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Name: Kyrylo Os'mak - President of the Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council
Volume: 41
Editor in Chief: P.J. Potichnyj
Editor(s): P.J. Potichnyj
N. Os'mak
Sponsors: Ukrainian Federal Bank 'Pevnist'
Publication Year: 2004
ISBN (Canada): 0-920092-79-9
ISBN (Ukraine): 966-96340-0-8
Pages Count: 883

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The Road to My Father

“I console myself also with the hope
that she will carry her father’s
ideals throughout her life.”
Kyrylo Os’mak

In the sweltering days of July 1944 a group of worthy men, representatives of Ukrainian national-liberation organizations, gathered for a Grand Assembly in the heart of the Carpathian Mountains.

Cannons were thundering in the east – this was the advancing army of one of the most terrible empires in the world, and the participants of this Grand Assembly were creating an organization that would unite all the Ukrainian national-liberation forces in order to form a single, all-Ukrainian national front against all the enemies of the Ukrainian people in their struggle for a Ukrainian Independent United State.

An event of historic significance took place: the creation of the Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council [Ukrains’ka Holovna Vyzvol’na Rada: UHVR], which was the underground Parliament and Clandestine Government of fighting Ukraine. One of the participants of the Grand Assembly, Kyrylo Os’mak (“Horians’kyi”), was elected president and head of the Presidium.

Here is how Roman Shukhevych described the event that took place on 15 July 1944 in a forester’s house near the village of Zvyr (according to other sources, the village of Sprynia): “A solemn silence reigned in the meeting hall, when the Head of the Presidium of the UHVR stood before the Head of the Grand Assembly of the UHVR, placed his hand on the Ukrainian state emblem, and began to repeat the words of the oath…This was the President of Ukraine swearing an oath before the entire Ukrainian nation.” 2

On 12 September 1944 a “Chekist-military operation,” thousands of which were taking place throughout Western Ukraine, was carried out in the village of Dorozhiv in Dubliany raion, Drohobych oblast. In addition to dozens of other residents of Dorozhiv, the members of the NKVD roundup squad also captured a tall, middle-aged man working outside his house situated on Vil’nyk Hill. The only identification that he had was a slip of paper issued by the chief of the Dorozhiv village administration to Ivan Pylypovych Koval’, indicating that he had been born in the town of Skalat and was a resident of Ternopil’. The protocol of his arrest states: Koval’ Ivan Filipovich is suspected of belonging to the counter-revolutionary nationalistic organization OUN, he is to be detained and jailed for 48 hours.” 3

The two-day arrest turned into an investigation lasting four years and involving more than 230 interrogations, confrontations, and hearings with several dozen witnesses – all so that the punitive organs could decipher this man’s secrets. They finally decoded them and locked him behind prison walls for twenty-five years.

For a long period of time President of the UHVR Kyrylo Os’mak was unfamiliar not only to the wider public but also to many of those who had taken part in the national-liberation struggle during the Second World War. Most of those who were involved in founding the UHVR together with Kyrylo Os’mak knew very little about him. They knew that he was from Kyiv, an agronomist, and a participant in the liberation struggles of 1917–1920. They were also aware that he had been repressed in connection with the Union for the Liberation of Ukraine [Spilka vyzvolennia Ukrainy: SVU], and that during the German occupation of Kyiv he was involved in the Ukrainian anti-German underground. In the underground it was dangerous to provide more information about oneself.

Elected President of the UHVR on 15 July 1944, he was arrested less than two months later. According to materials published in volume 8 of Litopys UPA, “It is possible that in the underground it was also not certain that president K. Os’mak was alive or had been killed. Thus, it was better not to write anything about him.” 4 So who was this man, and what path in life led him to the political pinnacle of Ukraine?

Kyrylo Os’mak was born on 27 April (9 May) 1890 in the town of Shyshaky in the Poltava region. This was a company centre of the Myrhorod regiment in Cossack Ukraine,5 as he wrote in a letter. He attended the Shyshaky public school and later, the Myrhorod county school; at some point he also studied at the Poltava Practical School (Poltavs’ke real’ne uchlyshche). From an early age he grasped the state of oppression of the Ukrainian people within the Russian Empire. As his younger sister Anna recalls, “Already during his youth his heart ached for the tragic life of the great Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko.” 6

From 1910 Kyrylo Os’mak was a student at the Moscow Agricultural Institute. The choice of educational institution was not unexpected. In Ukraine the Russian tsarist government was oppressing Ukrainian cultural-educational life, perceiving dangerous separatism in it. In both of the Russian capitals Ukrainians had more freedom than in Ukraine. The Shevchenko Society headed by the Swede Konstantin Rerikh was active in St. Petersburg, while Moscow was the base of the “Kobzar” musical-dramatic society headed by the Russian Fedor Korsh.

An agronomical group devoted to the study of Ukrainian gubernias was created at the institute where Kyrylo Os’mak was studying. The students did their best to do their summer practical work in Ukraine, “so that [our] friends can have a chance to work for their own people and learn about them while still at the institute.” 7 The last phrase is a quotation from an article by Kyrylo Os’mak the student, which was published in issue no. 10 of the monthly Ukrainskaia zhizn’, the unofficial organ of the Society of Ukrainian Progressivists [Tovarystvo Ukrains’kykh Postupovtsiv: TUP]. The editor of the newspaper, which was founded in Moscow in 1912, was Symon Petliura.

Incidentally, I was amazed to see that my father’s birth certificate and student documents list his surname as Os’makov. But the above-mentioned article in Ukrainskaia zhizn’, as well as an article entitled “Iak navchaiut’sia studenty ahronomichnoi nauky” [How Students Learn the Science of Agronomy], published in issue no. 18 of the Kyiv-based newspaper Rillia [Ploughed Field] (15 July 1913), are signed Os’mak: obviously my father did not recognize the – ov ending that had been foisted on him in the Russian Empire, and he continued signing his name only as Os’mak.

The letter goes on to say: “I carried out my practical student work in the Volyn’ region (Zhytomyr) in the year 1911, in the Katerynoslav region (Dnipropetrovs’k oblast) and Kuban’ region (Krasnodar) in 1912, in the Volyn’ region (Volodymyr, Sarny) in 1913, in Siberia (Omsk) in 1914.8 In these Ukrainian areas Kyrylo Os’mak perfected his knowledge of agronomy and collected agricultural folk terms transmitted to him orally. At the same time the money earned from his practical work enabled him to continue his studies.

“How Our Settlers Are Living” [Iak zhyvut’ nashi pereselentsi] is the title of another article by Kyrylo Os’mak, which I found in the newspaper Rillia. In this article, which appeared in two consecutive issues in 1914, he describes the life of Ukrainian settlers who had immigrated to Siberia. He got to know them while carrying out his practical work in Omsk from May 1914, after traveling up the Irtysh River. “Many of our people went to seek their fortune in foreign lands. What awaits our countrymen in the future? The old people hang on to their own more firmly, but the younger ones not so much, they are following a direct path to Russification. If our people were more educated, they would not shun their own and would educate their children in their native language—then even here they would not melt away in the Siberian sea, but would be a great force with one goal.” 9

In July 1915 Kyrylo Os’mak found employment with the Committee of the Southwestern Front of the All-Russian Land Union, in a department responsible for helping refugees who had suffered as a result of the war. He then departed for the Ternopil’ region.10 At first he headed the food station in the city of Zbarazh and later the food unit in the town of Skalat. Eventually he became the director of the Zbarazh bakery, which he also built himself.11

While at the front, Kyrylo Os’mak was able to observe the brutal conduct of the Russian Army occupying Halychyna: the destruction of culture, education – in short – everything Ukrainian. Russian bureaucrats following in the wake of the army closed Ukrainian schools, transforming them into Russian schools, and deported Greek-Catholic priests to Siberia, installing Russian priests in their parishes. Even Metropolitan Andrei Sheptyts’kyi was deported to Saratov and later to Yaroslavl’.

At the front Kyrylo Os’mak met his future wife, a young Volynian woman named Maria Yurkevych, who was a student of the Bestuzhev Higher Courses for Women in St. Petersburg. She began working for the Committee in late August 1915, and in October of that year was appointed director of day nurseries in Zbarazh for orphans whose parents had been killed in the war.

Kyrylo Os’mak and Maria Yurkevych were married in Kyiv in January 1916, and their son Oleh was born in October of that year. Maria was no longer able to travel to the front, and the Committee appointed her as senior teacher in a Kyiv labour settlement located on Syrka Street, in Volynets’s villa. Kyrylo Os’mak resigned from the Committee, and in late 1916 the Os’mak family settled in Kyiv.

The Ukrainian national revolution and the political renaissance of society, which was sparked in Petrograd by the February Revolution of 1917, enthralled also Os’mak. He could not stand on the sidelines, observing the flurry of historical events unfolding in Ukraine. Kyrylo Os’mak was one of those citizens of Kyiv who on 17 March 1917 founded the all-Ukrainian civic organization called the Tsentral’na Rada [Central Council], whose members were representatives of various civic organizations. Os’mak represented the Gubernial Zemstvo Council.

Beginning in 1917, Kyrylo Os’mak worked in the General Secretariat of Land Affairs, where he headed the Publishing Division. When Hetman Skoropads’kyi came to power after the coup d’état of 29 April 1918, Os’mak took part in a three-day anti-hetman strike, as a result of which he was dismissed from his job.12 Later he worked in the headquarters of the Central Agricultural Cooperative Union, which published the journal Sil’s’kyi hospodar, heading the Department of Rural Beet-Growing.

In early 1925 (Soviet times), Os’mak obtained employment at the Institute of Ukrainian Scientific Language (IUNM) at the All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. The institute concluded an agreement with the State Publishing House of Ukraine to create thirty-four terminological dictionaries.13 Kyrylo Os’mak became the director of the agricultural department, which was developing a dictionary of agricultural terminology. His wife Maria, a philologist, and Liudmyla Bohdashevs’ka, who was a terminological technician and his future second wife (my mother), collaborated in this work.

The Os’mak family lived through the Hetmanate, the Directory, the first Soviet occupation, the Denikin period, the Polish occupation, and Muscovite Bolshevism, the latter being established in Ukraine by means of terror.

On 5 March 1928 Kyrylo Os’mak was arrested.14

Almost simultaneously fifteen more people were arrested in Kyiv and Kharkiv. These were agronomists, cooperators, and members of the Beet Union. All of them were accused of membership in a “counter-revolutionary organization of right-wing Ukrainian nationalists in the Beet Cooperative Movement, which was working to create the Ukrainian Peasant Party that in the future could oppose the Soviet government.” 15 They were charged with attempting to decentralize the beet-growing industry, demanding price parity for agricultural and industrial production, and price increases for sugar beets.16

While acquainting myself with this case, I noticed from the descriptions in their files that all the accused were Ukrainian intellectuals with a higher education, while their accusers were all non-Ukrainians. According to the 1926 census, Ukrainians formed 80 percent of the population of Ukraine, which led me to the conclusion that the absolute preponderance of non-Ukrainians in the repressive organs was a sign of the Soviet government’s occupation of Ukraine.

