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Henry M. Robert

Babyn Yar Memorial and Yalta European Strategy

21 March, 2017 - 11:36
Photo by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day

Two days ago, Kyiv hosted the first meeting of the Supervisory Board of Project Babyn Yar Memorial, scheduled to be carried out in 2021, marking the 80th anniversary of the tragedy. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko told a press conference the initiative was part of the Project Declaration signed last year by Ukrainian and foreign benevolent associations, historians, college teachers, museum experts, leaders of civic communities, and foreign partners.

Sounds and looks good. A praiseworthy initiative. Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency, said that 2.5 million Jews died in former Soviet territories and that there still was no Holocaust museum; that Ukraine could take a very important civic step by building such a museum at Babyn Yar and thus assert its place in Europe.

Volodymyr VIATROVYCH, head of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory, believes that Babyn Yar should be regarded as part of Ukrainian history: “It is clearly apparent that this memorial should be built with Ukraine being directly involved in the project; that it should be a government-funded one, the more so that the President made a statement to this effect last September,” he told The Day when asked for comment on the supervisory board’s first meeting and the absence of government officials.

Mr. Viatrovych further believes that the stand taken by the Ukrainian side should be taken into account during the public discussion of the memorial’s historical, museum, and education aspects: “We have the Babyn Yar National Preserve and it should be developed using government funds, considering that the premises were upgraded last year using such funds. Information stands were installed and that’s the way we should keep working on the project, including private contributions from across the world.”

The membership of the supervisory board is another matter. Most are Yalta European Strategy (YES) members. YES is Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Pinchuk’s and EeastOne Group’s brainchild. Mr. Pinchuk made his name as a philanthropist and one of Ukraine’s wealthiest men under Leonid Kuchma’s presidency. The question is whether his reputation is good enough to undertake a project of such importance to Ukraine, considering that he arranged for YES conferences to whitewash his father-in-law and missed Russia’s preparations for the annexation of Crimea and invasion of Donbas.

It would also be interesting to know how much ex-president Alexander Kwasniewski of Poland is prepared to donate to the project, considering that he used to accept Mr. Pinchuk’s contributions to his fund.

By Mykola SIRUK, The Day