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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

“The road to overcoming the consequences of totalitarianism is in the cultural field”

It took pensioner Oleh Fedorov 15 years to establish the Vasyl Stus Historical and Literary Museum in Horlivka, but its future remains undecided
31 January, 2012 - 00:00

The Donbas Vasyl Stus Hi­sto­rical and Literary Museum has been fun­c­tio­n­ing in Horlivka for 15 years now. It exhibits photo­copies of the poet’s letters from the place of exile, his notes, photo­graphs, and KGB materials. Be­sides, the museum keeps Vasyl Stus’s per­sonal belongings, such as an autum­nal coat, no­te­­books, pen­cils, pens, etc. It is the re­tired po­lice officer Oleh Fedorov, 75, who col­lected all these objects. He spared neither effort nor expense, from his pension, to run the museum. Today, he is trans­ferring the mu­seum under the cu­stody of the Hor­livka City Council. Ho­wever, the latter cannot accept this gift due to shortage of bud­getary money to keep it up and are in turn ready to transfer the exposition to a local library. The president’s advisor Hanna Herman said last December that the museum would be moved to Do­netsk, but this did not happen. The Day has learned that the mu­seum’s organizing committee will have a session on Friday to decide whether it will be transferred to the Hor­liv­ka City Council or the Do­netsk Oblast Re­search Library.

The Day has spoken to the museum founder Oleh FEDOROV.

It took you 15 years to establish this museum, for which you spent your time, money, and energy. What motivated you?

“Stus is a figure that is inte­resting to everybody. I myself once did not know who Stus was – only a small number of people in Horlivka knew about the poet at the time. The situation has ra­di­cally changed today. This was one of the reasons why I decided to set up a museum. It was a right decision.”

What is special about your museum? How did you collect the exposition?

“The museum has a replica of the prison cell where the poet languished, as well as his letters, KGB materials, and photographs. But the most valuable object is the rough copies of Stus’s works. There is such thing as ‘Stus’s Circle’ – the people who surrounded him. We have collected their stories about the poet.

“It was at first difficult to gather the material, for we had to win his family’s confidence and show that we had serious intentions. Together with other cultu­ral activists (Ihor Zots, founder of the Do­netsk region’s only Ukrainian-language newspaper; the poet Stanislav Zhu­kov­sky, and others), I went to his native village and spoke to his relatives. I had already retired by that time.”

Speaking of Stus, we must recall a students’ initiative to name Donetsk University after him, which has not yet been done. We must also recall that a court strip­ped Stus of the title of Hero of Ukraine. Why do you think this is occurring?

“In the case of the university, the initiative was supported by students and other youth, but it was opposed by not-so-young people. You can make a conclusion. This exposes a lot of things. And the decision was made not here but in Kyiv – there is no doubt that it was politically motivated. It is political decisions like this that slow down the deve­lopment of our society.

“We often receive young people who evince interest in Stus’ oeuvre. His poetry is very important for this country today.”

What is your idea of overcoming the totalitarian legacy? Can a civil society do this?

“Most of the people are living and thinking the way they did dozens of years ago. While the world is changing, the outlook of these people remains the same. The ‘old’ ideas and principles are hindering development. The road to countering this kind of processes is in the cultural field. We are sometimes asked: how come there is a Stus museum in Horlivka? Everybody is surprised that we have existed for 15 years now in a small Donbas town. But we are supported here. We exist as a full-fledged museum, and we are a place of interest on the ‘museum map’ of Ukraine.”

What will you say about the si­tuation in Horlivka, Donetsk, and the region as a whole? How can we stir the public? How can we provide new impulses?

“As I have already said, we need to develop culture. Only culture can provide new impulses to our society. And the existence of our museum proves that one can work here. We can overcome difficulties and stagnation by means of our own forces and energy!”

By Kateryna YAKOVLENKO, Donetsk