Nadiya Svitlychna was one of the founders of the Sixtiers Museum in Kyiv, Ukraine, which opened in 2012. She was also an active member of the sixtiers movement, a human rights activist, member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group, and teacher of Ukrainian. She was born in what is now the Lugansk region and was educated in Kharkiv. She taught Ukrainian, then became director of a school for working youth in the city of Bokovo-Antratsyt. In 1963, Svitlychna moved to Kyiv, where she taught evening classes and then courses at the pedagogical institute until her arrest in 1968. In Kyiv, she befriended the artist Alla Horska and taught her Ukrainian. Together they began exploring native traditions and religious holidays. She was an active distributor of samizdat literature, edited and republished works by Viacheslav Chornovil, Ivan Dziuba, Yevhen Sverstiuk, the banned poetry of Vasyl Symonenko and Vasyl Stus, as well as the memoirs of Danylo Shumuk.
Following an encounter with the police at a gathering in front of the statue of Taras Shevchenko on May 22, 1967, she became a person of interest for the KGB. Together with Ivan Dziuba, Lina Kostenko, and Ivan Svitlychny they wrote a letter protesting the arrest of Chornovil in 1967. She was also present at his hearing. She and Yevhen Sverstiuk found the body of Alla Horska in the basement of her father-in-law’s house in 1970, and then organized her funeral, burial, and the placing of the headstone. After the wave of arrests in 1972 she was called into KGB headquarters almost daily for interrogations about her brother’s activities. Her own home was searched, where the authorities found 1800 pieces of samizdat, for which she was arrested. Her son was nearly taken to an orphanage, but through the efforts of her sister-in-law the child was taken to his grandmother in Lugansk oblast. She spent nearly a year in the solitary at KGB headquarters before being sentenced in a Kyiv court to 4 years of hard labour at the camp ZhKh-385/3-4 along with several other women from this circle—K. Zaytska, I. Senyk, Iryna Kalynets, and N. Strokata. While there, she organized resistance in the camp, mainly protests, and hunger strikes. She and her fellow inmates also embroidered collars to adorn their drab prison uniforms for which she was punished.
After she was released in 1976, her registration was revoked, and she couldn’t find a job. She was continuously threatened with arrests. She and her two sons lived with her sister-in-law. These restrictions prompted her to write the Ukrainian Central Committee in order to renounce her Soviet citizenship. She wrote, “it is impossible to be a citizen of the world’s largest concentration camp. Called to be a witness at the trial of M. Matusevych and M. Marynovych, the KGB noted that Svitlychna used “her time at the podium to propagate anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda.” This likely persuaded the authorities to allow Svitlychna and her sons to leave for the United States, where she remained an active participant in anti-Soviet oppositionist movements. She contributed regularly to journals documenting repressions in Ukraine, and even had her own radio show ‘Nadia’ where she talked about the “heroes” of this era: Zalyvakha, Horska, Stus, Svitlychny, Sverstiuk, Chornovil. She testified before Congress, and after independence she committed her efforts to creating the museum which unfortunately did not open until after her death in 2006.
- Barashevo, Russia 431200
- Kharkiv, Ukraine
- Kyiv City, Kiev, Ukraine 02000
- Matawan, United States of America 07747
Ivan Svitlychny was born in 1929 in the village of Polovynkyne in the Lugansk region of Ukraine. He was a philologist, literary critic, poet, and translator. He was also politically active, as a member of the sixtiers movement (shestysdesiatnyky) and also leader of the national-democratic movement of the 1960s and 1970s in Ukraine. A political prisoner, Svitlychny was held in a number of prisons and prison camps over his lifetime in the years 1965-66 and 1972-1983.
During the Nazi occupation of Soviet Ukraine, Svitlychny and his teenaged friends tried to blow up enemy armaments, losing eight of his fingers. After completing his studies in 1947 in the city of Starobil’sk, he moved to Kharkiv to pursue a degree in philology from Kharkiv University, which he completed in 1952. He then went on to study at the graduate level at the Taras Shevchenko Institute of Literature in Kyiv. Though he completed his dissertation on aesthetics, Svitlychny did not submit as he considered it unworthy. He began working at the Institute of Literature in Kyiv (1955-1963) and as a literary critic for the journal “Dnipro.” During this time, he began actively publishing samizdat, while also working for the cultural integration of eastern and western Ukraine, and Ukraine and the rest of the world, partly through translation of world literature into Ukrainian. In 1962-1963, Svitlychny helped found the Club of Creative Youth in Ukraine, one of sixtiers flagship institutions. During a sweep of his apartment in August 1965, the Soviet authorities confiscated a number of outlawed texts—including old Galician publications from 1939, a bible, and samizdat poetry by his contemporaries. Svitlychny was arrested the following day for the possession of these works and for engaging in “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda.”
