08.08.2006 | Yevhen Zakharov

In honour of Yevhen Hrytsyak


On 9 August Yevhen Stepanovych Hrytsyak turns 80.  To mark this special date there will be a premier viewing in Kolomiya of the excellent film produced by Mykhailo Tkachuk about the Norilsk Uprising of 1953.  Yevhen Hrytsyak led the uprising in the fourth zone. This resulted for him in a second sentence (from 1959 to 1964).  His book “Korotky spohad pro Norilske povstannya” [“A brief account of the Norilsk Uprising”] was published in Canada in 1980, leading to more pressure and threats against its author. Yevhen Hrytsyak responded by writing an open letter to Leonid Brezhnev which we publish here to mark Yevhen Stepanovych’s birthday, and ask him to accept our best wishes.

More about Yevhen Hrytsyak can be found at:

To the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union

And the Head of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR

Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev

A fellow War veteran, writer,

Soviet citizen

An open letter regarding our equal rights

Dear Comrade Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev,

“”Who’s this ‘comrade’?” you will involuntarily be asking yourself when you read this.

That is quite natural, since after all I would also be more inclined to call myself your opposite, than a comrade, since in actual fact our comradeship is purely formal, not real.

And that began back then when you headed the political department of the 4th Ukrainian Front, and I was one of 265 men of a separate penal unit of that same Front, “expiating my first wrong-doing against my country”.

As you see, our life paths did not coincide even back then, and after the War and military service, they became even further apart. You took the path of serving your country at the highest and most responsible Party-state positions, while I – “further expiation of my sins against my country” in the so-called “corrective labour camps”. You were honoured by your country with gold medals and the highest powers, I with a camp number sign and deprivation of all rights. Your path was wide and bright, mine – narrow and without light.

However each person before their path comes to an end (whatever that path was) wishes to look back, remember the most important stages, and if there is such an opportunity, to record them in writing. We have both done this. You wrote a trilogy of books of memoirs known through the world, in which you  recorded the main stages of your bright path, and I wrote a work hardly known at all, entitled ““Korotky spohad pro Norilske povstannya” [“A brief account of the Norilsk Uprising”] in which I recorded only one stage of my gloomy path, but the one I believe was the most important.

And although we wrote our memoirs from quite opposite positions and at different levels, we are nonetheless united in having written the pure truth about one and the same, Soviet, reality. In other words we described two different aspects of one and the same coin. And since we wrote in the same genre, I was bold enough to name you my fellow writer.

Third, and in legal terms, most important, our comradeship is based on our single Soviet citizenship.

However here I must note that I was not born in the Soviet Union, and I received Soviet citizenship against my will. Therefore, though in fact not only therefore, I have twice made official applications to the relevant bodies of the Soviet regime asking for permission for myself and my family to emigrate from the USSR.

However I received a categorical refusal and therefore still remain a Soviet citizen.

And despite all of this, it is still a pleasure for me to note that all citizens of the Soviet Union are equal before the law, while it is at once hard for me to have to acknowledge that the Soviet authorities do not always comply with this. And when it is possibly to not observe, or to bypass a law, this means that there isn’t one!

I would use the example of you and myself. We are both citizens of the Soviet Union with equal rights, and as I have already mentioned, we have both written our memoirs. “We both have equal rights as citizens of the Soviet Union and we have both written our memoirs.  You wrote about the road you took, I about mine. We both described what we saw, what we experienced, and what has most indelibly stayed in our mind.

You have published your memoirs in the Soviet Union and abroad, I – only abroad. However you are not summoned, as I am, to the KGB, and not asked in what way you sent your memoirs abroad, you are not asked to renounce your work.  You are not threatened with a court trial. They don’t set provocation forces on you. On the contrary, you are praised and spoken about with admiration.

I would now like to ask you why it is somehow ending up that two identical actions by two equal citizens are so differently assessed.  Why are you, Comrade Brezhnev, having signed the Final Act of the Helsinki Accords, in which, among other things, it is stated that citizens of all signatory states of the Accords have the right to receive and circulate information unlimited by state borders, using this right, while I am threatened with a court trial by the bodies of state security?

Here is an example: at one stage I had a visit to my home in the village of Ustya from an officer of the investigation unit of the Ivano-Frankivsk Department of the KGB, Major Petrenko, who says to me: “Well, Yevhen Stepanovych, I’m sure you thought that we had gone quiet and that you were off the hook?  No, you’re mistaken, you’re not off the hook. We already have the necessary proof: we already have your book, published in the USA. Our style experts have established that it’s your style. It was stupid of you not to want to give us a copy of the manuscript fearing that it could be used against you, as material evidence. We already have your manuscript, well, and you have a typewriter, it won’t be hard to check..  That’s all. And maybe,” he continues, “you’re counting on people in the West making a fuss about you … and that for that reason we won’t touch you?”  Here too, you’re wrong. We now have two main headaches for the world – that’s Afghanistan and Poland, and we won’t draw attention over such small fry as you”.

I have never renounced my memoirs, on the contrary, I have always said: “Yes, I wrote them and I myself gave them for publication. They were published with my knowledge and consent”.

Therefore, all the “proof” that Major Petrenko listed, I consider to be entirely redundant, and of absolutely no interest. I would like to know something else entirely. Why are they planning to try me?  After all, nobody is trying you!

10 October 1981

Hrytsyak, Yevhen Stepanovych

The Village of Ustya, Snyatynsk District

Ivano-Frankivsk region of the Ukrainian SSR

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