Mykola Horbal Микола Горбаль

* 1940  

  • And what is it like to be yourself? If you are Ukrainian, speak Ukrainian. In order to be myself, I had to convince the camp that I was not Nikolai, but Mykola. They said: "What's the difference?". I am Mykola! And she had to write it, even all those publications that were published in Moscow, the dissident Mykola was spelled with a nice and round Ukrainian letter "и". Mykola Horban, as Nikolai insists, but what's the d… I am Mykola! So I defended my name. And today we hear: Dash, Pash, Grish, Mash. What is that? We are children of bastards. Because if you had had a father, if you had learned the language, then your child would have known that they are going to their capital and that they should be Ukrainian, not "like everyone else", or "what's the difference". Doesn't matter, we will be reborn! Nation... There were even worse times, I was in first grade with a boy, and the next day he was gone. The NKVD arrived and took them to Siberia. Hundreds of families were taken out of Ukraine, they were shot. In Lviv all the intellectuals were executed in prisons, but somewhere those people emerged, they... If it is difficult for the nation, then I am already quoting from Horbal, I have already said it somewhere - then God sends the right people. I don't know how Svitlichnyi emerged in a one-room apartment, he is a man from Luhansk region, on the border with Russia. And in his apartment the thing started that was later called The Sixtiers. And Lina Kostenko, or, for example, Semykina - the Russian-speaking artist, they were all Russified, but after getting into the orbit of Ivan Svitlichnyi, they became Ukrainians. Or Alla Horska, Alla Horska opened up, she was from a sports family and she discovered Ukrainianness for herself and the KGB did not know what do it with her. They had to kill her. You know, when a nation is struggling, God sends the right people. As with Svitlychnyi - all this was formed in a one-room apartment of Svitlychnyi. Ivan Dziuba, who will later write "Internationalism…", Vasyl Stus, Lina Kostenko, Alla, also Semykina, Liudmyla Semykina, she is an artist. He says, "Liuda, you should think about becoming a fashion designer." And she dresses all of Kyiv and walks in Ukrainian clothes. She sews from that overcoat with national patterns, and then she says, "Suddenly I wanted to shake all our women out of their shorts and put on them princely clothes." It was Svitlychnyi who made her like this. Halyna Sevruk was russified - it was him who made her a ceramist... I'm not even saying that Vasyl Stus said - "my mustachioed sun". And when Svitlychnyi is arrested in 1965, they go to the cinema to the presentation of Parajanov's film with the intention to get people to rise. So he emerged… I thank God that I happen to eat thin broth together with Svitlychnyi. I call myself a poet, but poetry and poets were revealed to me by Ihor Kalynets. But I had to be lucky to get there once. So I'm happy, I thank God for giving me this path and all my struggle is not my own struggle, but as Huzar says, "to save yourself, your 'I'". I defended my name. Maybe someday you will have the opportunity to get there... There is a stand, I put up an envelope to show the geography where I was, in Mordovia, and they are all signed as "Ukraine". What is it? What a challenge is it? It wasn't Ukraine, it was Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. The UkSSR was not a state, the UkSSR was an administrative division: there were republics, regions, districts, cities and the state was the Soviet Union. There were no states as such. And I write "Ukraine", all envelopes are signed in Ukrainian - "Ukraine". It's such a small challenge, but it stayed, it still is. Let's defend ourselves, let's be ourselves, and it will be, and that's the reason for our feat. Obviously, we can do nothing about all those who lived, became russified, exhausted, there is nothing you can do about it, but their children will wake up. They will wake up, it will explode! There is the law of the third generation: what grandparents didn't consider as important, what parents were indifferent to, that would be of a big interest for grandchildren. We have a beautiful land given to us by God, beautiful. We have an exceptionally rich black soil, we have rich subsoil, we have everything to be rich, but we have to become ourselves. This takes time. That's why I wanted to meet with the KGBist to write a book, with the KGB officer who was interested in the fact that we, Ukrainians, sometimes look hostile at each other. It takes a little time, but everything will be fine, we have wonderful youth. I say that once 40 people kept the empire in fear. It is obvious that we were all arrested, members of the Helsinki Group, but that was a group. So-called "a bunch of people", as (??) said, and Stus Vasyl said. But sometimes I wonder - what would have happened if Ukraine didn’t have Shevchenko? What if there were no Shevchenko. But you know that as his colleague Panko Kulish said, he said that Ukraine is so rural, and it's better to say Little Russia (Malorosiya). And they all started writing "Little Russia". They were collecting the folklore of Little Russia, went around this area. What can you do about that? And then suddenly a peasant- bondslave.

