalenko, Mykola Plakhotniuk, Leonid Pliushch, Semen Gluzman, Oles Sergienko, Vasyl Lisovy, Evhen Proniuk, Valeriy Marchenko; in Lviv and other places – Ivan Gel, Irina and Igor Kalitets, Mykhaylo Osadchiy, Stefania Shabatura, Zorian Popadiuk, Vasyl Romaniuk, Bogdan Rebrik, Oksana Popovich, Irina Senik, Vasyl Dolishniy, Volodymyr Marmus’s group; in Kharkov – Anatoliy Zdorovy, Igor Kravtsiv; in Uman – Kuzma Matviyuk, Bogdan Chornomaz; in Cherkassy – Vasyl Zakharchenko; in Nalchik – Yuri Shukhevich; in Odessa – Nina Strokata, Oleksa Riznykiv… All in all this list contained hundreds of people. Parallelly thousands of searches were conducted; tens of thousands were terrorized with interrogations. The repressive machine worked throughout Ukraine, where the authorities suspected embers of national cultural life.

These people were not connected in some secret organization, their groups and hobby circles were connected by personal contacts. Samizdat – the system of preparation and distribution of the alternative literature – has already formed, especially since the appearance in 1970 of the type-written magazine ’Ukrainskiy Visnyk’ (’The Ukrainian Herald’) edited by V. Chornovil. Samizdat publications usually did not raise the question of the change of power. Yet, acting within the framework of the existing political system, the 60-niks reconstructed social and psychological properties of the almost fully exterminated Ukrainian intelligentsia: natural self-esteem, individualism, orientation to the common human values, intolerance of the injustice, respect of ethical norms, of the right and law. Lofty cultural and moral standards, sensitive attention to new ideas reigned in this community. It opposed both the official totalitarian ideology and primitivism. It united people of different nationalities and outlooks, which, at the same time never considered each other as enemies: at that time everybody desperately needed freedom, and the sovereignty of Ukraine seemed to be a guarantor of such freedom. The epoch of cultivated faceless mass and total fear was slowly retreating, Personalities that were the base of the Christian European culture revived. ’Do you know that you are a Man?’, asked Vasyl Simonenko in the early 60s. Cultural demands of individuals necessarily turned into the political, anti-empire movement, since the colonial state was the main reason of the destruction of the Ukrainian cultural originality. V. Simonenko’s poetry was, maybe, the first expression of this process of growing to political demands: ’My people exists. My people will ever live. And nobody will make my people die’. There were moral, ethical protests of the brilliant cohort of outstanding personalities, who were already prepared to develop a broad national liberating movement. The colonial power understood this danger: in this relation the blow upon the 60-niks was committed, perhaps, too late.

The Ukrainian samizdat slipped easily through the frontiers and the iron curtain. The samizdat sounded on radio ’Liberty’ and was published in other languages. It shattered the Russian Empire, which already could not stand the ideological, economic and military competition with the democratic West and had to retreat step by step. That is why the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, the rulers of the Empire, ordered to begin the all-Union campaign against samizdat on 30 December 1971.

This time almost all the active 60-niks got the maximum punishment: 7 years of incarceration and 5 years of exile, and were transported outside Ukraine to Mordovia, the Perm oblast in Russia, Siberia and Kazakhstan. Most obstinate were thrown into psychiatric hospitals (L. Pliushch, M. Plakhotniuk and others).

Having squashed the Ukrainian 60-niks, Moscow had other tricks up the sleeve. Moscow started the unprecedented attack against Ukraine, wishing to liquidate her language, cultural, historical and national identity. It was done through ruining the education system, newspapers and magazines in the Ukrainian language. As a result, a great number of Ukrainians dropped their national and religious consciousness to the level below zero; they became ashamed of their nationality.

The social atmosphere after 1972, in contrast to that of 1965, was depressive. Separate attempts to protest against the arrests were trampled down most cruelly. Everybody, who refused to give evidence against the arrested or showed infinitesimal signs of compassion to them were sacked from their jobs, from the queues to get living accommodation, they or their children were not admitted to higher education or were expelled from institutes, they were blacklisted and thus devoid of any chance to make a service or creative career. Who wanted to survive had to confess alleged sins, to write insincere pasquinades about their recent friends or foreign ’Ukrainian bourgeois nationalists – servile agents of capitalist security services’, to vomit out false odes praising oppressors of their motherland. Some could not stand this poisonous atmosphere, they went crazy or alcoholic, committed suicides. The firmest went to the long ’internal emigration’ or really emigrated to Russia.

Upon the whole, the national resistance was stoical. Cases of moral degradation and other attempts by privileges, in spite of the tremendous risk, were very infrequent. We must pay a compliment to the KGB: they handpicked their personnel very carefully. The 60-niks continued their struggle even behind the bars: they wrote samizdat, fought for the status of political prisoners, defended their honor and the dignity of the whole nation. Among other actions they, after the initiative of Viacheslav Chornovil, marked the Day of Ukrainian political prisoner (12 January) with hunger strikes and protests. They were supported by the older generation – rebels, who were ending their 25-year-long terms and had the authority of the most inflexible fighters in concentration camps. The 60-niks deserved the moral endorsement of the democratic world. Thanks to them the world learned about the fighting Ukraine and began to assist her. The world respects the countries that showed themselves spiritually. The independent did not fall to us from the sky. These were the 60-niks and, 5 years after their arrest, their successors -- Ukrainian Helsinki Group, who put the Ukrainian problem into the context of the opposition of the totalitarian USSR and the democratic West, and, after all they defeated the Empire of Evil and gained freedom and independence. As early as in 1981 Ivan Lisiak-Rudnitskiy, a well-known investigator of political thought, pointed out:

’… The importance of the dissident movement in Ukraine did not leave any doubts. Self-sacrificing of these brave men and women testify about the unbreakable spirit of the Ukrainian nation.

Their struggle for human and national rights complies with the tendency of the world common advance in the spirit of freedom. The Ukrainian dissidents believe that the truth of freedom will triumph. Those, who are lucky to live in free countries, should believe not less’.

These concluding words concern also you, our young contemporary! Will you properly use this freedom, are you ready to take the relay-race baton passed to you by freedom-loving fathers? The alternative proposed by the current power, you must understand, is to live in the post-Soviet country, which is, in fact, undistinguishable from a colony.

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