Nil Khasevych was a talented Ukrainian artist of worldwide importance. He was born in 1905 into the family of the rural parish priest Anton Khasevych. When he was 14 years old, he suffered a terrible tragedy: his mother and he were hit by a train at the Derezhnia level crossing. The mother succumbed to her wounds and the teenager lost a leg. After receiving medical treatment, he studied at Vasyl Len’s studio in Rivne. In 1925 Khasevych passed an external exam and was awarded a diploma from a Warsaw gymnasium. He then entered the Faculty of Graphics at the Warsaw Academy of Applied Arts, from which he successfully graduated in 1933. His works were exhibited at 35 shows in such cities as Prague, Berlin, Chicago, and Los Angeles, where he received various awards. An album entitled The Ex-Librises of Nil Khasevych was published in Warsaw in 1939. The artist indefatigably polished his professional skills. Connoisseurs had high praise for his portraits of Prince Volodymyr the Great, Hetman Mazepa, his ex-libris for Andriy Levytsky, president of the Ukrainian National Republic in exile, and a series of pictures in the Woodcuts collection.
In April 1943, when the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) began to form units on a mass scale, the artist became involved in clandestine work. He was known by such nicknames as Zot, Boi, Levko, and Rybalka. A gifted propagandist, Khasevych ran an insurgents’ print shop and worked fruitfully as an artist and editor, drawing illustrations for the UPA’s satirical journals Ukrainskyi perets (Ukrainian Pepper) and Khrin (Horseradish). The artist also designed flags, seals, and blank forms for the insurgents. In 1943-1944 he headed the political propaganda section of UPA- North commanded by Dmytro Kliachkivsky. His legacy includes 150 woodcuts that were published abroad in the albums Volyn in the Struggle and Graphics in UPA Bunkers (1950-1952). In June 1948 the Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council (UHVR) introduced medals for insurgents who had shown conspicuous gallantry. It was Zot who sketched the Cross of Merit, the Cross of Military Merit, and the medal “For Fighting in Especially Difficult Conditions.” Incidentally, Khasevych will be awarded the golden Cross of Merit and a medal, and elected to the UHVR on behalf of Ukrainian intellectuals, the press service of the Kyiv branch of the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists reports.
The Soviet secret organs expended great efforts to track down the chief nationalist artist. In 1951 an order came from the Soviet capital “to suppress the anti-Soviet activities” of Khasevych because his underground engravings had found their way to UN General Assembly delegates and foreign diplomats. An interregional task force was created to ferret out the artist. The NKVD accidentally found some encoded documents in a captured bunker. When they broke the code, they read, “We have stocked five kilos of paper and cherry wood for you.” The coded note also showed the address: a bunker on a farmstead near the village of Sukhivtsi, 12 km from Klevan in Rivne oblast. On the morning of March 4, 1952, soldiers surrounded the farmstead and found the entrance to a bunker. When submachine-gun began firing from inside the bunker, the soldiers threw hand grenades inside. Khasevych was also among the dead: he had shot himself. In the early 1990s the Volyn Oblast Security Service Department handed over a series of original wood engravings by Nil Khasevych, which had been preserved in the MGB-KGB archives, to the Lutsk-based regional ethnographic museum.