Push and hold

Punished for … Poetry (The History of a Diary)

While continuing my work (now at a new level) on deep studying of the available materials in the archives of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine, which received the status of the Sectoral State Archives, I got my hands on a 1934 case entitled “Readers”.

The case has just been declassified, and this allows for the first time to tell about it publicly. True, it has nothing to do with the Intelligence Service. Except that some documents mention the intentions of the person involved to cross the border and stay abroad for permanent residence. The case was opened and investigated by the Special Department of the regional NKVD of the  Ukrainian SSR on the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. It is of no operational value. But its value is great in a different aspect, and thank goodness, it has survived to this day and has allowed to look into the innermost depths of the soul of an ordinary village teacher,  student of the Literary Department of Kharkiv Institute of Professional Education Oleksiy Nalyvayko. And his soul at the pages of his personal diary was crying about the Holodomor(extermination by hunger).

Only a few diaries have survived – living revelations of the terrible Holodomor in Ukraine in 1932-1933. A few years ago we published the diary of  Zavoloka Dmitro, the Chief of the Department of Culture and Propaganda of the  Party Committee of Leninskiy District of Kyiv, found in a criminal case in the SZRU’s Sectoral State Archive. Last year, the Security Service of Ukraine published diaries of a village teacher from Kharkiv region Oleksandra Radchenko, sentenced for the honest notes on the artificially created famine in Ukraine. It should be born in mind that in those terrible years, people were afraid not just to write about their thoughts and feelings, but they dreaded voicing some inappropriate thoughts. Therefore, those yellowed painful sheets of human misery and suffering are of such great value for  us today.

Oleksiy Yakovych Nalyvayko was born in 1909 in the village Omelnyk, Kremenchuh district, Poltava region. The family lived very poorly,  with only 2.75 acres of land to feed the adults and three children. When Oleksiy  was 17, his mother died. His father married again, but the kids did not want to live with him and went to relatives in Kremenchuh. Before entering the Literary Faculty of the Institute, Oleksiy had changed several jobs, but did not show any interest in what he was doing. He plunged headlong  into studies.  Especially seriously he began to think about  the meaning of life, his fate, the fate of Ukraine after he had read of the so-called counterrevolutionary anti-Soviet literature from Professor Sumtsov’s collection of books to which he accidentally gained access. Among them there was “History of the Ukrainian Literature” by  Yefremov, “ Ukrainian Literature Reader” by Sumtsov, “History of Malorosia’s  Literature” by Petrov,  Khvylovy and other banned authors’ books. It was then that Oleksiy Nalyvayko began to keep a diary in which he wrote his thoughts about the read, heard and seen. But he managed to finish only three years of studies. In 1932, scholarships began to be paid not regularly, and he had nothing to live on. Malnutrition, disease and hunger killed his  father, and he could not help it. Hunger was coming up closer to the city and to the village. At some point he decided to go to work somewhere far away, where the pale with the scythe had not raised her bony hand yet. He chose Moldova. He thought to himself: the border is near – by there, he might somehow be able to cross it to the other side, where the life was completely different. But the Institute did not let him go. He  had to forge documents and illegally leave studies. On the way to the chosen place he visited his native village and was terrified. There was desolation everywhere, many former friends were in the cemetery, there was despair in the eyes of the villagers.

From O.Nalyvayko’s Diary of 1933

April 20

As a result of the economic devastation that occurred from the effects of Bolshevism’s activity, there have grown and become a mass phenomenon begging, theft, suicide …

I would like to move abroad, but I also eager to finish the higher educational institution in the specialty literature and language. Then, of course, I will emigrate (illegally) abroad. I would like to be in a really free country (free owning manufacturing facilities, free purchase, free sale, rent …) – in America or in Western Ukraine …

