Monday, July 27, 2009

The Ukraine Today is a Mess

The Ukraine today is a mess. The Great Recession has devastated the economy, the political system is moribund and corrupt and the average person is desperately poor. On the other hand, this is a distinct improvement from the past. So people are pretty cheerful and optimistic. And it is summer.

Summer is the season where Ukrainian women dress minimally and the whole city is a bar. The local genes seem to produce girls with endlessly long legs, which are required to be maximally displayed. Every few feet and in every park there is a little kiosk selling snacks, and more importantly bottles of beer for less than a dollar. People buy a couple of brewskis and hang out. Foreigners are quite welcome.

In the back of the Israeli museum in Tel Aviv there is a small wooden synagogue. As you enter, music starts to play. This is one of thousands of synagogues belonging to the three million Jews here in Ukraine who perished in the holocaust. After the war one of their neighbors who survived found a copy of music that this particular synagogue used, written by one of its members. Both the synagogue and the music ended up in Israel. This synagogue and this music are all that remain of the people who worshipped in this synagogue, slaughtered like animals, each and every one. Their village no longer exists even as a name on a map. Not even their names are known, nor who wrote this beautiful music or why.

Kiev is a city built on hills. One deep ravine is called Babi Yar and it was used to kill Jews early, before the death camps were up and running. Thirty, forty thousand taken here, and shot. Thrown into the ravine, sometimes not quite dead, other Jews forced to shovel on dirt to hold down the stench, knowing that witnesses would not be allowed to live

A handful of Jews here took to the forest and fought as guerillas, and a handful of those survived.

But of course we had our holocaust on Amelia Island when around 1600 every Timucuan on the island died. They died of the viral diseases that the Europeans brought. Not as morally fraught but as tragic and horrible nonetheless

But life goes on and those beer drinking, mostly naked young people have no or little knowledge of this particular tragedy among all those visited on these people or this world. Nor do we ever have a thought for those long dead Native Americans.