After WW2, Anna Kushyk moved to the Donbas to escape the vigilant eye of the Soviet secret police. She managed to lay low and live peacefully until Russian troops once again occupied her home in 2014. For many years she refused to tell anyone about her adventures. UPA veteran Anna Kushyk lives near Slavyansk. She survived Stalin’s prison camps and was able to start a new life in Donetsk Oblast. In her ninetieth year she is again caught up in a war and Russian occupation of her native land.
Anna Kushyk is from Western Ukraine, but has been living in Donbas for more than fifty years. During the fighting in the summer of 2014, her village, Semyonovka (near Slavyansk), was badly damaged by shelling: many buildings were destroyed and abandoned. Anna’s apartment building, where she lives all alone, has also suffered from multiple shelling. Anna bitterly recalls how the “Russian world” once again invaded her life:
“I look up, and what do I see? A young man dressed in a tracksuit approaches me and says: “See those soldiers over there? And the soldiers in the school… Well, get something ready for them… feed them now! I say: “What soldiers?” “Eh? Don’t you know what I mean? Our own guys… Russian soldiers!” So, I look at them and say: “What in the world is that? Looks like Yanukovych’s gang?”
Anna Kushyk is the daughter of a Greek-Catholic priest. During the Second World War she worked as a liaison officer in the UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army). The Soviet machine destroyed her entire family. Her father was sent to Siberia. Her mother was beaten to death. Her brother and sister, members of OUN and UPA, were shot. Her husband was crushed by a tank in a Gulag during one of the camp revolts. Anna describes the post-war years in her native village:
“My father was a priest. He didn’t tell them anything. They took the church and everything else in our village. You wouldn’t believe what they did to people! They beat him, tortured him… but he refused to speak. So, they took him away and sent him to Siberia. My sister was also a liaison officer. All of us went underground.”
Anna Kushyk was sentenced to ten years for her activities in OUN and UPA. She spent seven years in a penal colony and was rehabilitated in 1960. As she was a political prisoner, the Soviet authorities took her children away and sent them to different children’s camps in Donetsk Oblast. As soon as she got out of the Gulag, Anna found her children, but didn’t dare to take them with her. The stigma of “political prisoner” could have destroyed their future. She then worked on a collective farm for more than thirty years. Her pension amounts to 1,300 hryvnias per month (approximately $50 US). Volunteers found Anna and now provide her with firewood so that she doesn’t freeze in winter. One of her sons is currently fighting in Donbas.
Volunteer Olha Konovalova: “She uses her stove to heat the apartment. It’s very cold in her home… She couldn’t find any firewood, so she asked me to help. I posted an appeal on Facebook and asked for donations. Actually, Anna saved some money herself; she just wanted me to find the wood, but she was willing to pay. She saved her meager pension… literally starved to save a few pennies. People forwarded funds, and I got some firewood for her.”
Anna worries about what is happening in Eastern Ukraine. She says that only through faith in God and in Ukraine has she been able to bear her cross for so many years.