“I remember the GKChP. At that time, I was living in my art workshop - on Mala Street, where we ran away from the police. Where we were surrounded. [...] I lived there, and I saw on TV how they broadcasted “Swan Lake” on all channels. And how the GKChP spoke, and how the leader of this GKChP Yanayev held a press conference, his hands were shaking... I had a somewhat terrifying feeling, of course. Why? Because I knew they were following me, I knew they would come for me for sure. Moreover, I was already a deputy of the Lviv City Council. I was one of the first to vote for the removal of Lenin [monument], I brought the national flag into the session hall, and they showed it on TV. Even the central television showed me as a nationalist who voted for the removal of Lenin. That is, against the background of my face, they showed the dismantling of the monument, it was on the “Vriemya” program throughout the Union. And at that time, I was the only one who had the blue and yellow badge of a deputy, because I just painted it over with paint from red. So they showed that badge, they focused on it. So, on August 19, I took the necessary things - a toothbrush, something else, toothpaste - and went to the city council, so that if they took us, people could see it, because if they took one person from the workshop, they would not know where he went. Well, there I met with other deputies, not all of them came. I still remember it clearly, the number of us who gathered on the first day was 16 deputies out of almost a hundred. And we began to consult on what to do, how to be in this situation. Some were very cautious, with trembling voices... Let's put it this way - not everyone immediately realized what was happening, not everyone immediately said that we should resist this. Therefore, maybe even I had a slightly protest mood towards those who did not immediately say that we should fight. Because I and some other people - I remember them by their last names - some people from the People's Movement immediately formed a kind of small “resistance group” that sat in the room where the parliamentary committee on legality was located, and we had some revolutionars in this committee. I was a member of this committee - it's room 112 of the Lviv City Council. And there, someone brought us literature from Poland on how to resist a military regime, and based on this literature, we started to develop a plan for defending the city of Lviv from the entry of armed forces, tanks, etc”.
“When I attended those first political discussions, the political club, not many people knew about it because it was a limited circle that attended. Actually, after our first event about Vasyl Symonenko, there was still a political club meeting, but then it was shut down. At that time, Chornovil didn't dare (and I think that was the right thing to do, very right at that moment), he didn't have the courage to say that the Soviet Union should break up and Ukraine should become an independent state. If he had, he would have been put in prison for many years, along with anyone who supported him. At that time, he said that the Soviet Union should not be made up of socialist republics, but should be a confederate state. That is, all republics should be based on the principles of confederacy. <...> And this was in line with what the Society of the Lion was doing. We didn't immediately say what it had to be. We simply fought for this democracy, for our national traditions, for the right to speak Ukrainian and write in the workplace, where we were forced to use Russian. And this was very unfair: the Constitution said one thing - that the people had the right to self-determination and so on - but in reality, all of this was prohibited. All of this was forbidden. Even some Ukrainian songs - they were banned. And confirmation of this was the anniversary of the formation of the Ukrainian Language Society, where we sang a regular song:
Brothers, pour crystal glasses
So that swords don’t take us, so that bullets pass by
The militia surrounded us at that time, and practically escorted us from Lvivsilmash - the House of Culture - to my art workshop, where we were going to celebrate the anniversary, the Society of Lion, those who participated in it. They surrounded my workshop there. We just went in, even though they were following us. They were all in cars. We did such a trick that we entered from the place where you can only go up the stairs to my workshop, it's a Mala street here in Lviv. But they couldn't go up the stairs in their cars! And they started turning around, looking for us, but we had already hidden by then”.
“The meaning and essence of the Society of the Lion, its activities, were based on starting from folk traditions, which people passed down from generation to generation as a memory of our Ukrainian culture and how it should be. And to that was always added something that prohibited it, namely information that... it was like that before, so why can't it be now? Why weren't teachers allowed to go anywhere, why was everything like this with the church? All of this came to the surface. And then broader views began to emerge. We looked at the Baltic states - the people’s front had already begun to form there, and we became aware of it. We were also... we were the first to come up with the idea of creating a Ukrainian people’s front. Almost simultaneously with the Baltic states.
<…> The People's Movement didn’t exist then, no, it was 1988. And of course, we even convened delegates, those who could be, because there were already such centers that were ready in different regions. For the creation of the People's Front, which later became the People's Movement. But we were not allowed in, at first - then it was called the Haharin Palace, now - the Yevhen Petrushevych Palace - named after the President of the Western Ukrainian People's Republic, and then - the House of Officers, then ... it used to be the People's House, which became the House of Officers. And we were not allowed in there for the founding meeting. They filmed all of us on there, then someone in the party committee analyzed the video - who is who. With the participation of the KGB. And even the party organizer, where I worked, approached me and said: “You were shown there too”. And the police warned not to go there, or rather former militia. But it’s ok, we continued to act, and this idea of creating the People's Front of Ukraine was supported by many such cultural centers, including in Kyiv. Then this idea was very quickly taken up by the Writers' Union, and Ivan Druch became one of those accumulators who, based on these Baltic provisions, on the basis of which the People's Front was created, proposed the creation of the People's Movement of Ukraine for Reconstruction. There were such points where support was voiced for those ideas that were actually being implemented by Gorbachev himself”.
