BILOUS Vasyl Kuzmovych
Ovsienko V.V.: Today is the 5th of May 2012. We are in the town of Uman and having an interview at the home of Bilous Vasyl Kuzmovych. Vasyl Ovsienko recording.
Bilous V.K.: My name is Bilous Vasyl Kuzmovych. I was born on 18th of February 1927 in a family of villagers. The village was called Strazhgorod. Our little village is even present on the map of Boplan dating back to 1610.
In autumn 1932 I watched armed people entering our houses and forcefully taking away bread, grain and even beans. In 1933, in April, my aunt died. Her name was Hivrona, she was the first of our family. She was 17 when it happened. The second one to go was my little sister Nina, she was just 2 years old. Right after that my second aunt, Hanna, died aged 29. My uncle, Semen Bilous died of hunger the same year, he was 31. Also, that year was when the richest of our village died, a man called Teplyk, he was my grandfather on my mother's line. They've taken away everything from him, so he died of hunger.
In 1937 the NKVD officers shot down my teacher, Momot Hanna Oleksiivna, because she didn't hang a picture of Stalin on the wall and didn't dress children in red ties. They also shot down her fiancé – also a teacher of the middle school. They were both buried in the park, in Vinnytsia.
In 1941 I fell under the occupation aged 14. on 14th of March 1944 obliged me to get drafted into the army. I was 17 years old then. They taught me to shoot from the “Maxim” machine-gun. I spent a long time in the military and having graduated from just six grades in school I was also attending evening classes. In this way I finished 10 grades and entered the Ukrainian Agrarian Academy in Kyiv on daily basis. I studied there for 5 years and gained the profession of an engineer mechanic.
After that I worked in Uman, at the local agrarian technical department and then, in 1968 started working as a teacher of specialized disciplines in that same university in Uman. It would be fair to say that that educational establishment was under noticeable influence from Moscow. The influence aimed at eliminating Ukrainians. It turned out that since they failed to make us starve to death and couldn't shoot all of us down during the war, they decided to take away our language. And you know that there are no Ukrainians with Ukrainian language. The Russification was very noticeable and I was always against it during out department meetings. I demanded Russian teachers to learn Ukrainian language so they could teach Ukrainian students in their mother tongue, as most students were from villages around the town – from Cherkassy, Vinnytsia and Kyiv regions. Not everybody liked my opposition. The job I had was a very good one, I was a rich person – I earned around 250 karbovantsiv per month, whereas the head engineer earned around 170, and the director – around 190 per month. Apart from that I had an apartment 150 meters away from my work place. I had a wife and two kids, a pond near the house, suitable for fishing... I had everything, but crossed it out to defend the Ukrainian nation from Russification and I was conscious about my choice.
There were many people in the technical college who had the same ideas as me, but the most hard working and ideological of them was Kuzma Ivanovych Matviuk. He was a friend of mine, I invited him to my home many times. We spoke honestly about all the problems our national problems with him and even my kids took part in those conversations some times.
Ovsienko V.V.: Could you please the names of your children and their birth dates?
Bilous V.K.: My son was born in 1953
Ovsienko V.V.: And his name?
Bilous V.K.: Oleksandr. He graduated from the Lviv University as an optical physicist. My daughter – Antonina, born in 1964, graduated from the Odessa University, was learning foreign languages there. The kids were on my side when we were surrounded by enemies...
Ovsienko V.V.: What exactly were you doing, how did you demand ukrainianization?
Bilous V.K.: Well, there was this episode once. Around the third of the teachers were Russian. They were sent to us with a precise purpose to keep us tamed.
Ovsienko V.V.: Yes, that's how russification worked.
Bilous V.K.: Yes, and I noticed that during any public gatherings they turned on the anthem of USSR and never the Ukrainian anthem. So I insisted that the head of the orchestra played the Ukrainian anthem after the USSR anthem. He agreed to that, but I told him to play the Ukrainian after all the presidium sits down, so they have to stand up again when the orchestra starts. He did as I asked and was later almost kicked out of work for that. They questioned him about who forced him to have played the Ukrainian anthem, so he pointed at me... There was another example: the entrance hallway of the technical college had bass reliefs of Taras Shevchenko and Ivan Franko with Franko's words in big letters:
“I am the son of the nation ascending,
Even though I was tied and imprisoned,
My devotions are labor, happiness and freedom,
I am the man, the prologue and the epilogue”
Those were his words. And Shevchenko's quote was: “Learn, my brothers...”. And then when I was sent to a work trip into Cherkasskiy region. I was to find students there for the college, but while I was doing that, they tore down the quotes of Franko and Shevchenko at the entrance hallway and just threw them away into the rubbish bin near the toilet. They drew this “freedom” phrase instead, some swords and stuff like that. When I noticed it I asked the students to move the leftovers of the bass relief to the library, but the head of the college never put it back to the wall again.
Later on I used to make numerous speeches at the college meetings and every time I insistent. When I found out that Ivan Dziuba was expelled – and I have already read his work “Internationalism or russification?” by then – I decided to make copies and spread his work around with help of Kuzma. I think I still have an copy somewhere in this flat...
