During the Stalinist period in the Soviet Union, it was one of the sites where the NKVD had buried thousands of executed, real or alleged enemies of the Soviet power. The number of bodies buried there varies from source to source between "several dozen thousand," 30,000, 100,000 and 120,000, though some estimates place the number as high as 200,000 or even 225,000.
From the early 1920s until late 1940s through the Stalinist purges, the Soviet government hauled the bodies of tortured and killed political prisoners to the pine forests outside the village of Bykivnia and buried them in a grave that spanned 15,000 m2. So far 210 mass graves have been identified by Polish and Ukrainian archaeologists working at the site. During the Soviet retreat in the early stages of the Operation Barbarossa, the retreating Soviet troops levelled the village to the ground. The mass grave site was discovered by the Germans along with many other such sites throughout the Soviet Union. However, following the discovery of the Katyn massacre, the burial sites of Bykivnya was no longer part of German propaganda. After the Soviet recapture of the area in the course of the Second Battle of Kiev in 1943, the site was yet again classified by the NKVD. In the 1950s the village was reconstructed as a suburb of Kiev. In the 1970s the Soviet authorities planned to construct a large bus station on the mass grave site, but the plan was abandoned.
A single trace of the Bykovnia victims was found by the Polish émigré historians in Nazi German archives after the war. It was widely believed that, apart from the Soviet victims of the Great Terror, the site might be the final resting place of 3,435 Polish officers captured by the Soviets during the German and Soviet invasion of Poland of 1939, and executed in the spring of 1940 in the Katyn massacre, among over 20,000 Polish officers and intellectuals. However, as the Soviet authorities denied any complicity in such mass murders, there was no way to confirm that the victims of the Stalinist purges were indeed buried there.
It was not until the 1990s that the authorities of independent Ukraine confirmed the burial of thousands there. On April 30, 1994, a large memorial to the victims of communism was opened in Bykivnia. Around the same time archaeological works started, with both Ukrainian and Polish scientists taking part. In 2001 the government of Viktor Yanukovych proclaimed the will to convert the Bykivnia woods into a State Historical-Memorial Complex "Graves of Bykivnia". The plan was brought to life by Viktor Yushchenko on May 17, 2006. In a step toward uncovering this part of Ukraine's history, Viktor Yushchenko became the first Ukrainian president to take part in the annual Day of Remembrance ceremony on May 21 to honor the estimated 100,000 people buried in the mass grave on the outskirts of Kiev. "We must know the truth. Why did our nation lose more than 10 million people without a war?" Yushchenko said during the 2006 event.
Since 2006 Polish researchers have found a number of bodies of Poles, prisoners killed in spring 1940 during the Katyn massacre. Apart from bodies, Polish researchers found everyday use things, such as a comb, on which the owner, an unknown Polish officer, carved several names, such as Franciszek Strzelecki, Ludwik Dworak and Szczyrad... (this potentially might be referring to Colonel Bronisław Mikołaj Szczyradłowski, deputy of commandant of Lwów's defense in September 1939). Also, a dog tag belonging to Sergeant Józef Naglik, soldier of the Skalat Battalion of the Border Defence Corps, was found on the spot. All the names belong to the "Ukrainian list" of Katyn massacre victims and serve as proof that Bykivnya is connected to the Katyn crime.
- Dem'ianiv Laz, a mass grave site near Ivano-Frankivsk
- Great Purge
- Katyń Massacre
- Kurapaty, a similar mass grave site near Minsk, Belarus
- Vinnytsia massacre
Notes and references
- Template:Pl icon Cheko, Polish Press Agency (September 2007). "Odkryto grzebień z nazwiskami Polaków pochowanych w Bykowni". Gazeta Wyborcza (2007-09-21). http://wiadomosci.gazeta.pl/Wiadomosci/1,80269,4509809.html. Retrieved 2007-09-21.
- "Ukraine reburies 2,000 victims of Stalin's rule". Reuters. 27 October 2007
- Template:En icon Zenon Zawada (May 2006). "100,000 buried at Bykivnia recalled at Day of Remembrance" ([dead link] – Scholar search). The Ukrainian Weekly LXXIV (22). Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070930033306/http://www.ukrweekly.com/Archive/2006/220602.shtml. Retrieved 2007-09-21.
- Template:En icon Michael Franklin Hamm (1995). Kiev. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691025851.
- Template:En icon Raymond Pearson (2002). The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Empire. Palgrave. p. 220. ISBN 0333948076.
- Template:En icon Taras Kuzio; Andrew Wilson (1994). Ukraine: Perestroika to Independence. University of Alberta: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press. ISBN 092086287X.
- Template:Pl icon Roman Dzwonkowski (1994). Polacy Na Dawnych Kresach Wschodnich. Lublin: Stowarzyszenie Wspólnota Polska. p. 33. ISBN 8386441054. http://books.google.com/?id=mzItAAAAMAAJ&q=Bykownia&dq=Bykownia.
- Twentieth Century Atlas - Casualty Statistics - Bykivnia
- Bykivnia 1937-1941
- Ukraine reburies Stalin's victims
- Newsru.ua Template:Ru icon