Monday, October 5, 2009

Being Ashamed of Your Country

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
a Jew.

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
The Philistine
is both informer and judge.
I am behind bars.
Beset on every side.
spat on,

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!
I know
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
Anne Frank
as a branch in April.
And I love.
And have no need of phrases.
My need
is that we gaze into each other.
How little we can see
or smell!

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,
like judges.
Here all things scream silently,
and, baring my head,
slowly I feel myself
turning gray.
And I myself
am one massive, soundless scream
above the thousand thousand buried here.
I am
each old man
here shot dead.
I am
every child
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!


Bogdan said...

Згоден з вашими словами, як і усі кияни, як і усі українці. Дане рішення підняло хвилю невдоволення у суспільстві. Під тиском громадської думки 8 жовтня Київрада таки скасувала рішення про будівництво готелю в Бабиному Яру.

Дивно, як таке взагалі могло статися... Адже лише у вересні цього року в Києві відкрився новий памятник дітям бабиного яру. Детальніше можна дивитися тут:

Загалом, не усе так погано в Україні, як може видатись, особливо читаючи сторінки преси, яка надміру згущає фарби у погоні за сенсацією. Перепрошую, що надміру багато написав у вашому блозі.

Clarissa said...

Ласкаво прошу. Гарних коментів ніколи не може бути багато. :-) Мені дуже подобаэться мати читачів з багатьох континентів.

Tom Carter said...

Clarissa, I've been to Babi Yar, too, and was very moved by the experience. There isn't a lot there beyond the space in which you know so much horror happened, and it should be left that way. Building a hotel on the site should be an international crime. Where's the UN when we need it? Oh, right, I forgot...the UN is openly anti-Semitic.

Clarissa said...

Thank you so much for saying this, Tom! I really appreciate this.

I also agree completely about the UN, although nobody else but me seems to notice it.