Ovsienko V.V.: When did acquire the work of Ivan Dziuba?
Bilous V.K.: 1971.
Ovsienko V.V.: As a photo copy? Because I also have a photo cope somewhere.
Bilous V.K.: No. It was a printed version. And then we made the photo copies from that printed version. But I wasn't the one copying, Kuzma Ivanovych and Bogdan Chornomaz were. In my turn I was just giving those copied issues to read to some people. Then one day Kuzma ran to me and told me to hide everything because the authorities were after us. He also asked me to give hand him the fifth issue. I hid everything anti-soviet I had into the new piano I had bought for my daughter, and then I hid that piano into the warehouse which belonged to the local deputy head of militia – lieutenant colonel Koval, so everybody thought the piano belonged to him. Everybody feared him so the piano stayed untouched for the next two years. After I was released I didn't even go there to take a look because I was really traumatized after the prison.
Ovsienko V.V.: So was it there when you went to check?
Bilous V.K.: Yes, everything stayed untouched. I lied to Kuzma, I told him I'd burnt everything. He told in on the fact to the authorities, so they thought I'd burnt everything. In my turn I kept everything and gave it away to the Cherkassy cultural museum.
Ovsienko V.V.: That was when?
Bilous V.K.: Around 5 years ago. I also gave away part of that stuff to the Uman cultural museum.
Ovsienko V.V.: Oh, so those are quite valuable exhibits?
Bilous V.K.: Yes, and I also formed the covering letter.
Ovsienko V.V.: You mean the history documentation?
Bilous V.K.: Yes, but neither Kuzma, nor Chornomaz knew about it. I'm not proud of it either.
Ovsienko V.V.: So, Kuzma heard that arrests were going to take place and told you?
Bilous V.K.: Yes, he came here...
Ovsienko V.V.: But how did he find out? Because usually those arrests were unforseen.
Bilous V.K.: He came here very anxious and agitated. The militia picked heavily on him – he had to go to the militia department every day at six o'clock.
Ovsienko V.V.: Was he going through interrogations by then?
Bilous V.K.: Every day. They kept this up for half a year. He had to spend 3-4 hours daily at the department. Sometimes he was sitting there doing nothing and sometimes he was questioned. So that kept happening for half a year and then they told him that his case was closed and he could return to his studies. He came to me and warned me of the possible arrests. I asked him about what they knew and what should I tell them. He said they knew everything because there were many informers among us. Because of all this I hid all the anti-soviet things I had. Later on, it happened so, I fund out that Kuzma was arrested during his wedding in Odessa and shifted all the way to Cherkassy KGB prison. I found him there and passed 8kg of food – sausages, apples...
Ovsienko V.V.: I thought one could only pass on 5kg packages.
Bilous V.K.: No, it's 8kg.
Ovsienko V.V.: Is it really?
Bilous V.K.: Yes, they did allow me to pass on more. They also registered me during that visit. Later they added this phrase to my personal file, saying “The National Enemy”.
Ovsienko V.V.: Helping “The National Enemy”.
Bilous V.K.: Yes. So they took Kuzma and Bogdan.
Ovsienko V.V.: Bogdan was supposed to get married on 15th of July, but he was arrested on the 13th.
Bilous V.K.: They had the same convictions with Kuzma. I stood my trial later, after I was expelled from the Party...
Ovsienko V.V.: How did you get recorded? Was that prison visit the first in the line which brought to your arrest?
Bilous V.K.: I returned home, and then, during the meeting when Ivan Dziuba was expelled...
Ovsienko V.V.: That was the meeting of the writers association on 2nd of March 1972. Ivan Dziuba was arrested on 18th of March. What was the reaction to the telegram you sent in that period of time?
Bilous V.K.: I read in the newspaper about his expulsion, so I wrote to that newspaper stating that some kind of movement actually exists and that the association of writers should defend the Ukrainian language. Who else if not them? So I called them anti-patriots, cosmopolitans and almost used bad language against them.
Ovsienko V.V.: When did you write this letter?
Bilous V.K.: Before the telegram. Then I went to the post office and handed over the telegram. Straight after that the old postman was running after me shouting: “Vasyl Kuzmovych! Don't send this telegram, you'll get into a lot of trouble!”. I didn't change my mind though and ordered him to send the telegram immediately.
Ovsienko V.V.: Can you quote the telegram message?
Bilous V.K.: “Hail Ivan Dziuba! Shame to the heads of the writers association! Reader – Vasyl Bilous.”. And that was it. I wrote my house address as I wan't hiding. And there was this guy in the association – Kozachenko...
Ovsienko V.V.: Vasyl Kozachenko, yes.
Bilous V.K.: He wrote a letter to the regional Party committee stating that t”we fight against the Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism and for that we get letters like this” - that was about my letter. After that, it happened so, I was provoked to get into a fight. I was invited to a graduation evening that night with my wife. We drank some alcohol there and then the secretary of the Party organization department – Tamara Panova – sat beside me and started talking. She was a nice young lady and she started flirting with me and filling my glass too often. My wife went jealous and blew up with anger when we got back home. We were followed by militia while walking the street so as soon as they heard screams from the apartment, they broke in and wanted to arrest me for hooliganism just to sentence me as a criminal, not a as a political prisoner. But neither my wife, nor anybody else approved me being an alcoholic or a hooligan. So they failed to arrest me for longer than 3 days. After that situation I had to leave the technical college and return to the Kolkhoz technical school which I used to study at for previous 5 years. That was the place where they voted for my expulsion. Out of 52 members 49 voted for expelling me.
