KOROBAN’ Andriy Mykhailovych
V.Ovsienko: On December 3, 1999 in Kiev, in Republican Party premises I, Vasyl Ovsienko and Vakhtang Kipiani do the recording of autobiography of Andriy Koroban’.
Andriy Koroban’: As announced by Vasyl Ovsienko I am Andriy Koroban’. I was born on February 16, 1930 in Altay, Rubtsovsky grain procurement sovkhoz, where now a big city of Rubtsovsk is located. Why was I born there? My father Koroban’ Mykhailo, came from a peasant family, not too well-off – they had about 4 acres of land in Palanka village, several km from Uman’, while my mother ( her maiden name was Demchenko), Olexandra or Lesya came from Tarashchanshchyna,village of Boyarka raion. Her father Stepan came from serves, who later became poor peasants. My father’s family was better off, though. My ancestor, judging from documents, was a Cossack. On terminating his service he was granted a small settlement near Palanka. The settlement bore his name for a long time – Korobanivka, till in the 60-ies it merged with Palanka. My father graduated from Bila Tserkva agricultural institute as mechanical engineer for agricultural machinery. After graduation, as was customary under the soviet power, he was sent to work for two or three years in the northern area of Altay, where the fallow lands were cultivated at that time. He was married by then, so, obviously, he went there with my mom, and I had the audacity to be born there, in those cold steppes, right at home, because there was no way to take mom to the hospital.
My father was born on October 7, 1903.
Later we moved back to Ukraine, first to Dnipropetrovsk, and then to the steppes of Kherson. It is an important fact of my biography – the sovkhoz was founded in the old German homestead named Dorenburg. I found out then what a German homestead was like – so different it was from our kolkhozes. Father was appointed to go there.
And then a disaster happened. My father and mother divorced. It was around 1935. But I’ve said many times and will repeat once again, that in real life even sad, unhappy and tragic events show a man the way, contribute to the growing up of a person, of a child. So, divorce was a bad and sad thing, but my mother moved to Vasyl’kiv, where her parents had already moved from Tarashcha. (Vasyl’kiv is near Kiev). They had and still have a big military aerodrome, where my mom met Olexander Voronin. He was Russian, a pilot and an officer, who were called commanders at the time. Intrestingly, he was from Stalingrad. So she married that unusual man, and a daughter Larissa was born to them. Meanwhile my father married a young girl from Genichesk (also in Kherson oblast’), by name of Hyrenko, half-Russian, half-Ukrainian and my other sister Aida, was born to them in 1936. The circumstances made them move to Crimea, Simferopol.
So, due to a sad event – the divorce –we became connected to Kiev (Vasyl’kiv is near Kiev) and to the Soviet Army commander Voronin, which also had an impact on me. As father settled in Crimea, Simferopol also played a significant role in my biography as well.
I started studying at school № 1 in Vasyl’kiv. I finished 3 grades before the war. In 1939, after my first grade, I came to visit my father and he sent me to a pioneer summer colony “Kastel’ ”, near Alushta. There I had a chance to meet Russian kids closely (Crimea is a multinational place), make friends with German and Tartar kids, too, and even started learning their language.
In 1941 I came, as usual, to visit my father in Simferopol for summer vacations. But the war broke out and I could not return. I spent almost the whole war in Crimea, in Simferopol. So, hadn’t mom divorced and stayed in Vasyl’kiv, mother probably would be evacuated taking me with her. Even if I hadn’t go to Crimea and stayed in Vasyl’kiv, mom would surely had taken me and her little daughter to the Soviet Union. Or if I had stayed in Vasyl’kiv, it still was a very poor town, not to be compared with either Kiev or Simferopol. As it happened I found myself on the occupied territory in relatively rich Simferopol. I will not dwell on it, but under the Germans life there was much better and more liberal than in the other areas. That is first.
Second, I could make comparison by then. I studied excellently, as an outstanding student I joined young pioneers, but my small disappointments already started. I was a very committed soviet student, but first shots of the war disillusioned me. We started retreating. It caused surprise. We assumed that the war would be almost bloodless and not on our territory. And suddenly it came to us. I started thinking.
Germans arrived. Had I been in Tashkent or some other place with my mom, I would have never learnt what it was like in reality. Germans were barbarians, no doubt, I hated their rule. But they showed us what Europe was like – and I was impressed for the rest of my days. So they made me think and compare their discipline, their neatness and their culture, with other countries.
So, I ended up on the occupied territory, in Simferopol, Crimea and not in some backwoods of Vasyl’kiv. And second moment – my father was a candidate to the party, who had stayed there just by chance. He had to run away, came from Kerch’, where he supervised the evacuation of machines, to grab his sheepskin coat, boots and to run from Germans. But the Germans approached so swiftly that he could not make it– he had a pickup car, and wanted to use it, but that woman Maria advised him against it, saying that his own people would shoot him as a deserter.
Naturally, eventually a large underground movement – soviet, clearly, - was organized and named “Crimean falcons”. It is well-known, books were written about it. People were smuggled there from the soviet side. Radio operators Sasha and Iryna – I have it all written down somewhere; NKVD major, an Armenian by name of Misak Albert, was there too.
But on November 26, 1943 the organization was crashed by Gestapo. And my stepmother, who was like my own mother to me, was caught in the German round-up. She was killed in early December. She was 27 years old. But we were warned and managed to escape, Gestapo arrived two days later, but we were not there by then. My sister, 7 years old was left alone. Father was hiding in the basement of former communist, who was in hiding herself. And I had an order to get in touch with the Crimean partisans. It happened so that I had to replace my father. Our flat was used as head -quarters: a radio station, guns beneath the fire wood. All was disrupted. When Gestapo men attacked we had nothing. We were waiting for the next delivery of armaments. But the organization had been crashed by then. I, a boy of 13, had to perform functions of the underground fighter, because everything was linked to my father. I was not alone in that – many boys did the same, as we were inconspicuous.
I got in touch with the partisans and managed to take my father to the Northern formation (or Zuya formation) headed by Petr Yampolsky. He was a Jew, father used to work with him in the People’s Commissariat of Land. We came to him. I had the honor of spending the night in the dug-out of the Northern formation.
Then we managed to rescue my grandma and the little girl – my sister. But we do not know where my stepmother was buried. We were sent to the third detachment. For some time I served as a liaison. But in late December the Germans moved upon us. They were combing the territory. It would be a long story to tell. We had frost bites – my father to a larger and I to a smaller extent. Yampolsky took the frost-bitten people from the ambush and told us that we would need specialists as war could not last forever, – to restore the agriculture after the war. He sent us to the Big Land, to Sochi hospital. It was called hospital for evacuees N21/39, headed by a major, also Jewish by name of Malkin. I’ve been treated there for a month, and then I was visited by the head of special department, as I understand it now. Why special department? Eventually I have learnt to recognize them: plain coat (while everyone was wearing military coats), a scarf, and military breeches and boots visible under the coat. It was their brand. He came right to my room-to show everyone that he was working with me - and said “I want to give you a job”). While we were walking to their headquarters he explained that they wanted me to be a liaison once more –you are healthy, you can run – he said, - so you will be a liaison. He sent me to a certain room, and I never saw him again. They trained me for a month to be a liaison.
When liberation of Crimea started, in late March 1944, we were discharged from the hospital. Father went to Crimea earlier and I followed him. I did not find my stepmother – it would be a long story to tell how I was looking for her among those scary bodies shot in the back of the head. It was Gestapo’s job. I don’t know how many bodies there were – several hundred or several thousand and everyone had a hole in the back of the head. It was two weeks after their retreat, and my stepmother was shot in December 1943. My father said “Go and look for her, I am busy”. That is how it was.
I returned to the sixth form. I had to take three exams and managed to pass everything during summer not to waste the whole year, and returned to Vasyl’kiv, to my grandma and grandpa, whom I have mentioned already – my mother’s parents. My stepfather, who was a good man, no discussion about that, perished as pilot near Kharkiv in May 1942. That is how I lost members of my family who had died like heroes. Eternal glory and respect to them.
I graduated from the tenth form in 1948 with silver medal.
Meanwhile something happened. After all those heroic feats and all the victims – I’ve mentioned only in couple words how we joined the partisans, how we were dying of cold – on January 11, 1946 in Simferopol my father was arrested and convicted to 10 years in prison. Gestapo executed my mother; her daughter was left motherless, while her father was arrested by our own “Gestapo” – Ministry of Interior. I found similarity in their mode of operation.
How did it happen? My father was an intemperate man loose of tongue–he felt he was entitled to it after all his heroic deeds, he was even nominated for a military order. So he could criticize everything. There was another detail – in 1942 he somehow got acquainted with the Ukrainian nationalists. As I understand it now, they were “Melnykivtsy”, who came together with the Germans; and for certain time he worked as an engineer together with them in “Bershafs company Viko". It was an agricultural company. I remember Yosyp, Petro, Mykola, Ivan – several guys. I remember, noteworthy, they were wearing green and yellow uniforms. They wore field caps also differed from the German standard. They wore an oval badge, blue and yellow, but it bore no trident. I remember it well – no trident. They were nice, high-cultured boys. Soon we became friendly – after all they were Ukrainians, you understand? Although we were on the different sides of barricades: my father was a party candidate. If you did not like Germans in Crimea there was only one alternative – to join the soviet underground. But, after all we were Ukrainians. Why couldn’t we talk and share some mutual interest on this basis? They started bringing us books. Moreover, Yosyp became a god-father to my sister Aida, because we would not invite a soviet person to be a god-father. What I am driving at, is that for my father it was nothing but an episode. He read those books, and said they were not bad, but had no room for further development. And he stayed in the soviet underground with all his beliefs. But I was deeply affected. Even my pioneer convictions were put in doubt. I came to like that Ivan who used to wear plain clothes. I treated them like friends, although they were grown-ups for me. And they felt I was the soil where seeds could be planted. They gave me literature to read, and I read no less than my father. Finally I asked Ivan on an ominous day: “So how do I get rid of all the soviet stuff, the pioneer stuff?”
You see, I lived in that atmosphere. At school we were told mainly about our successes. The names of Voroshilov and Stalin were all around us and it was not easy to overcome all that. It took a long time, but that is what happened to me. I told Ivan: “I stand for Ukraine”. My mother was an actress (I forgot to mention it earlier); at home we had a lot of Ukrainian costumes and her photo as Beztalanna. My grandfather Stepan was rather patriotically minded. Sometimes they would discuss Petlyura in whispers, while I was eavesdropping. So I was growing up an unconscious Ukrainian. And the very nature of Kiev and suburbs – all that had an impact on me, although I was not aware of that at the time. But now the inner struggle between this and that began. Ivan told me “Look here, Andriy, this and that cannot be reconciled. Earlier or later you will have to choose –either you stay there or you come here, to the completely national ground”. And that is what actually happened, but in a few years. My family liked them. This stepmother of mine used to say they were different from the Germans, one could joke with them. But suddenly they had to switch back into the German uniforms to escape and be chased after.
So that was my child’s perception of the “Melnykivtsy”. They were running away from Germans, caught and arrested. “Melnykivtsy” were supposed to have followed the Germans till the very end, but those I knew, have escaped, and were caught and arrested by the Germans. Once my father came home and said they were looked for. So they must have had some dissent with the Germans, but I don’t know the details. It was in 1943.
Eventually the soviets caught some of our friends-“Melnykivtsy”, or nationalists and maybe someone told on my father that he had been with them. And that he had baptized his child. Today it sounds ridiculous – you baptize your baby, and right away you are a nationalist. But back then! In the soviet times it was a living horror. Allegedly, he stayed under the German occupation on purpose. I don’t know how he could have escaped. But main thing was that my father had authority and they could not forgive him that. When I came in 1946 to my grandma, I learnt that father was in jail. I was naïve enough to think that investigators would call me, talk to me and tell me that it was a mistake, that I was a good boy and a good student- but nothing of the kind! Father was brought in that “black Maria”, while we, the three unfortunates – old and sickly grandma, I, sixteen at the time and a girl about ten stayed in the courtyard. These villains opened the door: “Out with all of you!” and chased us out of the yard. You understand, there was no love lost between us and them even before that, but now it was a complete break.
That is how I grew up. Although later I joined the komsomol, I did it with double agenda in view. I still hoped that all the evil-doings were just mistakes, that the power could still be reformed, that the authorities would listen to me – so naïve I was! On the other hand, my father was in jail and I had somehow to divert attention from me. So I fully adopted Voronin’s name as his son. It helped me later.
I want to underline the merit of one of my teachers. Her name was Naumenko (I don’t remember her first name, I have it written down somewhere), she helped me with Russian language and literature. I had to take exams anew, because I’ve missed a lot – first in the partisan detachment and then in the hospital. Once I told her:” I believe the war taught us a lot of things. It is all ours, all soviet, but we are not going to praise Stalin that much, and, second, I don’t know about everyone else, but Ukraine needs much more rights. We will not be an independent state right away, but we will be free, and won’t feel that Russificatioin pressure”. So, what did this person answer me? She shared a lot with us, described different women’s nature – that of the Italians, the French, the Russians, the Ukrainians and she was 99% right. So she said “Adik – I don’t know why I was called Adik, and not Andriy at home- don’t cherish any hopes – Stalin will be praised and you will be pressed even more”. It stuck in my memory, and with time I’ve come to appreciate her words even more. It was very upsetting.
I graduated from school and was admitted to the Ukrainian language and literature department of Kiev Pedagogical Institute which bore Gorki’s name at the time – it was right here, in Shevchenko Boulevard.
V.Ovsienko: What year was it?
