/ Map & Itinerary / Kyiv:
June 23-27, 2001    
Map & Itinerary

Schedule of the Papal Visit to Ukraine
Youth meeting 26 June

Kyiv: The Capital of Ukraine

Chronicles first make mention of Kyiv in the fifth century after Christ. However, archaeologists assert that the city is much older than that. According to some sources, the apostle Andrew was on the hills of the city where he declared his prophecy, "There will be a great and glorious city here. Throughout the 8th-12th centuries Kyiv was the capital of a huge Slavic state in addition to being the leader of culture and Christianity in Eastern Europe. It contained the largest library in the Christian world and through its royal marriages it enjoyed relations with Europe's dynasties. Eventually, Tartar, Lithuanian, Polish and Russian domination contributed to a considerable portion of Kyiv's degeneration. However, in the 15th century the city enjoyed Magdeburg rule, and in the 19th century it became a significant industrial, scientific and cultural center.

Today the capital of Ukraine is one of the most picturesque and largest cities to be found in Easter Europe with approximately three million inhabitants dwelling there. Kyiv is situated on both banks of the Dniper river, which is one of the largest rivers in the world, and on the scenic Kyivan hills. Kyiv has been the intersection of numerous historical trajectories from North, South, East and West. Kyiv is known for its parks, and it is said that there are more trees per resident there than in any other European capital. Tourists are attracted to Kyiv because of its hundreds of historical monuments and its dozens of golden-domed churches.



Near the forest in the southeastern part of Kyiv, in front of the village of Bikivnya, there stands a monument, and within the forest itself is a several meter high memorial cross. Here, on a 4.5 hectacres pine forest, one finds one of the largest mass graves in Ukraine, victims of Stalinist totalitarianism. Even today, we do not know the exact names of the victims of this evil or even the exact number of the fallen.

The assassination of these citizens was ordered by the dvika (double judge system) and trika (triple judge system) of the Ukrainian branch of the NKVD in the Kiev Oblast (regional district). The dvika and trika were each comprised of two or three collaborators of the Stalinist organization, which made judgments without a trial or due process. There was no lawyer-assisted defense, and the accused was not allowed to speak. Utilizing this structure, Stalin destroyed all potential dissenters and those who might challenge his regime.

During the five year operation of the NKVD's prison, located in the rooms of today's International Center of Culture and Arts (Vul. Institutska, 1, just about 300 meters from the Hotel Dnipro) and the Special Section of the Lukiyanivka (in the same part of the city), they used large trucks in order to take the dead prisoners' bodies to the forest. They threw them into the valley and covered them with lime - rendering the remains unidentifiable.

Even in the years of Gorbachev's Perestroika, when it was no longer possible to be silent about the mass burials in Bikivnya, the Communist authorities were trying to maintain their ignorance, claiming that they did not know of the burial of people there. The first inscription on the monument, placed there on 6 April 1988, proclaimed that people murdered during the Facist occupation were buried. But under the pressure of citizen groups an investigation was conducted and undisputable evidence was revelaed that there was a mass burial of citizens which dated 1937-1941 and clearly was the responsibility of the NKVD.

Bikivniya - is one of the many remaining witnesses to the effects of Stalin's power, which sought to destroy Ukrainian identity. Altogether, during the time of the willfully organized famine of 1933 at least six million Ukrainian villagers perished.

Babyn Yar

According to scholars, one hundred fifty to two hundred thousand people were buried in the Kyiv region of Babyn Yar. During the Second World War, the German occupying force conducted mass executions. They began with the shooting of Jews. In the Fall of 1941, several months after the occupation of Kyiv, the German authorities issued an order which said: "All Jews of the City of Kyiv and its surroundings must meet on Monday, 29 September 1941 at eight o'clock in the morning at the corner of Melnikova and Doctorivskoy Streets (near the cemetery). Bring with you documents, money, valuables, and also warm clothing, underwear, etc. Whoever is a Jew and will not comply with this order will be found and executed. Any citizen who breaks into a vacated apartment of a Jewish person will also be executed."

The people who reported were gathered into a huge column and were forced to march in the direction of the periphery of Kyiv, to an area, which is popularly known as Babyn Yar. The new city administration apportioned a plot of land in order to carry out this operation, which had been fueled by Hitler's anti-Jewish politics. During a five-day period the unceasing sound of gunfire continuously rang out. Upon its completion, Berlin was informed that Kyiv was freed from the Jews. From the existing documents, it was possible to ascertain that 33,771 Jews were executed.

Many ethnic Ukrainians and people of other nationalities were hiding Kyivan Jews in their apartments, even though this was forbidden and if caught, they would face the same death sentence.

After the execution of the Jews, the occupiers focused their attention on other groups of people. In Babyn Yar, the Nazis also executed gypsies, prisoners of the soviet army, Ukrainian nationalists and others.

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