The collection of the National Memorial Museum “Lontsky Street Prison” in Lviv recently added a new exhibit – embroidery that was brought to the museum by Zoriana Syvuliak from her older sister Liubov Barabash.
It may look like nothing special: stitch embroidered cornflowers on a small piece of cloth 34.5 by 35 centimeters. But this embroidery, according to Zoriana Syvuliak, is priceless and not only for the fact that it is over 60 years old. This was a gift to Barabash made by her friend from the Baltic, who was imprisoned in Tayshet concentration camp. The workers of the museum, in their turn, tell about the unique tools used for making this embroidery – needle made of fish bone and the materials – threads pulled from the clothes she wore since there were no appropriate threads.
The museum keeper Iryna Yezerska told The Day a story about Mrs. Barabash (her married name is Bilynska), which was recorded from the testimony of her sister: “Liuba was born in Stryi in 1931. She studied at Taras Shevchenko Kyiv University at the Department of English Philology. She entered the university in 1948. On February 23, 1949 she was arrested by KGB officers on the street in Kyiv and was taken to jail on Korolenka Street. Her classmates were arrested in Stryi about the same time. She spent a few days in the Lontsky Street Prison while the investigation was on. She remembered that from the prison window she could see the cross on the Church of Saint Mary-Magdalene [now the Organ Hall. – Author]. She was sentenced to 10 years (Art. 54 – 1 ‘a’ of the Ukrainian SSR Criminal Code for treason punished by execution or 10 year imprisonment with confiscation of property). She served her time in a concentration camp in Tayshet (Irkutsk region). She spent six and a half years there. In 1956 she was paroled. Later she worked in the shop that dealt with mica. In the concentration camp she received this embroidery from a Lithuanian woman (Barabash does not remember clearly, but the woman was from the Baltic state for sure). Barabash told that people from the Baltic states were special. When the supervisor announced the news about the death of Joseph Stalin and ordered everyone to stand up to observe a minute of silence, all Baltic people remained seated.”
Life went on and Barabash returned home after six and a half years in prison, she married a man, who was also a prisoner of Stalin’s camps, had children. For sake of her own safety and for a better future of her children she preferred not to speak about the horrible ordeals of the past. But she kept this symbol of friendship between the two representatives of the nations oppressed by the totalitarian empire, who were forced to live in poverty in Siberia for resisting the occupants. Kind memories of the woman from the Baltic, who in her own way wanted to support and encourage her Ukrainian friend, will always stay in woman’s heart. Mrs. Barabash-Bilynska and her family decided to give the embroidery, that became a symbol of humanity, solidarity, and support to the Museum “Lontsky Street Prison” so that it would become a part of national historical heritage and more people could appreciate it.
Not only years, but decades have passed… Names, faces, and details have been erased from memory… But the most important and sacred things that helped to survive and not to lose faith have remained. “It would be interesting to find out the name of the woman from the Baltic states who made this embroidery – a symbol of female friendship and support in the difficult time of imprisonment in the concentration camp,” said Yezerska and asked everyone, who has information about the author of the embroidery, to contact the museum. You can send your letters to the National Memorial Museum of Victims of Occupation Regimes “Lontsky Street Prison”: 1 Stepana Bandery Street, Lviv, 79013 or to The Day editor’s office: 121d Peremohy Ave., Kyiv, 03115.