A.Koroban’: It was 1948. That year I graduated from school and immediately entered the institute. Then there were a lot of perturbations. In 1950 I completed two years of studies. My father was in jail. In Crimea my grandma and my little sister led a miserable life. I helped them.
But it was our Ukrainian village that helped me. I was a member of komsomol, and found a job in Hlevakha village as pioneer organizer. An extra money was never redundant – father in jail, stepfather in his grave, and there are two of us, and mom – but what could she do? So I went to work as a pioneer organizer in Hlevakha 8-year secondary school. The village is 26 km from Kiev. And it was Hlevakha that happened to be the last straw. How so? First, I had a chance to observe closely the life of kolkhozniks. Second, the obligation to procure food products. They come to you – you just deliver eggs, lard, meat, potatoes. My landlady procured certain quantity of meat. Nice people, polite and nicely dressed, put everything down. In a month and a half the new guys come. “’I’ve supplied my share already”. “To whom? They were some con-artists. Where are the papers, the receipts?” So the woman had to give them more eggs and meat. And how did they impose loan securities on us? I had to buy them too. I witnessed all the drama and the tragedy. Everyone was scared to death – they could come even at two in the morning.
It was the social aspect. But there was also a national one. I understood: it was where my Ukraine was hiding. Kiev is all Russified, with probably an insignificant handful of intellectuals. And here is the real Ukraine, with its songs and dances! I am a musician myself, I can name these pieces – the Russian ones, the “chastushki” (short witty couplets), but, most importantly, they are improvised; the choirs sang too, the weddings were celebrated in the folk style, with both bride and her maids. So, that is what Ukraine is reduced to! That was a sign for me – struggle, hate and struggle. That is what I brought home from Hlevakha.
So in 1950 I went to Crimea and wrote a huge 64 pages’ work, addressed to my school friend Dmytro Bukalo. He did not like the power either, but for different, somewhat utilitarian reasons. I won’t go further into it - you will know what I mean. His hatred was not that deep. After he was conscripted, being a law student, he started to change eventually. I had to persuade him and get him back to his former convictions. So that work of 64 standard pages offered analysis of the system, as I understood it, starting with kolkhozes and election system. That spring the elections were held: one candidate to the Union chamber and another to the Nationalities’ chamber. Korniychuk and Tychyna – some elections indeed! I wrote about Stalin also, stating that he was a self-loving man from the Caucasus, who adored praise; that there was no proletariat’s dictatorship nor people’s power, that the Supreme Rada was only a screen. And things like that, on 64 pages. Such a work.
But a disaster happened. The said Dmytro Bukalo brought his friend to our company, while I was trying to organize an underground group. So he recommended a good guy Volodymyr Horbatyuk to me. This journalism student from the university turned out a stooge. Unfortunately I gave him the manuscript and he had been its only its only reader. Then he told me that his flat was being renovated, and asked me to take the brochure away, after having praised it highly. It happened on March 20, 1950, Wednesday – I remember even the day. I had lectures in the afternoon, and wanted to go to the university by the route I knew. But he told me to choose another way, supposedly, a shortcut. Tram no 8 had its route nearby his place.
So I stepped off the tram, when a woman stopped me. “Excuse me – she said – my coat was stolen in broad daylight. All my neighbors assumed it was a relative of mine, but in fact it was a thief. You answer the description completely”. Well, I don’t want to dwell on that detective story any longer. I have got ten years by the decision of the special conference. Special conference was another name for Beria’s trials. It would be a long story.
V.Kipiani: But it is most important for us…
A.Koroban’: The scenario was unfolding in accordance with its own logic. A militiaman walked by – she stopped him, explaining that she suspected me. The militiaman took my student’s card and asked if she could be mistaken. “I might be, but my coat is precious to me, so let militia find out”. And I was taken to Volodymrska, 15. There the situation aggravated “where, how, how could you?”; they even found some witnesses. One said he did not see anything, while the other said that the thief was wearing boots. My boots were in the shoe-repair shop in Hlevakha. Can you imagine - going all the way to Hlevakha?!
So the hoax turned pretty serious. But, mind you, it was all aimed in one direction – to cover the agent, so that I would never suspect him, because that person had to continue his work, turning people in. A major started fumbling in my bag – why would one search a bag if I am suspected of stealing a coat? They searched me and found 60 rubles. It did not look like money obtained for the sold coat, because a coat cost at the time one, two or three hundred, definitely not sixty rubles. So, are you looking for the coat in my bag or what? He started examining every sheet of paper from my bag – that was the gist of the matter! And, as though by chance, he came across my brochure “What is this?” And then, as if he had found it by accident, he makes a call and a Russian sub-colonel barges in immediately “Oh, my god! What a piece of cake! What a scoundrel!” he called a car to take me to Volodymyrska 33. Then he called again and received an answer “This case is all resolved – we have more serious case here”. That was all.
I’ve got ten years for this brochure. This case dragged on for a long time, prior to special conference. And the main thing is that Horbatyuk also turned in Dmytro Bukalo that recommended him to me. When Dmytro served in the army his diaries were found. I tried to defend him, but some anti-soviet stuff was written there –trifles, but still non-sanctioned propaganda.
V.Kipiani: And what happened after that?
A.Koroban’: I don’t want to overburden you. ..Well, the investigation started. It was kind of childish. I conducted a broad correspondence. They went to Hlevakha, to Vasyl’kiv, they took the names and addresses of my correspondents. They compiled a list, so it was easy to find them. But I defended everyone as much as I could, including Dmytro Bukalo, repeating “no” and “no” and “no”. Had it not been for Horbatyuk’s denunciation and these diaries, only I might end up in prison, while the rest would go unscathed.
V.Ovsienko: Were you tried together with Bukalo or separately?
A.Koroban’: I’ll tell you everything. That is what was surprising for me. I was imprisoned on September 20, and in the end of October I was suddenly taken somewhere. I was a bit frightened. They told me nothing, forbade me to take my belongings. I had that naïve thought: maybe, I was to be executed? We’ve heard a lot of things, for deuce’s sake. In that case I’ll have to run, it is better to be shot while running…Funny thoughts, you know. But it was not the case – they brought me somewhere and from a “black Maria” I hear a conversation. One said he was kept running back and forth like a madman, and the other responded that he felt something similar. I listened to their talk. Then I was called in front of the complete doctors’ conference. Why on earth? It was about my so-called, cognizance, sanity, mental health. You know, first I was upset, then mad. But I tried to restrain myself and told them that it was my vision, the way I felt and so I wrote it down. “Who gave you the right?” And everyone is watching me. I said I felt I had the right and so I wrote.
The conversation was over – I was brought back to Volodymyrska 33, to my cell. Nothing else was happening for some time, but then right out of the blue – off you go, to be deported. They took me to Lukyanivka prison, to a special cell for those convicted under article 58 – there were Romanians, Germans, people from Zaporihzhya, some collection! After a couple of days I was taken to Kharkiv. You wonder why? The real criminals, who were on the train, said “Maybe it is just for control purpose, to check you up.” And some little sergeant in Kharkiv let the word out “They are taking you to a professor, to check your mental capacity”. Paperny, the great Paperny, he was a Jew. His name was well-known in psychiatry. It was November-December…Right; I was brought there for the October Revolution celebrations. November, December January and almost the whole of February – that is how long that examination lasted. Do you understand what my investigation was like? It was a literal torture. I suffered not knowing what to do. Some people advised me to play fool, and even taught how to do that. Others said “Do as you please”. I was thrashing about in vain. It is noteworthy that there was no shame in coming out as a mentally disabled person; it was considered a ruse, aimed at fooling them and making them let you out. They were reluctant to certify you as mentally incapable, but you managed to convince them - see? Why did they send me for expert examination at all? Because I had a lot of relatives – medical workers, doctors…And they made my mother write something to the effect that I was telling students something inappropriate, that my behavior at home was faulty, that membership in partisan detachment affected me etc. And they began using it, and I used it myself, although I had my doubts all the time – whether to go to frozen Siberia, or to pretend sickness and be let loose to continue my fight. These several months were a real torment for me. But then I thought: if I get out what happens to my buddy? Will he be condemned? It would be a shame.
The end was simple. They sent my brochure to professor Paperny. He was ready to write his conclusion. To a certain extent he sympathized with me and did not mind making a mental case of me – “with best wishes”. But once he got my work, he wanted to know why I had been arrested. He read it –here it is, if you wish you can read it – and he became aware that if he said it was written by a crazy person, he would be proclaimed crazy himself. He said: “How is it possible? You wrote it as learned sociologist!” That was the end of the evaluation. He wrote “Nerves and head healthy, subject to conviction”.
I was brought back to Kiev in early March 1951. My investigator was captain Kuznetsov (sub-colonel transferred my case to Kuznetsov, a Russian also). I was 21, but I might have been a professor – I met professors there. A man of letters Veretynsky who was a Jewish writer (and the Jews were under attack at that time), an old man could be cursed by Kuznetsov easily, so I could be cursed even worse.
But then something incomprehensible happened. He signed the resolution on case termination – no case and that is it. So the inquest was finished in mid-March, while I’ve been suffering in my cell till August. In August we were transferred to Lukianivka. Only in the late August, after so many months the “decision of the special council” (the Beria’s trial by correspondence) arrived. Actually there was no trial. All the papers compiled by the investigator were sent to Moscow. A prosecutor called me when I was still in Lukianivka ( I remember as if it was yesterday, such a stoutish guy), and he held such a tiny note – like something a seven-grader might have written to a six-grader, a love note. It ran “Koroban’ A.M. for anti-soviet propaganda and an attempt to create an anti-soviet organization, as stipulated by the article 58, p.10/11, convicted to 10 years of imprisonment, to serve his term in the correctional facilities starting September 21, 1950". They even stole one day because I was imprisoned on the 20th. Even the prosecutor smiled and said “You see, you’ve served one year already”. You understand, the whole year was wasted in technical proceedings, because the accusation amounted to nothing. “You have nine more years to serve”.
And that was the decision of the special council which never condemned anyone to more than 10 years. But the whole horror of their activity was revealed to me only later, in the camps. They could “cut it down” or reduce the term, but could also increase it without any court decision – just a small note would arrive advising that your term is now half a year or a year longer. That was scary. The court would give you a certain term, while special council gave arbitrary terms, and although they could reduce the punishment nobody would expect that of them.
I was taken to the extreme North, Komi ASSR. They had “Intaugol’” mines there where the coal was extracted. I remember as if it was today we were taken to the same cell in Lukianivka with Dmytro Bukalo. We found out something. They made a big mistake - I was put in jail on the 20th, and Dmytro Bukalo much later – around 5th -6th of October. Meanwhile 3 r 4 days after my arrest the colonel asked me “Look, Koroban’, do you have any nationalistic persuasions? We asked your Dmytro Bukalo and he confirmed you had nationalistic persuasions. You claimed that Ukraine was a colony…” It was implied but never said straight in my brochure about Ukraine. I considered class, social and political issues there. And here they go: “nationalistic persuasions, your Dmytro Bukalo says…” I asked Dmytro Bukalo whether they had interviewed him at least once in this month and a half – not a single time! So, who denounced me? Volodymyr Horbatyuk, because he knew. He knew and he told on me, but the investigator wanted to cover their agent and to set us against each other. That is what the great Solovyov described as “psychological torture”.
We came to Gorkiy city and were separated there. He, being sickly, was taken to Novosibirsk area, to Rechlag camps or something like that, while I was sent to extreme North, Komi ASSR. They had “Intaugol’” mines there, also called “Minerallag”. They put a number on my back, “G1-703” - that was my number. Well, what was it like? They were called “special camps under the Ministry of State Security”, with severe regime. I don’t want to praise them, but by that time conditions there were already much better, than in 1946 when my father was sent there. Then they had been horrendous. 1945, 1946 and up to 1947 – it had been terrible – hunger and inhuman conditions. I won’t tell you, it is common knowledge. It is also well known that “Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 and the Americans criticized USSR severely for the maltreatment of the political prisoners and prisoners in general. That is how they took the better of Vishinski – a loudmouth who loved outward shows, who had to report to Stalin. We should give Stalin his due because the information reached him. There had been cases of such an outrageous arbitrariness that some people were even shot to death. But these facts had to be revealed by the West. I came at the time when reforms had been already introduced. On the one hand the conditions improved significantly – there were bunks, mattresses, driers. Food in camps is what it is, and if it were not for the parcels….The foreigners, who received no packages, suffered most. But anyway, these years were better.
In compensation the regime became even more rigid, to our utmost displeasure. First off, the work-day lasted 10 hours. Second – plain clothes, even the smallest trifles, were not allowed. During the search a guard could take your scarf, or order you to take off your shirt, although you needed it badly. Because, you know, sometimes the temperature there would fall to 47 degrees Celsius below zero, and the camp robes were not enough. Second – no food was allowed in the barracks. Let us say, you had a meal in the canteen (You did not see these times already), and you have a piece of bread left. You have eaten at 5-6 pm, and the taps is announced at 10. You might want a cup of tea with bread – no way, not a smallest piece; let alone a piece of lard, or something else from the food parcel - God forbid! Each prisoner had a small box on the shelf, and the piece of bread had to be placed there. Next day one could take it for breakfast and the leftovers must be returned to a special keeper who would put it back under the number. No plain clothes, you can’t cover yourself with your quilted jacket. They used coal for heat, but it is not a centralized heating, it was cold. It was allegedly for hygienic purposes, but all that hygiene ended up in our freezing by the morning. I suffered a lot, as I have weak larynx. At night I would get up, find the jacket and drag it under the blanket – not over it, but under the sheet. Some hygiene it was.