Ovsienko V.V.: Do you have the document I gave you? It has the date when this happened. It says here that on 20th of June 1972 they conducted a conversation with you because of the telegram you sent. Could you tell of that conversation?
Bilous V.K.: There isn't much to tell. I had a talk with the second secretary of the regional Party committee Hudzenko and the head of the Party commission Moshonkin. They were convincing me that I took a wrong position, that I took the side of Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism, that I should repent as, obviously, I didn't. They wanted written explanations from me on my actions, so I wrote one for them. It was a very angry letter with loads of grammar mistakes. And after that I was expelled from the association.
Ovsienko V.V.: This meeting took place on 4th of June 1972.
Bilous V.K.: Yes. “Expelled from the KPRS fro spreading anti-soviet views. During the procedure Bilous V.K. Behaved inappropriately and rebelliously.”. I laughed at them: “What are you doing? Why are you expelling me? I don't understand. I am a veteran, I have kids! Why are you doing this?”. The interesting thing is that those 3 people who didn't vote for my expulsion, helped me later. After serving my sentence I had to get an operation and get rid of two-thirds of my stomach. I needed blood transfusion and those 3 guys were the ones to donate their blood for me. So now I can say that I Ukrainian, Russian and Moldovan blood in my vessels.
Ovsienko V.V.: Exactly those three people?
Bilous V.K.: Yes, exactly them, my own son and another 5 people. I had a very successful operation which was conducted by a nationalist surgeon. A very professional one – 35 years after the operation everything is still working well.
Ovsienko V.V.: So they kicked out of the Party, but how did you get arrested? Did you keep your job after the expulsion?
Bilous V.K.: I kept working and kept writing appeals. I kept protesting against my expulsion – that's one thing true. At some point I was invited for an audition to the regional committee of Cherkassy Party department. For three and a half hours 28 people were convincing me I was wrong in my attitude. After that they told me to go to the Bureau, where they will make a final decision. I came to the needed place and saw that the queue was formed of people, expelled from the party for theft, hooliganism, rape and so on. And there I was – expelled for Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism.
So anyway, after my audition at the Bureau they understood that they will not be able to correct me. That was the moment I felt that my arrest was near. And just when I had fully prepared myself they told me that I could appeal to the Central Committee of the Communist Party. As they explained, this meant that I was not to be arrested and that I could go home. The doors were close so I just smiled and walked out. The people in the queue behind me started asking questions about the committee's decision on me. I said: “They're letting everyone through.”.
Ovsienko V.V.: That was a good joke from you.
Bilous V.K.: The committee told me I had to wait two weeks, but I didn't do so. I travelled back home – all at personal cost – and then went to Moscow to present myself to the Central Party Committee. What shocked me the most were posh parquet floors, curtains and young pretty waitresses dressed in whites.
Ovsienko V.V.: Who was the head at the time?
Bilous V.K.: Solomencev was the head pf the Party commission then. But I talked with some some people around, and they said: “What are you hoping for? Those people looking through you appeal are just ordinary clerks. Solomencev is never there.”. So I prepared myself for a conversation with the clerks, but when I came in I saw Solomencev and Pelshe.
Ovsienko V.V.: Oh, Pelshe is for ever, isn't he, old chap.
Bilous V.K.: Very skinny, he was. Why were they there anyway? Because they were interested, I guess. So anyway, after that audition, Fedorchuk shouted: “Sentence him! Imprison him! He almost made me rethink my positions! He must be imprisoned!”. I stated my honest position during that audition. I tried to explain everything to them and I even did it in Russian, as I was fluent in their language. Pelshe and Solomencev didn't say a single word. It was only the clerks talking. At the end of the meeting they said: “Go back home, we will send you our decision by mail.”. And then, just before I walked out, I heard: “Oh, those Ukrainians. We keep teaching them the right way, but they just won't learn.”.
I went home and was then, in a few days, called up to the local authorities. They gave me a notification to read. The sheet of paper was a directive to imprison one tractor brigade head because the overall state of the tractors in this area was bad. They wanted any one brigade head. To imprison him. And then, the regional Party committee was to pick one guy around the region. And so they did. They picked the head of tractor brigade from Antonivka village and a mechanic from village Stari Babany. So I was sent to Antonivka to check the state of tractors in Antonivka and the way they were stored. When I came I saw that the machinery was actually stored in bad conditions, but the reason for that was the village was very poor. Locals didn't even have ordinary hygiene possibilities. The reason for that, in its turn, was that the local authorities didn't invest any money into the village. So I wrote a letter with explanations that they should imprison the head of the Kolkhoz and the secretary of the Party organization, not the tractor brigade leader. I came back and in a few days a friend of mine came to me saying that he was being sent to the same village I came back from, to do the same checks I did. So he came to me asking for advice on what to write in his report. I told him to write everything I wrote but in a different order.
