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YURIY SHAPOVAL:

KYRYLO OSMAK ó HIS LIFE AND DESTINY

(SUMMARY)

This is probably the first detailed biography of the president of the UHVR, Kyrylo Osmak, to be based on the rich materials found in the archives. The author used not only underground documents, but primarily Soviet documentation, including documents from the time of tsarist Russia.

Kyrylo Osmak was born on April 27 (May 9), 1890, in the village of Shyshaky, Myrhorod county, Poltava province. His parents were Ivan Yukhymovych Osmak (1849-1930), an immigrant from Kursk province, and Tetiana, nee Vlasenko, a descendant of a Kozak family. They had 10 sons and one daughter, the youngest. Five children died of typhoid and one was killed in the war. The father worked first as a bookkeeper, then as a farmer and innkeeper. The parents made an effort to give their children a better education. After completing high school in Myrhorod and Poltava, Kyrylo studied at the Agricultural Institute in Moscow from 1910-1916. On January 11, 1916 he married Maria Vasylivna Yurkevych, a student of Bestuzhevís courses in Petrograd. From December 1916, he worked in the military supply section of the Ministry of Agriculture.

In 1917, the young couple moved to Kyiv. Kyrylo began to work for the provincial administration. He was elected as the administrationís representative to the Central Rada, supporting the Ukrainian Party of Socialist Revolutionaries (UPSR). From July 1917, he served as director of the Agricultural Literature Publication Section in the General Secretariat (later Ministry) of Agriculture. With the arrival of Denikin and under Soviet rule, he worked until 1923 in the Central Agricultural Co-operative Union, as director of the Village Construction and Publications sections. In April 1922, he was named head of the Terminological Office of the Agricultural Scholarly Committee of Ukraine, which was preparing for the publication of a dictionary of agricultural terminology. In early 1925, the All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences (VUAN) invited him to the Institute of Ukrainian Scholarly Language as the editor of the dictionary of agricultural terminology. The preparation of this dictionary became his main occ upation. His card index had over 40,000 terms.

Kyrylo Osmakís scholarly work was interrupted by his arrest on March 6, 1928. The GPU investigators accused him of participation in "counterrevolutionary organizations", "sabotage" and other "crimes" against the Soviet regime. This was the beginning of the mass terror and destruction of the Ukrainian intelligentsia. Osmak wrote protests against these absurd accusations. However, he was accused of being part of the "Trust" spy network and on September 28, 1928, the OGPU collegium sentenced him to police surveillance and banned him from living in six large cities, including Kyiv and Kharkiv. He settled in Kursk to be closer to Kyiv and continue work on the dictionary. However, at this time, the GPU was fabricating the "SVU affair", "counterrevolutions" in the Institutional Association of Worker Activists (INARAK) and other provocations for the persecution of the Ukrainian intelligentsia. Osmak was again arrested and on March 2, 1930, was taken to Moscow. On March 23, he was sentenced to three years in a concentration camp for "counterrevolutionary activity" in INARAK. He served his sentence in the "Sevlage" camp in the far north (the prisoners were building the Piniuk-Syktyvkar railroad), where, as an agronomist, he built greenhouses for growing vegetables. Eventually he became chief engineer in the administration of the camps in the "Ust-Vym" area of the Komi ARSR. In late 1931, his punishment was reduced from imprisonment to deportation. He became director of a suburban farm in Syktyvkar in the Komi ARSR. In summer 1932, his wife joined him with their children - Lialia, Oleh and adopted daughter Valentyna. Released from deportation, he moved at the end of 1934 to the Moscow oblast, where until summer 1936 he was director of a state fruit orchard in Solnechnogorsk, then briefly, of a state grain farm in Zaraisk. After being let go from this job, he moved to the village of Katino, Gorlovsk raion, Riazan oblast, where he worked as an agronomist on a collective farm. On January 29, 1938, he was a rrested again. A new wave of mass terror, the "Yezhov terror", had begun in the USSR. During these years, Osmak experienced two personal tragedies. On September 20, 1936, his son, Oleh, a university student, died of typhoid. The sonís death and relentless persecution by the GPU caused his wife, Maria, to have a nervous breakdown which ended in her suicide. On November 11, 1938, she jumped under a train in Delikhovo, Gorlovsk raion, Riazan oblast. Osmak was accused of agitation against the Soviet government and participation in planning an attempt on Stalinís life. He wrote protests against the accusations and on February 22, 1940, he was freed.

At the urging of his daughters, Osmak moved to Ukraine, worked briefly in the Chernihiv oblast and in January 1941 moved to Kyiv, where he worked as a planner for a sugar beet producersí association. In Kyiv, he married Liudmyla Bohdashevska, a meteorologist. In December, 1941, they had a daughter, Natalka. During the German occupation, Osmak headed the All-Ukrainian Union of Agricultural Co-operation. Subsequently, he became a member of the Ukrainian National Council, chaired by Mykola Velychkivskyi. However, the Germans banned the Council. Their brutal policy, arrests and executions caused Ukrainian patriots to resist. As of the summer of 1942, Osmak collaborated with the OUN Banderite fraction underground (contact with "Volodymyr" - M. Prokop). At this time, he wrote several leaflets and articles against the Germans, against the Soviets and on Ukrainian topics, for example, "The Crimes of the German Invaders in Ukraine", "Ukraine - a Colony of Moscow", "Unity - the Nationís Strength", "Let Us R ely on Our Own Powers" and others. In September 1943, he moved with his family to Halychyna, where he continued to collaborate with the underground. He joined in the work of the Initiative Committee for the establishment of the UHVR and wrote drafts of the "Platform" and the "General Proclamation." In July 1944, he participated in the First General Assembly, the founding convention of the UHVR, during which he was elected UHVR president. However, his presidency was short-lived, because on September 13, 1944, he was arrested in the Drohobych oblast.

The author reveals for the first time the complex investigation and Osmakís prison experiences. The investigation lasted four years and Osmak remained in prison for the rest of his life, until May 16, 1960. For almost three years he did not reveal to the investigators his real name and role in the underground, but used the name Ivan Pylypovych Koval. Only in August 1947 did he use his real name and title, Kyrylo Osmak, president of the UHVR. The MVD investigators suspected from the start that he was concealing his real identity and they cross-checked testimony and subjected him to beatings and other tortures. Osmakís declaration, dated August 20, of a hunger strike until the tortures were stopped, his trial date was established and he was given treatment in a hospital has been preserved. During the investigation, he maintained his dignity and openly defended the UHVR and the Ukrainian struggle for an independent state. He did not say anything that incriminated others. The investigation dragged on for yet another year and only on August 14, 1948, was he read the sentence of the special council of the USSR MGB dated July 10, 1948: 25 yearsí imprisonment. In prison, he was kept in isolation and was pressured to recant and help in the battle against nationalism. Osmak decidedly rejected such proposals, declaring that he would "rather face death than agree to take part in such actions." Things continued this way even after the death of Stalin, when many political prisoners were "rehabilitated." The author describes in detail Osmakís tragic duel with the Soviet system and his steadfastness to the last moment of his life.


Issue 2,    Spring 2000    ęLitopysĽ
© Published by ęForum for the Studies of the History of the UPAĽ
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