He was released in April 1966 due to the lack of denunciations and evidence against him, but he was unable to find work in the period 1966-1971. He worked quietly on dictionaries and thesauruses, non-conformist literary criticism, and also publication and circulation of samizdat materials, including Vasyl Symonenko’s diaries and a volume of his unpublished, unsanctioned poetry. In 1972, Svitlychny was arrested for allegedly maintaining ties to Ukrainian nationalist organizations abroad, a charge many prominent activists in the sixtiers movement faced at this time. The KGB searched his apartment once again, finding recordings of Symonenko reading his poetry aloud, as well as poems by Vasyl Stus and Ihor Kalynets. They also found typed manuscripts by Ivan Dziuba, Yevhen Sverstiuk, and Danylo Shumuk. He was tried in court in closed proceedings, which his friends and family were unable to attend, and was charged in 1973 once again with “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda.” Svitlychny was sentenced to seven years in hard labor camps (Perm-35 and Perm-36) as well as five years of exile upon his release. To issue this sentence the courts retracted Svitlychny’s status as an “invalid,” given that he was missing eight of his fingers.
In the camps, Svitlychny’s activism continued. He went on hunger strikes to protest the lawlessness by the camp authorities and their arbitrary treatment of prisoners. One strike lasted 56 days, after which Svitlychny was brought back to Kyiv and held in isolation by the KGB, in order to be “educated” (or breaking his spirit in order to make him more compliant.) The KGB was unsuccessful. When he returned to Perm-35, he began chronicling the events unfolding there and was able to pass on his account to the outside world. In 1977, he was relocated to Perm-36, where he worked on a compressor, but was unable to meet his daily quotas and was regularly punished by the camp authorities. He fell seriously ill and was sent back to the infirmary of Perm-35, where he contracted Botkin's Disease (or catarrhal jaundice) through a contaminated needle. With this severe illness, he was nevertheless sent on May 7, 1978 in the village of Ust-Kan in the Gorno-Altayskaya Autonomous Region in Siberia. The authorities refused to commute his punishment and his wife Leonida joined him in May 1979 in order to care for him. He was released in 1983 after serving his entire sentence, emerging from exile seriously ill, unable to work, speak or move. He died in 1992 and is buried not far from his friend Vasyl Stus at the Baikovo cemetery in Kyiv.
- Altai Republic, Ust-Kansky District, Ust-Kan, Russia 649450
- Altai Republic, gorod Gorno-Altaysk, Maima, Russia 649100
- Kharkiv, Ukraine
- Kyiv City, Kiev, Ukraine 02000
- дер. Кучино Чусовской район, Russia 618630
Miroslav Svoboda is the director of Exodus and the main creator of the Scriptum.cz online collection. He has lived in Pilsen his entire life. Around 1980, he graduated from the transport industry school, but before 1989 he was forced to work in manual labour. After November 1989, he worked briefly in the Christian Democratic Party, and since 1992 has worked with Exodus, as chairman and director. After November 1989, he also attended the Catholic Theological Faculty of Charles University in Prague and the Social Work at the Pedagogical Faculty of the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen.
Now he is primarily engaged in Exodus and as a personal project he runs the Scriptum.cz site, which makes available dozens of samizdat and exile titles, most of which he owns the original copies of.
- Plzeň, Czech Republic
Vasyl Symonenko was born in 1935 in the village of Biivtsi near Poltava, Ukraine. He was a poet, member of Ukrainian Writers Union, and a prominent figure in the “sixtiers” movement (shestydesiatnyky) of the late 1950s and 1960s. Symonenko is considered one of the most important Ukrainian literary figures of the early 1960s. He studied journalism in Kyiv in 1952-57, before joining the Kyiv Club for Creative Youth founded in 1959 by the artist Alla Horska and a few others. He worked for several years on the Club for Creative Youth’s journal “Suchasnik” as a literary critic, editor, and author of anonymous feuilletons. In 1962, Symonenko published his first and only collection of poems in 1962 titled Tysha i hrim (Silence and Thunder). The quality of the poetry demonstrated Symonenko’s literary talents and set him apart from his peers. He was also politically active in the early 1960s, working with Horska and Les Taniuk to find mass graves of NKVD victims outside Kyiv. After locating one grave site near Bykivnia, this trio wrote the Kyiv City Council of its location in “Memorandum No. 2.” As a consequence, Symonenko was severely beaten by police, which exacerbated his kidney disease and resulted in his untimely death at 28 in 1963.
- Cherkas'ka oblast, Cherkasy, Ukraine 18000
- Kyiv City, Kiev, Ukraine 02000