On December 24, 1937 Vyacheslav Chornovil, a state, public, political figure, journalist, people's deputy of Ukraine of I-III convocations, one of the leaders of the Ukrainian human rights movement, a long-time leader of the People's Movement (Rukh) of Ukraine, and Hero of Ukraine was born in the village of Yerky in Cherkasy region.
He came from a family of rural teachers. He was awarded summa cum laude at school. He studied at the Faculty of Journalism at Taras Shevchenko Kyiv State University.
In 1964-1965 he passed the qualifying examinations for the Candidate degree, was enrolled for the post-graduate course of Kyiv Pedagogical Institute; he was preparing to defend a thesis, entitled: “Borys Hrinchenko as a journalist, publicist and public figure.”
On August 8, 1965, he made a sharp anticommunist speech at the opening of the monument to Taras Shevchenko in the village of Sheshory in Hutsulshchyna. A month later, together with Ivan Dzyuba and Vasyl Stus, he conducted protest against the arrests of the Ukrainian intellectual elite at the first night of Serhiy Parajanov's film “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” in the Kyiv cinema “Ukraine”.
The authorities issued Vyacheslav Chornovil a severe Komsomol reprimand for “political hooliganism”. He was disenrolled for the post-graduate course, though he passed his qualifying exams.
His first criminal case in early 1966 relates to the refusal to testify in a closed trial over B. Horyn, M. Zvarychevska and M. Osadchyi. The court issued a separate ruling to bring Vyacheslav Chornovil accountable for refusing to testify. On July 8, 1966, he was sentenced to three months of forced labor in the workplace, 20% of his earnings was exempted in favor of the state.
At the same time, he prepared a documentary study entitled “Justice or Terror Relapse?” – one of the most daring examples of contemporary political journalism.
And the compilation of the author's collection “Woe from Wit” (Portraits of Twenty “Criminals”), which was published in Paris, was the cause of the second court case. On November 15, 1967, Vyacheslav Chornovil was sentenced to 3 years in prison for “fabricating and distributing documents containing defamatory slander against the Soviet state and social system.”
In 1970 he started issuing the secretive journal “Ukrainian Bulletin”. In the course of 2 years he published 6 issues with information on political repressions in Ukraine and a chronicle of Ukrainian national resistance.
Vyacheslav Chornovil was again arrested at the beginning of 1972 for similar accusations. On April 12, 1973, the judicial panel of the Lviv regional court sentenced him to 6 years in correctional labor colony of strict regime with exile for 3 years. He served his punishment in the camps of Yakutia. In the camps he was fighting for the status of a political prisoner. After leaving for exile, he wrote the book “Only one year”, sent it abroad, but its further fate is unknown.
While in exile in Yakutia, in May 1979 he became a member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group. On the eve of the 1980 Olympic Games, the authorities, cleaning up public space, fabricated the charges against Vyacheslav Chornovil for assault with intent to rape. He was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. As a sign of protest, Chornovil could stand a 120-day hunger strike.
In 1983 he was set free on parole without the right to go to Ukraine. Chornovil could return to his homeland only after two years in 1985. “Would I wish my husband refused struggle? – recalled Athena Pashko. – There was, of course, a dream that we should live peacefully, so that everything would be fine, but he would have never changed his way of life for the sake of it, never. Resulting from searches, arrests, there was only a growing uproar on that system and the desire to change it. He was arrested in 1972 and returned in 1985. We were separated for 13 years. When he was imprisoned, we were not allowed a date because we were not married yet. We did not have time to get married officially, and they used it. For 5 years, I traveled to him “under the gates” to have a short meeting with him. It was a terrible torment ... He was allowed to write 2 letters a month. But since he wrote to his parents, I received only one letter per month ...”
Since 1990, Chornovil became a People's Deputy, was an active member of the People's Movement of Ukraine and its chairman since 1992. He was elected a member of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine three times (1990, 1994, 1998). Chornovil tried in every way to create conditions for self-affirmation, self-realization of a national organism, for gaining economic power, cultural development, implementation of the idea of integrity, for granting Ukraine the status of a member of international community.
For the book “Woe from Wit” he was awarded the Nicholas Tomalin International Journalism Award (1975) and he became the Laureate of Shevchenko Prize (1996).
