Tadey Gorchynski

I, Tadey Gorchynski, was born on July 14, 1934, in Rozdil village, which is in the Lviv region.

My dad got to know more about the Bible in the United States, while working there. He was the first person to preach God’s word in our village using phonograph records and a portable gramophone. These were progressive methods at that time.

At school, children mocked me, and the local priest would turn them against me. As a result, I only completed two years of studying and couldn’t attend classes because of mocking. I remember how the religion teacher set the children up against me. I came back to school 2 years later, but at that time I didn’t study with my peers.

Packing and a long way to go

I remember, how on April 7, 1951, at 2:00 AM someone started banging at our door. These were “strybky”[1] (a fighter battalion armed with carbines) and the Rozdil village authorities – a group of 10-15 people. They brought a vehicle to our yard. And then they said: “You’ve got two hours to pack. You are being evicted from Ukraine.” So, we started packing.

We had livestock: a cow, two goats, a piglet, and chickens. Everything had to stay. They didn’t allow us to slaughter it and take the meat. However, the head of the village council (he was Russian) probably knew where we were going, so he said: “Take a saw and an ax, you’ll need them.” That’s what he said.

I remember that I took a feather comforter and a pillow. And, at the last moment, I grabbed an armchair, but they wouldn’t let me take it. My parents were very rich at that time. My father earned his wealth by working hard in America during the great migration. However, all the valuables were taken away from us.

Two hours passed very fast, after which an officer commanded: “Lock the house.” I had a big lock in my hands, so I locked it and gave the key to the officer. They put three of us – me, dad, and mom – on the truck and took us to Rozvadov to a rail station. I wasn’t scared, since I accepted this reality at once as it was. There, at the station, we were not alone – in front of us there was an entire train full of people, who arrived earlier than us. It was there, when we first learned about where we were being taken!

Interestingly, we were first put in one carriage, then – another one, and then they told us to move to another one. And could anyone ever think that I would find myself in one carriage with Olya, who later became my wife!

We were put into a regular freight train. There were many of us, around 50 people. It was difficult to even walk from one place to another or where to put the luggage. Another thing is that for us villagers, it was a habit to use firewood for heating, but there was only some charcoal. In the carriage next to us, they didn’t measure the right quantity of it and fire almost started. Luckily, it was all worked out and no one got hurt. We were worried, but not crushed in spirit. The most encouraging thing on the train was singing songs to praise God. We sang so zealously, that sometimes it felt like our huge carriage was shaking because of our singing.

This is what my wife tells about this period:

“On April 7, 1951, at the age of 11, I was evicted to Siberia. We were taken by the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs and were given two hours to pack before that. Luckily, we came across good people, they would tell us what we needed to take and what would be useful. My father was a good cobbler, so one soldier told him to grab the shoe-making machine. And they also helped me to gather the books from the shelf and said: “You’ll go to school there too.” Even though they said we only had 2 hours to pack, but actually they let us pack until morning.

We also had a cow, a pig, and chickens. They told my mom: “Go and kill the chickens, so you’ll have something to boil on the train.” It really helped us later on. We were boarded on the truck early in the morning, so our neighbors reacted because they heard the noise. While we were riding, mom was crying out: “We are being evicted for our faith in Jesus Christ!”

There was a baby in the same carriage with us. I remember it well because Myrosja was 11 months old and I was 11 years old. Myrosja was lying in a cradle, and the cradle was standing on a chest because there was no room to put the luggage and move freely throughout the carriage. I was lulling her all the time. Sometimes adults would tell me: “Olya, stop lulling, you’ll wake her up!” It was fun and interesting for me to go by train.

I remember how one young man asked me for color pencils since I had a whole bunch of them. I gave him a handful of pencils, and he wrote on the paper: “We are Jehovah’s Witnesses.” He placed that piece of paper on a window so that people knew who we were.

Arrival and adaptation

We arrived, and they took us all to the bathhouse. This was the first opportunity for us to have a bath after a two-week journey. Then, they took us to the club. A commandant made us sign the document which stated that we arrived in Siberia and have no right to come back.

My parents and I were settled in a remodeled barn with partitions. It was filled with bed bugs. They would bite us so badly at night, that by morning all our bodies were covered with bite marks. Then, I made a “priche” – something similar to a bed, but bed bugs climbed up the bed legs and bit us. After that, I adjusted by putting each leg of the “priche” into a can filled with water. The bed bugs couldn’t climb up because of the water in the cans. However, the bed bugs also adjusted: they started climbing up the walls to the ceiling and dropping down on us. When we plastered the ceiling with clay and whitewashed it, the problem was solved.

The climate in Siberia was totally different from the one we were used to. If it was +40 C in summer, in winter it would be freezing, -50 C. I thought: “Winter is coming, and I have no felt boots.” At a marketplace, I found one boot that was too big, and another one that was too small. But, I bought them – one big and one small. I was happy to have felt boots because then I could walk to work. In summer, a bunch of mosquitos bit me badly. To protect myself from mosquitos, I rubbed heavy duty oil all over my face. And after coming back home, I would take a knife and scrape it and the mosquitos all off my face.

