The more history recedes into the past, the more it becomes universal. This autumn issue of our magazine comes at an auspicious time for Ukraine.
The 75th anniversary of the killings at Babyn Yar have just taken place at the end of September.
As the last witnesses and survivors of those terrible events begin passing away into the next world, it is all the more important for us to remember what happened, and to draw lessons from those horrible days. We have a historical and modern duty to remember what had happened outside of Kyiv in those terrible days. If we remember what happened and understand the reasons why it happened, perhaps those things will not happen every again. Those horrible crimes that happened 75 years ago were done before Ukraine became an independent country and were committed while the country was occupied by invaders. Yet, Ukraine’s path into a democratic, prosperous and liberal future is contingent on it’s facing up to the crimes of the past, crimes that were committed by Ukrainians and against Ukrainians on Ukrainian territory.
Arguments about history and memory are not merely musty arguments about the past, or about who of our grandfathers did good or bad things during the war or during communist times. These arguments are not merely theoretical. Our arguments about the past are arguments about the future and about the sorts of values we wish to live with. The sorts of people we want to become They are arguments about our vision of what it means to advance and to become better. The process of healing for Ukraine is the same as it is for any individual or nation. Transparency is a basic part of healing the traumatic wounds of the past and we must not hide anything from ourselves.
Ukraine’s response to the crimes committed on it’s soil, crimes that the Soviet Union had forbidden us to speak about openly, has been a very healthy one.
I am very proud that The Odessa Review participated as media partners with the organization that organized the commemorations for the Ukrainian government and we attended all the various conferences and symposiums. This issue features a special report from those commemorations.
The second and related theme of this issue is that of poetry.
This month we are publishing contemporary poetry (such as work from the excellent Russian- American poet Eugene Ostashevsky) as well as a selection of poems from the great Ukrainian poet Mykola Bazhan. His poetry was dedicated to Babyn Yar. Bazhan’s humane response to the what happened is a model of how to be human, and a model of understanding and cooperation for any mixed human society to follow.
We are very proud of the fact that the poems we are printing here would be difficult or impossible for English speakers to read otherwise.
Poetry and a poetic world view might very well be the only proper response to what human beings did to one another at Babyn Yar.