In Memoriam: Iryna Senyk


Iryna Senyk, poet, former political prisoner, member of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group (UHG), died on 25 October 2009 She was 83.

Iryna Senyk was born into a family of ’sichovi striltsi’ (military units fighting for Ukrainian independence in Halychyna from 1912 through 1919 against both Poland and Russia).  She herself became a member of the OUN in 1941, although she acted as a messenger in a youth section of the OUN from 1939.

Due to her involvement in the national liberation movement, she was arrested on 12 December 1945 and accused of “treason against the homeland” (Article 54-1 “a”) and “involvement in a counter-revolutionary organization” (54-11) of the Criminal Code. She was sentenced in March 1946 by an NKVD military tribunal to 10 years labour camp and life-long exile. 

In 1968 she was released, but prohibited from returning to Lviv. She settled in Ivano-Frankivsk where she became friendly with the Shestydesyatnyky [Sixties activists], and worked as a nurse. On 17 November 1972 she was arrested and charged with engaging in “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda” under Article 62 § 2 of the Criminal Code.  On 26 January 1973 the Ivano-Frankivsk Regional Court declared her a particularly dangerous repeat offender, however bearing in mind her level of health (in 1958 she had undergone a serious operation), sentenced her to 6 years harsh regime labour camp and 5 years exile.

She served her sentence in the women’s unit of the Mordovian political labour camps where she took part in hunger strikes to mark the Day of Soviet Political Prisoners, signed letters and appeals to the world community trying to draw attention to the “flagrant violations of basic human rights” in the USSR. 

On 15 November 1978, after 6 years labour camp, Senyk was sent to serve her five-year exile period. Iryna Senyk joined the Ukrainian Helsinki Group (UHG) in 1979. On 30 October a document was published with the title  “Lamentatsiya” [“Lamentation”], where three women members of UHG, Oksana Meshko, Nina Strokata and Iryna Senyk addressed an appeal to the world community and to all people of good will, informing them of the numerous instances testifying to the “escalation of State terror and defamation directed at the Ukrainian human rights movement in Ukraine”.  In autumn of the same year, Senyk signed the UHG Memorandum stating that the Group was alive and functioning in spite of the repressions perpetrated against its members.

Iryna Senyk spent 34 years in captivity. She was released on 17 August 1983.

In November 2005 she was awarded the Order of Princess Olha, 3rd order, then in November 2006 with an award £For Courage”, 1st order.

Iryna Senyk was buried on 27 October 2009 at the Lychakivske Cemetery in Lviv.  

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