I don't know what exactly happened later, but then the tractor brigade leader came to the company I worked at. We had a talk and I found that he was very unhappy about keeping the job. He said that he was better off in prison than in that tractor brigade. Well... Such is life, I guess....
I came back from Moscow and just continued working. In a few days I was called up by the regional prosecutor and told that I should come and see him. I came, but he said that the call wasn't his and redirected me to another room. I came in and was handcuffed straight away by KGBs who were waiting for me. They through me into a public cell with criminals, who gave a spot near the toilet hole just as I entered the premises. I was never too shy, so I started a fight to get a better spot to sleep.
Ovsienko V.V.: That was a bit harsh of you, no?
Bilous V.K.: Yeah, but they gave me a sleeping spot right at the toilet just because I was the new comer. I looked at them and noticed that they were just small scams, so I started beating them up for real. The guards had to interfere and set us apart, but I got my good spot in the end, so I was happy. 10 days after that they took away my documents and moved me to Cherkassy.
Ovsienko V.V.: Did they take any of your publications?
Bilous V.K.: No, because I hid them all.
Ovsienko V.V.: Oh, yes, you told me previously.
Bilous V.K.: Well, to be precise, they did find many draught notes... They also found the “Last tear” written by Ievhen Sverstiuk, a printed version.
Ovsienko V.V.: Is that work on Shevchenko?
Bilous V.K.: Yes, about his last poem. Sverstiuk was very talented.
Ovsienko V.V.: Interesting.
Bilous V.K.: I don't know where they took it, so I lost it, then.
So, there I was in prison, even though I used to have two months of vacation, a very high salary and everything a person could dream of. But I crossed all that and got into prison for my beliefs. The KGBs thought otherwise though. They thought that if I had all those things and decided to get arrested, then I was insane. Thinking that, they sent me to the psychiatric ward for a number of tests. I saw many horrible things there: the nurses tried to force me to eat tablets by hiding them in my food, anyone who was aggressive got a shot of analgesia in the hip and went to sleep for three days.
I was kept there for over a month. I actually spent a lot of time talking with one of the thieves also spending their time in the psychiatric ward. This guy, all big and muscly, with tattoos all over his body, told me a story of his professional career as a thief. He said it was the best hit he'd ever had. He said that he once stole suitcase of a military captain who specialized in engineering. The case had his uniform, his documents, notifications – everything. The thief told me that he used the captain's clothes and ID to get a car and an apartment under the guy's name. From his words it was a lot of fun, but only until the captain showed up and the thief was arrested and sentenced for 10 years of imprisonment. He used to tell me many stories and I was a keen listener.
Antoher interesting episode was when a new kid arrived. Very young, just 18 years old. He was arrested for a theft and taken to the psychiatric ward for test. I asked him to try and steal some matches for me, as I had cigarettes but didn't have anything to light them with. He managed to that!
Ovsienko V.V.: He was a professional, as I understand.
Bilous V.K.: Yes, indeed. He was the one to help find out that my cell had hidden microphones. They were built into the walls. I found at least four when I started looking.
The head of the ward was a female, and she heard how I talked about women, while in the cell. And I should say that I am very fond of women and I deeply respect them, I never harmed a woman in my life. So she heard all that and wrote me a fabulous character summery which officially stated that I was healthy.
The conditions in the prison were tough. 60 people lived in one big hall, everybody was smoking right where they slept. With all the respect, you, Vasyl, served your sentence as a political prisoner, whereas I had to survive among those wastes of humanity. After some time I was forcibly taken ti the hospital ward. The thing was that the head of the prison was Ukrainian and he decided to give some time off as he knew that I was actually a political prisoner. So I spent two weeks there, doing nothing and eating good food instead ordinary criminal meals from the eatery. And that was the case every time I met a Ukrainian in those walls. A Ukrainian interrogator held and questioned me for 5 minutes, but every time I got Russian investigators – they kept asking questions for 3 hours. That was because Russians hate Ukrainians!
My arrest took place in January, right in the month of Lenin's birthday.
Ovsienko V.V.: That was 1973?
Bilous V.K.: Yes, 100 years after Lenin's first birthday. On that day I had mail. It was a newspaper called “Labour life”
Ovsienko V.V.: Yeah, I remember that newspaper.
Bilous V.K.: The locals gave it another name - “Bitch”.
Ovsienko V.V.: Yes, that's what they called it.
Bilous V.K.: Yes, so I was reading this paper and came across the news about amnesty on the occasion of Lenin's 100th birthday (Lenin's 100th birthday took place on 22nd April 1970, the teller may have meant to tell of the amnesty on 30 December 1972, on the occasion of 60th anniversary of USSR – Ovsienko V.V.). The whole prison was reading the article then. Everyone was interested whether he could be amnestied. All the disabled, all those sentenced for the first time and those who had sentences shorter than 5 years. I was also supposed to leave. But that was on the first day – the day that paper came. All 60 people saw that around 2/3 should get released. When we read the newspaper for the second time, it became clear the around a half of people would be released. On the third day we came to a conclusion that only around 10 people would actually get out. The reality was the only person released was the guy who murdered his father. He was one of the disabled because of a psychological trauma. The murder only happened because the guy's father was beating him. He wasn't fit for work.
