“The Jews were shot in the vineyards” – Mazour Donna
It took the genius of our driver, Andrej, for the Yahad-In Unum team to finally get to the Zahnitkiv village, near the Moldovan border, after more than two hours of chaotic roads. First shock: the beauty of the rolling plains, green everywhere and velvet wheat fields; Second shock: the poverty of the villages, and yet the homes decorated with so much care by the inhabitants. White, blue and green dress each dwelling. We left Kotovsk at 9:00 and reached Zahnitkiv at 11:20. Anna and her daughter welcomed us in the courtyard of their home. The Yahad-In Unum team got in place, David set up the camera, and Olga Oskana prepared for the translation, Renata, the script, Jordi, the photography. Alexis, the team leader, began to ask the witness questions, carefully and thoroughly.
Third shock: the witness and her story. Anna was born in the village in 1932. From her house, she saw everything. She saw the guards take Romanian Jews towards the vineyards, she saw them shot and dragged to the big pit dug by those who were “requisitioned”. Her eyes, vast and blue, have kept in memory the horror of these few days of shooting. Three quarters of an hour into the testimony, she agrees to take us to the location of the pit. Together, through the dark earth and tall grass, we cross the field on foot. She points to spot on the ground where the mass grave holds nearly 100 murdered Jews. We are in the middle of an open field, no place to hide, no indication of a crime scene. Renata takes down the GPS coordinates of the mass grave.
We come back and take up where we left off our interview. This afternoon, we will meet and interview two other people. Their welcome is always warm, smiling. Their testimonies corroborate the killings. At the border of the village, next to a garbage dump, a Ukrainian and Hebrew tablet pays tribute to Jewish victims. The letters are erased. We can just barely make out the Star of David which precedes the text.
We leave the village of Zahnitkiv at 19:00 and arrive in Kotovsk at 22:35. We have dinner, Alexis debriefs with the investigators to prepare for the next day. Around 23:30, I climb into my room and try to get some sleep.