“Here, in the bloodlands of Belarus, I found hope for the future of Europe,” Natalie Nougayrède writes. The Guardian columnist and leader writer, travelled to Minsk where she visited Maly Trostenets, Kuropaty and Khatyn – the places that opened her eyes on what is nessessary to do to end Europe’s travails.
After visiting locations where ‘both the Nazis and Stalin’s secret police had committed some of the worst crimes of the 20th century’ and talking to young locals she saw what a truly united Europe could one day look like. Here’s an excerpt from the text:
“Of all the places I’ve visited in Europe, nowhere is that complex history more poignant than in the forests outside Minsk, where three sites of mass carnage, only a few miles apart, are commemorated in very different ways.
A fork in the road in Maly Trostenets is where tens of thousands of Jews, many from Germany and Austria, were shot over pits by SS commandos, their corpses later burned. Construction of a monument has recently started there, but strikingly it doesn’t indicate the victims’ names.
This is because Belarusian officials are uneasy with commemorating the Holocaust – much as the Soviet authorities were. Instead, on trees nearby, families of victims have placed small yellow posters bearing the details of those who perished.
Few people in western Europe know about Belarus, let alone have been there. Yet it should be prominent in our consciences.
Not far from there, in the forest of Kurapaty, lies a place where Stalin’s men shot thousands during the 1930s. Wooden crosses of Orthodox Christianity have been planted by Belarusian civil groups and opposition activists as a way of honouring the victims. But there again, no names. And there is no official monument at all. The cult of Stalin remains untouched in Belarus, much like it has been restored in Putin’s Russia.