Lokachi and Rawa-Ruska
This morning, in the town of Lokachi, we had the opportunity to meet Vassyl, 84 years old. Despite his physical frailty, he brings us to the sites of the mass grave of 100 Roma shot in 1943 by a German detachment. For the group, it’s the first testimony on a massacre concerning the Roma community, as the preceding testimonies were about the Jewish massacres.
Then, we get back on the road because the distances to cover between the different study sites are vast and time is limited. In this way, during our meal in the bus, we become aware of the social reality of the villages in the west of Ukraine. The gaps in terms of infrastructure, public services and communication networks are particularly visible.
At the beginning of the afternoon, we arrive in Rawa Ruska after 2 hours on the road. Starting with our arrival in front of a memorial dedicated to the Jews, we all understand very quickly the symbolic weight of this town, not only for the Jews but also for the French and Soviet prisoners of war. In effect, the town and its locality represent all the types of Nazi extermination operations including the ghettos, the shootings and the extermination camp of Belzec. We are at this moment confronted with the volume of Nazi crimes that were particularly virulent in this area. We learned for example that about 600,000 individuals were killed at Belzec, located only 15 kilometers from Rawa Ruska. Moreover, there were 2,000 Jews in Rawa Ruska in 1939, while there are currently only 20 Jews here today.
On the other hand, we noticed the concrete demarcation of memorial sites in this town, such as a mass grave for French prisoners of war or the shooting site of a Jewish group. It’s a notable characteristic because up until today, none of us had noticed such a precision of demarcation of the graves or the cemeteries.
At the end of the day, one of our last visits was to a cemetery of German soldiers, only several kilometres from their acts of violence. We were all struck by the meticulous upkeep of this cemetery, in stark constract with the state of wilderness of the massacre sites we saw earlier in the day.