From a schoolgirl to a diligent worker

My wife recalls her life in Siberia:

“We arrived at Lesozavod area of Zima city. In Siberia, I went to school. I remember all the children at school cried when Stalin died. They beat me up because I didn’t cry over Stalin’s death, and I walked home in tears. My father asked me:

  • Olya, why are you crying?! My dear, why are you crying?!
  • Stalin died!
  • Are you crying over his death? – my dad asks.
  • No, I’m crying because I got beaten up at school for not crying over him!

At that time, being different from others was hard not only for adults but for children as well. My studying stopped in the 7th grade. It was very difficult to study because all the lessons were taught in Russian.

When I was 14 years old, I worked in a wood proceeding factory for juveniles. Other children and I sawed boards for boxes. Later, when I mastered sewing, I worked at the sewing studio in the factory, sewing outerwear. I was taught by an incredibly talented tailor – Livyj. I was noticed by my bosses for my honesty and work achievements. Because of that, I received much respect from all the workers and the bosses. For outstanding and high-quality work, I was awarded diplomas (I still keep them), as well as bonuses and gifts. Often, locals would say in surprise: “Why did they evict you? You don’t smoke, don’t drink, you work hard! We need more like you!

Adventure at work

I was assigned to work on log transportation on the Oka River. I couldn’t swim, but nobody cared. It was my responsibility to ensure that the logs were successfully transported along the river. One day there was heavy congestion and the whole raft was blocked, so the boss sent me to fix this problem. My partner and I traveled in a boat to the place of congestion. There, a six-meter pile of logs had gathered, forming a dam. My partner moored the boat to one of the logs. Approaching the epicenter of the congestion, my partner pushed a log with a dredge (a pole with hook on the end for moving logs down a river), and it was “swish, swish, swish, swish” – and that whole pile of wood instantly dispersed along the river and ran furiously downstream. At that moment, my partner ran on the logs and managed to reach the shore, and I, being in the middle of the river and no longer having a chance to return to land, raced downstream, standing on a wide log, which began to spin under my feet. In order not to drown, with all my strength, I drove the dredge into the log, and like a rudder, steered that log for a whole kilometer until I came ashore.

Later, I worked at an open-air sawmill, where I selected boards. I had three 10-hour shifts. When I came home after the third shift, my cotton coat was covered with up to 8 cm of snow. It was extremely difficult, and I had to go to the Personnel Department to write a statement that I desired to change jobs. I was given a job as a loader, and later I managed to get a job at a furniture factory.

Opposition

A security officer was specifically sent from Moscow to oversee Jehovah’s Witnesses. He summoned me for questioning, the main purpose of which was to betray my fellow believers. Without receiving any information from me, this man began to threaten to send me even further afield. I told him, “If you send, I’ll go.” That’s how our conversation ended.

One day, when we all gathered to commemorate the death of Jesus Christ, we were raided. Then we were brought before the court. To humiliate us, people from the village and the factory were gathered at the market place. We were seated in front of them on the dock. Some of the men were punished by a 30 percent pay cut for simply participating in the Memorial.

Because of the ban and surveillance, we had very little spiritual literature. We copied it in notebooks, reprinted it, then took photos. We hid everything because they would take it away.

Not in word… but in deed

Local authorities in Siberia campaigned before our arrival, so the villagers were very aggressive against us. We did not give up, and we always tried to prove our faith not in words but in deeds. Over time, people began to treat us well, and some wanted to learn more about the Bible. I remember when a man came to my workshop and asked me to glaze the window frame. I gladly helped him, but I did not take any money from him. He was impressed because, at that time, people did not have enough money, so nobody would want to lose an opportunity to earn some extra cash. He then told me that he had enough money for only one loaf of bread that day, and when the window broke, he realized that his family would stay hungry today. After that, he wanted to talk to me about God. Later, he and some of his relatives became Jehovah’s Witnesses.

After 18 years of living in exile, we became accustomed to the people and had already begun to feel at home. When we were allowed to return home, the locals did not want us to go. They always said: “If Ukraine will not accept you, come back.”

Returning home

When we returned to our home village, we faced hostility and suspicions again. The local authorities did not permit us to register because we were evicted. But thanks to our good reputation, the issue was later resolved. After we settled down a bit, we gathered together with our fellow believers under the pretense of a housewarming or a New Year party. We listened to recordings of Bible speeches and songs, sang, read spiritual publications, played the accordion, and children recited poems.

In the 1980s, I secretly transported spiritual literature. Although this was risky during the ban, I wanted to do something to encourage my fellow believers spiritually. The meetings we held in the forest were crucial to us. I remember one case when it was raining, but we still came and listened while standing in the rain.

Looking back on my busy life, I can say with confidence that I do not regret anything. And if I have to, I’m ready to go through it all again. When I was 14, I promised God to be guided by his Word for the rest of my life. And I am convinced that when you are persecuted for your beliefs, you need to stay faithful more than ever.

From my own life experience, I can say that everything passes, and it is all unstable in this world. Good relationships with God and people – are the best things you can have.


[1] Strybki” were mostly involved in so called “KGB military operations” like raids, protecting village councils, etc.