Leonid Levko Dohovič

* 1935

  • "The persecutions began in 1950. In the fall of 1949 and the spring of 1950, about 680 young people were imprisoned, and I was the youngest, fourteen. The oldest of us was twenty-seven years old, boys and girls from university. I have to admit, when I returned to Uzhhorod, so I learned, I do not know if it is true or not, that only 340 people returned home. They all probably perished there or remained in exile in Siberia. "

  • "Life there was hard, of the 340 juvenile prisoners, only fourteen of us were political. It was hard, really, because our life was in danger. They could lose you in cards to each other and kill you. I first worked at a forest plant, at a sawmill. Normally, when I was fifteen, I had to put planks in the gallery with one adult. It was wet, heavy. It was hard work, so I protested that I wouldn't work there. "

  • "In 1968, they visited me from America. They offered me work if I emigrate. I was wondering, whether I should leave everything behind. I had a girl choir in Presov, I was working in children and youth drama classes all around. It would be easy to go abroad and shout. I had to stay and work here. That was what I told them, also. It is easy work over there without KGB monitoring you. I didn't go. Maybe I had made a mistake."

  • "When they give you salted fish, you will be in the wagon. In the wagon, they gave people salted fish, 0.5 kg of black bread and twice a day a quarter of a litre of boiled water and a cube and half of sugar. Don't be afraid to eat that salted fish, even if you are thirsty, eat half of the sugar cube. You won't be thirsty. I checked it. That was principle one. When you'll end up in the cellar on the concrete, don't go to sleep in the clothes. Put trousers below you, and cover yourself by the undercoat. You'll feel better. Also checked. Then he also helped me with the range of questions you'll receive on interrogation. What to tell whom. He introduced me to life. He told me a lot of things also about life in work camps. How's it with thieves, and with political prisoners. I was prepared. I was 14 or 15, and it was my so-called "university of life."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Košice, 31.01.2020

    duration: 01:01:35
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th century
  • 2

    Košice, 15.07.2020

    duration: 01:51:02
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th century
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My story is a fairytale of an old man

Leonid Dohovič in a photograph from the prison file
Leonid Dohovič in a photograph from the prison file
photo: archiv Leonida Dohoviče

Levko (Leonid) Dohovič was born on September 29, 1935, in the family of the protestant priest Eugen Dohovyč and teacher Anízia Szilayová. In 1944, together with the villagers from the village of Linc, he helped his father to escape from the persecution of the NKVD to Czechoslovakia. In 1946, his older sister escaped to their father and he was to follow. However, he failed to cross the border. He remained living in Soviet Ukraine with his mother and two sisters. On February 2, 1950, he was detained for inciting to damage the reputation of Communism and of the USSR and of grand treason as a member of an anti-Soviet organisation and sentenced to ten years in correctional camps and five years of deprivation of civil rights. He passed through sixteen different gulags. On July 12, 1952, he managed to escape from a camp for minors in the Arkhangelsk region on the Konvejer peninsula. He was free only for five days. On October 15, 1952, he was sentenced to another ten years in prison for running away. He got to the Rudnyk camp in Vorkuta. After Stalin’s death, the inmates organized a strike against unacceptable working conditions in the camp. The strike lasted eleven days. It was bloodily suppressed by the soldiers. Levko was sentenced to death by firing squad for organizing the strike, which was immediately changed to ten years of forced labour. His journey through the labour camps continued, but on July 26, 1956, thanks to the guarantee of three fellow citizens of Uzhhorod, he managed to get released. At the end of the year, he also travelled illegally to Czechoslovakia with his mother and sisters to see his father. He worked and studied here. As choirmaster, he led the Ukrainian Choir in Prague, later the PUĽS (Lower Dukla Folk Ensemble) and the Vesna Girls’ Choir. In 1971, he was banned from leading a choir and working with young people. He worked as a part-time worker for 15 years. After the Velvet Revolution, he returned to work in the church choirs. In 1995-2005 he was the chair of the European Congress of Ukrainians and a member of the board of directors of the Ukrainian World Coordination Council.