I write this memoir about an extraordinary person, not to retell his biography, but rather to pay tribute and express my personal feelings about him from my own interactions, and also to proffer an assessment of what this person meant for Ukrainian society, his people and its history. The biography of Yury Shukhevych has been written and should be familiar to all Ukrainian patriots. His importance in Ukrainian history cannot be overstated. Yuriy Shukhevych, like his father, was a genuine hero in the purest sense despite having died from natural causes.
Yuriy’s father, Roman Shukhevych, was a role model for his contemporaries and a hero for future generations. He will be recognized forever as such having died in battle with the enemy of his nation. The heroic struggle of our people today bears the indelible mark of his spirit.
Yuriy was a child of eleven when he was arrested with his mother and sent to Siberia. Then at thirteen he was taken from his mother and essentially interned in an orphanage for children of “enemies of the state”. Subsequently he was arrested at fifteen simply for being the son of his father and sentenced to an initial ten years when he was merely sixteen. He became a symbol not only as his father’s son, but as a heroic, undaunted individual on his own. His whole life was a struggle. He has ended life’s journey, but the struggle under his and his father’s name continues.
Growing up in a Ukrainian nationalist family and similarly ideological organizations, in retrospect one of the most impressionable events on me as a 15-year-old was the anti-Soviet demonstration carried out by the First World Congress of Free Ukrainians in New York in 1967. Among it purposes, the political rally sought to bring the world’s attention to the illicit treatment of essentially a child, Yuriy.
Yuriy’s image was on our banners and his steadfastness was in our hearts and minds. His picture appeared all over the world with an inscription “guilty by birth”. My student anti-Soviet activity was inspired by Yuri Shukhevych. In total Yuriy Shukhevych served almost thirty years in Soviet prisons, camps and exile and continued to inspire us.
With the proclamation of Ukraine’s independence, my trips to Ukraine became frequent. Lviv was always one of the most important destinations for me and my family, since there I could meet Yuriy. He was by then physically disabled and lived as a guardian amazingly with two disabled women for whom he cared despite his visual infirmity. I discerned immediately that while he could not see with his eyes, his senses were more acute than that of many with full vision.
Yuriy’s political activity after the proclamation of independence deserves special mention. Yuriy was aware of his role and destiny. He was the quintessential bridge between generations and struggles. He recognized the importance of his own person not as as a narcissist, but as a freedom fighter, as the son of his legendary father and that most important nexus.
In fact, he was very modest. He spoke and listened to almost anyone. I had the opportunity and great honor to meet with him many times and to speak in detail on various topics, all related to current affairs and relevant to Ukraine and our people.
Yuriy worked almost until his last breath. Only a few months ago, he had been making arrangements for the funeral of his father’s last military colleague, Daria Husak or Husiak. He was always busy with his work, which invariably had a community or political character. He considered it his duty to his father and to his people.
It is noteworthy to mention the Shukhevych family, one of the noblest families not only of the city of Lviv, but of all of Ukraine. Aside from Yuriy’s father, Roman Shukhevych the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, Yuriy’s mother Natalya at her own peril was one of the righteous gentiles protecting Jewish life. When the Soviets returned to Ukraine in 1944 she became a prisoner in the Soviet GULAG. Her brother Yuriy Myroslav Berezynsky had been executed by the Poles in the early 1930’s, Roman’s brother Yuriy was murdered by the Bolsheviks as they retreated before the Nazi onslaught of 1941. The Soviets not unlike the Russians today murdered their civilian prisoners. Roman’s sister Natalya was a prisoner of Soviet camps as well. Yuriy’s entire close family served as an example to their contemporaries. Much can be said about each of them.
With profound sadness, I express my deepest condolences to Yuriy’s wife Oleksandra, his friends and colleagues. They say that such people are born once every few generations, but the Shukhevich family appears to have outdone itself.
Glory to Ukraine! Glory to its heroes! And eternal memory to Yuriy Shukhevych! Ukrainians will remember him! We will plant a Ukrainian bush, a Kalyna (Viburnum) as a symbol of Ukraine on his grave site, so that he can inhale its bloom and taste its fruit. He had raised the failing and bent Red Kalyna often throughout his life. Those who will follow in his footsteps and adhere to his words and example should do likewise.
November 27, 2022 Askold S. Lozynskyi