Tag Archives Stalin

BLOODLANDS

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‘In the very midst of civilised Europe…the existence

of an entire population is threatened.’ Anatole France et al, 1919


 

Ukraine, like all countries, is an invention;

an abstraction on a map; a conqueror’s

caprice; an accident of history;

an actual, continual pit of war,

occupation, partition, rebellion,

displacement, famine – and pogroms

under Chmielnicki’s Cossacks, the Tzar’s

Black Hundreds, the Soviets, the Nazis…

***

Until the Germans occupied Ukraine

my grandfather, a Tzarist refugee

in London, had had regular letters

in Yiddish from his parents and siblings

in Kyiv. After September ’41

no more arrived. Approximately

thirty four thousand Jewish men, women

and children – in two days – were shot to death

by the Germans and their collaborators,

the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police.


Each fresh layer of bodies in Babyn Yar –

a ravine four miles from the city centre

and not far from the River Dnipro –

was covered by sand. As the Russians

advanced, re-occupying Ukraine,

the SS attempted to remove

the evidence by exhuming the corpses,

burning them, and scattering the ashes

on neighbouring farmland. Though the odd

piece of bone or necklace turned up, Stalin

ordered the massacre kept secret,

to pretend the retreat had never happened.


***


Before the latest invasion you could

book a tour of the Jewish sites of Kyiv –

the five synagogues, Golda Meir’s birthplace,

Babyn Yar – for less than £50 pounds

per person. Included would be a

selfie with the driver.

SPEAKING OF STONES

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