According to the rules we could move around the zone only in groups. Even to use the toilet one should have gathered 5-6 persons, not to go there alone. Then, about the parcels. They were permitted, that is true. But after a parcel arrived and you have received it, you had to bring it to the individual kitchen. It was kept in a special warehouse where the bosses’ bootlickers used to work (the keeper of the warehouse, the manager of the parcel’s office, the men who assigned work – all had to rat on the rest). All the food was kept in the warehouse, but after you took something to cook in the individual kitchen – some porridge or some meal, the leftovers remained in the individual kitchen, in those small boxes. The quilted jacket could have only one pocket, which could be checked by the guard. Main goal was to prevent escape so that no one could hide any food or plain clothes, which would help a convict to run away from the extreme North. One could not take a snack even to work, so that no one could save the food, dry it and make a stash. Loitering around was prohibited. At night the barracks were locked, as well as the window grates.
Just fancy that regime. But the most disgusting thing was that we were allowed only two letters home a year, and those were inspected too. Imagine this: I write a letter in March (I could have written it in April as well, but it did not work that way). So, one letter is written in March, while the other is written in September-October. So your beloved mom is worrying – how you are, what you are doing and for half a year she has no news of you. Because if I write every three months the next letter will be allowed in nine months only. That was one of the most unpleasant things in the system.
The regime was so nonsensical…But let me get back a bit, to tell you more about escapes. Right before my arrival several persons escaped from the mine work-zone. They were caught – it was winter, and you can hardly imagine these vast territories, North, Komi ASSR. On top of everything the locals were taught to denounce the runaways, because they received almost full bag of flour for each person. These nentsys on deer-drawn sleighs – if they had a chance to get a bag of flour or sugar in this forested tundra, they would turn in their own father. The runaways managed to make only about 50-60 km. Of course, they were caught; one was killed, shot to death. How so? A dog jumped out and he took a hatchet to it out of fright. And the soldier on skis got mad:”So you are threatening a dog with a hatchet?” and killed that boy. For several days his body stayed in front of the entrance – they did it all the same way, the Germans, the guards. That is why I keep saying they are close relatives. He lay there and you had to go by and watch.
So no stashes, no escapes. Everything was aimed at that. Well, what can I say? That I was lucky. I was on the construction of the camp 6, where the drifting of mines just started. It was a poor camp. I will explain why. Had it not been for the parcels, oh-ho, I don’t know how I would have made it. These mines were just explored, and that is why the camp was poor. But thanks to the commander –his name was Samoylov, or something like that, purely Russian name – our regime was wonderful. We walked around zone freely, played music, our barracks were not locked. We were even allowed some plain clothes. Maybe, he allowed it because of complete squalor. The specialists, convicts though they were, could write to authorities asking to be transferred to another mine. Never mind their being jail-birds, everyone needed a good professional in their mines. Authorities outside the zone could claim they needed this very specialist. Then he was transferred. Probably that was the reason of our mild regime. It was a blessing for me, as I started learning German, and my mother sent me a fiddle. Then someone probably reported our commander, and the regime became more rigid again. But I was transferred, and I was thinking all the time.
I don’t want to go into details, but I can tell you I spent 12 days trying to escape from KGB cell. KGB, just fancy! I climbed on the window, while we were prohibited from even approaching it. So full I was of hatred! I don’t know why Gluzman said he was terribly scared, when he ended up in prison. I don’t want to brag, but I had no room for scare. I was a bit frightened, but my anger and wish to fight were transformed into actions. Just fancy – I brought the bed-stand to the window, climbed it and tried to find a loose rod – one rod was welded poorly into the wall, freshly installed. I wanted to check how far it went into the wall. And the guard would peep into the cell now and then, and Go forbid he catches me moving that bed stand, and climbing the window. I did everything like in the novels. Having read a lot of those detective stories, I sat for hours calculating the average number of seconds when he was looking into the door peephole and was very precise in that. He is approaching –I jump off the window, he is closing the peephole, here I am back on the window. It is good I was a sportive guy. But finally I understood that, as Shevchenko wrote «the blacksmiths who forged them, tempered them so hard, that they could not be broken”. Then I had to say good-bye to my dream.
I had problems with my larynx, was put to the hospital and there I insisted to be sent to a camp closer to the railway station. To make my escape easier. It would take long to explain. The Germans had influenced me. It was due to them that I did not make this inconsiderate step. In due time I was discharged, with honors almost. It was the only camp where that severe regime was observed, although it was richer, the mines were in operation there, and many free contractors worked there. For example, I worked in geological research office in a mine. My boss was an ex-con himself. Well, these were soviet times. Maybe it was for some non-criminal offense. But, naturally, he used to bring me sandwiches. And he had those komsomol members. He never went down into the mine: the guys would arrange the explosion and he would run to a rendezvous. But he would bring a good length of sausage for the prisoners in charge of explosions, demolishioners. Or a driver to whom the guys would help with loading, or with hiding something in the bottom, which should not be there, would bring a bottle. See, when a mine is operating already and many free recruits are working there it helps in improving everyday day, especially for the foreigners, because they received nothing.
The only regulation which was strictly observed in another camp was regulation number three. Borodulin, a Tartar famous for that, was the commander of the camp. His brother was killed either by the Lithuanians, or by our partisans. And such a person, whose brother was killed, would be put in charge! Nobody wanted to work there, although the living conditions were better. Everyone tried to get transferred to another camp, because of inhuman regime. I described it in detail, just to give you the idea, of how one could survive.
I apologize for putting in so any details, but as I was “mobilized” as Tychyna put it, in1950, and had around me people who were imprisoned in 1945, 1944 or even in pre-war time, I had a chance to learn the whole story. Sometimes I come across various distortions of history, and cannot agree. As it happens, they do not know what they are writing about, or add some horrors to gain more merit. But in fact one should neither exaggerate nor diminish [the facts] – just tell it the way it was. It is more than enough – no need to add anything. I also might have said that I was thrown into isolation cell, that I was beaten. They told me that if I keep doing my morning exercises I would be thrown into isolation cell. I stopped.
But what I am saying is that the most severe regime was observed in Borodulin’s camp. Some people say that no money was paid, or that payment was hugely delayed. I say that in our camps money was given out in spring 1952. I remember as if it happened today: I was brought there on September 23, (it was the day of the victory over Japan – everyone has forgotten by now about this day, but I remember), and we arrived on September 26, 1951. And money was given out in spring 1952. That was a big event, especially for the foreigners! We had a lot of Germans, Romanians, and Japanese there. Because we at least had our parcels. No one among the authorities believed it possible, because in 1952 Stalin was still alive. The mines of Inta were awarded the all-Union banner for winning the socialist competition due to the convicts work. But when money was paid, some people started drinking. Then the authorities applied to Moscow to stop giving out money in cash. And that is what happened later. The extraction of coal stopped immediately.
V.Ovsienko: What could one buy inside the zone for that money?
A.Koroban’: There was a food booth. And the discharges began. It was easier to buy a bottle or a piece of sausage. It was 1952. One could even send money home. I was sending money to my poor grandma. If I remember right one third of wages was retained. At Vasyl’s time 50 rubles were taken away. Was it one third of the wages? We used to earn 200-300-400, something like that. Or it might have been one third, I am not sure.
And then revolution happened, so to speak – Stalin’s death on March 5, 1953. First we were told he was sick – at that time I worked in brick factory, where bricks were made from the rock. I remember the news till now. I told my friends:”Listen, the anthem is played, but without words to it”. You see, they played the anthem every day, and the choir sang to it, and suddenly no singing. Something must have happened. Everyone stayed in the barrack, although we had to get ready for work. It is a historical fact that the power had lost immediately. First, one could sense panic – they were frightened, though they had power vested in them by Stalin, but they did not want it. The people thought everything was power’s fault. The cleverest, the smartest officials understood they could not go against Stalin, as the people trusted him; he was the one who won the war. That is non-sense: disliking him, everyone was afraid of everybody and cow-towed to Stalin’s name.
But once he died, everyone felt the falsity of all that. First off, Molotov, who was in disfavor, was returned and made a minister. Zhukov was returned immediately. Second, Malenkov started addressing the public: “No panic, please. Everything is all right”. He kept saying that although we had hard times “we are soviet people, we’ll correct everything and things will be all right.” To prove it Zhukov, who had great authority, was returned. See, Stalin removed him from power, but we returned him. See, Molotov? But the main thing was amnesty. That was something! It was a ransom, which cost them a lot. Those who have seen the movie “The cold summer of 1953” still are brooding over it.
All these marginal elements were let loose, and it was specifically stressed – I remember it as if it happened today – “The amnesty does not apply to counter-revolutionaries only” just fancy! 1953 – search the archives, search “Pravda” and “Izvestiya” newspapers right after Stalin’s death, and we were still called counter-revolutionaries! It was unfathomable! I was a student, there were other boys – we were not entitled to amnesty as counter-revolutionaries. Those put in jail for non-criminal offenses were let out, but not us.
Besides, there was some relaxation in the international arena. The statement was passed to the effect that “The Soviet Union has no territorial claims towards Turkey”. See, they had plans to get even there under the pretext of Armenia consolidation. That was it and that is what drove Turkey into NATO. Marx wrote long before, that main thing for Russia was to put one foot into the middle of Europe, and the other – in Bosporus and Dardanelle. And no “we have no claims”.
Now to the contingent. These guys are my weakness! We’ve been through so much together! We were not lonely heroes there – [there were] young people, from UPA. What was my article [of conviction]? It was in general terms “organization”. In fact, and few people knew about that – it was the organization of struggle against soviet power. So I was considered a fighter against soviet power. But these guys were a-plenty there. And when they reminisce about their hiding places –well, maybe it was not as heroic as it looks, maybe they stooges among them, too, but I perceived it as something very romantic. It was very touching. I could come out of jail repenting. I was inflamed with the romantics of fight. These songs they used t sing clandestinely…
The sixth camp was better as far as regime was concerned, but playing any instruments was strictly forbidden, because, allegedly, it disturbed others. These were considerations behind it. But the guys would secretly grab a mandolin – and I played it well by then – and started singing: “On the mountain sun is shining, in the valley you hear the horn, the rebel is walking over ravines, fed up with his cursed life”. My God, it applies even today. My son, when applying to college, sang this song. I hoped through father to the son our UPA could be revived. He sang “in this hell of the cursed hangmen” in front of the admission board. The members of the board asked where he had heard it – it was this July- and he answered it was from his father. And I am proud of that.
What did I like about that song? The life is damned hard, but one should not give up, otherwise the red daemon will never be overcome. And all these were Ukrainians. Some served in the police under Germans, but some, like me, were soviet students. I think it would not be wrong to say that we were about 22 thousand. This figure became known. Later I recalculated. After the exoneration I said about it unambiguously, while recently I asked the State Security Service, and they confirmed the figure was correct. Half of those were Ukrainians. It makes 11.000 in one place only– that is who built them the “beauty of the North” and stuff like that. The newspapers wrote about komsomol members, who, guided by the party etc….In fact the komsomol guys were guarding us with machine-guns. So there were at least 11 thousand Ukrainians. 4 thousand women – not only Ukrainian, but Lithuanian, Russian, Estonian, Georgian. Just think about it -4 thousand women in the fourth camp. Every nationality was there – Georgian, Estonian…
Lithuania ranked second. Just imagine, there were about 30, possibly 40 million of Ukrainians at that time, while Lithuanians were three million! And they ranked second as to the number of prisoners. I can tell without any hesitation – they were a-plenty. I am counting only camps, and how many were deported? It was at the time when “Lithuania sang, flourished, built socialism”. Then Latvians, Estonians, Germans respectively. I cannot tell the exact number, but of all the foreigners Germans were the most numerous group, due to various reasons.
But the most outrageous thing was that the Germans, Romanians and Hungarians were the citizens of their own states, and were trialed as the citizens of the so-called democratic republics. However, they did their time in the Soviet Union. For example, Heinz Byodiger, a war pilot (let his memory live forever, since he is dead, to my knowledge).A war pilot – what kind of criminal was he? He was firing his machine-gun or throwing bombs, because it was war. Easter Germany is poorer than Western he managed to go there, the way we go to Poland now to smuggle goods. He was caught at the border, and accused of spying, convicted to ten years of imprisonment and sent to the USSR. And there were many people like him.
So Ukrainians were most numerous, followed by Lithuanians, and foreigners –Germans, Japanese, Romanians. This was our contingent.
Another thing that happened to me there. I was practicing music there, then started learning English, and fared so well that in the institute I moved to the English chair. So the time in prison might not be wasted. But in early 1955, in the end of March they fired me from the mine “You work poorly”. I had a sinecure job of sorting operator. And I was sorting the coal so diligently that my boss decided to fire me. The mines were falling into decay; they could not pay off their dues for the wood with forestry. So they decided to fell timber on their own. The miners, just like me, were taken to Lymyu – about 300 km south, on the other bank of Pechora river. Before we were North of Pechora, while now were moved south. All the names there were Komi - Lymyu, Pera and others. Oh, there I had my share of trouble – God forbid! Buried in snow up to my waist. Before I was located there and could receive a parcel, I’ve had the full measure of it. Amazingly, for two months I have stayed permanently wet. There had been dryers, but you are still wet from your waist down all the time. In timber-felling mill the snow was deep, and then we had to drag that timber by horse’s harrows. But I don’t remember sneezing even once during these two months. Now, on the other hand, I am sneezing at the slightest provocation. Probably, my whole body was mobilized and did not allow any sneezing. The only thing I acquired in this mine was dry pleurisies on my right side. The timber-felling mill closed. We came back to camp to find the Supreme Council commission working there. About August 31 I was summoned by this commission. You should understand what a scary “special board” was. If a person was tried in the usual court, his whole file followed him. What he did, what he wrote, whom he shot or where he served, what his verdict was – everything followed him. But the “special board” envisaged only notes and extracts. My brochure, for which I had been imprisoned, was somewhere in Moscow or Kiev, while here I had just notes.
