08.12.2000 | I. Fedushchak, M. Gorbal, Lviv

Cemetery of Lviv prison No. 25 and oblast MIA hospital


Documents about burial places of rehabilitated political prisoners of the period of communist repressions are still not accessible to public. The authorities explain it by the fact that under the Soviet regime the documents about political prisoners and criminals were kept together, and the documents about the criminals are still classified.

The burial of victims was done secretly, usually at night in special cemeteries or special parts of common cemeteries. From the archives we learned that before 1949 political prisoners were buried on Yanivske and Levandivske cemeteries, the location of the latter cemetery is still unknown. From 1949 to 1957 the prisoners were buried on Zamarstynivske cemetery. The wife of the late driver from the funeral bureau Maria Martyniak told searchers from ’Memorial’ that her husband just in those years was attracted to transport and bury prisoners from the NKVD prison. She showed the part of the cemetery, where the prisoners found their last refuge. She knew the place because she had a vegetable garden adjoining this place. We managed to find in the oblast archive the document No. 800 of 1 July 1952 where 2.8 hectares were appointed for the burial of prisoners. Later, by the decision of the city executive council No. 317 of 1 June 1967, the listed city cemeteries were closed and the mentioned 2.8 hectares were ploughed, and the plots of this land were given for planting orchards to some city organizations. At present there are private orchards there.

Some of the beneficiaries knew that their plots were situated on a cemetery, and they exchanged their plots for ones in some other places. One of the new owners, a KGB-man, built a house on his plot, but it was set on fire.

Having received from the administration the permission for exhumation, ’Memorial’ searchers started to dig and exhumed 20 remains from the graves. The corpses had metal tags on the ankle, and part of the tags were readable. Yet it did not help since the prosecutor’s office refused to open the corresponding cases. So, the identification of the remains became impossible.

We organized a forensic medical expertise. The experts did not find any traces of violent death, except in one case (perhaps it was a prisoner who tried to escape and was shot down).The age of the interred varied from teens to very old. The concurrent archive studies revealed that in the 40s less than 10% of prisoners were criminals. The overwhelming majority were political prisoners, usually convicted for various sections of notorious Article 54. They mostly were ’accomplices of the gangs’, i.e. relatives and neighbors of the OUN (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists) soldiers. Another proportion of the prisoners was repressed for non-fulfillment of the communist regime’s demands, such as non-fulfillment of labor norms, non-payment of taxes, violation of the passport regime and so on. Teenagers who finished vocation schools and were sent to Donbass mines or to the Siberia pits ran home and were put to prisons as well. As to the nationality of the prisoners, the majority of them were Ukrainians.

In 1999, by the initiative of ’Memorial’, the oblast administration permitted to continue the investigations on the Zamarstynivske prison cemetery. From 20 September to 9 October 1999 a group of five researchers from the ’Poshuk’ (’Search’) society worked here; 20 servicemen from a near-billeted unit of the national guard helped them in excavating. 122 remains were exhumed, which were rather similar to the score exhumed in the previous year. Since forensic medical experts were not available, the remains were interred again. Nonetheless, 74 metal tags were passed for investigation to the laboratory at prosecutor’s office. The works were stopped because of lack of financing.

Further works are planned to continue next summer.

’Poshuk’ may send on order slides, publications and a video-film about this action.

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