You see, I was offered the job of director of the Lonsky Street Prison Museum by Lviv city officials back in 2009. And I was going to take it, but there was no stopping Zabily in his pursuit of the position. I just finished a museum project on Ukrainians in Auschwitz and a book of translated documents from the 1932-33 Holodomor, so I welcomed the break from the miseries of history: the Lonsky Street Prison would’ve just added to the nightmares. Let him have it, I thought, if he wants it so badly.
A year and a half later, Zabily is detained in Kyiv by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), questioned for 14 1/2 hours, his notebook and hard discs confiscated and a criminal investigation opened against him. The charge: Zabily was going to reveal state secrets.
Domestic and international human rights watchdogs were quick to condemn the SBU’s reversion to KGB tactics. The speculations about the reasons for intimidating Zabily are many. Some think the SBU of President Viktor Yanukovych is trying too hard to please the Kremlin and demonstrably persecuting historians who do not subscribe to the Soviet historical narrative. Others consider the Zabily affair to be a warning to former SBU chief Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, who has spent the better part of the year organizing a civic movement called “Renewal of the Country.” Nalyvaichenko, the SBU chief under President Viktor Yushchenko when the spy agency declassified all the pre-1991 documents on Soviet repressions, has been vocal in his criticism of the Yanukovych regime. The Yanukovych regime has halted the declassification process started under Yushchenko.