On March 22nd 2023 Belarus marked Remembrance Day for the victims of the Khatyn Massacre. Artur Livshyts and our Belarus team were invited by Secondary School No37 in Minsk to their event at the local school museum. 30 pupils aged 14-17 alongside school staff were present to learn about what happened at Khatyn in World War 2. Two former prisoners of the Minsk Ghetto, Frida Reizman and Yakov Kravchinsky were invited as guest speakers.
Headmistress Oksana Andreeva gave an introductory speech, and showed a short film about the Great Patriotic War and the Khatyn Massacre. Khatyn was a village near Minsk with 26 houses and 157 inhabitants. On 22nd March 1943, almost the entire population of the village was massacred by the German Schutzmannshcaft Battalion 118 (with Nazi collaborators) in retaliation for an attack on German troops by Soviet partisans. Around 149 people, including 75 children under 16 years of age, were killed due to burning, shooting or smoke inhalation.
Survivors of the Minsk Ghetto Frida Reizman and Yakov Kravchinsky then shared their own stories in detail of how they survived the Minsk Ghetto, what conditions were like and how the pogroms (massacres) in the ghetto were carried out. There were also massacres in other villages – in the Minsk region alone, 92 villages were burnt down.
Frida mentioned the village of Porechye whose righteous people shielded 40 Jewish children from the Minsk Ghetto between 1941-44. Frida was hidden in this village. There is a monument that she helped erect in memory of the righteous people who saved her life and Artur promised to take the children from School No 37 on a visit to Porechye. Endangering their own lives, the villagers of Porechye saved the Jewish children from the hands of the Nazis.
The memorial event ended with a minute’s silence, bringing to a close what was an extremely moving, emotional and touching event where the pupils were moved and inspired by Frida and Yakov’s stories.
Click here to watch The Together Plan’s film about the village of Porechye.