In Memory: Alla Horska and Ivan Svitlychny
Two pivotal figures of the 1960s “Shistdesyatnyky” would have turned 80 this week. They were close friends and even celebrated their “joint seventieth birthday” (each was 35) in 1964.
Alla Horska, artist and human rights defender was senior by two days, being born on 18 March 1929, while Ivan Svitlychny, poet, literary critic, political prisoner and spiritual focus for the Shistdesyanytky, had his birthday on 20 September.
Born into a Soviet nomenklatura family, Alla Horska was in the 1960s an active participant in the movement of “Shistdesyatnyky”. She was one of the organizers of the “Klub tvorchoyi molodi” [“Club for creative young people”], and, together with the poet V. Symonenko and theatre director Les’ Tanyuk, uncovered the mass graves of victims of the NKVD in the Bykivnya forest.
Alla Horska was summoned to the KGB many times in connection with the arrests of members of the intelligentsia in August and September 1965. Her son, Oleksy Zaretsky recounts that his mother’s first open confrontation with the authorities was in December that year when she lodged a complaint with the Prosecutor. She was also present at the trial of Viacheslav Chornovil in 1967, and was one of the authors of a letter of protest over the illegal running of the trial. There was to be no let up, either in her protest, or in the ostentatious measures to show that she was being watched.
On 28 November 1970 Alla left her flat in Kyiv for Vasilkiv in the Kyiv region, where she had arranged to collect a sewing machine dating back to the beginning of the century from her father-in-law.
Her body was found with one fatal blow administered by a blunt instrument. Her father-in-law’s body was found further away, at railway tracks. The cynical version pushed by the authorities was that this had been a murder and then suicide by the perpetrator. The fact that the blow had clearly been a professional job was only one of the many details which has meant that to this day, although the case is officially unsolved, nobody has any serious doubts as to who was responsible for Alla-Horska’s murder.