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Pocketmags Digital Magazines
Pocketmags Digital Magazines

Out of the darkness

Stephen Komarnyckyj explains how the opening of the Ukrainian KGB files helped him to understand his family’s past



Iwas born in 1963, and grew up in Huddersfield, a rain swept town nestling in valleys where woollen mills and terraces straggled below high moorland. In spite of my name I grew up in a very ‘Yorkshire’ environment, where dialect words such as ‘lekking’ had survived from the days of the Vikings. Yet something set me apart. I always knew when a new teacher reached my place in the school register. ‘Stephen’ they would say, and then shying like a horse at a difficult hurdle, ‘K… K… Kooo… Komarnukuj?’. My name went through various mutations and for years I was known as Ruskie by my schoolmates. I went to Ukrainian School for a while, which was held at the Ukrainian community centre in a big old Victorian house. Alas, baffled by the language’s Cyrillic alphabet and a grammar which to a monolingual English speaker seems as complex as quantum physics, I gave up.

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