war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Extracts from Goryn’s autobiography

On 7 December 1999 Vakhtang Kipiani and Vasyl Ovsienko recorded the following stories told by Goryn himself. Soon a book of Goryn’s articles will be printed prepared by a member of the Kharkiv Group for human rights protection Vasyl Ovsienko, where these interesting interview will be printed in full.

«Many people, who never had contacts with the incarcerated, imagine that people sit there and wistfully think when they would be released. This is a rough mistake. People live there doing a lot of intellectual work. Vasyl Ovsienko remembers well the discussions which we held. I cannot forget the discussion which I had with the late Yurko Litvin, which concerned theoretical problems of the Ukrainian liberation movement. Our attitude to anarchism, problems of individual rights, rights of a nation, right protection movement. These problems have roots in the Ukrainian philosophy, Ukrainian political thought and even Ukrainian art. Yuri often recollected that he had written an article about Taras Shevchenko as a human rights protector. We led intellectual life. I do not remember in which year it was, maybe in 1983, maybe in 1984, but it resulted in the idea to organize a meeting dedicated to Taras Shevchenko.

Before it, during the first arrest, we had a meeting dedicated to Grushevsky. It was in 1966 in the Mordova concentration camp. Later, in 1971, we had a meeting dedicated to one-hundred anniversary of Lesia Ukrainka’s birth. In fact, this meeting transferred to the ten-day discussion of Lesia Ukrainka’s creative activity. Poets of different nations, including those, who had translated Lesia Ukrainka’s works to their native language, took part in this discussion. It was an international conference in a concentration camp.

These talks were carried out in a small cell, Yurko Litvin participated in them, Vasyl Kurylo, myself and sometimes some others. This is an interesting fact that under prison conditions the spiritual life of Ukrainian political convicts never stopped for a minute.

I want to remark that before Gorbachev came to power, the KGB decided to dispose of those political prisoners, who, in their opinion, could be dangerous to the Russian Empire after their release. I do not doubt that the fact that during 1984-85 six people died in one small concentration camp and 30 people died in other similar establishments is the solid proof that it was not accidental. The KGB concentrated their efforts on those people who had the authority and will that they had not lost during many years of persecutions and incarceration. The KGB-men understood perfectly that such people after their release would continue their struggle. After two arrests and many years of concentration camps. The death of Yurko Litvin, or Vasyl Stus, or Valeriy Marchenko were carved in out memory. Tykhiy’s death, you know, this is a man who never submitted and always demonstrated his independence. Others also behaved well since there were no people in our circle who submitted, may be, except one or two.

Vasyl Stus was always belligerent and protesting. There were three punishment cells in our concentration camp and they were filled all the time. When a cell became empty our wardens found whom to put into the vacant cell. They came to us, made us undress and searched, searched. They searched us when we returned from a walk of from work. Stus asked: ‘Why do you feel me like a hen?’, and added, ‘fascists’. That was what our torturers expected. As the result, Stus went to the punishment cell.

Before this incident I stayed in one punishment cell with Stus. About a fortnight before Leonid Borodin, an inhabitant of a neighboring cell, had been there. Stus came to the cell and began to gather his things for the punishment cell. Borodin asked him: ‘Why do not you take the kettle?’. ‘I shall go on hunger strike’, answered Stus. ‘For which time?’, asked Borodin. ‘Forever.’ When I had come to the camp, Stus had gone on such a strike too. But he was taken to the hospital and artificially fed. So Stus ended the strike. When he returned from the hospital, he said: ‘Mykhaylo, I am feeling bad because I have stopped this hunger strike, another time I will not do that’. When he was taken to the punishment cell this time, Leonid Borodin was at once moved to our cell. Someone who worked near the punishment block told that on the fourth day Stus knocked on the door and said to the guard: ‘Give me a pill of validol since my heart is aching’. The guard answered: ‘You can do without’. Stus could not. He died, as I remember, on 4 September 1985.»

Mykhaylo Goryn told to his interviewers about his opinions on the language policy in Ukraine. His views are rather stern.

‘We have Ukraine, but this Ukraine is not quite Ukrainian: we have the government, but the members of the government communicate in a foreign language. We have presidential structures, but they are only half Ukrainian. In several years we shall give the power to the hands of people who know Ukrainian not better than today’s state officials.

I do not want to say that the language is important, but I want to say that without a language there is no state and no people, or on the contrary: without a language there is no nation, there is no people and there is no state.

Thus, building economy must go parallelly to restoring the Ukrainian language in Ukraine. The language restoration must develop parallelly with breeding Ukrainian patriots. The situation here is far from satisfactory. We have not the system of values at school that would say that the love to motherland is the greatest spiritual value.

Thus we have the problems of building economy, of restoring the language, of breeding the people, of transferring our army to state language. We cannot hope that Ukraine will be defended by Russian generals and Russian-speaking army, especially against our Northern neighbor, which is quite possible.’

In reprinting these materials, please, refer to KHPG-inform.

Editor in charge of the issue — Evhen Zakharov
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