Andriy Babiuk, aka Myroslav Irchan. Collage: Na_Skryzhalyah
2021/04/15 – 11:29 •
Among them was there Andriy Babiuk, aka Myroslav Irchan, Ukrainian-Canadian writer, poet, novelist, publicist, playwright, translator, literary critic, journalist, historian and publisher. He was one of many Ukrainian-Canadians who voluntarily left Canada and returned to Ukraine, believing in the Communist government’s slogans and trying to contribute to the development of the Ukrainian SSR.
Like most returnees, who failed to escape again, he paid for this decision with his life.
Myroslav Irchan’s real name was Andriy Babiuk. He was born into a poor peasant family in the village of Piadyky, today’s Kolomyia Raion, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast on July 14, 1897. He studied at the village school and the Kolomyia Gymnasium and graduated from the Lviv teachers’ seminary in 1914.
During World War I, Irchan served in the Sich Rifle Legion of the Austro-Hungarian Army. Joined the Communist Party of Ukraine in 1921, ended up in the ranks of Halytska’s Ukrainian Red Army (tThe official name of the Ukrainian Army Halytska (Galician) (UHA) after its forced absorption into the Red Army in February 1920) and edited the periodical Chervony Strilets (Red Rifleman).
At the end of the civil war, Irchan settled in Kiev, where he joined the editorial board of Halytsky Komunist. He met and married a young woman named Zdenka, the daughter of a Czech doctor. When his parents returned to Prague in 1922, the young couple followed them. In Prague he enrolled at the Charles University and participated in Ukrainian student activities.
In October 1923, Irchan accepted an invitation via the ULFTA (Ukrainian Labor-Farmer Temple Association) come to Canada and undertake editorial and organizational work for the Ukrainian pro-communist left. ULFTA was a communist cultural and educational organization that sought to provide industrial and agricultural workers and their families with a wide variety of services. He established libraries, theater groups, orchestras, choirs and fraternal organizations that offered medical and social assistance.
In Canada, Irchan experienced the most creative literary period of his life as an editor, poet, screenwriter and playwright. The first play he wrote in Canada between 1923 and 1924 was The family of brush manufacturers (Родина щіткарів).
He settled in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he published in local left-wing newspapers, edited two Ukrainian magazines – Working woman (Robitnytsia) is World of Youth (Svit Molodi), and founded the group of writers Zaokeansky Hart (Overseas Hart), which he was affiliated with The organization of proletarian writers based in Kharkiv Hart. Irchan was a staunch Communist and felt quite comfortable in the Ukrainian-Canadian community, where the leftist movement was quite popular.
Hart – an association of proletarian writers founded in Kharkiv in January 1923 by Vasyl Blakytny, revolutionary and political writer, poet and journalist. Its aim was “to fight against bourgeois art” and “to involve the proletarian masses in literary creativity”. Branches of the association were created in Kiev, Odessa, Kamianets-Podilsky, etc. He has published two almanacs: Hart (Kharkiv, 1924) and Kyiv-Hart (Kyiv, 1925). A disagreement between most of its members and supporters of writer Mykola Khvylovy, who advocated artistic creativity rather than mass literary production as the goal of literary activity (the Urbino group), led to Hart’s dissolution in December 1925. Khvylovy and his supporters founded the Vaplite group of writers, while most of the other members joined the All-Ukrainian Association of Proletarian Writers.
From 1923 to 1933, the Communist Party of Ukraine introduced a series of policies called “Ukrainianization”, dedicated to improving the national profile of state and party institutions and thus legitimizing Soviet rule in the eyes of the Ukrainian population. The measures included improving the use and facilitating the development of the Ukrainian language and promoting other elements of Ukrainian culture in various spheres of public life, such as education, publishing, government and religion.
Many Ukrainians, who had emigrated abroad, accepted the Communist appeal, and Myroslav Irchan was one of them. In the summer of 1932, sincere in his belief in building a Communist Ukraine, Irchan returned to Kharkiv, then the capital of Soviet Ukraine, where he headed the organization of Western Ukrainian Communist Emigrant Writers. Zakhidna Ukraina and edited his monthly magazine. The group included many Halychyna intellectuals – Volodymyr Hzhytsky, Dmytro Zahul, Mechyslav Hasko, Liubomyr Dmyterko, Agata Turchynska, Myroslav Sopilka. Irchan resided in the famous community center – the Slovo Building in Kharkiv. He continued his creative work, wrote five plays and was widely published in newspapers and magazines.
However, Ukrainization was short-lived. At the end of 1929 the Soviet Union, under Joseph Stalin, had started a systematic process of political repression. Members of the intelligentsia were arrested as “enemies of the people”.
Myroslav Irchan was arrested on December 28, 1933 and accused of belonging to a Ukrainian nationalist counter-revolutionary organization. Three months later, on March 28, 1934, a judicial “troika” (three officials who sentenced people after quick and streamlined investigations and without a fair public trial) and the GPU Separate Council sentenced the writer to ten years in a maximum security penal colony. Irchan’s arrest was met with shock and disbelief from the ULFTA ranks in Canada, and questions regarding the whole issue played a crucial role in developing a major rift with communism and reshuffling in the Canadian organization.
Myroslav Irchan served his sentence in the Karelian labor camps and in the Solovki Gulag on the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea. This is where he met Ukrainian playwrights The Kurbas is Mykola Kulish, who shared the same tragic fate.
On October 9, 1937, the NKVD “troika” of the Leningrad region sentenced Myroslav Irchan to death – “execution by firing squad” – in a fabricated lawsuit against 134 so-called “Ukrainian bourgeois nationalists”, who allegedly founded a counter-revolutionary organization called the All-Ukrainian Central Bloc. Myroslav Irchan was executed with many other Ukrainian intellectuals on November 3, 1937 a Sandarmokh in Karelia, RF (Executed Renaissance).
Myroslav Irchan and several other Ukrainian intellectuals arrested during the Stalinist purges were posthumously rehabilitated in 1957 as part of Nikita Khrushchev’s official condemnation of the “cult of Stalinism”.
Two monuments have been unveiled in his honor: one in his native village and one in Kolomyia.
Tags: Canada, Karelia, Stalinist repressions, “Renaissance carried out” in Ukraine