Sunday, 12 August 2012

The tragedy of Khatyn

You will not find this small Belorussian village on any of the most detailed geographic map today. It was destroyed by  fascists in spring in 1943.

The massacre occurred on March 22, 1943. Brutal fascists rushed into the village and encircled it. The inhabitants of the village did not know anything about the fact that in the morning a fascist motor convoy was attacked by fire on a motorway just 6 km away from Khatyn. As a result a German officer was killed. The inhabitants of Khatyn were innocent, however their death sentence had already been pronounced. All of them — young and old, women and kids  were driven from their houses out into the shed. The fascists roused the sick from their beds with rifle butts. They had mercy neither for the old nor for women with infants in their arms.
Entire population of the village - 149 people, including 75 children- was gathered in a single wooden barn. Those who tried to escape from the fire were shot. And even large families with children 7 and 9 died in the fire together.
In the living there were only 6 people: 56-year-old Joseph Kaminski and 5 children. A villager by the name of Iotko also died. He was severely burned in punitive and asked him to shoot, because he could not endure excruciating pain. The Nazis just smiled back at him and said, "Why should we waste ammo, you're still going to die like a dog." And so it happened - he died a few days.

Overall every forth Belarusian has perished during WWII - 2.2 million people, including 380,000 deported to Germany as laborers. 209 cities and townships and 9,200 villages had been destroyed in Belarus during WWII. The pre-WWII population of Belarus was only re-established in 1971. Every tourist in Belarus is striken by a number of WWII memorials. Peace is the highest and the most prescious quality of life that Belarusians cherrish. Not a single ethnical conflict has broken out in Belarus during the volatile post-USSR years. It is because Belarusians KNOW that any solution is better than the horror of war.

In January 1966 the authorities had taken reshnie the creation of the memorial complex "Khatyn." Architect Levin created this sad place of memory.

(All photos were taken at different times. I wanted to show you Khatyn at different times of the year)

If you want to visit Khatyn, you need to drive to the north of Minsk.

I think that a pointer to the Khatyn you will not miss. On the way, you have to drive another few miles.

Khatyn - very dark and scary place. Symbolic chimneys with bells on top are there. bells ring every 30 seconds (24/7, at any time of the year).This creates a very tense atmosphere.

You will see the memorial "Invictus." The prototype for the sculpture was Joseph Kaminski. The old man holds in his arms of his slain son. Old man's face contorted with grief. He seemed to ask, "Why, how such a tragedy could happen?"

This "village cemetery" is unique in the world. The names of burned villages carved out of granite. At the cemetery, people brought  the land of  all burnt villages.

Villagers Khatyn were burned on the place.

The names of 260 places of mass destruction are written here. Krasny Bereg is among those names.

Three birches symbolize the surviving residents of Belarus. In my country at the hands of the Nazis killed every fourth person. Therefore, an eternal flame burns at the place of the fourth birch.

Another element of the memorial complex is the "tree of life". The names of 433 villages were written on their branches in alphabetical order. These villages were burned during the war, but they were restored later.

This is well. In the Belarusian mythology the well is a symbol of life and the relationship between past and future.

"Good Folk, remember: we have loved life, and our homeland, and you. We have burned alive in flames. We plead to you: let our cries and grief turn into courage and strength, so that you can establish Peace and Rest on this Earth. So that nowhere and never life had disappeared again in a tornado of fire!"
Testament of the Khatyn people for a living.


  1. Very interesting but also very tragic.
    It is terrible that men can be so cruel.
    Your country has a bitter history. Great that it has risen from the ash to be better.

    1. Yes, some politicians have called our lands "The Country of Phoenix". Perhaps they are right.

  2. I knew only one Khatyn (Katyń) - Russian settlement, where were killed Polish officers. But it isn't this same as I see - maybe only the name is the same?

    1. No, Khatyn is a village in Belarus. Many people were burned in fire there. Katyn is a village near Smolensk, Russia. A lot of Polish soldiers were shootten in Katyn (Катынь). Not Khatyn (Hatyn', Хатынь)

  3. Very sad. I remember watching a film based on these events called "Come and See". It has to be the best anti-war film ever made. It's not easy viewing but a movie everyone should see.