Ukrainian Holocaust survivors are reportedly speaking out against Russian President Vladimir Putin and his nation’s brutal assault on Ukraine, imploring Putin to stand down and stop his deadly invasion.
Some elderly individuals said to be from the Kyiv Center for Jewish Elderly recently recorded a video lambasting Putin and sharing their emotional and candid reactions to all that’s unfolding, according to Mediaite.
“Putin, withdraw your army and get out from Ukraine!” one woman said. “We want peace! We want peace!”
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Another shared that she lost her entire family in the Holocaust after the start of World War II.
“All my relatives on my mom’s side are Jews. Jews were taken to Babyn Yar. Everybody was killed there,” she said. “Today I am again in Kyiv. But it is this year. It’s a horrifying monstrosity.”
The woman went on to wish death upon the Russian leader, proclaiming, “Putin, I hope you die! Leave us alone, you b***ard!”
All three speakers in the video said they lost relatives during the Babyn Yar massacre. Now a monument in Ukraine, the location is home to one of the largest mass graves from World War II. Nazi killing squads gunned down more than 33,000 people over two days from September 29–30, 1941, according to the BBC.
A Russian missile strike near the area of Babyn Yar recently brought this history to the forefront of the discussion.
CBS News said last week the outlet couldn’t independently verify the video featuring these elderly Ukrainians but noted the clip had been widely viewed on social media.
Holocaust survivors in a bomb-shelter in Ukraine, cursing Putin and asking for peace. pic.twitter.com/W70nzk5oKp— Alexander S. Vindman (@AVindman) March 2, 2022
Ukraine has a large Jewish population, and Russia’s invasion — sparking parallels to World War II — has been quite traumatic for many who remember the sights, sounds, and fears of battle.
Natalia Berezhnaya, 88, is among those shocked by what’s unfolding.
“I feel like I’m dreaming,” she told the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). “It’s hard to believe that you might be going through the same thing again that you went through in ’41. This is war. Any ways, any paths that exist to stop it — it must be stopped. And end this bloodshed.”
She continued, “It’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that, in ’41, I had to hide in the basement of this building and that I’m going to have to do that again now.”
Some are rushing to help out the thousands of Holocaust survivors in Ukraine. Zane Buzby, the founder of the Survivor Mitzvah Project, has long provided support to Holocaust survivors, including more than 300 in Ukraine.
She has been working with contacts on the ground to check in on others like Berezhnaya and get them much-needed resources.
“They’re spread out across this vast country. They don’t have extended families,” Buzby told CNN. “We don’t want food sources to run out. We’re getting them as much medication as possible now because who knows in two weeks what’s going to happen.”
She said Holocaust survivors who face Putin’s newfound horrors are being reminded of what they already dealt with during the Holocaust.
“This is so hard for them, this invasion. … It makes it scarier because they know the real thing,” Buzby told the outlet. “The early memories come back and haunt them at night.”
It should be noted that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is Jewish and that, throughout Russia’s deadly assault, Putin has said he is fighting neo-Nazis in Ukraine and that his actions are an effort to work toward the “de-Nazification” of the nation.
Putin has accused Ukrainians of essentially committing genocide against ethnic Russians in the Donbas region of the country, though many historians have said this isn’t a credible claim. Among them is Laura Jockusch, a professor of Holocaust studies at Brandeis University, who told NPR Putin’s allegations are false.
“Putin has been repeating this ‘genocide’ myth for several years, and nobody in the West seems to have listened until now,” Jockusch told the outlet. “There is no ‘genocide,’ not even an ‘ethnic cleansing’ perpetrated by the Ukraine against ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers in the Ukraine.”
She said it is “fiction” used to excuse Putin’s war.
More than 1.5 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began on Feb. 24.
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