Yaroslava Melnychuk (Polyuha)

Yaroslava Melnychuk

She was born on July 17th, 1929, in the city of Lviv. She received her primary education at ‘Ridna Shkola’ named after Leo I of Galicia. Yaroslava continued her studies at Lviv State Academic Gymnasium. In 1945–1949 she studied at Lviv Medical Institute. She cooperated with the OUN at the same time.

Yaroslava was detained on October 20th, 1948, in Lviv on her way home from the medical institute. She was discharged due to the lack of evidence of her guilt. After terminating the 4th year of institute, Yaroslava was sent to the town of Stryi for practice. On June 16th, 1949, she was detained for the second time. She was under examination in the prison ‘at Lontsloho’ for 6 months. Yaroslava was sentenced according to the article 54, part 1 ‘a’ and part 11 (‘treason’, ‘participation in counterrevolutionary organization’) of the Criminal Codex of the Ukrainian SSR.

On November 30th, 1949, she was convoyed from Lviv Transit Prison # 25 to forced labour camps of Gulag. Yaroslava served her sentence in camps of Amur region, the Russian SFSR, and then she was sent to a transit point in the town of Aldan, the Yakut Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. She performed hard labour, felling, in particular. During her stay in a special settlement, she was able to find a job as a doctor at a local district hospital. Later on, she was allowed to continue her studies at the 5th year of Irkutsk Medical Institute. In 1956 she received her diploma and returned to Lviv, where she worked as a doctor at an ambulance station. Yaroslava still lives in Lviv.


The coming of ‘the first Soviets’, 1939

Actually, it was really terrifying for us. Terrifying, because as soon as the Soviet army came, arrests started, they began to take people away immediately. I recall an associate professor living in our house; a Pole he was. A car came and took him away immediately. Such a panic was there; people were tired of it, not so tired, but suffering. Even quite a funny situation happened with one of our neighbours, who lived nearby. When a car came to take her away (she was an actress), she went out of the yard, and I saw a large box of hats and costumes in her hands.

She thought to herself that it would be possible to perform there. The intelligentsia suffered the most. Though, I can’t say that the intelligentsia only. But the majority of the repressed had been involved in politics and had taken part in some Ukrainian organizations actively. Attacks on ‘Prosvita’ and ‘Plast’ were started to be launched, they began to be liquidated. And those who worked there were to be repressed. It was really sad then, a kind of excruciating suspense: every single minute one was waiting for something unusual, something dangerous, not knowing, what would happen ahead, not knowing, what all that would end up with. We don’t know how long our so-called ‘first Soviets’ planned to stay, but people understood everything, even those who had waited for them actually treated them really badly, with great prejudices, because they caused a great suffering at that time.

Staying in a punishment cell, 1949

They led me to a punishment cell. The punishment cell in the basement, the cement floor, no bed, no table, nothing: an absolutely empty room. Extremely cold. I was wearing just a thin dress. It was so cold there, you know. 300 grams of bread and a glass of boiling water. Three days. I could neither lie nor sleep, cold and hungry. After three days they took me back to the same cell.

Labour in a special settlement, 1953

We went into the taiga. But at the beginning, we were given saws, axes and had to sign for all the equipment we got, and everything else. However, we had to clear the road so that a car would be able to approach the nearest shaft (gold mine – editor). The car couldn’t move through the snow, it needed a road. They measured out a huge peace of road for us to clear (I don’t know how many metres it had, I don’t remember).

What does it mean? We had to clear the road so that the car would easily pass there, the lorry. The snow was higher than my head. We had to clear fifteen metres with wooden spades, so that the car could pass. I take a spade and throw (shows – editor), and the snow slides back. Everything I threw slid back, and I was totally exhausted. There were girls from villages, stronger, more robust and physically healthier than I was. In comparison with them I was so… However, Irka was a bit taller than me and a bit physically stronger. I could do it no more, and that’s all. But one was given a norm. And if one wasn’t able to fulfill the norm, one got no money at all.

And if you got no money in prison, in camps, someone came to you and gave skilly anyway, provided breakfast, lunch and supper, but here, in the settlement, you got absolutely nothing to put into your mouth.

Source: Museum “Territory of Terror”


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