- before the genocide
- the genocide
- after the genocide
- witness
- issues



Ukraine today has a population of around 50m. Some speak Russian, some Ukrainian. There is a large minority who consider themselves ethnic Russian. There are Poles, Magyars, Moldovans, Bulgars, Belarussians, Romanians, Jews and Crimean Tatars with historic roots in what is now Ukraine. The strongest sense of Ukrainian identity is in the area separated from Ukraine for 200 years while under first Austrian and then Polish rule. Religion has been revived, but is also a divisive factor, since there is more than one branch of Christian Church. Some people. including the government, look towards the West and Europe. Some look towards the East and Russia. Ukrainians have little trust in their political leaders and lawmakers. The economy is in a mess. Criticism in the media is suppressed. The oldest Ukrainians can remember living through two world wars, a revolution, a civil war, three famines, violent occupation by 4 armies, and deportation to Siberian labour camps. Until 1991 they were forbidden to remember or speak about any of it.

1931: 'Laughter disappeared from the village. Only me and my little brother survived. It was a terrible time, terrible.'

1941: 'When the Germans came, we welcomed them with milk, bread, butter, eggs. They gave us cigarettes, chocolate, all the good that came from the West. Then one day when I was going to school I had to step over dead Jewish bodies: killed by German drunkards in the night.' In Babi Yar, a ravine outside Kiev, 33,771 Jews are murdered in 2 days. 77,000 more bodies are added over the next two years. Of 5.5m Ukrainians killed in the Second World War, at least 1m were Jews.

1995: 'Our organisation, Memorial, is excavating graves so we can begin the trials of perpetrators. We also help people find members of their family lost in World War Two or sent to Siberia. We also publish books by Ukrainian authors long forgotten.'

1997: 'Ukraine's history was forbidden and our art and literature was suppressed. But when we were in the Soviet Union we had social insurance. Now we get by only by selling eggs and planting our gardens. We're fed up with eating potatoes. It's very difficult for people to change their mentality.'

One way to exert power and deprive people of their human rights is to reduce them to weakness, disease and death: people who are feeling exhausted, ill and despairing have little will to resist. (The will to live, however, takes longer to weaken.)

There is also the issue of the power of authority, especially when it's exerted by a brutal police force. Can there be benign dictatorships? Do elected governments always act responsibly? The obedience of slaves is likely to end in rebellion and conflict. What other relationships can be achieved between 'authority' figures and the people who accept them as such? (Parents, teachers, councillors, managers, bosses; policemen, judges; generals; political leaders, religious leaders....)

to the beginning



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