In the resolution concerning this case Krainii, the procurator of the People’s Commissariat of Justice, wrote: “The previous investigation did not collect enough information to confirm the indictment against citizens Holovko, Os’mak and others, as a result of which there are no grounds to hand this over for trial…This case to be closed.” 17 However, the “Conclusion” drawn from this resolution was unexpected from a logical point of view. On 28 September 1928 the OGPU Judicial Collegium issued a decree to deport Os’mak and two other individuals from Ukraine for a period of three years, after declaring them a “socially dangerous element.” 18 This was the mildest possible sentence.

Choosing Kursk as his place of residence, Kyrylo Os’mak continued to work there on his dictionaries of agricultural and forestry terminology as a non-staff employee of the All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences.

On 2 March 1930 he was re-arrested, this time on charges of belonging to the Union for the Liberation of Ukraine [SVU] and “INARAK” [Russian acronym for the Institutional Association of Worker-Activists, actually INRA: Institutional Conference of Active Editorial Members] as a cell of the SVU within the Ukrainian Institute of Scientific Language [IUNM]. After a brief investigation in Moscow, Os’mak was sentenced to three years in a concentration camp in Komi.

During the SVU trial in Kharkiv, which lasted from 9 March to 19 April 1930, six of the forty-five defendants were editors of the IUNM, colleagues of Os’mak’s who were developing Ukrainian terminological dictionaries for various branches of science. One of the defendants was Hryhorii Holoskevych, the editor of Slovnyk zhyvoi ukrains’koi movy [Dictionary of the Ukrainian Living Language]. It may be said that the Ukrainian language itself was the forty-sixth “defendant.”

In essence, in 1930 the Kremlin rulers had placed Ukraine on the defendant’s bench – the Ukraine that rose up in 1917 to claim its statehood “in order to struggle against a terrible, all-powerful enemy,”19 as Kyrylo Os’mak wrote in October 1917 in an article entitled “Nove zhyttia na Ukraini”[New life in Ukraine], published in the newspaper Rillia, which had resumed publication after a long hiatus.

Holoskevych, who was fortunate enough to survive, recounted how Solomon Bruk, one of the investigators of the SVU case, told him: “Ah, all of Ukraine should be shot, but unfortunately – that’s not possible. But we will destroy all of you, Ukrainian intellectuals.” The destruction was carried out methodically, with savage uniformity. Another IUNM editor, the mathematical genius Mykhailo Kravchuk, who oversaw the work of creating a three-volume Ukrainian mathematical dictionary, was arrested in February 1938; three years later he perished in Kolyma. In general, 30,000 people were repressed in connection with the SVU case.

On 29 January 1938 Kyrylo Os’mak was arrested a third time in the village of Katyne, Riazan’ oblast, where he was working as an agronomist at the local collective farm. “That autumn terrible events began taking place everywhere, not just in Riazan’ oblast. On January 29 I ended up behind bars,” 20 recounted my father many years later in a letter to me.

My father spent twenty-five months under investigation without ever admitting any of the accusations with which five different investigators had charged him. Only his steadfastness saved him from execution. In September 1994 a young staff member of the Riazan’ division of Russia’s Federal Security Service told my husband and me about this, when we arrived in Riazan’ to learn about my father’s case.

On 4 August 1937 Stalin signed a directive of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the USSR concerning the need to hold open trials of saboteurs in agriculture, which were to take place in two or three districts. The initiator of the repressions in my father’s village was Koldeev, the party organizer of the collective farm, who was also the school principal.21 The investigators in the case were Golubiev, Shmakov, Zavalishyn, Leonidov, and Linov. Their surnames indicate that the authorities in Russia were Russian, in contrast to Ukraine, where the authorities were non-Ukrainians.

“In 1939 the atmosphere became healthier. The murderous cannibal, the school principal, was imprisoned in my very own cell. A little later Golubiev also landed behind bars.” 22 After reading the investigation report, I now know that the other investigators of my father’s case were also imprisoned. Kyrylo Os’mak was released in February 1940, after the NKVD team in Moscow was replaced by a new one following Yezhov’s arrest and execution.

My father’s third arrest led to a tragedy in the Os’mak family. His wife Maria Vasylivna was a teacher in the school whose principal was Koldeev. Unable to endure the blackmail of this party organizer and the investigators, who demanded that she testify against her husband, on 11 November 1938 she threw herself under a train at the Kremlovo station and was killed.

“In late February, once I was able to move, I went to Marusia’s grave. I grieved bitterly over her little grave-mound. I had not planned on leaving the area. But in April, when I arrived in Kyiv to [see] my daughters (Larysa and my adopted daughter Valia. My son Oleh died of typhus in 1936), I found myself amid our delightful nature, and I wanted to work in Ukraine again, closer to everything dear,” 23 wrote my father in a letter to his sister Halyna.

In March 1940, after an involuntary twelve-year absence, my father returned to Kyiv to find that war had broken out.

The feeble hope that the Germans would help the Ukrainians build their own Ukrainian state – the preceding regime in Ukraine had clearly been an occupying force – quickly vanished. Immediately launching repressions, the Germans showed that they were the same kind of occupiers who had come here to turn Ukraine into their colony.

In October 1941 the Ukrainian National Council was founded in Kyiv, which was to act as a national representation and in favourable circumstances, as a legislative state organ. Mykola Velychkivs’kyi, a professor at the Kyiv Polytechnical Institute was named the head of the council. Kyrylo Os’mak became a member, heading the department of land affairs. Within the council he also established and headed the Bureau of the “Sil’s’kyi hospodar” Cooperative Society. He continued to operate this bureau even after the Germans disbanded the Ukrainian National Council in November 1941 and their many attempts to shut it down. Thanks to the cooperative society, my father was able to assist members of the Ukrainian underground and OUN expeditionary groups, once they began arriving in Kyiv.

In spring 1942, my father became acquainted with “Volodymyr”, a member of an OUN expeditionary group, who had come from L’viv, thus establishing contact with the Ukrainian anti-German underground. They did not meet by mere accident. In spring 1966 Myroslav Prokop, the man who was called “Volodymyr”, told me: “We began searching for people who had first taken part [in the events] of the revolutionary period of 1917–1920, those Ukrainian patriots who had not been destroyed and were ready to conduct a struggle under the conditions of the German occupation.” 24

Thus two Ukrainian patriots became acquainted. Although they shared the same goal – the creation of a Ukrainian Independent United State – their views on how to reach this goal differed somewhat. This is no surprise, for each of these men had been formed in dissimilar circumstances: Os’mak in Russian-occupied Ukraine, and Prokop in Poland, which controlled the Western Ukrainian lands in the interwar period.

Kyrylo Os’mak believed that all the Ukrainian political organizations had to be united in order to wage a joint struggle on the basis of a political platform of a sovereign Ukrainian state that would be exclusively a national one. Furthermore, the right of the Ukrainian people to their own language, culture, and economy had to be guaranteed.25 Meanwhile, Myroslav Prokop recognized only the OUN’s right to leadership.

My father maintained his links with the Ukrainian underground throughout the entire German occupation of Kyiv. He renewed them immediately after arriving in L’viv, where he had moved in late September 1943 with his [second] wife and two-year-old daughter, i.e., me. His older daughter Larysa remained in Zhytomyr, where, according to her late aunt Nadia Vasylivna Yurkevych, she was employed in the local land administration and worked illegally in the OUN network. She disappeared without a trace some time in late 1943 or early 1944, after making a trip from Novohrad-Volyns’kyi to Korets’, carrying underground literature.

One of the co-founders of the Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council, Lew Shankovsky, recalls that on the feast-day of the Blessed Virgin’s birthday that was being celebrated at St. George’s Cathedral, the leader of the OUN-b Roman Shukhevych (“Myron”) suggested that he (Shankovsky) take part in the creation of a secret organization that would become the supreme political state organ for the OUN and the UPA – a Ukrainian parliament.26

Os’mak also joined in this work, specifically formulating documents that would provide the foundations of this organization. But first he had to legalize his status. With the help of the underground he became the director of the Stryi district society called “Sil’s’kyi hospodar.” This position enabled him to travel freely throughout the district, using his post to work for the OUN and make contacts with UPA units.

“In April 1944 en route to Magura Mountain for “Oleni” officers training, again I broached the problem of organizing an all-Ukrainian center of an armed struggle in Ukraine with “Orlovych” (another nom de guerre of Myroslav Prokop).” 27 The letter continues: “Along the way he and I discussed a draft platform around which all the nationalist organizations could unite into one grouping. “Orlovych” assigned me to write a draft of a “Platform” and “Universal” (Proclamation) of the future united organization.” 28

On 10 June 1944 a meeting of the Initiative Committee of the Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council took place. Actually, it was at this meeting that the name of the UHVR was finally confirmed. The founding documents—the Universal, Platform, and Structure (Statute) — were put into final form by Kyrylo Os’mak, Daria Rebet, Myroslav Prokop, and other members of the Initiative Committee. These documents were then discussed, edited, and recommended for approval at the Grand Assembly.

I will backtrack once more to the investigation of my father’s case. “On the day that the Initiative Committee assembled on 11 June 1944 “Orlovych” returned my drafts of the “Platform” and the “Universal”, which had been supplemented by several points, so that I could add the finishing political touches to them. I would like to mention that at this time the “Universal” was called “An Address to the Ukrainian People.” I pointed this out and suggested that this document be called a “Universal,” as was done in the past by the Central Rada and the Hetmanite.29 Thanks to this phrase, after reading the protocols of this meeting, I was able to verify my father’s nom de guerre “Hirniak,” which he used in the Initiative Committee.

“At 2:00 on 8 July, according to an arrangement made with “Volodymyr”, I showed up at Sokil-Bat’ko Square, where soon after I was picked up by a car containing “Volodymyr,” “Vilshans’ka” (Daria Rebet), who was taking part in the meeting of the Initiative Committee, and a man I did not know. We drove to Busovys’ko Station in Strilky raion, Drohobych oblast, and from there, by wagon to the village of Luzhok-Horishnyi and then to the forestry administration, where the meeting of the Grand Assembly was to be held.” 30

The Grand Assembly of the UHVR took place on 11–15 July 1944 on the mountain slope of Vydilok near the village of Sprynia. The Presidium and General Secretariat of the UHVR – the clandestine parliament and underground government of fighting Ukraine, respectively – were elected at the assembly. Kyrylo Os’mak was elected the head of the Presidium and President of the UHVR. At the Grand Assembly he used the nom de guerre “Marko Horians’kyi.”

