Photo of the Babi Yar Massacre‘The Ballad of Babi Yar’ by Theresa Rodriguez The Society November 5, 2020 Culture, Deconstructing Communism, Poetry 16 Comments Over 100,00 people were killed at Babi Yar between September 29, 1941 and November 6, 1943. Oh, come and gather round to hear This story from afar, As I unfold the tragedy, The tale of Babi Yar. It happened in the time of war, And not to be outdone, Aggression reared its ugly head In 1941. For Germans drove the Russians out Of Kiev in Ukraine; And there they set up their command: Ruthless and inhumane. For after Russian bombings of The city, vengeance grew; The Germans found their answer—this Was what they chose to do: “The Yids, they are responsible! Those Jewish Bolsheviks! We know we must retaliate Against their cunning tricks!” For there, outside the city, was This natural ravine, Which then became a killing field, Macabre, a nightmare scene. “All Yids in Kiev must report, And if you don’t, you will Be shot; make sure you do as told Or else we’re sure to kill.” And so, naively, all Jews came And waited on the day Unknowingly, to meet their end As they were hauled away. “Strip off your clothes, and put your things, Your valuables in a pile, And line up here—do as you’re told, And wait a little while.” Then one by one, they, line by line Approached the precipice; And naked told to face it While they gazed at ghastliness. For every row of Jews was shot And face down they did fall Into the ever-growing pile Of bodies. One and all, Well over thirty thousand souls Would perish in two days, Machine guns filling the ravine. And when their bloody ways, Their bloodlust wasn’t satisfied, They came for the insane– The hospital was emptied. Plus The gypsies from Ukraine, As well as Russian soldiers captured, Kiev citizens, Communists and ordinary Soviet denizens. Nude bodies struck, the women raped, They buried the half-dead; Or stepping on the bleeding pile Would shoot to kill instead. The little children, babies, were then Hurled into the air, Over the edge, into the pit, Before their mothers there. And then, they tried to shield their crime In 1943, By disinterring every corpse, And in some secrecy Would burn away the evidence. And so for forty days A hundred thousand dead or more Became as ashen haze. But this was all in vain because In time the world would know What happened in that deep ravine Those many years ago. For it indeed behooves us that we Learn from this, and then No more repeat the ugly past, No never, not again. And so, memorials today Remind us, insofar As we maintain the memory of The dead of Babi Yar. Theresa Rodriguez is the author of Jesus and Eros: Sonnets, Poems and Songs, Longer Thoughts, which has just been released by Shanti Arts, and Sonnets, a collection of sixty-five sonnets which has also just been released by Shanti Arts. Her work has appeared in such journals and publications as in the Wilderness House Literary Review, the Midwest Poetry Review, Leaf Magazine, Spindrift, the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship, The Road Not Taken: A Journal of Formal Poetry, Mezzo Cammin, The Scarlet Leaf Review, The Epoch Times, and the Society of Classical Poets. Her website is www.bardsinger.com. NOTE TO READERS: If you enjoyed this poem or other content, please consider making a donation to the Society of Classical Poets. NOTE TO POETS: The Society considers this page, where your poetry resides, to be your residence as well, where you may invite family, friends, and others to visit. Feel free to treat this page as your home and remove anyone here who disrespects you. Simply send an email to email@example.com. Put “Remove Comment” in the subject line and list which comments you would like removed. The Society does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or comments and reserves the right to remove any comments to maintain the decorum of this website and the integrity of the Society. Please see our Comments Policy here. CODEC News:Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) 16 Responses Jeff Eardley November 5, 2020 Theresa, the madness going on at the moment is no comparison to what happened here. Thank you for a moving, poetic education on an event of pure evil and wickedness. I was moved beyond words by this. Thank you. Reply Theresa Rodriguez November 5, 2020 Thank you Jeff, I am so glad it was so moving to you. That means more to me than anything. That was the goal I was trying to achieve. Reply Dave Whippman November 5, 2020 A well-written reminder of the horror that happened those years ago. Thanks you. Reply Theresa Rodriguez November 5, 2020 Thank you, David, very much. I am glad the poem is serving its purpose as a reminder of what happened in that ravine all those years ago. Reply A.B. Brown November 5, 2020 It is a strange phenomenon to read something and be drawn in by the lulling, hypnotic effect from the rhythm of the lines, at the same time that an uneasy pit in one’s stomach develops from the discomfort