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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

Ukrainian avant-garde

Destroyed “during the flight of the anti-aircraft gun of Stalin’s terror” @AU By Yaroslav KRAVCHENKO, Ph.D. in Art
29 November, 2012 - 00:00

Ivan Lypkivsky was one of the last in the cohort of Mykhailo Boichuk’s repressed and murdered students. He was born on September 14, 1892, into the family of Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church Rev. Vasyl Lypkivsky. In 1921, after graduating from the Kyiv Church Pedagogic School, being at quite a mature age, Lypkivsky entered the UAM (Ukrainian Academy of Arts), Mykhailo Boichuk’s studio of monumental painting. Having experienced several reorganizations of the higher educational establishments, he graduated from the Kyiv Art Institute in 1927 and became member of the ARMU (Association of Revolutionary Art of Ukraine). His works of that time included compositions in tempera technique dedicated to modern working-class topics.

However, in 1927 Lypkivsky painted Portrait of a Peasant, in which he aptly outlined with scanty artistic lines a representative of the part of Ukrainian peasantry, which was sure back in the 1920s about the inviolability of the fundamentals of the old world, for which it later paid with dekulakization and terrifying genocide, the Holodomor of 1933. This portrait was successfully displayed at the first All-Ukrainian Exhibit of the ARMU in Kharkiv.

According to contemporaries, the artist was “a quiet, not very active painter, who liked to philosophize, led a pure life and was more known as the son of ‘disgraced Metropolitan Lypkivsky.’” As soon as the repressions started among the Ukrainian intelligentsia and Ivan Vrona was fired from the office of the rector of Kyiv, “the son of Metropolitan Lypkivsky,” “responsible for the educational-art materials of the Art Institute” Ivan Lypkivsky was fired. The last thing we know about the fate of the “disloyal artist” is that he was arrested by the NKVD. According to the latest data, it happened on November 3, 1936, based on the accusations of “the participation in a nationalistic-fascist organization.”

After Boichuk was detained, the accusations in the press acquired a sinister tonality. The editorial article of the Kharkiv-based magazine Painting and Sculpture (1937. – No. 4) emphasized that as a result of “weakened vigilance of the Bolsheviks, the direct agents of fascism, Boichuk, Sedliar, and Padalka, were able for many years to lead criminal activity of saboteurs and spies under the disguise of Soviet artists. The art community failed to expose these lowdown enemies… until the bodies of proletarian dictatorship caught them red-handed.”

As it became known from the disclosed archives of the SBU in Kharkiv oblast, where the previous investigation took place, “a group of Kyiv chauvinists united around the Galician, Professor Mykhailo Boichuk, who had active anti-Soviet (on the ground of Ukrainian nationalism) moods.” His best students, his faithful friends, under the pressure of the investigators and as a result of physical torture at interrogations, started to give the evidence needed by the GPU-NKVD.

Ivan Padalka: “...I admit my guilt of being part of the counterrevolutionary Ukrainian nationalist underground till The Day of the arrest… and a member of Boichuk-Sedliar national-fascist group… this organization hated Postyshev especially strong. Boichuk pronounced this surname with especial anger... Sedliar conducted the preparation of an attempt on Postyshev’s life.”

Vasyl Sedliar: “…the political situation in Ukraine… the beginning of the defeat of nationalistic groups… have prompted the activity of our group of artists who have consolidated around Mykhailo Bouichuk.”

Ivan Lypkivsky: “The Russification of the state and the apparatus in Ukraine is underway… the overall policy is aimed at holding repressions against Ukrainian national staff. The conscious Ukrainians are being arrested and sent to exile… it is our duty to fight this situation.”

We don’t know how Sofia Nalepinska-Boichuk looked after the interrogations and torture, the investigation case has not preserved any of her photos, but she, a faithful love and betrayed wife, “stood up to what men were unable to stand” and did not say a bad word about Boichuk.

At a closed court session in Kyiv on July 13, 1937, the case of “Boichuk’s terrorist group” was considered, and, based on the accusation of taking part in a “nationalistic fascist and terrorist organization,” all four were sentenced to the “extreme penalty – execution and confiscation of private property.” “The sentence is final and must be executed immediately,” the decision was put into action on the same day in the basement of the former Institute for Noble Maidens (currently Zhovtnevy Palace) in Kyiv (DA SBU. Case No. 267340).

