70 years ago

The first executions began at Babi Yar in Kiev, Ukraine. They began on September 27, to be exact. The first victims were patients at the local psychiatric hospital. They were murdered by Nazi occupiers together with local collaborators. Then the city’s Jewish population was taken there. They were told that they were being “resettled.” And you can guess what happened next.

Babi Yar is the final resting place of many, many people – mostly civilian Jews, as well as Soviet POWs, Ukrainian nationalists, Roma folks who were rounded up, etc. I am distantly related to some of the people who were murdered there, as a lot of Kievans are.

My first play featured an incident at Babi Yar as it is today, but I couldn’t do justice to the setting.

Poet Evgeny Yevtushenko wrote of Babi Yar: “I am like a constant, soundless scream, over the buried thousands. I am every old man shot to death here. I am every child shot to death here.” At the time that Yevtushenko wrote these words, the Soviet powers were still steadfastly refusing to place a monument at Babi Yar.

All of that has changed. And a museum is likely to be built. I guess that justifies the “Good News” tag, maybe.

2 thoughts on “70 years ago

  1. Even though I wasn’t alive, and even though I’m not related to anyone who was murdered (at least, I don’t think), hearing, thinking, or reading about the Holocaust still simultaneously breaks my heart and puts me up in arms. That poem especially brings tears to my eyes.

  2. What’s interesting about this poem is that it’s not very good – neither in English nor in the original Russian. But it works as a powerful historical document. There’s something about its precision that gets to me.

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