Babi Yar ravine was one of the most horrific massacres of the Holocaust. Jews and Gypsies were exterminated in uncountable numbers. Although, this was a major mass murder site, it is barely known today. During the Holocaust, many lives were taken at Babi Yar, and thousands of people’s stories were left untold until Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Dmitri Shostakovich chose to express their stories in various forms of art, making awareness for the innocent lives that were lost. It is our job to remember and make sure that the horrendous history of the Holocaust never repeats itself.
Babi Yar was a site only known for one thing, murder. “On September 29-30 in 1941, Nazi troops shot over 33,000 Jews at the edge of the Babi Yar ravine in Kiev – an event that many believe to be the largest single massacre of the Holocaust” (Underwood). “But this was not the end of the killing at Babi Yar.
The Nazis next rounded up Gypsies and killed them at Babi Yar. The killing continued for months at Babi Yar. It is estimated that 100,000 people were murdered there” (Rosenberg). “The Nazis, in an effort to hide their guilt, tried to destroy their evidence of their killings – the mass graves at Babi Yar. This was to be a gruesome job, so they had prisoners do it” (Rosenberg). We may never know the truth of Babi Yar, for the truth lies with the lost souls buried. The tragedies at Babi Yar were nearly forever silenced until brilliant people broke the silence through miscellaneous art.
Art is a powerful artifact that can express many chronicles that have not been told. “For many years the tragedies at Babi Yar were to be silenced. But art has a way of not letting tragedy be forgotten” (Underwood). Because of Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Dmitri Shostakovich, the silence of Babi Yar was ceased. Yevgeny and Dmitri used their talents through art to transform how people look at art and how it can be used in history. Art is evidence that beauty thrives in darkness. The art they created tells the stories of the lives that could not tell their own.
Yevgeny Yevtushenko is one of the two men who tore the silence of Babi Yar. “Yevgeny Yevtushenko visited Babi Yar 20 years after the horrifying killings took place. He was astonished that there were no markers or any official indication of the massacres. In less than four hours Yevtushenko completed his now famous poem, Babi Yar” (Berquist). “In his iconic poem “Babi Yar,” Yevtushenko envisioned himself as a victim of this genocide, and of other episodes in anti-Jewish persecution” (Lebovic). But this was not the end of a righteous promenade. “The poetry of Yevgeny Yevtushenko inspired one of the greatest works by Dmitri Shostakovich: his symphony No. 13 (Babi Yar)” (Robison).
Dmitri Shostakovich is the second of the two men who helped tear the silence of Babi Yar. Dmitri is known for writing many symphonies including his thirteenth symphony entitled, Babi Yar. Dmitri Shostakovich wrote symphony No. 13 because of Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s poem. “Some of Yevtushenko’s cultural elite peers picked up on the themes of “Babi Yar,” including when composer Dmitri Shostakovich wrote portions of his Thirteenth Symphony based on the poem” (Lebovic). Dmitri Shostakovich and Yevgeny Yevtushenko both impacted the lives that were lost at Babi Yar. Because of the two men, the innocent lives that were bygone matter. Yevgeny and Dmitri utilized their artwork to forge awareness in remembrance of the atrocious site and the lives that were left adrift.
The artistic productions of Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Dmitri Shostakovich brought awareness to existence. The benevolent men chose to take action for others who did not have a voice. By this action they created perception. “Many years before awareness, visitors would see a pit with trucks filled with garbage. It took decades after the massacre, but in part thanks to Yevtushenko’s poetic reminder of the tragedy of Babi Yar, the ravine is now a park, dotted with monuments to those who died there” (Underwood). “A small obelisk was constructed at Babi Yar in 1966. In 1974 a 50-foot (15-metre) memorial statue was finally erected. Identification of the victims were vague; the word Jew was not used. Not until 1991, on the 50th anniversary of the Babi Yar massacres, was the identity of the victims recorded on the monument by the newly independent Ukrainian government” (Berenbaum). Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Dmitri Shostakovich profoundly influenced the awareness for the individuals who lost their lives at Babi Yar. Yevgeny and Dmitri were the hope for the departed voices that were left irretrievable.
In the final analysis, Babi Yar was a barbarous site during the Holocaust. Hundreds of thousands of innocent lives were lost. Even though this was an inhumane act, the site was nearly forgotten. But in times of adversity, Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Dmitri Shostakovich expressed their talent of art constructing awareness for the lives that could not tell their stories. Yevgeny and Dmitri were hope for the lost souls that could not speak of the horrific massacre themselves. Not only were the exceptional men hope for the lost lives, they are hope for us and the future generations to come. We must never forget the ghastly Holocaust or the horrors it conceived. We must never let silence take over. That is why it is our calling to let the truth be heard through are voices, for the absent lives who cannot speak and tell their stories. We must speak for the voiceless. We must hear them.