Ukrainian Holocaust survivors are reacting harshly to Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion of their nation. “Putin, withdraw your army and get out from Ukraine!” one woman said in a video. “We want peace! We want peace!”
Another shared that she lost her entire family in the Holocaust after the start of World War II. “All my relatives on my mom’s side are Jews,” she said. “Jews were taken to Babyn Yar. Everybody was killed there. Today I am again in Kyiv. But it is this year. It’s a horrifying monstrosity.”
All of the speakers in the video said they lost relatives during the Babyn Yar massacre. Now a monument in Ukraine, the location is home to one of the largest mass graves from World War II. Nazi killing squads gunned down more than 33,000 people over two days in September 1941. A Russian missile strike near the area of Babyn Yar recently brought this history to the forefront of the discussion.
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Ukraine has a large Jewish population, and Russia’s invasion — sparking parallels to World War II — has been traumatic for many who remember the sights, sounds and fears of battle. Natalia Berezhnaya, 88, is among those shocked by what’s unfolding
“I feel like I’m dreaming,” she said. “It’s hard to believe that you might be going through the same thing again that you went through in ’41. This is war. Any ways, any paths that exist to stop it — it must be stopped. And end this bloodshed. It’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that, in ’41, I had to hide in the basement of this building and that I’m going to have to do that again now.”
Some are rushing to help out the thousands of Holocaust survivors in Ukraine. Zane Buzby, the founder of the Survivor Mitzvah Project, has long provided support to Holocaust survivors, including more than 300 in Ukraine. She has been working with contacts on the ground to check in on others like Berezhnaya and get them much-needed resources.
“They’re spread out across this vast country. They don’t have extended families,” she said. “We don’t want food sources to run out. We’re getting them as much medication as possible now because who knows in two weeks what’s going to happen.”
Ukrainian leaders say they plan to rebuild the Holocaust memorial at Babyn Yar.
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice