April trip to Drobitsky Yar

Last Sunday I came back from Kharkov. Here are the highlights of the trip:

We have purchased for the Drobitsky Yar memorial an annual phone contract, a phone, and an annual subscription to Golden Pages (a similar service to the Yellow Pages in US). The phone number is (057) 754-7780. Up until this month (April 2014) the memorial did not have a phone. While this is a small step, we are happy to report that visitors can call with questions, arrange tours, clarify directions, etc.

Went to Kharkov’s botanical garden and purchased all available metasequoia trees as a first batch for fall planting. The trees are relatively large, standing over 2.5 meters (8 feet).

Conducted series of onsite meetings with Irina Ferenceva, Drobitsky Yar’s memorial acting managing director:
• Discussed planting metasequoias and how to support the on-going maintenance of these trees (watering, mowing the grass, etc.)
• Discussed the importance of marking the boundaries of each individual burial site. In addition, discussed constructing actual boundaries for sites 5 through 9 (currently, these graves have simple handwritten signs nailed to trees). Permanent memorial signs with information about each grave are needed.
Additionally, three more essential tasks have been identified:
• There are potentially more burials sites that exist. Soil tests performed by enthusiasts indicated the possibility of two additional graves. Further, and more methodical soil tests are needed.
• Due to water damage, the condition of the Room of Tragedy continues to deteriorate. Municipal funding to deal with water leaks were promised, but given the current situation in Ukraine, it is very unlikely that any funds will be dispersed to the memorial. Fixing the roof, even if temporarily, is an urgent necessity.
• Due to the memorial’s lack of available funds, newly discovered victim names have been printed out, laminated, and glued to the walls. Names should be permanently ingrained into the walls.

Additional business conducted during the trip:
• Visited the Holocaust Museum in Kharkov (a separate entity from the Drobitsky Yar memorial). Over the past 17 years the museum has conducted research in various archives and collected an abundance of unique information. Presented Lyudmila Volovik, director of the Holocaust Museum, with an autographed copy of Greg Dawson’s Judgment Before Nuremberg. A similar book was presented to the Drobitsky Yar Memorial as well.
• Met Vladimir Barsky, who manages Drobitsky Yar’s memorial web site. Discussed collaboration strategy.