Interview recorded:Verbivka, Ivano-Frankivsk region
Being the ardent Ukrainians, they gave their lives for independence of their Motherland.
In the Last Years of the War. The Memories about My Parents
I do not know if it was the year 1947. The son, who was known to be one of ‚Bandera‘s was killed. Everyone was evicted. They left only the house. Many were killed in a bunker, they were betrayed. The bunker was located by Gursky. The guys did not give in. They shoot back, because they had access to the road, but soldiers were coming and coming. Still they did not give in. All of them fought. The housekeepers also set the house on fire. Russians transported their corps away. They threw them on the cart like cattle. Mother walked behind the cart and had no right to cry. Her son’s head was being dragged along the road, and the mother said, „Let me put the child’s head on the cart“. He asked her, „Is it your son“? The mother renounced her son at that moment. Those were very difficult years. My aunt’s husband died. He was brought to Perehinske and buried there.
We were kept and treated like livestock or as those rats in a cage. Nowhere was it so good like it was in the Soviet Union. Now we are not so poor. But our relatives were quite in poverty. Aunt’s husband was caught and thrown into prison at Perehinske. He was sent to Siberia. Aunt kept hiding at home. And when the soldiers came in, they asked, „What is your name?“ She answered, „Chemiy“. If she said, “Melnyk”, she would have been taken away. But if I she said „Chemiy“, she would have not been taken away. Then she was caught by the Russians, because no one else wanted to go to the collective farm. One Moscovite wanted to tie her to the horse. But my grandfather was the head of the village council then. He was somewhere nearby and recognized her. And he said to the Moscovite, “Why would you tie her to the horse? Slap her on the ass”. Thus, the auntie was unlinked. She was so hardly beaten that she lay on her stomach for two weeks.
Baba smeared her buttocks with goose-fat. She was so strongly beaten, mom said. My dad was beaten in Perehinske, after he had been caught, because he served in the UPA. But it was later, as the war was already over. Many rebels gathered together somewhere in Hrabivtsi. A general came and said, „We have lost the war. There will be no Ukraine. It has been taken by the Moscovites. Everything will be dissolved now. We will go abroad and fight from there“. It was probably in 1946 or 1945. All of them went away, only the formation band stayed. After that the Russians sent their people there. As a result there were lots of denunciations. My dad was caught and severely beaten. My grandfather was the head of the village council, but he could not do anything at that moment, to prevent it. So strongly beaten was he! My grandfather made an agreement with them. And they told him, it would happen only when the dad would be returned back. Grandfather had only my father at his side, because his older son was taken to Germany. His middle son had disappeared without a trace, so that only my father remained by him. Russians took their horses and went to get a dad. They threw him out. It happened in winter.
They immediately wrapped him in a plaid blanket. Dad does not remember this. My grandfather told it to me. They took him to Krasne and took other horses with them. But there was nothing more to carry. When he was brought to the doctor, the question came, „So what, ‚Bandera‘“? Dad answered nothing. His legs and veins were cut, he had many bruises. Parts of the skin were cut out. There was no big toe on the leg. This leg always kept hurting him later on. So hardly was he beaten by the severe enemies!
And the children are beaten now! [The war in the Eastern Ukraine lasts since 2014 until today…] Oh innocent children! Oh the cursed Moscovites! My God, my God! And so they lived, Romchyk. They tormented us all the time. People did not like to go the collective farm at that time. The telephone wires were torn. They organised the collective farm and took the livestock from the peasants away. It was such poverty! Mom could make hardly for a pair of stockings each month. It was very hard then! Now, thanks God, it is not that difficult for my children anymore.
Fifty Years of Separation
My uncle was in Lviv. And later, when Nazi retreated, he disappeared without a trace. Dad said that it was hard for his uncle to get to America. He could not speak the language. Originally he collected pods. After he had learned the language, he probably studied somewhere, because he worked in the embassy after that. He probably worked as an advisor. He had such a beautiful handwriting! He is such an intelligent man! I have a picture of them, when they met each other. He bought a suit for my dad, so that they looked alike. My uncle was born in 1920, and my father was born in 1922. My father looks a bit younger here, but, just look, how he looks! Here is our uncle with his wife. And this is the uncle’s family. There is an inscription here: „August 4, 1990“. They have not seen each other since 50 years. I sent this picture to our uncle for him to recognize the father. People change, you know. My uncle was taken to Germany by Nazis. The grandmother died and did not even know that her son was still alive. No one thought that he was alive. He was afraid, that we could have been deported to Siberia because of this. Thus, he wrote us under the name of Olena Liubchyn. In 1990, as soon as Ukraine became independent, he wrote under the name of Franko Virstiuk.
On the picture: Franko and Fedir Virstiuk after 50 years of separation
On Grandmother’s Side (On the Maternal Side) I do not know the brothers any more, but I remember the sisters. I remember our aunt Dubycha. She was deported to Siberia. I remember our aunt Prokopycha. She lived until 60 years. Dubycha lived longer than until 80. She remained there. She had a small house there. She had nothing here. Her son was killed. They killed her son and even deported him to Siberia. And there is much of this stuff to tell, you know. It happened to the whole families those times. Aunt Polahny’s husband was deported to Siberia. Only the sister stayed at home. The second brother was also deported. He was very intelligent. He died in Karaganda and was brought here by the people to be buried at home. He had a lot of money. So his coffin was brought here. He said he wanted to “sleep” in his native land. They were fierce Ukrainians. So if the dead have been arisen, it would be very rejoicing for them. And look, there is still Ukraine now. I have never worn anything red. My dad said that red [the symbol of the Soviet troops] always meant blood for him.
Do you have ’Bandera’s?
My grandfather was the head of the village council Petranka. He had never betrayed anybody. And no one was taken away from the village. Then grandfather was kept the whole day long in Perehinske. They asked, „Do you have ‚Bandera‘s? My grandfather answered, „I have no such persons in the village!“ No one was taken away from Petranky. But quite many people were deported from our village. I do not remember who the head of the village council at that time was. The grandfather on the maternal side was killed then; he was killed in 1945 or 1946. … He was in Canada twice. He crossed the sea twice. He moved four times. But the death reached him here. She was from a poor family. She said she could not leave her country then. My grandfather sent his sister to Canada.