03.07.2006 | Iryna Kalynets

A call to the President to stop anti-Ukrainian lawlessness


Mr President,

I am addressing this open letter to you since, or so it would seem, having made such beautiful speeches on Maidan about “little Ukrainians”, you have, perhaps inadvertently, forgotten that their letters to you need your, or at least your administration’s, response, albeit just one sentence’s worth.  They require at least notification that the letter has been received, or that some kind of decision has been taken, or that the letter has been sent for consideration to the appropriate state body.

However Lviv academics have been trying fruitlessly for two years now to get their message through to you (having prior to that exhausted all other conceivable avenues), to draw your attention to the appalling facts around the plundering of the Funds of the Central State Historical Archive in Lviv, yet you or your administration remain silent. Is that not because it’s “little Ukrainians” who are approaching you, just some members of the Taras Shevchenko Scientific Society, members of the National Academic of Sciences of Ukraine, Honoured academics, as well as Heroes of Ukraine (it was in fact Hero of Ukraine, member of the Academy, Boris Voznytsky who handed to you personally a letter about the archive’s losses which amount to over ten million UH)?  All of them are light years away from the “not little” people, like your protégé, the Head of the State Committee of Archives of Ukraine, Hennadiy Boryak.

I don’t know whether H. Boryak would like to have the above-mentioned free-thinking “simple Ukrainians” flung behind bars as was the case in the ever remembered USSR, however he certainly does know how to make use of the conspicuous method of high-ranking Soviet officials – slander.  Thus, pointing to your “patronage”, H. Boryak feels free at international conferences to accuse the academic community of Lviv of not much less than organizing the theft of archival documents because, you see, “one of the motives for the theft was the conscious and deliberate discrediting of the management of the archives in order to have them replaced”.

The poor members of the Academy and Honoured academics – do they so need to occupy the place of the Head of the Archive, or that of his deputy?  Is such a position coveted by the 80-year-old Professor, Honoured academic, son of the legendary General of the Ukrainian National Republic, Roman Dashkevych and the member of the Ukrainian Halychan Army, Olena Stepanivna, Yaroslav Dashkevych, who headed the Committee for the Protection of Archival Heritage? Or by those on the Committee – members of the Academy Y. Isayevych, M. Holubtseva, by the Vice Rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University, M. Marynovych, and others?

Nor were journalists spared Boryak’s  formidable wrath for supposedly having unfurled “a media campaign unprecedented in its  scale, single-minded purpose and engagement (?!) (part of an address by H. Boryak to the VII European Conference on Archives, Warsaw, 2005, as quoted in the newspaper “Postup” from 21-22 June 2006).

Is it really the case, Mr President (as our journalists, now liberated from the control of the regime’s institutions, quite correctly ask) that “doing one’s direct duty by providing coverage of the course of  high profile case, is now for journalists a campaign to discriminate officials?” ("Postup", same issue).
And  Mr President, does your protégé really not understand that however he may feel about Ukrainian science and learning, and about the Ukrainian media, he has no right to denigrate Ukrainian academics and journalists in order to deliberately conceal facts indicating the cynical plundering of archival funds – the source of the national memory of the Ukrainian people? We do not, apparently, live in the USSR, but supposedly in a democratic state where there should be no place for the destruction of the national heritage and neglect of national culture where there is freedom of speech and respect for human rights and civil liberties, where nobody is persecuted for the right to criticize even the highest-ranking people in power, and where there is no omnipresent KGB which serves those with power.

Instead we have the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU, from the Ukrainian) which is supposed to observe constitutional norms, take care of the preservation of national treasures and vigilantly track down any violations of human rights or demonstrations of national, racial or ethnic discrimination, especially from officials, in particular anti-Ukrainian ones who, in order to keep their cushy positions, are often prepared to resort to the most criminal actions (as evidenced by the Presidential elections, Yushchenko’s poisoning, the attempts by the former regime to cause bloodshed, etc).

But the SBU has no interest in either the destruction of national treasures, or the pathological hatred of chauvinistic officials for the Ukrainian language and national symbols. This Service watches in silence as Ukrainians die only for being Ukrainians. It looks as though the Service is interested only in spies on Mars and their own houses built on the remains of innocent people murdered by the Cheka-NKVD-KGB in Ukraine.

We will not provide here a list of those members of the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, or Ukrainian journalists, or industrialists, physically eliminated under the previous regime. Here we are dealing with the present day.

Recently the Kramatorsky City Court convicted teacher and Head of the First Ukrainian Lyceum in the Donetsk region, Mykola Konbrytsky, a man well-known throughout Ukraine, to three years deprivation of liberty and a three-year ban on engaging in business activities. I quote from the article “The Donetsk authorities see Ukrainian education only behind bars” (“Ukrainian moloda” [“Young Ukraine”] 20 June 2006). “The only director of the educational institution who refused to head a branch of the Party of the Regions in his lyceum, and during the Orange Revolution openly spoke out against teachers being seconded at the state’s expense to be observers on behalf of the Party of the Regions is now in prison…. Last year the Director of the Ukrainian lyceum was rash enough to criticize a teacher and member of the Party of the Regions, saying that it was educationally unacceptable to label children who stood up while the Ukrainian national anthem was being played “orange rats”. The teacher was furious and took the Head to court, openly threatening in the teachers’ staffroom “to splatter that nationalist on the wall”.  She lost the court case.”

The some “heavy artillery” got involved – various checks (sometimes up to three a day), commissions, threats by telephone, incredible pressure on teachers. And finally, a clumsily concocted charge … and the above mentioned sentence.

Yes, well, the methods are familiar. They did exactly the same with us, political prisoners of the 1960s, all the chauvinists, drunk on their own impunity, from the ranks of the “true Brezhnev-followers”.  But that was then, in a totalitarian state called the USSR.  And now?

That’s it, Mr President, enough is enough!  In front of you, the Guarantor of the Constitution, open and cynical persecution is taking place of “simple Ukrainians” because they’re Ukraine! And you know that persecution on ethnic grounds is prohibited, not only by the Constitution of Ukraine, but also by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international documents.

Why then are you silent? Why do the SBU, prosecutor’s office and Ministry of Internal Affairs say nothing?  Why are  the criminals still at large who plundered Ukraine, including people from the Donetsk region, to the tune of hundreds of millions of UH, depriving Ukrainian children of the chance to study in normal conditions, with a Ukrainian teacher, who didn’t want to see Ukrainian children in a school-cattle shed, being thrown into prison?[1]  Did any of the criminals from among the oligarchs give any money towards its repair?  At the end of the day, why not just compare it with the Russian language lyceums or semi-private Russian-language kindergartens in the Donetsk region?  And will you ask who they let work there, and who not?  And why those anti-Ukrainians who label Ukrainians “khokhly”[2], and their children “orange rats”, have the right to work, while Ukrainians in a number of cases are unemployed, or work for a subsistence in jobs that are anything but in keeping with their profession, education and abilities?  At the same time you might think about whether it is not one and the same category – the wrecking of people’s lives, and the destruction of Ukrainian memory, the archives, all that can preserve the memory of each Ukrainian about his or her roots.

Mr President! You must be aware that at present the public in the Donetsk region are picketing the executive committee and the city court in order to collect signatures in support of Mykola Konobrytsky. Your services have a duty to keep you informed of such things. And as Guarantor of the Constitution, you have the duty to take the corresponding decision.

Therefore, I repeat again: there are things which stretch patience beyond all limits.

Having learned of arbitrary punitive measures against a person on the grounds of ethnic origin, and such measures directly or indirectly taken by the authorities at that, no one has the right to remain silent, whatever their nationality, education, position, etc. For let no one forget that such punitive measures carried out by state officials, in whatever country, sooner or later lead to repressions, concentration camps and crematoriums.

I am not calling upon you as Guarantor of the Constitution to place your signature on the petition in support of Mykola Konobrytsky.  Governed by the Constitution of Ukraine, you as President of Ukraine should place your signature of a decree stating the inadmissibility of any kind of chauvinistic witches’ Sabbath by anti-Ukrainians (against the Ukrainian language, culture, monuments, etc), as well as on a decree freeing Mykola Konobrytsky from prison, as a teacher and director of a Ukrainian lyceum honoured before the Ukrainian public, educationalists, parents and schoolchildren. 

Only a signature – not your life! For the lives of millions of Ukrainians were already sacrificed for the sake of the right of the President of an independent Ukraine to place that decisive signature in the cause of truth and justice.

Contra spem spero [Hope against hope],
Iryna Kalynets, political prisoner of the communist labour camps

For more information about the author, see:

[1]  The reference here is to the circumstances on which charges were laid. Five years ago, Mykola Konobrytsky invented the position of cloakroom assistant in order to pay for repairs to the school which the state had not provided money for over the previous 7 years. During the trial receipts for repair work were shown accounting for all the money (4,500 UH, or less than 1,000 USD) (translator’s note)

[2]  The word “khokhly” has no offensive meaning as such, but as a term for Ukrainians, it is generally intended to be insulting  (translator’s note)

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