Shadows of Forgotten Repression

4 September marked 44 years since a protest action against arrests of the Ukrainian intelligentsia at the preview showing of S. Paradzhanov’s film ‘Tini zabutykh predkiv’ [‘Shadows of forgotten ancestors’]. On Friday a memorial evening was held in the same cinema “Ukraina”. It was attended by some of those who took part in the protest or were themselves arrested, as well as civic and cultural figures.

At the beginning of the 1960s there was virtually no mention of Ukraine in the world. For various reasons the leading media refused to publish information about what was happening in Ukraine. This information blockade was broken by Serhiy Paradzhanov’s film, however the film was seen in Ukraine a full year after the rest of the world had a chance to see it. And while the film about Ukraine was being watched by European and American viewers, in Ukraine members of the Ukrainian intelligentsia were being arrested.

For so-called “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda” they had arrested the literary critic and poet Ivan Svitlychny; the art specialist Bohdan Horyn; the writer Mykhailo Masyutko; and others.

They were named during the planned discussion of the film by the civic and cultural figure Ivan Dziuba. Former political prisoner Oles Serhiyenko recalls the event:
“Dziuba said “We have a great event, but also great sorrow. In Ukraine the arrests have begun of creative young people”. Someone – one of the KGB people – yelled out “about time!”. The cinema director, Fedir Braichenko, was thrown for a moment, then pushed Dziuba away from the microphone. Dziuba came close to falling, but steadied himself and continued naming those arrested.”

Witnesses say that the viewing which had at first seemed the apotheosis of official Soviet culture, became uncontrollable after Dziuba’s address. His protest was joined by Viacheslav Chornovil and Vasyl Stus. Oles Serhiyenko mentions that Serhiy Paradzhanov himself supported the action.

According to the writer Ivan Drach, who arrived at the event late, the cinema was surrounded by KGB men as if the place had been seized by terrorists.
It was then that the movement of civic and cultural resistance to the Soviet system began developing into a political movement
The reaction of the authorities was swift: Ivan Dziuba and Viacheslav Chornovil lost their jobs, Yury Badzio and Mykhailyna Kotsyubynska were thrown out of the Communist Party and Vasyl Stus was expelled from his PhD course.

Many of those who took part in the events, including Vasyl Stus and Viacheslav Chornovil were later imprisoned for anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda. Vasyl Stus died on 4 September 1985 in the Perm special (most severe) regime political labour camp.

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