The Grand Assembly took place to the sound of cannons thundering at the front, which was rapidly approaching. When the assembly ended, all the participants immediately dispersed.

The company commander of “Levy” Company, “Nechai” (Mykhailo Fryder from the village of Nahuievychi), assigned bodyguards to the President of the UHVR: these were two young privates from his company – Yuliian Kossak (“Orel”) from Nahuievychi and “Kurt,” a private whose real name is unknown. Through his communications lines “Nechai” escorted him to Skole to pick up his family. The President of the UHVR spent one night in Nahuievychi, at the home of “Nechai’s” sister Mariya Khrunyk. Mykola Tymyshyn, a relative of “Nechai’s” from the town of Stebnyk, recounted this story to me. When I was a child, I passed this house several times, when I would walk to the Ivan Franko Museum with other schoolchildren from the village of Pidbuzh, where I lived with my mother. But I could not imagine that one day my father would be spending a day and a night in this house.

Kyrylo Os’mak and his family settled in the village of Nedilnia in Strilky raion. The headquarters of UPA-West headed by Dmytro Hrytsai (“Perebyinis”) was based there, together with four stationed UPA companies.

The first meeting of the UHVR Presidium was held on 25 July, near Busovys’ko Station. There it was decided that the President of the UHVR, the Head of the General Secretariat (Roman Shukhevych), and three other people should remain in Ukraine. The rest of the members were to go abroad in order to represent Ukraine interests to foreign states.

“Here, near Busovys’ko Station, I, as President of the UHVR, blessed and bade farewell to the participants of the assembly who were going abroad—“Volodymyr,” “Yaropolk,” “Stryis’kyi,” “Kostets’kyi,” and “Vilshans’ka.” 31

On 5 August 1944, in a forest clearing situated between the villages of Svydnyk and Lastivky in the raion of Turka, a group of UPA soldiers swore the oath according to a text approved by the UHVR. Presiding over the oath-swearing ceremony were Dmytro Hrytsai; Ivan Beleiovych (“Dzvinchuk”), the Commander of the Military District; Rostyslav Voloshyn (“Pavlenko”), the General Secretary of Internal Affairs; and two members of the UHVR Presidium. An announcement about this appeared in the November 1944 (no. 1) issue of the journal Povstanets’. The fact that one of the members of the Presidium was the President of the UHVR was known only to Dmytro Hrytsai and a few other members of the UHVR. But even they did not know his real name, only his nom de guerre (“Psel’s’kyi”). I was told this by Ivan Beleiovych, whom we visited in his home in the village of Mykulychyn near the town of Yaremche in May 1997 (d. August 1999).

The front was approaching, and in mid-August 1944 UPA companies marched from the village of Nedilnia in the direction of the town of Turka. According to an eyewitness, Kyrylo Os’mak had already sent his family to the village of Tur’ie-Horishne and settled them in a house near a large forest. I do not remember anything about this, because I was just a small child. I never saw my father again.

On 23 August 1944, near the village of Oriv, the raion of Skole, a clash took place between a Red Army unit and some UPA units. Travelling with these units and the staff of UPA-West was the President of the UHVR. Many UPA soldiers died in this battle, and the President of the UHVR was wounded. Hrytsai arranged to have him transported to his native village of Dorozhiv in the raion of Dubliany, Drohobych oblast. Here, in the home of Mykhailo Letnianchyn, Kyrylo Os’mak hid out and recovered from his wound.

The Red Army had already occupied the village. As I mentioned earlier, on 12 September 1944 a man named Ivan Koval’, born in the town of Skalat in the Ternopil region, was captured in a roundup. Under this false name Kyrylo Os’mak spent two and a half years in Brygidky Prison in Drohobych, undergoing investigation. The investigators realized that he was no mere accountant from the Ternopil’ Butter CooperativeUnion, as he claimed, but an important OUN leader. Indeed, many people who had been arrested had already confirmed this, but Os’mak denied everything, and the investigators were helpless to do anything. Koval’s cellmate in the Drohobych prison testified: “Koval’ said that the investigators know a lot about him, but he always denies and will continue to deny [this], so that even if they show him his own wife, he will not acknowledge her. He said that he swore an oath of loyalty to the OUN, is a member of the Leadership, and will not give any evidence about himself, even under threat of death or any kind of tortures.”32

In January 1947 Kyrylo Os’mak was taken to Kyiv. At this time the NKVD had already arrested people who were aware and had indicated during the investigation that this prisoner, who called himself Ivan Koval’, was known by the nom de guerre of “Psel’s’kyi,” and that he had been elected President of the UHVR in July 1944. By this time the investigators had obtained the protocols of the Grand Assembly (a Russian translation is in volume 5 of the investigation of the case). “Marko Horians’kyi,” Os’mak’s nom de guerre at the Grand Assembly, had also been decoded.

On July 1948 the Special Board [osoboe soveshchanie: OSO] handed down a verdict of twenty-five years “for participation in a counter-revolutionary band of Ukrainian nationalists and active, leading, counter-revolutionary nationalist activity.” 33 The verdict did not mention a single word about the fact that this was a struggle for an independent Ukrainian state, i.e., what was proclaimed in the Constitution of the USSR, namely, the right of every nation to self-determination to the point of separation. Therefore, both the investigation and the verdict are a state crime, a crime committed by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which was governing this state.

During all this time my mother and I were living in the village of Pidbuzh in Drohobych oblast and had no news of my father – where he was, and whether he was alive or not. In March 1954 he contacted us from Vladimir Prison.

“My darling little daughter! I was unspeakably overjoyed, when I received my first letter from Mother and your first letter. Almost ten years have passed since our separation. Those years conceal much suffering. Many hopes have blazed in my soul. And the image of your mother and you was always before my eyes. During the most terrible moments I always saw your mother – and you in her arms. For me, you were always the way you were when I last held you in my arms.” 34

In 1980 a book entitled The Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council was published as volume 8 of Litopys UPA in Toronto (Canada). On the title page is a dedication to the members of the UHVR who were killed in 1945-1946. Included among the five names is the name of Kyrylo Os’mak. I obtained this volume in June 1992, and only then learned who my father was. Here I read: “There is no official announcement about the death of Kyrylo Os’mak, and to this day in fact nothing has been written about him, although he held one of the most important posts in the structure of the UHVR – he was the President of the UHVR. This occurred for several reasons: the President of the UHVR Kyrylo Os’mak was captured by the NKVD in late autumn 1944 and died later in prison. The NKVD probably did not know whom they had arrested, because they did not exploit this “success” in their propaganda against the Ukrainian liberation movement.” 35

The Headquarters of UPA-West, to which Kyrylo Os’mak was attached from his election as President of the UHVR until his wounding on 23 August 1944, learned of his arrest in early October of that year. Having verified that “Psel’s’kyi” was in the Drohobych prison, Dmytro Hrytsai and other staff members began discussing ways to free him, including paying a ransom.36 But I do not know whether anything was done to free my father. In December 1945 Dmytro Hrytsai was killed.

In order to obtain detailed information about my father, come to terms with his fate, and restore not only the identity of the little-known President of the UHVR but also a distinguished page of Ukrainian state building to modern Ukrainian history, I began searching for documents. In September 1994 my husband Stepan Tymofiovych Hromads’kyi and I traveled to Vladimir in Russia, where my father served twelve years in prison, and then to Riazan’ (Russia), where he had spent more than two years under arrest. Finally we traveled to Moscow, where he had studied in a higher educational institution and from which stemmed all the repressive measures that had been applied to him. In every place we were able to acquaint ourselves with investigative and special documents. In Kyiv I perused the contents of four volumes of a six-volume investigation case for the years 1944–1948 and an investigation case dated 1928–1930. From the pages of these documents emerged my father’s life, full of quiet heroism, bravery, and tragedy.

Reading my father’s letters, I noticed a phrase in a letter written [in Russian] to his adopted daughter Valia in December 1954. “My unforeseen trip to Moscow took place last summer. There, during the transfer from train to car, anyone who happened to see me could not gaze upon my appearance without keen emotion.” 37 This phrase caused me profound pain. From the “Personal File of the Arrested,” 38 I learned that my father was in Moscow’s Butyrki Prison between 30 May and 11 August 1953. After reading an article written by the historians Dmytro Vedenieiev and Yurii Shapoval entitled “Chy buv Lavrentii Beriia ukrains’kym natsionalistom?” [Was Lavrentii Beria a Ukrainian Nationalist?] in the newspaper Dzerkalo Tyzhnia, I understood the purpose of this “unforeseen journey.” 39

After Stalin’s death on 5 March 1953 the leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs headed by Lavrentii Beria began implementing measures aimed at the liquidation of the Ukrainian armed underground by creating a pseudo-Leadership. Its goal was to take over the leading functions of the underground in the region, draw its most active leaders out of the underground, install Soviet agents in nationalist centers abroad, ensure leading positions for them in these centers, bring the leaders of foreign OUN centers back to the USSR, etc. It was decided to use individuals whose names, as indicated in a document, were known in Ukraine and the world “with the goal of operational processing and studying the possibilities of exploitation in measures [aimed at] wrecking the nationalist underground in Ukraine and OUN centers that are located abroad…” 40

In keeping with this goal, Kyrylo Os’mak was transported to Moscow, and Stepan Bandera’s sister and Metropolitan Josyf Slipyj were brought from Siberia, but none of them agreed to cooperate with the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The above-mentioned document states:

The attempt to convince Os’mak of the fact that the OUN is the most terrible enemy of the Ukrainian people did not lead to positive results, and in response to the suggestion that he assist the struggle against the OUN, he declared that he was and remains an idealistic Ukrainian nationalist and would rather face death than agree to participate in measures aimed against the OUN and its activity.

Considering that Os’mak, during the whole time that he was being worked on, constantly emphasized his implacable hatred of the Soviet government and categorically refused to accept our proposal about participating in measures related to the struggle against the OUN, we consider it appropriate: […] to send him back to Vladimir Prison; suggest to the Administration of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Vladimir oblast to organize active secret agent “processing” of Os’mak in [his] prison cell; orient the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Ukrainian SSR to the creation and “processing” of Os’mak’s family and organizational ties that are found in Ukraine.” 41

“Considering that Os’mak is a die-hard Ukrainian nationalist, who has not changed his nationalistic view during the period of imprisonment and through his hostile activity represents an especial danger, the Ukaze of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of 17 September 1955 with respect to shortening the sentence by half is not to be applied to prisoner Osmak Kyrylo Ivanovych”.42

This was a resolution passed in November 1955 concerning an individual whom the prison administration had recognized as incurably ill.

