Heart of a human rights activist, a dissident, a political prisoner of the Soviet era, a people’s deputy of Ukraine of the first convocation, honorary chairman of the Republican Christian Party ceased to beat on January 13, 2013 at 83 years of age. In these mournful days of saying good bye to Mykhailo Horyn many recall lines from his autobiographical book Light a Candle, published in 2009: “It is better to light one candle than curse the darkness all your life.” These words were a life credo of Mykhailo Horyn.
Even if we would not describe his tough life in the Soviet times and will look only at his activity at the time of restoration of Ukrainian statehood, we would still be greatly impressed with the figure of Horyn. He was rehabilitated in 1990 and then organized and headed the Working Group for the Defense of Ukrainian political prisoners, which became a part of the Interethnic Committee for Protection of Political Prisoners. Horyn initiated the largest nationwide campaigns that helped consolidate the nation and led to the proclamation and establishment of Ukraine’s independence, including the human chain connecting Kyiv and Lviv, Celebration of Cossack Glory, Congress of National Minorities. Horyn headed Congress of National Democratic Forces. He founded the Center for the Study of Civil Society. Horyn was elected the head of the Ukrainian World Coordinating Council. He also received the Order “For Merit,” Yaroslav the Wise Order, Order “For Courage,” and Freedom Order. He was seriously ill in recent years and therefore could not take an active part in public life. However, the example of Horyn’s life will always be relevant and every Ukrainian should reflect on it. He is one of those people, who weren’t heard by Ukrainians on a large scale, especially on TV in a format adequate for such figure, in more than 20 years. “At the time of information overproduction, Ukrainians have faced critical shortage of their own high-quality intellectual product,” these statements from Larysa Ivshyna’s preface to the book series “Armor-Piercing Political Writing” clearly define the level of awareness of Ukrainian people nowadays with the figure of Mykhailo Horyn. Of course, Horyn was not deprived of the attention of his supporters, especially in western Ukraine. But this is not enough on the scale of the whole country because most of the Ukrainian media do not focus their attention on figures of such level. Thus, to quote The Day’s editor-in-chief Larysa Ivshyna again, there is an overwhelming sense of a “Berlin Wall” dividing two groups of people nationwide: those in need of intelligent interlocutors and those who can define values for society desperately searching for them.
HE WAS AN EXAMPLE OF COMBINING FAITH AND ENERGY IN POLITICAL AND JOURNALISTIC ACTIVITIES
Ivan DZIUBA, Sixtier, literary critic, public activist:
“I first met Mykhailo Horyn in 1962 in Lviv. We met again with him and his brother Bohdan on several other occasions. After losing a job in Kyiv I lived for a short period of time in Briukhovychi near Lviv and Horyn brothers often came to visit me. They both were extremely romantic. Already at that time there was emerging the movement which later became known as ‘the Sixtiers’ or ‘dissidents.’ Anyhow, there was the atmosphere of national awakening, especially in Galicia. Therefore, the Horyn brothers gave an impression of romantic enthusiasts and conspirators in a good sense – they had the revolutionary spirit. Unlike his passionate younger brother Bohdan, Mykhailo was more balanced, restrained, but, at the same time, firm and focused.
“Later the brothers were put in prison and sent in exile. After their return we got back in touch.
“Mykhailo Horyn played a major role in the People’s Movement activity. He was a key figure in organizing the so-called human chain of unity between the east and the west of Ukraine. In this and other cases he showed great organizational skills.
“In his last years Horyn was active in political life of the country as a member of the parliament, a member of NGOs and political organizations. Overall, Horyn was an example of combining faith and energy in political and journalistic activities in a reasonable and balanced manner. In his political thinking he balanced romanticism and realism.
“The figure of Mykhailo Horyn will stay in memory of many people. He deserved an honorary place in the history of Ukrainian renaissance as light and reliable figure.”
WITH THE ARRIVAL OF HORYN TO THE CONCENTRATION CAMP A NEW STAGE IN THE HISTORY OF SOVIET PRISONS BEGAN
Levko LUKIANENKO, Ukrainian politician, public activist, political prisoner, writer:
“I met Mykhailo Horyn in 1966. At that time I was in prison in Mordovia in a concentration camp in the village of Sosnovka. Horyn was brought with other activists – Mykhailo Masiutko and Valentyn Moroz. With their arrival a new stage in the history of Soviet prisons began. They brought new morality and new political vision. Before that time there were many rebels, policemen, and other people who had fought against the Soviets, but felt guilty for that and tried to justify their actions before the administration. These three men turned out to be a new generation of freedom fighters and refused to make excuses before the administration and, instead, took an offensive position. When they were called criminals, they claimed that they used normal democratic rights, defended their Ukrainian dignity opposing the russification, suppression of Ukrainian culture and things like that. Besides, they took a bold position, moving in a counterattack against the administration: they accused the authorities in the face of administration of unlawfulness of courts. This was a new position and new spirit.
