Oleksandra Radchenko – Oppressed for her Memory Under Communist rule, Ukraine’s historical past is similar to other post
-communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Unlike other former eastern block countries, totalitarian rule arri ed in Ukraine much earlier not follo!in" #orld #ar $, but se eral decades earlier in the %&$'s. (he most horrible crimes of the communist re"ime - mass murders, deportations, )olodomor - !ere committed prior to #orld #ar $. Ukraine became a *laboratory+ for the communist re"ime, refinin" the methods of oppressin" opponents and the tools of a totalitarian system, !hich !ere later used in other countries *liberated+ by the Red -rmy from .a/i occupation . -fter the fall of the Ukrainian .ational Republic in %&$%, communist rule came to Ukraine as a result of the 0olshe ik Red -rmy occupyin" most of the territory of Ukraine. -mon" the communist acti ists there !ere many Ukrainians, but the formation of the re"ime !as possible only after the 0olshe ik army con1uered Ukraine !ith support from Mosco!. 0ecause of massi e anti-communist resistance, numerous armed rebellions lasted until the end of the %&$'2s. 3n order to control the territory, communists had to compromise !ith the Ukrainian national mo ement. (hey be"an a policy of *Ukrainiani/ation+ – the Ukrainian lan"ua"e became official in "o ernment institutions, and Ukrainian theaters and uni ersities !ere opened. (hese fa orable conditions resulted in a renaissance of the Ukrainian culture "i in" rise to a ne! "eneration of poets, !riters, artists, and cinema and theater directors. ne! economic policy, announced by the communists, allo!ed peasants to be land o!ners and up"rade their farms. (en years follo!in" the communist take-o er, a famine !ould en"ulf the countryside, and the reborn *intelli"entsia+ !ould become part of the *E4ecuted Renaissance+. (he 0olshe iks understood that the cultural and economic concessions for the rebellious Ukrainians could only be temporary, and in the late %&$'2s, after the final consolidation of 5talin’s rule, a ma6or offensi e !as initiated a"ainst e erythin" Ukrainian. (his attack !as called the *5o iet "enocide of Ukrainians+ by the !orld-reno!ned la!yer, and author of the term *"enocide+, Raphael 7emkin . (he "enocide included repressions 8i.e., e4ecutions and imprisonment9 of the intelli"entsia, and the li1uidation of the Ukrainian Orthodo4 Church. :urthermore, the "enocide led to mass deaths of Ukrainian peasants – !ho constituted the main source of national identity. (he artificial famine brou"ht about durin" %&;$-%&;; took the li es of millions of people 8estimates ran"e from < to = million9. (his heinous crime became kno!n as the )olodomor 8from Ukrainian !ords holod 8hun"er9 and mor 8death9 or *>eath by )un"er+ 9!hich is not only a part of Ukrainian history, but !orld history as !ell. >urin" the early %&;'2s, the collecti i/ation of Ukrainian illa"es !as o er, and its residents !ere forcibly dri en onto collecti e farms. -s a result of this policy, the farmers and peasants became totally dependent on "o ernment subsidies. Usin" mass deportations and repression, the communists !ere able to eliminate !ealthy and independent lando!ners in the illa"es – the *kulaks+, !ho could form the basis of a national mo ement. 0ut e en after this repressi e period, local anti-so iet rebellions continued. (o destroy the resistance mo ement definiti ely the "o ernment decided to punish uncooperati e peasants !ith hun"er and star ation. :irst, the "o ernment established unreasonably hi"h 1uotas of "rain procurement. (he anticipated failure !as declared as sabota"e and resistance to the "o ernment. -fter that, forced re1uisitions be"an, and special bri"ades !ere sent off to the illa"es. (hey confiscated all the "rain that !as found. (he "o ernment iolently punished anyone !ho tried to hide "rain, !hich !as declared "o ernment property. 3n -u"ust %&;$, a special la! !as adopted that became kno!n as *(he la! of fi e ears of !heat+. ?iolators of this la! !ere punished !ith imprisonment or e en e4ecution for so called *plunderin" of socialist property+. 3n reality it !as an attempt to pre ent people from keepin" for themsel es e en enou"h "rain for a meal, or to find scraps of "rain after the crops !ere har ested. -n alternati e method for star in" the peasants !as the establishment of so called *natural fines+, peasants !ho did not meet the e4pected 1uota of "rain deli ery had all their food confiscated. Responsibility for *sabota"e+ !as also laid on !hole illa"es, that !ere re"istered on so called *black lists+. 5uch illa"es !ere completely isolated from the outside !orld and deli eries of any "oods
or pro isions !ere stopped. Ultimately, the entire territory of Ukraine became a *"hetto of hun"er+, its borders !ere surrounded by an army, that did not allo! hun"ry people to escape.
