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Holocaust commemoration in Ukraine

Koen Carlier - 25 April 2020

Like in many other places, the Holocaust commemoration in Ukraine was different from other years, as a result of the coronavirus. Many commemorations in Israel and other countries could be followed online.

Nataliya, our staff member from Kiev, is one of the people involved in that. In cooperation with Holocaust survivor Boris Zabarko, she conducts interviews on what can be followed in which countries on this day.

No commemoration in Vinnitsa?
When we came home late from our emergency campaign ‘Meals on Wheels’  afternoon, I sorted out my administration and received numerous emails concerning the coming online commemorations that would take place. This time, it would also not take place in Vinnitsa.

Would there be a commemoration at the child mass grave or not?

Last year, there was a big commemoration with the students of the Jewish school, survivors of the Shoah and Righteous among the Nations (Ukrainians who hid Jews). Rabbi Shaul, who is currently in Israel because of the birth of their fourth child, said a prayer at that time. Numerous staff members of Christians for Israel International (C4I) and friends of the Jewish people were also present.

Would there be a commemoration at the child mass grave this year, the place where 4.000 babies and children were buried alive? I was thinking about this, it kept me occupied. But there was still much to be arranged concerning a load of food products for Odessa. So I left it like that. You can’t want everything.

Or you can!
I woke up early this morning, and the thought that there would be no commemoration kept haunting me. Suddenly I got some ideas. We called Leonid Trachtenberg. He is an expert in the field of the Shoah in Ukraine. I also called bishop Vladimir Vuyzi. He is responsible for 160 larger and smaller Baptist churches in the whole province. It seemed a good idea to me to bring a Jew and a Christian together for the commemoration.

Why? The bishop is a very modest man and I occasionally meet him in his office. Recently, he told me there that his grandparents had saved Jews in a small former shtetl. He also told me that his wife’s grandmother smuggled food to a forest where Jews were hiding.

The commemoration
We agreed to pick them up at 10:30 am and to subsequently hold a small commemoration at the child mass grave. I introduced them to one another. The bishop had never been to the child mass grave. Leonid talked about the Shoah. He told us what had happened to the 28,000 murdered Jews in Vinnitsa and the 230,000 murdered Jews in the province. He talked about how they were buried in about 350 Jewish mass graves like animals. Many of these graves still don’t have a memorial.

Thoughts were exchanged with each other. We kept a minute of silence and pebbles were laid. Leonid sang a Yiddish song. His mother-in-law used to sing that song when she and many others were in camps around Uman.

We kept a minute of silence and pebbles were laid.

It was a commemoration that may not have been much. Arranged at the last moment, without any preparation. But a seed has been planted in the heart of Vladimir Vuyzi. He will in turn share the importance of commemoration with and pass it on to the 160 ministers of his Baptist churches!

 

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