The commission arrived to see that my references were perfect. In Lymyu we were outside zone already, and regime was milder and milder. I thought of escaping from this terrible place once, but in the end I was issued a certificate with my picture, in lieu of passport. With it I was able to go to Ukhta, about 180 km from the mill, for a trip of 2-3 days. I bought something there, met with fellow-prisoners and came back. As we were outside the zone, so I could join the amateurs [musical] band and had great success. My work reference was superb. And in fact we worked like mules, because we wanted to earn some money prior to discharge. And the amateur group gave me good reference too. But my file was not there. The members of commission ask me what my offense was. I explained I wrote stuff, including accusations against Stalin. And Stalin was dead by the time. In the 20th Congress in1956 Stalin was criticized much more severely than in my book, and in June the cult of Stalin’s personality was subject to criticism on radio. I only smiled wryly – I’ve been doing my time for six years for what has become nothing but political jokes.
The commission consisted of three persons – the head, the prosecutor and the psychologist. The psychologist listened to me attentively. When I mentioned my writing was aimed against Stalin, someone remarked: “Now everyone is blaming Stalin for everything”. “No, please, the context of my writings was so-and-so, here are the specific phrases”. And quoted these phrases. I still remember them, thank God, and then I remembered them even better. They grew quiet and just asked: “Why have you written каким я был, таким я и остался"? It was a line from a popular song from “Kuban’ Cossacks” movie. “So how many persons did you have in your organizations?” – “Two persons”. At that point the psychologist could not hold back any longer and laughed out and said “Well, some organization, indeed. OK, you may go, Andrey Koroban’”. And I understood I’ve passed. It was 1956. I spent over a year in timber-felling, and then they returned us to Inta, after the mill closed. No, it must have been earlier, because I have heard the resolution on personality cult in Inta, working in the mine.
–Now the verdict was - “criminal record clear”. It is not exoneration.
V.Ovsienko: When were you released?
A.Koroban’: I was released on August 31, 1956, and left North in a couple of days. I’ve come to Kiev and a miracle happened. I came to the institute…I was very reluctant to get back to the institute. But I knew Maria Fedoryak, a singer who was condemned to 25 years in prison and performed in Komi. When they came to perform for us in the zone, we became acquainted. She was from Drohobych, a classical repertoire singer with opera voice. She was discharged after 6 years due to amnesty. But she was imprisoned two years earlier and in 1954 released and went Khabarovsk to join her mother.
At the beginning I did not want to study. But my mother and my wife-to-be insisted. I was fed up with everything – I knew that I would continue my struggle, that it was nothing but school, and I would not even look at any institute let alone pedagogical. But everyone insisted that I must graduate.
When I came to the pedagogical institute, I did not know how to open my mouth – just yesterday I was an enemy. I could not relate why and where I’ve been. When the vice rector asked what had happened, I answered I’ve written a brochure. They understood I was a soviet student, 20 years old - what kind of a white-guard or counter-revolutionary could I be? They understood it was something related to the regime, and knew I was one the thousands. And when I said I’ve written just one brochure against Stalin, he wouldn’t go into further questioning, but just said:”Go and write your application”. I did. Without going into much detail, I just wrote that I had been released for the lack of evidence. I was admitted to the third year of studies in the same department.
I arrived in mid-September. Then Maria Fedoryak, who had believed in me, joined me, and on October 17 we registered our marriage in Vasyl’kiv and started a family. She was convicted for membership in UPA and received 25 years; bur was released due to amnesty.
I’d like to mention that the conditions of release differed. Some were obliged to observe certain passport regime. Some were exonerated, but these were few. More people were released with” criminal record clear” formulation, like me. like me. It was a great achievement; it allowed me to get back to the institute. Some had certain restrictions, I don’t remember what it was called, but it meant they could not enjoy all the rights. They could come home, but something still clung to them. And few were left in camps to terminate their terms 2-3. And a very small number of people, probably, some insignificant percent, who were not pardoned at all. I met them in Mordovia in 1970. Just count, it was 1956, and what is 25 years, if they had been condemned in, let us say, 1954? They were few, but still they were there; later they were all moved to Mordovia. There were new convicts, me among them – it was Mordovia for everyone. So I told you about the whole mechanism. I think that is enough.
V.Ovsienko: Yes, it is very important.
A.Koroban’: Precisely, because it all happened in front of my own eyes. There were some who had been released later, but it was a very rare occasion – for example, Stepan Soroka, who is currently residing somewhere in Rivne oblast’. He was condemned to 25, spent 10 years in jail, after he had 10 years, they let him out, but he babbled something here, gabbled something there –and they made him serve the rest of his term, either 15 or 5 years more. Such things happened. And it was after the revolution, in the fall of 1956. Well, what actually happened? I completed the third year of studies in the pedagogical institute, but they added another year of studies, and my wife started working in “Dumka” choir. But we had nowhere to live, and the baby was due. In Drohobych her beautiful two-storied house was confiscated – her family was rather well-off. By the decision of the Supreme Court of the USSR or Ukr.SSR the house was returned to her, but the local power hesitated in fulfilling this decision, because the house had turned into the literal bee-hive with many people living in it. So, the ancestral home is there. I have to study for another year. So I had to go to Drohobych. That is why I have the diploma from Drohobych Ivan Franko pedagogical institute, because I studied there for a year. I did my best, went to Kiev more than once, till finally all these people moved out. Only one family stayed and lived in the house for a long time. But eventually they left too, on their own good will. It took my wife a long time to get established in Prikarpattya ensemble. I graduated by correspondence. But as I was deeply disgusted by the soviet writers –I can explain why and say it aloud – I was reluctant to study Ukrainian literature. Generally speaking, I did not want to teach, after all I’ve seen, after all I’ve been through I could not even imagine how I would teach Holovko and Tychyna to my students. But my wife insisted again. It was the foreign language that saved me. I went to raion education department and found out they needed an English teacher. After that I taught English, German, music and singing for the whole duration of my pedagogical career - almost 10 years. It helped .I’d like to reiterate, though, that I still regarded it as a school only. I used to say always that we have been through the school of life, liberated by Khrushchov, for which I am very grateful, but the foundations of regime never changed. We got no independence, and all the regimes’ characteristics remained in place. The further developments proved that Mykyta [Khrushchov] had no intentions of changing anything. At least, the peasants were better off under his rule. But the very office of the secretary general was detrimental for a person. Sometimes the secretaries were decent people, like Mykyta, but the office itself was vicious… I won’t touch upon the national issue – it was completely ignored by Mykyta. That is why I am saying that the office of the secretary general
was at least 80% vicious. So, we’ll let alone the national issue порочна. Once he even said that under communism “all the national differences will be obliterated”. We know what it looked like in real life. He fought against church. As a teacher I know what we have been forced to do. But I did not forbid kids to sing carols, not to go into further details. Sometimes the teachers received the order to go around the village destroying Christmas marionettes theaters. It was under Mykyta. Demolishing these figures in the Western Ukraine, closing the churches – that was religious policy.
But he did not bring material well-being either. He ordered all these rotation of crops and grasslands, cutting down the shrubbery to increase the arable soil areas. So whatever I fought against, all came true later. I had to convince many people, my friends among them. First, people were broken down after slavery. I did my time for 6 years, but some spent 10 hard years in prison. They were morally vanquished. Second they believed the regime was eternal and insurmountable – like it was under the Germans. Those who betrayed their country believed that the Germans have come to stay, and the only way to survive was to adjust; and soviet power returns it wouldn’t be earlier than in 15-20 years. I tried to persuade many people, and my correspondence played against me, although I knew the rules of conspiratorial operation. I started doing my job under the Germans, in 1943, and then continued in the 50-ies, although I could make head or tail of conspiratory rules at that time. So these letters became evidence against me.
I wrote, for example, to a good boy, patriotically minded, who had served in the German police. He was a good poet, too. I wrote to his village, using nom-de-guerre, wrote to his gamily under different last name. But the secret surveillance was all around. And some agent suspected something was not right – a former policeman receiving so many letters. Then they found out it was one and the same correspondent.
I wrote my first essay on sociology, and in 1957 I started writing the history of Ukraine. It was called “On the problem of national independence of Ukraine”. I have been writing it for three years. I had to study Hrushevsky. It is noteworthy that Hrushevsky could be found in academic libraries, as well as Dontsov. The main thing was to get into the library. And here my diploma came handy. I am thankful to my mom and my wife. Because first I wanted to be a worker, but you come to a library with your teacher’s diploma, you are most welcome, unlike an ordinary worker. I have uncovered such things – I’ll tell you later. Besides, I was working in the Western oblasts. Let me repeat – a man would spend 25 years in jail – so why would I need him? I corresponded with five only. In Western Ukraine I uncovered the things which I would never have uncovered here. People would find Vinnytchenko’s works for me in their attics. I still have his “Revival of the nation”. So everything pointed at the need to fight.
But some friends, and, especially my wife, presented a problem. She just gave birth to a baby and said “Only over my dead body”. She worked in that ensemble already…I don’t want to go into further details, but to a certain extent she became an obstacle in my fight. She was still a Ukrainian patriot, and I could not reconcile patriotism with the claims of career growth. So I left her and moved to Kiev oblast.
V.Ovsienko: When did you move?
A.Koroban’: In 1959. But imagine what I, the unworthy, did – I tempted a young girl, my student from the evening school to come with me. Her name was Olha Zvir. She agreed to become a typist. I came to Borodyanka raion, Kiev oblast’ in the fall of 1959. I could work as a teacher teaching German, English plus music and singing – everything nitty-gritty, a soviet teacher. But at home I had a wonderful typewriter “Erica”, in quilted box, so that the noise won’t be heard. I was writing and she was typing. We’ve got so brazen that we rented a flat from the mother of the third secretary of raion committee. You know, getting a dwelling was not an easy matter. In Borodyanka raion I taught in Druzhne village, but we lived in Klavdievo. So the mother of the third secretary of raion committee is right behind the door, and here she is typing. I have completed my work after three years. It was called “On the problem of national independence of Ukraine”.
Substantial part of the book was devoted to Kievan Rus’, its language. Soviet Union was fascinated with the stupid unscientific theory that three nations evolved from one stem, the “rusychy”, a neutral Russian people. It is stupid, even some Russians, Nicolay Pogodin, for one, could not support such nonsense, because it did not explain how these huge differences suddenly came into being. They could not have developed within mere 100-200-300 years. Even Belinsky recognized the differences between a typical Russian and a typical Ukrainian. Pogodin argued it was wrong, but he distorted history and said we’ve come from the area behind Carpathian Mountains. So I had to show the foundations and origins of our nations.
But on December 8, 1960 in the broad daylight a car arrived in front of the school building and I was taken away right from there. It was Borodyanka raion, Druzhne village. I had an English lesson, the students were writing a control paper. I stepped out a saw a car with them around. Everyone in plain clothes, three or four people plus a driver. One was compatriot from Vasyl’kiv, Vasyl’ Nerodenko, one had to be Russian, to control the situation – it was obligatory. Pure Russian, one could sense it from far away. Ukrainians could be sensed from far away, too. року серед білого дня з`являється They approached me: “Do you know who we are?” – “No idea”. He showed me his ID – KGB. “
We will have to bother you”. “But I have a lesson, so let me dismiss the class” “It is undesirable”. “So, what to do? The lesson is on”. “All right, go back and finish your lesson”. I returned to the classroom. Well, in all fairness, these were not Stalin’s times, after all, and etiquette was observed – not a single KGBist entered the classroom. The inspector from the raion education department was brought along. Now try saying something to kids, while the inspector, known to me, is sitting in the classroom.
Then that Russian asked me: “Tell us, Andrey Mykhaylovych, what illegal [books] you have”. “I have none”, I said.
I had a pal by name of Yevhen Shaban, with whom I graduated from Drohobych institute. I hoped he would be my valuable friend and assistant. He acquired some underground literature for me, came to visit me But when he was taken, excuse me, by the balls, he showed, like many others before him, weakness. He gave up immediately. It was complete nonsense. Once he came to see us. We were three in the room – a girl (who later became my wife), him and me. He said, “Well, underground fighters, where do you have your secret stash?” We lived in a small rented room in a village. He searched and searched, but never found anything. We laughed at him: “Look right behind the picture, - we took the picture out of its frame and opened it – right between the canvas and the cardboard. No one would guess! Here it is!”
Next these guys come. “What do you have?” – “Nothing”. They go straight to the picture, take out the papers, go to the mirror – take out the papers. So much for patriotic Shaban!
One thing they failed to find was an article “The language of Kievan Rus’”, which was smartly hidden under the book-stand which I have made with my own hands. It was a very valuable and complicated big work. But all the rest they took away. I was taken to Kiev and the girl, too. I told them she was my wife, although we were not yet officially married, and that I have typed everything myself.
