war crimes in Ukraine

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In memory of Oksana Popovich

Material prepared by Vasyl Ovsienko

On 22 May 2004 Oksana Popovich, a member of the national-liberation movement, a member of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Helsinki Group, died in Ivano-Frankivsk.

Oksana Popovich was born on 2 February 1926 in the village of Zhukiv, the Obertinskiy (now Tlumatskiy) district of the Stanislav (now Ivano-Frankivsk) oblast. Her father Zenon-Maryan Popovich was a post office worker, a warrior of the Ukrainian Galytska Army, a participant of the November explosion in Lviv in 1918, was arrested by Poles for six months. The father died in 1949. Oksana’s mother Olena Novodvorska from the family of writer Les Martovich, a teacher, in 1945 escaped from a transit prison and lived under an assumed name in the village of Grinivka of the Tlumatskiy district until the Khrushchev’s “thaw”. She died when she was 101.

Oksana went to the gymnasia in the town of Gorodenko. She got the ideological, military and sanitary training in the Youth organization of the OUN, was a district leader. She became a member of the OUN in the beginning of 1944, had the illegal status. On 12 January 1945 O. Popovich was arrested for storage of the rebellious literature in the village of Ispas of the Kolomya district. The investigation was carried out in the district center Yabluniv (now the Kosovskiy district). In July 1945 she, under the assumed name Varvara Petrushchak, was condemned by the military tribunal of the NKVD troops of the Stanislav oblast to 10 years of incarceration, according to Articles 54-І «a» and 54-11 of the CC of the UkrSSR, with the deprivation of rights for 3 years, according to items “a”, “b” and “c” of Article 29 of the CC of the UkrSSR, and the confiscation of property. During the attempted escape from a transit colony she was wounded in the chest and right leg, and dislocated her foot. Oksana was returned to Yabluniv, where she fell ill of typhus. She was not treated.

O. Popovich did her term in the colonies of Vorkuta (Predshakhtna), Komi ASSR (Mukerka, Adat). She fulfilled very hard work. No medical examination concerning invalidity was not carried out. In spring 1955 she was transported to the exile to Krasnoyarsk, where she worked at brickworks in spite of the persistent ache in her wounded leg.

Popovich was released in August 1956. She returned to her sister, who lived in the village of Maniava of the Bogorodchanskiy district. Oksana graduated from a secondary evening school in the town of Solotvin. Lived under her real name, conducted the patriotic and enlightening work, organized lectures. At last she was examined by doctors and was recognized an invalid of the second group. Together with her mother O. Popovich moved to the village of Krykhivtsy, worked as an accountant in the Ivano-Frankivsk department of electric supply.

Since 1959 Oksana Popovich distributed the samizdat editions (in particular, the works by Ivan Dziuba and Valentin Moroz, magazine “Ukrainskiy Visnyk”, collection of poems by Grigoriy Chubay, etc.). She contacted with Boris Antonenko-Davidovich and Oksana Meshko, collected money for the support of political prisoners. In December 1969 O. Popovich, together with Valentin Moroz, Vyacheslav Chornovil, Irina Senik and others, signed the appeal of 16 former political prisoners to the Head of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the UkrSSR, directed against the practice of condemnation in incarceration. This appeal was published in “Ukrainskiy Visnyk”, No. 1, 1970, and was read out on the radio “Liberty”.

In the connection with the disease of O. Popovich, on 17 July 1974 her case was separated from case No. 92 (the case of Mykola Gamula, Mykola Gutsul and Roman Gayduk) for special investigation. A month before the second arrest Popovich got a flat in Ivano-Frankivsk. On 2 October 1974, two days after her discharge from a hospital, where the second operation on her thighbone had been made, Popovich was taken to the prosecutor’s office, detained and, on 3 October, arrested after for anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda. At the time of the arrest she could walk only with crutches. Her protest hunger-strike lasted for 48 days. On 15 November the additions to testimonies were seized from her cell, which also were classified as anti-Soviet and slanderous, directed against the national policy in Ukraine.

On 14 January 1975 Oksana Popovich was condemned by the Ivano-Frankivsk oblast court according to Article 62 part 2 of the CC of the UkrSSR to 8 years of incarceration in strict regime colonies and 5 years of exile; she was acknowledged to be an especially dangerous recidivist (Article 26 of the CC of the UkrSSR).

Popovich did her term in Barashevo (the Tengushevskiy district, Mordovia) in the female strict regime colony ЖХ-385/3. Being an invalid, she refused to work, but took part in protest actions together with Irina Kalinets, Irina Senik, Stefania Shabatura, Nadiya Svitlychna, Galyna Palchak, Darka Gusiak, Niyole Sadunayte and others. For instance, on 30 October 1976, on the Day of Soviet political prisoners, she went on a hunger-strike. On 5 December 1976 she endorsed the letter of the political prisoners-Armenians to the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the USSR about the legalization of the National united party of Armenia and conduction of the referendum on the question of self-determination of Armenia.

On 12 January 1977 O. Popovich took part in the one-day hunger-strike connected with the anniversary of the beginning of the repressions in Ukraine in 1972. The participants of the hunger-strike demanded to release the political prisoners-Ukrainians and to stop the persecutions for political views. On 4 October 1977 she participated in the protest hunger-strike on the day of opening of the Belgrad OSCE. Together with other convicts she supported the appeal to the World-wide Council of Churches, other religious organizations, governments and parliaments of the states that had signed the Helsinki agreements. The appeal described “the scandalous violation of elementary human rights in the USSR” on the example of the life of priest Vasyl Romaniuk.

On 2 October 1978 the Initiative Group for the protection of the rights of invalids of the USSR sent the document to the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the USSR, the International Red Cross and the UNO Commission of human rights, in which document the Group informed that the invalids (except the invalids of the 1st group), which stayed in colonies and prisons, were coerced to hard work, underwent punishments, etc. Oksana Popovich was an invalid of the 2nd group.

In February 1979 O. Popovich and several other political prisoners were proclaimed the members of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group. In informational bulletin No. 8 of the UHG of 20 February 1980 O. Popovich was mentioned as one of the persons, who extremely needed to be released from colonies as soon as possible.

In May 1981 O. Popovich was transported to Ivano-Frankivsk for “prophylaxis”. There she met her mother and sister. On 7 August she was returned to the colony. In October 1982 she was transferred to exile to the village of Molchanovo of the Tomsk oblast. Popovich did not work, since she was an invalid, but she got no financial aid: Oksana’s friends and relatives from Ukraine supported her. Yet, O. Popovich categorically refused to solicit for mercy. She was released on 2 October 1987; the total time spent by her in incarceration was 24.5 years. Returned to Ivano-Frankivsk to her mother.

In 1988 Oksana Popovich was a founder-member of the Ivano-Frankivsk oblast branch of the Ukrainian Helsinki Union. She lived alone, was getting a paltry pension. During several last years she was seriously ill. Sister Maria Skripnik and niece Natalya nursed her.

Oksana Popovich was buried on 24 May on the Heroes Lane in Ivano-Frankivsk.

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