Danylo Shumuk
Данило Шумук
Born30 December 1914
Boremschyna, Ukraine
Died21 May 2004(2004-05-21) (aged 89)
Krasnoarmiisk, Ukraine
OccupationPoet, writer, and political activist

Danylo Lavrentiyovych Shumuk (30 December 1914 – 21 May 2004) was a Ukrainian political activist who served a total of 42 years imprisoned by three different states, Second Polish Republic, Nazi Germany and Soviet Union.

Living in the Second Polish Republic

In 1918 in what now is western Ukraine, the Ukrainian forces fought in the Polish-Ukrainian War, but the Ukrainians in Galicia were alienated after what they saw as a compromise in the Paris Peace Conference with Poland. The Ukrainian People's Republic delegation could not gain recognition at the Treaty of Versailles at the end of the World War. The representatives of the exiled government of the Ukrainian People's Republic fared poorly during Polish-Soviet War where they formed a late alliance with Poland and supported the latter's unsuccessful Kiev Offensive. According to the Peace of Riga which ended the war, the combined territories of the Ukrainian and West Ukrainian People's Republics ended up split again between the Ukrainian SSR in the east, and Poland in the west (Galicia and part of Volhynia).

The ethnic policies in the inter-war Poland were directed towards the Polonization and cultural assimilation of ethnic minorities. The tensions between Poles and Ukrainians increased in such a political environment.

Danylo began his struggle against Polish control and cultural assimilation of this area when he was 17 years old. In 1933, he was arrested by Polish police four times and detained for a short terms. In 1934, he was arrested by the Polish police and held in jail in Kovel until he was sentenced in 1935, to eight-year term for his role in the underground Communist Party of Western Ukraine. He served his term in a prison in Łomża. In 1938 under an amnesty for political prisoners, his sentence was reduced by a third. In the spring of the following year, he was transferred to a jail in Białystok, and on 24 May 1939, he was released.

Living under Soviet Government

For Soviet military action against Poland, see Soviet invasion of Poland (1939).

On 23 August 1939, the Soviet Union signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Nazi Germany. The two governments announced the agreement merely as a non-aggression treaty. A secret appendix to the pact outlined a plan to divide Poland and Eastern Europe into Soviet and German spheres of influence.

Initially, the Soviet rule gained much support of the non-Polish population largely alienated by the nationalist policies of the Second Polish Republic. Much of the Ukrainian population initially welcomed the Soviet occupation, hoping for unification with the rest of Ukraine[1] which fell to Bolshevik forces forming the Ukrainian SSR, a constituent republic of the Soviet Union in 1919.

During the round of repressions that followed the Soviet takeover, Danylo's older brother Anton, who worked for the Polish National Railway was arrested as an "enemy of the people."

On 15 May 1941 the Soviet authorities force Danylo Shumuk to join a 'work camp' as a brother of an enemy of the people. Such treatment did not make Danylo lose faith in the benevolence of communists. When Germany attacked the Soviet Union, the work camps were transformed into Red Army Penal military units,[2] which were usually given the most dangerous assignments and were considered expendable.

Living under German Occupation

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Danylo Shumuk and his penal battalion never received military training, proper equipment and few weapons. They were forced to attack German tanks unarmed while screaming "For Stalin!". To prevent desertion, communist political officers aimed machine guns at their backs and shot anyone unwilling to charge the advancing tanks. Yet Danylo's deep belief in communism never wavered even after thousands of his comrades died around him, miserably failing to penetrate the 8 centimeter thick armor of the German Panzer tanks, possessing only their fingernails as weapons. Danylo Shumuk, along with 600,000 other soldiers were captured by the Germans on the Kiev front.

Danylo was kept in a POW camp in the town of Khorol in the Poltava Oblast. He described the German POW camp as a 'pit of death with prisoners dying like flies from hunger, exposure and epidemics.' On a cold rainy night he escaped along with three other prisoners. During his travels he learned from Ukrainian villagers about the artificial famine (now known as Holodomor genocide) perpetrated by Communists and responsible for close to 10 million deaths from starvation. His deep love of communism faded and he began to describe communism as an abomination. Danylo Shumuk credits Ukrainian farmers who lived through the communist genocide with 'clearing my mind of the opium of communist ideology and opening my eyes.'

