On retourne à Kinguissep !

(We return to Kinguissep !)

I did not see past the three days I have been with the team! I just can not believe that I’m leaving today to go back to Paris. I don’t like to leave in the middle of research as the time we spend together makes us stronger, fighting to bring back the memory of this horrible history. Yet, it is so important for the families of the victims and for the next generation to learn that we cannot build a better world if we do not give dignity to the victims.

We left the hotel at 8:30 in the morning. It was totally dark and it is difficult to get used to so few hours of sun everyday. I put my luggage in the back of the car and I had this pinch in my heart, knowing that in a few hours I would have to leave the team to go to the airport.

We arrived at a quarter past ten in Kinguissep. We went straight to the Veterans’ Center, a couple of blocks from the city hall where we had spent a lot of time the day before.

We had to wait for another 20 minutes for the Veterans to finish a meeting and then we entered the two rooms, where they meet every week. The ladies were very well dressed and very happy to see us arrive, the witness welcomed us and he started to discuss with Katia and Lariza, our two Russian translators.

It took another fifteen minutes before we were all ready to start the interview.

The witness we interviewed was born in 1925 and was a young man when the Germans arrived in the village. He remembered a lot of details about the arrival of the Germans and how they mistreated the population. He was sent to a labor camp but he was able to go home every night to sleep. During the day, when he was working, he met with the other prisoners, the POWs and the Jews who were in the camp. He had good relationships with them, but he said that the living conditions were terrible. He and his friends were told by the Germans to behave if they did not want to end up with the other prisoners living in the camp. I thought to myself that the world “living” should have been replace by “surviving.”

The time ran fast and my taxi arrived just in time to drive me to the airport. I said goodbye to the team, one by one, with a small smile to hide the disappointment of being apart. We promised each other to meet very soon, before the end of the year, for those going back to Paris in two days.

The route was long and my mind was full of reflections of the time spent with the team. I did not have time, of course, to visit the city of Saint Petersburg, which I have been told is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I promised myself to come back. The question is whether I will come back to continue looking for the mass graves of all the Jews and Roma killed during WWII or if I would have an open spirit to enjoy the beauty of the city.

Arriving to the airport, my flight is late and I try to keep myself quiet before reentering the routine of daily life. I just want to think about all of the people working with Yahad – In Unum during 2015, those courageous young people who gave all the best of themselves to save the memory of the victims.

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Sunday will be the last day of research for the year 2015. 18 research trips were conducted this year and more than 599 new testimonies and 277 extermination sites were identified.

Thank you to all the followers and supporters!

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