To beat a ploughshare into a sword, one should have a really significant reason. There is a very romantic version about Ustym Karmalyuk – love alone was to blame. At the age of 25, Ustym was quite a good farmer, in his second marriage he was obliged to support as many as 5 children. To maintain his family, he had to work hard in the field and was good at this; his family did not belong to the poor. Once, the wife of the village owner – Rosalia Piglovs’ka – was crossing the rapid slope near the field, where peasants worked. Suddenly, the horses bolted – there was no chance that travelers will survive. However, a young and strong serf somehow managed to stop the carriage.
It was for the arrogance of Polish aristocrat that made her to requite the savior with an appropriate reward. In no time the relations between Ustym and the saved woman turned into a love affair. Soon, the Polish noblewoman renounced the painful love. But her husband, striving to take vengeance, had decided to punish the passionate serf and enlisted him in the army for 25 years. Considering that at that time the plague was raging on Podillia, no soldier could be recruited from that region. However, Piglowski appeared to be quite a stubborn person – he insisted that Karmalyuk was recruited as an exception. Ustym, reluctant to waste his life in the barracks, crippled himself and by decision of medical committee was sent home. However, another committee, with much higher influence than the previous one, took the decision and Karmalyuk found himself enlisted in the ulan regiment in Kamianets’-Podil’sky. Ustym managed to run away from the regiment and return to his homeland, Holovchyntsi village, where he burned a distillery of his landlord. Having a grudge against Fedor Shevchuk, Ustym also burned the farm of his. All these actions led to the breakout of a real peasants’ war that lasted on Podillia over 20 years.
For the first time Ustym was quickly caught and deported to Kamianets’ fortress, which at that time was used as a prison. Karmalyuk managed to escape from prison and return to Holovchyntsi. There, he whipped Piglowskiin public and gave out all landlord’s property.
Following year Karmalyuk will be caught and sentenced to death. However, at those times capital punishments were not executed in Russia, it was the reason why Ustym was sentenced to whipping and penal servitude for life. Someone had counted that Karmalyuk’s back “sustained” over 4000 rod strikes, 227 whip strikes; Karmalyuk was even branded thrice as a dangerous criminal. He had been imprisoned in Russia, Ukraine and Byelorussia.
Having escaped from his exile, he walked for 15 000 km on foot. (He walked on foot from Siberia to his native village twice. Such distance required as long as one year to cover.) He used to escape from prisons that none could ever break, including famous and inexpugnable Kamianets’ fortress as well. Papal tower, where he was imprisoned, now bears his name. Even having been put into irons that ate away the flesh on his arms and legs Ustym could organize mass escapes. His ingenuity, strength of mind and fortitude had been praised in legends. Once, using a different name, Karmalyuk managed to escape from the special guard arrangement consisting of 60 people. Ustym calmly got through face to face confrontation with his family. Soon, the peasants’ war on Podillia reached such scale, that even tsar Mykola I expressed his concern. Over 3 000 soldiers and gendarmes were involved in catching of the rebellious serf.
Ustym was quite an intelligent person; he had good command of Russian, Polish and Moldavian languages. The Polish gentry were bewildered by this fact: they could hardly understand how an ordinary serf could be much cleverer and smarter than anyone of them. The gossips of Ustym noble origin spread all over the country, but they only increased the hero’s popularity among the mass and helped petty Polish gentry to join his detachments.
As a rule, charismatic people are blind when it is for betrayers. In 1827 in Ustym detachment, one person blocked all riffles having greased them with fat right before the important battle with tsar army. All this gave a chance to the government to defeat the riot and as a consequence 750 people had been prosecuted. A thousand of citizens from nearby villages spoke in front of court as bystanders. However, while Karmalyuk was alive, the peasants’ riots started and started again at a steady gait.
It was love that made Karmalyuk a hero and the woman who brought him death. An ambush was laid for him in the house of Olyana Protsykova in Korchyntsi-Shlyakhovyk, not far from Derazhnya. At dawn of October 10, 1835 Ustym came round and was shot by the Polish nobleman – Fedir Rudkowski. For his action, the killer received a tsar fingering and life tax exemption. And for a long time the body of Karmalyuk was transported from village to village in order to frighten the peasants. Finally Karmalyuk was buried in Letychiv.
In Holovchyntsi the case of Karmalyuk had drawn so wide reaction that all his numerous relatives had to change their family surname in order to avoid repressions. The vast majority took the surname Karman: that was the given name of Ustym’s brothers-in-arms. After 1955, when the village had been renamed in Karmalyukove, there started the reverse process of surnames change. Almost everyone was willing to change his surname from Karman to Karmalyuk. The only direct Ustym descendant, who now lives in Karmalyuk’s native village, decided to keep prior variant of the surname. Son of Karmalyuk’s grate grandson was born in 1969. Petro Karman is very proud of his ancestor; there is no novel of Karmalyuk that hadn’t been read by him. Petro thinks that he took after Ustym very much but a moustache. Until now, there are only verbal portraits of Karmalyuk’s appearance; the only authentic portrait of Karmalyuk was made by A. Tropinin. One of its several copies is kept in Hermitage.
As per article of Yu. Burgena, Express
Translation by Nadia Dmitrieva