9 Ukrainians who raised the Ukrainian flag in 1973 receive honours
On 23 August, the Day of the State Flag of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko in a speech at the new monument to Viacheslav Chornovil stated that he was initiating the rehabilitation of the Ukrainian citizens who in 1973 raised the Ukrainian flag in the Ternopil region and served sentences for this in Soviet labour camps.
In the Presidents words, “today we remember the Ternopil heroes who back then in 1973 were the first to raise the Ukrainian flag. At that time they were labelled criminals, they all received labour camp sentences which they served in full. And even today they are still counted as having these convictions”.
Volodymyr Marmus was sentenced to six years labour camp and 5 years exile after he and his friends in 1973 hoisted the Ukrainian flag in the town of Chortkiv in the Ternopil region.
He was 23 at the time. Today he was decorated with the Order of Courage by the President of Ukraine.
In an interview given to BBC correspondent Marina Denysenko, Volodymyr Vasylyovych recalled the events of over 30 years ago.
Volodymyr Marmus: We were young men from the village of Rosokhach in the Chortkivsk district of the Ternopil region. We were young but we followed political events very actively.
How old were you then?
- I was 23. 1972 had been a bad year in Ukraine and theyd imprisoned very many people. We had our own organization, we met, talked, listen, but it felt necessary to be more active, to not just indulge in chatter. We had the text of an oath, and we all swore that we would work for Ukraine, for Ukraines restoration.
And that organization, did it just exist within your village, or were there branches of it?
We didnt have such a wide membership. It was formed in the main by lads from one village. I made up slogans for Independence Day as proclaimed by the Ukrainian Central Rada in 1918. On 22 January. It was to be the 55th anniversary. We wrote the slogans with an explanation of what had actually taken place in 1918. And we had other slogans about the situation in Ukraine, about the arrests. “Shame on the Russifiers!”, “Freedom to the Ukrainian patriots!”. We tried to make the slogans memorable, and write them in big letters so that they could be read at a distance, and so forth. We decided to raise 5 flags in Chortkiv. At first we had plans to do so in other places also, but then we decided that it was better to carry everything out in one place. We knew that this was dangerous, all the more so because Chortkiv was a military town. There were 6 aviation units, the army, a guard, soldiers around, so it wasnt very hard to attract their suspicions.
How did you get yellow and blue flags at that time?
It was very difficult then to buy two pieces of cloth – yellow and blue. We looked in Lviv, and in Ternopil. We managed to buy blue in Lviv, while the yellow somebody bought locally. We sewed them together and made flags.
Did you know that the punishment would be extremely harsh?
Well, how could we not know? After all, we listened to Radio Svoboda, the BBC, how they were grabbing people, arresting them, not just simple lads, but lawyers as well … Lukyanenko, Kandyba were already imprisoned by that time. However, you know, there was some kind of irresistible force… There was no stopping it. We wanted to make our contribution and to definitely hoist the yellow and blue flags. Wed been raised after all by our parents .. It was only 15 years since the armed struggle had ended, and we were filled with that spirit of freedom. Incidentally, not far from us in the village, in 1973 they killed the last partisan in a shootout.
So at the end of the 1960s the memory of the armed struggle of the UPA [Ukrainian Resistance Army] was still alive?
Yes, it was very much alive, although nobody spoke about it openly. We collected songs, folklore about the resistance fighters. And we succeeded with everything, the reaction was instant, there were KGB people everywhere, the police, they swooped immediately.
And how much time passed between when you raised the flag and the day of your arrest?
We raised the flag on 22 January 1974, and they arrested me on 24 February.
And what sentence did you get?
We all received different sentences. There were nine of us involved. As the leader, I received 6 years harsh regime labour camp and 5 years exile.
And where did you serve your sentence?
In the Urals, in the Perm political labour camps – zones 35, 36 and 37.
And how did you feel when you received the award? Did you expect to be decorated?
You know, however the situation panned down in the Verkhovna Rada, and with the blocking, etc, he is still the President from the people. We decided to turn to him once again and received a result. Right in time for the anniversary of the Day of the State Flag of Ukraine.
A biography of Volodymyr Marmus can be found at: http://khpg.org/1142681032