And can you imagine that – the times have really become liberal. True, they tinkered with me for almost whole night. At a certain point the Russian took the ruler:” You, piece of shit!” and started drumming it on the desk:”You piece of shit, will you confess, finally?” It was the only echo of the old times. But otherwise everything was totally different. They even said “What made you do that? Today policy is such and such, and the day after tomorrow it will change completely”. I could feel certain break in them. They were not the hawks of yesterday. “And you’ve got such a young wife. If I had such wife, I’d be living gorgeously!” But at the end they let me go. What I am saying is that the times were extra liberal – early December of 1962 when Mykyta was in the zenith of power. It was still a long way to 1964 when it ended. Mykyta was in the zenith of power and vowed in front of the whole world that there will be no more “political” [prisoners], God forbid. It was exceptional – to be let free after such accusations...
I was told they would let me go if I promise in writing to go into politics ever again. Then I could get back to work. But they needed that paper. I gave a brief description of what was what. They took away that article. I explained that I was starting my postgraduate studies in literature, and, in preparation, deviated from the main course – read Hrushevsky and more. And my girl wrote something, but nothing special…
But look what they did next. I wonder if I’ve grown so much in their eyes, or whether it was some psychological trick, but after that they took me to oblast’ KGB, to general Tykhonov. In full regalia he appeared in front of me in his large office, accompanied by 3-4 KGB high ranking officers. All that took place in Rosa Luxemburg street, not in Volodymyrska. They had oblast’ KGB department there. In the 50-ies plenty of people were detained there. 3-4 high KGBists, all plain-clothed, plus a guy invited for the expert evaluation or discussion – a university professor. It is new history; I speak to them as a researcher. The general, being fully aware of the fact that I would never give up, brought my father. Father returned from a business trip to Crimea…He was back from the camps then after more than 9 years, exonerated by Odessa military district. He came to Crimea; they get him by the collar, and drag him to the Ministry of State security. My father asked what it was all about. “Well, your son is playing tricks on us”. After I was set free, father asked me: “What do you think you are doing?” But I knew I would never be reconciles with them, and now I had to gain time, and then we’ll see. I considered my answer for a second, calmed down, looked general straight in the eyes and said “That is all, I won’t do it again”. And they let me go. When I was getting out they said “Your mother is pleading for you. That is the kind of man you are!”
I took my tests for postgraduate studies, i.e. I keep playing their game. I failed because I was poorly prepared. Ukrainian – bad, Marxism – excellent. But they had their own candidate. You know how these things are done; they faked some date and gave me “good” in Marxism. I passed German with flying colors, so they had no option but to give me “five”. But I failed. Then I took the next step – as I am not imprisoned, give me back my papers. “We won’t give you back your work”. And that was it. “But if you want to continue your postgraduate studies, we can return you some of your notes". They looked at them – there was Plekhanov, something else.
I was fed with my life in the village, where, as one resident recollected, in 1938 they came in the broad daylight and took the teacher away. You know what a fire-work it was! I said I was going to try Lviv for the post-graduate studies, as I failed here. “OK, go then”. I knew that there everything was control, too. The only reason for this decision was that my wife and child were not far, I wanted to see them. But I wanted to gain time. There in Druzhne I knew a good man Kvasha, at whose place I was residing. Once he came to us: “Kids, if you have anything to hide, high time to do it”. Then he comes again: “So kids, you’ve stashed it? Do you have moonshine? If so let me hide it for you”. Probably he wanted a drink.
Later he told me that some people had come and ordered him to open the room. So before detaining me in December they have rummaged and photographed everything both the typewriter and all my writings. And it was a stranger, mind you. Thanks to his advice two months earlier we managed to hide stuff, but how long could it last? Then we were caught. I am talking about the fall 1960 – prior to arrest. Later one of them asked me leering: “Haven’t you noticed me?” It was a militiaman from our raion. “No” – I said. “So, probably I worked well”. Obviously that son of a bitch was loitering around the village and made that guy…I understood that I back on the war path. So I decided to go to my father-in-law. Technically the father of my girl-friend was not my in-law, but he has come to love me. You will not make my father-in-law open the, I thought.
The years between 1961 and 1965 were very productive for me, like Pushkin’s Boldino autumn period. First, I kept low profile. Second, in 1961 I started working in Bronytsya village school as a teacher of English and German. They had permanent teacher for music and singing. But I was teaching drawing there too for two years, because I can. By the way, I was painting portraits – of Verkholyak, Semenyuk, Ivan Kandyba, Mykola Kots. These names dated back to my camp time. I’ve been working at school, with total dedication. I was really taken with my job. English, German, dancing, sports activities, as I was a decent sportsman – I shared everything with kids. How I worked! Besides, it was a good screen. And I was trying to get to post-graduate studies, or at least, I pretended I did. I went to Lviv, there was a certain Buryachok there…And using my notes, which I managed to preserve, and those they returned to me and the work “The language of Kievan Rus’”, I restored my work “On the problem of the national independence”. Earlier it was a big brochure, about four hundred, while the revised version contained about 300. Then I sat down and wrote a big essay “Shevchenko and Ukraine”. There I argued that, although monuments to Shevchenko are erected, he would be an ultrabanderovets from the soviet point of view. Sometimes he expressed his doubts concerning God, especially in social matters, but he always remained a patriot and I could prove it with his correspondence, diaries etc.
After this essay I started a fundamental economical study called “Marxism foundations and the essence of bolshevism”. In it I returned to my beginnings – economy and sociology. Because we, Ukrainians, are always a bit of romantics, more interested in history, literature, writers, Cossacks’ deeds, and, unfortunately, much less interested in economy. I was aware of the fact, so undertook trips to the villages praised by soviet mass media as most successful ones. I went there, went to the mountains to find out that things were quite different than their lies. I found a village near Dovbush Rock – I don’t remember its name now, and I studied the villagers’ mode of life. I’ve been writing this work for a year, but never completed it. But I amended Dzyuba a bit.
But my concern was that my second wife Olha Zvir also used to insist that with my scope of knowledge, with my head (from female point of view) I should keep away from struggle, and do my scientific research – the time will come. She managed to get the promise from the authorities that we would be given an apartment in Truskavets and be registered there, while all I wanted was the active struggle. Alongside with my scholarly research I wanted to organize a party – it is reflected in my file. And at the end of the day it finished me up. I travelled a lot, maintained active correspondence, and buried my essays on Shevchenko and Ukraine in my father-in-law’s courtyard.
In 1966 I found my last job in Velyka Buhaivka, where I taught German, music and singing.
V.Ovsienko: Where is it?
A.Koroban’: It is Kiev oblast’, not far from Vasyl’kiv. I understood what Donbas was, so in 1966 I quit my job (and I worked quite well, our principle was holding to me as a louse to the jacket), and went to Donbas. It was August of 1966. I’ve got the job of loader –hauler in the Kirov mine, village of Khanzhonkovo, near Makeyevka. There they have steep rock banks. For several months I was studying not only miner’s work, but also social, political and national issues. I was among the miners and saw how they were duped. But not only Ukrainians were miners. A Russian miner once came to me (we were standing near the car): “Oh, what kind of dark kolkhoznik is this? Or are you a “bandyora”? He was toiling in the mine same as me, but I was made his enemy, a “bandyora”. I asked them: “Guys, why did you bear with all that in silence? All the ulcers we suffer now, originated then.” – “Well, it was a little better, and we were afraid”.
I worked there for several months and wrote about it. I had to make my farewells with the Western Ukraine and move to Kiev. First I found a job as a club manager. Oh, and what is important, KGB in Donbas started to suspect something. They were rather lenient as to my trips there, the relatives, the flat – it still could be explained, but once I quit teaching and went to work in a mine, and since fall 1966 they started following me on the regular basis. I was summoned to militia precinct “Who are you? Are you married? What about alimony, do you pay it?” But as I had a tremendous experience, it took them 3 years. And in 1965, before going to the mine, I travelled around all the Baltic republics. I started in Zhulyany airport, went first to Lithuania and finished my trip in Leningrad, but they did not catch me at it. After the mine, I took the job of club manager, not far from Petrushki village. Here I wrote an essay “Propaganda and sedition in the system of Russian pseudo-socialism or plain bolshevism" and then took to my program work – preamble, for the party. It dwelt on national issue, too. Then I managed to move to Kiev. It was a long story. I even managed to find an apartment and find a job as an interpreter, well with some help from my uncle. I had two uncles in Kiev, both of them party members; one was a sub-colonel and taught in tank military school. The other was a secretary of the Ukrainian branch of all-Union Association of innovators and inventors. He was not a plain secretary, but the second person after the head of the Association. He told me about the translator’s office. Before I worked as a molder in a casting shop in “Lenkuznia” works. And then I became interpreter. Just one small pull was enough for them to start giving me interpreter’s tasks.
I was a success. I had two instances, when I was successful enough to believe in Providence. A 6-members’ delegation came from GDR to discuss the improvements in agriculture– it is a constant pain in the neck. My office dealt with the mechanization of cattle-farms at the European level. We tried to catch up with the others. For several years already I had not worked as a teacher, but after only three months in totally different area – cattle-breeding farms – I demonstrated brilliant results. My boss Tkachuk said “In September we are paying them the reciprocal visit and will bring you along”. Mind you, it would have cost three times less than hiring an interpreter on site. But on September, 3 my works were found at Yevhen Pronyuk’s place.
V.Ovsienko: Was it 1969?
A.Koroban’: Right. We got acquainted with Proniuk and started organizing a party. I was mainly responsible for the program.
V.Kipiani: What was the name of the party?
A.Koroban’: It was to be called – in line with traditions – “National liberation party of the proletariat of Ukraine”. Proletariat was a key word although some people doubted it, arguing that intelligentsia was the main force. But my position was that we won’t be able to achieve anything without the working class. That was and still is my stand on the issue. I repeat it even today – without Chervonohrad miners we cannot do anything. The deputy Chernyak is saying more or less the same thing. A worker either can’t do anything or undertakes action and then holds to it. I wrote the program and gave it to Pronyuk, so that it would be a collective work. He had a bit of experience in dealing with KGB, but less than I. He let it happen that suspicions rose in his own institute of philosophy. Things should have been in a month or two, while he was procrastinating for almost a year. And when he left on vacation, the papers were found and read. They knew I was coming to him, I was followed. And then they planted the books and found them as if accidentally. You know the trick; they are looking through the books and suddenly “Oh, and what is this?” Like it happened with that coat “What is it?”
V.Ovsienko: So it was found at his work?
A.Koroban’: At his work. He warned me with the help of someone – there was this good girl, Lyudmyla Zaviyska. I planted her there on purpose, as a liaison. She worked as a secretary. She brought me a note from Pronyuk “half in your handwriting, and half in mine”. And I escaped to Vasyl’kiv immediately. They followed me there. I jumped off the roof and ran away. Here my underground experience came most handy and they did not catch me. So I was just another young man strolling along Kiev streets, like million others. He is wearing green suit, jacket like this one, going somewhere, to a date, or maybe, to a movie or a theater, like million others. I turned left, as if aiming for the hospital, he was following me. Turning left I looked straight at him, he hid his face. That was it, the end of me, as I recognized him. They were switching! So I did not go back to our clandestine apartment at Holovchenko’s. I ran to “Bolshevik” metro station into thick shrubbery, which was growing there. They looked around, but could not locate me.
V.Ovsienko: How did they manage to arrest you after all?
A.Koroban’: Very simply. I escaped to Vasyl’kiv, but prior to that I met Ivan Dzyuba. Through Lyuda Zaviyska I sent to Proniuk the whole list of my works: all I have written, with the number of pages in each work. He gave that list to Dzyuba, and Dzyuba – to Ivan Honchar. And KGB got hold of one of these lists. It provided them with a key. They started looking for the actual works. One essay was called “The foundations of Marxism”. They never found it, but just questioned me about it. I told them I have revised it and used for the preamble to the program, and the rest I’ve burnt, not to keep more papers than I needed. They believed me.
I’ve been hiding and avoiding them for eight days and they could not catch me. Once I took electrical train and he joined me there. Plain-clothed guy, in a working robe. I did not board right away, but waited till all the passengers were settled, meanwhile observing my suspect. The doors are closing already, so he boarded the train while I stayed on the platform.
I had binoculars, money and address, somewhere as far as Tien-Shan. But while in hiding I wrote another work, but did not give it to anyone, because I did not see Dzuyba or anyone else. This essay was not on the list.
But by that time everyone, including Dzyuba, was pressing me to turn myself in. The spare parts of a typewriter were found – we intended to assemble a typewriter. They took away the fonts. You see, I had a jar full of fonts!
By that time I was married, with a baby. My wife burst into tears. Her relative Vasyl’ Mytchyn was cursing me “You, scoundrel, you’ve got wife and family – go and repent!” We had revolver, too. Its owner was Oleksa Mykolyshyn, from Vyshneve. It was of Polish brand, colt-radom. This Vasyl’ Mytchyn came to Vyshneve from Drohobych with special purpose of repairing the gun. Something did not work right there. He took it to Drohobych and set it right. I returned it to Mykolyshsyn. Arms for underground job – it is sacred. The gun was not mine; I just returned it to the owner. But they believed I had it on me. And the whole gang surrounded me in Baby Yar. I saw militiamen, KGBists, a vehicle, bikes. I recognized them immediately. A young man, like any man is waiting for a trolley-bus. I keep walking without looking at him. He looked at me once, twice, and the third time I saw him waving to someone to take on - like, now is your turn, because we went there with Lyuda. Aha, your turn?! I jumped into shrubbery. They looked here and they looked there, while I went out on the other side of Baby Yar without any hurry and escaped once again.
But feeling that pressure I started thinking myself “Is it possible to outwit all of them?” So on September 11 I came to them on my own free will. On September, 3 Pronyuk informed me that they were after me, and have been chasing me for eight days. I might have left the city and go somewhere else. But I turned myself in, because Dzyuba and all the rest insisted.
