A few days ago I finished Babi Yar: a Document in the Form of a Novel by Anatoly Kuznetzov. It’s a memoir about the author’s experiences growing up in the city of Kiev, Ukraine during the Nazi occupation from 1941 to 1943. Babi Yar was a ravine just outside the city. The Nazis shot and killed over 100,000 civilians there during the war, undesirables of all kinds, notably over 33,000 Jews over the course of two days, on September 29 and 30, 1941. This was the single largest mass murder they ever committed. Nobody even knows just how many people were murdered at Babi Yar, since none of this was documented, and before the Germans left the city they dug up all the bodies and did their best to destroy them by burning etc., to cover up their crimes. The ravine has now been filled in. In a macabre endnote, a mudslide there killed hundreds of people, perhaps even two thousand, in 1961.
Anyway, there’s a quote from the book that perfectly suits my black mood over the last few days:
That there is in this world neither brains, nor goodness, nor good sense, but only brute force. Bloodshed. Starvation. Death. That there was not the slightest hope, not even a glimmer of hope, of justice being done. It would never happen. No one would ever do it. The world was just one big Babi Yar. And there two great forces had come up against each other and were striking against each other like hammer and anvil, and the wretched people were in between, with no way out; each individual wanted only to live and not be maltreated, to have something to eat, and yet they howled and screamed and in their fear they were grabbing at each other’s throats, while I, little blob of watery jelly, was sitting in the midst of this dark world. Why? What for? Who had done it all? There was nothing, after all, to hope for! Winter. Night.
Sometimes I wonder why I live.