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Meeting in Kharkov

Inna Sukhorukova, Kharkov
Vasyl Ovsienko and Zorian Popadiuk came to Kharkov for several days to meet their old friend Mykhaylo Kheyfets, with whom they together did the term in Mordova concentration camps 28 years ago. All of them are former dissidents, who got in the Soviet times lengthy terms for their activities.

Mykhaylo Kheyfets is now a citizen of Israel. He, a historian, philosopher and journalist, came to Kharkov on the invitation of the Sohnut for the round of lectures about his country. The lectures had to be held in several towns of East Ukraine.

In order to meet his friend Zorian Popadiuk came from the distant Lviv oblast, Vasyl Ovsienko – from Kyiv, and the third former political prisoner, who did the term with Kheyfets, Igor Kravtsov, lives in Kharkov.

The meeting of Mykhaylo Kheyfets with representatives of Kharkov cultural community was organized with the assistance of the Kharkov Group for human rights protection in the culture center of the Kyivskiy district, more known to Kharkovites as the memorial center of well-known Kharkov poet Boris Chichibabin. The three friends of Kheyfets were also given the floor at the meeting.

Mykhaylo Kheyfets told that he got his term, 4 years of incarceration and 2 years of exile, for a copy of a preface to the 5-volume collection of Iosif Brodskiy’s works. It happened in 1972 in Leningrad. At that time Mykhaylo Kheyfets did not regard himself as a dissident and was not going to fight against the regime. He was an honest and brave historian and specialist in literary studies. It appeared sufficient for the power and the KGB to regard him as their bitter enemy. And they were not mistaken: an honest, brave and very talented historian could not help being their enemy. In spite of the unexpected arrest Kheyfets understood at once the roots of his conflict with the power and did not agree to any compromises with the KGB. On the contrary, being a man of letters, he promised the KGB-men that he would revenge upon them by pen: he would write a book for every year of his captivity. M. Kheyfets kept his promise: he wrote five books, one for every year of incarceration, and one book for two years of exile. Our guests Vasyl Ovsienko, Zorian Popadiuk and Igor Kravtsov were heroes of one of these books – „Ukrainski siluety“.

It is strange, but Kheyfets as nobody else could understand goals and essence of the Ukrainian national movement. Being a Leningrad Jew, he did not believe in the common Soviet image, which was indoctrinated by propaganda during decades, that any Ukrainian, who wishes his country to be independent, is a Bandera follower, accomplice of fascists and anti-Semite.

Maybe, Kheyfets was the first, who compiled the historical and psychological portrait of the Ukrainian national movement. And this portrait appeared to be very attractive. This portrait consists of separate features, and we see manly, wonderful and kind Zorian Popadiuk called by the author „a dissident without fear and reproach“, brave, but sensitive to any lie Vasyl Ovsienko, born leader Viacheslav Chornovil and the great Ukrainian poet Vasyl Stus murdered by the Soviet power, whose verses the author managed to pass beyond the prison walls.

Unfortunately, only several scores of Kharkovites were present at this of Kheyfets with his friends. Next day, during the meeting dedicated to the second announcement of Ukrainian independence in 1941, which meeting was held in Molodezhny park, only few people gathered. Ovsienko and Popadiuk took the floor at this meeting.

We are sure that Ukraine will recognize herself and learn her history only when „Ukrainski siluety“ will become a part of curricula in Ukrainian schools. The youth must know national heroes and antiheroes of the Soviet times. Maybe then we will stop to repeat the myths about abominable nationalists, and will learn the truth about the people, who shaped our history and about whom Mykhaylo Kheyfets told as early as in the distant 80s.
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