Ovsienko V.V.: Yeah, people like that aren't needed in prisons and concentration camps.
Bilous V.K.: He wasn't going to work anyway, so they thought: why keep? Better to let him go, so they did. And that was me getting to know what amnesty was.
My trial took place on 12th January 1973. And they took me to see the KGBs a few times before that. I don't know how, but the whole prison knew when somebody was called by the KGB.
So anyway, during my trial all the witnesses were inside the trial hall.
Ovsienko V.V.: All of them? That's unusual, normally they are called up on by one.
Bilous V.K.: This time they were all present at once. And during their speech it became very clear to me that all their testimony were forced and false. There were others though, like Malyshev and Panova – Russians, who aimed at bringing me down and imprisoning. But that wasn't the brightest part. At some point Piskunov took the word. He was an economics teacher in one of the Universities. He started openly insulting me and said that people like me should be shot down! Can you imagine that? I used to serve in the Pacific Marines, you know. They taught us how to kill a person as quickly as possible without using any weapons. So I jumped across the barrier and obstructed his carotid arteries, stopping blood flow to the brain. He was sitting in the first row, very close to me. Everything happened so quickly. Piskunov's eyes widened and he started fainting. Only then the convoy realized what happened and set us apart. The result of al that show was in me getting 2 years of imprisonment by the decision of the judges.
And that's my story. It was very interesting for me to take part at war, and it was also very interesting to get the imprisonment experience. I even think that serving a sentence among political prisoners isn't as interesting, because they're all so civilized and intelligent.
Ovsienko V.V.: I served a criminal sentence too.
Bilous V.K.: You're tiny and weak, it must've been hard for you. Whereas I'm big and had appropriate training with the Marines. I was beating the crap out of everyone there. But that was the law, it was either you beat them or they'll beat you.
Ovsienko V.V.: Where did you serve your sentence?
Bilous V.K.: Tahancha. Of the Kyiv region. There were 2500 prisoners there. That was the only prison in the USSR which built fireproof safes. My job was to work with electronic parts. IT was na easy one – I only needed my right leg and one hand. I was doing 150% of the needed work so I even managed to be sending 30 rubles to my wife every month.
There was even a cinema in that prison, but the movies were always about our militia catching thieves and other criminals. The cinema, by the way, had 2500 seats. It was an open air cinema with benches dug into the ground in front of a big screen.
At some point the head of the prison needed an assistant, so having been well educated, I became his personal assistant which allowed me to do clean paper work instead of dirty hand labour with all the criminals.
Ovsienko V.V.: So, did you serve your full sentence?
Bilous V.K.: No, like I said earlier I started to bleed from my intestines because of bad food, so I needed an operation and donor blood. So they released 4 or 6 months early.
Ovsienko V.V.: What was the official name for your release? Early release or an actual amnesty?
Bilous V.K.: Not amnesty, no. It was called parole. I was paroled.
Ovsienko V.V.: Was it done through court?
Bilous V.K.: Yes.
Ovsienko V.V.: When was this?
Bilous V.K.: I don't remember all the dates should be written down in the notification letter.
Ovsienko V.V.: “Arrested on 27th September 1972, released on 26th October 1973”. How did the parole procedure go? Was it a surprise for you?
Bilous V.K.: I regret a lot. They had an enormous library there. The thing is that those books which don't get destroyed after confiscation are taken to prison libraries, so one could find many interesting materials there. Another reason why I was so easily released early, was that I took the administration's side in terms of conflict between them and the prisoners. Some prisoners actually listened to me and some just laughed in my face. There were different stories...
Another interesting situation was when I made it to the finals of a chess tournament in the prison. There were around 300 people standing all around us and watching. That was in 1973. Vyktor Yanukovych eas serving his sentence in that time period. The difference between the two of us was that I was defending Ukrainians and he was stealing wool hats. My opponent was a thug who tried to scare away from victory. At first I was a bit nervous, but the moment he started threatening me, I understood that stayed until the finals for his muscles, his brain. I won the game on the 17th move and became the chess champion of Tahancha.
Well, Vasyl Vasyliyovych, I think that's all.
Ovsienko V.V.: But wait, you only told of how you were sentenced and of your time behind bars, but after you came back you continued your life, right? The authorities still had an eye on you didn't they?
Bilous V.K.: After I came back, I was allow to wash and clean tractors brought in for plan repairs. I started getting 90 rubles per month. And then one month before I had be retired they increased my salary to 12 rubles.
Ovsienko V.V.: Where were those tractors?
Bilous V.K.: “Raisilkhoztechnika”. The regional Kolkhoz technical company.
Ovsienko V.V.: Did the KGBs stay on you? Did they have any claims?
Bilous V.K.: No, nobody ever picked on me again. Apart from that half a year after my release, when I had to go and sign in at the militia department very day.
Ovsienko V.V.: Ah, so you were administrative supervision...
