During their occupation of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, the Nazis exterminated over 100,000 people in a ravine called Babiy Yar. 33,771 Jews were killed in Babiy Yar in a single operation on September 29–30, 1941. It is a site of one of the most horrible mass murders in the history of humanity. No human being who has preserved even a shred of simple decency can walk by without being moved to tears. Or so I thought until recently.
It turns out that talks have been underway about a plan to construct a hotel on the site of this mass grave. Several political parties in Ukraine support this idea and voted in favor of desecrating this place of sorrow with a luxurious hotel. I haven't been so disgusted by my native country in a while. I hate being ashamed of being Ukrainian by origin but today I am. Building a hotel in Babiy Yar is like building an amusement park in Auschwitz, a bar in Treblinka, or a skating rink in Buchenwald. The country that was so incredibly victimized by the Nazis is now celebrating fascist massacres. There are now words to describe how disgusted I feel by this.
I want to end this post with a poem by Yevgeni Yevtushenko, a Russian poet, about Babiy Yar.
No monument stands over Babi Yar.
A drop sheer as a crude gravestone.
I am afraid.
Today I am as old in years
as all the Jewish people.
Now I seem to be
Here I plod through ancient Egypt.
Here I perish crucified, on the cross,
and to this day I bear the scars of nails.
I seem to be
is both informer and judge.
I am behind bars.
Beset on every side.
Squealing, dainty ladies in flounced Brussels lace
stick their parasols into my face.
I seem to be then
a young boy in Byelostok.
Blood runs, spilling over the floors.
The barroom rabble-rousers
give off a stench of vodka and onion.
A boot kicks me aside, helpless.
In vain I plead with these pogrom bullies.
While they jeer and shout,
"Beat the Yids. Save Russia!"
some grain-marketeer is raping my mother.
0 my Russian people!
are international to the core.
But those with unclean hands
have often made a jingle of your purest name.
I know the goodness of my land.
How vile these anti-Semites-
without a qualm
they pompously called themselves
the Union of the Russian People!
I seem to be
as a branch in April.
And I love.
And have no need of phrases.
is that we gaze into each other.
How little we can see
We are denied the leaves,
we are denied the sky.
Yet we can do so much --
embrace each other in a darkened room.
They're coming here?
Be not afraid. Those are the booming
sounds of spring:
spring is coming here.
Come then to me.
Quick, give me your lips.
Are they smashing down the door?
No, it's the ice breaking ...
The wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar.
The trees look ominous,
Here all things scream silently,
and, baring my head,
slowly I feel myself
And I myself
am one massive, soundless scream
above the thousand thousand buried here.
each old man
here shot dead.
here shot dead.
Nothing in me
shall ever forget!
The "Internationale," let it
when the last anti-Semite on earth
is buried forever.
In my blood there is no Jewish blood.
In their callous rage, all anti-Semites
must hate me now as a Jew.
For that reason
I am a true Russian!