caused by the subject matter, and the imaginative sympathy for the victims. I am reminded of Aristotle’s discussion of why people enjoy watching actors suffer onstage, though with stuff like this I don’t experience catharsis so much as I am moved from sadness to anger. Aristotle based his theory of catharsis on one viewing fictional or mythic events, rather than art based on historical events (though the distinction between myth and history was admittedly blurry with the Greeks). With a subject like the Babi Yar massacre, a purge of emotions would seem an inappropriate thing to occur in the reader…hence, the question of ‘why do people enjoy art about suffering’ is perhaps more of a conundrum than Aristotle thought, but the last two stanzas of the poem provide the answer. I know people who are holocaust deniers (ironically, all anti-semites), and it drives me crazy the way people ignore evidence and cherry-pick facts to construct their insane paranoid worldviews. Excellent stuff, Theresa! Reply Theresa Rodriguez November 6, 2020 Thank you, Andrew. I am glad that the poem produces “beauty through suffering” so to speak. Reply James Sale November 6, 2020 A telling and a moving tale; though reasonably well informed about the Nazis in the USSR during the WW2, I did not know of this specific incident. Horrific indeed and you tell this story extremely well – it builds and it builds. I am reminded of Theodore Dalrymple’s remark: ‘And thus the obvious truth – that it is necessary to repress, either by law or by custom, the permanent possibility in human nature of brutality and barbarism – never finds its way into the press or other media of mass communication.’ In abandoning convention, law, custom and what we might call ‘decency’, and insisting on ‘do whatever you want – be free’, we get closer and closer to allowing the possibility that these evils could return. Truly, in the CCP it appears that they have. Reply Theresa Rodriguez November 6, 2020 Thank you so much, James. When I was young, we had the book “Babi Yar” in my house– the name always stuck with me, but I didn’t know about the details of the massacre until recently. I have since obtained my own copy. I honestly have had a hard time reading through it, I’ve gotten about a third of the way through. Very dense and very disturbing. I had felt the urge to write about the massacre in the form of a ballad; as you say, it was “the Muse” who inspired me! Reply James Sale November 6, 2020 Always good to be inspired by the Muse, Theresa!!! Reply Theresa Rodriguez November 6, 2020 Indeed, James! Reply Cynthia Erlandson November 6, 2020 I agree with all of the above comments, Theresa. You have used ballad as a form of memorial and, as the poem says in the last verse, memorials are crucial if we are not to repeat historical evils. Reply Theresa Rodriguez November 6, 2020 Thank you Cynthia. I am so glad the ballad itself has become a memorial. I am glad the form that I chose to use has accomplished this goal! Reply David Watt November 7, 2020 Theresa, I had heard of this evil massacre, and it is a truly gut-wrenching incident. This ballad must have been difficult to write. Thank you for a well written reminder of what should never be repeated. Reply Theresa Rodriguez November 7, 2020 Thank you very much, David. It was indeed painful and difficult to write, but I am grateful for the inspiration I was given to write it. It really was gnawing at me until I had it done! I could hear the songlike quality of the rhymes in my head before setting down to write. I am glad it is a reminder of what happened, and what should never be repeated. Reply BDW November 7, 2020 As per Rus Ciel Badeew: “I think Ms. Rodriguez’ poem is important for one main reason, which especially occupies my mind now in America: To understand the present day world of rampant, tyrannical communism around the Globe, fed maniacally by the Chinese communists, I keep resorting to Russian poets and poetry of the 20th century, and how they had to endure such cruelty under the communist regime. “So, of course, Ms. Rodriguez’ poem, which takes up the same topic as many Russian writers did, none more famous than Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s poem of 1961 “Babi Yar”, which spoke of both Nazi and Communist atrocities, in relationship to the Jewish people and others. Though Yevtushenko’s poem is in Russian free verse, I recommend it to SCP readers, even in translation. We must be vigilant in the face of this garish, nightmarish onslaught.” Reply Theresa Rodriguez November 7, 2020 Thank you BDW, for your comments and reflections, and for sharing info about Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s poem “Babi Yar.” It is a beautiful and poignant poem. I am honored to be in the company of someone else who has written so compellingly about this tragedy. Reply Leave a Reply to James Sale Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. Δ This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.