8@hoto-armed "uard near a "rain stora"e facility, illa"e ?ilshany of Aharki re"ion9 >epri ed of any food and the possibility to lea e the re"ion impacted by the famine, millions of people died, includin" !hole illa"es. (he dead peasants !ere 6ust buried in lar"e pits near their illa"es, because there !ere too many dead to be buried in "ra es, one at a time. 5ometimes e en li e people !ere buried, because those !ho "athered the bodies !ere so !eak that they could not come back to the same place t!ice.
8@hoto -5ite of a mass "ra e for those !ho star ed durin" the )olodomor in the Aharki re"ion. @hoto is from the collection of Cardinal (heodor 3nnit/ir9. (his tra"ic death of millions of Ukrainians, !as hidden from the !orld. 3t !as prohibited to talk about the famine in Ukraine. Censored ne!spapers !rote about the "reat successes of the 5o iet "o ernment, and any ne!s
re"ardin" the famine !as interpreted as anti-"o ernment propa"anda and !as se erely punished. 5ome of the famine ictims !ere certain that the famine !as the result of criminal acti ity by local authorities, and all they needed to do !as inform the central "o ernment in order to stop these crimes. @eople !rote letters to 5talin, in order to *open their leader2s eyes+ re"ardin" the horror2s of the famine. (he communist "o ernment listened to such letter !riters attenti ely and thenB arrested them. .e ertheless, sur i ors of the )olodomor tried to preser e their memories and pass them do!n to their descendants. Mykola 0okan from the Chernihi re"ion took photo"raphs of his family in those horrible years.
8@hoto-0okan family, ;'' days !ithout any bread, -pril $ %&;;9 8@hoto- Mykola 0okan !ith his children durin" a funeral for his son Aostya, !ho died from hun"er on Culy %' %&;;9. 5ome time later, these photo"raphs !ere used as e idence in the criminal case a"ainst him. -s a result, he !as con icted to D years of imprisonment. 0ut Mykola 0okan ne er came back from the EU7-E concentration camps and died in a distant forei"n land. Oleksandra Radchenko !as a !itness to the )olodomor, !ho !orked as a teacher in the Aharki re"ion at that time. 8@hoto -Oleksandra Radchenko, teacher9. 5he !as "i en a "o ernment food ration, and it helped her and her family to sur i e from star ation. )o!e er, the *ration+ that she recei ed from the state couldn’t isolate her from the surroundin" terror. 3t !as hard to be isolated, because as a teacher, she had to look into her student2s hun"ry eyes, and sa! the number of her students
decreasin" constantly. 5he kne! that any attempt to spread information about the situation in Ukraine, !ould result in her imprisonment, and death for her o!n children, !ho !ould be left to fend for themsel es. Oleksandra Radchenko understood !hat risks she took by entrustin" the truth of !hat she sa! to her diary, and !hat a!aited her in case her diary !as disco ered. 0ut she could not refrain from !ritin" in her diary, 8@hoto– a pa"e from the diary of Oleksandra Radchenko9 *(uesday, -pril F, %&;$. )un"er, an artificial famine, is takin" on a monstrous character. #hy are they takin" the last "rain of bread....no one understands !hy, and they continue to take e erythin" do!n to the last kernel, seein" full !ell !hat the results are. (he children are tortured by star ation, and !orms from eatin" ra! beets, !hich !ill not last them throu"h to the ne4t har est in four months. #hat !ill happen thenGG+ *#ednesday, -pril H, %&;$. 5ometimes 3 am sei/ed by uncontrollable an"er and feel ill. 3 read about *so iet speed+ 8reported in the communist ne!spaper *@ra da+9, about the openin" of the first blast furnace in Europe, about the completion of the dam in *>niprostroy+ and much more. (his is all "ood, but !hat "ood is this speed compared to the children and men, s!ollen due to hun"er and star ation . (he hun"er be"ins to fly into a ra"e and brin"s !ith it all our troubles, anythin" that you can ima"ine. Crime de elops !ith special speedB (hou"hts about the s!ollen, star in" children torture me and the ra"e is "ro!in"B+ *(hursday, Cune $, %&;$. 3t’s difficult to sur i e and "ettin" desperately harder. 3t is an unusual time, ne er before seen in history. E eryone is sufferin" because of malnutrition or star ation and a destitute e4istence Moreo er, the impersonality is terrible and depressin".+ *5unday, .o ember $', %&;$. (he old man, !ho !orked in the rabbit hutch, !as *robbed by the authorities+, as he said. (his means that e erythin" like "rain and e"etables !ere taken a!ay from him. )e has been dispossessed for t!o years, almost a be""ar, e4cept that he does not be". )e is =' years old, his !ife is HF and their disabled dau"hter li es !ith them. -nd no!, miserable, !hat little they had that could ha e lasted them until :ebruary, !as taken a!ay.+ *Monday, Canuary &, %&;;. (he horrors of the hun"er are spreadin" in Aharki . Children are bein" kidnapped and sausa"e made from human meat is bein" sold. )ealthier adults are bein" tricked and kidnapped by indi iduals supposedly sellin" shoes. (his !as reported in ne!spapers, askin" people to be calm, because measures are bein" takenB but children are still disappearin".+