V.Ovsienko: And where did you go?
A.Koroban’: I have come to Rosa Luxemburg Street. The prison was not there, but…
V.Ovsienko: oblast’ KGB department was.
A.Koroban’: The investigators have already been to my home, both in Vasyl’kiv where they turned everything topsy-turvy and at my Kiev apartment where we used to live. They left a phone number, so I talked to them by phone. My main investigator Mykola Koval’ – you can put his name down for history. We started negotiating. He said “Andrei Mykhailovych, we will do nothing to you, just come t us”. And I said “Let me think for a while, as I still have my doubts. I will tell you tomorrow”. Tomorrow I call him again. “Look, Andriy Mykhailovych, you are just mocking me. Let us talk once more”. I said “ Mykola Andriyovych, maybe I have some inheritance, do I not?” When I finished this last work, I called Holovchenko brothers – Volodymyr was one and I don’t remember the name of the other – from Trostyanets. He came, hid in the forest where children’s rail-road is, I gave him the essay written in these eight days. After I did that, I dressed up to the nines, and, wearing nice suit, I came to see Mykola Koval’.
V.Kipiani: It was the eleventh…
A.Koroban’: September 11, 1969. So much for my promised trip to Germany. As soon as I arrived he started mumbling: “Something is bothering you, something is bothering you”…Finally he mumbled “You know,Andrey Mykhailovych, I received the information that you’ve got arms on you. Let me search you”. That is it!
The trial took place in the end of May, 1970. Just fancy, I came to them on September, 11 – almost 8 months! 66 questionings, over 20 investigation procedures, 6 confrontations. I had to write in Ukrainian and Russian for expert evaluation, I typed on the typewriter, I had to recognize some mugs…Red type it was. The investigator was getting mad. I am not bragging like many jail-birds do. My actual life was more than enough. The prison order established by Stalin won’t let one sleep. God forbid you leaned on something for a short nap. They used to call us at night, a standard procedure. My father remember that ata certain point he was so exhausted that he signed the document containing unfathomable things about nationalists – he was reduced to such a state that he would sign his own death sentence, if it meant a chance to sleep.
During the first inquest I was summoned at night several times, but it was not that difficult – the whole thing was a mere trifle – just one work, no underground job or struggle – we were just two of us and everything in the incipient stage.
Second – they prohibited morning exercise, allowed walks were short, twenty minutes and no more, but the parcels were allowed. When they saw that too many parcels are collected – about thirty, - as it was in the middle of the city - they forbade them and ordered to bring only money. No notes, absolutely. Not a slightest piece of paper. Nothing to scribble a word with. But I found something to scribble my words. Belts were taken away, buttons cut down. That is how it was under Stalin.
But now, in 1969 one could sleep like a dormouse during the daytime; my exercising earned me the nickname of “sportsman” among female guards. As to the writing I’ve written piles of works. The investigator proposed at the very beginning” What you cannot say – write it”. He gave me pen and paper. Parcels were allowed, a kiosk to buy stuff. It was enough. From my underground experience I wondered why people, who did not suffer any privations, would confess. What were they afraid of? Well, if they had got it in the mug, put into isolation cell – one might succumb. But in this case investigator lost his patience more often than I. The investigators adhered to the rules diligently. Even under Stalin beating was forbidden. It was allowed as an exception with the doctor present. It was in the 50-ies already. The isolation cell was envisaged, according to the order and it did not take much to end up there. But now it was not that easy. We were five or six in the prison, while earlier the number amounted to hundreds. And if earlier a milksop of investigator, could curse professors obscenely, now it was by name and patronymic: “Andrey Mikhailovych”. It was just moral pressure – [they insinuated] that things might get worse, that you were doing wrong. Sometimes they spent hours on that persuading, and one could just listen to them.
In my opinion, these confessions are unpardonable.
At the end of May I was given an attorney Vasyl’ Rudenko, the worst possible choice. I will tell you sincerely that I remembered the whole case, so that I defended myself than that attorney. I knew every paragraph. I was accused of “illegal correspondence”. How can correspondence be illegal? Then I had to explain the use of different names. I come, for example, to the students’ dormitory of Donetsk pedagogical institute. They had these small pigeon-holes, where the letters to students were placed, in alphabetic order. So I take my letter, from the pigeon-hoe under certain letter. I hardly could be incriminated with that. But it was not the main point of accusation – the main thing was someone’s complaint “that he used my last name”.
I could not understand that. The most fearful thing is when they brazenly denounce you and even try to calumniate their own family to save themselves. When they denounced their relatives, the loved ones – it causes such disgust, that the investigator becomes closer to you than your comrades of yesterday. And in this situation the investigator is doing his best! When a person finds himself behind the bars, he is psychologically depressed; he suffers and believes that his only joy is his friends. They would rescue me. But when the friends turned out Brutuses, and denounce you so brazenly, the very earth under you feet is turned upside down, and former friends become the worst enemies, while the investigator becomes almost your friend. You come to him and you want to say: “Mykola Andriyovych, in fact it was not like that at all! They are scoundrels; they are no no-goodniks! It was like this!” And here people start to incriminate themselves – the whole underground “conglomerations’ were set up like that. I understood that. In my cell I’ve read “Twenty years later” – a good book. I could barely read it – every ten minutes I had to get up, with sweaty palms, but I said to myself:” No, I can’t take revenge, because it will be revenge against me, too. But once I am free again – I’ll spit into their mugs!” well, I was set free, and I did not spit.
V.Ovsienko: So, the verdict was passed on June 1, right?
A.Koroban’: Yes, June 1, 1970. Thus, I saved myself, getting 6 years of imprisonment and three of exile, and saved everyone else. Anyway, under Brezhnev I did not betray anyone nor spit into anyone’s mug, although some of them became big shots. I reminded of these incidents to Holovchenko only. He is “Rukh” member. I asked him “Don’t you recognize me?” _ “I have bad memory”. "Well, I am so-and-so. But if I were you, I would not reveal my identity, because I might have been condemned to three years, but thanks to you I’ve got six”. And that was it. He disappeared and it was the only occasion.
It was my habit, in general. If someone turned out to be a traitor or a turn-coat – I would never be in touch with them again, unless by accident.
Aha, what else happened to me – I don’t want to call this person by name. Looks like I am giving testimony in investigators’ and not my comrades’ favor again. I was convicted already, got the term, but the revolver story was still dragging on. That guy denounced me. I have saved everything from the political point of view. But the revolver is still there, and that odd guy kept an automatic pistol as well. So now I am waiting to give my evidence as a witness, since I was the one who brought that revolver back. I protested a lot against the accusation “But you had the gun! You transported it. It is not yours, but you brought it from Drohobych to Zhulyany, that gun”. “But it was not mine; I just returned it to the owner and bye now”. “But you had to come to us”. So much for brotherhood and here I am, convicted under article 222...
Another witness was waiting – that one, Mytchyn, was dragged all the way from the Western Ukraine. Meanwhile the “gun case” was classified as criminal, although Mykolyshyn was detained by KGB.
V.Ovsienko: For about a year he had been under investigation.
A.Koroban’: So, what about KGB? Berestovsky was investigating the case. I had three investigators – Berestovsky, Koval’ and Slobozhanyuk.
V.Ovsienko: I know Leonid Berestovsky. He was the one who worked on my case in 1973. And I know Slobozhanyuk too.
A.Koroban’: See, I am not lying to you. Koval’ presided over. So, the case was taken by Berestovsky. I was glad, because my fundamental work on economy “Marxism and the essence of bolshevism” was not seized. You see, if an artist paints a bad picture he can just tear it to pieces and burn it. But I dedicated almost all my life to the essay, spent a lot of time writing it. If you read this work you will understand that the system is heading towards its perdition, despite its efforts, because economic preconditions make its demise imminent.
And suddenly he summons me and says:” You know, the work you were hiding so diligently, was found by the pioneers in Zhulyany. It was hidden under the old tree stump”. The scouts found it and brought to the school principle. Then it was taken to Svyatoshyn, and from there to KGB. I answered “It is not possible. You are just bluffing.” But he produced it and put it on the desk for me to see – it was my work. It consisted of two parts. In the first part I analyzed the basics of Marxism, because, naïve as I had been, I still believed in something. And I think a real professional politician should never reject anything. Marxism? Let me first study it. I will find something funny and something useful for us even today. Anyway, Marx and Engels – maybe Symonenko is unaware of it – said so much against Russia, against Russians…It is enough to look at his works “Foreign policy of Russian czarism”, or “Traditional policy of Russian czarism”. And it is preserved in the Academy and is not included in the full collection of the “Secret diplomacy of the 18th century”. There he also gave Peter the Great thorough scolding.
My first part contained the analysis of Marxism. They still haven’t got hold of it, while the second part dealt with the Soviet Union. When he showed it, I was enraged. I saw red, and turned all Berestovsky’s office topsy-turvy, so shocked I was. I was amazed to find the desk, attached to the floor with metal clinches, in my hands. I was strong at the time, plus agitated and unnerved. I tossed the desk away, and turned everything upside. That wretch of Berestovsky just clutched his head and called for ensigns. The ensigns took me away, but not to the isolation cell. It was just my stomach that hurt from the excitement.
So what? He ascribed that work to Mykolyshyn, or to the two of us. Hadn’t it been for my help, Mykolyshyn would have been convicted under article 62. Indeed, we discussed certain ideas, as confessed at the confrontation. Then the chief investigator Koval’ was invited, although he was not in charge of case any longer. Koval’ gave Berestovsky such a look…It was a tragicomedy, and Mykolyshyn got convicted only under article 222, “keeping arms in one’s possession”.
So as you can see the inquest was complicated, prolonged and might have discouraged any further activity, but still faith and strive for independence remained.
I was brought to the trial, Mytchyn came, I tried to mitigate Mykolyshyn’s as best as I could (he was condemned to some trifles and that was the end of the case). And I was taken there.
A.Koroban’: To the camp No 19, Mordovia.
V.Ovsienko: I did time there, too.
A.Koroban’: I remember my arrival there. It was on the ninth, I remember it was Wednesday, September 9, 1970. On September 11, 1969 I was imprisoned, and on September 9, 1970. on Wednesday, as far as I remember, I was brought to the 19th.
Once the convicts heard someone from Kiev had arrived they approached me right away, some – to give me support, others – to rat on me. Ivan Pokrovsky from UPA, for example, came to warn me. But when I showed them my verdict they would clutch their heads: “God almighty! They gave you rather short term”. But, considering that I am the way I am, just tell me: beware of this and that. And then comes the informer and starts the same stuff all a-new. I was so disoriented I did not know whom to trust. But at the end of the day I got everything straight. I told them: guys, I’ve been through a tough school, I do not need any more lecturing.
V.Ovsienko: Whom did you keep in touch with?
A.Koroban’: Vasyl’Yakubyak, a UPA member with the verdict of 25 years, recently deceased, was there. Myroslav Symchych, Kyduyk, also one of the rebels, Stepan Soroka. Zelenchuk, Kozachok - of those who had repented. But I told them: “Listen to me, guys; you are heroes, who managed to survive in the camps for so long, while bastards with terms of 3-4-5 years, confessed. And you had done your 25 – that cannot be even compared. I said:”There should be a big memorial plaque on each hut of yours, stating that you had lived there. But you are bothering me too much, and I am a politician, I want to get closer acquainted with the people that confessed, or have not yet confessed, or are repenting now – what made them do it, what their life way was. And they said: God forbid you do it. The separation was so pronounced, to the point of being ridiculous. The borders were very rigid – you should not communicate with such-and-such. It was during my second term. Because at the time of the first I was still a mere boy, not to make too fine a point of it, and missed a lot. I was learning English and other things, but I failed to learn about underground fight. While this time I was interested in everything. I wanted to know how these people ended up in jail, why some confessed, while others did not. I made a whole lot of notes, brought a pile of notebooks from jail. I told Zelenchuk I have forgotten people like him. With 25 – you have things to repent. He started under Polish rule, was punished by the Poles, suffered under Germans, he saw no real life. While those who repented after 5-6 years – I would not even look at them. So I cannot be as hostile as you are to one another.
V.Ovsienko: But you did not spend all your time in the camp 19th ...
A.Koroban’: No, later, on July 9,1972 – I remember it as if it happened today – we were loaded into the wagons and for three days and nights we travelled to Urals. The ventilation did not work, or they might have disabled it on purpose so that we could not exchange any signs. The trip was so hard that a comrade of mine, Mykytyuk, whom I had known since the 50-ies, since Lymyu time, died on the way. He was, same as Symchych, condemned to full 25 years. We met there, in Lymyu. His wife was dead, his two children were left with a wife of another convict, a patriot from UPA, and he received a new term and was taken to Mordovia. He had diabetes, and died in the train car somewhere near river Kama. He was taken out of the car naked. We were all naked, because it was very hot. Everyone suffred terribly and one person even died. Meanwhile the doctor who had accompanied us, was swimming in the lake, the son-of-a bitch.
V.Ovsienko: Which camp were you in there? В якому Ви таборі там були?
A.Koroban’: First we were assigned to the camp No 35-й, Vsekhsvyatska station, Tsentralny settlement. I stayed there for three years.
V.Ovsienko: Who was in Vsekhsvyatska with you?
