Ukraine: Babiy Yar Massacre's 65th Anniversary

Global Voices Online
Thursday, September 28, 2006

Stones and flowers were laid at the Babiy Yar Memorial in Kyiv Wednesday, to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the 1941 massacre - by Veronica Khokhlova

In 1941, at least 33,771 Kyiv Jews were shot by the Nazis on Sept. 29 and Sept. 30, in the Babiy Yar ravine of Ukraine's capital. Some 60,000 more Kyiv residents and POWs were killed there in the following months.

Yesterday, nearly 1,000 guests from 41 nations - including the Israeli president - gathered at the Babiy Yar memorial to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the massacre. A number of bloggers marked the anniversary, too.

LJ user ivga wrote (RUS):

And the morning was sunny. The sky was blue, with just a little bit of white here and there. The grass was green, and the leaves were just beginning to turn yellow. A beautiful morning, all in all. It would've been nice to go to the park, walk on the few leaves, still precious, dance on the grass... Nice. Cold air almost burns you in the shadow, but as you move into the sun, it's like a hand on your face, not a slap, but a tender touch. I don't know about 65 years ago - maybe the morning was beautiful, too. Sunny. Warm... It's warmer in Kyiv in general. Or maybe not. And, perhaps, they didn't care about nature. They didn't care about anything. They were busy. They were being killed.

Exactly 65 years ago, my grandfather was killed, the grandfather I've never known. My father almost never talked about him. All I've been told about grandfather were the two words - Babiy Yar. And also, with a sigh - "Must've been the neighbors who turned him in."

LJ user mike_etelzon, whose mother lost most of her family in Babiy Yar, expressed his pain and anger in a Russian-language poem. LJ user a_moiseev, in a comment, wrote (RUS) about his recent visit to Babiy Yar:

Mike, I was there two months ago. Mixed feelings... My impression is that the city doesn't like to be reminded of the tragedy... At that very spot, above the abyss - there are three black metal crosses with no names and with a sign that reads: "People were being killed here in the fall of 1941" - and right nearby, there are traces of fireplaces, empty bottles, garbage. But what's definitely good is that the big memorial, erected in the Soviet times, is located approximately a kilometer away from Babiy Yar and [people can honor the dead without being distracted]. [...]

LJ user genrik_spb has posted an excerpt (RUS) from Yevgeniy Yevtushenko's famous poem, Babiy Yar, written in 1961 but published in the Soviet Union only in 1984, and until then circulated in samizdat. (Yevtushenko's poem inspired Dmitry Shostakovich - whose 100th birthday was marked Sept. 25 - to compose his Symphony No. 13.)

Snaika, a blogger at, has scanned and posted a newspaper article about writer Anatoly Kuznetsov and his documentary novel about the Babiy Yar massacre. The novel was first published in the Soviet Union in a censored form in 1966 and then photographed by the author and smuggled out when he defected to the West in 1969. Snaika wrote (RUS):

Commemoration of those shot in Babiy Yar, just outside Kyiv, is taking place now. People would have known little about this tragedy, because only a handful managed to escape, and there were tens of thousands of those who died - Jews, Russians, Roma. One of the few witnesses of the horror was a boy who lived near Babiy Yar - Anatoliy Kuznetsov. And what he saw burned his heart, and from the age of 14, he began to record what he himself saw as well as the stories of the Babiy Yar survivors. According to Yad Vashem, only 10 percent of the Babiy Yar victims have been identified - but nevertheless, they should not be forgotten. And this is what Anatoly Kuznetsov wrote in his documentary novel "Babiy Yar." I've kept this article about Kuznetsov in my archive for quite a while, and if someone doesn't know or hasn't read about him or his book, now is a good time to remember his once more...

A couple Ukrainian bloggers chose not to dwell on the tragic history and insted posted their observations on the official ceremony and the obstacles it has created for some.

LJ user unika_ wrote (RUS):

When I ran into our esteemed [president Yushchenko] at the [Kyiv antiques market], there were five bodyguards around him. People were coming up to him, took pictures, some asked him for an autograph. When the president came to see the lilacs in bloom at the Botanical Garden, he was guarded by 5-10 people, too. Even [a local paper] did a story on that.

But today, Babiy Yar was completely cordoned off. [...] Policemen every two meters. Plus some plainclothes men, armed [...]. About a hundred guards. People used to walking through the park were politely asked to take a detour.

And it's only natural: [Israeli president] Moshe Katsav isn't Victor Yushchenko. It looks like he is afraid of his own shadow :)

LJ user sharpen_up wrote (RUS):

I've a strange feeling about the anniversary of the Babiy Yar tragedy. I can't say that the air is filled with holiday atmosphere. But there is a feel of a "Solemn Event" that everyone is waiting for and approaching with much responsibility. [...] Like, we came to a police department (to resolve a very important matter). Something unusual could be felt at the entrance. A lower-ranking officer stood bending down in front of the open door, shining his shoes. The highest-ranking officer appeared by the door [...] - a sharp-looking brunette in a luxurious suit, smelling of an expensive perfume, his hair combed neatly. [...] We are on our way out now, he said. Off to an event. In Babiy Yar. We don't know when we're going to be back - most likely, we won't be back at all. Come back tomorrow. And he smiles such a pleasant smile... And right away it feels that the whole city is celebrating.

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