Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Long Road of Mourning and Hope

St. Petersburg
Levashovo is not far from the city now. Right beyond the green fence are dachas and picturesque places of rest for city residents. For many years the fence protected people from the secret evil which inevitably comes from death, pain and treachery.
In the village of Levashovo near Leningrad from 1918 to 1953 there was a special execution grounds of the NKVD – KGB of the USSR, the so called “Levoshov wasteland.” Bodies were buried right here where they were shot. Levashovo is the the largest secret burial ground of victims of Stalinist repression in the Leningrad oblast and one of the largest in the whole former Soviet Union.
Germans, Finns, Ingermanlanders, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Moldovans, Jews, Assyrians, Tatars, Norwegians, Italians, Poles, Russians.... People who spoke various languages and people who could not speak at all or not near, but living in peace with one another. They lay together here in common graves, well-covered from seeking eyes by trees and the sea sand that was brought here. They waited. They waited for their descendants to remember them and for the truth to prove stronger than the “top secret” stamps of the soulless state.
On June 13th Lutherans made their traditional visit: pastors and congregational members of St. Catherine's church whose ancestors – Latvians and Estonians – were victims of repressions of the 1930s and the deportation campaign of the 1940s-50s. On June 13, 1941 the Commissar of Internal Affairs L.Beria signed the “Plan of events for the transport, housing and labor of special populations subject to deportation from the Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian and Moldovan Soviet Republics.”

Janis Ritvars in his article on these repressions gives the horrifying statistics of the loss: “as a result of two campaigns held in 1941 and 1949, 58557 people were deported from Latvia without investigation or trial. In then end at least 189931 people from Latvia were repressed for political reasons.” Many families still feel the pain of loss and are carrying with them the results of their loss of human rights and citizenship, of being orphaned, abused, and left without education, of being denied their native language and traditions.
Various civil groups such as “Memorial,” ethnic clubs, the museum of genocide, the museum of the History of the GULAG, historians' books, plays and poems, memories of surviving pastors, personal witness of congregational members and our guests and friends from Latvia and Estonia as well as documental and artistic films have worked together to not let this memory be forgotten, despite universal fear and silence.
The number of burials in Levashovo varies in various sources – from 19450 to around 46000. They were officers and soldiers of the First World War, scientists, poets and authors, politicians, doctors, church workers and congregational members, musicians, workers, teachers... These were “social aliens” in society, educated, active and, therefore, dangerous.
Our congregation lost 23 people here. Perhaps more. As the Ukrainian consul put it very exactly when speak about this place - it is a bloody spiderweb of cemeteries. At present we are continuing to carry out historical research in order to better remember our brothers and sisters who were touched by and sometimes destroyed by repression.
Elvira Zheids

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