Shumuk, Danylo

Image - Danylo Shumuk

Shumuk, Danylo [Шумук, Данило: Šumuk], b 30 December 1914 in Boremshchyna, Volodymyr-Volynskyi county, Volhynia gubernia, d 21 May 2004 in Krasnoarmiisk, Donetsk oblast. Longest-serving prisoner of conscience in the USSR. He spent 44 years of his life in prison or exile, 38 of them under Soviet rule. He was arrested in January 1934, and in 1935 he was sentenced by the Polish court in Kovel to eight years' imprisonment for his role in the underground Communist Party of Western Ukraine in Volhynia. After being amnestied by the Polish government in May 1939, he was conscripted into a Red Army penal battalion in May 1941, was captured by the Germans, and spent several months in a German concentration camp holding Soviet prisoners of war, near Poltava. After managing to escape he returned to Volhynia. There he joined the anti-Soviet, anti-German Ukrainian Insurgent Army in 1943. In February 1945 he was captured by the Soviets in Kyiv oblast and sentenced to death by a secret military court in Rivne; the sentence was commuted to 20 years in Norilsk, Taishet, and other labor camps in Siberia, and in the Vladimir prison near Moscow.

In August 1956, after a review of his case, he was freed before completing his term, and returned home. In November 1957 he was rearrested. Having refused to become a KGB informer, he was accused of ‘anti-Soviet propaganda and agitation,’ and in May 1958 he was tried in Lutsk and sentenced to 10 years in labor camps in Siberia. After his release in 1967 he lived in Bohuslav and Kyiv. In January 1972 he was again arrested, for writing memoirs, and in July he was sentenced in Lviv to 10 years in special-regime camps in Mordovia and Perm oblast, followed by five years’ exile in Kazakhstan.

In the camps Shumuk renounced his Soviet citizenship (in 1972) and participated in campaigns for the acknowledgment of political-prisoner status, in strikes, and in other political protests. In 1979 he co-founded a Helsinki Accords monitoring group in the camp and joined the Ukrainian Helsinki Group. For many years he demanded the right to join his relatives in Canada. Amnesty International and Ukrainian community campaigns for his release took place in many Western countries, and the Canadian government repeatedly appealed on his behalf to the USSR government. As a result he was finally allowed to emigrate, in April 1987, to Canada, after he had completed his term of exile. He returned to Ukraine in 2002 to live out the remainder of his days with his daughter.

Shumuk's memoirs were smuggled out and published in the West in Ukrainian (1974; rev edn 1983) and English (Life Sentence, 1984). Selections of essays and reminiscences by Shumuk, Perezhyte i peredumane (My Life and Thoughts in Retrospect) and Iz Gulagu u vil’nyi svit (From the GULAG into a Free World), appeared in Detroit in 1983 and in Toronto in 1991, respectively. The documentary film Danylo Shumuk, directed by Mykola Mashchenko, was released in 1994.

Osyp Zinkevych

[This article was updated in 2002.]

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