Babi Yar, a poem written by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, tells the story of the Nazi invasion into the Ukraine, in which, throughout World War II, over one-hundred thousand Jews, Gypsies and Russian POW’s were brutally murdered. The narrator and author is not a Jew, but a mere observer who is aghast at the atrocities that took place during the Holocaust. It is through allusions, as well as other literary devices, that Yevtushenko albeit in horrible contrast does describe beautifully the absurdities of the hatred that caused the Holocaust, in addition to the narrator’s identification with the Jews and their history of oppression. Beginning on September 29, the Jews of Kiev were assembled and marched to the vicinity of the ravine. Not far from its edge they were told to strip off their clothes and remove their valuables. In groups of ten they were marched to to the edge, whereupon they were shot and fell into the Yar. The accepted estimate is that 33,771 Jews were executed in this manner. Babi Yar continued to be an execution spots for many months subsequently.
Ower Babi Yar
thare nae cairnstanes.
The brent brae lik a raucle inscription
The day A’m auld as the Jewish race.
A seem tae masel a Jew at thon moment.
A, danderin in Eygpt.
A, crucified. A deein.
E’en the day the merk o the nails.
A think on Dreyfus. A’m him.
The Philistine ma hinging judge an ma accuser.
Cut aff by bars an pit in the neuk,
ringed aroun, spat at, leed aboot;
the screichin wummen wi the Brussels lace
poke me in the face wi parasols.
A’m also the chiel in Belostok,
the drappin bluid spreids athort the flair,
the public-bar heroes are riotin
in an equal reek o garlic an o booze.
A hiv nae strenth, gang spinnin frae a boot,
screich oot fushionless prayers that thae dinna listen tae;
wi a cackle o ‘Thrash the kikes an save Russia!’
the corn-chandler is layin intae ma mither.
A seem tae masel lik Anne Frank
tae be transparent as an April twig
an A’m in luv. A hiv nae need fer wirds,
A need fer us tae see or tae smell
separatit frae foliage an the lift,
hoo much, hoo much in the derk room
doucely embracin each ither.
Thai’re cumin. Dinna be feart.
The boomin an bangin o the spring.
It’s cumin thon way. Cum tae me.
Quickly, gie me yer lips.
Thae’re bashin in the door. Roar o the ice.
Ower Babi Yar
rustle o the wild gress.
The trees luik threatenin, luik lik judges.
An awthin is ane silent cry.
Takin ma bonnet aff
A feel masel slowly gangin grey.
An A’m ane silent cry
ower the mony thoosands o the buried;
am iverie auld man killed here,
iverie bairn killed here.
O ma Russian fowk, A ken yous.
Yer nature is international.
Maukit hauns rattle yer clean name.
A ken the guidness o ma kintra.
Hoo horrible it is that pompous title
The anti-semites calmly caw thaimsels,
Society o the Russian Fowk.
Nae pairt o me cuin ever forget it.
Whan the lest anti-semite on the yird
is buried fer aye
let the International ring oot.
Nae Jewish bluid runs amang ma bluid
But A’m as bitterly an hardly hated
By iverie anti-semite
As if A wur a Jew. By thon
A’m a Russian.
Babi Yar is the ravine in Kiev whaur mony slaughters took place. The Society mentioned above was a notorious pre-Revolutionary organisation responsible for pogroms. Belostok is now within present-day Poland.