Ever more graves of the victims of Stalinism


The world knows the forest of Bykivnya in the north-eastern outskirts of Kyiv. It was here in the years of the Stalinist repressions that the NKVD buried the remains of the nearly thirty thousand Soviet citizens it had executed, as well as over three thousand Poles.  However, besides Bykivnya, there are many other such mass graves on Ukrainian territory. When the Nazis occupied Podillya in autumn 1941, they dug up mass graves on the outskirts of Vinnytsa and it was established that lying in a common grave were the victims of Stalinist repressions in the thirties. Among them were people of different ages and from different social classes.  Photographs of the remains, pieces of their clothing, shoes and personal belongings went through all publications of the Third Reich and incredibly survived to the present day. I was shown a yellowed page from a Berlin newspaper by a former Ukrainian military prosecutor and now one of the heads of the interdepartmental commission on research into Stalinism, Andriy Amons. According to him, in the SBU [Security Service] archives they managed to find documents which indicated the place of burial of Ukrainian and Polish victims of the Stalinist repressions. However, not all these places are available to the researchers.

“In Kherson a similar grave was destroyed, all the earth and taken away and buildings put up. It’s now impossible to find or prove anything there. In Kharkiv and Kyiv you can still find such places, real common graves. I found documents that show the following: in Bykivnya and other places bulldozers removed the earth, dug up the graves, found bits – buttons, Soviet kopecks and then they put the graves back. And before that, immediately after the War, looters “went through” such common graves, the law enforcement officers didn’t stop them, there was no order. The graves were plundered, the proof that the NKVD was involved destroyed.  However we work at the places of burial and we find proof.  It’s time to sit down over the documents”.

The documents, according to pan Amons do not only provide confirmation of the things and human remains found during excavations. The researchers do not exclude the possibility that the geography of burial places of the victims of Stalinist repressions on the territory of Ukraine is much wider than would presently seem. The documents which are held by the SBU have been studied. It’s time to work through the archives of the former NKVD in Moscow. However access to those archives is closed to the Ukrainian researcherss.

7 September 2006

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