While heated discussions around the possible construction of a large-scale Holocaust Memorial Center continue, the Babyn Yar National Historical and Memorial Reserve "Babyn Yar"continues its daily painstaking work.
Today, Boris GLAZUNOV, General Director of the Reserve, tells us about the everyday life and problems of the Reserve.
- Boris Ivanovich, how are you? What's new?
- I have already told on the pages of your newspaper that in 2016 the building of the former office of the Jewish cemetery at 44, Y. Ilyenko (Melnikova) Street, was transferred to the Reserve, the historical part of which was built in 1894. Here, after reconstruction and re-planning, the Memorial Museum in memory of the victims of Babyn Yar will be created.
We carried out an expert assessment of the building, changed its purpose from residential to non-residential and made its state registration. We have drawn up a protection agreement for the monument, and it has been transferred to the balance of the Reserve. Also, design and estimate documentation for its restoration has been developed in order to place an exposition here dedicated to the tragedy of Babi Yar. We have already received a positive expert report on the review of the documentation for this project. A draft design project for the museum exposition has also been developed.
Our Reserve and the Institute of History of Ukraine of the National Academy of Sciences jointly developed the Concept of creating a Memorial Museum in memory of the victims of Babyn Yar, which was approved by the scientific councils of the two organizations. We have received the appropriate permits for construction and earthworks, as well as orders for landscaping.
In addition, an agreement was signed with Tauris LLC, the winner of the tender for the restoration of the said building to create a Memorial Museum in memory of the victims of Babyn Yar.
Restoration work to bring the building in line with its intended purpose has been carried out since December 2018.
In this regard, I can say that at the moment it has already been done - dismantling work has been completed; the foundation of the building was strengthened; completed work on the arrangement of floors between the basement, the first, second floors and the attic; the building's roof repairs and roofing works have been completed; Injection cracks were repaired; waterproofing of foundations was made; a central porch at the entrance to the Museum was equipped. Also today, work is underway to equip an elevator shaft for the installation of an elevator, work continues on the arrangement of staircases, window and doorways. Work has begun on the renovation of the facade and the laying of utilities.
In parallel with the restoration work, we are correcting the design documentation, which became necessary during the restoration process and in connection with the change in state building codes.
We have a thematic and exposition plan, which includes the development of multimedia and interactive complexes of the Memorial Museum in memory of the victims of Babyn Yar.
In 2017, we excavated 86 tombstones covered with construction waste and raised them from the spur of the Repyakhovy Yar - these are tombstones from the former Jewish cemetery that were thrown into the yar during the construction of the television center. They are now installed along the Road of Sorrow. Also in 2018, we restored the arch at the entrance to the territory of the former Lukyanovsky Jewish cemetery.
This year, together with the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, on the Road of Sorrow, on the square near the Menorah monument, we opened an audiovisual installation with sound and light accompaniment. In particular, the installation consists of dozens of loudspeaker, from which the names of the deceased are pronounced, voiced by women, men, children, fragments of documentary evidence, well-known musical works, and Jewish religious texts are heard.
Monoculars with photographs of Babyn Yar, taken by a German war photographer in the subsequent after the mass shootings on September 29-30, 1941, are also installed. I would like to thank the head of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance Anton Drobovich for his help in the development of the Reserve.
Actually, with the help of the UINP and the Embassy of the State of Israel in Ukraine soon, nine more information stands will be installed on the territory of the Reserve.
And thanks to the personal participation of Israel's Ambassador to Ukraine Joel Lyon, we are installing a candle holder near the Menorah memorial sign - this will save the Menorah from contamination with molten wax.
- Has the exposition collected by the late Ilya Mikhailovich Levitas been transferred to the Reserve?
- First of all, I would like to thank the successor of Ilya Mikhailovich - President of the Jewish Council of Ukraine, Honored Art Worker, Professor A.S. Suslensky for the fact that he managed to preserve all the materials of the exposition, although at times it was not easy. There was a case when about a year ago a bailiff arrived at 7, Nemanskaya St., with representatives of the former housing office, who broke down the locks in the room and, with garbage bags in their hands, wanted to "clear" everything that was there. Alexander Semenovich and I did not allow them to do this.
At this time, the exposition, collected by I.M. Levitas, is in our custody but has not yet been officially handed over. A.S. Suslensky and I were proposed to sign officially the acceptance certificate on September 29 at a ceremony near the
Menorah, in the presence of President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky. We prepared an exhibition dedicated to the tragic events, where there were materials collected by I.M. Levitas, together with Alexander Semenovich were present there and were ready to sign the acceptance certificate. But something has changed these plans, we were told that we will sign the document on another day. Not signed yet.
- How long will you have to wait? Maybe you should remind that?
- We remind.
- Has the land on which the building of the future Babyn Yar Museum is located has finally been given at your disposal?
- Back in 2016, by protocol decisions of the Organizing Committee for the preparation and holding of events in connection with the 75th anniversary of the Babi Yar tragedy, the Kyiv city administration gave instructions to transfer the land plot on which the Museum building is located to our Reserve. But the issue has not been resolved to this day, despite our repeated appeals. For comparison, the issue of allocating 28.2 hectares for the territory of the Reserve and obtaining state acts for the permanent use of land plots was solved in 2.5 years, and the problem of allocating 0.3 hectares to us, where our building is already located, cannot be resolved for four years.
Although during the period of registration of the land for the Reserve, the then leadership of the city, frankly speaking, did not want to allocate land to us. Each agreement of the land management project (and there were a lot of them then) I with the late I.M. Levitas had to coordinate with great efforts. I remember how in 2008 the former head of the city answered one of his deputies, who, at my request, turned to him with a proposal to transfer to the Reserve "Monument to Soviet citizens and prisoners of war soldiers and officers of the Soviet Army who died at the hands of the Nazi invaders." “What are you, a fool? Now we will hand over a monument to them, and then we will have to hand over the land,” the official said sharply then, although in personal conversations he promised me full assistance.
