January 6 is the day when Vasily Stus was born.
Vasily Semyonovych Stus was born to a family of peasants in the village of Rakhnovka of the Gaysinsky district in the Vinnitsa region on January 6, 1938.
Vasily began writing poems and translating them into German back in his student years. After graduating from the university, Stus worked as a Ukrainian language teacher and published his first poems in the Literaturna Ukraina newspaper in 1959.
In September 1965, Stus joined a protest staged by Ivan Dzyuba, Vyacheslav Chornovil and Yuriy Badzyo in the city of Kiev. The four called on Kiev’s communist leadership and the city’s residents to condemn arrests of Ukrainian intellectuals. That was the first political protest staged by members of general public in the postwar Soviet Union. For this, Vasily Stus was expelled from the post-graduate course and kept under constant surveillance by the KGB.
Stus’s literary activity and his constant criticism of the Soviet system caused him to be arrested for the first time in 1972. His anti-Soviet campaigning and propaganda landed him in forced labor camps and gold mines in Russia’s Mordovia and Magadan where he spent the next 8 years. Most of the poems Stus wrote back then were seized and destroyed.
In early 1980, Stus was arrested for the second time. His state-appointed lawyer was V.V. Medvedchuk who later got into politics and married Oksana Marchenko, a famous TV host. Vasiliy Stus was sentenced to 10 years in forced labor camps and 5 years in exile. Stus died on September 4, 1985, long before his sentence expired, as a result of the hunger strike he was on.
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