Valentyn Moroz Continues his Hunger Strike: December 1974 (33.9)

Valentyn Moroz is continuing the hunger strike he began on 1 July (CCE 32.12).

Valentin Yakovlevich MOROZ was born on 15 April 1936. In 1958 he graduated from the History Faculty of Lvov University and from 1958 to 1964, Moroz taught history at a school. In September 1964 he became a lecturer at the Ivano-Frankovsk Teachers Training College. On 1 September 1965 he was arrested. In January 1966, the Lutsk Region Court sentenced him to four years’ imprisonment under Article 62, pt 1, of the UkSSR Criminal Code (corresponding to Article 70 of the RSFSR Code). On 1 September 1969 Moroz completed his sentence and was set free. On 1 June 1970 he was arrested again.

In November 1970, the Ivano-Frankovsk Region Court sentenced him, under Article 62, pt 2, of the UkSSR Criminal Code, to nine years’ imprisonment, of which the first six years were to be spent in prison, and to five years’ exile.

At the end of August [1974] Moroz’s wife, Raisa Vasilyevna Moroz (14 Naberezhnaya ulitsa, flat 1, Ivano-Frankovsk, Ukrainian SSR), not having received any reply to a letter she had addressed to the President of the PEN Club, sent him a second letter. She also wrote to the International Red Cross and to the International Federation of Former Inmates of Fascist Concentration Camps. In all these letters she appealed for support on behalf of her husband, for help in saving his life, and for assistance in bringing about his transfer to a labour camp.

During September Raisa Moroz received, in reply to her inquiries, some information regarding her husband’s condition. Deputy governors of Vladimir Prison, Vodin and Fedotov, answered: “Valentin Moroz is alive and well.” A letter dated 13 September from the Vladimir Region Health Department stated that Moroz had been examined by doctors and was in excellent health; the findings of a medical examination of Moroz, also sent by the Health Department, even showed him to be in better health than before his arrest.

A medical report dated 27 September and signed by Popov, deputy head of the MVD medical department, stated that Moroz had been found to be suffering from a chronic disease of the gall-bladder, for which he was receiving treatment, and that he was being fed artificially.

During September and October Raisa Moroz was summoned four times to the Ivano-Frankovsk KGB for chats. There she was threatened with prosecution under the articles corresponding to Articles 70 and 190-1 of the RSFSR Criminal Code; there were hints that she might be dismissed from her job, or she might be beaten up by some thugs. On the day after this conversation a stone was thrown at the window of her room, breaking it and hitting her in the face. Officials of the Ivano-Frankovsk KGB first tried to convince Raisa Moroz to “stop making a fuss about your husband and start thinking about yourself”. Not succeeding in this, they began pressing her to persuade her husband to stop his hunger strike. During these conversations it became clear that the KGB officials had a wide knowledge: of Raisa’s private conversations over the telephone and her conversations in person; and of her acquaintances, her personal interests, etc. They brought Raisa’s brother in from the country, so that he might “save his sister from being arrested”; they said they would bring her mother.

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Raisa Moroz went to the KGB Reception in Moscow. There she was interviewed by KGB official Victor Ivanovich Petrov. He told Moroz that he was talking to her on behalf of Yu.V. Andropov, KGB Chairman. The results of the interview would be reported to Andropov. Going on hunger strike was the private affair of the prisoner concerned, said Petrov, adding that the ‘fuss’ being made in the West on Moroz’s behalf would not help him: “they’ll fuss for a while and then they’ll stop”. Petrov gave Raisa Moroz to understand that, whether her husband ended his hunger strike or continued it, there would be no change in the conditions under which he was being detained. In conclusion, Petrov told her that not all her own actions were guiltless with regard to Soviet law, and he advised her to ponder this.

On 5 November Moroz’s wife and father were allowed to visit him. Prior to the visit, Governor Zavyalkin of Vladimir Prison told Raisa Moroz that, whatever happened, her husband would still have to spend the next two years there.

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After this visit Raisa Moroz wrote the following letter:

To all persons of humanity and goodwill in the world
To: Amnesty International
the International Red Cross
the PEN Club
the President of the USA, Mr Ford,
the Prime Minister of Canada, M. Trudeau
the Chancellor of West Germany, Herr Schmidt

To the leaders of all States which have diplomatic relations with the USSR
To all newspapers and radio stations in the world

On 5 November, my husband Valentyn Moroz, a political prisoner in Vladimir Prison, was allowed a visit from his family. This was on the 128th day of his hunger strike.

As usual, our conversation with him took place in the presence of warders, who continually interrupted us — forbidding us to talk first about this, then about that. But something else, previously unheard of in Vladimir Prison, also occurred: in addition to the warders, a news-photographer from the Novosti press agency was also present at our meeting; and probably because of this, it took place not in an empty, cheerless room, but in a hall containing some furniture and a television set. Not knowing what kind of information Novosti intends to put out concerning Valentin Moroz, I want to do this myself.

Valentyn is terrifyingly thin: he weighs only 52 kgs. (114 lbs) though he is 175 cm (5 ft 9 ins) tall. His face is all swollen and he has dropsical swellings under the eyes. He complains of pains in the heart. But his worst sufferings are caused by the tube through which he has been fed artificially since the 20th day of his hunger strike. This tube is injuring the inside of his throat and his oesophagus. When withdrawn, it is covered in blood, and the pain which he has felt from the beginning during the feedings now persists in between the feedings as well. Valentyn is now almost constantly in a semi-conscious condition, but he makes himself stand up from time to time, as he fears his legs may otherwise become atrophied. And such is the spiritual strength of the man that he would not let anyone carry him to our meeting — he walked in by himself!

But however morally strong a man may be, his physical capabilities have their limits. If Moroz’s life is to be preserved, he should now be taken to a hospital and given prolonged and attentive medical treatment. Yet the prison governor insists that Valentin must remain in prison, whether he continues his hunger strike or ends it. This is equivalent to a death sentence. My husband is well aware of this, but he has decided to prolong his hunger strike for a further two months, until 1 January 1975. If he does not succeed in getting out of the prison during that period, he will find a way of putting an end to his life: “The year 1975 in prison does not exist for me,” he said. I have no doubt that he will carry out this decision, just as he has already carried out his decision to start an indefinite hunger strike.

Is it really possible that, in the present-day world, a man whose guilt consists exclusively of four essays which a court has declared to be anti-Soviet, should pay for this with his life?

Raisa Moroz

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In addition, Ya.I. Moroz, V. Moroz’s father, wrote to [Soviet leader] L.I. Brezhnev:

Dear Leonid Ilych!

“The father of the political prisoner V. Moroz, now in Vladimir Prison, is writing to you. Moroz is already in his fifth year in that prison. I am an old man. It is difficult for me to travel there for visits, so I have not seen my son all that time. On 1 July, my son went on hunger strike and has continued it ever since.

“KGB officials and an editor of the newspaper Radyanska Volyn [Soviet Volyn] came to my house and persistently urged me to visit my son and persuade him to end his hunger strike. I saw my son yesterday, or rather what is left of him: before me sat a skeleton with swollen face and puffy eyes. Artificial feeding is being used on him, and he says that the tube which they push through his oesophagus has for a long time now been covered in blood when pulled out, as everything inside him has been injured, which makes him suffer terrible pain.

“My son went on hunger strike so that he should be transferred from prison to a labour camp, but when I saw him, I realized that he can neither be transferred to a camp nor be left in prison: his life can only be saved by a very good hospital and by highly qualified medical treatment. I cannot try to persuade him to put an end to his hunger strike, because to end it would mean that he would be left in prison, i.e., that he would soon die — no one has promised that the ending of his hunger strike would better his situation in any way. On the contrary, the prison authorities consider that in spite of his awful state of health he has to serve out the punishment-term he was sentenced to, in the same way as before.

“I know nothing about politics, and it is hard for me to understand why the court condemned my son to be shut up in a prison for a period which he finds unbearable. But however great his guilt may have been, he was not, in fact, condemned to death.

“I beg you, with all my heart, to intervene and save my son’s life — after all, you too have children of your own, and ought to understand my feelings. My son must live!

With hope, and with respect,

Yakov Moroz,
collective farmer and pensioner

6 November 1974

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On 22 November Valentyn Moroz ended his hunger strike. In a letter to his wife, he informed her that he had been taken out of solitary confinement. His cellmate is, he said, “a member of the intelligentsia”.