A decision approved in March 1959 states: “After an examination of the personal file of Os’mak K. I., it has been determined that in accordance with the Ukaze of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of 14.02.1959, he is not eligible for release or a shortened sentence.”43

Kyrylo Os’mak died on 16 May 1960 and was buried anonymously in the city cemetery as no. 5753, “near the prison wall next to its central guard tower.” 44 The phrase in quotation is from a letter written by Shalva Nestorovych Beryshvili, my father’s comrade in misfortune who sat in the same cell with him for two and a half years. From Volodymyr Handziuk from the Ivano-Frankivs’k region (d. October 2001), who also sat in Vladimir Prison in those years, I learned that Shalva Beryshvili had been a member of the Georgian government in 1917–1920.

The Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council was formed to the sound of the thundering cannons of two mutually hostile states that were equally hostile to the forces of Ukraine. The leaders of the UPA and the OUN, activists from various political parties, demonstrated wisdom by uniting their efforts for the sake of a single, common goal.

“Our goal is a Ukrainian Independent United State on Ukrainian ethnographic lands. Our path is a revolutionary-liberation struggle against all occupiers and persecutors of the Ukrainian people. We shall struggle so that you, the Ukrainian nation, will be the ruler in its land. On the altar of this struggle we lay down our work and our lives.”

These words are from the oath that the President of the UHVR swore on 15 July 1944.

On 12 August 1957, my father wrote to me after surviving an attack of his illness, which had reached a critical stage:

“Dear beloved little daughter! My darling little Natalka!
My final and constant wish is that you will always be healthy, prudent, and intelligent. Learn always to work seriously for the general good. Love your native land, love Ukraine, and in life firmly uphold the testament of the Great Kobzar. Always consider your mother, her health and welfare.
I will be thinking of you until my dying breath. It is not my fault that I was not able to help you attain better conditions of life, when you would be able to carry out extensive work. I wish you a rich and varied path of life.
I kiss you with a sincere, fatherly kiss. Your Daddy forever.” 45

In another of his letters my father recalled the words of Ivan Franko: “These are our beloved, tall Carpathian Mountains.” In another letter he wrote: “What is happening here is a bad dream or a spiritual striving for a real, future life, if God gives me the chance to inhale and breathe the free Ukrainian air, be warmed by the tender Ukrainian sun, and gaze upon our steppes, fields, forests, and mountains. My life passed with this and with all this I shall head out into the final journey.” 46

Kyrylo Os’mak, Roman Shukhevych, Dmytro Hrytsai, and thousands upon thousands of well-known and nameless Ukrainian patriots gave their lives for their beloved, tall Carpathian Mountains, so that our steppes, fields, forests, and mountains would be free.

Let their heroic lives offered in sacrifice be our guide for today’s un-Ukrainian-like Ukraine, which the government is making even less Ukrainian – a Ukraine in which Ukrainians still feel that they are “in their own land that does not belong to them” — toward a truly Ukrainian Independent United State.

Natalka Os’mak
Kyiv, 2003

[1] Kyrylo Os’mak to Halyna Mykhalevych, 18 June 1958.
[2] General Taras Chuprynka, “Do henezy Ukrains’koi Holovnoi Vyzvol’noi Rady,” Biuro infor¬ma¬tsii UHVR, August 1948, no.2.
[3] Derzhavnyi arkhiv Sluzhby Bezpeky Ukrainy (henceforth: DA SBU), file 51279, vol. 1, fol. 5.
[4] Litopys Ukrains’koi Povstans’koi Armii. Vol. 8, Ukrains’ka Holovna Vyzvol’na Rada. Do¬ku¬men¬ty, ofitsiini publikatsii, materialy, Knyha persha, 1944–1945. (Lviv, 1992), p. 11.
[5] Kyrylo Os’mak to Natalia Os’mak, 4 May 1959.
[6] Memoirs stored in the family archives of Natalia K. Os’mak.
[7] Ukrainskaia zhizhn’ (Moscow) 1913, no. 10, pp. 90-93.
[8] Kyrylo Os’mak to Natalia Os’mak, 4 May 1959.
[9] Rillia, 1914, no. 2, pp. 48-50; no. 3, pp. 80-84.
[10] Tsentral’nyi istoricheskii arkhiv Moskvy, fond 228, list 3, file 4339.
[11] Derzhavnyi istorychnyi arkhiv Ukrainy, fond 715, list 1, file 1751, pp. 311-312.
[12] DA SBU, file 51279, vol. 1, fol. 193.
[13] Visnyk Instytutu Ukrains’koi Naukovoi Movy, no. II, 1930, p. 7.
[14] Kyrylo Os’mak to Natalia Os’mak, 14 November 1958.
[15] DA SBU, Kharkiv, file 022017, vol. 2, fol. 213.
[16] Ibid., fol. 218.
[17] Ibid., fol. 277.
[18] Ibid., fol. 224.
[19] Rillia, no. 1, 1 October 1917, p. 6.
[20] Kyrylo Os’mak to Natalia Os’mak, 4 May 1959.
[21] Yurii Shapoval, Liudyna i systema, Kyiv, 1994, p. 36.
[22] Kyrylo Os’mak to Natalia Os’mak, 4 May 1959.
[23] Kyrylo Os’mak to Halyna Mykhalevych, 14 August 1956.
[24] Memoirs stored in the family archives of Natalia K. Os’mak.
[25] DA SBU, file 51279, vol. 2, fol. 138.
[26] Lew Shankovsky, “Initsiiatyvnyi komitet dlia stvorennia Ukrains‘koi Holovnoi Vyzvol‘noi Ra¬dy” in Litopys UPA, vol. 26, p. 29.
[27] DA SBU, file 51279, vol. 2, fols. 136, 141.
[28] Ibid., fol. 142.
[29] Ibid., fol. 143.
[30] DA SBU, file 51279, vol. 2, fol. 90.
[31] Ibid., fol. 117.
[32] DA SBU, file 51279, vol. 3, fol. 125.
[33] DA SBU, file 51279, vol. 4, fol. 193.
[34] Kyrylo Os’mak to Natalia Os’mak, 7 April 1954.
[35] Litopys UPA, vol. 8, p. 11.
[36] DA SBU, file 51279, vol. 3, fols. 152-153.
[37] Kyrylo Os’mak to Valia Tomina, 2 December 1954.
[38] Arkhiv Upravleniia Ministerstva vnutrennikh del Rossiiskoi Federatsii Vladimirskoi oblasti (hen¬ceforth: MVD RF), file 1067, vol. 2, fols. 21, 28.
[39] Dzerkalo tyzhnia, no. 25, 7 July 2001.
[40] DA SBU, file 51279, vol. 6, fol. 79.
[41] DA SBU, file 51279, vol. 6, fols. 82-83.
[42] MVD RF, file 1067, vol. 1, fol. 41.
[43] Ibid., fol. 43.
[44] Shalva Beryshvili to Halyna Mykhalevych, 6 July 1960.
[45] Kyrylo Os’mak to Natalia Os’mak, 12 August 1957.
[46] Kyrylo Os’mak to Valia Tomina, 2 November 1955.
[45] Kyrylo Os’mak to Natalia Os’mak, 12 August 1957.


Page 410. Summary of Documents

This chapter of the current volume of Litopys UPA contains documents from the following periods: 1910–1916, covering Kyrylo Os’mak’s studies at the Moscow Agricultural Institute and his work with the Committee of the Southwestern Front of the All-Russian Zemstvo Union; 1928–1930, tracing the Soviet authorities’ persecution of Ukrainian intellectuals, including Kyrylo Os’mak; 1938–1940 and 1944–1960. Also included are documents pertaining to the investigation of his case.

The fonds of the Moscow Agricultural Institute contain the personal files of all students, starting from the founding of the institute in 1865, when it was called the Moscow Academy of Agriculture and Forestry, until 1917.

Among the documents pertaining to the student Kyrylo Os’mak (Os’makov) are a photograph dated 1910; a birth certificate; a copy of an entry from a church registry book dated 1890, which is written in the old orthography (document no. 1); a passport; a handwritten copy of the passport, on the back of which Kyrylo Os’mak made notes in Ukrainian – the cost of a coachman, cinema ticket, newspaper and books, train ticket to the city of Serpukhov – whereas all official documents are written in Russian.

Document no. 5, “Facts Pertaining to the Student’s Financial Status,” reveals how students who did not have sufficient funds to pay for their studies obtained a higher education. A certificate of a trainee of the Volyn’ Land Administration and tickets to Zhytomyr, Katerynoslav, Katerynodar, and Oms’k (not reproduced) indicate the places in the Russian Empire where K. Os’mak did his agricultural training. His personal file contains a “Declaration” to the director of the institute, in which he requests permission to become a member of the Moscow Musical-Dramatic Group “Kobzar” (document no. 6) and to get married (document no. 8), as well as an extract from the registry book of St. John Chrysostom Church in Kyiv about the marriage of Kyrylo Os’mak and Maria Yurkevych on 12 January 1916 (not reproduced).

Documents dated 1915–1916 pertain to K. Os’mak’s work in the Committee of the Southwestern Front. The last document in this group, a “Declaration” dated 17 December 1916, states that he is temporarily withdrawing from the university because of his work in the above-mentioned Committee (document no. 15).

The fonds of the Committee of the Southwestern Front contain nearly 28,000 personal files on the committee’s employees, including Kyrylo Os’mak (Os’makov), his wife Maria Yurkevych (Os’makova), and her older sister Ol’ha Yurkevych, the future mother of Valia Orlova, the Os’maks’ adopted daughter. All these official documents contain little biographical data: a questionnaire, a certificate for the institute, documentation concerning a leave of absence, etc. In March 1916 Kyrylo Os’mak ordered a certificate to obtain the right to reside in the 11th Army District (document no. 13), which for some reason he did not claim. Attached to this certificate is a photograph showing how Kyrylo Os’mak looked in 1916.

A document entitled “Explanation” dated 15 March 1916 (no. 12), which Kyrylo Os’mak wrote as the head of the Zbarazh bakery, refers to its construction. A report given by K. Os’mak on 5 April 1916 during a meeting of the staff members of a department in charge of providing assistance to people who had suffered as a result of the war discusses the working conditions of the Zbarazh unit (document no. 14).

On 20 July 1916 Kyrylo Os’mak submitted a written request to be released from the “Committee”, and then moved to Kyiv with his pregnant wife Maria.

Documents from 1928–1930. This chapter contains “File No. 61515 concerning the Accusation of Citizen Holovko D. H. and Others, Numbering 15 Individuals.” In November 1929 the GPU of the Ukrainian SSR sent a letter to the OGPU in Moscow, stating that on the basis of the “Trest” secret intelligence file a “counterrevolutionary organization of right-wing Ukrainian nationalists in the beet cooperative”1 was liquidated in 1928 in Kyiv and Kharkiv. This was one of many cases that the GPU organs, under Moscow’s control, were fabricating against any and all Ukrainian organizations.

