Photographer's Note

This photo is so old that it's almost a historic one, taken on a high school trip when I was a teenager. It's also a reminder of what occurred in the not-too-distant past in a place which has seen too much of war. I thought this was an appropriate post today, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the vast number of casualties resulting from any armed conflict are unarmed, non-combatants, like Yuzif's son.

Sorry for the quality on this series... I think it's somewhat appropriate, however, because the image almost looks like it's in silhouette against the sky. The lighting was very poor the day we visited, very drab and atmospheric for visiting this type of memorial, which I think comes across in the photos also. I also wish I had gotten more photos of the country (!) when I was there, as I seem to only have a few photos of Belarus and the majority of them are from this site.

This is the sculpture of Yuzif Kaminski holding the body of his son, Adam. Evidently he lived in the area following the massacre and tended the grounds of the memorial for a long time afterward, but this was some years ago. The village was never repopulated.

On March 22, 1943, all 26 homes of this small, traditional village were burned and all 149 people were killed by SS troops. This is one of the many WWII memorials we visited while in Belarus. The site of the former village is now the Khatyn WWII Memorial, which was opened in 1969. The only remaining structures from the original homes were the brick chimneys, which now hold bells that sound every thirty seconds, the rate at which a life was lost in Belarus during the war. Every thirty seconds... for years. Hard to fathom.

There are some conflicting accounts. Our tour guide told us that the only survivor from this village was the man featured in this memorial, by the name of Yuzif Kaminski, who was visiting relatives in a nearby village; when he returned home he found that the entire population of the village had been herded into a barn and burned alive. The sculpture in the photo depicts him holding the body of his son Adam, which he recovered from the ruins. The sculpture is entitled "Unbowed Man," by Sergei Selikhanov. Other accounts, however, state that there were six survivors, including five children, and that they were also victims of the attack, but survived. Two other women also survived because they were absent from the village on the day of the attack, so I'm not sure of the accuracy of either of the accounts, which vary considerably.

Tragically, at least 5,295 Belarusian settlements were burned and destroyed by the Nazis and collaborators during the war. The scale of the devastation is difficult to comprehend: in the Minsk region alone, 92 villages were burned twice, 40 villages three times, nine villages four times, and six villages five or more times. In total, over two million people were killed in Belarus during three years of Nazi occupation. It has been estimated that one in four Belarussians was killed during WWII, the vast majority of whom were civilian non-combatants.

As in this case, many of the villages, some centuries old, were never repopulated, as all the inhabitants perished. Thus, the Khatyn memorial also houses a memorial called the "Cemetery of Villages," consisting of small red and black urns," seen in another photo I posted; each holds a small amount of earth from each of the 618 villages destroyed during the war.

The site was renovated in 2004, so I'm not sure if it still looks like what it did when this photo was taken, in 1993. One of the reasons I posted these, even though the quality isn't great, is that they're somewhat historical now; it's been nearly 25 years (!!) since I took these. I hope they can serve as a record for future generations, who can see the changes which have taken place over time. As of the 'teens, nearly 200,000 people a year visit this site.

CMJC, pajaran has marked this note useful

Photo Information
  • Copyright: Terez Anon (terez93) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 92 W: 78 N: 1276] (2193)
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  • Date Taken: 1993-08-00
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  • Date Submitted: 2022-02-26 16:53
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