This week is a digression from my usual discussion of health, but I think you will find it worthwhile and so am taking the liberty of sharing it with you.
Our current world turmoil is not new.
Insane beings have been around for eons dramatizing the worst evils against their fellows without a shade of remorse. Force upon force to cause slavery and pain.
When I was in Junior High School in 1963, I was in a drama group and my assignment was to read a selection from a foreign poet with the theme of the universality of the human spirit.
A friend introduced me to a poem by a Russian named Yevgeni Yevtushenko. He had such an impact on me that later my wife and I named our newly acquired dog after him, calling him “Shenko.”
Just this week on the anniversary of Babi Yar my wife ran across that poem, and I read it anew after almost 60 years. Babi Yar’s history is given in the introduction to the poem.
I could not get thorough it without massive tears at how the horrors described were no different than what is going on today. I am attaching it here because a person without humanity can never achieve health or well-being. People who do bad things to others will cause themselves to suffer no matter how hard they justify their actions.
And try as we may, we can’t heal them either. Please take five minutes and read it yourself. Have some tissues handy because it brings one face to face with what evil and Godliness look like.
I am including the translator’s intro so you have some background.
Have a great week.
Dr. David I Minkoff, MD
Babi Yar is a large ravine on the northern edge of the city of Kiev in Ukraine, the site of a mass grave of victims, mostly Jews, whom Nazi German SS squads killed between 1941 and 1943.
The German army gained control of Kiev on September 19, 1941. Earlier that year, Adolf Hitler had ordered special SS squads to follow the regular army into the Soviet Union and to exterminate all Jews and Soviet officials. On September 29 and 30, over a 36-hour period, nearly 34,000 Jews were marched in small groups to the outskirts of the city, stripped naked, and machine-gunned into the ravine, which was immediately covered over, with some of the victims still alive. Over the next two years the mass grave swelled with thousands of other victims, primarily Jews but also including Communist officials and Soviet prisoners of war. As the German armies retreated from the Soviet Union, the Nazis attempted to hide the evidence of the slaughter. Bulldozers were required to reopen the mounds. Bone-crushing machinery was brought to the scene. The bodies were piled on wooden logs, doused with gas and ignited. The flames of the pyres were seen in Kiev. When the work was done, most of the workers, prisoners who had been brought in from a nearby concentration camp, were killed. Under cover of darkness on September 29, 1943, a number of the prisoners attempted to escape, and some 15 survived to tell what they had seen.
By Yevgeni Yevtushenko
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Requested by Ruth Blumenthal
No monuments stand over Babi Yar,
A sudden drop sheer as a gross graveslab.
I am here terrified.
Today I am
As old as all the Jewish people are.
Now it seems that I am
There I am wandering Ancient Egypt’s lands,
And there I perish, pierced and crucified,
And to this day bear nail-scars on my hands.
And Dreyfus too is
there I have been
Sentenced, sold out
by petty philistines.
I am behind bars,
rounded up and battered,
I have been
slandered, spat on,
And demoiselles dolled up in Brussels lace
Shrieked as they poked their parasols in my face.
And now I am
a boy in Białystok.
Blood runs across the floor. Blood on the wall.
The bar-room rabble-rousers run amok
Reeking of onion and hard alcohol.
Boots kick my body aside, helpless. Head gushing,
I plead in vain with thugs of the pogrom
To hoots of
“Smash the fucking kikes! Save Russia!”
And some grain-seller beats and rapes my mom.
My People! Russian nation!
Are internationalist at the core,
But men with filthy hands too often boomed
Your clean sweet name into a jingo roar.
I know the good, the kindness of your land.
How vile it is
that, with no pinch of scruple,
those pompous antisemites tried to brand
themselves a “Union of the Russian People.”
It seems that what I am is
as a fragile April branch.
And I love.
And I need no puffy phrase.
I need for us
to meet each other’s gaze.
So little we can see or smell,
Have been denied the sky,
denied the leaves.
But we can do so much:
Embrace each other in a darkened room.
“Don’t be scared.
That’s just the clamor
of early spring.
It is spring coming here!
Give me a kiss, quick.”
“Are they ramming
“Shhhh…no, that’s cracking ice you hear.”
The wildgrass rustles over Babi Yar.
Trees stare down stern,
cold as day.
All things scream silent here.
Hat in my arm,
I feel myself now
slowly growing grey.
And I myself
am one all-out soundless scream
For the thousand buried thousands in this char.
I’m every old man
shot in this ravine,
I’m every baby
burned in Babi Yar.
No fiber in me
will forget this ever.
Let the Internationale
When we have buried, finally and forever,
The final antisemite on this earth.
There is no Jewish blood in me, it’s true.
But with their callous ossified revulsion
Antisemites must hate me like
And that is what makes me
a real Russian.