A.Koroban’: Among strictly political prisoners – Ivan Svitlychny, who had been brought later, Valery Marchenko (a real martyr he was – Valery Marchenko), then Pronyuk arrived, Zenko Antonyuk, Kandyba. We did time together with Kandyba earlier, but then we were sent to different camps, and there we met. Roman Hurny – a proletarian, metal-worker. But in my book he ranked infinitely higher that those “intelligents” –over the 15 years he got so many offers of repenting. Mykhhailo Dyak – from the Ukrainian National Front. He got cancer, and was released later. He praised my poetry high. He lived for some time yet after the liberation, we corresponded, and I sent him my verses. By that time he got away from politics.
There was also Volod’ka Dyak. I have strong suspicion that he was [A.Koroban’ knocks on the desk – meaning “stooge”]. Do you understand? There were many reasons to suspect him, but the main thing was this. I said to him “Volodya, here is my verdict…” I had a verdict and also the accusatory act. It is broader than the verdict, because I refuted some accusations at the trial. The accusatory act testified, therefore, that more had been done. I said “Volodya, soon I will be taken away, as I will hide the accusatory act behind the picture frame in the library”. A couple of days later they came for the search and took my paper from behind the picture…And Dyak is hurrying up, like he just failed to re-hide it, who could ever think that they would do the search!
Physically I was strong, due to the job where I worked like a mule, and also I possessed knowledge. I worked as a loader – Voldya Bukovsky for some time was the keeper of the warehouse, and I was his subordinate. But my principle was to disregard any bosses. I had a separate room. Ohurtsov came to me and said “You’ve got a separate room. When we have same work shifts, we’ll come to you”. I would never believe it: they were listening to the audio programs from the West. Ohurtsov trusted me so deeply, although we had different views on the national issue. But we agreed on the issues of general democratic reforms, issues of struggle and language use.
V.Ovsienko: But what did he say about transmitting?
A.Koroban’: That they would transmit information to the West from my room.
V.Ovsienko: Transmit how?
A.Koroban’: He said: "it is a small device – I will be speaking and they wil be recording”. That is how! We were frisked all over, but that could not find anything. And he just came and said:”I’ll come to your room”.
V.Kipiani: Was it a kind of radio transmitter?
A.Koroban’: Yes, just a tiny one. The militia guys looked literally up our asses, excuse me, turned everything upside down, frisked even our socks, but they could not find anything. But a mistake occurred. Bukovsky was taken away and a woman, from free contractors became a store-house keeper. She took vacation. The workshop superintendent Nicolay Azarov held me in high esteem. He was a free contractor, absolutely free. I was respected for my looks, for my knowledge and strength. I played soccer there, to everyone’s amazement. Supervisor Pas’kov found my civil shirt, and did not report it. Someone else might have burnt it, or take it to the warehouse, under the condition that I could get it back on my release. And I said: “To heck with you, I won’t waste my nerves because of a mere shirt.” I was respected even for that. Other people earned political capital on that – start a scandal, bring a case to prosecutor’s attention – like, I am deprived of my shirt. I did not care about such things. I knew I will be set free, and find some inconspicuous occupation to attract less attention.
By then I planned to go abroad. And to go abroad I had to be compliant with the regime. Later I married a Jew, but anyway I was refused a permit to go abroad, although everything was ready. And when Kandyba wanted to leave, he was making a lot of fuss, but finally had to stay put. That is why I thought it obvious – the better I cheat them…It was enough that I had been arrested and could not forgive myself for failing to get the better of them. I am kind of a dolt, not to make too fine a point of that, although a great clandestine fighter. I will never repeat this mistake, so that some sergeant would catch me because of some slight error. Sashko Nazarenko received a greeting card; Pas’kov found it and took away. Nazarenko slapped Pas’kov on the hand and got five days in isolation cell for that slapping. On the one hand, looks like heroism, while on the other…And I kept a book under my belt and no one could find it. I used to carry dozens of them on me, and no one would find them. I hid them like this, in my jacket and no one would even suspect they were there. But even if it had been found, I would not slap anyone, because I am not school-boy any longer. Like in the story with the shirt. And they respected me for that.
Sometimes it was really ridiculous. My sister sent me a length of sausage from far away Chukotka. This unfortunate little sister of my who had neither father nor mother, sent me some sausage. Lisa, who was in charge of parcels, called me. And with boss’s permit – Vasyl’ knows what I mean by boss’s permit – she would give you pigeon’s milk. So she called me and said “You were sent sausage. What shall we do, Andrey?” I answered: “My sweet Lisa, it is up to you to decide”. – “All right, I’ll be giving it to you piece by piece” Do you hear me – piece by piece! “Come to the warehouse.” I did come. “But do not tell anyone and don’t share it with anyone”. But how could I not share it with Besarab? That hapless Besarab was condemned to 25. Obviously, I had to share with Besarab, share with someone else. I came once more, she gave me another piece. Then, on my second, third and fourth visit she was not there. Where is Lisa, whre is Lisa? – No traces. So that last piece grew moldy and spoilt. Eventually I met her: “Koroban’ why did not you claim your fourth piece – have you forgotten?” I said “Lisa, dear, you are the one who had forgotten”. Such anecdotes added to the picture of our everyday life.
The warehouse manager came along:” Andret Mykhailovtch, you helped even that imbecile to put documentation in order. And with these carts you did so well, I cannot tell you. Please replace her, while she is on vacation.So, for my two terms, a month before my release I performed the functions of the warehouse manager. I was transferred to day shifts, so that I had to work only in the broad daylight, with plenty of guards around. And at that time, just on the eve, Ohurtsov came to see me. “Where have you been?” – I asked him - I have been working for over a year, and tomorrow I can not do it, even if I wished to”. There was no way during day-time.
V.Ovsienko: And what did you do there?
A.Koroban’: It was a serious enterprise, manufacturing markers and dies. First we were making some chains for the agricultural machines, but the works were closed. I worked as a loader, because I was not attentive enough, I broke my finger, because I was thinking only about research.
V.Ovsienko: One should be attentive at the machine-tool.
A.Koroban’: Right, but when a case fell on my finger, I fainted, and when I came to, I decided to become a loader. Here I worked with the speed of lightning, and I had a small room, where I could rest for a while. Why Bukovsky exposed humself? No meetings, no tea-parties. If I needed anyone I would call them. Ohurtsov came and Pas’kov came, and the others. And what was that guy’s mistake? The whole crowd would come to a tea-party. At that they would expel someone and have him followed by a rat. And Ohurtsov came and said “We will transmit information”. I wish it had happened a week earlier…
And after my release I counted on my leaving the country – I knew that i would never be reconciled with the regime.
V.Ovsienko: I wonder wheter you were taken anywhere right after liberation?
A.Koroban’: First there was a long travel all over Siberia.
V.Ovsienko: In exile?
A.Koroban’: Yes, for three more years – I’ve been to Sverdlovsk, Novosibirsk, Tomsk…
V.Ovsienko: And when were you deported?
A.Koroban’: They pulled me out on September 5, 1975. I was imprisoned in 1969 plus six years, -– it was 1975. And plus three years in exile.
So that Azarov gave me his address in Volga region.
V.Ovsienko: how long have you been on the road? And where were you taken?
A.Koroban’: I was ready. But here is something else on politics. I have always said that politics is a science, and laymen have no chance there. So I was summoned prior to deportation, they looked over my books and then I found “Medicinal plants” missing. And I am going to Urals, medicinal plants grow there. Go search for such a book in the middle of nowhere. It was valuable even outside the jail. Another man would raise hell. But I understood it was that a woman-censor Halyna, from Kuban’, her last name was Ukrainian, probably had taken the book. She knew I was not the one make fuss. There was also another KGBist, blonde, with the unusual last name of Utyro. He called me for a talk. A formal conversation. I understood only she could have taken my book. And I kept a lot of notes in it . And greetings for my birthday or my angel’s day, they were not allowed, but I have collected the whole pile of them.
V.Ovsienko: "Alienation in any form" is not permitted. A gift of a post-card is also “alienation”.
A.Koroban’: So she took that book away, but all my post-cards (maybe not all, but the majority), all my notes are returned to me. So, why shall I raise stupid havoc over one book? I’ll be out of jail, and buy the book; they might have returned it, but they would have grabbed all the rest instead, and turn over even my bedding. And my friends, whom I will, probably, never see again, are more precious to me. Pskov said” I would have changed your bedding, but it is a holiday”. Otherwise they would have taken off the bedding and my quilted jacket, just to be sure that nothing was sewn inside.
I went to Siberia…
V.Ovsienko: Where did you arrive?
A.Koroban’: It was the “selkup” capital – Kargasok. It is a small ethnic group of Mongol origin. They were derogatory called by Russians”ostyak”s and it is under this name that they are known. In their language “ostyak” means dog. First I called them this name too, but they explained that it was like “khokhol” or even worse, and their right name was selkups. And their capital was in Kargasok, in Tomsk oblast’. Tomsk lies about 600 km to the North of Novosibirsk, and Kargasok -600 km more to the North of Tomsk. It is about Leningrad latitude, but much further to the east. The climate is rather inclement there; the frosts reached 47 degrees below. But summer was not too bad.
I was lucky with my arrival – we were brought by plane, because the ships on Ob’ were not circulating any more. The winter sets in and the planes, the so-called biplanes, remain the only means of transportation, weather permitting. No other connection. Ob’ river is there but no navigation. We were brought by plane on October 1 and dropped out. I managed to find job of boiler stoker, at the cultural center. I don’t know if Siberia is worth of such a lengthy discourse. I spent about three years there…
V.Kipiani: Did you have to report once a week or once a month?
A.Koroban’: Once a month. By the way the commandant was a selkup, too. I forgot his name, but I could recognize his face even today.
V.Kipiani: Did you have searches there?
A.Koroban’: No, we had no searches. The exile counted as part of the work record, as compared to the time in the camps which was not counted at all. I wanted to be a teacher, but fat chance I had for that- a KGBist called me to decline my request. I had no ID, no passport, but I had right to vote instead, to go to demonstration and shout “long live..!” That is the way it was. Not that ever did it – I participated in no elections, and no one asked about it. But the important thing was that after 11 months I could come home for vacation.
V.Ovsienko: And did you do it?
A.Koroban’: Yes, after eleven months, using my ID certificate. I still had no passport, only ID and allowed itinerary, which I had to observe, promising to return at a given term. If I failed to return I had to state the reason for that. Without a reason I would be condemned to a year in prison. That is the way it was.
V.Kipiani: You mentioned you have passed through Tomsk oblast’, Novosibirsk…
A.Koroban’: it was during my transportation – all these jails were transitory. Sverdlovsk, Novosibirsk, Tomsk. In Tomsk we were put on the plane. We were to the airdrome, the guards waited for us there, but we were not escorted, as there was nowhere to run, anyway. One could only have a bottle of beer, but not for one’s own money. I had none. The criminal felons were transported. I was alone, while they were 5-6. They did have money.
V.Kipiani: When could you leave the place of your exile?
A.Koroban’ The place of my exile? It took 26 days. For 5 or 6 days I’ve been treated as a prisoner. But after September 11 I was to be released. But I still was in transitory jails. And of these 19 days every day was counted for three. That is why I was released not on September, 11, but on July, 17. It was because a day was counted as three. This date was stamped in my passport – July, 17, 1978.
I worked as a stoker at the Center of culture.
V.Ovsienko: And what was the population of that settlement?
A.Koroban’: It counted seven or eight thousand, something like that. But this region of mother-Russia was poor. This raion of Tomsk oblast’ can be compared in size to Kiev or Zhitomir oblast’ and probably a portion of Volyn’oblast’. But the population was only as big as that І of Vasyl’kiv. Just fancy: one Vasyl’kiv for the whole Kiev and Zhitomir oblast’.
So what did I manage to do? The Cultural Center accountant, who lived in the same apartment, immediately understood that she was lucky, as she was a single woman. She was a good lady and I told her everything about myself, that I’ve did my time in the camps, that I knew English. She asked me about English again, whether it was true or I was just pulling her leg. “My son is a regular lazy-bone; he does want to study anything, English in particular”. This accountant advised me to work as an artistic designer in the Center. As far as the boiler room goes, I had to drag buckets of water there on frosty days – such boiler it was. It is all due to our negligence. That is Siberia for you, with huge population. Big trees in the woods fall down and rot away during spring floods. Thirty seven cows burnt to death. And this raion was considered cattle-breeding one and thirty seven cows burnt to death in a farm, because the doors were blocked by the manure and no one thought of fire safety. When people rushed there the door was blocked. And that is the way it was all around. Add drunkards to that. And the boiler room too – God almighty, so many people froze while I was there. I was carrying buckets of water on the shoulder yoke at 40 degrees below zero. І так кругом. І. The premises were frozen and defrosted three or four times.
I became the movie theater artist. I don’t remember director’s name, something starting with “S”. I could paint, but the letters were not my forte, so the administration was not altogether happy with them. But I was always at my workplace. My predecessors there all had criminal records. They raised havoc there, they got drunk and started terrible brawls. Sometimes they would disappear for the whole weeks on end, and cleaning women had to write announcement about the running movie. My letters were not perfect, but the main thing – I am always at my workplace, no parties, no drinking.
However ideological department of raion party committee got the whiff of it. One guy was very friendly whenever we met, and then he starting pressing my director. But the director stood up for me, he said that in the end of the day he ran the Center and everything was all right there on daily basis. But once that frigging party congress began, he came to me and said:”Look Andrey Mykhailovych, what is up? Why does that secretary on ideology press me requiring having you out?” Not a single khokhol would have shared it with me, but this man did. I explained that it was along story dating back to Stalin times – I had criticized him. He gave it some thought but he protected me. Eventually I learnt to draw beautiful letters. But I left the Center on my own will to become a caretaker. I had to do it, because I was forced to make hey – first for sovkhozes and then for the sovkhoz workers. Some people kept cows and I had to mow hey for them. I myself lodged with the woman who needed hey reserves from the meadows for ten months. She lived alone, but I drank milk too. That is why I had mow for her. And mow I did. I left the Center, became a caretaker, and there I had to work for 24 hours and spend three days at home. And I mowed one and half hectare at a time, because I had to store hey.
