Friday, September 29, 2006

Babyn Yar

now that i have broken my month-long leave from the ukrainian blogosphere with the clip of my daugher below, i feel like continuing. . .

but first: the left-hand shift-key was recently ripped from my laptop by one curious little girl and i haven't yet fixed it; it is not my regular style to write without capitalization. . .

at the end of september, 1941 began the massacre at babyn yar, which continued throughout the nazi occupation of kyiv--you can read more about it
here at wikipedia, just to scratch the surface. i finally made it to the site of this massacre last month. as usual, when it comes to seeing how tragic and traumatic events of the past are handled/commemorated/memorialized-in-monuments in ukraine, i was quite disappointed. what does it say about a nation's relationship to its past when people are allowed to make campfires, hang-out, party, etc., on the very grounds of a mass murder? there was no solemn feeling to the site--for example, there was nothing like the heaviness and spirituality of visiting a former concentration camp site. whatever of that feeling was there i brought with me, and thus it was present at the site mostly just from within. externally. . .well, there were the monuments, but when i approached the monument specifically to commemorate kyiv's jews that died there (a large menorah), i saw a bunch of young, kyivan punk rockers hanging out on a bench, drinking and laughing within a few meters of the monument. right behind the jewish monument was a christian one (a large cross) to which the kids having a nice afternoon were in equal range. i then walked down the ravine along a path that i think was the one told to me by a local friend--a history buff--who had said that if i went that way, i would walk right on top of the very earth where the massacre occured. there, on what should be regarded as hallowed ground, i discovered a campfire and shashlyk being cooked by other locals. it was a saturday, indeed, a day to relax with friends. such campsites were scattered all over the ravine. as i stood there thinking or just feeling about the massacre, a jogger ran by.

because of all this, all the memorials/monuments felt to me superficial at best.

of course, there are lots of reasons for all of this. the soviet government downplayed the significance of the massacre and of the site, and people got used to it just being there without much or any specific relevance. without government support in maintaining the site as a hallowed place, and in the context of poverty/shortages and authoritarianism that breeds indifference/apathy, it is very easy to understand how such a site--truly a beautiful area perfect for how locals do indeed make use of it today--would come to be used as it now is.

but i would favor efforts to engineer a change in orientation/attitude toward the site.

see similar thoughts as per the holodomyr

see my photos of the babyn yar site here.

update: just noticed that veronika at neeka's backlog has also published yesterday similar thoughts about the babyn yar site here and some fotos of her own here. she mentions how it was a pain to find the menorah memorial that is closer than the main soviet-era monument to where the actual killing took place, mentioning that it is "well hidden." also read here her piece about the 65th commemoration of the massacre.

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