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Babi Yar remembers ...

Україна, Київ. Пам'ятник дітям загиблим у Бабиному Яру

Ancient Kyiv has lots of spectacular things to impress its guests with. Among them are numerous ravines and cliffs on the right bank of the Dnieper. There are many ravines: Protasiv and Rep’yakhiv, Voznesensky and Kmytiv, Khreschchatyi and Kuchma, Mokriy and Kozhem'yatskyy ... But the most famous of these is the Babi Yar.

Around the steep clay slopes of the Babi Yar there were wild heath shrubs. Before WWII it was sparsely populated northern outskirts of Kyiv, in which the military conducted their study. In the early 1940s, it was decided to place here a ski base, which was never constructed though…

The Nazis occupied Kyiv on September 19, 1941. On the 27 of September they launched death conveyor by shooting 752 mentally ill people - inmates of Ivan Pavlov psychiatric hospital near Babi Yar.

On the 27-28 of September the walls were covered with such announcement:

“On Monday, the 29 of September, 1941 on 8 am all the Jews of Kyiv and its suburbs must come to the crossing of Melnik and Dokterivska streets (near the cemetery).

Everyone should take their documents, money and clothes.

Rebels will be shot.

Jewish home plunderers will be shot "

This text was also published in Russian and German.

…An endless procession stretched along the Melnikov street. At the crossroads with the current Dorogozhytska street, just outside the gate of the Jewish cemetery were scattered barbed wire antitank blocks. No one had ever left the bordered territory after entering it. The documents and things were taken from the people; they were ordered to undress, lined ranks on the slopes of the ravine and were poured with deadly lead. Another "party" would be massacred and then the search for the wounded began. Then it was repeated again. More and more victims were falling, gradually filling the seemingly bottomless ravine. In order to stifle the screams of the doomed, loud music was playing, and a plane continuously circled around.

Very quickly Kyiv residents understood the true scale of the tragedy. The events that took place at Babi Yar began to be spoken about not only in whispers, but aloud.

On November 6, 1941 Archimandrite Alexander (Vishniakov) addressed the people of Kiev with the words "fascist bandits attacked our homeland ... Church of Christ blesses all Orthodox in defense of sacred boundaries". Immediately afterwards he was seized and taken to Babi Yar. He was separated from the Jews, Communists and guerillas that were to be shot. The priest was undressed, tied with the barbed wire to the cross and set on fire. Then a burning cross with a man was thrown into the ravine ...

According to Einsatzgruppe "C" (special SS and police squad), during 29 and 30 September there were 33771 people killed (not including children aged up to three years, who were not counted). Along with the "solution of the Jewish question" the gypsies were killed, in the early days of mass executions five Gypsy camps were destroyed. The prisoners of the nearby camp Syretskiy, hostages, those sentenced to death and Ukrainian patriots were also shot in the ravine. According to various estimates there were killed 70 000 to 200 000 people in total.

…In the end of 1943 summer, it became clear that the occupiers will soon be forced to leave Kyiv, so they decided to remove the traces of their crimes of war and by exploiting the Syretskiy camp prisoners they burned the dead bodies. Under the watchful eye of the Nazis and local policemen camp the prisoners excavated slopes of the ravine, pulled out the corpses and put ​​them on special platforms with metal rails and stone slabs brought from the nearby Jewish cemetery. Then these macabre piles were doused with gasoline and burned.

However, the Germans were unable to completely remove the traces of their crimes. Few condemned to death did succeed to break out of the ravine (In Babi Yar there were only 29 people saved). Among the survivors there was a puppet theater actress Dina Myronivna Pronichev (Dina Myronivna Wasserman (1911-1977). She had seen almost all the details of the massacre. Following is an excerpt from her testimony:

"Before my eyes there are people stripped naked, beaten, they were laughing hysterically, apparently going mad, their hair became gray in a matter of seconds. Babies were torn from their mothers’ hands and thrown through a wall of sand, all the naked people were ranked by two or three and led to some elevation with sand walls, which were slotted. They never came back.”