Bilous V.K.: Yeah, but that was only formal. I wasn't getting repressed or anything like that. From my side I kept a quiet life too. When the Perestroika started, however, I joined in straight away. My articles got published in newspapers, I stated all my thoughts aloud then. I took part in all these parties like the National Movement of Ukraine, Democratic Party of Ukraine... I am one of the founders of the Association of political prisoners and repressed individuals.
Ovsienko V.V.: Yes, I was there too, on 3rd of June 1989.
Bilous V.K.: Yes. Then there was the Ukrainian Language Association, then the Memorial... But I didn't find my spot in any of those organizations, because I could never be the brain. I am the hands of any organization, that's just the way I am.
Ovsienko V.V.: But you created the initiative, right?
Bilous V.K.: Yes, I was the one to sign the Manifest of the Democratic Party of Ukraine. But it is important to say that that didn't change a thing. We live in a terroristic country. And neither you, mister Ovsienko, neither Oleh Tiahnybok, for example, know anything about it, because you live in Kyiv and you don't see any of the things really going on. This terrorism started in 1991 and stayed until today. And I will prove it to you.
I signed this manifest. It wasn't just me: Pavlo Movchan, Pavlychko, Drach, Yavorivskiy, there were many writers there who signed this document. We chose Yriy Badzio to be our head – a very noble and educated person. I came and started helping him – I gathered 127 people into the party. People from around the Kyiv region, farmers and laborers. The head of the party gave an order to register the party officially, on the level of Ministry of Justice. I did as asked, but noticed in some time, that people started leaving the party and evading me. I couldn't understand why, but then I saw that the list of people which I had submitted to the Ministry was at the local regional executive departments of all the regions. The trick was that to register the party I had to submit the list of all its members, that list went to Badzio, he forwarded it to the Ministry. The Ministry was full of communists. The local authority departments were full of communists. As a result they were forcefully making people leave the party or otherwise the local authorities would leave them unemployed. At the end the party had 7 people left, and they just excluded me from those leftovers.
Ovsienko V.V.: Oh, they just kicked you out?
Bilous V.K.: Yeah, well, why not. I was excluded from the Movement too. The only place I haven't been excluded from yet is KUN – I'm the delegate of all the meetings, both planned and urgent.
Ovsienko V.V.: I was also excluded from URP. I was even excluded from the Association of political prisoners, did you know that?
Bilous V.K.: So that makes us live in conditions of terrorism. The situation is still the same now. If we want to move the mayor of Uman and elect a new one, we need 8 000 signatures. The population of Uman is 88 000 people, but they still can't get enough signatures. Why? Because you need to submit your name, address and passport details. In this case they can threaten people and make them lose their jobs.
If I'd have to organize all this again, I would've it differently. I would have made the party underground and consisting of 2000 people instead of 600, and I would have submitted an official list of 20 old ladies, mostly disabled. But I'm always smart the second time, whereas at first I'm prone to making mistakes. I think, this should be enough, Vasyl Vasyliyovych...
Ovsienko V.V.: What about your rehabilitation period? You happened to acquire a document on rehab dated from 17 April 1991. Did you receive it by mail? Did you apply for rehab or did it happen automatically?
Bilous V.K.: I don't know, to be honest with you. It just happened and that's it. I was the head of the Association of political prisoners in Uman for some time, and then I handed the responsibilities to Bogdan Chornomaz...
It should also be mentioned that I actively joined the starting oppression in 1989-90 for making Ukraine leave USSR – demonstrations in Kyiv, production of big national flags... And no one should ever say that all those people were payed to stand on the squares and forming the Chain of Unity across the city.
Around 1995 I initiated the foundation of General Ukrainian veteran Union named after Ihor Yuhnovskiy. And I was his deputy for eight years. My own organization, how ever, was called The Uman congress of the Second World War participants. There were 36 of us, including front combatants. The first thing we did as an organization was collect the soviet medals we had, put them all into a bucket, took that bucket to the recruitment point and wrote a letter saying that we didn't need of more of those Moscow medals, neither those we already had, nor new ones. The second thing we did was make an advertisement in newspapers, telling of who we were and what we did. Kirovograd, Odessa, Lviv and Sevastopol joined us straight away.
Another thing we did was stop attending parades. I was also a front line combatant, I know what's it like there. I never saw generals and majors. Just junior lieutenants and lieutenants. Senior lieutenants and captains were further down into our positions. And parades were always about generals and colonels. Junior officers, sergeants and privates are always behind. We decided to stop attending parades because when we came there with our Ukrainian flag and stood beside colonels with red soviet flags, they started hissing at us, ordering us to “take these yellow-blue rags away from here”. At that point I turned around and started a fight. My friends joined and the only man who could stop us then was the mayor him self.
Ovsienko V.V.: What year was that?
Bilous V.K.: 1995. That year I wrote an article saying that Ukraine was going the wrong way. That we chose not the way of Ivan Mazepa, Ivan Vygovskiy or Bogdan Khmelnytskiy, or Stepan Bandera, or Symon Petliura. We must fulfill the second part of the Zapovit written by Taras Shevchenko. It's pretty clear there: “Moisture thy land with the enemy's vile blood”. So it says and so must we do.
