Sunday, November 4, 2012

Kyiv Flashback...

Today, out of nowhere, I was hit by a memory of an experience I had in Kyiv on my last day there. That day, after a morning interview with the last of my research participants, I ventured out, determined to do some gift shopping and find my way to Babyn Yar, to pay my respects at this site where more than 100,00 Ukrainian Jews were murdered by Nazi forces, along with others targeted by this oppressive regime.

The day was long. I got off at the wrong Metro stop, and had to walk for nearly 90 minutes to find the Babyn Yar memorial. When I finally arrived, I was hot and tired, hungry and thirsty.

The path took me down a tree-lined promenade. This memorial stood at the end of it.

I walked further, and found a bench where I could sit and reflect and gather my strength. Babyn Yar is now a park, and many people were walking past me: young women with baby carriages, a man walking his dog, a pair of lovers who couldn't keep their hands off each other. As had become my habit during my time in Ukraine, I simply sat and observed, and wondered about each person's story. Where had they come from? Where were they going? Did they know about the park's significance, or was it merely a lovely, shady place to walk?

A flash of white caught my eye, and I saw an elderly woman in a white sweater walking in my direction. She looked to be in her eighties, and as I watched her, she glanced to her left and right, then stepped off the path and into the trees across the path from me. She stood in the trees, arms wrapped around herself, staring at the ground, and suddenly she bent down, picked something up, and gazed at the object as she held it in her hand. After several moments, she slipped the object in her pocket, and walked briskly away.

She was certainly old enough to have been a young woman at the time of the massacre here, and I was left with so many questions about her.

Somehow, I had forgotten about this experience until today, when a piece of music brought it to my mind. I wanted to share it so that I won't forget it again - Babyn Yar moved me profoundly, as did my entire experience in Ukraine.

1 comment:

  1. For the longest time I have wanted to go to the Ukraine. I speak the language, sort of, have friends from there, but it is Babyn Yar that draws me.