You remember with what great efforts the building itself, which was resold several times, was returned to state ownership, and together with it the entire Avangard sports complex. Then the state, (the co-chairs of the Organizing Committee for the preparation and holding of events in connection with the 75th anniversary of the Babyn Yar tragedy were the Prime Minister of Ukraine and the head of the Presidential Administration), showed political will, and the issue was resolved positively, but the entire land plot with an area of 3.4 hectares remained on lease by trade unions. In July 2018, at our request, the Kyiv City Council decided to terminate the lease agreement with the trade union Avangard, since they lost their rights to real estate on this land and stopped paying rent. But at the same time, a mistake was made in the preparation of the adopted decision of the Kyiv City Council.
- Is it a mistake?
- I do not know this. We hope that the Kyiv City Council of the new convocation will consider and make a decision, and we will finally be able to move on along the path of registration of our rights to this land plot. After all, the lack of a solution to this problem makes it impossible to complete the work on the creation of the museum! How to carry out engineering communications? How to improve the area around the building? And many other questions ...
I also want to say that only 6.5 million hryvnias have been allocated from the state budget for the continuation of repair and restoration work in August this year, of which 2.5 million we returned to the general contractor for the work already completed, and the rest of the funds began to equip the facades of the building and elevator shaft.
In addition, we have problems with the electricity connection. So, for the right to buy electricity from the “effective owner” of DTEK Kyivenergo, we have to pay about 500 thousand budget money. Since these are services, a tender must be held. But they are monopolists in this market. What kind of tender with one participant? In addition to everything, according to the received technical conditions, we must connect to a transformer substation (TP), which is located on the territory of the state enterprise "Avangard Sports Complex". They do not allow us to lay a cable through their territory, since they are also reconstructing the sports complex, and if we take our kilowatts, then they will not have enough capacity. And we cannot resolve these issues - DTEK Kyivenergo does not respond to our letters with Avangard, and all our attempts to meet with them and work out an algorithm for solving problems have not been crowned with success.
A similar story is with the Ministry of Development of Communities and Territories of Ukraine. The commission, which can decide some issues has not been working for the second year already, and all attempts to meet with the leadership of the ministry also do not give a positive result.
At this time, the State Treasury of Ukraine, due to a shortage of funds, has stopped paying financial obligations for all payments, except for protected items. Therefore, based on our realities, we obviously will not have time to finish the work on the creation of the museum for the 80th anniversary of the tragedy of Babi Yar.
- But this is a disgrace. Again next spring there will be a rush, like five years ago?
- Let us wait and see.
- How do you feel about the acute situation that has developed around the Holocaust Memorial project sponsored by well-known businessmen?
- I'm calm. As far as I know, the Concept of the future Memorial will soon be prepared and presented for public discussion, and by the middle of next year, it is planned to develop a project. Let's see, we'll study what will be offered - then we'll talk.
As for the very fact of participation of Ukrainian and foreign businessmen in the project, this can only be welcomed. It is good when Ukrainian and even foreign businessmen invest money in the Ukrainian economy and do not withdraw it to foreign offshore accounts. Moreover, if it is doing with such a noble mission as the creation of the Holocaust Memorial and the perpetuation of the memory of the victims of the terrible tragedy.
Although certain doubts are also present because we have long been able to observe the "generosity" of modern businessmen. It is one thing to declare your intentions to create a Memorial, and quite another thing to actually build it. And then how much will its maintenance cost (payment for land lease, utilities, staff salaries, territory maintenance, etc.)? Here we are building a Memorial Museum in memory of the victims of Babi Yar, but for some reason, no one is in a hurry to help us from any of the businessmen. The same is with the completion of work on the creation of the Alley of the Righteous. In 2016, the State Organizing Committee decided to create such an Alley, at the same time the paving of the paths was reconstructed and the lighting was installed. It remains to make and install the compositional elements - the sculpture "The Righteous Woman with the Saved Child" and information stands in the form of books with the names of the Ukrainian Righteous Among the World. No matter how much we ask, no one wants to allocate funds even for the production of design and estimate documentation with the passage of state expertise. Where are our and foreign patrons? But in fairness and as a good example, I would like to note the disinterested help of businessman Alexander Loyfenfeld. When the building of the future museum was handed over to us, and we were preparing the documentation for the start of construction work, Alexander Yakovlevich financed the renovation of two halls of our building, which was carried out under the leadership of the Honored Builder of Ukraine Vladimir Pinchuk. So we have held thematic exhibitions for two years in these halls.
Especially I would like to speak on the issue of construction in burial places. Why is no one indignant that today, behind the television center, on the territory of the former Jewish cemetery, the construction of a large residential complex "Herzen Park" is built? Why is no one outraged by the fact that this year the previously suspended construction of a high-rise residential building at 25 Teligi Street, at the site of mass shootings of people in the spur of Babyn Yar during the Nazi occupation of Kyiv, was resumed at an accelerated pace this year? Back in Soviet times, according to the plan for the development of the Syretsky residential area, construction was supposed to begin there, but when it became known that people were being shot there, all work was stopped, and a pavilion without a foundation, was installed in that place. It was there until the beginning of this century, until in Kyiv, in the pursuit of profit, began mass construction schizophrenia.
- So what do you think needs to be done so that the memory of the victims of one of the most notorious tragedies of World War II is nevertheless immortalized?
- I believe that the Ukrainian state needs to finally show its political will.
Conducted by Mikhail FRENKEL