February 20, 2004
Since October 2002, Ukrainian politicians have been considering the
issue of awarding Yurii Shukhevych the title of "Hero of Ukraine" for his
life-long heroism.The citizens of Ukraine now demand that Yurii
Shukhevych, the longest-serving former Soviet Ukrainian political
prisoner, prominent civic activist, and statesman, be awarded the title of
"Hero of Ukraine" on the occasion of his 70th birthday (March 28,
2003). After decades of Soviet totalitarianism Ukraine demands
immediate and decisive actions aimed at the comprehensive
democratization of Ukrainian governmental bodies.
Genocide by starvation in Ukraine [Holodomor], massacres, mass
arrests and exile to Siberia, and imprisonment of citizens for their political
and national affiliation during the entire existence of the Soviet regime
were organized by various state structures of the USSR and the
Ukrainian SSR. People who did not agree with the system and
demanded political changes were imprisoned for long years, kept in
awful conditions, and tortured. Frequently, terror took the form of
revenge aimed at prisoners' families, even young children, such as Yuriy
Soviet terror was state terror. The bloody crimes of the GPU, NKVD
(People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs), MVD (Ministry of Internal
Affairs) and other bodies, which were committed against the peaceful
population of the USSR, have no match for their cruelty and inhumanity.
The impunity of criminals who are responsible for millions of deaths
had a negative impact on the development and functioning of the state
bodies of Ukraine, where the worst murderers have received protection.
The terrible legacy of the past--all those state employees of the former
USSR who were directly involved in numerous crimes--is impeding the
further democratic development of Ukraine and the reorganization of
various governmental bodies and other structures, and is blocking the
process to recognize veteran reformers and to respect fundamental laws
and civic freedoms in Ukraine.
In 1944, when he was only 11 years old, Yurii Romanovych
Shukhevych was jailed solely because of his parents' political views, and
for many decades was kept as a virtual hostage of the state. Altogether
Shukhevych was subjected to 46 years of incarceration in children's
homes, prisons, camps, and exile simply for refusing to denounce his
father Roman Shukyvych, the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian
Insurgent Army (UPA), and the Ukrainian liberation movement. Despite
his decades-long imprisonment, during which he was constantly
subjected to physical and moral tortures, Yurii Shukhevych continued to
take active part in the Ukrainian liberation movement. Sacrificing his own
life, he categorically rejected numerous offers to repent, to renounce the
Ukrainian national idea, and to betray the struggle for Ukraine's
While imprisoned, Shukhevych demanded reviews of his case,
participated in campaigns for the official recognition of political-prisoner
status, and sought the right to leave the USSR. In 1979 he renounced his
Soviet citizenship and joined the Ukrainian Helsinki Group. In March
1982 he was exiled to Tomsk oblast, in Siberia.
As a result he was often seriously ill; in 1982 he completely lost his
In 1981 the US Congress passed a resolution calling for his release and
for permission for him to emigrate, and about 200 Canadian mayors and
members of Parliament also spoke out on his behalf. In February 1982
he was declared "prisoner of the month" by Amnesty International, and
in August 1986, 40 U.S. senators signed a petition to Mikhail
Gorbachev calling for his release.
Sacrificing his own life, Yurii Shukhevych displayed heroism, high
personal moral values, strength of spirit, will, selflessness, and fidelity to
the idea of democracy all over the world. At the age of 57 he was freed
and received permission to return to Ukraine. Since his release, he has
been actively engaged in the movement to democratize Ukraine and to
reform its political system, and legislative and executive bodies. He
demands observance of human rights by all state structures. Despite his
poor health (he is an invalid of the 1st category), he has continued to be
an active political figure and reformist.
Awarding the title of "Hero of Ukraine" to Yurii Shukhevych will
demonstrate that the citizens of Ukraine enjoy citizens' rights and
freedoms and will prove that relations between the state and the people
are undergoing qualitative changes.
In today's independent Ukraine, Yurii Shukhevych remains an
outstanding founder of the Ukrainian state, a renowned public figure, and
an example of ethical and moral standards of behaviour for future
generations in Ukraine.
Head of an initiative group of citizens
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