On March 25, 1999, Chornovil died in a car accident near Boryspil under unclear circumstances.
In 2000, he was posthumously awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine with the award of the State Order for his outstanding personal contribution to the national revival of Ukraine, the consistent advocacy of the idea of building an independent Ukrainian state, and active public and political activities.
11 facts about Vyacheslav Chornovil
1. He fought for Ukraine. During the graduation evening at the university he went to the Volodymyr Hill and promised that all his life he would fight for Ukraine.
2. He did unskilled work. In 1963-1964 he participated in the construction of the Kyiv hydroelectric power station. After the first detention, he worked as an observer of the meteorological station, an excavator of the archaeological expedition, a weigher at Sknilov station and the like. After the latter one he was a coal-heaver in Lviv
3. He was married three times. In 1960, he married Iryna Brunevets, whom he had son Andriy with. They broke up at the end of 1962. Since June 1963, he had relations with Olena Antoniv, with whom he had a son Taras. His third wife is Athena Pashko.
4. He withstood 83 interrogations. In 1966, Vyacheslav Chornovil refused to testify in a case against his friends – Horyn brothers, Myroslava Zvarychevska and Mykhailo Osadchyi. Even taking into account that at that time they recognized the fault and there was no need to evade testimony. For that he was brought to court and received his first sentence. In 1972, he was able to withstand 83 interrogations, but never again testified against friends.
5. The prosecutor who tried Chornovil has the title “Honorary Worker of the Prosecutor's Office of Ukraine”. The second (1967) and the third (1972) criminal cases against Vyacheslav Chornovil were filed by the prosecutor of Lviv region Borys Antonenko (1912-2010). The prosecutor occupied his post for 20 years. Antonenko wrote a series of books on his prosecutor's past, the fight against crime and “Ukrainian bourgeois nationalists.” In 2003, the prosecutor was granted a pension under the Law of Ukraine “For Merits to Ukraine”. In June 2006 Antononenko was awarded a commendation by the Attorney General of Ukraine Oleksandr Medvedko. And in 2007 he was awarded the title “Honorary employee of the prosecutor's office of Ukraine”.
6. He did not refuse all those who addressed him with the issues of the Ukrainian cause. “He worked selflessly and really a lot,” recalled his wife, Athena Pashko. – He got up, it sometimes happened, at 5 o'clock in the morning, wrote, then went to work, went to bed late. You know, there are people who can refuse you, saying that they do not have free time or find any other excuse. Vyacheslav Maxymovych was not one of them as he couldn’t act against his conscience. He always gave advice, guidance to people who addressed him, especially if it was a matter for the Ukrainian cause”.
7. He was nicknamed “Restless” by the KGB. In the memoirs of the Armenian dissident and political prisoner Paruir Airyakin we can find the following lines: “He was as if filled with energy, he did jogging even at the colony, was engaged in sports. He read and wrote really much, he fulfilled the norm – we sewed mittens – not in eight hours, but in three hours – the rest of the time he dedicated to himself.”
8. He firmly believed in the restoration of Ukraine's independence. When one of the investigators asked Vyacheslav Chornovil in a fit of anger: “Well, Ok, imagine, your Ukraine is independent. In what capacity do you see yourself there?” he heard in response: “Well, I see myself as an editor of the opposition newspaper.”
9. Chornovil was a candidate for the presidency of Ukraine. At the presidential elections of December 1, 1991, 7.420.727 Ukrainians (23.27%) voted for Vyacheslav Chornovil. He was second after Leonid Kravchuk.
10. He denied the oath of allegiance to the Moscow Tsar. After the election of the Hetman of the Ukrainian Cossacks, in the Great Council on June 21, 1992 in Pereyaslav-Khmelnytsky he proclaimed the renunciation of the oath of allegiance to the Moscow Tsar, given at the Pereyaslav Council in 1654.
11. About 200 thousand people came for last respects with Vyacheslav Chornovil in Kyiv. He died in a car accident on a highway near Boryspil under unclear circumstances. Many consider it a political murder on the eve of the upcoming presidential election. Former Deputy Prosecutor General, Mykola Golomsh, assumed that after the accident Chornovil was given the final blow with the brass knuckles. Nearly 200 thousand people attended Vyacheslav Chornovil’s funeral in Kyiv.