“Many people were beaten. There was a pit with hydrated lime, and in this pit there were people. I remember that a priest from a village organized five carts. Oxen were harnessed to those carts; they were headed to Stryi. They loaded and transported many dead bodies. Coffins were ready. And those people were buried in the cemetery in Stryi. There in the prison was a girl who was hung on the wall, with her braids nailed to the wall. And on the stairs there were many dead bodies. It was horrible.”
Sofiya Stefanyshyn (Bryk) (1927)
Sofiya was born on August 8th, 1927, in the village of Konyukhiv, Lviv province (now Stryi district, Lviv region). In 1934-1938 she studied at a village elementary school; in 1938-1939 Sofiya studied at “Ridna shkola”, in 1940-1942 she studied at a Trade school in Stryi. In 1942 Sofiya underwent training in the branch of youth network of the OUN in the village of Rozhirche, Drohobych (now Lviv) region. Sofiya was the head of the group of the youth network of the OUN in six villages in Stryi district. She worked as a teacher in the village of Holobutiv and Kokhavyno (now the village of Hnizdychiv) in Lviv region. In 1944-1947 Sofiya studied at Stryi pedagogical college. She was arrested by the NKVD bodies in the town of Zhydachiv on September 24th, 1950. During the interrogation she was kept in prisons in the towns of Stryi and Drohobych. On November 11th, 1950, she was sentenced by the Military Tribunal of the Ministry of Home Affairs of Drohobych region according to the article 54-1 “a”, 54-11 of the Criminal Codex of the Ukrainian SSR to 25 years of imprisonment and 5 years of deprivation of rights with the confiscation of property. Sofiya served her sentence in the camp “Tayshetlag” in Irkutsk region, Krasnoyarsk krai. After the release on June 14th, 1956, Sofiya came back to her native village. In 1960 she got married to Ivan Stefanyshyn. Nowadays Sofiya lives in the village of Duliby, Stryi district, Lviv region.
Tortured prisoners in the Stryi prison, 1941
Interrogations in the NKVD prison in Drohobych, 1946
“So they took turns: one interrogator left and another came in to ask me questions. And I was standing the whole time. One of them was kind enough not to beat me up, and the other one was hitting me with a stool leg. I could hardly stand, because I was on my feet for the whole week and I had not eaten anything at all. They only gave me something to drink after they hit me. They saw that I was not going to say anything. One of them told me (the one who was kind), ‘You are tired. Sit down.’ I sat down. He said, ‘Remember that you can sit only under conditions that you rest, and then tell us everything.’ I replied, ‘If these are conditions then I am not going to sit, because I have nothing to tell you.’ They realized that I’m not going to tell them anything and I was sent back to the cell.”
Memories about a provocative action “The Barrel”, 1950
Memories of a former political prisoner Sofiya Stefanyshyn about a provocative action “The barrel” that was conducted by a special group of the NKVD in the village of Haiy during the transportation of the imprisoned to Drohobych prison “Brygidky” in 1950. The action “The barrel” (coll.) – the action conducted by special services of the NKVD when NKVD workers were trying to pass as soldiers of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in order to get secret information from adversaries.
Work in corrective-labor camps, the first half of the 1950s
“At first my job was to cut the wood. My co-worker there was a girl named Darka, she was a daughter of a priest. I forgot her last name. I was a little used to holding a sow in my hands, but she was not used to it at all. Pine trees there were big. But it was very hard to cut those trees, because once that a sow was covered with pitch it was very hard to do anything with it. When we were cutting the trees they were falling down. She jumped in the wrong direction so she got hit by a falling tree. But she managed to survive. After this I was very afraid to cut the wood again. So I was given another job – I had to lay down the railway tracks to Bratsk. But it was not easier at all. There was a saying in Russian, ‘Shovel is my friend, and wheelbarrow is my faithful sister.’ We did not have anything else. Also we had to enroot stumps. We had to do everything by ourselves. And when the surface was ready members of Komsomol (All-Union Leninist Young Communist League) came to lay down the tracks. So it looked like they did everything. But the hardest work was done by prisoners. Columns took turns. This is how the work was done.”