The protocol of an interrogation conducted on 9 March by a GPU investigator named Gol’dman not only recounts Kyrylo Os’mak’s detailed biography, but also reveals the fact that the designation of Ukrainian citizenship – “a national of the Ukrainian SSR” – was still in force in 1928.2 Two weeks after his arrest he writes a declaration to the OGPU investigator, in which he calls his arrest an “unpleasant misunderstanding,” and requests that he be released “with a signed receipt, which will enable [him] to complete his work.”3 At that time he was working on a dictionary of agricultural terminology at the Institute of Ukrainian Scientific Language of the All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences.

In the “Decree on the Termination of the Case” GPU investigator Dzhavakhov writes that sixteen individuals (Ukrainian intellectuals with higher education) in the “Beet Unions” had united in an anti-Soviet organization with the aim of creating a Peasant Party that in future would oppose the Soviet government. “In their work Holovko and his group were guided by the following political aims:

1. They uphold the principle of an independent cooperative.
2. They oppose state regulation of prices for agricultural products.
3. …Another stimulus to the anti-Soviet activity of Holovko’s group is the dissatisfaction with the resolution of the national question,”4 while the “maximal program of this group boiled down to the following fundamental points.

1. The independence of Ukraine.
2. Orientation toward the capitalist West.
3. A democratic republic.
4. Private ownership, particularly of land.” 5

However, the investigation did not find sufficient facts to prosecute this group of individuals. Therefore “…by a decree of the OGPU collegium of 24 September 1928 the large group of people, representatives of the Ukrainian technical and scientific intelligentsia, was convicted under article 58–11 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR [for participating in the activity of a counterrevolutionary organization], including Os’mak K. I., who is forbidden to reside in six large cities (Kyiv, Kharkiv, et al.) [Odesa, Moscow, Leningrad, Rostov-on-Don, i.e., in Ukraine, Russia, and the Northern Caucasus].6

On 18 November 1928 GPU officers Gorozhanin and Kozel’s’kyi drew up a “Memorandum” based on materials relating to the SVU case, in which they noted that according to the testimony of a “member of the ruling group of five of the SVU, Durdukivs’kyi and active SVU members Kholodnyi, Turkalo, Kryvenko, and others, prior to his arrest Os’mak was a member of the SVU…” 7 On 2 March 1930 Kyrylo Os’mak was arrested in the city of Kurs’k (Russia), where he was serving out his administrative exile, and brought to Moscow. During his interrogation K. Os’mak declared: “I did not belong the counterrevolutionary organization SVU and did not know of the existence of this organization until [information] about this was published in the official press.” 8 However, in the “Decree” investigator Solovev wrote “that citizen Os’mak Kyrylo Ivanovych is being exposed as an active member of the SVU and one of its cells InArak.” 9 By a decree of the OGPU collegium of 23 March 1930 the previous decision was reversed, and K. Os’mak was sentenced to a three-year term in a concentration camp.10

There were forty-five principal defendants in the SVU trial. An additional 700 people, not 400 as previously thought, were arrested shortly afterwards in connection with this case. According to some estimates, more than 30,000 people were arrested, destroyed, or deported during and after the SVU trial.11

Documents from 1938–1940 pertain to the historical period known as the Great Terror. Writing about this period, “…the Moscow historian O. V. Khlevniuk stated that one clear-cut conclusion emerges from the top-secret decisions of the Politburo (stamped with the words “separate folder”): “[…] the so-called “year of 1937” was not at all a series of elemental and disorganized arrests and executions (as previously thought) but mainly a joint, organized operation of all-Union scope.” 12 Commenting on this period, Kyrylo Os’mak wrote: “That autumn terrible events began everywhere, not just in Gorlovka raion, not just in Riazan’ oblast.” 13

Kyrylo Os’mak’s re-arrest on 29 January 1938 is evident from the protocol of his interrogation (document no. 37); the decree and the order for his arrest are dated 31 January. The indictment is the standard one: “…Having been hostile in his attitude toward the existing order, he expressed among the populace terrorist intentions concerning the leaders of the party and the government, was engaged in sabotage on the collective farm.”14

Kyrylo Os’mak himself handwrote some protocols of interrogations, particularly those dated 8 February 1938 (document no. 42), which were conducted by state security Sergeant Zavalishyn; Os’mak signed his name next to each of his answers to prevent any falsification.

The charge of “sabotage” was withdrawn from the “Decree on Additional Accusations” dated 3 November 1938. It contains a non-standard note stating, “Angrily refused to sign in the presence of the responsible official of the Directorate of State Security.”15

On 5 November 1938 state security Sergeant Shmakov summoned Kyrylo Os’mak’s wife Maria Yurkevych for questioning. During the interrogation, Shmakov tried to force her to give evidence against her husband. After a year of terror directed against the wife of an “enemy of the people,” this interrogation proved fatal for Maria Vasylivna: six days later, on 11 November, she threw herself under a train at the Kremlevo station and was killed. In her suicide letter addressed to her younger sister Nadia, Maria Yurkevych asks her to take care of her daughters, especially Valia.16

Documents 51, 53, 54, 63, and 66 reveal Kyrylo Os’mak’s struggle with the investigators to obtain his release. In an appeal to the head of the NKVD Directorate for Riazan’ oblast he notes that documents have been falsified. “This July protocol of a confrontation has not been signed by me – in November it turned out to have been switched for one that already indicates terrorist intentions,” 17 “…in one spot my signature has been forged, which can be proved without a doubt,” 18 “…my statements in my own words were not recorded, and the investigator did not note down my version but his own, which distorted the statement.” 19

After familiarizing himself with the investigation file, on 14 March 1939 Os’mak provides “Additional Statements.” This document states in part: “Investigator Zavalishyn prepared witnesses’ statements beforehand, they were not even read out, the witnesses signed them in my presence…None of my requests to record my exact replies were taken into consideration. For this I was made to stand up in the presence of the witnesses and was abused with the filthiest possible insults. In such an atmosphere I found the courage not to sign the protocols of the confrontations.” 20

“The hounding of the Katino schoolteacher Yurkevych M. V. – my wife – began the first day that I was dismissed from my job. I wrote about this in statements to the Gorlovsk militia on 26 December 1937, Yurkevych made a declaration about this when she was admitted to the Riazan’ psychiatric hospital on 15 January 1938, she gave a statement about this on 5 November 1938 to the Gorlovsk raion division of the NKVD Directorate on the eve of the tragic end, there are statements about this by the inhabitants of the village of Delikhovo …on 24 February 1938 Zharkov states under oath that Yurkevych left the village of Katino in order not to hear talk ‘that her husband is an enemy of the people.’ This means that even after my wife’s return from the Riazan’ psychiatric hospital, when I was still only under investigation, my wife was not spared, people were rubbing her nose in accusations that her husband was an ‘enemy of the people.’” 21

In late July 1939 witnesses were again interrogated, but this time they denied their previous statements. One of them, Lepokhin, declared: “Now I must sincerely admit to you that all my testimony is a lie and slander against the people indicated by me. All the facts concerning counterrevolutionary activity were invented and fabricated by the workers of the raion division Linov, Shmakov, and Golubev. They were inventing all these facts recorded in the protocols, and by means of threats, provocations, and deceptions they forced me to sign these slanderous statements.” 22

On 11 January 1940 Kyrylo Os’mak wrote an appeal to the prosecutor of Riazan’ oblast, which he concluded with these words: “As a result of invented and absurd motives, on the basis of criminal actions by witnesses and former investigators [all the investigators in charge of Os’mak’s case had already been arrested], I have been deprived of liberty and work for two years now, without any kind of trial whatsoever. The last protocol, the seventh, was signed on 28 November 1939, but until now I have not received news about the fact that the file has been turned over to the oblast prosecutor. I am requesting your involvement in this last instance. Skopin Prison.”23 A “Decree” issued by the prosecutor of Riazan’ oblast declared: “…this file, this date…is being closed…a preventive measure – cancel the keep under watch [order] and immediately release him from the watch, about which he is to be informed.” 24

Documents from 1944–1995. Included in this chapter are File no. 51279 and “Personal File No. 1037 of Prisoner Os’mak K. I.”

“In spring ’44 a new phase of difficulties began,” 25 wrote Kyrylo Os’mak to his sister in 1956. As an elderly individual named Ivan Pylypovych Koval’, he had been detained by chance in the village of Dorozhiv in Dubliany raion, Drohobych oblast, on 12 September 1944 during a roundup by NKVD troops. The “Decree on Preventive Measures” states: “Koval’ I. P. is suspected of crimes covered by articles 54–1a and 54–11 of the Criminal Code of the Ukrainian SSR.” 26 These articles from the Special Section of Chapter I of the Criminal Code of the Ukrainian SSR – “Counterrevolutionary Crimes” – are an exact translation of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR (articles 58 with indexes 1–14), which were introduced into judicial proceedings on 1 January 1927. Since that time Ukrainians, particularly intellectuals, were indicted under these articles. Kyrylo Os’mak was indicted under them in Kharkiv in 1928 and in Riazan’ oblast in 1938.

During interrogations in Drohobych Kyrylo Os’mak claimed that he was Ivan Pylypovych Koval’, who was born in the city of Skalat in Ternopil’ oblast, and that he considered himself a Polish national: “I consider myself a Polish national for these reasons: until 1939 the western oblasts of Ukraine were part of the Polish state. When these oblasts were annexed to Soviet Ukraine, until their occupation by the Germans in 1941 this annexation was not recognized by the conference of all countries, therefore I consider myself a Polish subject.” 27

The arrest decree notes that Koval’ “is one of the leaders of the OUN krai leadership, he spent two months in the Carpathian forests and protected himself with an UPA fighting group. In the last days of August 1944, while crossing the Red Army’s front line with an oblast fighting group from the Carpathians to the village of Dorozhiv, Koval’ Ivan Pylypovych was wounded…He is concealing his real name and place of birth.” 28 On 13 October 1944 he was indicted on the following charges: “As one of the leaders of the OUN krai leadership he led vigorous activity aimed at establishing the counterrevolutionary nationalist OUN organization and UPA bands in Ukraine for the purpose of an armed struggle against the Red Army and the Soviet government [and] founding of a so-called ‘Independent united Ukraine’.”29 On this document Os’mak wrote: “I never had any connection to anything written in this document. I. Koval’.” 30 Thus, he firmly maintained his own legend. Even though the investigators changed, and he was tortured and thrown into solitary confinement, they could not break him.

On 27 July 1945 in the town of Skalat investigator Shilov interrogated Petro Andriiovych Hanulia, who upon being shown a photograph of Koval’ (Kyrylo Os’mak), recognized Koval’, a commandant of the Polish police from 1935 to 1939, who was a Pole by nationality.”31 Other interrogated individuals also gave the same statements.