  • There were also other companions in misfortune - Jews Zionists, we had a very friendly relationship with them. By the way, many materials were passed through them, because we were allowed to write. And then this thing happens - I'm in Mordovia, and my sister came to visit me. The message was in an ampoule. Ampoule is when you write something on church paper, then you put it in cellophane, so it can be swallowed or stuffed into place where they can't look into. It would be impossible otherwise - because they look into your mouth, they tell you to squats and "spread your buttocks", the ampoules could be anywhere. I passed her the ampoule and what's next? I told her that there was one guy who was released recently, he was in Lviv region, Horodok, from Horodok, and I said it would be good to get this message to him. But she couldn't find him. Mostly, all these materials were usually passed through the Jews. They had very good contacts with the Western world through… Moscow is full of embassies, press accreditations, there are different press agencies and because of those journalists, because they were journalists interested in meetings with positioners, with dissidents it was possible to... They gladly took all the messages. When Nadiya Svitlychna died in 2006, I worked with the archives in the United States, because she initiated the creation of the Museum of Sixtiers here. This was her idea, her concept, she did it. So we had to do a research, and I found my papers, my messages on a church paper written in the Urals by my hand. Mysticism, these were unbelievable things, I even think that if you do God's business - someone will help you. And when I was first arrested, not a single word of mine was published anywhere. I didn't write poetry because I didn't consider myself a poet, I wrote some songs, that is, the lyrics for songs, because I needed them for my ensembles.

  • You always find some methods, Lukyanenko is sitting on the other side of the wall, there was a case, we had a sign by knocking on the wall, then you open the window, and he opens the window. We were allowed to open a window and then quietly, if the cops did not hear, you could exchange with a couple of words. Then you could communicate in the steam bath, they took us to the steam bath, they took us once every 10 days, as well as other prisoners. There were 24 of us: we cooked, washed, managed the heating system, cleaned, we had to take care of ourselves there. There was one situation when they approached me, they called me and asked, "Can you work as a cook a bit longer?" And at criminal zones this work was considered as a damned awful job and only for those who used to work as a cook. And I said to Lukyanenko: "Listen, they called me." And he says (laughing) - Mykola, who will cook for us? If you refuse, we will be fed with leftovers from all over the criminal camp, they will feed us with what others refused to eat. So I stayed and washed the dishes". So there was one cook, he was Lithuanian… I even worked as a cook in this camp zone for some time. By the way, I didn't know that I wouldn't get to meet Vasyl Stus. Two weeks before my arrival, Vasyl Stus was killed. At that time, I was in Kazan at the transit prison. I arrived at the camp on September, 23 and Vasyl was killed on September, 5.

  • "On the one fine day here in Kyiv, they beat me at a high-speed tram stop and threw me in jail. The next day I found out that I intended to rape someone, so I was sent to trial, and received a criminal article for 5 years for intending to rape. That's when, I asked the investigator: "What, what, what, what violence? Look what is happening to me, in the reality they threw me to the ground, kicked me, cut my lips. And I tell him that I am asking for a doctor, I want them to make records of my injuries and who raped whom. "I don't recommend you doing that," - the investigator answers. "It will be worse for you." What will be worse for me? What will be worse for me? I'm in prison, I was beaten, call a doctor. They called a doctor, recorded the beatings, and on the second day they brought a sanction, where I am accused of resisting the citizens who came to the defense. So, I had no other choice but to resist, to show I didn't commit a crime, I was simply beaten. So, I got another 3 years for resisting the government, that's the thing. They took revenge. They turned out to know that in the camp I was engaged in the secret writings of the "Chronicle of the current events of the camp," they expected, I write here that they expected they were preparing me for suicide, that I woudn't be able to stand it.

  • We were brought to that village, it was the 1947, it was summer, it was famine. I know that my mother later said: it was hot, then Bohdan, my brother, we were swollen, so my mother said that she had to cut that shirt off of you, because we were so swollen she couldn't take it off. It was terrible, because no one wanted to let others eat a goosfoot plant, because - why are you getting into someone else's garden? There was no goosfoot plant, there was no nettle to cut, people fought and it was terrible. So we, by the way, those Lemkos who came there earlier, they settled in those Polish houses, and there was nothing left for us, so we found an empty Polish stable. Dad made one room, and we lived in that room.

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    Kyiv, Ukraine, 02.10.2020

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Nepoddajný učitel hudby

Mykola Horbal, 1970
Mykola Horbal, 1970
photo: Personal archive of the witness

Mykola Horbal se narodil 10. září 1940 (podle osobních dokladů 6. května 1941) ve vesnici Volovec (dnes Dolnopolské vojvodství) do rodiny národnostní menšiny Lemků (Rusínů). Na jaře roku 1945 byla většina obyvatel Volovce odsunuta do sovětské Ukrajiny jako součást takzvané výměny obyvatelstva mezi Polskem a SSSR. Rodina Horbalova byla nejprve umístěna do Charkovské oblasti. Nebyli schopní se tam usadit a proto se přestěhovali na západ do vesnice Letjače blízko Ternopilu. Zde v roce 1947 rodina zažila hladomor. Mykola Horbal je spisovatel, učitel hudby a disident. V roce 1970 byl v Ternopilu zatčen kvůli “protisovětské agitaci a propagandě.” V říjnu 1979 byl zatčen podruhé kvůli zinscenovanému obvinění z “pokusu o znásilnění.” V březnu 1994 byl zvolen ukrajinským poslancem. Založil Charitativní organizaci Bohdanova galerie (k poctění svého bratra, historika Bohdana Horbala). Je spisovatelem, členem ukrajinského PEN Clubu.