The criminal political trial of Ukrainian historian and dissident Valentyn Moroz was taking place on November 17, 1970. Several dissidents were called by the Soviet government to testify for the prosecution against the defendant. Among them was the dissident Shestydesiatnyk artist Alla Horska. Alla refused to testify as did the others. Nevertheless, with no evidence which was not a problem in Soviet trials, Valentyn Moroz was convicted of anti Soviet agitation and propaganda and sentenced to fourteen years.
On November 28, 1970 Alla traveled to the village of Vasylkiv in the Kyiv District near the City of Fastiv to the home of her father in law to pick up a sewing machine. She did not return home. Her husband Viktor Zaretsky panicked and went after her the following day. The house in Vasylkiv was locked. The police declined to allow forcible entry. That same day, Zaretsky’s father was found decapitated near the tracks at the nearby Fastiv train station. Three days later the police forced open the door to the Zaretsky home in Vasylkiv. In the basement they found the body of Alla Horska. The pro forma autopsy showed that she had suffered a blow to the back of her head.
The police investigation decided that the elder Zaretsky had murdered his own daughter in law with a blow to the back of the head using the very sewing machine and then threw himself on the train tracks before an oncoming train. Motive was never addressed or discussed. Neither was the physical capacity of the alleged perpetrator who was quite elderly and incapable of performing such a deed.
Alla’s funeral was attended by many friends, fellow Shestydesiatnyky and became a national dissident manifestation against the Soviet regime insisting that Alla had been murdered by the regime. Eulogies were delivered by dissidents, Vasyl Stus, Yevhen Sverstiuk, Ivan Hel and Oles Sergienko. Poet Stus knelt throughout the service and then bade Alla farewell with his own special verse.
Almost forty years later Soviet documents were accessed in the KGB archives through the efforts of Oleksij Zaretsky, Alla’s and Viktor’s son, that manifestly revealed that both Alla and her father-in-law had been murdered at the direction of the KGB for Alla’s dissident activities.
I met with Viktor Zaretsky in June 1990 at his home in a village near Kyiv, some two months before he died of Cancer. We spoke about the Shestydesiatnyky movement of which he and his wife were an integral part as well as of his wife’s and his father’s death. There was no doubt in his mind that both killings were the work of the KGB. In particular, as a artist himself, he spoke about his wife’s talents and her love of color in her art work, her devotion to Ukraine and her people. We spoke about some of their friends among them a fellow artist Opanas Zalyvakha who had worked with Alla on the famous mosaic of the revolutionary portrait of the Ukrainian poet and bard Taras Shevchenko, referred to as Shevchenko Maty (Mother). I had met Zalyvakha for the first time only several weeks earlier in Ivano Frankivsk.
The Shestydesiatnyky were a very significant movement in Ukrainian history. Arguably without them August 24, 1991 the proclamation of Ukrainian independence would have been more akin to similar proclamations in other Soviet states, like Belarus without the democratic development and civil society that ensued and resounded in Ukraine. Ukraine’s fervor for independence and democracy was inspired greatly through the work and lives of the Shestydesiatnyka. In our conversation Viktor Zaretsky was admirably but not surprisingly humble. He exhibited a deep devotion to his beloved wife who had died for the Ukrainian cause as he put it twenty years earlier. All my thoughts were focused on how lucky we Ukrainians were as a nation to have such selfless heroic individuals.
Alla Horska was born in the City of Yalta, Crimea. Viktor Zaretsky was born in the village of Bilopilla, Sumska Oblast. Opanas Zalyvakha was born in the village of Husynka, Kharkiv Oblast. They came from all parts of Ukraine to save their country and its people. Certainly, Western Ukraine had its contingent of heroes, but Ukraine is indeed a nation and country from the Carpathian mountains or the River Sian to the far reaches of Kuban. Glory to Ukraine for having such people. Vichnaya Pamiat to Alla Horska on this fiftieth anniversary.
December 16, 2020 Askold S. Lozynskyj