February 21st, 2009 Headsman
On this date in 1942, poet Olena Teliha and her husband Mykhailo were shot by the Nazis at Babi Yar for their Ukrainian nationalist activism.
Having lived in Czechoslovakia (where they met and married) and then Poland during the interwar period, the Telihas weren’t present for the worst of Soviet depredations in Ukraine. Mykhailo, a bandurist, might have been in an especially bad way, since his musical genre of choice harkened to subversive themes of Cossack insurrection, and was therefore heavily persecuted.
Instead, they moved to Kiev as the German invasion opened the prospect of returning to their ancestral homeland. There they found their affiliation with the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists quite unwelcome to the new occupiers.
Olena kept writing for a prohibited nationalist paper, and Mykhailo gamely stuck by her.
Without a Name
Neither love, nor caprice nor adventure–
Not everything must be named.
As not always in abysmal waters
Can one find a motionless floor.
And when Your reawakened soul
Again rushes to a luminous path,
Do not question whose inspired oars
Were able to cast aside the dark shore.
Neither love, nor tenderness, nor passion,
Only heart — tumultuous eagle!
Drink then splashes, fresh, effervescent,
Of nameless, joyful sources.
Their execution this date is not to be confused with the mass execution of thirty thousand-plus Jews in September 1941, the atrocity with which Babi Yar is most frequently associated. This ravine continued to be used for Nazi executioners throughout the occupation of Kiev, including for more than 600 Ukrainian nationalists — who are today honored at the site with this monument:
Also on this date
- 1862: Nathaniel Gordon, slave trader
- 1946: Cristino Garcia, Spanish Republican and French Resistance hero
- 1934: Augusto Cesar Sandino, national hero
- 1930: Eva Dugan, her head jerked clean off
- 1951: Charlie Gifford, politician-killer
- 1803: Edward Marcus Despard, a patriot without a nation
Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Activists,Artists,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Germany,History,Martyrs,Mass Executions,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Shot,Ukraine,USSR,Wartime Executions,Women