“The prison was opened and many people came in there. People were tortured. It was horrible, walls were stained with blood. People were tortured and tormented in catacombs. An acquaintance of mine had a little shop in Zaruddya in Ternopil. And he was coming back at night from work. He told me that he came up to his mother and said, ‘You know, mom… As we were walking I heard moaning from under the ground. Something is going on in there.’ It was two weeks before the war broke out. Tortures already began. When the Germans came they were taking out dead bodies from the prison for more than a week. They were taken out, a grave was dug, it was square like this room. They buried those bodies and wrote…at the sugar refinery they made an iron cross and it was written on it ‘To the fighters for the freedom of Ukraine’. When the “second Soviets came”… they destroyed the grave, took off the cross and broke the grave into parts. The place was emptied. Not a sign is left in that place now.’
Natalya Demchun (Steshyn) (1926)
Natalya was born on May 8th, 1926, in a village in Ternopil province (now Ternopil region). She studied at a village 6-grade school, and then she entered the 6th grade of Ternopil gymnasium “Ridna Shkola”. After the consolidation of the Soviet rule in the territory of Western Ukraine, on October 2, 1939, Ukrainian gymnasium “Ridna shkola” was transformed into a 10-grade school. After the breakout of the war, when Ternopil was bombarded, together with other pupils Natalya was transferred to the town of Berezhany, where she finished the 8th grade of secondary school. After graduation she was very active in the life of her native village; she was a member of a church choir, drama club. During German occupation she worked at a local sugar refinery. After the end of the Soviet-German war she worked as a secretary at the Village Council. On October 11, 1947, she moved to Lviv, where she worked at a furniture factory. On December 7th, 1949, she was arrested. Without bringing charges she was transferred to Transit prison #25, where she stayed for approximately a month. In the winter of 1950 she was deported to the town of Baley, Chytyn region, USSR. During 12 years Natalya worked at a gold-mine in the town of Baley. She got married to Ivan Demchun, who was also deported. In 1962 she came back to Ukraine together with her husband. Natalya settled in the town of Novovolynsk, Volyn region, where she lives nowadays.
Tortured prisoners from the Ternopil prison, 1939
Provocative action “The barrel”, 1947
“It was 1947. Zynoviy came up to me; he was the new head of Village Council. He had documents as a migrant from Poland. He told me, ‘Come with me’. It was right before the elections, those were elections to Verkhovna Rada. So this head of Village Council came up to me with two other women…they were in cooperation with the bodies, to tell you the truth. ‘Get ready, we are going to the town’. But I felt that it something was different. I put on boots and an overcoat…it was an autumn overcoat. Later he told me, ‘You’ve wasted your hope’. I told him, “Every person has a right to be hopeful”. So we left. On the way I told them, “You know, I need to get off and go to some place…” They already had a prearranged signal. The shooting was supposed to start any minute… So I got there. They tied my eyes with a scarf so I wouldn’t see where they take me to. Then suddenly we heard shooting. They were shooting and everything happened as if I was driven away by the OUN soldiers. We were going through the woods and they told me, ‘You are such and such’, using bad language, ‘you spend the night with NKGB workers…’ I told them, “No, I work at the Village Council, we were going to the town right before the elections…” I started praying. I made the sign of the cross over myself and prayed. ‘Look, she is praying’, he said. Yes, because parents taught me how to pray and I know many prayers. I told them, ‘Come what may. I know that God will take care of me”.
Escape of an insurgent soldier, 1947
“There was a boy, he worked at a sugar refinery, and somebody gave him a newspaper (that was published by the OUN-Youth –editor’s note). And Borys realized that they are trying to catch him reading it. He told me that he got scared and went into the restroom with that newspaper. And they followed him to the restroom. They took out the newspaper with hooks. They took it out, washed it and saw what kind of the newspaper it was. He was arrested. He was taken to the Village Council. I was sitting there at the table. They brought him in and left an armed soldier to watch over him. Meanwhile they went to the boy’s house to search everything there. Those soldiers, you know, they always have to work at night. So he wanted to sleep and did fall asleep. Borys came up to him, checked whether he was really sleeping, then came to me and said, ‘Natalya, what am I supposed to do? I know that if they torture me I will tell them everything I know.’ I said to him, “If you really think so, then run”. I stayed there and he ran away. He joined the guerilla fighters, he had some connections there”.