He was born in 1903
in the village of Vovchyntsi (now within Ivano-Frankivsk
city) in the family of a poor shoemaker. Having finished school he entered the
Stanislaviv Ukrainian State Gymnasium. However, his studying was interrupted by
the First World War. Like thousands of conscious young people from Galychyna,
who willingly joined the ranks of the Legion of Ukrainian Sich Riflemen,
fifteen-year-old Vasyl took up arms. As a member of the Ukrainian Galychyna
Armed Forces he went through the hard way of the victories and defeats.
Having returned to Stanislaviv after the war, a young man decided to continue his studies and became a third-year-student of the Gymnasium, which, in fact, he had left to defend the freedom and independence of his native land. An 18-year-old boy was like an older brother among 13-year-old schoolchildren and he was really their brother, father and guardian. By that time his father was his only family and he could not provide any financial support to his son. Vasyl wore an old service uniform, hungered, but due to his excellent studying he could stay free in the student bursa. He earned a living by tutoring, but he spent a lot of money on buying books.
His school friend, some time later a professor of the Lviv University, Julian Redko recalled, "He graduated from high school in extreme poverty and hunger. He had one passion: he was an innate bibliophile. He could stay without food, but he could not stay without a book." During his studying in high school, Pashnytskyi became an active member of the Plast movement and one of the leaders of the Hetman Mazepa Plast Kurin. At the same time he was fascinated by the communist ideas and became a member of CPWU. However, in the early 30's he stopped his membership of the party, being disillusioned with the communist ideology because of hunger and repression in Great Ukraine, and got married the daughter of a priest.
In 1927 Vasyl Pashnytskyi became a student of the Lviv University. He made a living earning a meager income by giving private lessons. He went on spending almost all the money on books. He was a regular visitor of all the Lviv bookstores and shops. His own library had already had more than a thousand volumes. The student Pashnytskyi spent a lot of time reading books at the National Museum, the Library of Shevchenko Scientific Society; he often communicated with the famous Lviv professors M. Wozniak and I. Svientsitskyi. While studying at university, he was also engaged in research work: he was collecting folklore and ethnographic materials, which were subsequently reflected in the ethnographic essay "The Lemko-Boiko borderland". The book was published in Polish in 1935 in collaboration with the Polish scientist Jan Falkovskyi.
After graduation from the university, Vasyl Pashnytskyi returned to Stanislaviv and began teaching Polish language and literature in Ukrainian Public High School and later he became a teacher of Ukrainian language and literature in Ukrainian Trade High School. Over the years of his teaching, he was famous as a great scholar, a talented teacher who treated his students with love, respect and kindness. Children shared their problems, doubts, troubles with him, and he sincerely tried to help them. He supervised students especially from low-income families, sought for “Prosvita” scholarships for them; he often invited and treated them, allowed them to read books from his vast library.
Everything changed when the Soviet rule came into power in Precarpathian region. The Stanislaviv Gymnasium was abolished. After some time Pashnytskyi was intrusted to establish a regional library in the city. He was appointed as the Head of the Regional Public Library by the order of January 19, 1940 of Stanislaviv Regional Department of Education. Vasyl Mykhailovych was working with great enthusiasm: he collected rare books, Ukrainian and world literary works, specialized books. He and his assistants, who were the members of "Prosvita", went from house to house and asked for books for the new library. People treated the request of the Gymnasium professor with favour and gave valuable books. There were also many great personal libraries, left by the residents who did not resign themselves to the Bolshevik regime and moved from Stanislaviv. Pashnytskyi chosed the best of those libraries and saved them from certain destruction.
But it didn’t last long. In the late summer of 1940 the Commission of the Ministry of Culture inspected the library. At first the library was praised for the order, and for a great number of books in the newly organized library. The Head proudly showed the collected books and rare editions. But instead of enthusiasm the book titles woke the commissioners` anger and contempt. Having checked the catalogs, they marked most of collected books with a red pencil in order to remove and destruct them as the counterrevolutionary, nationalistic and religious literature. The list of those books included over one and a half hundred volumes of the "Scientific Notes of Shevchenko Scientific Society," eight volumes of the "History of Ukraine-Rus" and a multi-volume "History of Ukrainian Literature" by Hrushevskyi, all the literary works of Bogdan Lepkyi, the Ukrainian translation of the Bible published by the British Bible Society, 16 volumes of the series of Taras Shevchenko, published in Warsaw, the "Literary and Scientific Journal," and many other publications. Besides, there were also seized German, Polish and English books. V. Pashnytskyi tried to protect the books but the chairman of the commission considered those books to be worthless. Moreover, the commission members decided to dismiss the Head of the Library Vasyl Pashnytskyi and affirmed his unreliability and negative attitude to the new regime.
The withdrawn books were piled on large trucks and taken in an unknown direction. By the order of August 5, 1940 Vasyl Mykhailovych was demoted as a Deputy Director of the Library to promptly pass over the administration and documentation to the newly appointed Head. On August 23, Pashnytskyi was fired from his post.
Soon he began teaching Ukrainian language and literature at the newly organized Stanislaviv Teachers Institute, but he was a black sheep there. The teachers, who were mostly immigrants from Eastern Ukraine and Russia, treated Galychyna intellectuals with suspicion and hostility; they perceived everything as the nationalism. Professor Pashnytskyi was not always able and did not want to conceal his beliefs. That is why soon he came under close supervision of the NKVD (People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs).
On June 22, when the Nazi planes droned over Stanislaviv and the first bombs were dropped on the city, Vasyl Pashnytskyi was arrested. During the search of his dwelling there was taken away his vast private library with many unique publications. A lorry with his books carried them for destruction. On the third day after his arrest Pashnytskyi was shot. In a week’s time the Hungarian army entered Stanislaviv, and his body, along with many others, was identified in the yard of the NKVD building.
There were no documents about the arrest and execution of professor; that was why for a long time the Regional Prosecutor refused to Pashnytskyi daughter Ida Vasylivna to rehabilitate her father. Only on April 17, 1991 he was posthumously rehabilitated.