“It was the Pentecost. Everyday we were taken out for a walk in a concrete cage. And all of a sudden we saw that little green leaves were growing through concrete. They were so little, so green! Pani Babiy said, ‘Look, girls, this is a miracle! Little leaves broke through concrete, from under the ground! So who are we? We can destroy those walls one day, can’t we? And we will be free!’ We took those leaves and said, ‘God, this is our joy. This is our only connection with nature, with something living!’ We took those leaves and hid them. When the guards saw that we were taking something they started to get angry. But we hid those leaves anyway. “One day we will look back and remember, girls, how we stole a handful of grass and thus celebrated today’s holiday [according to the tradition of the Eastern Church, for the Pentecost Orthodox temples are often decorated with greenery and flowers – ed.]. We were very happy, even though we were crying”, those were my words on the Pentecost”.
“One time the train stopped. And as always the door was opened to take a pot with soup. And then all of a sudden we saw many soldiers. Right in front of us. They said in Russian, ‘Girl, where are you from?’ And our guards told them, ‘Don’t talk, or we will shoot you!’ But those soldiers asked others to come up to them. There were about a hundred of them, they were standing around our train. They said in Russian, ‘You bastards […], we were fighting with our blood for this country, and you are taking our children, our mothers somewhere!’ But our train pulled off. And you know what they started to do? They started throwing into our carriage their clothes, substitute products, canned food, they were throwing all this into our carriage. There were other carriages, but they were all locked. It was just a coincidence that our carriage, all-girls carriage was opened to take some food. But of course later our guards stopped the train, searched everything, and took away everything those soldiers had given us”.
“The thing is that the first “liberators” had come. Do you know from what they “liberated” people? From everything. From bread, from farming. If we call them “liberators” then we should understand who those “liberators” are. It was a distress that came, it was a horrible mischief! It was as if our land was covered with black mist, evil spirit. After everything that I have mentioned to you before, all those holidays, “Prosvita” [a society that was aimed at educating common people and preserving Ukrainian culture – ed.], games, all those blessings from God that we enjoyed, during just one year – everything was destroyed, everything was closed, all societies: “Sokol”, a reading hall, a pre-school. People were being deported. We, our family, were saved only because we left everything to that Mykhalko [an orphan who lived in the Hrytsyna family from the childhood – ed.], and he did not have anything, he had a different last name, and we escaped to Lviv. Because we had a place where we could settle. (Q: “Did you leave behind a lot of your property?”) “Yes, we were considered rather wealthy”. (Q: “What did you have?”) “We had approximately 30 hectares of field and a forest. We also had two horses, three cows, my favourite one was Manka. She always gave me a hug, or actually it was me who was hugging her. She was like a human. We loved them”.
“There was this young girl, she was new, from Zolochiv district. She came and fell down as soon as she got in the cell. She was bleeding, she was very much abused. Her clothes were tore apart. We did not know what to do. I ran towards her to help. Everybody was shouting, ‘Gosh, what are those torturers doing? Look at this poor girl!’ I took some water, because we had water for a close-stool [a large bucket with a cover used as a toilet in a prison cell – ed.]. So I took this water and splashed it on her. I could not believe my eyes, because I saw that it was not blood, it was just paint. And this paint started to come off because of the water. And then we realized that they did it on purpose, they wanted to present her as a victim, they wanted us to see her and start cursing those torturers. They wanted us to say things like ‘They should be punished!’, ‘They should be shot!’ They wanted to hear those things so they could punish a person who said it. They were expecting us to say those words. But we uncovered their plans right away because I splashed that water on her. And she was taken away that very minute. She started to knock on the door with her leg - and they took her away”.
“Those girls were very special. All of them looked so nice and intelligent. They had a special attitude towards me. On the street, when they were taken under investigation, Duzha [Mariya Duzha – political prisoner – ed.] took off her sweater and gave it to me. It was already March, but it was still cold outside. She made me put on her sweater. Another one, Havryshko, she came from France, so she tore apart her blouse and took a strip of it to tie my hair, because it was so long at that point. In this way, they all dressed me. – “They will set you free! But think, who that might be!” Indeed, all of them were part of the underground; their husbands died before their eyes. They we asking me what I was doing in the underground. I was always saying that I didn’t do anything special, I was just writing some poems and that is all”.
“It was when I was released, when I came back home. I passed by a school, I was walking on a street. Trees are green, and tundra was empty. Kazakhstan was also empty. Those Kazakhstan prairies. I rang the doorbell. My mom opened the door, ‘No, we don’t have anything to give to you. I’ve had enough of those gypsies. They come here every day. I already gave you what I had!’ I said, “Mom, this is not gypsies! This is me, your Orysya!” She started screaming, neighbors came up to our house. Do you understand how much I have changed? Of course I was wearing warm clothes, and also I had my number on my back. My mom had no idea that I will come back looking like this”.
“If we had been told, ‘Go and die for Ukraine’ we would have done it. It was our patriotism, our passion. We were happy to be committed to the underground!”
Orysya Mateshuk (Hrytsyna) was born on January 22, 1929, in the village of Terebezhi, Lviv province (now Busk district, Lviv region). In 1939, after the coming of the “first Soviets”, her family escaped to Lviv because they were afraid of deportations. She studied at the Lviv middle school #5. In 1945 Orysya became a member of the Union of Ukrainian Youth, and later on she joined the OUN (under a pseudonym “Makivka”). She undertook various tasks assigned by the underground forces. Following the advice of the OUN leaders, so as to maintain secrecy, she transferred to the Lviv railway middle school #3. She graduated from the school in 1947. In the same year she entered the Department of Ukrainian Philology of the Lviv University. In October 1947 Orysya Mateshchuk was arrested for the first time. In September 1948 she was arrested for the second time on a street on her way to the University. She was kept under investigation for 6 months in the NKVD prison #1 on Lontskoho Street. On March 22, 1949, Military tribunal of the Ministry of Home Affairs in Lviv region sentenced Orysya according to the article 54-1 “a” to 25 years of corrective-labor camps. After the trial she was kept for a few months in the Lviv NKVD prison #4 (“Brygidky”), and later - in the Kyiv Transit prison. From there she was deported to the Far North. She served her sentence in the Komi Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (in the camp called “Minlah”) in strict-security camps (Inta, Abez), Kazakhstan (Karabas). After the release in 1955 Orysya came back to Lviv. She wanted to renew her studies at the University, but she could not. She graduated from a culture-educative technical school and from the Kharkiv Library Institute (off-campus form of study). In 1956 she got married to a former political prisoner Doctor Rostyslav Mateshuk. She worked as a bibliographer in Lviv libraries. In 1989-1995 she was the leader of the first union of former political prisoners - Lviv club of the repressed named after Mykhaylo Soroka. Orysya Mateshchuk is a writer, she authored a number of books: a collection of poems “The courageous, the sincere, and the unique” (2003), memoirs “Unforgettable Sophia Karaffa-Korbut” (2004), “Olesko-land - the land of heroes” (2006), “But we did not give in” (2007) and other publications.