That's the idea I was spreading in 1995.
A few days after that I had a guest at home. A man, dressed in civil clothes came to me, said he was an SBU agent and gave me his identity document which I handed over to my wife together with asking the man of the reason for his arrival. To that he just said: “To tell you that I was present at yesterday's event where you were agitating everyone to get to arms and fight”. And that was it. Then the man returned later to tell me that Oleksandr Moroz was coming to Kyiv with a lecture of some sort. He and I studied at the same engineering faculty. “What are you going to do?” - the man asked. “I don't know, probably I'll by some spoiled tomatoes and will try spot him in the head with a few.” - I replied. “Ok” - the mans said, and left. And I did as I said I would. There was almost a fight there because one of the tomatoes flew into the audience and they all freaked out, because they thought it was a grenade.
After that the SBU guy came again and said that Petro Symonenko was about to appear in Kyiv. And again, he asked me about what was I going to do about it. I told him that I will draw a big poster saying “Sickle and hammer bring death and hunger!”. I did as I said. But I made a mistake. I should have hid and showed up just in front of the SBU guy, but I happened to get surrounded by communists who gave me few knuckle sandwiches. I wa saved by a nationalist – Danat Kyrylenko – a political prisoner, but was caught red handed and armed so they refused to rehabilitate him.
The SBU guy showed up again and said that Liudmyla Kuchma was to show up at Hydropark and was then to go to some kindergarten, to the hospital. He asked me again about what I was going to do with the information he gave me. I told him a story back, about people selling their groceries at the underground station at the main railway station. I also told him about militiamen chasing those traders away because some big official was to come to that train station. I was already an old man with a stick so nobody payed attention to me. This allowed me to see how Liudmyla Kuchma met Valentyna Shevchenko – the former head of the Presidium of Verkhovna Rada of the Ukrainian SSR. They french-kissed each other right near the carriage filled with interested children. You know, when a man kisses a woman – that's ok, but when two women kiss each other like that – it makes me nauseous. So I told the SBU guy that I was going to stay home, to avoid possible nausea.
So, those were my relations with the SBU. Even after the KGB stopped existing, I still had the attention of SBU. There were also small things like painting Lenin monuments with white paint and writing on them: “Lenin, the slaughterer of the Ukrainian nation”, “Lenin – the syphilitic”, “Lenin – the bandit”, “Lenin – the thief”. I painted this stuff all over.
Ovsienko V.V.: But the monument is still there.
Bilous V.K.: Yes, it is. After those actions militia took my fingerprints and formed a protocol. I did the same again, though with black paint. That was the only thing I could do, but I did it together with my daughter and grandson.
Ovsienko V.V.: But isn't that “exploitation of underage individuals during a crime”?
Bilous V.K.: Yes, it actually was. Verkhovna Rada deputies signed an appeal on me. I'm 86 years old but I'm still kicking. I wrote another article recently and I'm going to give it to you as a present, maybe you can fit it into some newspaper. I'll read you the beginning. It's called “Ukraine-eaters are off the leash”. Here it goes: “The residence of Hitler's external intelligence was decided to be not in Lviv, not in Kyiv, but in a small town Uman where the agent worked as mechanic on a local mill. Hitler's agents were walking towards the mill with wheat bags on their shoulders. They were walking towards the mill to do their reports. For successful agency deeds Hitler gave the agent the rank of general and sent him to Kyiv, so he could unmask communist undergrounds, which managed to blow up all the buildings of Khreshatyk street during one quiet night, with all the old people, women and children having been inside of those houses without killing a single German.”. This is true, but why was there never a monument to the victims of those explosions? Or maybe there is?
Ovsienko V.V.: That guy – Kudria – is still a Hero of the Soviet Union. There is even a street named after him.
Bilous V.K.: in 1971, there was a popular film producer – Tymofiy Levchuk. He chose Uman for his latest film presentation because Uman was the point of Hitler's underground movement in Ukraine. The film is called “Two years above a chasm”. The film showed Kudria and the Kyiv underground, where all the positive heroes talk Russian and all the negative ones talk Ukrainian, including German officers. I see all this and I pose a question: why, on the 21st year of independence, Ukrainian cinemas show films of Ukraine-eaters? Why are young protesters against Russian negligence against Ukraine being arrested, even though they are trying to defend our National and human dignity? Why does independent Ukraine still have leftovers of the Moscow colonization administration which demands Russian to become an official language in Ukraine? Why did the richest republic of the USSR become a poor beggar and an international prostitute? I'll give you an answer. Because Ukraine didn't have any Ukrainian nationalists in power for the last 20 years. Yushenko doesn't count. He was poisoned by Moscow and betrayed by his “beloved friends”, restricted by the puppets of the Constitutional Court and Verkhvona Rada. He just didn't manage to reeducate conformist khokhols into battailous and proud Ukrainians. And to finish this off: as a political prisoner, who served his sentence in GULAG (1 year and 28 days) I will allow myself to rephrase the Roman battle commander Cato-senior with just changing the Carthage to KPU: ... aside from everything else, I think that the Communist Party of Ukraine should be banned and trialled as the party of potential killers, thieves, liars and Moscow hounds.