“I also went on a campaign for the revival of the Yavoriv folk toy, which at that time had already been prohibited. [...] Because it was considered something “national”. It was popular at the time, and they were even exported to Poland, these wooden toys and others. And this became a challenge. Anything that was popular and Ukrainian was already taboo. Just like songs by Ivasiuk. “Chervona Ruta” started being popular, he won the grand prize for it, he was awarded, but after some time, whoever sang “Chervona Ruta” was taken into custody, as we know. After his death, after the death of Volodymyr Ivasiuk. The same thing happened with folk crafts: Hutsul folk ceramics was also banned. So when I went to Yavoriv, we went to have lunch at a cafe - a person who was a KGB representative sat at our table. Because I know, because they went straight to the secretary of the party committee to find out if he could allow the revival and continuation of the production of these folk toys. And then they started questioning us in his presence, the KGB - he summoned them. And the same people, I later saw, were following me when I appeared in Yavoriv, monitoring me. Probably not just me”.
“The Helsinki Union was formed - there were Lukyanenko, Chornovil, and other famous personalities. But if you seriously approach and evaluate it, it was a group that acted within the possibilities that were given to them. But they were not given. Why? Because they were all arrested and they had very rare connections with foreign countries. They had sporadic connections with some people here, but no one knew about it. That is, when they were arrested. When they were released, any contact with the public, even the smallest, not even with the public, just with other people - it was already an arrest for two weeks, that is, there was no contact. The first real contact of the Helsinki group with the wider public took place thanks to the Society of the Lion, which organized an event dedicated to Symonenko, Vasyl Symonenko at the Forestry Institute, in the hall of the Forestry Institute's House of Culture. Why? Because if they had come into contact with us themselves and asked, because they knew what the situation was, and we knew that it would fall on us. We were already 100% nationalists then. We know the poetry of Vasyl Symonenko, what it is. And they were present there for the first time, and they were given the floor, although the hosts were from the Society of the Lion and the musical accompaniment as well. Ostap Stakhiv, and there also was Bohdan. He started such events that raised patriotic spirit, and we thought about how to conduct them, these events. Actually, one of the very first was the event dedicated to Symonenko, where there were many people, where I painted a portrait of Vasyl Symonenko for the first time on this evening, and the script was checked by the KGB, the party - everything. But there was one thing in the script, and the event went differently. According to our script, which was not written, but discussed. There were many police officers at this event, all in uniform, all balconies were occupied by them. And they had the opportunity to say everything about Symonenko. Clearly, at that time, to read Symonenko's poems, where he says: “Hey, you! The executioners of my people!”... Well, it was clear who the executioners of our people were! It was clear that this was about Russians in his poetry. And this was at that time, in 1987, recited from the stage. It is understandable that we all were persecuted after that, we were followed”.
“The main impetus came, of course, from the Society of the Lion, from those traditions. This impetus affected everything. I believe that at the moment, this area of such a historical period is almost unexplored, because no one paid particular attention to it, they already paid attention to subsequent events, which became even broader and more massive. And precisely, in my opinion, it was during this period of very gradual uplift of national consciousness that the Society of the Lion emerged. Why? Because it came from the Komsomol, and the party did not immediately, and the KGB did not immediately understand what was happening. I think that at the beginning, they did not understand what was happening at all. They thought it was just some misunderstandings in the Komsomol. And the people, in general, did not immediately realize on a broad scale what was happening either, but they perceived it because they were all Komsomol members. And it all came out so positively - as if they were our own, and look where they are going, oh, these haivky (Easter songs and dances) - so many people came to our haivky! It was a lot of them, no one had come there before! And they came on their own, no one particularly... advertised it. They came to the events, we had no announcements, nobody transmitted it on the radio, on television - also, that's understandable. Only a tiny little bit (well, maybe a little more), I wrote those announcements myself - for the events, for the haivky. And people came - it spreades incredibly quickly. And a huge amount of people came there!”
Ihor Stepanovych Havryshkevych was born on March 13, 1955, in the village of Lypovets in Yavoriv district of Lviv region. His father, Stepan Hnatovych Havryshkevych, and mother, Kseniia Mykhailivna (from the Melnyk family), told their children a lot about the history of Ukraine, from them Ihor inherited his artistic talent. In 1970, he finished eight grades of secondary school, and in 1973, he graduated from the Art Vocational School №14 in the town of Ivano-Frankove. After school, he worked at the Skole District Industrial Combine, and then joined the army, where he served from 1973 to 1975. Later, he worked as a technician-artist and artist-designer at Lviv enterprises. At the end of the 1980s, Ihor Havryshkevych became involved in public and political life. Since 1987, he was an active member of the Society of the Lion, which, in particular, revived folk traditions. Later, he joined the People’s Movement of Ukraine for Reconstruction (in 1989, he became the head of the branch at the Jewelry Industry Design Bureau). In 1990, he was elected as a deputy of the first democratic convocation of the Lviv City Council. During the August putsch in 1991, he and other deputies developed a plan for the defense of Lviv against a possible invasion by Soviet troops. Along with his political activities, Ihor Havryshkevych was also engaged in cultural work. In 1993-1994, he was a referent of the Lviv branch of the Union of Artists of Ukraine. In 1994-1996, he was the director of its artistic and production combine. From 1997 to 2012, he worked as the director of the Lviv Museum-Reserve “Lychakiv Cemetery”. He made a significant contribution to the organization and artistic design of monuments and burial places of a number of outstanding Ukrainian figures. He was a co-author of the restoration of the Memorial of the Ukrainian Galician Army Soldiers and the Field of Honor. In 2002, he was re-elected as a deputy of the Lviv City Council. In 2006-2010, he was a deputy of the Lviv City Council on the lists of the Ukrainian People’s Party. Since September 2005, Ihor Havryshkevych worked as a professor at the Lviv National Academy of Arts. Merited Artist of Ukraine. People’s Artist of Ukraine. Lives and works in Lviv.