8@hoto-?ictim of hun"er. Aharki re"ion, %&;;. @hoto from the collection of Cardinal (heodor 3nnit/ir.9 *(hursday, March $;, %&;;. On this day 3 sa! an incredible amount of human sufferin". 3 returned home !ith burdensome impressions. On the !ay to the illa"e of Iaro/hne, in the field close to the road, !e sa! an old man, !ho !as thin, clothes tattered, and !ithout boots. @erhaps he fell do!n emaciated and e4hausted, and then fro/e to death, or 6ust died and fell....and someone took his boots. #hen !e returned from the illa"e !e sa! him a"ain. .o one needed himB+ *>epartin" from 0aku, !e cau"ht up to a se en year old boy. My companion called out to him. )o!e er, the boy continued !alkin" unsteadily, and it appeared that he did not hear us. #hen the horse cau"ht up to him, 3 cried out, and the boy turned un!illin"ly a!ay from the road. 3 !as dra!n to look into his face. (he e4pression on his face made a horrible, terrible and unfor"ettable impression on me. @robably such an e4pression in the eyes occurs in people, !hen they kno! that they are approachin" death. Jet, they don’t !ant to die. 0ut this !as a childK 3 couldn’t stand my ner es, *#hat forG #hy childrenG+ 3 cried silently, so that my companion !ould not see. (he thou"ht that 3 can’t do anythin", that millions of children are dyin" because of hun"er, the ine itable horror, led me to the despairB+ *5e eral days earlier a stableman came o er– his face and arms !ere all s!ollen. )e says that his le"s are hea y, and he is ready to die. *3t is a pity for the children – he says. – (hey don’t understand anythin" – they are not "uilty.+ Oleksandra Radchenko and her three dau"hters, the youn"est of !hich !as born in %&;%, sur i ed the )olodomor. 7uckily, they !ere not impacted by the !a e of repressions of the Ereat (error in %&;=-%&;D. )o!e er, more misfortune !as still to befall them. 3n %&<', the Radchenko family mo ed to the 0uko yna re"ion !hich had been anne4ed recently by the 5o iet Union. 3n the summer of %&<%, they !ere cau"ht up in the be"innin" of the Eerman-5o iet !ar. Ole4andra and her husband, ?asyl, !ere arrested by the Romanian military, !hich, as the allies of the (hird Reich, occupied this Ukrainian territory. (hey !ere in the prison camps to"ether for a fe! !eeks, until they !ere liberated by her husband’s collea"ues - forestry en"ineers. -fter "ettin" out of prison, ?asyl Radchenko continued to !ork as a forester.
3n the first days after the chan"e of po!er many local people, includin" Oleksandra Radchenko, belie ed in the *Eerman liberation from the communists+. (hat’s !hy she told a Eerman official, !ho had !orked as a correspondent back home, about her diaries,. )e proposed publishin" them. Eerman propa"anda routinely used information about communist crimes 8this !as the case !ith information about the mass e4ecution of prisoners in the summer of %&<%, and about the disco ery of buried @olish officers in Aatyn9. 0ut the diary about the )olodomor !as not published in the press by the ne! re"ime. 5oon Radchenko understood, that this ne! re"ime !as no better than the pre ious one. (hat’s !hy in her notes from %&<% and %&<$ she !rote about the crimes of the .a/i re"ime. 3n %&<; a cruel occupation policy directly touched her family– her se enteen year old dau"hter Elida !as forcibly taken to !ork in Eermany. (he return of 5o iet po!er to Ukraine in %&<< resulted in another loss for the Radchenko family. ?asyl, Oleksandra2s husband, !as taken to the front in a penal battalion, because he had*ser ed under the Eermans as a forester+. 3n %&<F the !ar !as o er. @rior to that Elida returned home from Eermany. 3n -u"ust ?asyl Radchenko returned, ha in" been a!arded !ith the *Medal for 0attle Merit+. (he Radchenko family !as finally to"ether a"ain. 8@hoto– - happy Radchenko family, Oleksandra !ith her husband and dau"hter, %&<F9 3n that happy moment, the totalitarian re"ime inter ened in their lifes a"ain. On Culy =th, %&<F, the in esti"ator of the Aamyanets-@odilsk re"ional office of the .A?