April 28

Once again, I want to point out that as the result of Bolsheviks’ revolutionary activities,  already for fifteen years, the peasantry, as the bulk of the Ukrainian population, has become completely poor. To be exact, it has been completely destroyed and plundered. It has no opportunity to express its demands. As they say, shut up and breathe. Or as children say at school, speaking is now prohibited. Everything is sleeping, covered with a sad veil of fog. People  groan but keep silence. And who is not silent, is beaten and not allowed to cry. They are destroying peasantry as class. Perfect fools. He was lucky in Moldavia. Found work as a teacher of the Ukrainian language and literature in a village of Balta district. Later he met and married a beautiful girl. But like in many other homes, there was no joy in their’s either.  The half-starved existence weighed heavy burden on the chest and despair was tearing heart. Thin pale faces of their students in the classroom and their sad eyes were harassing the brain, day or night. Letters from his sister Klaudia from Kharkiv only added to despair telling about grave consequences of hungry existence in the city and surrounding villages. One night he had a nightmare which brought the feeling of  terror and unpleasant cold.

July 18

My dreams last night were strange.  Somehow I got to where the sentenced to death are shot. A large square. They, sentenced to death, – true Ukrainian people – are standing in  rows. The executioners  are pushing some  panels to them, pressing them to other people  like them, and at the same time transpiercing them with something  sharp …

Before my eyes there are two strongly built men,  like Karmeluk, prototypes of him- persons under sentence of  death … they are going to death laughing, having got drunk to make it easier to accept … One of them offers me his clothes. At first I refused, but then took it. At this point I woke up …

His creative sensitive nature was looking for a way out but could not find any. His friends – writers- beginners, with whom  in Kharkiv he used to discuss any questions, and who in  the vast majority were like-minded, were away. Oleksiy still was afraid to share his painful thoughts with anybody in the new place of living.  He trusted his most inner thoughts only to clean sheets of paper. Sometimes his thoughts turned into poetic lines. Most of them were still “raw” and imperfect, but the main thing was that they proceeded from the heart and even to some extent allowed to fulfill his inner self.

July 26

Today I have written  this poem:

x x x
Whose is that boy, stripped naked,
That tortured by hunger has fallen?
He died – say people – poor thing,
He asked people for food.
Who is now being taken to the cemetery,
That no one cries?
Which father’s  son has died?
Whose is that Cossack’s body?
Here is the new cemetery.
So many new graves have been added  …
They say the whole Kovbytsya
Last spring has come here.
Whose yards (of half of the village)
Have long overgrown weeds?
The houses, still new, stand empty,
Without window panes.

What people were born here?
Where and why have they gone for good? 

The death alone rules about here
In the evenings…
It chatters  with owls,
Keeps calling and singing…

Who is being so heavily
Punished by Fate?
Ruins, poverty, starvation
To death…
Whose is all this, whose is it?
It is yours, my Ukrainian people,
Do you hear me?! It is yours…

August 2

I  sat down and wrote this poem:

x x x

Mummy! Wake up,
The Cheka (KGB)has arrived in the village,
They will take away all the grain
From our pantry …
Dear Mum! It’s time to get up.
The team is approaching our house.
They have already taken away everything from the neighbours,
They are said to have been beating,
Cursing and threatening
To send the neighbours  to Siberia.
Mummy, it’s time to get up.
The team is coming up to our  house.
Here they are near our house,
We will, Mom, sincerely ask them,
though probably it is useless to say a word.
They’ve  been ordered to  take away everything.
Mummy, dear! It’s time to get up.
The team is entering  the house.
dearest, they will now take away,
Say at least a word to them.
Otherwise we all will die of hunger in spring.
Let them leave some grains at least for the little ones.

Mummy! It’s time to wake up.
The team is already in the house.
The mother is silent and cold.
Poor child! The mother has passed.
She is already resting in a coffin,
And her daughter is now alone in the world.
Day and night the little one
Hopes her mum will  wake up from sleep.

In search for  information on the real situation in the country,  Oleksiy  read and reread all the newspapers that came to the village, but did not find answers to the questions that troubled him. At the same time,  propaganda articles about how poorly people lived in other countries and how great was life in the  Soviet country, irritated him more and more.

