‘We didn’t want to live under the Polish rule, because Poles didn’t favour us. They always wanted to be above us. People didn’t want to live that way. After all, people got organized, willing to give a rebuff to them. There was self-organization, and that was for the second time later. And they got organized. But once, when the Soviet authorities were coming to us, going by tanks, the ground was buzzing. And everybody, the little and the old, where running for joy. They were running to greet them with flowers in 1939. I remember a planked footway. One people were wading across a river, others were crossing by the planked footway, because the river was small. We were running and greeting out ‘brothers’ with flowers, greeting the ‘liberators’. And a few days after, people came to join kolkhozes (collective farms – translator). Even my father enrolled. He was glad. He thought he would work at least, and have more, because we had little land, we lacked for it. So we were greeting them with flowers. I remember a woman who lived somewhere in America. She was our old distant relative. A nice old lady she was. She climbed onto the planked footway; the planked footway had no hand-rail. A hand-rail to cling to, you know. No hand-rail. She started to shake and fell down into the water. Oh my God, they pulled her out, and she was shaking and going to further greet the ‘brothers’ from East. They were coming to liberate us from manorial Poland. We were so glad.’
Yaroslava Yakimechko (1929)
She was born on September 22nd, 1929, in the village of Tomashivtsi, Stanislav province (now Kalush district, Ivano-Frankivsk region). Yaroslava finished four grades of a primary school. She couldn’t continue her education because of the beginning of WWII in September 1939. In 1945, her parents died of typhus, so she became an orphan. In 1945–1950, Yaroslava’s family was helping UPA insurgents. There was a kryivka (a hiding place) in their hut. In 1950, the hut was encircled and burnt down, and the insurgents perished (the only survivor was Mykhaylo Shumskyi, who would be killed in action later). On July 29th, 1950, the girl was detained. After the arrest, she was transported to the village of Voynyliv, from where she was sent to the NKVD prison of the city of Ivano-Frankivsk. Yarolava was under examination for six months. On December 29th of the same year, the Military Tribunal of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Army of Stanislav region sentenced her to 25 years of labour camps and 5 years of deprivation of rights according to the articles 54-1 ‘a’ (‘treason’), 54-11 (‘participation in counterrevolutionary organization’) of the Criminal Codex of the Ukrainian SSR. After the trial, she was sent to Transit Prison #25 in the city of Lviv, from where she was convoyed to Siberia. She worked at a mica factory for two years, and then she felled trees. Yaroslava was discharged on July 21st, 1956. In 1957, she came back to Ukraine. She was not able to find a job in Western Ukraine, so she moved to the Donbas and worked at a plant for nearly 30 years there. After her retirement, Yaroslava moved to the city of Lviv, where she lives now.
The local people’s response to the coming of the ‘first Soviets’, 1939
The beginning of the repressions after the Soviet rule was established, 1939
‘A few days after, we came to school. Grief and weeping. We didn’t know what was going on. And then, we were told that they took Remezovskyi, our teacher, away. His surname seemed to be Polish, but he was a patriot. We hadn’t understood it yet. We were just children at that time. We didn’t know what it was yet. Remezovskyi was gone; we knew all his family. They lived near the school; we knew all his children and his wife; she was a nice teacher as well. Everybody was crying and crying. No Remezovskyi. And then, we heard that Hurhula, our priest, Brother Yaroslav, was gone. But we learnt it later, because he was in Lviv, graduating from university; he was going to marry one girl. Perhaps she studied with him; she was from Ivano-Frankivsk region. They took away one more patriot, a head of a reading room, Ilko Dobrovolskyi and Hurhula then, and later… I’ve forgotten his surname. So, seven people from our village were gone altogether. And today… Nobody knew where they were and what happened to them. People were crying and crying. And later people understood, they started to see little by little, what the ‘brothers’ were like. And then people started to rebel against them a little. You know, it’s such a pity that they were exterminating so many of our people.’
Meeting with a secret collaborator in the NKVD prison in Ivano-Frankivsk, 1950
‘They were escorting me to the questioning; however, we were going in completely different direction. The prison in Ivano-Frankivsk is shaped like the letter ‘T’. They were leading me in one direction, on the second or third floor, and that was in other direction. They were leading and leading. ‘The wrong way’, I thought. ‘Why are they leading me there?’, I thought. As soon as we approached that study, the door opened automatically. I entered. It was nearly autumn. Chahin, who had performed raids and had taken me from our village, had already come. I saw it was already autumn. Do you see how much time had passed? They had already got their greatcoats on. They had already put on their autumn uniform. Wearing greatcoats, warmly dressed. I thought, ‘Why are they leading me there?’. The door opened, and the man who led me went out. As soon as I made a step, I saw my investigator and Chahin, who had arrested me, in front of me, the greatcoats over their shoulders.They were standing shoulder to shoulder. And I thought, ‘Why are they standing in the middle, shoulder to shoulder?’. And then, ‘So, Yaroslava, are you going to talk?’. I said, ‘And what should I say? I have nothing to tell.’ – ‘Won’t you tell us anything?’. I said, ‘I know nothing.’ And they stepped aside; one of them stepped left, and another one stepped right, Chahin moved to one side, and the investigator – to another. And the study was square; it was a wide and big study. My Korbuta was sitting at a table there, smoking a cigarette, smiling. So glad, grinning. I thought, ‘Why is he here?’. I didn’t even think that… And then, I was asked, ‘Do you know him?’. I said, ‘Yes.’ They asked me, ‘What do you know about him?’. I said, ‘I know he is from the neighbouring village. He married and moved to our village. He lives near our home.’ – ‘What else do you know?’ I said, ‘I don’t know anything else. He is just a person from the village.’ Then, they said, ‘Korbuta, now tell us, what do you know.’ If only you had heard what he was telling.’