Euroasian Jewish News
Holocaust memorial center asks to rename Kyiv metro station after Babyn Yar
The nonprofit behind a planned Holocaust memorial center in Ukraine has suggested renaming Kyiv’s Dorohozhychi metro station after Babyn Yar, the nearby ravine where German Nazis and local collaborators murdered 33,771 Jews on Sept. 29-30, 1941.
The mass killing was likely the largest single massacre of the Holocaust. In the ensuing two years, massacres continued at the site. Up to 100,000 people were murdered at Babyn Yar, according to the memorial center.
On Feb. 11, the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center announced that it had sent an official request to Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko to rename the Dorohozhychi metro station “Babyn Yar.”
“Transforming the sight of oblivion into a place of memory is our duty to Kyiv, to the whole world and to generations to come,” the center’s CEO, Max Yakover, said in a statement published on the project’s website.
Museum and memorial
The Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center is a planned educational and memorial complex funded by several Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs of Jewish descent. Its construction is set to start this year, while its opening is scheduled for 2023.
The center aims to preserve the memory of the tragic events that took place in the ravine, become a research center about the crimes of the Holocaust, serve as a reminder of the dangers of discriminatory ideologies and promote diversity.
The Babyn Yar area has a long, tragic history. According to several witnesses, some of the millions of victims of the Holodomor, the manmade famine organized by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in 1932-1933, were buried in the ravine.
In 1941–1943, Nazis executed Jews, Ukrainians, ethnic Roma, Soviet prisoners of war and the patients of mental health hospitals in mass shootings at Babyn Yar.
The memorial center has the ambitious goal of attracting those interested in Holocaust history from all over the world. Its leadership believes that renaming the station will help researchers and visitors with navigation around the city.
“This step will also become a tribute to the memory and a manifestation of respect for the heroism of all Babyn Yar victims and all those who have suffered from this horrifying tragedy,” the center’s statement reads.
Yakover said that the metro station should also be redesigned so that visitors heading to the memorial center start to explore the history as they arrive at the station.
“The story should begin at the station, continue in the nature reserve and then in the museum,” Yakover’s Facebook post reads.
The center says that it will cover all the expenses of redesigning and renaming the station — mainly changing signs and maps in the subway. The money will come from the charitable fund that finances the center.
Dorohozhychi metro station was opened 20 years ago. It was built under the ravine and named after the historic Dorohozhychi area of Kyiv. The area’s toponym was mentioned for the first time in the 10th century chronicle, during the times of the Kyivan Rus.
So far, reactions to the proposal to rename the metro station have been mixed.
Like many others, Yevhen Horodetskyi, the head of the Memory March nonprofit, which holds a march every year on Sept. 29 to mark the anniversary of the first Babyn Yar massacre, backed the initiative. “We support this,” he wrote on Facebook while sharing the center’s announcement.
However, some appeared to oppose the step. Many users online said that the area is “grim” enough without a name that will constantly remind locals of the tragedy.
Ukrainian-born Israeli journalist Shimon Briman says that the initiative is good, but he feels sorry for those living in the surrounding neighborhoods.
“They will have to hear this ‘Babyn Yar’ on the subway every day… like whiplash,” he wrote in response to Yakover’s post.
Others also fear that the everyday usage of the name will make it casual and devalue the memory of the tragedy.
“Babyn Yar will be associated with every single thing located near the station. It will be abbreviated,” Jewish civic activist Simon Kipnis wrote on Facebook. “In general, it will have the exact opposite effect.”
By Toma Istomina.