“Many political prisoners, especially from Galicia, had friends or relatives, who lived, studied abroad or had contacts with foreigners. However, such facts were carefully concealed. Because the communist dictatorship was based on isolation of the Soviet citizens from any foreign influence, the presence of relatives abroad placed anyone under suspicion. Horyn, Masiutko, and Moroz took a clearly different position also regarding this issue. They declared that they are glad to have their cultural and intellectual relationship with people from abroad and raised the question: why did the government forbid such relationships? It was the second position that reinforced the new atmosphere in the camps.
“The third point in that situation was that when someone was put into prison, the KGB took a written acknowledgement from that person’s relatives that they would not tell anyone the details about their relative in prison. This isolated a person from correspondence with anyone other than family. These same three men maintained contacts with the Union of Writers, intellectuals, and others. They told security officers that they would not abandon ties with higher stratum of the society, intellectuals, and took the offensive position asking them why the authorities were so afraid of such connections with ordinary Soviet intellectuals, who were in pioneers organizations and the Komsomol, who graduated from Soviet universities?
“Generally, in Ukraine’s history there were three types of national liberation movements: armed, not armed, and ‘the Sixtiers movement.’ The Sixtiers Movement as such did not raise the question of independence of Ukraine, but the logic of their development – upholding language and culture, led to further demands for independence of the national state. All dissidents were bright individuals, everyone had his own special features, style of work and struggle. But it just happened so that I had the closest relationship with Horyn. I liked him for his courage, civility, erudition, broad understanding of problems.
“In the concentration camp Horyn and I were put in jail for six months. After we refused to stop anti-Soviet, nationalist activities together with Horyn, Kandyba, and others, we were imprisoned for three years to Vladimir prison, where we were extremely oppressed: they tortured us by starvation and not only, but it was extremely pleasant to be in the environment of intellectually developed people. We had substantial historical and philosophical, political and cultural debates. Very limited cell area expanded by an exchange of views between people with great erudition, discussions of the fate of Ukraine and the USSR.
“It was interesting to watch Horyn with Cubists: he always tried to pose himself superior to them and asked them about what they really knew about the communist system, which they defended. Such position was exemplary for a prison, where people were tortured and tried to play down their anti-Soviet nature.
“Next time we were sentenced almost at the same time but were not allowed to stay in one place together. Only in 1987, after a river burst its banks near the camp and there was a threat of flooding prisoners were moved to another camp. There we finally met again with Horyn. We were extremely happy to meet again there. We enjoyed exchanging ideas, discussing problems and politics. Horyn did not lose his heart, was always cheerful, and was thinking about the expansion of the national liberation movement, about the world’s problems, relations between the USSR and the capitalist world and NATO. He believed that democratic forces would win and this would create the conditions for the expansion of the liberation struggle.
“He stood out of the many political prisoners from the category of the Sixtiers because he had truly political manner of thinking. Others were poets or writers by nature, loved Ukraine and sought for its freedom, but thought about the concept of a state or politics much less. However, emotional expression of love for Ukraine and hatred to enemies is too little for planning the true national liberation struggle, one had to have a political barometer that would give the calculations of political struggle. I singled Horyn out because of his statehood approach to things.
“After meeting again out of prison we actively collaborated in Helsinki Union, dedicated all our time and energy to support the position of our independence. Then the Union sent Horyn to the People’s Movement because he was the closest to the most prominent intellectuals – Dmytro Pavlychko and Ivan Drach. He had to radicalize them and convert to the nationalistic idea of independence. We wanted Horyn to lead the movement but this did not happen, he became the head of the Secretariat. Later I suggested him for the position of the head of the Republican Party, which then released a part that has become the Republican Christian Party. We, each in our own way, supported the rise and expansion of the national awareness of the Ukrainian people.
“As a person Horyn deserves respect and reverence because he spent all his life working towards strengthening the Ukrainian statehood and raising national awareness among the Ukrainian people. This man devoted all his life to Ukraine.”