Seeing the movie Defiance http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1034303/ refreshed memories of a trip to Belarus where the dramatic account of this true story takes place. In 1993, my husband and I traveled with a group that took medical supplies to hospitals in Minsk, visited children's camps and distributed Bibles to individuals throughout the region.
The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 led nation states to open borders to Westerners, Belarus in 1991. We had the privilege of seeing people and places the Cold War had kept isolated from the rest of the world for seventy years.
As the movie seeks to portray, hundreds of villages in then Byleorussia were destroyed. Taken by bus to the village Khatyn, we saw a geographical site where every man, woman and child was shot by the Nazis, the bodies piled in the houses and then burned.
Within the memorial at Khatyn, stones on the ground mark the perimeter of houses with gravel streets where footpaths led to front doors which would have opened to friends.
Seeing the village platted took me back to childhood innocence when friends and I scratched the floor plan of our houses in the dirt, gathered stones to mark walls, fences and property. We created a neighborhood.
War memorials, interpreters told us, remind their people of the over 2.2 million Belarussians who died in WWII, one in four. Statues, monuments and coins like the one pictured––which another bus driver gave us––attest to the cost, misery and waste of war.
Defiance against evil that would deprive ordinary people of life, we in America need to remember too.