Ivan Svitlychny was born in 1929 in the village of Polovynkyne in the Lugansk region of Ukraine. He was a philologist, literary critic, poet, and translator. He was also politically active, as a member of the sixtiers movement (shestysdesiatnyky) and also leader of the national-democratic movement of the 1960s and 1970s in Ukraine. A political prisoner, Svitlychny was held in a number of prisons and prison camps over his lifetime in the years 1965-66 and 1972-1983.
During the Nazi occupation of Soviet Ukraine, Svitlychny and his teenaged friends tried to blow up enemy armaments, losing eight of his fingers. After completing his studies in 1947 in the city of Starobil’sk, he moved to Kharkiv to pursue a degree in philology from Kharkiv University, which he completed in 1952. He then went on to study at the graduate level at the Taras Shevchenko Institute of Literature in Kyiv. Though he completed his dissertation on aesthetics, Svitlychny did not submit as he considered it unworthy. He began working at the Institute of Literature in Kyiv (1955-1963) and as a literary critic for the journal “Dnipro.” During this time, he began actively publishing samizdat, while also working for the cultural integration of eastern and western Ukraine, and Ukraine and the rest of the world, partly through translation of world literature into Ukrainian. In 1962-1963, Svitlychny helped found the Club of Creative Youth in Ukraine, one of sixtiers flagship institutions. During a sweep of his apartment in August 1965, the Soviet authorities confiscated a number of outlawed texts—including old Galician publications from 1939, a bible, and samizdat poetry by his contemporaries. Svitlychny was arrested the following day for the possession of these works and for engaging in “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda.”
He was released in April 1966 due to the lack of denunciations and evidence against him, but he was unable to find work in the period 1966-1971. He worked quietly on dictionaries and thesauruses, non-conformist literary criticism, and also publication and circulation of samizdat materials, including Vasyl Symonenko’s diaries and a volume of his unpublished, unsanctioned poetry. In 1972, Svitlychny was arrested for allegedly maintaining ties to Ukrainian nationalist organizations abroad, a charge many prominent activists in the sixtiers movement faced at this time. The KGB searched his apartment once again, finding recordings of Symonenko reading his poetry aloud, as well as poems by Vasyl Stus and Ihor Kalynets. They also found typed manuscripts by Ivan Dziuba, Yevhen Sverstiuk, and Danylo Shumuk. He was tried in court in closed proceedings, which his friends and family were unable to attend, and was charged in 1973 once again with “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda.” Svitlychny was sentenced to seven years in hard labor camps (Perm-35 and Perm-36) as well as five years of exile upon his release. To issue this sentence the courts retracted Svitlychny’s status as an “invalid,” given that he was missing eight of his fingers.
In the camps, Svitlychny’s activism continued. He went on hunger strikes to protest the lawlessness by the camp authorities and their arbitrary treatment of prisoners. One strike lasted 56 days, after which Svitlychny was brought back to Kyiv and held in isolation by the KGB, in order to be “educated” (or breaking his spirit in order to make him more compliant.) The KGB was unsuccessful. When he returned to Perm-35, he began chronicling the events unfolding there and was able to pass on his account to the outside world. In 1977, he was relocated to Perm-36, where he worked on a compressor, but was unable to meet his daily quotas and was regularly punished by the camp authorities. He fell seriously ill and was sent back to the infirmary of Perm-35, where he contracted Botkin's Disease (or catarrhal jaundice) through a contaminated needle. With this severe illness, he was nevertheless sent on May 7, 1978 in the village of Ust-Kan in the Gorno-Altayskaya Autonomous Region in Siberia. The authorities refused to commute his punishment and his wife Leonida joined him in May 1979 in order to care for him. He was released in 1983 after serving his entire sentence, emerging from exile seriously ill, unable to work, speak or move. He died in 1992 and is buried not far from his friend Vasyl Stus at the Baikovo cemetery in Kyiv.
- Altai Republic, Ust-Kansky District, Ust-Kan, Russia 649450
- Altai Republic, gorod Gorno-Altaysk, Maima, Russia 649100
- Kharkiv, Ukraine
- Kyiv City, Kiev, Ukraine 02000
- дер. Кучино Чусовской район, Russia 618630
Miroslav Svoboda is the director of Exodus and the main creator of the Scriptum.cz online collection. He has lived in Pilsen his entire life. Around 1980, he graduated from the transport industry school, but before 1989 he was forced to work in manual labour. After November 1989, he worked briefly in the Christian Democratic Party, and since 1992 has worked with Exodus, as chairman and director. After November 1989, he also attended the Catholic Theological Faculty of Charles University in Prague and the Social Work at the Pedagogical Faculty of the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen.
