The Babi Yar (translating from Ukranian as the “Old Woman’s Ravine”) massacre resulted in the machine-gunned deaths of nearly 34,000 Jews and other “undesirables” a few metro stops outside downtown Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine, in 1941. Over the next two years, tens of thousands more Jews, Soviet government officials, Russian prisoners of war, communists, and Roma would suffer a similar fate at that particular canyon.
Out of the 100,000-150,000 people murdered at this site during the Nazi occupation of Ukraine, only 29 people were believed to have survived the massacre, the Times of Israel reported.
While a statue of a Soviet soldier was erected in the mid-1970s, there was no monument or memorial honoring the lives of the Jewish people who perished at Babi Yar until after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Ukraine’s subsequent independence when a menorah-shaped monument was placed at the site, now a city park lined with trees and soccer fields, according to Radio Free Europe.
"There are events, tragedies, the enormity of which make all words futile and of which silence tells incomparably more - the awesome silence of thousands of people. Perhaps we, too, should keep silent and only meditate,” Ukrainian writer Ivan Dzuiba stated at Babi Yar, Radio Free Europe continued.
“But silence says a lot only when everything that could have been said has already been said. If there is still much to say, or if nothing has yet been said, then silence becomes a partner to falsehood and enslavement. We must, therefore, speak - and to speak whenever we can, taking advantage of all opportunities, for they come so infrequently."
Almost three quarters of a century after the war, in 2016, Ukraine hosted a weeklong series of concerts, seminars, and an official state ceremony to honor the Jewish lives lost at Babi Yar. Many of these events were held in conjunction with the Ukrainian-Jewish Encounter and the World Jewish Congress.
“No Ukrainian has the right to forget this tragedy,” Petro Poroshenko, President of Ukraine, announced at a ceremony attended by nearly 1,600 dignitaries, state officials, and clergy per the Times of Israel.
“The lesson of Babi Yar is a reminder of the terrible price of political and moral shortsightedness. This is the remembrance of the fact that condoning aggression only inflames his appetite.”
Written by Erin Parfet