My impressions after meetings in Oświęcim and Kyiv

2017 is over, it was quite full of events. The most memorable one for me was my participation in the international project “History begins in the family”. Thanks to this project I was able to discover new places, meet new interesting friends. Together we have been in Lviv, visited Vinnytsia during the intermediate meeting, traveled around Poland, where we visited Oświęcim, and at the end of the year met again in Kyiv. I’d love to share my impressions after the last two meetings. 

Well, let’s start with Oświęcim –  a city with a very interesting and impressive history.

The main goal of our trip was to visit the former Nazi concentration camps “Auschwitz” and “Auschwitz-Birkenau”. Now the territory of the camps is a museum that hosts thousands of visitors from around the world every year. The first what strikes you when you see the concentration camp “Auschwitz I” is the inscription on the gates: Arbeit macht frei and endless barbed wire lines, electrified when the camp was in operation.   

During the tour around the historic sites our faces were filling with fear from what we saw and heard. Personal items of the prisoners that can be found at the territory of the concentration camps are all things ordinary people use in their daily lives e.g. personal care products, dishes, glasses, clothes, shoes etc. In hope of living at a new place people took  everything they might have needed for a new life with zero expectations of such a terrifying deceit. 

The atmosphere in the barracks, at the execution sites, by the gas chamber remains, incinerators is painfully gloomy and daunting. There is a book of memory in one of the Auschwitz I barracks, it has names of all the victims of the concentration camp. When people look at this book they find names of their relatives who became victims of the forced ideology and deceitful Nazi propaganda.

At the end of the visit you are overwhelmed with pain and horror, you feel like screaming as loud as you can: “People, never ever again! This horror cannot repeat in the history of the humanity!”

This thought kept hunting me on our way from Oświęcim to Krakow, that was the last city we visited in Poland. In Krakow we had a chance to learn about the history and architecture of this old city.

Our last meeting in 2017 was held in Kyiv.

The capital of Ukraine is full of historic sites. The first place we visited in Kyiv was the Museum of Ukrainian Security Service, home to a vast number of documents and personal records that bear the evidence of imprisonments and shootings of millions of people who became victims of KGB and NKVD. We had an opportunity to look at the top secret documents that have only been recently disclosed to the public.  

The next day we spent at “Babi Yar”, where many Kyivites were killed during the WWII. Strange as it may seem it was forbidden to bring flowers to this place or honour the memory of the victims in any other way. Now quite a few memorials here are a tribute to the victims of Babi Yar. Among them are: a wooden cross installed in memory of the OUN members shot by the Gestapo, Olena Teliha Monument, Monument to the children shot in Babi Yar, Monument to the Roma Victims. The memorial to the Jews called “Menora” is the biggest in Babi Yar. 

Following the tour, we interviewed Babi Yar visitors. The goal of the survey was to discover what Babi Yar meant for the people. Most of them were saying that the place is very important from the historical perspective and is a well-known landmark in the memory of millions of people. One of the respondents turned out to be an Israeli coming to visit the place of memory of his ancestors. This place with its unique vibes and atmosphere is really important for him.

Happy New Year 2018 everyone, Merry Christmas! I wish you all to be happy, healthy, striving for new adventures and discoveries. Looking forward to seeing you in Germany. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year under a peaceful sky.