On 2 August investigator Zhavoronkov conducted an interrogation.

Investigator: “By the witnesses Hontyk Yosyp Stefanovych, Korystein Leon Shamovych, and official documents, you are being exposed as having lived from 1928 to 1936 in the village of Hrymailiv of Ternopil’ oblast and having served there as the commandant of the Polish police. The investigation demands truthful testimony.

Response: All my answers to the questions are truthful; therefore once again I declare to the investigation that I never lived and worked in the village of Hrymailiv.”32

The investigators used the story of the Polish police commandant as the basis of their indictment: “From 1928 to 1936 Koval’ served as a commandant of the Polish police in the small town of Hrymailiv in Ternopil’ oblast. From 1936 to 1939 he was the commandant of the Polish police in the town of Skalat. In 1944, before the arrival of Red Army units, Koval’ went into the UPA, in the structure of which he crossed into the forests of the Carpathian Mountains. While crossing the front line in the rear of the Red Army, Koval’, as part of an UPA group, clashed with Red Army units and was wounded during the battle, after which he escaped to the village of Dorozhiv, where he was living illegally until the day that he was detained. Considering that the criminal activity of Koval’ is being exposed by means of secret intelligence materials that cannot be used in court…investigation file no. 745 of the indictment of Koval’ Ivan Pylypovych is to be sent for examination by the Special Board of the NKVD USSR.” 33 After a year the Military Prosecutor’s Office in Moscow sent the file back to the Drohobych division of the MGB Directorate for further investigation.

During this period the MGB captured many UPA soldiers. On 31 October 1946 the courier of the OUN okruha leadership Havrylo Hrytsai gave evidence. He was in the village of Nedil’na, when the headquarters of UPA–West was stationed there in July 1944, together with some UPA companies. Recognizing Kyrylo Os’mak from the photograph, Hrytsai said: “…I knew a ‘leader’ from the Central OUN Leadership, I don’t know his pseudonym, but in September 1944 he was arrested by the MGB organs in the village of Dorozhiv in Dubliany raion.” 34 “The krai leader of the OUN ‘Perebyinis” had a personal secretary and bodyguard, pseudonym ‘Bereza,’ so he told me that the old man, the gray-haired one, is from the central ‘leadership’ of the OUN and has already been designated the president of the independent Ukrainian state.” 35 ‘Vira’ – Maria Ohonovs’ka – the typist for the OUN krai leadership, who had already been arrested, testified that on orders from Dmytro Hrytsai – ‘Perebyinis’ – she went to Dorozhiv to bring ‘Psel’s’kyi’ to Yushkivtsi (document no. 118 dated 16 December 1946). But despite being tortured, Os’mak denied everything. An accurate picture of this emerges from the protocol of an interrogation, dated 16 December 1946, which lasted fifteen hours – from 10:10 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. However, only three questions and three responses are noted in the protocol (document no. 117). What was Lieutenant Zhmilov, the senior investigator of the Investigation Division of the MGB Directorate for Drohobych oblast, doing during the interrogation?

Vasyl’ Hrytsa, who shared Kyrylo Os’mak’s cell in Drohobych Prison, stated during his interrogation: “During one of many conversations with me Koval’ said that the investigators know a lot about him, but he is denying everything and will continue to deny…He said that if they show him his own wife, he will also refuse to recognize her.”36 Another witness, a nineteen-year old boy named Ivan Danylko, who was sentenced to twenty years’ hard labour, stated under interrogation that the prisoners in cell no. 11 told him about Koval’, the elderly man who had been arrested, who “is not saying anything about himself and his activity, and the investigators do not know what to do with him.” 37

The brutal investigation of Kyrylo Os’mak also continued in Kyiv, where he was brought from Drohobych. Mykhailo Farylo (“Ruban’”), who was sentenced in 1945 to twenty years’ hard labour, was also brought to Kyiv from a concentration camp in Toms’k (Russia). Unable to endure the torture, Farylo revealed everything that he knew about “Psel’s’kyi”: his acquaintance with him in the village of Nedil’na, how he provided medical assistance to the wounded “Pselsky” in Dorozhiv for a period of two weeks, and the plans to liberate “Psel’s’kyi” from Drohobych Prison (document no. 142). Finally, Farylo revealed: “…in June 1944…a conference took place of the representatives of all Ukrainian organizations and parties, during which the ‘UHVR’ – the ‘Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council’ – was created. At this conference ‘Psel’s’kyi’…was elected head of the ‘UHVR’.” 38 The only fact that he was unable to reveal, because he did not know anything about it, was “Psel’s’kyi’s” real name. Os’mak denied these statements as well, and on 20 August 1947 he declared a hunger strike in protest against the torture (document no. 145 dated 20 August 1947). But “after active interrogations, on 25 August 1947 the arrestee Koval’ admitted that he was really Os’mak Kyrylo Ivanovych, born 1890 in the town of Shyshaky in Poltava oblast, with a higher education, an engineer-agronomist by profession.” 39 Naturally, in the language of KGB investigators, the phrase “active interrogations” means torture.

From this moment the interrogations were focused on resolving many questions, including: “What were you engaged in when you stayed behind in German-occupied Kyiv?” 40

During the new round of interrogations that took place after his identity was revealed, Kyrylo Os’mak, in an obvious attempt to preserve for posterity information on what had transpired in Kyiv during the German occupation, recounted the story of the founding of the Ukrainian National Rada and his participation in its work; the founding (by him) of the “Silskyi hospodar” society, attached to the Rada; the efforts to carry out land reform and counteractions by the German administration; and the attempt by Ukrainian intellectuals in Kyiv to band together against the German occupying authorities, who were becoming increasingly brutal (document no. 151 dated 30 August 1947).

The investigators treated these very attempts to resist the occupiers by people who had landed in the clutches of two tyrannies as counterrevolutionary activities of Ukrainian nationalists against the Soviet government, which had fled from the advancing German army, thus abandoning the people to their fate. The investigators were also interested in the activity of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and Kyrylo Os’mak’s involvement in it. They demanded that he reveal the names of OUN members, OUN centres, secret houses, and the names of those who maintained them. He was thus forced to fabricate stories about numerous clandestine OUN centres, revealing the names of “underground members” and “addresses.” Naturally, the investigators checked out this information. The protocol of an interrogation dated 8 October 1947 notes: “During an interrogation on 19 September 1947 you gave evidence that in carrying out OUN work among the intelligentsia of the city of Kyiv, you created an OUN “centre” among medical workers, and at the same time you named a number of OUN members of this “centre.” A thorough verification has determined that your statements concerning this question are a total lie, since the medical personnel people that you named never lived and do not live in the city of Kyiv.” 41

A fragment from another protocol states:

“Investigator: To the present time you have not revealed to the investigative organs the leading members of the OUN in the Kyiv region, who are known to you.

Response: I told everything truthfully to the investigation and named all the members of the OUN in the Kyiv region, whom I know.

Investigator: You are not telling the truth. In occupying an important position in the OUN, you naturally had links with many leading OUN members.

Response: Again I repeat that I revealed everything that I knew. After joining the Banderites in the summer of 1942, I had links only with the representatives of the Central OUN Leadership – ‘Andrii Horlovych’ and ‘Petro Antonovych.’

Investigator: The investigation has information that there was no OUN member by the pseudonym of ‘Andrii Horlovych’ in Kyiv during the German occupation period.

Response: …I made up the pseudonym ‘Andrii Horlovych.’ The representative of the Central OUN Leadership…was an OUN member whose pseudonym was ‘Volodymyr Orlovych’.” 42

At the same time the investigators tried to locate individuals from Os’mak’s circle of acquaintances, relatives, and colleagues in Kyiv in order to connect them to his case and “create” a large underground nationalist organization. Thus, they arrested Taisa Kovalenko, Os’mak’s colleague from the Institute of Ukrainian Scientific Language, who during the German occupation worked as a secretary in the “Silskyi hospodar” cooperative headed by Os’mak. They also arrested Muza Tarasova, the daughter of the typist at the cooperative; she was a young Russian girl – a “Folksdeutsch” [German native] – who was accused of being a member of the OUN. Kovalenko and Tarasova were released from a concentration camp in keeping with the “Decree” of amnesty proclaimed on 17 September 1955 (document no. 211 dated 12 December 1955).

On 4 September 1947 the investigators questioned the residents of the village of Tur’ie Horishnie. Investigator: “Did a woman and a child from the eastern oblasts of Ukraine live in the village of Tur’ie Horishnie in the summer of 1944?” 43 All those who were questioned replied in the negative, including Ivan Il’nyts’kyi, in whose house Liudmyla, the second wife of Kyrylo Os’mak, and her daughter Natalia lived for a time. The village residents revealed this fact in 1997. After this no more efforts were made to locate Os’mak’s family.

Interrogations of Kyrylo Os’mak, which were conducted on 2 and 13 January 1948, concerned the agenda of the Grand Assembly of the UHVR. The investigators already had Russian-language translations of the protocols of this assembly, which are included in vol. 5 of this case (in the section on oral statements) and published in vol. 26 of Litopys UPA.

In the last third of September 1943 Os’mak’s family left Kyiv, heading west to L’viv. Some time later Os’mak met “Volodymyr” (Myroslav Prokop), a member of the Central OUN Leadership, whom he called “Andrii Horlovych” during his Kyiv period of cooperation with the OUN. On 6 December 1943 Os’mak began working as the director of the “Silskyi hospodar” district society. “In late October 1943 I realized my long-standing dream to meet the distinguished political and church figure – Metropolitan Andrei Sheptyts’kyi. During our conversation I mentioned his return from tsarist exile in Saratov and his meeting in the Central Rada. I recounted the important political changes that had occurred within the population of the eastern oblasts of Ukraine and particularly among the clergy.” 44

The investigation was drawing to a close. One of the last documents of the investigation is a protocol of a confrontation between Kyrylo Os’mak and Mykhailo Farylo:

“Investigator to arrestee Os’mak: And concerning your leadership of the ‘UHVR’, did Farylo tell the truth?

Response: “Yes, of course, he told the truth. And since he only heard about this, then I can declare here in his presence that since July 1944 I have been the President of the ‘UHVR’.” 45

The “Indictment” was ready on 6 May 1948: “On the basis of existing materials in the file [the following] are accused: 1. Os’mak Kyrylo Ivanovych…on the grounds: As a committed Ukrainian nationalist he joined the OUN in December 1941 and carried out active anti-Soviet nationalistic work. Was the initiator of the union of all nationalist forces in the so-called ‘Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council’ (‘UHVR’). In July 1944 at the so-called ‘Grand Assembly’ of representatives of all nationalist organizations he was elected president of the ‘UHVR.’ When the Germans fled he was left in the rear of the Soviet Army by the OUN leadership in order to carry out subversive activity – i.e., to commit crimes covered by articles 54–1a and 54–11 of the Criminal Code of the Ukrainian SSR.” 46

The Special Board (an extra-judicial organ) in Moscow decreed: “For [his] participation in the counterrevolutionary band of Ukrainian nationalists and energetic, important counterrevolutionary nationalist activity Os’mak Kyrylo Ivanovych is to be imprisoned for a term of twenty-five years, with the sentence beginning on 13 September 1944.” 47

In addition to protocols of interrogations and counterfoils of summons to interrogations (originals), a copy of this document and others are stored in the “Prisoner’s Personal File.”

After Kyrylo Os’mak arrived in Vladimir Prison, his “Prisoner’s Personal File” began filling up with other types of documents: his declarations requesting permission to write another letter, to acquire English-Russian and Russian-English dictionaries necessary for learning English, medical reports, protocols of searches, documents concerning his detention in Butyrki Prison, requests for hospital food, a transfer to the hospital, permission to keep his moustache and his head unshaved, etc.

In spring 1953 Os’mak was transported to Moscow, where from 31 May he was incarcerated in the MVD internal prison; on 20 June he was transferred to Butyrki Prison of the MVD USSR; and by 12 August he was back in Vladimir Prison. The reason why he was dispatched via transport to prisons in Moscow and then back to Vladimir Prison is revealed in a letter addressed to “comrade Lunov” dated 1 August 1953: “The attempt to convince Os’mak that the OUN is the most implacable enemy of the Ukrainian people did not bring positive results, and in response to a proposal made to him that he assist in the struggle against the OUN he declared that he was and remains a Ukrainian nationalist of high principles and would rather go to his death than agree to take part in measures targeting the OUN and its activity.” 48

In May 1954 Kyrylo Os’mak launched a struggle for his rehabilitation (document no. 201 dated 21 May 1954). In June 1954 he was interrogated in Vladimir Prison in connection with one of several “Appeals” (document no. 206 dated 14 June 1955). Volume 5 of the investigation file contains a document called “Review Report,” a reaction to his “Appeal”, which was prepared by the Military Prosecutor’s Office for Kyiv District. The report reveals the entire machinery of the investigation, including the use of torture and other illegal methods. The words that Kyrylo Os’mak spoke prior to his interrogation are cited in this document: “…I don’t have long to live in this world, and if I have to take my own life, then it would be better if the “devils” take my soul, and I will be rid of the sin of taking my own life.” 49 This document also contains a fragment of Os’mak’s declaration announcing a hunger strike on 20 August 1947.

However, all of Os’mak’s appeals to the Top-Secret Sector of the Central Committee of the CPSU and the office of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, as well as several appeals to the General Prosecutor of the USSR, were fruitless. The authorities wanted him to recant, but he believed that he had nothing to disavow. “Considering that Os’mak is an implacable Ukrainian nationalist, who has not changed his nationalistic beliefs during his incarceration in prison and who by his hostile activity represents a particular danger, I would consider that the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of 17 September 1955 on reducing sentences in half is not to be applied to prisoner Os’mak Kyrylo Ivanovych,” 50 and “there are no grounds for repealing or changing the decree of the Special Board of the MGB USSR of 10 July 1948 concerning Os’mak Kyrylo Ivanovych.” 51 These findings were the price of Os’mak’s refusal to collaborate in the struggle against the OUN and to recant, as the Soviet authorities had proposed to him in 1953.

Kyrylo Os’mak died in Vladimir Prison on 16 May 1960 and was buried on 17 May in the municipal cemetery, burial site no. 5753.52 He was rehabilitated on 5 December 1994 by the General Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine on the basis of article 1 of the Law of Ukraine “On the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repressions in Ukraine of 17 April 1991.” 53

The documents of the investigation files contained in this chapter are mostly handwritten ones. In certain documents, e.g., document no. 16 entitled “Protocol of a Search,” notes on Ukrainian forms are written in Russian. Particularly noteworthy are the protocols of interrogations, which are contained in file no. 51279. It is obvious that they were not drawn up during the interrogation because they are written in clear, calligraphic script, with grammatically correct Russian phrases, whereas the individuals under interrogation responded, with rare exceptions, in Ukrainian. The protocols are replete with such phrases as “UPA bandits,” “I, as a Ukrainian nationalist,” “mob,” “anti-Soviet activity,” “nationalist agitation,” “nationalistic conversation,” “temporary occupation of the city of Kyiv by the fascist German aggressors,” which could not have been spoken by those being interrogated. However, not a single investigator named the territory on which all this was taking place, i.e., the “Reichskommissariat Ukraine” and “Generalgouvernement” – German-occupied Ukraine.

The documents in this volume help to recreate the life and times of Kyrylo Os’mak, who throughout his life was punished by the Soviet government simply for being a Ukrainian. His fate was both particular to him and characteristic of a Ukrainian intellectual in the Russian empire, no matter what it was called.


This chapter of the current volume of Litopys UPA contains 232 documents from the fonds of the Central Historical Archives of Moscow, the State Historical Archives of Ukraine, the Archives of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) for Kharkiv oblast, the Directorate of the Federal Security Service (FSB: Russia) for Riazan’ oblast, the Archives of the Directorate of the FSB for Vladimir oblast, and the Archives of the SBU.

All the documents included in this chapter have been assigned a chronological number by the compiler. Some documents have been reproduced in their entirety, while others are published only in part; this is duly noted in their titles. Omitted sections of texts are indicated by ellipsis (…).

The lexicon and stylistic features of the texts have been preserved. In keeping with current orthography, spelling and punctuation errors have been silently corrected. Names of populated areas, converted by the investigators to Russian ones (e.g., Dorozhevo instead of Dorozhiv, Strelky instead of Strilky, etc.) have not been corrected.

If a document is signed, the surname of the person who signed it appears in parentheses – (Lynychenko). When no signature appears next to a surname, this is also indicated by parentheses – (-) Lynychenko. If a signature is marked “za” [on behalf of], this is so indicated – (za) Kozel’sky. An illegible signature is indicated thus: (?).

Each document is accompanied by a legend indicating the place where it is stored (abbreviated name of archives, number of the fonds, list, file, folio).

Documents 102, 201, 206, 211, 213, and 218 were obtained with the assistance of the Ukrainian parliamentarian Hryhorii Dem’ian, and documents 197, 204, 205, 207 – with the help of the Ukrainian historian Dr. Yurii Shapoval, who published parts of documents 197 and 206 in vol. 26 of Litopys UPA.

The compiler of the documents is Natalka Os’mak, who also worked on the scholarly-archeographic preparation of these materials in collaboration with Olena Luk’ianchuk.

[1] Document no. 27 dated 25 November 1929.
[2] Document no. 17 dated 9 March 1928.
[3] Document no. 19 dated 21 March 1928.
[4] Document no. 21 dated 8 May 1928.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Document no. 227 dated 10 October 1994.
[7] Document no. 26 dated 18 November 1929.
[8] Document no. 30 dated 7 March 1930.
[9] Document 32 dated 13 March 1930.
[10] Document 227 dated 10 October 1994.
[11] Yu. Shapoval, V. Prystaiko, and V. Zolotar’ov, Cheka-GPU-NKVD v Ukraini: osoby, fak¬ty, dokumenty. Kyiv, 1997, p. 41.
[12] S. Bilokin’, Masovyi teror iak zasib derzhavnoho upravlinnia v SRSR (1917–1941 rr.). Dzhereloznavche doslidzhennia. Kyiv, 1999, p. 286.
[13] Letter no. 156 dated 14 November 1958.
[14] Document no. 39 dated 31 January 1938.
[15] Document no. 43 dated 3 November 1938.
[16] Letter no. 199 dated 7 November 1938.
[17] Document no. 51 dated 20 November 1938.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Ibid.
[20] Document no. 53 dated 14 March 1939.
[21] Document no. 53 dated 14 March 1939.
[22] Document no. 58 dated 22 July 1939.
[23] Document no. 68 dated 11 January 1940.
[24] Document no. 69 dated 22 February 1940.
[25] Letter no. 78 dated 22 June 1956.
[26] Document no. 75 dated 16 September 1944.
[27] Document no. 74 dated 15 September 1944
[28] Document no. 76 dated 18 September 1944.
[29] Document no. 81 dated 13 December 1944.
[30] Ibid.
[31] Document not reproduced.
[32] Document no. 97 dated 2 August 1945.
[33] Document no. 101 dated 19 September 1945.
[34] Document no. 107 dated 31 October 1946.
[35] Ibid.
[36] Document no. 135 dated 22 April 1947.
[37] Document no. 139 dated 25 April 1947.
[38] Document no. 146 dated 21 August 1947.
[39] Document no. 156 dated 5 September 1947.
[40] Document no. 151 dated 30 August 1947.
[41] Document no. 165 dated 8 October 1947.
[42] Document no. 171 dated 18 November 1947.
[43] Document no. 155 dated 4 September 1947.
[44] Document no. 183 dated 15 April 1947.
[45] Document no. 187 dated 20 April 1947.
[46] Document no. 190 dated 6 May 1947.
[47] Document no. 193 dated 10 July 1947.
[48] Document no. 197 dated 1 August 1953.
[49] Document no. 207 dated 27-30 September 1955.
[50] Document no. 208 dated 21 October 1955.
[51] Document no. 218 dated 12 March 1957.
[52] Document no. 224 dated 17 May 1960.
[53] Document no. 230 dated 5 December 1995.

Page 735. Summary of Letters

This chapter of the current volume of Litopys UPA contains the letters that Kyrylo Os’mak wrote to his family from Vladimir Prison between 1951 and 1960.

Kyrylo Os’mak informed his adopted daughter Valentyna (Valia) Orlova about his arrival in Vladimir Prison already in August of 1948 (22 August 1948). From that date, Orlova sent her father 100 karbovantsi every month until his death.

K. Os’mak first appealed to the head of the internal MGB prison in Kyiv for permission to send a letter to his relatives in October 1947, when he was still in a pretrial isolator. He allegedly obtained such permission, but in fact his relatives were never informed (documents 167, 170, 173, 182).

The “Prisoner’s Personal File” contains several appeals written by K. Os’mak to the head of Vladimir Prison, requesting permission to send letters. These documents indicate that Kyrylo Os’mak wrote his first letter to Valentyna Orlova in early May 1949. In March 1950 he wrote another letter to Valia, but did not receive permission to write any more letters that year. Unfortunately, Valia’s family did not keep these letters. The next five letters to Valia (nos. 1–5), the originals of which were also not preserved, are copies transcribed by Kyrylo Os’mak into a notebook that was sent to his family after his death.

