“Memory over time”
This was the name of a civic action during which Kyiv volunteers spent this Saturday working on the reserve area “Bykivnya Graves” near Kyiv. It is a poignantly appropriate title since the Bykivnya Forest holds one of the largest mass graves of victims of the communist regime.
In Nineteen Thirty Seven members of the Ukrainian intelligentsia were shot in this place. Then in 1945 Soviet officers and soldiers returning from Nazi prisoner of war camps were also slaughtered here.
The volunteers moved across the territory of the Bykivnya Reserve very carefully, aware that this land is filled with human remains. The young people were in solemn mood, avoiding laughter and jokes. Members of several organizations had gathered there under the auspices of the Charitable Fund “Ukraine 3000”. Its Head, Kateryna Yushchenko herself gave the lead by picking up rubbish which visitors to the Reserve had left.
The buried remains in Bykivnya were only found in the 1980s. The Soviet authorities did all they could to conceal the retribution wrought on innocent people. In order to destroy the memory of the events of 1937 – 1945, they even planned to build a railway station.
No one is able to say with any degree of certainty how many people lie buried in the Bykivnya Forest.
Mykola Leheza, Head of the Bykivnya Settlement Council: “People were shot in the back of the neck, they fell, and were buried there. Nobody took anything off them. They were piled up in mass graves. Then later vandals came and dug the bodies up. I saw that myself in the 1980s. There were a lot of bones, skulls”.
In spite of the Monument, the memorial plaques and the embroidered rushnyky [traditional towels].of mourning draped around trees, not all the visitors to the Bykivnya Reserve seem aware of its tragedy. Judging by the strewn bottles and disposable plates, some like to have picnics here.
The participants in the charitable action ““Memory over time” devoted the whole day to clearing away little from the common graves.
Kostyantyn Yakovchuk-Besarab, from the scout organization “Plast” comments: “I think that this is generally a trend in Ukraine – people bring rubbish to places they dont go to often, and then it stays there. And thats the whole tragedy that we dont remember what was there before”.
The volunteers hope that the territory of the Reserve will remain clear at least until Victory Day as well as Remembrance Day for the Victims of Political Repression which by tradition is marked in the middle of May.