Especially with so much of the world — bizarrely including the Orthodox Jewish world — suddenly swooning over & throwing money at the Ukraine (money the average Ukrainian will NEVER see) as if they were lovely & stable New Zealanders, I wanted to illustrate the dark side of Ukrainian society via a certain story.
But I couldn't find the story until I stumbled across it a few days ago:
Certainly, there were heroic Ukrainians, as depicted in a Mishpacha article on the last surviving Jew from the Babi Yar massacre. (He and his brother were repeatedly saved — at great risk to herself — by a non-Jewish Ukrainian woman.)
But a dark, gory, creepy side also exists there.
And everyone there always tolerated it just fine, for some reason.
(It predates the Holocaust, so while it reached an apex then, it certainly did not begin with the Nazis.)
Anyway, the story opens up a courtyard in Moldavanka, then a predominantly Jewish area of Odessa in the 1960s.
The little Jewish girls are playing together when the evil elderly Baba Irishka arrives, causing everyone to flee.
Everyone...except a five-year-old Jewish girl named Anna Burda:
[Baba Irishka] was slowly approaching with her bucket to fill water from the public well.
When she saw a little girl standing next to the well-faucet, she turned her head with a piercing icy look and said “Hi.”
The little girl did not respond, so Baba Irishka grabbed her by arm and yelled in her face, saying, “Why are you not saying Hello to me?”
“Because you are a murderer.”
“What? Can you repeat?" the old witch said.
“You are a murderer of children, and I am not afraid of you," loudly said the brave little girl to the witch.
"What did you say?" asked Baba Irishka, grabbing Anya by her shoulder and screaming in her face.
“You are a murderer of children! I will never talk to you, and I am not afraid of you!"
Baba Irishka stared at Anya with her steely, faded eyes. “Dirty Jew”, she said with rage on her face, dropping her bucket and walking away.
Here's just one chilling example:
In the same courtyard of Moldavanka, two little Jewish girls: five-year-old Rivka, and three-year-old Betya were hidden from the Nazis by a Russian neighbor, Katya.
On one of those bitter cold December 1942 mornings, three Nazi soldiers were knocking at the door of Katya’s house.
When Katya opened the door, her face was pale as her whitewashed walls, for she knew why the Germans had come.
One Nazi was tall with a narrow face and thin lips like a caterpillar; he shouted, “Where are you hiding the Juden?”
Katya was trembling, trying to block the entrance with her body.
Another stout Nazi with small eyes and a porcine face pushed her hard with his rifle and yelled, "Jew lovers? Do you want to die with your children for Jews' sake?" The more he yelled the more his face turned red and he looked like a big fat hog.
Katya stood frozen; at that moment, the two little sisters Betya and Rivka appeared holding hands:
“We are here, don’t hurt anyone,” said Rivka, and the oldest, Betya in a soft, shaking voice said, “We are not afraid of you.”
The thin Nazi with the ugly caterpillar face turned to the girls and took candy out of his pocket, singing, "Sweet candy for sweet girls."
When Betya and Rivka reached to take the candy, the Nazis shot them dead.
It was a deadly silence, broken only by the two tiny icicles that fell off the roof of the house.
All the neighbors gathered and froze in horror, except for Baba Irishka who had a big smile on her face while one of the Nazis gave her an approving look.
She could even watch and enjoy — that's how evil she was.
And she did it a lot.
Anna's sister emphasizes how everyone in the area knew of Baba Irishka's psychopathic treacheries — yet the Ukrainian authorities NEVER did a thing to her.
She wasn't ever even taken in for questioning, nothing.
Disturbingly, when little Anna ran home to tell her father about her valorous confrontation, he responded by slapping her, a terrible fear in his eyes as he did it.
It's clear that he was a very good man who simply feared the surrounding Ukrainians.
He feared Baba Irishka's potential retaliation.
Why should the Jewish guy be afraid?
After all, the Ukrainians are such awesome people! They have such an awesome society and justice system — it's only Russia that messes them up! [sarc]
The implication in the story is that by speaking out about all the Jewish children Baba Irishka either murdered or had murdered, it would endanger the JEWS of Moldavanka — or at the very least, the Burda family.
That makes no sense.
But it was true. Think about that. Think about why, despite its irrationality and injustice, a person like Baba Irishka never faced any consequences for her blatant cruelty and blood-thirst.
The Dark Sinister Side
Baruch Hashem, Anna's confrontation proved the turning point for the Jewish children there and they no longer feared Baba Irishka.
But please remember: There are a LOT of stories like this from davka the Ukraine.
And it's not just the authorities who committed atrocities. Many, many were committed by regular citizens. And it constantly repeats in these reports how happy & gleeful they were to murder Jews. They literally relished it. It's incredibly creepy & disturbing.
Again, there were and still are some very, very good Ukrainians.
But there is a very sick, dark side to that society too.
Outside posts on this topic:
Myrtle Rising posts on this topic: