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15.12.2003

Evhen Sverstiuk’s jubilee

   

Evhen Sverstiuk was born in the village of Siltse, the Gorokhivskiy district of the Volyn oblast, in a peasants« family. His elder brothers were the members of the youth network of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists; one of them was killed, another was repressed.

In 1952 he graduated from the philological faculty of Lviv University (majoring in logic and psychology). In 1953 — 1956 he was a post-graduate in the RAND Institute of psychology,1956–59taught Ukrainian literature in Poltava Pedagogical Institute. In 1959–60 and in 1962–65S. was a senior staff scientist in the Kyiv RAND Institute of psychology. In 1961–62 he headed the prose department of the magazine «Vitchizna». Four times during these years he was dismissed from his job because of political motives. He was not admitted to defend his candidate’s dissertation. S.’s last dismissal in 1965 was connected with his report at the teachers« conference in Volyn. The speech concerned aesthetic breeding. S. said that aesthetic breeding was an evidence of freedom, but that at first one had to learn to tell truth and not to lie to children. Some of the participants were worried with this report, they even asked whether it was made by the order of the Central Committee of the Party. From 1965 to his arrest in 1972 S. worked as an editor of the Ukrainian botanic magazine.

Since the organization in 1966 of the Kyivan Creative Youth Club, S. was one of the most active members of the Club.

One of the most acute and popular works published in the Ukrainian samizdat of the 60s was the anonymous pamphlet on the fire in the Kyiv Central scientific library in 24 May 1964 that resulted in the destruction of a great number of literature and archive documents. Another popular document was «Z pryvodu processy nad Pogruzhalskim» («On Pogruzhalskiy’s trial») that was written, as it became known later, by S. and I. Svitlychny. Other S.’s essays: «Sobor u ryshtovanni» («The cathedral in scaffolding»), «Ivan Kotliarevskiy smietsya» («Ivan Kotliarevskiy laughs»), «Ostannya slioza» («The last tear») and «Na mamine sviato» («To mother’s day») were widely distributed in samizdat. «The main idea of S.’s publicism is the meaning of spiritual life in shaping an individual, a nation and a society, its incontrovertible top priority in the system of values of the public being…» (M. Kotsiubinska).

S. was arrested 14 January 1972, during the period of mass arrests among the Ukrainian intelligentsia. The majority of the arrested were condemned in the autumn of that year, but the crime investigation in S.’s case was prolonged by more than a year, although the case was purely «literary»: the author always signed his creations, so there was no object for investigation. On 16–24 April 1973 S. was tried by the Kyiv oblast court and condemned after Article 62 Part 1 of the CC of the UkrSSR for the maximal term: 7 years of the strict regime colony and 5 years of exile.

S. did his term in colonies Nos. 35 and 36 in the Perm oblast. He participated in numerous protest actions, such as strikes and hunger-strikes, was under the special observation.

In the exile (the settlement of Bogdarin, Buriatian autonomous republic) S. worked as a joiner in the geological expedition.

The exile finished in October of 1983. S. returned to Kyiv and found a job of a joiner. He was sacked in 1988 for visiting the American embassy with other dissidents.

Starting from the summer of 1987 S. took an active part in the work of a semi-legal Ukrainian club of cultural studies, in particular he delivered a lecture to commemorate 50th anniversary of Vasyl Stus, who perished in the concentration camp. He also announced that he would pass the text of this lecture to London center of the internationalPEN-club.

Since 1989 S. works as the editor of the Christian newspaper «Nasha vira» («Our belief»). He defends the position of the Ukrainian Autocephalic Orthodox Church that does not want to be a state church.

Since 1989 he is the president of the Ukrainian Association of the independent creative intelligentsia, which awards the annual V. Stus prize. In 1993 S. was elected the president of the UkrainianPEN-club.

In 1993 S. defended his Ph.D. on the topic «Ukrainian literature and Christian tradition» in the Free Ukrainian University in Munich. S. is the author of numerous essays and articles on literary studies, psychology and theology, as well as poems and translations from German, English and Russian.

S. is a laureate of the T. Shevchenko state prize (1995) and the UNESCO premium «For inter-confession and interethnic tolerance». He is also a full member of the Ukrainian Free Academy of Sciences (the USA, 1996).

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