: No easy solutions in accepting hard truth about the past
Zoya Zvinyatskovskaya Zoya Zvinyatskovskaya Contributing editor at Salon Publishing House

12:49 Sep. 30, 2016

No easy solutions in accepting hard truth about the past

Monument in Babyn Yar, Kyiv, Ukraine (Ukraine Today/Emil Durov)

Magazine editor and popular blogger Zoya Zvinyatskovskaya on Holocaust and why it is important for everybody to remember - and to talk about it.

I didn't want to write anything, but they looked at me, so I did. picture if you will, A middle-aged woman with a stern face. Two girls in bizarre winter hats. A man and a woman with big sad eyes.

These are the photos of my family, on my father's side. Pictures of those who went to Babyn Yar in September 1941. On my mother's side there are no pictures, nothing, nothing at all, there must be many more people in this situation with no pictures. My grandfather had four brothers, plus their wives, their children and their elderly relatives. Almost 20 people from that side are gone, I cannot say exactly how many. I don't even know their names.

Read more The tragedy of Babyn Yar: memories and art

Out of their families, only my grandfathers survived - both were at war, one ended up in Prague, the other in Budapest. Two of my grandmothers are among those who were evacuated - one in Aktyubinsk, the other in Magnitogorsk. No one survived from those who unwittingly remained in Kyiv. On my grandmother's birthday, there were only four relatives at the table – and this is 40 years later.

I seriously didn't want to write anything, but I see and hear what they say and write everywhere, so I shall put pen to paper. You know, this date has its own meaning for everybody, and to some it is not so obvious, it is not clear on the surface. You need to search for it. Looks like the Jews have found it, because, they tried. They struggled to get out of the darkness into hope and to turn the history of the Holocaust into the history of human dignity. All of their museums, memorials are dedicated to the Holocaust, in fact, were turned into an archive of victims' names and into the monuments to so-called Righteousness of World Nations – non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. The Jerusalem Museum Yad Vashem, dedicated to the Shoah, are dealing with it. By the way, Ukraine is the only country that has its own, separate list of "Righteous of Babyn Yar". Google it, it's very interesting, I even heard from my grandmother the story about a Podil priest Aleksey Glagolev who hid Jews. Now at Babyn Yar in Kyiv during the preparation to the memorial days, the alley of the Righteous was created simultaneously with the alley of Martyrs.

Read more Ukraine marks 75 years since Babyn Yar mass slaughter

But the non-Jews must try as well. Yes, I know, besides the Jews, Ukrainians, prisoners of war, demented, even the freedom fighters were all shot there – lots and lots of people were executed there during the three years of occupation. It was just a very convenient cliff above a very comfortable pit, in which the bodies fell very conveniently. In fact, it is a huge mass grave, but not just that. This is a place of a monstrous genocide of Jews that took place right here in our recent past. Here, non-Jews have a good reason to take a thought about the nature of genocide in general. And about the participation of your people in it.

There are no easy solutions here like "nothing had happened here" or "my family and I, we did not do anything wrong" – it will not work out. It's not a matter of personal charges. This is an opportunity to understand the real past and esteem it. Maybe, feel guilty. Perhaps even apologize – not for yourself. It is a difficult thing to feel guilty for what you personally never did and none of your friends did. However, I think today it is an integral feature of an adult nation.

No Jew will ever say it publicly. They would say – let's talk about individuals, not about nations. Well, right, is this necessary for Jews? Others need it, if they need it at all.

Read more Poetry amongst the dead

And I understand all that stuff about the partisans and heroes, about Roma and about the people of Kyiv who were just murdered there. Many people say that we should make a memorial to the genocide in general, without the emphasis on nationalities. I don't know. Maybe. Although, I think this is an attempt to jump through, not to think of such an unpleasant, uncomfortable theme, fraught with heinous discoveries. Besides that - everything is ok. Victims of the war, the abstract horror-horror.

Yet, there are things that you just cannot jump over, otherwise they will rise-up repeatedly, and everyone must do their homework to advance to the next level. The process of understanding what happened has just begun; now many people are still in the denial phase. It's still far away from acceptance, you remember the phases, that's why I think it's important to dedicate this one day per year to think of a middle-aged woman with a stern face, the two girls in bizarre winter hats. And of the man and a woman with big sad eyes. This is the tomb of about 60 thousand Kyiv Jews who lived in our city and were killed only because they were Jews. Give these people from the photo this day in your memory and your reflections on the nature of what happened. Only one day of the year. This is quite a bit, for all other such important people you'll still have 364 days, and even more, if it is a leap year.

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