Today, on March 22nd, 2023, Belarus marks the 80th anniversary of annihilation of Khatyn village – one of nearly 5,000 villages that suffered the same fate during the Russian phase of the Second World War.
The story of Khatyn is succinctly narrated in this passage:
The destruction of Khatyn and the murder of the villagers was an act of revenge in response to the bombardment of a German motorcade by Belarusian partisans on 22 March 1943, killing the company commander, Captain Hans Woellke, and three Ukrainian members of the Battalion 118 protection team. On the same day Khatyn was plundered and destroyed by Battalion 118 and SS Special Battalion Dirlewanger. They drove the inhabitants first into the village barn, set it on fire and with machine guns shot the people who tried to save themselves from the barn. A total of 149 villagers died, including 75 children. One adult, the then 56-year-old village blacksmith Iosif Kaminskij, and five children survived the destruction of Khatyn and the Second World War. Two more girls were able to flee from the burning barn into the forest and were taken in by inhabitants of the village Khvorosteni, but then died in the destruction of that very village.
Some people from the Soviet side who participated in burning of the villages later attempted to lead a “normal” life and even met with school pupils as “veterans” to talk about the war. But one by one they were identified and exterminated.
The tragedy of Khatyn was revisited in May 2014 when over 100 people perished in the fire in Odessa for their opposition to the Kiev’s coup (Maidan). It was then that it became evident to many people that the coup was orchestrated by neo-Fascist forces who used the same strategy of “punitive operations” called to terrify the people and stop the resistance.
I’ve never been to Khatyn, but you can have a 3D virtual tour at the site of memorial complex. In addition to the eternal flame and solely standing bell-towers, there is a cemetery where all destroyed villages are symbolically “buried”, and a heart-tearing sculpture of a man carrying his murdered son. The sculpture that epitomises the fatal tragedy of the entire Soviet population during the Great Patrioric War has its real-life protagonists. A Khatyn blacksmith, Iosif Kaminskij, miraculously survived and found at burning site his 15-year-old son Adam who died in his hands.
Today, when we again fight against the same enemy, we have no choice but to live through the pain of those people. They nearly began to vanish in the haze when the bell rang to remind that no crime like this can never be forgotten.
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