May 15, 1999
60 Minutes, CBS Television
51 W 52nd Street
New York, NY
Volodymyr Ivasiuk is best known as a composer and poet, author of the widely popular song Chervona Ruta whose first two lines appear below as he wrote them in his own hand, which song more than anything else made him beloved throughout Ukraine, and even beyond the borders of Ukraine. On top of that, Volodymyr was a man of many talents, having earned a degree in medicine, and having demonstrated talent in art, photography, and cinematography.
However, having reached his prime showing so much promise, it was not given Volodymyr Ivasiuk to develop his talents further. He was dead at the age of 30. To the right is a photograph of his funeral procession, attended by thousands of mourners despite the suppression by the state of the publication of information concerning his burial, despite official warnings to not attend funeral services, and despite the calling of Komsomol meetings, which carried mandatory attendance, on the same day. The magazine Halas, on whose information I rely in the present letter, states that Rostyslaw Bratun who was the first to step forward and speak at Volodymyr's funeral lost his job two months later. Words spoken at the funeral by the Sichko family landed them in prison.
To the right is a second photograph showing the statue that was eventually erected in Volodymyr Ivasiuk's memory.
And just how did Volodymyr Ivasiuk meet his end? His death certificate which appears below states that he died on 24-27 April 1979 from mechanical asphyxiation caused by hanging in a noose, and attributes the hanging to suicide.
The details of Volodymyr Ivasiuk's death, however, do not support the official view that he killed himself:
They waited and searched for Volodya for 24 days. Following the mysterious disappearance of the composer, the search for him was not disclosed to the public, the explanation being given that such an announcement would create a disturbance. However, the mass media are daily used not only to help locate people, but sometimes even their pets. [...]
It was not until May 18, 1979 that Volodymyr Ivasiuk's body was accidentally discovered in the heavy forest near the village Briukhovych near Lviv.
One couldn't bring oneself to believe it. The parents were allowed to identify their son only on the following day, even though it was only a five-minute walk from the apartment where Volodya lived to the morgue; and the identification was conducted with gross violations of law. The father was allowed to view the body only after he repeatedly telephoned the Oblast Procurator threatening to send a telegram of complaint to the General Procurator of Ukraine. The local authorities eventually gave in with the exasperated reply: "Take your son home, and look at him there at least a hundred years!" His death certificate reported that he died 24-27 April 1979 at the age of 30. The cause of death: mechanical asphyxiation. Hanging from a noose — suicide. The death certificate was issued on May 21, 1979, and even back then, a mere three days after the body had been discovered, without any evidence or investigation it had been written in black and white that Volodymyr Ivasiuk had committed suicide.
There immediately arises the question that if the composer had indeed hung himself on 24-27 April, and was not found until 18 May, whether he could have remained hanging from a tree for 21-24 days. Volodya weighed 80 kg (176 lb), such that hanging for so long, the noose would have cut into his neck to the depth of the bones. Also during May the weather was warm and dry. The body would have decomposed during this interval, and from it would have emanated an intolerable odour. All these substantiating signs were missing, and missing too were the autopsy photographs.
On May 22 of every year let us remember that Volodymyr Ivasiuk became another innocent victim of a totalitarian regime.
M. Masly, Volodymyr Ivasiuk: Light and Shadow of a Legend, Halas (Clamor), 3Jun97, pp. 11-12, as translated by Lubomyr Prytulak.
Halas is a Ukrainian-language magazine which reviews popular music and is published in Kyiv. The section commemorating Volodymyr Ivasiuk in the 3Jun97 issue was sponsored and supported by Coca Cola Ukraine.
And truly, the administration hated him while he was alive, and feared him once he was dead. Volodya's mother, Sophia Ivanivna Ivasiuk met with the first secretary of the Lviv administration, V. Dobryk to plead with him to permit a monument to be placed on the grave of her son. "The war took from me my father and three brothers. My sister's husband did not return from the front," wept the woman, "and now my son too has been lost. Do I not after all that have the right to consecrate his memory?" In reply, Dobryk (what evil irony that such a soulless individual should have a name denoting goodness) pressed a concealed button and said in Russian to the lackey who entered, "Take that lady out." Following this visit, Sophia Ivanivna Ivasiuk received the "insult in the name of Dobryk." She has been in ill health ever since.
Sooner or later will arrive the day when truth will emerge victorious. But in the meantime, those who come too near to the truth concerning what happened to Volodymyr Ivasiuk find themselves the victims of an unusual number of accidents. One man's wife unexpectedly hangs herself, another man throws himself from a balcony, still another drowns, yet another falls under the wheels of a car.... But remember, butchers, God's punishment will descend even upon you!
M. Masly, Volodymyr Ivasiuk: Light and Shadow of a Legend, Halas (Clamor), 3Jun97, p. 12, as translated by Lubomyr Prytulak.
Mr. Safer, you went to Ukraine determined to come back with a story of Ukrainians persecuting Russians and Jews. You failed to find any substantiation for such a story. You failed to find any Russian composer and poet who had been found hanging in a forest under mysterious circumstances. You failed to find any Jewish composer and poet who had been found hanging in a forest under mysterious circumstances. And you were not interested in a Ukrainian composer and poet who had indeed been found hanging in a forest under mysterious circumstances. You went to Ukraine determined to prove that Ukrainians persecute Russians and Jews, and you reported that story to tens of millions of 60 Minutes viewers despite a lack of evidence, and despite plentiful evidence that it is Russians and Jews who persecute Ukrainians, as they have done throughout history.
In your 23Oct94 60 Minutes broadcast The Ugly Face of Freedom, then, you sided with the strong against the weak. You sided with the oppressors against the oppressed. You sided with the butchers against the butchered. You sided with those who hang composers and poets and against Volodymyr Ivasiuk.
cc: Yaakov Bleich, Ed Bradley, Jeffrey Fager, Don Hewitt, Steve Kroft, Andy Rooney, Lesley Stahl, Mike Wallace, Simon Wiesenthal.