>, si"ned a !arrant for the arrest of Oleksandra Radchenko. >urin" the search of her apartment they found = of her diary notebooks co erin" the period %&$H%&<;. (he diaries became the primary e idence in the indictment of Radchenko in *anti-5o iet propa"anda and a"itation+. )er dau"hter Elida remembers that tra"ic moment in her family history, *Mother ne er hid her diaries. (hey found the bo4, !here the diary notebooks lay. 3 !as able to hide F-H other notebooks under a pillo!. #hen mother !as arrested !e started readin" them, and disco ered so many horrors !ritten about the )olodomor, that !e decided that the !hole family !ould be e4ecuted and so !e burned themB+. 0ut the information found in the notebooks sei/ed by the .A?>, !as enou"h to con ict the teacher. (he in esti"ation lasted almost half a year. Oleksandra immediately admitted that she !as the author of the diaries. 0ut that !as not enou"h. (he in esti"ator tried to force her to admit that the notes !ere lies, that they !ere !ritten to discredit the 5o iet re"ime. *(he in esti"ation !as deeply preconcei ed. – she !rote some time later in her complaint to the prosecutor. – 3 !as threatened !ith a lon", dra!n out in esti"ation unless 3 si"ned a confession, !here it !as already !ritten that in the early %&;'s 3 !as keepin" a diary !ith counter-re olutionary contents. My impressions of prison, fear and poor health !ere the reasons !hy 3 si"ned the confession.+ Once the in esti"ation !as finished, the case !ent to trial court in @roskuri , on the %<th of >ecember, %&<F. 3n her remarks before the court, Oleksandra Radchenko practically denied the e idence recorded in the case, by tellin" the 6ud"es , *(he main aim of my !ritin"s- !as to de ote them to my children. 3 !rote, because after $' years the children !on’t belie e !hat iolent methods !ere used to build socialism. (he Ukrainian people suffered horrors durin" %&;'-%&;;B+ 8@hoto-(he co er of the prosecution case of Oleksandra Radchenko from the archi e of 55U+9 Of course the 6ud"es didn’t listen to her, that’s !hy in the accusation it !as !ritten that Oleksandra Radchenko *!as hostile to the 5o iet re"ime durin" %&;'-%&;;, and !rote a diary !ith counter-re olutionary contents, !hich condemned the actions of the Communist party for or"ani/in" collecti e farms in U55R and described the difficult li in" conditions of the !orkin" people+. >espite the absurdity of the accusation, punishment !as ery real and cruel– %' years in a EU7-E concentration camp. Once in the camp, the former teacher continued to fi"ht for her o!n release, !ritin" complaints and protests, ho!e er it did not chan"e her destiny.
Oleksandra Radchenko returned to Ukraine in -u"ust of %&FF after completin" the !hole term of her imprisonment. -s a result of her poor health, she li ed as a free person for only ten more years . 8@hoto– Oleksandra Radchenko after returnin" from e4ile, %&FF9 5e eral !eeks prior to the breakup and collapse of the 5o iet re"ime in %&&%, Radchenko !as posthumously rehabilitated. (he 5o iets admitted that she !as imprisoned un6ustly. )er diaries 8unfortunately not the complete set – three notebooks !ere burned durin" in esti"ation, because they *did not ha e useful information+9 !ere stored in the AE0 archi es, and no one kne! of their e4istence. Upon the collapse of the 5o iet Union, the 5ecret 5er ice of Ukraine 855U9 inherited these archi es !hich contained the remainin" Radchenko diaries. 3t !as not until $''%, that the archi ed documents, includin" the diaries !hich described the )olodomor atrocities !ere disco ered. *Cust by chance, 3 heard on the radio that it !as possible to re ie! the archi al documents of Oleksandra Radchenko, - remembers her dau"hter Elida, - that !ere kept by the 5ecret 5er ice of Ukraine. 3 !as touched and started cryin". Mother2s time in prison !as not in ain, and her !ork did not disappear. 5he !rote the truthB+. 3n $''=, fra"ments from the diary !ere published in the book *>eclassified Memory+. (oday, this book is an important historical source for in esti"atin" the e ents of the %&;'s in Ukraine. (he sincere !ords of a carin" teacher, the Radchenko diary, ruin the 5o iet re"ime’s propa"anda myths about a *happy 5o iet life+ and describe the horrible truth about the e ents in Ukraine durin" %&;$-%&;;. 3n the end, Oleksandra Radchenko accomplished her mission, she kept and handed o er for her descendants the memory about the tra"edy of the )olodomor.
8@hoto – E ery fourth 5aturday in .o ember, Ukrainians around the !orld li"ht candles in memory of the millions !ho died durin" the )olodomor9. ?olodymyr ?iatro ych, .ational Uni ersity *Ayi -Mohyla -cademy+, Center for Research on the 7iberation
Mo ement. !!!.C>?R.or".ua (ranslated by (oshu (rinity and friends. (oshu(rinityL"mail.com