THE U.S.-UKRAINIAN SUMMIT: President Bill Clinton's visit to Kyyiv
President Clinton's remarks at Babyn Yar Memorial
Following is the text of remarks by President Bill Clinton at Babyn Yar on May 12.
Thank you, Rabbi. To the people of Ukraine, and especially to the veterans of World War II and the children who are here.
Here on the edge of this wooded ravine, we bear witness eternally to the consequences of evil. Here at Babyn Yar, almost 54 years ago, more than 30,000 men, women and children were slaughtered in the first three days alone. They died for no other reason than the blood that ran through their veins. We remember their sacrifice, and we vow never to forget.
In late September 1941, the Nazi occupying army ordered the Jewish population of Kyyiv, together with their valuables and belongings. "We thought we were being sent on a journey," one survivor recalled. But instead they were being herded to the ravine, stripped and shot down. By year's end, more than 100,000 Jews, 10,000 Ukrainian nationalists, Soviet prisoners of war and Gypsies had been exterminated here.
The writer, Anatoly Kuznietzov, was a child in Kyyiv during the war. He remembers the day the deportations began. "My grandfather stood in the middle of the courtyard straining to hear something. He raised his finger: 'Do you know what?' he said with horror in his voice. 'They're not deporting them - they're shooting them.'
Years later, Kuznietzov brought the poet, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, to Babyn Yar. And that night, Yevtushenko wrote one of his most celebrated poems: "Over Babyn Yar there are no memorials. The steep hillside, like a rough inscription. I am frightened. Today I am as old as the Jewish race. I seem to myself a Jew at this moment." These words speak to us across the generations - a reminder of the past, a warning for the future.
In the quiet of this place, the victims of Babyn Yar cry out to us still. Never forget. they tell us, that humanity is capable of the worst, just as it is capable of the best.
Never forget that the forces of darkness cannot be defeated with silence or indifference. Never forget that we are all Jews and Gypsies and Slavs. Never forget.
May God bless this holy place.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, June 4, 1995, No. 23, Vol. LXIII
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