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family Jewish ukraine

Tomorrow to Babi Yar

Tomorrow, barring unforeseen emotional breakdowns or interventions, I am going to visit Babi Yar, a place in Kiev where over two days over 33,000 Jews were killed. Not gassed, but lined up in groups of 10 along the ravine to be shot, and then tumble in. Horrible, horrible, horrible event in human history, and somehow I am drawn to go there. Many others were killled afterwards too beyond the Jews – especially Gypsies.

I found myself this evening thinking about it and sensing in to my feelings about going and what I felt was a panic. Strange, because the panic felt in a way as if I were to be shot if I were to go there. The identification is very strong. When the Jews went there, they had been told by the Nazi’s that they had to show up there under penalty of death for not showing up, so they went, over 33,000 of them, but apparently they brought their things with them for they believed they were being deported. So my panic comes up, strangely, because I know what they didn’t, that it’s better not to go or else you‘ll be shot. Funny, I know it’s just a field, a ravine, but something in me has an irrational sense that it’s happening now. And now, in this moment, I know that that is silly and it’s just my brain playing games with me, but I bounce back and forth a bit.

If I look more closely at this, I think there is something else that is happening here for me, something about my own grief that is being touched by all of this. For me there is a grief in having lost all four of my grandparents, and at not really having much family in my life, especially on the Seymour/Zeldman side. The family is out there, but nobody seems to really care about it. My father has never been one to try to bring family together, nor has my uncle really, save for a 50th anniversary party for my grandparents about 30 years ago, and that’s all I’ve known really on the Seymour side. And neither of them were worth much when it came to trying to get names of my grandfather’s family members or his birthdate. They did come through with some photos, though. My 2 cousins and my brother are also not the type to reach out either, so there’s really very little for me to call family on that side. It was suggested to me that perhaps there is something about 1st generation children distancing themselves from the past and 2nd generation children trying to pull together the pieces. May be some truth to that. One especially nice thing for me on this quest has been that I’ve been in contact with one of my father’s cousins, a woman named Riva. She lives in the Boston area and has been filling in gaps in history and also now providing information on current other family members. I just found out tonight about other cousins in Israel and also in California. Thank you Riva for filling in gaps for me. I look forward to being in touch more upon my return to the states.

So tomorrow I head off to Babi Yar. I chose tomorrow because I have Opera tickets in Kiev in the evening for Aida. I thought it would nice to counterbalance the destructive energy of Babi Yar with a more life affirming event such as a beautiful opera performance. Wish me strength, openness and presence.


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