Diary: Marianna Kiyanovska, Voices of the Lost
Harvard’s Ukrainian Research Institute recently published Babyn Yar: Ukrainian Poets Respond. It is an anthology collected by translator and scholar Ostap Kin of poems addressed to the massacre of Jews by Nazi forces arriving in Kyiv in 1941. 33,771 Jews were shot at Babyn Yar, a ravine on the outskirts of the city, in the last two days of September; by the time the Soviets retook Kyiv in November of 1943, one hundred thousand more people had perished at Babyn Yar, mostly Jews. Jews accounted for a quarter of the city’s population before the Nazi’s arrived. Ostap Kin’s introduction describes the tortuous history of non-acknowledgment and at first furtive commemoration of this catastrophe in the city’s history. After the Soviets retook Kyiv in 1943 its remaining Jews were subjected to a fierce state-orchestrated anti-Semitic campaign. Only with the publication of famous but much-debated works by Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Anatoly Kuznetsov in the early 1960s did the massacre at Babyn Yar come into literary view; the site was unmarked until 1966. In 1991 a newly independent Ukraine first acknowledged the massacre of Jews at Babyn Yar; a full memorial was completed in 2021. Many of the poems collected by Kin were in the shadows, not published since their early appearance in small editions.