These days we can celebrate Christmas without any condition. But in the 1970s people could lose their freedom or sometimes life for such an innocent event.
When I was a teenager I wrote a small poem that dedicated to national politician Vyacheslav Chornovil. At that time I used to live in a village and had mostly one connection with the wide world – the radio from Kyiv. The radio that provided Ukrainian music, told about Ukrainian patriots, and history.
Thus when my friend asked if there is a place I would like to visit in Kyiv. My answer was: the Museum of Ukrainian Sixtiers. The Sixtiers was а new generation of the Soviet Intelligence whose the main idea was turn the USSR to real democracy.
The 1960-s was a time of inspiration. The Dictator Stalin has gone and the people, especially the youth, waited for changes. All students of Shevchenko University wrote poems and read progressive literature. In the late 1980s people used to stay in line for sausages. But in the 1960s progressive Kyiv citizens stayed in a 100-meter line for Polish magazines. Even during a hot summer or a snowing winter. So huge was their desire to get information from abroad.
Many political prisoners came back to Kyiv: writers, artists, priests… They told a terrible truth about the inhuman regime in Soviet concentration camps. As well people started to return to their roots. Activist Mukola Plachotnuk organized a bus and took youth to his village in the Kyiv region.
The people in the village sang fantastically. Various voices – men and women – united into a wonderful choir. In such way, the youth opened the village’s life as a treasury of Ukrainian culture. Late Mukola Plachotnuk was sent to a mental hospital for such an innocent act. The mental hospital was one of the cruellest methods of fighting against dissidents in USSR.
But people could not keep silence. In Kyiv, there were some intelligent families that gathered progressive people in their houses. Unofficially they were called free academies. Such kind of informal meeting point was the apartment of artist-abstractionist Anatoliy Summara. He lived on Volodymyrska street just 100 meters far from KGB office.
During the 60s people started to wear embroidered T-shirts. It was a time of the “Shervona Ruta” music band and the “Tini zabutykh predkiv” folk film.
The Ukrainian uprising was finished in January 1972. Actually, it was put down brutally. During that time the Soviet government prepared to celebrate 50 years of Soviet state foundation. The Dissident’s movement could spoil the image of USSR.
In 1972 the Patriots secretly celebrated Christmas with Carols and a Nativity Play in Lviv and Kyiv. During that time religious festivals were forbidden. The Sixtiers museum still keeps embroidered cloth that patriots wore for Christmas. In Lvyv people gathered in the house of Vyacheslav Chornovil’s wife. She supported former political prisoners and her apartment was always full of volunteers. People were wandering with Christmas songs along Lviv streets. The Ukrainian poet Vasylc Stus met and joined them.
This Christmas was named Arrested Christmas. In some days all the people who took part in Christmas were arrested. During 1972, 89 people were sentenced to 3-5 years in high-security concentration camps. Some of them received the maximum – 10 years. Among political prisoners were talented poets and national activists Vasyl Stus, Vyacheslav Chornovil, Evgen Sverstuk.
They were convinced or even killed but not defeated. As Vasyl Stus wrote:
We will come back
For sure come back
Even by feet forward
But: no dead
But: not defeated