Information about the events that took place at Babi Yar was a set of irrefutable facts of Nazi atrocity in the occupied territories and it was attached to the charges at the Nuremberg trial of Nazi crimes.

However, in the postwar years, the truth about the murdered Jews was unwanted. To get rid of even the mention of this terrible event, the government decided to destroy the ravine, download it with liquid clay from a nearby brick factory, and to open an amusement park in its place. In March 1961 the dam that held back this clay collapsed and mud avalanche of hundreds of thousands of cubic meters, with a height of 14 meters drowned Kurenivka. It seemed like the nature itself rebelled against the indifference of the people to the tragic fate of Babi Yar.

Kurenivka tragedy cost the lives of many people, among which were the first inhabitants of Kurenivka, workers of the Krasin tram depot (now - Podilsk tram depot), as well as patients and medical staff of the Pavlov Hospital (better known among Kiev citizens as "Pavlivska hospital" or "psychiatric hospital"), located near the Kirilyvska church.

According to the official government statement proclaimed after the investigation of the disaster causes, the accident killed 145 people. According to modern scholars, the real number of Kurenivska tragedy victims reaches fifteen hundred.

For years at Babi Yar there was no memorial that would remind of 1941-1943 events. "There are no monuments all over Babi Yar..." - So begins a poem by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, written in 1961, inspired by a trip to Kyiv to meet with the witness of those events - writer Anatoly Kuznetsov. Only in 1966, after meeting the public resonance, dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the execution of Jews at the top of Babi Yar ravine the stele was erected temporary. That meeting was attended by the famous Soviet dissident writer Viktor Nekrasov, who has said: "Yes, in Babi Yar not only Jews were killed, but only Jews were shot here only because they were Jews." The same year Anatoly Kuznetsov issued his severely abridged "Babi Yar" documentary novel.

A competition for the monument design was held. There were many interesting projects, but Soviet officials chose grandiose, but rather faceless monument "Soviet citizens, prisoners, soldiers and officers of the Soviet Army, executed by German Nazis at Babi Yar," which was opened on July 2, 1976. The composition of the monument does not even bear a hint of the nationality of the victims. It was only in 1991 when Russian and Jewish inscriptions were added.

However, another monument called "Menorah" (a Jewish symbol) was erected. Bas-reliefs on the menorah depict biblical scenes - the sacrifice of Abraham, and the other two stones bear engraved Ukrainian and Yiddish words from the Bible: "The voice of thy brother's blood cries out to Me from the ground."

At the beginning of the third millennium, on the 60th anniversary of the tragedy at the park, a monument "Children murdered at Babi Yar" was constructed. It is a small but touching bronze composition depicting some dolls that have lost all their young owners. Babi Yar victims were primarily Jewish children, and this is shown through the image of a doll-boy with a Jewish hat on his barely holding head on a broken neck.

There are also memorials that honor the memory of Pavlov Hospital patients, Archimandrite Alexander (Vyshniakov) (1890-1941), crypto Tatiana Marcus (1921-1943), the Ukrainian patriots - Nazi victims, including talented poetess Olena Teliga (1906-1942), the misfortunes of three million "Ostarbeiteren", the victims of Kurenivska tragedy of 1961 ...

Unfortunately, the monuments at Babi Yar do not only emerge but also disappear. For instance, there was an original steel gypsy tent with bullet holes decorated with garlands of forged metal flowers. However, after the monument appeared, the city government immediately decided to dismantle it. Now these events are honored with a modest granite plaque bearing the following inscription "In memory of Roma murdered at Babi Yar."

There are other monuments, but they ​​remind more of some politicians of modern Ukrainian history and their parties rather than about the tragic events of this mournful place.

However, while there is Kyiv, there will be the memory of its inhabitants about the tragedy of Babi Yar, which should never happen again.

Igor Mikulonok. Photo by author, 2013

Переклад: Баранов С.Ю., ЛА-01


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