A participant from Chernihiv about the dialogue between students and former political prisoners in Lviv
We are representatives of a younger generation. Have we ever thought about what is really important in our lives? Have we ever seen a true sorrow? Do we value life? This November I had a good chance to change my worldview and understand the life values.
I’m overjoyed to have participated in the meeting of the former political prisoners of totalitarian regimes with students from all over Ukraine that took place within the ‘Future needs memories: Ukrainian dialogue on history and memories’ project in Lviv, November 23.
While covering a distance of hundreds of kilometres I thought it would it be quite hard to find a common language with people more than 70 years older than me, because we’ve got different upbringings, very different life experiences, and probably the only thing that we share is love of our country. However, from the very beginning of our meeting we realized that we have much in common, no matter how old we are. I’m surprised by the optimism, patriotism, and sincerity!
We spent a day communicating, sharing our thoughts, recalling the past, and dreaming of the future. Together with other young people, I had a chance to hear many stories of the past told by the witnesses of many historical events like Ukrainian Secret University in Lviv, Polish-German war, Holodomor in Ukraine 1921-1923, Lviv town's meeting in 1988, and many more.
I found the dialogue with Hanna Ivanytska to be the most sincere and touching. described the role she played at the Lviv town's meeting in 1988, about her arrest and brutal torture. Despite this, she said extremely sincerely, "I love Ukraine to bits!" When I looked in her eyes, I knew that Ukraine exists as long as there are those who love it.
I was amazed at the tenacity and devotion of this woman. According to Hanna, she was subjected to 33 electric shocks ! I tried to take notes of every detail about her stay in prison in order to be able to convey what I felt when I was listening to her. Hanna said: ‘When I was going to bed in prison, I suddenly had a vision of Saint Mary in front of me. I dropped to my knees and said, "Holy Mother! I'm not worth of Your visit, for I experienced moments of despair!" She held out her hand to me and said, "You are going to be released." A week later I was released from prison.’
There were many thoughts and memories that simply cannot be committed to paper. I would like to finish my reflections with a quotation of the poem recited by Ms.Anna at our meeting (she recited this very poem at the Lviv town's meeting in 1988):
Embroider a shirt for me, my darling,
So that one can see the Carpathians on its background.
Please, embroider all over the chest part,
and remember to add the grove flowers there
In order for good people to see the beauty of my soul.
Please, add a piece of wheat to the flowers,
And depict my dear plains there,
So that nightingale great spaces,
and a young lady at the countryside,
And the whole of Ukraine is close to my heart!
Note: This poem doesn’t quite make sense and something may have got lost in the translation. Might be worth just leaving it out.
dialogue participant from Chernihiv city, Ukraine
Translation by Halyna Stasevych