July 10

I have read the newspaper “Pravda” … In fact, it should be called not “Pravda”(”The Truth”) but  “Brekhnya”(”A Lie”).

In the issue 185/5711 of 7 July there was the following article: “Hunger and poverty in Fascist Germany”.  In it blindly, in general, not seeing anything under their own nose, they criticize everything there, rambling on problems there – hunger, workers’ poverty … What a dishonesty, what a lie?!

Indeed, in  the Bolshevik Soviet Union, there is a lot of  “loud” words and promises, but very little bread. Mass deaths of entire families from starvation, destruction of the economy, growing discontent of the masses.

Bolshevik leaders can’t help  seeing  this, but they are “humming to sleep”,  calling to survive hardships…

The unheard  Bolshevik reaction is ruling everywhere. The unhappy majority of the  population that is starving, is being ruthlessly crushed. Whoever drops a word or cuts a sheaf of grain, is brought to court  as counterrevolutionary. And is severely punished: confiscation of property, exile into far away areas. If he/she is not swollen, he/she is destined to die of  starvation. Scary, incredible …

I am deeply convinced that Bolshevism should  be destroyed …

Abroad … I  will either get there, or will be killed on the border … It can’t be otherwise. And from there to join the struggle against Bolshevism.

September 3

In the out and out Bolshevik newspaper “Communist”, issue 212 of  August 28, I have read the Bolshevik article “The Vultures’ Congress”. It tells in brutal words through the distorting mirror about the Ukrainian national liberation movement abroad. They disgrace Skoropadskyi,  Ostryanytsya, Mazepa,  Fedenko, Dontsov and their glorious idea and UVO and SVU …

They blame  them for  the famine in Ukraine in 1918.

It makes me so angry that the entire Bolshevik press, like evil beasts, criticizes everybody,  all the ways are shameful, only the  Bolshevik’s way  is  supposedly the right one…

Were those not Bolsheviks that had led to famine this spring, was it not  because of them that 50% of Ukrainian peasantry died?

Of course, only those can write such things, who are trading their homeland, faithful dogs of Bolshevism, who through robbery and destruction have really brought our rich in agricultural production country to famine …

Eventually Nalyvayko began to share his thoughts with colleagues, new acquaintances. He could not keep it all for himself. And then he told somebody that he  was keeping  a diary. He even read extracts from it. Since then the countdown began to that terrible moment, feared by everybody and secretly expected by almost each person. The ramped up flywheel of the repressive punitive machine acted clearly and coherently, capturing into its mill-stones more and more victims. It took out even to small villages like the one in which Oleksiy was teaching. In October 1934 he was arrested on charges of forgery and intentions  to illegally cross the border to participate in anti-Soviet activities. During the search they confiscated the diaries, making it possible to add new items to the charges: “being a national-fascist, he was spreading the idea of ​​national separation of Ukraine from the Soviet Union, for this purpose using both, the books of  counter-revolutionary content, withdrawn from circulation, and his notes in the diary; was a member of counter-revolutionary organizations, that existed at the Kharkiv Institute of Professional Training, from where he fled, avoiding the repressions for his  counterrevolutionary work”.  During  interrogations,  Nalyvayko admitted  that he forged documents, as he wanted to  go to work, but the Institute did not let him. He did not deny his intention to move abroad. But he categorically denied the accusations of spreading ideas of nationalism by familiarizing others with the contents of the diary. He did not admit his belonging to any counterrevolutionary organization. Perhaps that helped him to avoid a more serious punishment. Anyway the sentence for a rural teacher was shocking – 10 years of camps. The archive file contains  no information about  Oleksiy Nalyvayko’s further fate.. Who knows, what his fate would have been,  had he not been  arrested and imprisoned. Perhaps he would have become a poet, a writer, a good teacher. On the way of his dreams and aspirations there stood the terrible in its  real incarnation Holodomor, and even more – the existing anti-people regime. Which brutally strangled even … for poetry.


Oleksandr Skrypnyk
“Literaturna Ukraina”(”Literary Ukraine”)

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