Svitlychna, Nadia. Bookmark embroidered in Mordovia, 1970s. Applied arts object.
Nadia Svitlychna embroidered this bookmark, while serving her sentence in the Mordovian political labor camp ZhKh-385/3 near the settlement of Barashevo in the Tengushevsk district of the RSFSR. While in the camps Svitlychna actively engaged in protests, hunger strikes, and creative acts like embroidery. This piece was made for her brother Ivan Svitlychny, while bother of them were serving lengthy sentences in separate Mordovian hard labor camps. She sent the bookmark in a letter, which luckily made it through censors, who left the gift undisturbed. Its arrival was a source of tremendous joy for both and also evidence of fluidity in the Soviet penal system.
Born in the Lugansk region, both Nadia and Ivan were central to the revival of Ukrainian culture after Stalin and the human rights movement in Ukraine. The embroidered bookmark includes the image of a Cossack, evoking national symbols and associations with the freedom loving people of the steppe. However, both Nadia and Ivan actively participated in protests, hunger strikes, and other forms of resistance that aimed to bring attention to conditions in the camps and arbitrary abuse at the hands of guards and administrators. Although national in theme, it is important to remember that the Ukrainian opposition was considered by figures like Max Hayward as “striking both for its moderation and high intellectual level,” as the historian Anna Procyk has noted in conference remarks. She also referenced Frederick C. Barghoorn, who wrote in his introduction to the Chornovil Papers that “although the preservation of Ukrainian cultural heritage and language are central features of the outlook of many young Ukrainian intellectuals, the latter perceive themselves as struggling, not against the Russian nation and probably not against socialist principles, but rather against dictatorship and police state.” This bookmark is the byproduct of precisely that movement and ethos which the Svitlychy’s helped found.
Kyiv Olesia Honchara Street 33, Ukraine
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- The Sixtiers Museum, Kyiv, Ukraine
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- Kulick, Orysia Maria
Horalewskyj, Taras B., Bohdan Yasen, and Bohdan Arey. Invincible Spirit: Art and Poetry of Ukrainian Women Political Prisoners in the U.S.S.R. Baltimore: Smoloskyp Publishers, 1977.
Procyk, Anna. "Dissent in Ukraine Through the Prism of Amnesty International." Human Rights in Ukraine, Kharkiv Human Rights Group. Last modified January 11, 2011. http://khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1326302237.
Lodzynska, Olena O., interview by Kulick, Orysia Maria, March 23, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection