Vera Chopik: 25 years of forced labour
Vera Chopik was born on 30 September 1929, in Beneva, a village in the Ternopil region of Ukraine. Arrested in 1950 and sentenced to 25 years of forced labour in the Minlag camp, in the Komi Republic, she returned to western Ukraine in 1973. She was interviewed in Lviv, Ukraine, on 19 October 2009, by Marc Elie and Marta Craveri.
The Chekists arrest me. They tie my hands behind my back and throw me onto the truck like I’m an animal. I went for ten days without receiving anything from my relatives, without anything to eat.
Vera Chopik was born in September 1929 in a village in the Ternopil region, in the west of Ukraine. Her parents were farmers and very active members of the Greek Orthodox church.
From an early age, she was aware of her father’s activities in the community and his fight for the Ukrainian cause. When Soviet troops invaded Western Ukraine in September 1939, Vera’s father was arrested and transferred to a prison in Ternopil.
She and her mother would collect him from the prison in June 1941, when German troops arrived in the region. It was then that she saw, for the first time, the mass graves filled with bodies of the enemies – real or imagined – of the Soviet empire.
When in 1944 Soviet troops reclaimed control of the region and forced the German occupiers to withdraw, Vera and her family helped the nationalist resistance movement that continued to fight against the Red Army in the Carpathian mountains. Her mother taught Vera to make medicine from herbs, to sew uniforms and to prepare food, which the women then brought to the woods where the resistance fighters hid.
Her brother and father were the first to be arrested. Then, in the summer of 1950, secret police officers came for her. She was arrested and sent to Ternopil prison.
Vera was sentenced to 25 years of forced labour and transferred to a special camp for political prisoners, Minlag, close to the town of Inta in the Komi Republic.
In 1956, a few years after Stalin's death, Vera was granted amnesty. She was allowed to leave the camp but not to return home.
She spent 21 years in the Komi Republic, where she earned her living as a seamstress. It was only in 1973 that she was eventually allowed to go back to western Ukraine.