Lyudmila Deyneka

* 1952

  • "You cannot imagine what it means to be an enemy of the people. People in the Czech Republic often tell me it was the same for them. No. It wasn't. My father came back to western Ukraine and he couldn't find a job for six months. He was going crazy. He needed money, the kids were small, and he couldn't find anything. Even the relatives turned away from us because they were afraid for themselves and their children. It was such a terrible regime! And one couldn't do anything about it. But we had to live somewhere. It's indescribable. Everything was arranged in a way so that the person would return back there out of despair. So my father went back there because he had a job there. He wasn't a free man there because he was told where he could and couldn't go. He couldn't go back to Lviv until Ukraine's independence."

  • "There were former political prisoners living there, but there were also murderers who had repeatedly served their sentences in the camps. And that was a problem. These people were not afraid of anything, they were not afraid to kill. And they drank a lot, a lot of vodka. They worked and then when they got their pay at the end of the month, they didn't go to work until they had spent all the money on alcohol. When they were drinking, they were also very aggressive and they were shootings in the streets every night. We had to hide at home and we couldn't even stand by the window because they could shoot at the windows. But usually they killed a man with a knife. They would cut them up like a pig. It was horrible. And it was also very popular among the murders to play cards for a man. Whoever lost had to kill them."

  • "I remember very well the time we went to the Urals and how terrible it was. I'll try to describe it to you. We went to see my father. We went first by train. My father was waiting for us in Ukhta. Then we took a bus to Troitsko-Pechorsk in the Komi ASSSR [Komi Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic] and from there we still had to get to the village of Komsomolsk on Pechora. It was still 300 kilometres away and there was no public transport. It was the end of March, and it was still very cold in Komi, snow and frost. We came from western Ukraine and we were not prepared for that kind of weather. We had spring shoes and spring clothes. My father was running around, looking for a truck to get us to Komsomolsk in Pechora. He succeeded and we went by truck. It was terrible to look around because there was taiga on the right, taiga on the left, taiga in front, and snow, snow, snow everywhere. I didn't understand where we were going. But we were kids so we didn't care that much, but my mom was crying a lot. Then we came to Komsomolsk on Pechora, and it was a village in the middle of taiga."

  • "Lviv, but not only Lviv, the whole of western Ukraine understood that if Maidan was to last and succeed, money had to be collected. So everybody pitched in. I personally, as soon as I got my pension, I took two hundred hryvnia to the Church of Saints Peter and Paul. There was a big box with a stamp on it, and people were bringing money there. It was a huge box and it was always full. In that church, besides money, food was collected. We brought honey, nuts, raisins, some people brought lard, salted or smoked. Then they also needed clothes. Everything I had, jackets, sweaters, some blankets, warm knitted scarves, I washed it all, dried it and took it there. The volunteers sorted it, put it on cars and took it to Kiev. A lot of money was given by business people. Business in general was on the Maidan side. Businessmen, millionaires, bankers, everyone donated. They knew even better what Yanukovych and his regime stood for. Such was the support."

  • "I was still serving in the army. Once I was leaving work and as always I walked past the opera house. And in front of the opera house there was a big statue of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. It was giant. And suddenly I see people gathering around. I didn't have a camera at that time, I was really poor back then and had no money for such things. And I asked the people around, 'What's going on here? What's happening?' And they replied, 'We'll take Lenin down! To hell with Lenin!' So I stopped, I had to see it. It was a historic moment. It was the first Lenin in Ukraine to be removed. People watched it gobsmacked. And it went so quick. The activists came and brought red paint. Some ladders were put up and they poured the red paint over the statue of Lenin. And Lenin stood covered in 'blood'. And then the technicians came, they put an iron chain around his neck and off he went. But it didn't go so easily, because it was made of good granite. It fell down and broke into pieces. People took pictures. They stood and cried with happiness that they lived to see that moment."

  • "When the Soviet Union collapsed, I was still in the army. And for three days it was terrible. We all spent the night in the headquarters building. It was a first level emergency. Even I was given a pistol and three bullets. They wouldn't let me go anywhere. They brought me an iron army bed, I got a mattress, a pillow and a blanket and I stayed there. We couldn't phone anybody. The mobile phones didn't exist back then. I had no information for three days. When I needed to use the toilet, which was on the first floor whilst I was on the third floor, the guys from the ward went with me to make sure nothing would happen. It was almost like a theatre play or a movie script. During those three days, we were allowed to do nothing but look out the window. But there was no one outside anyway. Until the Supreme Soviet signed the independence of Ukraine, we were not sure what to expect. But senior Russian officers started packing their bags. And not only bags. There were a lot of military crates full of stuff. High-ranking people were loading it on their planes. They took their suitcases, their wives, their dishes, carpets and everything, and they flew to Moscow."

  • “There were lots of people from the Greek Catholic Church there, writers, but also Germans, Czechs, and Baltic nationals. There were Russians as well, musicians from St Petersburg, painters from St Petersburg. Dad was very good at painting - he learnt that in the labour camp.”

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Don’t envy others and don’t take from others for yourself

Ludmila Dejneka in soviet army
Ludmila Dejneka in soviet army
zdroj: archiv pamětnice

Ludmila Dejneka was born on 17 February 1952 into the family of an ethnic Czech journalist and a Ukrainian shop assistant. In 1947 her father, Václav Topinka, was condemned as a Ukrainian nationalist and sentenced to death; his sentence was later reduced to 25 years of prison. In the end he spent more than 11 years in Soviet labour camps. After his release, he was barred from returning home to his family, and so his family moved to reunite with him in the Komi Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. They lived there until 1968, when they were finally allowed to move to western Ukraine. Ludmila Dejneka studied chemical engineering at the Lviv Polytechnic Institute, where she also met her future husband. Upon graduating in 1974, she spent ten years as a laboratory assistant at a military ceramic factory. Starting in 1983 she served in the Soviet - later Ukrainian - army for fourteen years. As an expert in technical security, she achieved the rank of sergeant major. After leaving the army she worked as a children‘s nurse and then as a methodologist at the Polytechnic Institute. She retired in 2012. She currently chairs the Czech expatriate association Česká beseda in Lviv. Ludmila Dejneka is a widow, she has one daughter and lives in Lviv.