Now he is primarily engaged in Exodus and as a personal project he runs the Scriptum.cz site, which makes available dozens of samizdat and exile titles, most of which he owns the original copies of.
- Plzeň, Czech Republic
Vasyl Symonenko was born in 1935 in the village of Biivtsi near Poltava, Ukraine. He was a poet, member of Ukrainian Writers Union, and a prominent figure in the “sixtiers” movement (shestydesiatnyky) of the late 1950s and 1960s. Symonenko is considered one of the most important Ukrainian literary figures of the early 1960s. He studied journalism in Kyiv in 1952-57, before joining the Kyiv Club for Creative Youth founded in 1959 by the artist Alla Horska and a few others. He worked for several years on the Club for Creative Youth’s journal “Suchasnik” as a literary critic, editor, and author of anonymous feuilletons. In 1962, Symonenko published his first and only collection of poems in 1962 titled Tysha i hrim (Silence and Thunder). The quality of the poetry demonstrated Symonenko’s literary talents and set him apart from his peers. He was also politically active in the early 1960s, working with Horska and Les Taniuk to find mass graves of NKVD victims outside Kyiv. After locating one grave site near Bykivnia, this trio wrote the Kyiv City Council of its location in “Memorandum No. 2.” As a consequence, Symonenko was severely beaten by police, which exacerbated his kidney disease and resulted in his untimely death at 28 in 1963.
- Cherkas'ka oblast, Cherkasy, Ukraine 18000
- Kyiv City, Kiev, Ukraine 02000
- Cluj-Napoca, Romania
- Sfantu Gheorghe, Sfântu Gheorghe, Romania
Philosopher, painter. At the beginning of the 1920s, he participated in the illegal communist movement as a clerk. From 1928 to 1930, until his exclusion, he was a member of the Work Circle of Lajos Kassák. Following this, together with Pál Justus and Pál Partos, he became one of the leaders of the opposition in the illegal workers movement.
In the 1930s, he became a regular attendee of the lectures of the gnostic circle led by Ferenc Kepes (following in the footsteps of Jenő Henrik Schmitt). In 1931–32, he spent a few months in Germany on two separate occasions. He studied in Berlin at Karl Korsch and in Frankfurt at the lnstitut für Sozialforschung.
In 1933, he began to find the theoretical frames of Marxism narrow. Together with Béla Tábor and Zoltán Békefi, he became interested in the ideas of Freud and Jung, including their ideas about art. During a study trip to Vienna, the police accused him being a communist agent, so he went expelled to Paris. Here, he lived together with his friend Lajos Vajda for a year.
After his return, he offered a critique of sociology, Marxism, positivism, and psychoanalysis in a book written together with Béla Tábor (Vádirat a szellem ellen, [Indictment against the Spirit], 1936). The first part of the pamphlet A hit logikája [The Logic of Faith] was published in 1937 (the second part came out only after his death).
He wrote several essays in these years (Megjegyzések a marxizmus kritikájához [Some remarks on the criticism of Marxism], A tudományos szocializmus bírálatához [Some remarks on the criticism of scientific socialism], A mammonizmus természetrajzához [To the natural history of mammonism], Adalékok a halmazelmélet kérdéseihez [Contributions to the problems of set theory], Nietzsche, Biblia és romantika [Bible and romanticism]). They were published in print after his death.
He considered the anti-Semitic laws passed in Hungary a provocation, so he joined the synagogue in 1939. For a few months he served in the forced labor service, but he was demilitarized in 1940 due to pulmonary disease. In the spring of 1944, he was deported to Auschwitz. He was freed in January 1945.
In the autumn of 1945, together with Béla Hamvas and Béla Tábor, he launched the “Thursday conversations” series in the hope of radical spiritual revival. These gatherings were unofficial events held at the apartment of Tábor and his wife, Stefánia Mándy.
Between 1946 and 1948, he held seminars in private apartments for selected youngsters on subjects like the theory and psychology of values, the critique of set theory, language mathesis, and the theory of signs. In 1946, he wrote the essays “Művészet és vallás” [Art and religion] and “Irodalom és rémület” [Literature and horror]. In 1948 he withdrew from the group.In 1954, he became a calligrapher himself. He considered his calligraphic works an addition to his philosophy. After the fall of the revolution, he emigrated with his wife and some of his followers in 1956 and lived in Brussels and Düsseldorf. He had exhibitions in several cities, including Brussels, Paris, Dusseldorf, and Essen. Many of his drawings he signed with the initials AO, his alias in the movement, which stands for Anti-Organization. This sign later became a visual symbol in his work.
- Brussels, Belgium
- Budapest, Hungary
- Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany