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Interned Without Cause, by Peter Krawchuk


In connection with the 125th anniversary of the birth of Taras Shevchenko the State Literary Publishers in Kiev printed, in five volumes, the entire collection of his works, prepared by the T.H. Shevchenko Institute of Ukrainian Literature of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR. The collection was issued in 1939 and it was sent to me by the Ukrainian Soviet prose writer Volodymyr Kuzmych, with whom I corresponded at that time. It had so happened that while I was free I had not had the opportunity to read the collection thoroughly because I was always occupied with organizational matters and the day-to-day work at "The People's Gazette". I always put it off until later, when there would be "more time", of which, you understand, there was never enough. But now in Kananaskis Internment Camp I had enough time in the evenings and on Sundays. Thus I wrote to my wife to send me the collection. My friend Steve Pura, one of the editors of the newspaper "Farmer's Life" and who had avoided internment, looked after the matter.

Of course, I did not want the collection to be confiscated and lost, thus I wrote to the camp commandant to inquire if the collection could be delivered to me. I received the following in response to my letter: (1) With regards to the books written by Taras Shevchenko, if the aforementioned desires that they be sent to him to this camp he should give instructions to his wife that she send them, postage paid, to the following address: VW K-633 P. Krawchuk, c/o Director of Internment Operations, Ottawa, Ont.; (2) After verification the books will be forwarded here for delivery to Krawchuk. H. de Watson, Commandant, Internment Camp "K".

After several weeks the five-volume set of Shevchenko's works was delivered to me. Each volume had been marked with the stamp of a censor (No. 8) for the concentration camp and the numeral 633, which was at once my name and surname during my stay at Kananaskis.

Thus Taras Shevchenko came to rest behind barbed wire at Kananaskis. His works were read in camp by all of the Ukrainian antifascists who wanted to do so, for I transported the books from camp to camp. After the camp in Hull was closed the books were returned to me and to this day I keep volumes four and five as treasured mementos. I donated the others to the T.H. Shevchenko Museum in Palermo and the T.H. Shevchenko State Museum in Kiev.

It was not enough that these works had been censored in Ottawa. They had to be scrutinized once more at Kananaskis. I personally learned about this from the "censor" himself the interned German Nazi J. Martens, a protestant minister and former owner of a factory in Kharkiv, whom I have already mentioned. He bragged to me that when the books came from Ottawa, the camp commandant at Kananaskis summoned him and told him to check the books to see if they could be given to me and that there was not any "subversive material" in them. Of course, when I heard that I became incensed. As Taras Shevchenko wrote, here a "fiendish German" had to put his filthy Nazi paws on the sainted book of the Great Kobzar and advised the Anglo-Saxon chauvinist reactionary whether or not to give me the books. The camp commandant could hardly have thought up something more cruel and stupid.


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