The first letters that Kyrylo Os’mak wrote to his adopted daughter Valia, even before he received any replies, are informative in nature. He tells her about the state of his health and his English-language studies, and asks for dictionaries so that he can use them to read English literature. He reminisces about Valia’s childhood, his wife Liudmyla, and his younger daughter Natalochka, and worries about their fate, which is unknown to him.

In a letter written in late 1954 K. Os’mak very obliquely refers to four difficult years of investigation and to the “unexpected trip to Moscow.”1 Only recently was it learned that this “trip” to Moscow was organized in order to recruit him to the struggle against the OUN underground in Ukraine and abroad.

From Valia’s first letter K. Os’mak learns about her husband Oleksandr Tomin and her daughter Natalochka. Thereafter his letters to Valia express concern for his little granddaughter, her health, and upbringing. He sketches out itineraries for trips around Kyiv for Talochka in order to instill in her a love for Kyiv, Ukraine, and Ukrainian history. Reading these letters, one senses that in his thoughts he is roaming through his beloved city from which he was brutally torn. “It is absolutely crucial that your husband and you set up an entire program for cultivating Talochka’s taste and love for her native surroundings against the backdrop of the Dnipro and Kyiv with its beautiful neighbourhoods. So that Podil and Vyshhorod, Pushcha Vodytsia, Mezhyhirria, Boiarka, Brovari, beautiful Irpin’, the enchanting lake of Koncha-Zaspa near Kyiv, the Desna, and other places appear in Talochka’s imagination like beautiful pictures of her childhood, like a fairy tale.”2 After March 1954, when K. Os’mak began corresponding with his family — his wife Liudmyla and his daughter Natalia—his concern for his family, particularly his daughter Natalia’s chances for obtaining a higher education, becomes the predominant feature of his subsequent letters to Valia.

In late March 1960 Valia was able to visit her father in prison. On 3 May he wrote to her: “Your arrival here was an extraordinary event for me. I am inexpressibly happy that I saw you, my beloved and darling one, that I heard the beating of a darling, immeasurably dear heart. Your visit here is a joyful dream against the background of a horrible sixteen years.3 This was the last letter he ever wrote.

The first letter that K. Os’mak wrote from prison to his wife Liudmyla and his daughter Natalia arrived in mid-March 1954 in the village of Pidbuzh in Drohobych oblast, where they were residing. Unfortunately, this letter was not preserved. Os’mak wrote that in following his request, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the USSR provided him with their address for which he was seeking confirmation. They replied on 28 March, and from that time a regular correspondence was established. Liudmyla Os’mak kept all her husband’s letters. Os’mak’s letters to his daughter Natalia were written in Ukrainian, but he was obliged to write in Russian to his wife and adopted daughter Valia. He obtained permission to write letters in his native language only in March 1956. “I was assured that the board of censors here has experts in the Ukrainian language, and that everything will be fine.”4

In his second letter to his wife K. Os’mak wrote: “What I have dreamed about for many years has finally come true; contact between us, interrupted by difficult events, has been restored…You and I, as before, are in a free world—we are the closest, dearest souls…Those terrible and difficult ten years, with their horrible and terrifying prospects, drove us apart.”5

In his letters to his wife K. Os’mak tried to recount what had happened to him during their ten-year separation—the prison conditions, his worsening health, and his English-language studies. Since letters were censored, he was forced to resort to Aesopian language: various sayings, Biblical expressions, and references to literary works all came in handy. Here and there the prison censors blacked out certain phrases or individual words, and from the remaining lines his family learned not only how many times and for how long he was led out for walks and to the toilet — which, as it turns out, was also a “state secret”— but also about his twenty-five-year prison sentence.

Today one can read about these and other “state secrets” in various books: “Vladimir Prison…was built during the reign of Nicholas II in the early part of the present century…it was used as a place of imprisonment for criminals regarded by the state as being most dangerous, on whom the government always had to keep a close eye. Vladimir Prison essentially played the same role during the Soviet period… Prisoners were often transported to the capital for additional questioning. The prison regime was noted for its harshness. Everyone was wakened at six o’clock in the morning…the bedding was lifted upright to the walls and locked, making it impossible to lie down in the daytime. Every day we were allowed a thirty to forty-five-minute walk in the so-called box — a small interior courtyard with high walls, more like a room with an area of about twenty square metres, only without a ceiling. The presence of guards was mandatory. There was no toilet in the cell, only a latrine-bucket was used. Every time a prisoner had to go to the toilet, he was forced to ask the jailer. And although they allowed the prisoners to go to bed from 10:00 p. m., the light burned all night.”6

Just as he did during his other periods of imprisonment, K. Os’mak fought for his release and demanded rehabilitation. In his letters to his wife he writes about his appeals to the CC CPSU, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, and the General Prosecutor’s Office of the USSR. In a letter dated 3 October 1956 he writes: “My spirits remain high. I will knock and bang, but I will always demand rehabilitation, for I have nothing to recant.”7 But all his efforts were in vain. His hopes for a better future for himself and his family were fading. Then K. Os’mak and his wife began discussing plans to move the family to Georgia, where the authorities did not accuse people of nationalism and where the relatives of Shalva Nestorovych Berishvili, with whom Os’mak shared a cell for the last two and a half years of his life, would help his wife and daughter.

Kyrylo Os’mak’s letters to his youngest daughter Natalia (his son Oleh died in 1936, and his other daughter Larysa was killed in the OUN underground in 1943 or 1944), are filled with love. He expresses concern about her upbringing, wonders whether she is growing up as a Ukrainian, and regrets that he cannot watch her growing up and developing. He would borrow school textbooks from the prison library in order to keep abreast of what his daughter was studying in school and to be able to help her with mathematics, chemistry, and particularly Ukrainian literature. “Dear little daughter! I read the Kobzar many times during my life. This is the greatest book of our nation, which was created by Shevchenko, the spiritual giant of the Ukrainian nation. This May I reread the Kobzar again (borrowed it from the library). I would be happy if I could read this great book with you. Shevchenko showed an extraordinarily profound sensitivity to the feelings and lives of individual people, their yearnings for justice, and their struggle for the great ideals of humanity, and this was reflected in his poems. With extraordinary brilliance Shevchenko conveyed the tragedy of women and the great struggle of the Ukrainian nation for Ukraine’s freedom and destiny. Each poem in the Kobzar is a profound poem of the nation. Shevchenko always issues a clarion call for a struggle for truth. He created the general watchword, “Struggle, and you shall overcome” (the poem “Kavkaz”). Have you read a lot of the Kobzar?”8

“My great wish is that love of your native language will grow stronger in you and that certain peoples’ desire concerning the “intensified” rapprochement of our language to that other one will not affect you.”9 “Natalochka, my beloved! Thoughts about the worth of an individual and his place in life, which I have just explained here, interest me to the extent of applying them to you, to your future. Dear little daughter! Read these lines carefully. Later, you will read them again some day. Keep this letter as a souvenir of your father’s thoughts about your upbringing, education, and work. I wish you, my dearest, a happy, intelligent, and joyful life.”10

A letter dated 14 November 1958 merits special attention. This letter has a tragic element to it, for here Kyrylo Os’mak recounts his arrests, the death of his son, and the death of his first wife Maria Vasylivna Yurkevych.

A letter that Kyrylo Os’mak wrote to his daughter Natalia on 12 August 1957 is not simply the legacy of a loving father but also of a son of Ukraine to which he sacrificed his entire life.

Kyrylo Os’mak wrote his first letter from prison to his sister Halyna Mykhalevych Os’mak on her birthday, 22 June 1956. In his letters to his sister he writes about his dreams of a “meeting under humane, normal conditions,”11 but he understands that “…all these fundamental desires are unattainable today.”12 K. Os’mak had not seen his sister for more than thirty years, and in his letters he mentions their mother, father, and brothers. He inquires about relatives, who were dispersed by destiny far and wide in the Soviet Union. His sister, who was corresponding with them, was able to tell him about them.

His sister Halyna tried to understand the charges against him. Kyrylo writes: “You are troubled: how to uncover that horrible thing that has bound me to post office box 21! I could give you an answer to such a question. But even without my answer, the matter is clear, for not a few people have been bound to post office box 21 or others.”13 “You feel sorry for me; you don’t understand why my fate marches alongside misfortune, like some leper in India. Naturally, fate is not easy.”14 In one of his letters Os’mak mentions his work in fruit orchards in Komi ASSR. He writes: “I often ran into Anatolii Liakhno in 1930 and 1931 on the construction of the Piniug-Syktyvkar Railway (they began it and then stopped). He showed determination and obtained qualifications as a veterinarian’s medical assistant. In summer 1931 he was transported to Mordovia, but I don’t know for sure whether it was for the construction of the White Sea Canal.”15 (Anatol’ Liakhno was Halyna’s first husband, who was dispossessed as a kulak and sent to a concentration camp).

Wishing his sister a happy 65th birthday, Kyrylo Os’mak writes:

“I am sending you these wishes from the heart and mind of a person who has been chased into a snare, who tried to aim for better and who firmly believes in the possibility of its advent. Conditions are arduous, there is too much evil everywhere. But I firmly believe that truth will overcome, although with immense efforts.”16

In addition to these letters, Kyrylo Os’mak also wrote to his first wife’s younger sister Nadia Yurkevych and his older brother Maksymyliian Os’mak, asking them to help his family.

This publication includes a letter that his first wife Maria Vasylivna Yurkevych wrote to her sister Nadia just four days before her suicide, in which she asks for help for her daughters Larysa and Valia. Also included in this volume are letters to K. Os’mak from his second wife Liudmyla; a letter from Os’mak’s cellmate Shalva Berishvili to Halyna Mykhalevych, in which he recounts the last days of her brother’s life, the circumstances of his death, and the location, appearance, and number of the gravesite; and a letter from Shalva Berishvili’s daughter Maki and nephew Hiva Khvedelidze about the fate of the Berishvili family.

All the letters, each of which is numbered, are stored in the archives of Kyrylo Os’mak’s daughter Natalia Os’mak.

The vocabulary and particular features of Kyrylo Os’mak’s style of writing, including his punctuation style, have been retained. The majority of the letters are published in full. Individual sentences or paragraphs have been deleted only from a small number of letters; such omissions are marked by ellipsis […]. Parts of texts that have been blacked out by the censors are marked by [XX]x or […]x. Wherever text has been omitted, a letter has a missing date, the addressee is unknown, or it was impossible to recreate text, these sections are marked by square brackets ([XX]). Explanations to the letters appear at the end of each letter.

Fragments of various letters from Kyrylo Os’mak to his wife Liudmyla and his daughters Valia and Natalka appear in vol. 26 of Litopys UPA.

The letters were compiled by Natalia Os’mak, who also wrote the footnotes to the letters and prepared the Kommentar in collaboration with Olena Luk’ianchuk.

Natalka Os’mak

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