«Jewish Observer»
September 2002
5763 Tishrei

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A solemn mourning ceremony in memory of the victims of Ukrainian Jewry's Catastrophe was held in the memorial Yad va-Shem September 12. This annual tradition to mark a sorrowful anniversary is observed during already over twenty years the All-Israeli association of Ukraine's emigrants exists. It is a successor to the Kiev Jewish national group which founder was Moshe Lainer.

According to the established tradition, the ceremony was opened with laying out wreaths to the Eternal fire in the Hall of Memory with plaques to Babiy Yar and other places of mass shootings of Jews.

The opening ceremony attracted around 300 people, representatives of a 300-thousand-strong Ukrainian alia, former residents of Kiev, Kharkov, Odessa, Zhitomir. Each family lives on memories about the last war, which took away 1,5 million of those who resided on the territory of occupied Ukraine.

Honour to light the Eternal fire on behalf of the Ukrainian fellowship group went to a Babiy Yar survivor Ida Pinkert and former captive of Bershady ghetto Shika Alpert. Absolute silence reigned in the lit by the Eternal fire memorial when a Yad va-Shem Rabbi Eguda Lendner was reading the prayer "Izkor" in memory of guiltless victims of Hitler's genocide. Everybody recalled his nearest and dearest who failed to survive to date.

This was followed by laying out of wreaths from all branches of the Ukrainian fellowship - from Metula to Afula, as they say in Israel. On behalf of the government a wreath was laid by the minister of construction Natan Shcharansky, from the Embassy of Ukraine to Israel - a temporary charge d'affaires of Ukraine to Israel Igor Turchin. Wreaths were laid from the Ministry of Absorption, Jewish agency. The choir conducted by Faina Vinokur performed a mourning melody terminating this part of the program.

The ceremony was continued in the Valley of exterminated communities where a gala-concert was held. Chairman of the All-Israeli association of emigrants from Ukraine David Levin spoke about the Holocaust lessons on behalf of new repatriates - emigrants from Ukraine.

- We mark the Day of memory of Jews died in Ukraine on the eve of the Judgement Day. September 29, 1941 became the beginning of mass extermination of Kiev Jews in Babiy Yar. But inferno also reigned in Bohdanovka where Jews of southern Ukraine went under extermination. There also was Drobitsky Yar near Kharkov, there were many other "Yars". The Ukraine occupied by the Nazis was one continuous Babiy Yar. Here, in this sacred for us hall of Yad va-Shem, were named almost a thousand exterminated communities. Over 60 years have passed. New century, new millennium has come together with new generation. Day by day we lose witnesses to those events. The fire of memory was lit today by a Babiy Yar survivor Ida Pinkert and Shika Albert. He was born in the Bershady ghetto. His parents were shot dead when he was only two. He doesn't remember faces of his parents, but he has a fresh memory wound. He conveys this memory to another generation. This is particularly acute today when anti-Semitism is rising in Europe and throughout the world, when Nazism again gets on its feet, when pseudo-academics and corrupt politicians try to deny the very fact of Catastrophe.

We thank everybody to have come to this ceremony of memory; we thank those who share our pain and concern. Paying tribute to our people and victims of the fascist genocide, we speak about a heroic Jewish resistance. We say, "No to fascism, anti-Semitism! We will not let Holocaust recur. Our Jewish state is the key to this. At present, we experience hard times. But our nation, as always, will go through all trials and will live forever".

The Vice-Prime Minister, Minister of Construction, native of Ukraine Natan Shcharansky compared Babiy Yar with Manhattan:

- September 11 I took part in a mourning ceremony dedicated to an anniversary of terrorist attack on New York, when 3,000 Americans lost their lives for being Americans. A month past that tragedy, in October 2001, I attended the tragedy scene and it seemed to me the hell looks the same. Smoke was coming from beneath the ground; one could smell metal, burnt human bodies. And I thought: now we can understand and feel what Europe was like in the years of Nazism when during 2,000 days 3,000 people were killed every day. Blow by blow in 2,000 days! At present the world has got mobilized, has immediately understood unless we wage a relentless war on terror in Afghanistan, Iran - there won't be any salvation. And in those times - for 2,000 days - our nation was being exterminated. The world kept silence, ran away from truth, nobody wished to believe...

We lived in the country which authorities tried to conceal the truth, memory about the tragedy of our people. Many my relatives perished in Kharkov, Donetsk, Dnepropetrovsk, and Odessa. But we knew nothing of that. Later, when we learnt the truth, we intended to read Kadish in Babiy Yar, to light candles. But the authorities would take us under arrest. They feared we would, God forbid, discover truth about this tragedy. This truth, this memory is powerful. Awareness of our past gives strength to fight for the future. The State of Israel will never allow other nations to decide the fate of Jews. Thanks to Israel the Jews of Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Lithuania are able to struggle for their future. Israel keeps memory of our roots, our pain. This pain is part of the history of our nation, of our state.

It is very important today to remember our relentless struggle against our enemies allows no compromises with those who kill the Jewish nation. It is necessary to remember those eager to exterminate the Jewish nation will come tomorrow to New York, London, Paris to kill residents of USA, Great Britain, France.

Yitzhak Arad, a deputy director of Yad va-Shem - former young partisan and participant of all Israel's wars - spoke about the inevitability of Israel's victory over all its enemies who try to exterminate the country created after an excruciating centuries-old struggle of many Jewish generations.

Esther Hendelman, a former captive of the death camp in the village of Bohganovka, made a passionate speech full of pain of her past. She called not to forget anything, to convey this memory to new generations.

A literary musical composition held in memory of the Catastrophe victims included performance of a singer Albina Mikailovskaya, comperes Emma Dikareva and Mikhail Polsky, choir conducted by Faina Vinokur.

A poetess Rina Levinzon managed to express the feelings of the gathering in short lines:

Oh, Ukraine, the light of your lakes, your meadows,
Mercy of your Slav dreams.
We did believe it, drank it, loved.
Farewell to you. We leave not to return
And see it any more.


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