Hryhoriy Sesak was born in Lackie Szlacheckie, which is now called Lypivka, when the village, which is about 15 miles from the city of Ivano-Frankivsk, was part of Poland.  He was a boy when he witnessed the Soviet and Nazi occupations.   I interviewed him in 2007 in front of the small farmhouse where he has lived his entire life.

My name is Sesak, Hryhoriy Yosyfich.  I was born here in 1932.

The Bolsheviks came in 1939.  I was young, but I remember some things.  I remember when they were coming to the village—all the soldiers, tall and small, and there were lots of them.

When they came the collective farms were formed.  People were antagonized and beaten.  People resisted heavily, protested.  The Soviets tried to force them to sign over their property, and if not they would beat them.  They called us names-Banderivtsi. [“Banderites” were followers of Stepan Bandera, leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN).  The Soviets used the term as an epithet.]

When we learned about the OUN, we were welcoming and had great enthusiasm.  We wanted our independence.  Everyone wanted to join from when we were toddlers.  It was well received.

If I wanted to sing in Ukrainian, we would go out into the fields, we sat there and sang as much as we wanted.  During the day the Bolsheviks stayed in certain areas but would not venture out.  But at night we felt safe and at night our guys, the partisans, would come out of the woods.  Whether they needed food or whatever.  And we helped them there.

I remember some of the songs we sang.

There stands a parting soldier

Bidding farewell to his beloved one.

Departing on a long journey,

For his beloved country,

For the partisan tradition,

We are going into battle for our victory.

And the wind is swaying the green grass,

The young oak leans towards home.

The leaves have fallen

The dead soldier lies beside the oak,

His saddened horse stands over him.

“Oh horse, my horse,

How low you stand above me.

In the meantime, I will lie here in peace.

Run my horse and let my old dear mother know,

That I lie in the steppes dead.”

This one song in particular is one that we would have been shot for singing in those times:

Sunday morning

The machine guns were playing,

The Red Evil Ones

Were searching for the partisans.

The Red Evil Ones

Were searching for the partisans.

They found a bunker

And began shooting,

Yelling at the young partisans to surrender.

The young partisans fought for a long time,

They took the last grenade

And they blew themselves up.

With the last grenade

The blew themselves up

Glory to Ukraine.  In unison they shouted

Red Evil One without any blood

Goes into the bunker,

With the dead partisan they return

From the bunker

They took the dead partisans

Throwing them on their sleighs

The villagers were herded together

To observe who they (the Bolsheviks) had killed

Who they killed from the partisans in the village.

Who they killed from the partisans in the village.

They dropped the youth on the ground

To lie on the fallen leaves

The wind is blowing,

Raising their hair

And on the partisans

The golden Tryzub glistens [The Tryzub is the Ukrainian national emblem, the Trident]

There are thousands of songs like this.

The partisans came at night.  We’d take them food, apples, when no one would know.  If we were caught when we were little, they’d beat us to a pulp.  But no one would admit to anything.

I know that they came at night, more than one hundred of them, in the village by the orchard.  People prepared food for them.  I don’t know what year that was.

The Bolsheviks deported many to Siberia.  After people disappeared, you heard something bad had happened.  The Bolsheviks would come into the house and tell you to leave.  Kick you out.  People sent parcels [to those exiled to Sibera].  What were they supposed to do?  They missed them and pitied them.

Then when the Germans came [in June 1941] it was bad here.  The war had started.  That was the year of famine.  I remember when my father and a neighbor hitched the wagons up and went past into Podillya to buy feed for the stock.  This I remember.  The Germans took those had little land and forced them to work in Germany.  Those who had more land stayed here to work.  My sister, Katherine, who was born in ’22, they took her to a labor camp in Germany.

The Germans took up residency in my home.  As far as the regular army was concerned, they were polite, very disciplined.  We did not have much trouble with them.

Our people at first tried to get the Soviets out.  When Bandera declared Ukraine’s independence [on June 30, 1941], they thought Ukraine was going to be free.  Some had hope that the Germans would help us, but that was not the case.  Following that they were after Ukrainians.

I remember this from when I was little.  The Germans herded the Jews from the village together.  There were many of them marching and the Germans were behind them.  I remember the German soldiers, if a woman stumbled or fell, they would kick her.  Then they sent them to a ghetto in Ivano Frankivsk or something.

When the Jews were being marched out, I watched through the fence in front of the house.  One man turned to us and said, “We are the yeast, and when the dough rises it will be mixed with you.”

After the Soviets came back [in 1944] they did not deport everyone.  My father had died young of pneumonia in 1941.  There were many children in my family, initially nine, but two died, so there were seven.  Where were the Bolsheviks going to take us all?  So they left us alone.

Everything about the village changed from when I was a boy.  During the Polish regime, there were a lot of children here.  People did not have jobs.  People lived off of the land.  When the Soviets came, they initially tried to create an illusion.  But it went from bad to worse.  People worked in the collective farms.  Later people worked in factories in Ivano Frankivsk.  That was better.  But working in the collective farms you made a sleeve full of grain for the year.  You were not allowed to keep a cow, but Stalin’s portrait had to hang on the wall.

The churches never closed.  People still attended, but just the elderly.  Kids did not go.  The Soviets changed the church to Russian Orthodox.

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