European Memories

of the Gulag


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Orest Yarynich was born in October 1934 in Lviv in Galicia, then in Poland, now in Ukraine. At the end of the War, barely a teenager, he formed an underground group with his school friends, called “Saint Yury’s (George’s)”. They handed out tracts calling for civil resistance to the Soviet authorities and collected gifts and money to support the men of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), who were fighting the Red Army in the Carpathian forests.

In December 1949, just 15 years old, he was arrested with his friends. After a long journey through the prisons of the USSR, including the Butyrka in Moscow, he was sentenced to five years’ forced labour for high treason and anti-Soviet conspiracy. He served his term in various sections of the Mordovian Gulag, was amnestied after Stalin’s death and returned to Lviv in 1953. But soon afterwards he was sent to Stalinabad (now Dushanbe) in Tajikistan for three years’ military service.

It was not until the late 1950s that he could settle in Lviv, study orthodontics, marry and enjoy a career and family life.