President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his wife Olena, as well as foreign heads of state, took part in ceremonial events dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the Babyn Yar tragedy, which took place at the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center in Kyiv.
In particular, President of Israel Isaac Herzog, President of the Federal Republic of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Speaker of the Georgian Parliament Kakha Kuchava, Speaker of the Swedish Riksdag Andreas Norlén and Marshal of the Senate of the Republic of Poland Tomasz Grodzki took part in the ceremony commemorating the victims of the Babyn Yar tragedy. The event was also attended by representatives of the parliaments of the Czech Republic, Austria, Lithuania and Latvia, US Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues Ellen Germain, Special Representative of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, rabbis, clergy, ambassadors and diplomats, as well as experts, scholars and philanthropists from around the world dealing with the issue of the Holocaust.
The President of Ukraine and guests took part in the opening of the Crystal Wall of Wailing. The audience also got acquainted with the audiovisual installation "Mirror Field" - pillars with speakers, from which the names of the victims of Babyn Yar are voiced by adults and children.
The participants of the event also watched a light performance in the ravine and visited the symbolic synagogue "A place for reflection", where the cantor's prayer was performed.
"In this place, the Nazis shot more than a hundred thousand people. It is difficult to speak in this place. For thousands of years it has been occupied by silence. It is difficult to breathe in this place. Thousands of children took their last breath here. It is difficult to stand in this place. Thousands of bullets knocked those killed off the feet right here, in the Babyn Yar, which is permeated with pain and screaming, blood and death. A place that the Lord has forsaken forever, and the devil bypasses. This is such a place. Horrible crimes took place here 80 years ago," said Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his speech.
The Ukrainian President reminded that during World War II in September 1941, Kyiv was captured by the Nazis, and within a week the Nazis shot 752 patients of the Pavlov Psychiatric Hospital.
"Two days later, the quote: “All Jews of Kyiv” were ordered to come here. Allegedly to be sent by train to work in Germany. In fact, they were coming for the express train, which is headed for death. Documents and belongings were confiscated from the "passengers". They were undressed, driven with sticks to the edge of this ravine - to the abyss. And then - the lock sound. The machine-gun's deadly patter. And the first "cars" with innocent victims moved from this terrible "platform" in eternal darkness,” said the President.
He noted that in the first two days, the Nazis executed 33,771 Jews in Babyn Yar, mostly the elderly, women and children over the age of three. Infants were killed without even counting.
"A Nazi plane was circling over the ravine day and night, the noise of which drowned out the shots. But it could not drown out the terrible moan, which, according to eyewitnesses, was heard over Babyn Yar for several more days, and the ground shook from the convulsions of those buried alive," the Head of State added.
In the next two years, the Nazis executed almost the entire Jewish population of Kyiv in Babyn Yar, and then killed Roma, Ukrainians, prisoners of war and lawbreakers.
"How many were left to lie here forever? Nobody can tell exactly today. The Nuremberg trials mentioned the figure of about 100,000 people. Today, new research says there were probably about two hundred thousand people. For the Nazis, these thousands did not matter, unlike all of us. Because every new thousand of victims is a new thousand of years of our pain. Although there is hardly any time that can soothe it," the President said, emphasizing that the tragedy of Babyn Yar affected everyone, because it is a crime against the human species.
At the same time, Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed his belief that Babyn Yar is in fact a monument to man in all its worst and best manifestations.
"To a man who shoots and believes he is doing the right thing. To a man who saves because he knows he is doing the right thing. To every man who has both black and white. The question is: what exactly will prevail one day?” said Volodymy Zelenskyy.
The President noted that Nazism was defeated not only by weapons, but also by the power of the human soul, humanism and mercy of those who chose the path of humanity. And everyone who saved the Jews during the Holocaust was awarded the high title of Righteous Among the Nations.
"Among those whose stories are known, 2659 Ukrainians hold this title today. We are proud of each of them. And we will always be a state where the main value is a person, not an ideology," he stressed.
The President thanked all those present, including international guests who came to Ukraine to share the common pain on the 80th anniversary of the terrible tragedy of Babyn Yar.
"This is proof of the unity of our views. A test for like-minded people. In my opinion, we have passed it successfully," said the President of Ukraine, noting the symbolism of the fact that today the leaders of Israel and Germany are present here.
The Head of State stressed that Babyn Yar is a joint tragedy of the Jewish and Ukrainian people. According to him, there were times when they tried to conceal this black page, to ignore it. And the time came when they finally started talking about Babyn Yar, but did nothing.
"There were many statements, many promises, presentations, concepts, and in total - many years without a decent memorial complex in this place. I am happy that after so many arguments, obstacles, different "buts", we finally started moving. The state together with the public, the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, investors, historians, scientists, architects and many other experts have begun the process when the Babyn Yar Memorial Complex and National Historical and Memorial Reserve will finally be established," the President of Ukraine said.
According to him, in a few years the objects here will become part of a single large-scale complex of remembrance of Babyn Yar, which will allow "to fully experience the horror, pain and suffering caused by Nazism, racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and intolerance".
"Unfortunately, it will not help the dead here, but it will help the living - those who need to know about it. Remember it. Pass it on to children and grandchildren. So that when we get to the next round of the spiral of civilizational development, we have no crossroads. So that we all have one path - the path of human, which we will all choose with deep respect for the memory of all the victims of Babyn Yar, the Holocaust, the Second - and I believe - the last world war. For the peaceful and happy future of our children. For the peaceful and happy future of our children's children… Of all future generations on the planet Earth," said Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
President of the State of Israel Isaac Herzog stressed that the worst tragedy in the history of the Jewish people had taken place in Babyn Yar.
"Machine guns have been working here for two days. Tens of thousands of Kyiv Jews (were killed - ed.). The fates of entire families have been erased," said the President of Israel.
Isaac Herzog noted that today world leaders must condemn any manifestations of anti-Semitism.
"We have to fight evil, cruelty, so that people do not forget what anti-Semitism and racism can lead to. We must promise humanity from this place that Babyn Yar will never happen again," he stressed.
The President of Israel thanked the President of Ukraine and all those involved in the implementation of the project to build a memorial in Babyn Yar for their attention to the memory of the victims of the tragedy.
For his part, German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier noted that World War II had brought much suffering, which is still echoed, and thanked for the opportunity to honor the memory of the victims. He stressed that a good future does not exist without an honest memory.
"As the Federal President of Germany, I stand here in front of you today and bow my head in deep mourning for the dead. At the same time, I feel deep gratitude for the reconciliation for which you, dear Mr. President Zelenskyy, Ukrainians and the descendants of the victims of that time extended a hand to us, Germans. Reconciliation is not something that can be demanded, it can only be given. I am grateful for the close partnership that unites our countries today. I am grateful for the common values we share together: international law and human dignity, the freedom of peoples in their political self-determination and territorial integrity. Peaceful and secure Europe - we stand on this foundation and we must defend it," said Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Borys Zabarko, chairman of the All-Ukrainian Association of Jews, Former Ghetto Prisoners and Prisoners of Nazi Concentration Camps, also addressed the honorable guests. Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Charitable Fund Natan Sharansky and Member of the Supervisory Board Viktor Pinchuk also spoke at the event.
In addition, musicians of the symphony orchestra and choristers performed for the guests of the memorial event.