Best wishes and congratulations to Vasyl Ovsiyenko!
Vasyl Ovsiyenko, human rights defender and former political prisoner, has been awarded the Order of Yaroslav Mudry [the Wise] for his service to Ukraine and his defence of human rights and freedoms, his active defence of human rights, his humanitarian and civic activities. President Yushchenko issued a Decree awarding the honour on 7 April marking Vasyl Ovsiyenko’s 60th birthday.
Vasyl was active in circulating samizdat from 1968, for which he was arrested on 5 March 1973 and charged with having engaged in “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda” (Article 62 §1 of the Criminal Code of the Ukrainian SSR). He was sentenced to 4 years in a harsh regime labour camp, and served this term in the Mordovian political labour camps where he took an active part in protest actions.
After his release on 5 March 1977, he lived under administrative surveillance in his home village and worked on the collective farm as a graphic designer. He corresponded widely with dissidents and their relatives.
He wrote material for the Ukrainian Helsinki Group about the position of those exiled or under surveillance, as well as the first version of his memoirs “Svitlo lyudei” [“The Light they gave”]. On 18 November 1978 he was detained by the police in connection with the arrival at his home of member of the UHG, Oksana Meshko. He refused to give any explanation for which he received a stream of abuse and was thrown out of the rural council. Ovsiyenko lodged a complaint in the court against the police officers and the KGB man, as a consequence of which criminal proceedings were launched against him on a charge of having used force to resist police officers, for which he was sentenced to three years imprisonment, served in penal zones.
He was once again sentenced under Article 62 in 1981 to 10 years harsh regime labour camp and 5 years exile. He was charged on the basis of his article “Instead of final words”, his letter to the UN about conditions in the camps and verbal anti-Soviet utterances.
He served his sentence in camp VS-389/36 [“Perm-36”] in the settlement of Kutchino, Chusovoi district of the Perm region, then from 8 December 1987 – in penal zone № 35 at Vsekhsvyatskaya. He was “pardoned” under the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of 12 August 1988 and released nine days later.
Vasyl Ovsiyenko has been very active over the years in ensuring that the life, work and fate of the many Ukrainians who opposed the Soviet regime and spoke out for their rights are not forgotten.
We wish him happiness, good health and continuing inspiration!