“We got into a different kind of hell”:Mykhailo Bachynskyi

Author of the text

Oleksandr Pahirya

Translated from Ukrainian by

Anna Andruseiko

Mykhailo was less than ten years old when his father, Serhiy Bachynsky, was arrested by the NKVD on the night of February 28-29, 1940, and sentenced to death as a former member of the Ukrainian Central Rada(Council) (UCR).

Mykhailo and nanny Natalia, 1931

His father was a well-known Ukrainian public and political figure, educator, publicist, and teacher. In 1917 he was elected as a delegate to the All-Russian Constituent Assembly in St. Petersburg and to the Constituent Assembly of Ukraine from the Ukrainian Socialist Revolutionary Party. In 1917-1918 he was deputy chairman of the faction of the Minor Council that worked between sessions of the Central Council. Later, he was elected as a member of the Labor Congress, which gathered in Kyiv on January 23-28, 1919. 

As Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Directory of the Ukrainian People’s Republic in February-June 1919, he participated in negotiations with representatives of the Entente (The Allies of World War I) in Odesa and Birzul. In 1920 Serhiy emigrated to Poland, settled in Volyn’ region, where he worked as a county agronomist, teacher, and school principal. Here he organized the centers of the organization “Prosvita ” with libraries, reading rooms, and amateur art clubs. After the Soviet power came to Western Ukraine in September 1939, his father tried to avoid repression and moved to Lutsk.

Mykhailo remembered the first meeting with the Soviet authorities:


“Many people greeted the Soviet government with our nationalist flags. After a while, they all appeared to be in Siberia. In recent years, Poland has greatly displaced(supplant) Ukrainians, especially with the language. And in fact, we thought that our brothers would help us and take us out of hell. But actually we went to another hell. “

After the searches in the family’s home, NKVD arrested his father for participation in “anti-Soviet counter-revolutionary” activities. After a long investigation on May 24, 1941, the Kyiv Regional Court sentenced him to the maximum penalty – execution. The sentence was carried out on the day of the beginning of the German-Soviet war on June 22, 1941, in the Bykivnia Forest near Kyiv.

A few months after his arrest, on April 13, 1940, the entire family was deported to Kazakhstan. During the eviction, Mykhailo managed to take several books, a pack of pencils, and notebooks. Then, while staying in a special settlement, he exchanged pencils for bread, thus saving the family from starvation.


“When Novikov arrived, we took nothing. Because we thought we were going to be shot. I took Сhmelyk’s book, a pack of pencils and a pile of notebooks. I then exchanged them for bread. When we were riding in a sleigh, we met Natalia, the escort did not want to take her, but she insisted. Without her, we would have died of cold and hunger. “

Mykhailo Bachynskyi, 1946

After his release from the special settlement, Mykhailo, his mother and sister returned to Western Ukraine (1944). After the war, the boy was detained by the Soviet authorities on suspicion for participating in an anti-Soviet youth organization:


“An underground group was organized there. One clever man asked me to give the book to a girl. At that time there were women’s and men’s schools. I brought the book. On February 23, 1949, the NKVD came to me and took away all my papers. There was a notebook where my mother wrote that she wanted me to be like a father – to fight for an independent Ukraine. But the woman managed to hide that notebook and that saved me. “

Mykhailo Bachynsky and his family, 1962

The story is presented in the exhibition “Lost Childhood: Heard and Unseen”, which is part of the international project “Lost Childhood”. It is supported by the European Union under the House of Europe program. This project is implemented by the Territory of Terror Museum together with the NGO Post Bellum (Paměť národa) (Czech Republic, Prague).


Expect the opening of a platform with 30 stories of people who witnessed violence, repression, and crimes against humanity as children. It will also include their lectures, art reflections, photos, videos and documentaries about the post-war deportations from Western Ukraine in the late 1940s and early 1950s.