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Babyn Yar: Seventy-fifth Anniversary

Honourable senators, on this day 75 years ago within a 48-hour period, from September 29 to September 30, 1941, 33,771 men, women and children were executed only a few miles outside of Kiev in Nazi-occupied Ukraine. The site of this horrific massacre was a ravine known as Babyn Yar.

While many died instantaneously from bullet wounds to the head, others suffocated under mounds of lifeless bodies, buried alive. The atrocities that transpired at Babyn Yar have become widely recognized as one of the largest mass executions of the Holocaust by Bullets. By the time Kiev was liberated in November 1943, a further 100,000 were executed at Babyn Yar.

In honour of the seventy-fifth anniversary of Babyn Yar, a major commemorative project was undertaken in Kiev this week. I am grateful to the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter, a Canadian- based multinational undertaking, in partnership with the World Jewish Congress and the Ukrainian government, who all hosted a number of events in an effort to raise awareness, promote dialogue, and honour the victims of Babyn Yar.

Honourable senators, as we commemorate this anniversary, let us continue to remember, understand and reflect.

I wish to conclude today by sharing a short excerpt from a poem, Babi Yar, by Ukrainian poet Yevgeni Yevtushenko.

Wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar,
The trees look sternly, as if passing judgement.
Here, silently, all screams, and, hat in hand,
I feel my hair changing shade to gray.
And I myself, like one long soundless scream
Above the thousands of thousands interred,
I'm every old man executed here,
As I am every child murdered here.
No fiber of my body will forget this.

Thank you, honourable senators.