V. Ovsiyenko: On June 25, 2003Vakhtang Kipiani and Vasyl Ovsiyenko interview Ivan Hel at the TV Center on 42, Melnykivska Street, Kyiv.
I.Hel: I am Ivan Hel, my patronymic is Andriyovych; I was born on July 17, 1937 in the Village of Klitsko, Horodok Region, Lviv Oblast. Here are my early personal data. I was born into a peasant Christian Greek Catholic family. My father, having 17 years of age (he was born in 1901), volunteered as a UHA rifleman, accompanied combatant units and participated in hostilities against the Poles. This fact speaks for itself. Dad tried to imbue me with his ideas. Moreover, in 1950 my father was arrested as an undercover liaison officer of the District OUN Security Service Commander (information from the KGB archives). He supplied the underground military network with lumber and foodstuffs and treated Supradistrict OUN Commander Oles Olhovy, alias Cheremkha.
My mother’s name is Fevroniya Tershakovets. In Halychyna, I’m not talking of Horodok Region only, the very word Tershakovets weighs a lot. Hryhoriy Tershakovets, born in 1887, was the founder of “Prosvita” in Komarnia and neighboring villages as well as ambassador to Halychyna Sejm from 1913 and up to the collapse of Austria. Then, after the occupation, the Halychyna population boycotted Polish elections. From 1928 to 1939, i.e. up to the collapse of Poland, the Ukrainians participated in the elections and he was ambassador to the Diet for eleven years. Hryn Tershakovets was also the founder of “Silsky Hospodar”. Interestingly enough: in 1990 I went to invite Patriarch Mstyslav, when he first arrived from America to Ukraine, to attend the inauguration of the memorial plaque honoring Sich Riflemen, and he asked me: “Mr. Ivan, where are you from?” I said: “From Klytsko”−“Where is it?” He certainly failed to remember. I said, “It’s near Komarne, a nearby village.”−“Wait, wait, near Komarne there is a Village of Yakymchytsi.” I said: “Right, this is one parish and one Village Rada.”−“And do not you know who Hryhoriy Tershakovets is? He resided there. He is older than you.” I said, “Right, and my mother is Fevroniya Tershakovets.” He hugged me and said, “Well, I was in your village, because I knew Hryn Tershakivtsiv personally, he was deputized to the Polish Sejm from UNDO, and I was an independent deputy from Volyn. My wife lived in Lviv and we used to go there. “Thus, in 1990−it’s a small world−I think the Providence threw us together with Patriarch Mstyslav. Aren’t you knocked all of a heap that the odious Greek Catholic has friendly relations with the Orthodox Patriarch?
Maybe, I have to say this out loud on television today. All and everybody consider me an odious ruiner of Orthodoxy and restorer of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. In fact, I chaired the Committee for Protection of the Greek Catholic Church and was a rabid struggler against Orthodoxy, but Muscovite Russian Orthodoxy. But I was the godfather of the Committee for the Revival of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. Bohdan Myhailechko was the Chairman of the Committee, and Yevhen Sverstiuk was its member, and there were also some more people from Kyiv whose names I do not remember now. I already knew that the UGCC was my native and holy Church. But you cannot bring the ideas of Uniate Church to the East for the believers there consider them unacceptable. We in Halychyna were aware that without Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church one cannot create the independent Ukrainian state in the full sense of the word. And we were always fighting for the state. Therefore I offered Bohdan Myhailechko to create and helped him to form the Committee for the revival of Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. But we may talk about if later. Let us return to the pedigree.