I began getting Google alerts about Ukraine before I went to visit that country almost a month ago as part of a journalism exchange program. I was one of two people from the Daily Press in Newport News, Va., who visited the newsroom of the Sevastopol Gazette as part of an exchange sponsored by IREX, a non-profit that fosters independent media in developing nations.
Since my visit, I have read my Ukraine Google alerts every day. Sometimes I skim the headlines and move on. Other times, like today, I read something that feels like it deserves something more.
Today's headline: Ukraine honours victims of 1941 massacre at Babi Yar.
So much of what I saw during my visit was tied to the atrocities that happened during World War II. At a World War II museum in the city of Sevastopol, we saw the letters that soldiers sent to families who never saw them again. A tour guide grew teary-eyed as she shared the story of the thousands who died at Battery 35 in Sevastopol after Moscow abandoned the city and its citizens to the Nazis. In many ways, the wounds from that time remain raw.
Today's story, from the Canadian Press story, reminded me once again of that depth of that pain. It explained how hundreds of Ukrainians around the country gathered to mark the 69th anniversary of the Nazi murder of more than 33,000 Jews in the city of Kiev.
The victims thought they were being shipped to Palestine. Instead, they were marched to the Babi Yar ravine and shot to death. History books still consider this the worst single massacre by the Nazis during World War II.
In the following months after the massacre, gypsies, Ukrainian nationalists, communists and others that the Nazis considered undesirables were killed in that same ravine. It became a mass grave for more than 100,000 people.
It's difficult to contemplate such horror. Many of the names of those who were killed at Babi Yar may never be known. Here is a list of the known names of the Babi Yar victims. And here is the poem that gave voice to the tragedy.
The lines that touched me most:
"I'm every old man executed here,
As I am every child murdered here.
No fiber of my body will forget this."
Sept. 29-30, 1941: For the victims of the Babi Yar massacre, may they rest in peace.