Poles are among the NKVD victims buried in the mass grave in Odessa, Ukraine, said the historian, one of the members of the search, Oleksandr Babicz. Experts estimate that the remains of five to six thousand people may be in the death pits in Odessa in total.
At the former NKVD special facility “Tatarka” in Odessa in the south of Ukraine, since the beginning of August, researchers have found 29 death pits where victims of communist terror were sent. The Institute of National Remembrance of Ukraine estimates that it is one of the largest mass graves in this country.
Oleksandr Babicz is one of the initiators of the exploration work in this area. As he told the Polish Press Agency, some time ago people who had been handed over a plot of land located on the territory of the former NKVD special facility asked him for a historical consultation. These people were to move garages there from the area, which in turn was to be developed by the Odessa airport. People said that they had heard that there had been mass shootings on the land handed over to them and that there were burials there.
– I had to make some noise in the media, ask the city authorities to start exploration work there – said Babicz. Finally, a working group was created, including historians, representatives of Polish, German and Romanian consulates, archives directors, as well as representatives of municipal authorities and people who conduct searches in the field.
Babicz: we work out the number of victims and their identity
As part of the research work, so far documents have been collected in the archives in Odessa – lists of people arrested and killed during the great terror, as well as acts of shootings. We work out the number of victims and their identity – adds Babicz.
Researchers also have access to, inter alia, the testimony of over 20 Odessa residents who worked in this area in various years, including laying cables. While digging the ground, they found human bones, skulls with bullet holes. Then – as Babicz continues – KGB officers came to the site and told the employees to be silent.
In addition to archival work, field activities are also carried out. From the beginning of August so far, 29 graves have been located on the site, from which the layer of waste has been removed. According to the historian, the perpetrators covered the bodies with a small amount of soil and then covered them with rubbish.
Researchers “find the first bones, clothes, and shoes and stop work.” – They mark the pit, write it down for the record and go on – informed Babicz. According to him, there are several layers of human bodies in the graves. Apart from human remains, there are also shoes, scales and coins from the 1930s in the pits. According to Babicz, the work on marking the pits will last until mid-autumn.
Historian: there may be the remains of five to six thousand people in Odessa
According to the PAP interlocutor, the remains of 5-6 thousand victims may be buried on the premises of the former NKVD special facility. In total, from 8,000 to 10,000 people were sentenced to the most severe punishment in the years 1937-1938. “They’re ordinary people who were swallowed up by the behemoth of Stalinist repression,” he said. – When you read the interrogation reports, you can see that they were people with various professions – engineers, railway workers, librarians, teachers – he said. Among the killed there are also victims of national operations – Poles, Germans, Ukrainians, Romanians, Greeks – he said.
The historian said that in 2008 an exhumation had already been carried out in Odessa. Then the remains of 1,086 people were found. – All of them were shot to death in 1937-1938, they were killed in the same way – a shot to the back of the head. They had items from the 1930s with them – he added.
When asked when the exhumation of the remains could begin, he stressed that there was no permit for this yet and that it was not easy to obtain. – It is possible that it will start at the beginning of next year and will last for many years – he added. The area of the grave in Odessa is 4.7 hectares, and the area of Bykivnia near Kykiv – where the works have been going on for 11 years – 5.3 hectares – indicated Babicz. The expert does not rule out that specialists from the Polish Institute of National Remembrance could be involved in the exhumation work.
As emphasized by Babicz, it is one of the largest mass graves in the country. – Odessa is one of the largest cities in Ukraine. During the times of the great terror, brigades of NKVD regional authorities were active. People were arrested and brought to regional authorities, where some apparent investigative actions were carried out against them, and then the sentence was pronounced – he said. “Odessa was one of the most powerful hubs of these operations,” he concluded.
Main photo source: uinp.gov.ua