In 1943, Danylo joined the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) understanding that Ukrainian struggle for independence was doomed, since the forces involved were unequal. A two front war against Germany and the Soviet Union could not be won. He stated later that he 'considered it my duty to fight to the end.' In February 1945, Danylo Shumuk was captured by the NKVD and sentenced to death which was commuted to 20 years of hard labor.

Living under Ukrainian SSR government

In 1953 when Stalin died, Shumuk was one of the leaders of prison revolt called the Norilsk Uprising. Outbreaks like these throughout the Gulag led to a wide-ranging release of prisoners.[3]

In the 1970s Shumuk shared a prison cell with Eduard Kuznetsov for five years.[citation needed]

When Andrei Sakharov accepted his Nobel Peace Prize in 1975 he said:

Here in this hall I should just like to mention the names of some of the internees I am acquainted with. As you were told yesterday, I would ask you to remember that all prisoners of conscience and all political prisoners in my country share with me the honor of the Nobel Prize. Here are some of the names that are known to me:

Plyushch, Bukovsky, Glusman, Moros, Maria Seminoova, Nadeshda Svetlishnaya, Stefania Shabatura, Irina Klynets-Stasiv, Irina Senik, Niyola Sadunaite, Anait Karapetian, Osipov, Kronid Ljubarsky, Shumuk, Vins, Rumachek, Khaustov, Superfin, Paulaitis, Simutis, Karavanskiy, Valery, Martshenko, Shuchevich, Pavlenkov, Chernoglas, Abanckin, Suslenskiy, Meshener, Svetlichny, Sofronov, Rode, Shakirov, Heifetz, Afanashev, Mo-Chun, Butman, Łukianenko, Ogurtsov, Sergeyenko, Antoniuk, Lupynos, Ruban, Plachotniuk, Kovgar, Belov, Igrunov, Soldatov, Miattik, Kierend, Jushkevich, Zdorovyy, Tovmajan, Shachverdjan, Zagrobian, Arikian, Markoshan, Arshakian, Mirauskas, Stus, Sverstiuk, Chandyba, Uboshko, Romaniuk, Vorobiov, Gel, Pronjuk, Gladko, Malchevsky, Grazis, Prishliak, Sapeliak, Kolynets, Suprei, Valdman, Demidov, Bernitshuk, Shovkovy, Gorbatiov, Berchov, Turik, Ziukauskas, Bolonkin, Lisovoi, Petrov, Chekalin, Gorodetsky, Chernovol, Balakonov, Bondar, Kalintchenko, Kolomin, Plumpa, Jaugelis, Fedoseyev, Osadchij, Budulak-Sharigin, Makarenko, Malkin, Shtern, Lazar Liubarsky, Feldman, Roitburt, Shkolnik, Murzienko, Fedorov, Dymshits, Kuznetsov, Mendelevich, Altman, Penson, Knoch, Vulf Zalmanson, Izrail Zalmanson, and many, many others.

Living in exile to Canada

In 1987, having spent a total of 42 years in Soviet and Polish prisons, a Nazi POW Camp, Soviet penal colonies and a forced exile, Shumuk was allowed to leave the country. He moved to Toronto, Canada, where his memoirs Life sentence: memoirs of a Ukrainian political prisoner[4] were published in English by the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (1984).

Living in an independent Ukraine

On 28 November 2002 he returned to Ukraine, independent by then, and moved to Krasnoarmiysk of the Donetsk Oblast (province) in the east of Ukraine. He died there on 21 May 2004 at the age of 89.


By Danylo Shumuk:


  1. ^ Tadeusz Piotrowski, "Poland's Holocaust: Ethnic Strife: Collaboration with Occupying Forces and Genocide in the Second Republic, 1918–1947", McFarland & Company, ISBN 0-7864-0371-3, p. 199
    "How are we ... to explain the phenomenon of Ukrainians rejoicing and collaborating with the Soviets? Who were these Ukrainians? That they were Ukrainians is certain, but were they communists, Nationalists, unattached peasants? The answer is "yes—they were all three"
  2. ^ In Memory of Danylo Shumuk, Prava Lyudyny, 13 September 2004
  3. ^ UKRAINE REPORT 2003, ArtUkraine, accessed 25 June 2022
  4. ^ Life sentence: memoirs of a Ukrainian political prisoner Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press ISBN 9780920862193