This is what I wrote and I like how sounds. Take it.
Ovsienko V.V.: You already gave me this article when we were driving here... [Turning the recorder off].
Bilous V.K.: I would also like to tell you a story about on prisoner back in 1966. I had his name written down somewhere but I don't remember it. He was 17 back in 1966. He was attending school, 10th grade. He used to take his notebook and write “Communists are liars!” in big letters all over the notebook. He would then spread it all over town during the night. The authorities were hunting him, but couldn't find. Two regional KGB heads were fired because of him, all local Party members were mobilized to fight this kid. There was a woman with a dog on the first floor of his house and the dog bit him once, so the kid wrote “I'll kill your dog and you” on a sheet of paper and put it on her door. The woman took this note to the local KGBs and they got the boy. They beat him really hard at the department and then gave him three years of imprisonment. When he was released, they called him up again and beat him up more. He survived though, is still alive and has grandchildren, so everything turned out ok in the end. However, I don't know if he has any materials left on his case.
Ovsienko V.V.: If you find his name, please contact him, I would be glad to interview him too.
Bilous V.K.: Ok. Now, turn the recorder off and I'll tell you something else.
Ovsienko V.V.: [Turning the recorder off]
Bilous V.K.: Ready? Ok, so on 19th of August 1991 I, Vasyl Kuzmovych Bilous, 65 or 67 years old back then, was a convinced Ukrainian nationalist. I saw a television program with Yanaev, Pugo and Yazov. It was at around 9 o'clock in the morning. The flat was empty – no wife, no children. I listened to what they were saying and clearly understood that they want to return to Stalin repressions, to threaten those already threatened and shoot down anyone against them. So I made a poster saying that the above mentioned individuals were simply thugs who were organizing insurgence, so we all should go and protest. I signed it to be the poster from the Democratic Party of Ukraine. I came to the main square of Uman and placed this poster there. In a few hours there was a mass of people there protesting against the idea of Yanaev, Pugo and Yazov. My daughter was also there and so was my son. Some time later Bogdan Chornomaz came to us, he wasn't alone, and started putting our flag down. I addressed him with a question about his actions. He stopped and went to find another place to stick his own flag. As I understood he and his group of people were simply trying to hide their own files in case the repressions would have returned. I can understand them.
Ovsienko V.V.: There was an order, by the way, from the Ukrainian Radical Party to hide all the archives. Lukianenko signed it, I think.
Bilous V.K.: The meeting was roaring. There were those were for the idea, there were those who were against. It came to fights at some point. Then, a bit later on, I was approached by the local militia deputy head – Lipovskiy Mykola Ivanovych. He was dressed in civil and told me I should run, because my arrest was going to happen very soon. I said that I would not run, so he just left. In a few minutes the head of local militia came with militiamen and told me I was arrested. “For what?” - I said. “For violating the civil order”. I turned to my friend – Mykhailo Dulov – and said: “As soon as they arrest me, you take the poster down and put into the boot of your car”. So I was arrested and they wanted to start up a criminal case against me. Right then I also found out that my friend Mykhailo was no friend to me, because he took all my things which I asked him to put into his car, he took them to the local court as evidence of my guilt. So they quickly forged a case against me and took me to the court. They put me on house arrest and told me to show up in three days for trial. So I did, but when I came they told me that the National Committee on Extraordinary Situations, the department which started the case against me, was gone, so I was free to go home. However, I was still the only one to have stood up against the Committee and go through trial, the only person in Ukraine.
Ovsienko V.V.: Yes, I've heard of people standing against them but never to be trialed.
Bilous V.K.: I'm kind of proud of this, actually. On the other hand, I'm gratey worried about my children. They suffered so much by my side. My daughter had to run away to Belguim and my son is somewhere in Singapore... God, what are we doing with our country... Our people are running away and those in power are just strangers to us... It's a good thing I'm not the president, because I would've shown them all... Russian language, Mother Russia... I would be beating them all up with my bare hands right here in Uman.
Life, however, is still very interesting for me. I'm still seeing the former Uman militia deputy head. He is now retired and I see him as my brother, he is a good man because he approached me that day and warned me that I was going to get arrested. My daughter, on the other hand said “Oh well, it wouldn't be the first time.”. And that's that, Vasyl Vasyliyovych, but I'll tell you one other thing. Turn the recorder off. [Turning the recorder off]. I won a vacation to Alushta some time ago... Crimea is our land. According to the population census of some sultan Ismail, Crimea had mostly Ukrainians living there, not even Tatars.
Ovsienko V.V.: Somewhere in XVII century, the population census stated that there were 42% of Ukrainians in Crimea.
Bilous V.K.: Exactly, so that proves that Crimea is the land of Ukrainians, not Russian in any way. I even agree for it to belong to Tatars, because they have been living there since XVI century. So I went to Alushta and took a walk around administrative buildings there. I should mention that this was back in 2008. I saw portraits of Lenin, Dzerzhynskiy and Molotov all over the place there. I felt really bad about it. One the one hand, we are an independent country, but on the other hand we are still totally soviet.
Ovsienko V.V.: Thank you for your time. These are very right words.