I realized it has been a while since my last post – though not too long, I hope – at least not long enough that you all have forgotten me!
Lately I have been waking up, once again, as the sun is rising. The benefit of this is that I can lay in my bed and look out the window, and see the sunrise reflecting off the clouds, thus coloring them pink. Somehow it makes the day seem a little bit brighter when it starts that way, being able to witness such beauty.
On a less bright note – this past Sunday and Monday I was in Kyiv, and was finally able to see Babi Yar. For those of you who are not familiar with Babi Yar, it refers to a ravine (or what used to be a ravine) in Kyiv, where Nazis murdered over 100,000 Jews in 1941. More information on it can be found at http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/babiyar.html. It was interesting to see, and powerful. It is right off one of the metro station stops. As I came out of the metro station and, following the instructions in one of the two guidebooks on Ukraine, I went north, around the food carts, and immediately saw the childrens’ monument. Upon first glance, I saw a child standing, with her arms outstretched. Upon further examination I saw the rest of the monument – a broken doll sitting next to her, and a boy sitting behind her, wearing a kippah, with a broken neck. The bottom of the memorial read “for the children who were killed at Babi Yar in 1941” (okay, not a direct translation, but that is the gist. My Ukrainian is still not stellar).
After we (my friend Bennett kindly accompanied me) left the childrens’ memorial, we walked along, past families with children, young people, elderly people – people in general, in the park. It reminded me of the focus that we as Jews have on life. Even after all that has been done to Jews over the centuries (indeed, over millennia), we are still here, we are still alive. We came to the menorah monument of Babi Yar, which stands on the exact site where the Jews were murdered. In essence, we were standing on top of a mass grave. The monument is beautiful (I took photos which I will add to the Kyiv album on Picasa this evening) in a haunting way. At the base of the monument were numerous kaddish candles and flowers. Bennett added a origami crane he had made, and remarked on how ironic, that he, as a Christian, was visiting a Jewish memorial and following a Buddhist/Eastern tradition by leaving the crane. I saw nothing wrong with it, and said I believe the sentiment was appropriate – a way of remembering the dead. We read the inscription, which reminded me of Genesis 4:10 – “And He said, “What have you done? Hark! Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the earth.” This is what G-d said to Cain after he had murdered Abel. I believe this is a fitting quote, for we are all ultimately brothers and sisters on this Earth, and an atrocity such as that will echo for generations to come.
We next crossed back through the park and across the street to visit the memorial that was put up by the Soviets, which the guidebook describes as “austere.” I wonder how they came up with that description, as the word means “stern and cold in appearance or manner b : somber, grave“. We were looking in one direction, at a smaller monument, when we suddenly saw the actual monument – it was as if it had suddenly appeared, though it was there the whole time and a sunny day. We were simply looking the wrong way, so when we saw it, it was right there, and quite large. It is strange that we managed to get so close to it and not see it.
Now, I can see the second definition of the word austere as applicable to this monument – as it is a monument to the victims, it is very somber and grave. However, it did not appear to me to be stern or cold in appearance – in fact, it had its own haunting beauty to it. Whoever was the artist, I commend the person, for it too is a powerful monument. Unfortunately, it does not appear that it is very well-maintained and there is some erosion of it that is occurring.
On our way out of the park area where the Soviet memorial is a last monument, which was put up more recently by members of the local Jewish community to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the executions. From above, it would appear as a Magen David. It was very simple, but had a beauty in it.
Thus ends this post – I do not want to lessen the impact that Babi Yar had on me by discussing more frivolous things.