DAILY SIGNAL — KYIV, Ukraine—Seventy-four years later, I reached up and broke off a small piece of a branch that was long and gray. It was bent in the strange, contorted ways it had blindly grown to look for light here at the cold bottom of the ravine, where the forest canopy above had turned the sunny spring day into dark winter’s night.
The branch connected to an old tree with gray and brown bark that was growing out of the hardened black earth on which I stood. It had been a difficult climb down here to the bottom, where tens of thousands of bodies had fallen all those years ago.
The ravine’s muddy walls were steep and slick and carved by erosion.
In some parts the trees grew at impossible angles, their roots holding the mud slope together. At the top of the ravine, at the sharp lip of it, the wind blew through the leaves that rustled against the silence that you didn’t notice until it was broken by something as quiet as rustling leaves.
An old road ended at the edge of the ravine. That road was overgrown and closed to traffic and now just a path through a park. Young mothers pushed strollers, and young men played fetch with their dogs. Students hurriedly walked past with headphones in their ears; old men in tweed jackets and old women with covered heads shuffled along.
This old road crossed through a forest of tall trees that swayed in the spring wind until it joined a noisy, larger road full of cars and taxis and buses. This road rolled up and down hills and past stores and restaurants and coffee shops into the heart of Kyiv, where, on Sept. 26, 1941, occupying Nazi soldiers posted this order: