FORGIVE US, JEWS
A communal grave towering in the locality Paseka near village Yarun, Zhitomir region, is a bitter, taciturn reproach to human conscience. 60 years have passed, but people's memory preserves everything down to the smallest details... Such happenings are not forgotten, and the path leading to the burial mound remains clear. 588 people are buried there. At times people come here to honour the memory of those who died a martyr's death. Children come here to lay flowers and ask an eternal question "Why?"
Who can explain why in the years of terrible trials the world got suddenly divided into those, who spared not a crunch of bread for the unhappy driven from the entire district to Yarun ghetto, who risked their lives to save these people, and those who tortured, killed the innocent. For over many years they had been good neighbors causing no harm to one another. And suddenly, such an awful tragedy occurred...
Recalls Klara Garmil, a miraculous survivor in that terrible day of 5 May, 1942. "My grandfather was the first to perish. They wounded barbed wire round his neck, tied to a horse and dragged about the whole village. Then he was thrown into the courtyard, already dead. The ghetto was encircled with barbed wire. We all were driven inside it. We were made to starve and ate only what people would bring and throw through the wire.
At night policemen and Germans took to ousting us from the ghetto. Everybody began crying and shouting. Mother embraced me, kissed for the last time and said, "Antloif, main kind, du darfst blaibn lebn" ("Escape, my darling, you should remain alive").
Klara succeeded in escaping but hundreds of her fellows-tribesmen died a martyr's death in the native to both of us Yarun. They died from the hands of policemen and fascist underlings who had also been born and grown up in Yarun, but embarked on the road of crimes in the wartime.
Germans occupied the Yarun district of Zhitomir region the night July 6 - 7, 1941. A local policeman kept a former collector Marder Avrum in the icy water a night through and in the morning killed a tormented person. Policemen threw a beauty Bluma Birim alive into a well, lambasted Khodikir Marn with sticks to death. Spring waters of Tserem washed ashore a Yarun's inhabitant Khana. Scoundrels beheaded the unhappy woman knocking out her gold teeth.
These criminals were searching for gold and valuables but obtained only infamy and oblivion. Fellows villagers despise them, children and grandchildren disowned them, grandchildren are unaware of them, there is no place for them on the native land. They fell into oblivion damned and forgotten. We shall give the names of those righteous people who saved Jews risking their own lives and the lives of their families.
Varvara Royuk (Stepanyuk after her husband) was hiding a Jewish woman in the cellar through the entire was, though she herself had many children.
The family of Voznyuk. Daughter and son fought on the front and mother was hiding an 18 years old Jewish girl under the sofa a German lodger sat on to dine.
The Skorik family saved and adopted Motl Aronovich Piven, gave him the name Victor Skorik. When the occupants learnt this, the family's head took the boy to the forest to partisans and hid him there.
The family of a former teacher Zinaida Shevelyuk for several weeks was caring after a Jewish girl until she left for a partisan squad. The family of Maria Svidelyuk was also hiding Jews, but they were betrayed and sent to the ghetto.
In vain do they search for the families of Romich and Shutenko, who resided during the war in Yarun and saved the doomed. They are to be awarded a title "Righteous men of peace". But people then gave no thought to rewards, they simply fulfilled their human duty telling nobody about this.
Yet, forgive us, Jews... We did very little for you. You were killed to a taciturn consent of my fellows - villagers. You suffered tortures, but we kept silence. And we should try to look for and find a way out. We were afraid, terribly afraid for our children and ourselves. This is betrayal, a feeling of big guilt before our people. We had a common grief. This was a Catastrophe not only for the Jewish, but for the Ukrainian people as well. Our children should know the bitter truth, should condemn the guilty and commemorate the innocent not to let it recur again.
On behalf of my fellows - villagers, on behalf of those who survived the evils of war, on behalf of my coevals born after the war, on behalf of future generations I ask you, Jews, to forgive us. Forgive us for our inability to save your youth, to respect your age, to save your lives. Forgive our passive betrayal. I ask you, forgive us...
Yarun, Zhitomir oblast