Based on the research of historian Serhii Bilokin, specifically his publication The Death of Sofia Nalepinska-Boichuk, let us consider these events in more detail. “The decision to start investigation in her case and imprison the artist in a prison basement, dated June 4, 1937, was made by the detective of the 4th department of the UGB NKVD URSR Pera Isakivna Goldman. Law-enforcement agencies arrested Ostap Vyshnia, Oles Dosvitnii, Kost Kotko, Ivan Lakyza, Oleksa Slisarenko, and the same Mykhailo Boichuk, following her instructions in different years.” (Pera Goldman, for one, made a good career. It is known that in 1946 she was major of state security.)

“She had been tortured for six months.” When a prisoner did not give needed evidence, and the terms of imprisonment defined by the socialistic law expired, the investigators appealed for prolonging the term for another month. The detainment term for Nalepinska-Boichuk had been prolonged three times. And Mykhailo Boichuk was already dead by that time.

“It would have been easy for her to estrange herself from her husband, if she said she had not been living with him for a long while,” and that he was spending more time in Kharkiv, where another woman, Alla Gerburt-Johansen, gave birth to his daughter after his arrest. Nalepinska’s love was higher than everyday family conflicts.

“She was asked many times, it is not known exactly how many (only five protocols have preserved),” Bilokin writes, “But she held her own in a stoic way. The case does not provide for any information as to what tortures were applied to her, in what ways she had been tortured. No photo of her was made before the execution, so we will never find out how awfully she looked, for she stood up to what men failed. Hardly any prisoner found as much strength as her. Sofia Nalepinska stood up to everything.”

On December 11, 1937, following the sentence of Kyiv’s troika of UGB (agreed by Prydatok, Lifar, and Khatenever) she was executed in the internal prison of the NKVD as “an enemy of the people and participant of the anti-Soviet nationalistic terrorist organization.” And her son Petrus, left to the mercy of fate, died under unknown circumstances in September 1941.

Mykola Kasperovych, who was the last to be arrested, on the accusation of “participation in Petliurite-insurgent and national-fascist organizations and espionage” started an unequal struggle with the investigators, hoping for the common sense in the highest authorities of the NKVD, putting incredibly fantastical confessions in his evidence. However, he lost in this game. Following the sentence of the UNKVD troika he was sentenced to extreme penalty on May 7, 1938.

The creations of the executed artists, according to the decision of the Commission of the Department for Culture and Education of the CC KP(b)U were liable to destruction. This sentence was executed in a most diligent manner. As art expert Dmytro Horbachov writes, “Ukrainian avant-garde was destroyed during the flight of the anti-aircraft gun of Stalin’s terror.”

On February 1, 1958, when the Khrushchev Thaw began, the case of Boichukists was closed due to lack of corpus delicti and the good names of Mykhailo Boichuk, Vasyl Sedliar, and Ivan Padalka, were restored. (However, Ivan Lypkivsky’s name is not on the list of rehabilitated person of that time.) Sofia Nalepinska-Boichuk was rehabilitated only during Gorbachev’s perestroika in December 1988, and Mykola Kasperovych in 1989.

Only in the late 1980s the terrible truth about the death of tens thousand people shot in the basements of the Kyiv internal prison of the NKVD in 1937-41, as well as about the mass graves of these victims in Bykivnia, was revealed. Apparently, namely in the Bykivnia forest near Kyiv should one look for the nameless graves of Mykhailo Boichuk and his pupils.

Here the author wants to think over the rhetorical question, the researcher of Ukrainian “Executed Renaissance” Yurii Lavrinenko put back in May 1959: “Why should they have been rehabilitated from ‘terrorist attempts’ ascribed to them, when these ‘terrorist’ poets themselves fell victim to the state terror of Moscow? Why should the brand of agents of foreign intelligence services has been taken from them when they were born, grew up, and were executed for liberation of their country and its spirit from all the occupants? Why should they have been rehabilitated from the role of enemies of the reconstruction of social relations based on the law of justice, which makes impossible any exploitation and suppression of a man by a man, or a nation by a nation, when that was the holy of holies of their souls, and the Supreme Court punished them for finding a spiritual key to solving all the problems?”

Photo replicas provided by the author

Destroyed “during the flight of the anti-aircraft gun of Stalin’s terror” @AU By Yaroslav KRAVCHENKO, Ph.D. in Art