From 2010 to 2012, my wife and I lived in Ukraine. This country, much like my current home Bosnia, has a rich and tragic history. During my stay in Kiev, the capital city, I visited Babi Yar. Before I came to Ukraine, I had never heard of it. However, in late September 2011, I opened a copy of the Kyiv Post (the local English newspaper) and read a fascinating and horrifying tale of Nazi atrocities committed in Ukraine in 1941.
Today, Babi Yar is an assuming park in Kiev where children play in the snow, and babushki (Russian for “grandmas”) take long walks down its paths. But, seventy years ago it was the site of a series of massacres carried out by the Nazis against the Soviet Union. The best documented of these massacres occurred September 29-30, 1941 when 33,771 Jews were killed in a single operation. Other victims included thousands of Soviet prisoners of war, communists, Gypsies, Ukrainian nationalists, and civilian hostages. All together, it is estimated that between 100,000 and 150,000 more lives were taken at Babi Yar.
Today, there are a series of memorials that memorialize the massacres (including an extremely disturbing memorial to the children who lost their lives there).
Walking the grounds reminded me of the horrors that are possible in our world and served as a warning against the hatred of differences.