In Memory: Petro Sichko

The death was announced on 5 July 2010 of Petro Sichko, former member of the national liberation movement, defender of religious freedom and from 1978 member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group. Petro Sichko was born on 18 June 1926 in the Ivano-Frankivsk. He was active in the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, later in the Ukrainian Resistance Army [UPA]. He was arrested in 1947, and after his death sentence (for “treason”) was commuted, he spent the next ten years in labour camp and exile. In 1958 he entered an external department of Lviv Polytechnic, but was unable to finish the course because of his refusal to collaborate with the KGB. In 1977 he declared a hunger strike to protest about his illegally being transferred to unqualified work, and submitted a statement to the government about his rejection of Soviet citizen and his wish to emigrate from the USSR. The same application was submitted by his son – Vasyl, who had been expelled from his second year at Kyiv University Faculty of Journalism in 1977 for ideological reasons. On 17 January 1978 Vasyl Sichko was placed in the Ivano-Frankivsk psychiatric hospital, where he was held a week, diagnosed as having “schizophrenia” and released. Petro Sichko was told that if Vasyl did not withdraw his application, then given that rejection of ones citizenship is madness, he would be considered a schizophrenic. In 1978, first Vasyl, and then also his father, Petro Sichko, became members of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group (UHG). They also actively defended the rights of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, insisting on the re-opening of churches which had previously been closed. In March 1979 a search of the home of Petro and Vasyl Sichko was carried out. On 30 April 1979, on the grounds of the persecution which his family was suffering, Petro renounced his Soviet citizenship. On 6 July 1979 Petro and Vasyl Sichko were arrested under Article 187-1 of the Criminal Code of the UkrSSR (“Dissemination of patently false statements defaming the Soviet political and social system”). Their trial took place on 4 December 1979, with both sentenced to 3 years labour camp, although Vasyl’s sentence was for the particularly harsh regime camp. The entire Sichko family were united in their opposition to the Soviet regime – Petro spent his years of exile with his wife, Stefaniya Petrash, who had also been sent to labour camp for her involvement in the national liberation movement. In March 1980 younger son Volodymyr was expelled from university because of his father and brother’s activities. As a sign of protest at this illegal expulsion, Volodymyr renounced his Soviet citizenship and refused to do military service. He was arrested in December and sentenced on 9 January 1981 to 3 years labour camp under Article 72 (avoiding call-up). On 4 December 1980, 04.12.80 Volodymyr Sichko was arrested and on 9 January 1981 he was sentenced by the Dolyna Court to 3 years deprivation of liberty in harsh regime labour camps under Article 72 (avoiding a military service summons). On 26 May 1982, 10 days before he was due to be released, Petro was presented with new charges under the same Article 187-1 for anti-Soviet remarks and contact with the West. The charges included, in particular, some papers, deemed to be anti-Soviet, which had been put inside his boots by his cell mate. The latter was soon transferred to a different zone since other inmates were appalled by such provocation and threatened to make him pay for it. Petro Sichko was sentenced to another 3 years labour camp. He served his sentence in YZ-17/90 in Kherson. Vasyl was promised freedom and reinstatement in his university if he “repented”, and threatened with a new charge of possession of “illicit drugs” if he did not agree. Vasyl refused and was charged under Article 229-6 Part 1 (“Possession of illicit drugs for the purpose of selling them”). On 4 January 1982 he was sentenced by the Prydneprovsk Court in Cherkasy to another 3 years imprisonment. Petro and Vasyl were released in 1985. Vasyl was seriously ill with tuberculosis, and spent a year in hospital. From 1987 – 1988 both Petro and Vasyl were active members of the Ukrainian Helsinki Union. On the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group in 2006 President Yushchenko awarded Petro and Vasyl Sichko and Stefania Petrash Orders for Courage (highest level). Stefania Petrash died in 1996. The following year, Vasyl was tragically killed in a car accident in the USA. His father and widow, Lesya, together raised the two children, Petro and Stefa. Petro Sichko lived in Donetsk, however he will be buried in Lviv, near his wife Stefania and son Vasyl. Вічна пам’ять Eternal Memory
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