Our warmest wishes to Myroslav Marynovych!
4 January was the sixtieth birthday of Myroslav Marynovych, founding member of the Ukrainian Helsink Group, human rights defender, philosopher and writer. He is presently Vice-Rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University and Director of the Institute of Society and Religion.
All the members of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group extend their warmest greetings and best wishes for the future!
Myroslav Marynovych can look back on a life of absolute commitment to God and his fellow man. He was the youngest founding member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group in 1976, and he knew what to expect from the Soviet regime for this and many other acts of courage, for his refusal to “keep his head low”. He was arrested in April 1977, and after many months in custody sentenced – for “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda” – to 7 years harsh regime labour camp and 5 years exile. He served his sentence in one of the Perm political labour camps [“Perm-36”], where he took part in all human rights actions, signing numerous letters and appeals from political prisoners, holding protest hunger strikes and smuggled to the outside world a chronicle of the camp.
The following are just a few excerpts from interviews given by Myroslav Marynovych – the full interviews can be found following the links below.
We were well aware that they wouldnt let us work for long. When Oksana Meshko told Mykola Matusevych and I that the Helsinki Group was being organized, what its aim was and suggested we join, we understood that sooner or later this would lead to our arrest. However we were impressed by the idea of the Group, the idea of open opposition, an open declaration of our intentions and convictions.
We liked it not being an underground organization, but out in the open. We signed the Declaration on the creation of the Ukrainian Public Group to Promote the Implementation of the Helsinki Accords, giving our full names and addresses. In it we expressed our view as citizens of Ukraine about the human rights situation in our country and stated our intention to monitor how the Helsinki Accords were observed in Ukraine. We also put forward some specific demands to the Soviet authorities, on free access to information and opening consulates of other countries in Kyiv, as well as accreditation for foreign journalists.
Having taken this path, there was no turning back. If I refused, that would mean that I didnt respect myself. If I was afraid to affirm my own dignity and fight for my rights, was I going to demand that others fight and make my life better? I was 28 at the time. Losing your self-esteem at that age would mean making your whole life empty, accepting existence as a slave and total submission. A person who doesnt respect himself cannot be a fully-fledged citizen. This is particularly felt by men and it is they who are most often crushed by loss of self-esteem.
I am glad that at that difficult time I made the right choice. There has not been a single day, not even during the worst times of persecution when I regretted my choice, still less now.
I dont think members of the UHG were governed so much by any kind of political school, but rather by the eternal striving for justice, the same yearning which had previously governed the actions of many Ukrainians. The idea of justice has in all ages changed people.
- What objectives did you set yourself at the time? Has your idea of freedom changed since then?
I will not try to pretend by formulating now some kind of specific aims that I supposedly had then. I wanted truth and I wanted to live with self-respect. In this I managed to find enough courage in myself to not abandon those wishes when the instinct for self-preservation spoke out loudly. The rest was achieved by the servants of the system whose actions followed a familiar principle: “When God wishes to punish a man, he takes away his reason”. As far as my perception of freedom is concerned, it has not changed. I paid too high a price for it to now doubt its value. With age however the feeling intensifies that freedom is unthinkable without responsibility. Without the latter it turns into arbitrary wilfulness. Those Ukrainians who gained freedom without experiencing a psychological need for it still need to learn this, and therefore treat it like children who become drunk on the “freedom” to torment a kitten with impunity.
Biographical note at: http://archive.khpg.org.ua/en/index.php?id=1113916353