V.Ovsienko: And after the release?
A.Koroban’: After I was set free I formulated my goal: I will never be reconciled to this regime, but ending up in jail again as their victim would be too much. For this reason I made a decision to emigrate.
V.Ovsienko: But where did you stay?
A.Koroban’: I stayed in my native Vasyl’kiv. It was a funny coincidence that I found a job as an artist in raion artistic workshop in Vasyl’kiv. But the wages were miserable, so I had to become a mail train conductor. I spent 8 or 9 months in the workshop. As a conductor, I went to Simferopol, Kharkov. In Kharkov I met Kravtsiv, you might know him.
V.Ovsienko: I know Ihor Kravtsiv, I did time with him in Mordovia.
A.Koroban’: KGB became aware of my presence – I was taken off the vans and put to work as a sorter in railroad post office. I worked there like a mule, for three shifts in a row, sorting these parcels, so that after that I could have three days at home. I earned a bit more as a conductor. My I had a goal: emigration. But how could I do it? And then I met a Jewish woman, Bronya Shafran, who already had an invitation from Israel. She did not, though, had any money, being a single mother with a daughter. She needed a male, with money and a wish to emigrate. I was the man.
So we made an arrangement, and were registered as man and wife. It was a fictitious marriage. Then we started putting our things in order. My father was so scared, when I wrote him about my intention to leave. My own father! First off, he regained his glorious position again. He was just a party candidate, but after he had spent over nine years in prison for god knows what reason, and was exonerated after that, he was invited to join the party, but refused to do so. “No, my friends, - he said – I am not getting back to the party. Instead he became more religious which is characteristic of this type of people. He was fully exonerated, and then asked to become a member _ “You were a candidate, you are fully entitled. He was very famous in guerilla movement, in the underground, had many awards. He almost became the head of the Veteran-partisans Committee, and suddenly his son was put to jail for the second time. He began cursing me. In a letter to me he wrote “I am ready to curse you”. While is Siberia he had to marry a certain lady, by the name of Valentyna Smagina. She appreciated his partisan past, helped him and even succeeded in getting a flat for him. Very active woman, with no kids. She is nice even to us, till now, but “You are nationalists!” Anyway, that partisan past brought them together. She did not mind even learning Ukrainian; they have been to Uman’. Probably it was her influence that he almost cursed me for good. He also wrote a protest to the Vasyl’kiv department of visas and registration. I just got registered with that Jew, when I eceived a letter from the head of the department. She wrote:” Here is what your father writes –What does he want? He does not want it, the bastard, what he was thinking…” and then he almost renounced me!” . “Where [is he going], to what Israel?” Israel then was condemned by the USSR. “What Israel? I know nothing – just don’t give a permit and that is it”. I am thankful that she had read it to me, instead of putting it secretly into the file. I just snatched out that sheet so that only a piece remained in her hands. I still have this letter. And she never said a word about it to anyone… Otherwise it might have been a new case…
V.Kipiani: [You might have been putt to jail] for a year and a half, two to three years.
A.Koroban’: I wrote that it was a fake, as my parents have been divorced for many years, and that my father was Voronin, Stalingrad hero, Russian.
V.Ovsienko: So nothing came out of this emigration?
A.Koroban’: …that my step-father was a Russian, Voronin, a pilot who had perished in the war, that my father died in Simferopol, we had no contact for many years. This Jewish lady had already taken my name and received second invitation from Israel. We decided to go to Italy, and from there I could travel wherever I wanted.
V.Ovsienko: What year was it?
A.Koroban’: It was in 1978-79, till early 1980. And then that Larisa from the department of visas and registration told me that my file was remanded without accompanying documents. She explained that if it is returned with documents one can still hope, but if the documents are held – there is no way. I was trying to fight, went to Moscow, and spent time in oblast’deprtment, promising not to agitate people there, saying I would return.
The Olympics of 1980 were approaching. I received a nice envelope in Vasyl’kiv, addressed to me in a nice handwriting, with return address – post restante, Kiev- 179. It was just a mail box, not a real address. I opened it and found a drawing of death’s head and crossed bones. And it was on the eve of the Olympics.
Moreover, they arranged a scandal in one of Lviv restaurants. I came to say good bye to my daughter Oksana (she studied in Ivano-Frankivsk). And on my I was involved in a scandal and detained for 10 days. I left my bag in the luggage room of Lviv station. After ten days I came to the station – no traces of my bag. I placed it there, in the automatic box on Frontier Guards’ day in the end of May. The code was known to me only. I got it back only after a month in Vasyl’kiv raion militia department. They opened it for me to check whether anything was mission. Everything was in place. So much for my trip. But main thing was that they summoned me and warned that the Olympics were approaching. “So, Andrey Mikhailovych, stay away from Kiev and even Kiev oblast’ borders”.
V.Ovsienko: Did they mean you should stay put, or should leave?
A.Koroban’: They meant me to get out of Kiev oblast’. Thanks to my friends I had some money and could go to Sumy oblast’, near Trostyanets, in Kharkiv, where I visited Kravtsiv and lodged with him, in Donbas.
V.Ovsienko: so that you didn’t disrupt their Olympics, right?
A.Koroban’: Right. I visited Shevchenko, a wonderful physics teacher, and then went to Fedya Klymenko, with whom we served our terms in Mordovia.
I was struggling to be allowed to emigrate. I was told: “Andrey Mykhilovych, you are a most boring person. Remember: we won’t let you go. Although you keep saying you would come back, we know that once you leave, we will acquire another smart and cunning enemy there”. I spent big money on attorneys …
I began working in the boiler room, it was a seasonal job. But the precinct militia officer summoned me and said “It takes you took long to find a job; I will have to start a file on you”. The accusation was “parasitic mode of life”. I retorted: “What parasitic mode of life? I found job in the boiler room”. – “OK, I’ll check it up. And why did spend time behind the bars?” I told him. They failed to imprison me parasitic mode of life, because I’ve got a paper confirming my job.
Accidentally I met a typist Yevhenia Hoydak.I told her “I am off to a sabbatical to work on my book.” She typed my verses, eventually we established relationship. Although she was much younger, but political prisoners are well-preserved. There are no drunkards among us, and few people some. Am I right, Vasyl’? To cut a long story short, we met in June 1980, and in year we were betrothed and then married, on July11, 1981. On November 29, she gave me son, Ruslan. Now he is a student of Nechui-Levytsky pedagogical college in Bohuslav, department of music. He is 18, and I’ll be 70 in two months and a half.
I was totally banned from my profession – no teaching, not even working in the cultural centers. I could be only caretaker or stoker. For two seasons I worked in Vasyl’kiv, but after the baby was born I worked in Vasyl’kiv refrigerator factory for one summer. In the fall of 1982 I moved to :Kiev Metrobud” enterprise, to work in the boiler. It is a serious company in Svitlohirska, 25, manufacturing metal frames for our metro. And there, inconspicuously I have worked for 12 years. Yes, I remember right, since 1982. For two seasons I worked as an artist, as a conductor, then in the boiler, but here I have spent 12 years, without advertising or attracting attention. Administration had nothing against me, I stayed in my boiler room, read books and newspapers, wrote, especially during night shifts. I corresponded with Halya Horbach who was abroad. By the way after my arrest for two years radio programs were discussing it. While I stayed behind the bars, it was like that, but when my exile finished, the reporters from France, Italy, and Germany would find me. The parcels began coming to Siberia, with stuff, with books, with some clothes. They sympathized with my wish to emigrate and invited me to stay with them. Thus it went on till the proclamation of independence. And after independence it was everyone on one’s own, because the financial support of the patties, other expenses began.
V.Ovsienko: And so you worked until…?
A.Koroban’: Till 1994, when I ran for office in Crimea. Crimea is my native place, so it was the matter of principle – to show that I was not a nationalist-banderovets, but a Crimean resident. It was in Simferopol, Kiev election district, in the fall of 1994. Cunning Lev Myrymsky won the elections. I ranked second or third. I compiled my program, my biography. I went to see Boychyshyn, Rukh printed flyers for me, and they printed the whole bunch in Zbarazh. But cunning Jewish businessman Lev Myrymsky won. Then the administration started looking askance at me, especially the engineer Fedchenko.
[End of tape]
A.Koroban’: We started organizing the Association of political prisoners in 1989. Political life was just at the incipient stage, so timid like the first snowdrops. We organized the association in June.
V.Ovsienko: In Lviv square in Kiev, on June, 3.
A.Koroban’: Yes, we were not allowed into the House of Artists, there were KGBists swirling around. We made speeches and Mykola Horbal’was recording.
V.Ovsienko: Were you member of any parties?
A.Koroban’: No, just Rukh member. But I quit Rukh too.
As soon as I found the job in the boiler in 1982 I immediately started working on a big work called “Observations and some considerations”, about 100 pages. Almost without analysis or criticism I offered the picture of manufacturing industry – what was going at “Refrigerator”, at “Lenkuznia”, at the mines, at the metro – complete mess, embezzlements, you name it. I made a delicate reference to the national question. It looks – I wrote – as if everything was all right, - but, to give you just one example, once I stood at the tooling room (at Vasyl’kiv “Refrigerator”) and a woman approaches, a rather plain woman from the look of her, an tells the supply manager: “Marusya, give this man tools first, because he speaks Ukrainian so beautifully”., I wrote about the obscenities the language was full of. I argued that probably it would be a good thing to have educated people in the plants, but no responsible father would send his daughter to a plant to listen to all that profanity. Just glimpses, even without comment, for smart people to read and understand. Just observations. And I also added some quotes from the CC plenum.
This writing took me such a long time – first a rough copy, then the final version, that Brezhnev had died and Andropov came to power. I began my work in October 1982 and delivered it in December 1983. It produced havoc in the CC; they called to my workplace. “Why this man with his knowledge is working in the boiler room?” And I left my address on the manuscript. I was summoned to the CPU CC, to see someone named Fedorov. We talked for about two hours. He listened to me and then said: “Right, there is a lot of disorder. You described it well, but what can one do? It is inevitable, no matter how hard we try. You see, you also pointed at some minor matters, but trifles will always be there. And here you touch upon national issue – I want to tell you that nationalistic tendencies are stronger in the rural areas than in the cities, in the Western Ukraine than in the East. All in all, thank you for your effort, for presenting the whole picture.” I explained that I lived and worked in Vasyl’kiv and asked not to make any fuss, because it could affect my work. I presented just my own vision and not recommendations to the power. So I made it clear that no matter what you write, what you complain about, things are the way they are. And will be until any cardinal changes are introduced. And added that if I was so good at writing they might transfer me from that boiler. – “No, that we cannot do”.
But they sent the information to Vasyl’kiv raion party committee. I was called to “Refrigerator” factory administration – just look what that ex-con is writing! I was not aware of all that and came to the office. The head of the personnel department was painting a fence of Vasyl’kiv cemetery – it was some kind of “subbotnik”. “Ah, so you wrote all these things? Probably, your term was too short?” “Di I write any lies?” – I retorted. But all my efforts [to change jobs] were in vain. “You’ve been writing for your whole life and you wrote such things about us”…And that was the end of it. It was in 1983. Everything was quiet since.
Well, I saw Valery off when he died.
V.Ovsienko: So were at Valery Marchenko’s funeral?
A.Koroban’: Yes, I was.
V.Kipiani: I have a specific question: have you been exonerated?
A.Koroban’: It began around 1990, even before sovereignty was proclaimed. I had an attorney. He wrote to Moscow. It lasted for two or two and a half years. First exoneration affected my pension, because I’ve worked in the North for five years.
In 1989 we organized the Association. It was a serious declaration. Almost a year later, in late May 1990, I was summoned to Moscow as a reprisals victim and a fighter. A congress of the political reprisals victims was held there. So I went to Moscow and in the fall of 1990 – to Leningrad. I made a good presentation in Moscow; it was read in Leningrad as well.
V.Ovsienko: And do you have any publications?
A.Koroban’: A bit was written about me. “Narodna gazeta” published an essay, and recently a Jewish nationwide newspaper…
V.Ovsienko: Do you have clippings?
A.Koroban’: Yes, I do. “Yevreyskiye vesti” published an abridged version of my large biography, namely, the portions related to Jews, because there were many Jews both in Vasyl’kiv and in the camps.
V.Ovsienko: I wish I had these clippings to make copies.
A.Koroban’: I will give them to you. The raion newspaper published even my poems.
V.Ovsienko: I need biographic materials.
А A.Koroban’: [They were published] in four issues, under the title: "1938 – 1998. Sixty years of my life”. And the Jews published an abridged version. Some essays of mine were published in Ternopil. A Crimean newspaper scolded me bitterly at the time of election campaign: “What a scoundrel, what a bastard! He is defending Tatars! Even if they box his ears, he will still be defending them. You see, he is such-and-such!” It was aimed against me. But instead they enhanced my popularity in Simferopol.
Maybe, you will need those? Here are the pictures from 1938, starting from kindergarten. As a small kid I was chosen to greet with flowers candidates to the deputies of Supreme Rada of the Ukr.SSR in June 1938. I, a boy of 8, am inviting them to the kindergarten, and they won’t oblige. Then I started having my first doubts. They did not come to my kindergarten…
V.Ovsienko: All right. Thank you.