Lyssnytchi Forest

Walks in the forest remind me of my childhood. The search for mushrooms, the hands of my father holding mine, my mother’s face, scared that we would get lost, the mud on my boots and the laughter of my brother. We always had fun identifying the trees by observing their leaves, touching their bark.

Today, my hands stay in my pockets. I don’t recognize any of the trees. I don’t know try to find out. Today is very far from childhood, buried in the silence of these sites, the lack of understanding is a thick layer of ice. There, under my feet, under the snow, the dead leaves, the decomposed soil, the roots of the large trees, lies 200,000 bodies. The soil is sagging, the graves are visible and the great trees are split like broken bones. 200,000 bodies, shot in cold blood for their culture, their faith, their political opinions.

It is very far from childhood. I feel the weight of at least 100 years. So I walk, not searching for mushrooms, but searching for a sign, a small wisp of hope. I’m scared of getting lost, of remaining trapped here or in my head, of following paths that lead to silence and death. I tighten my fists in my pockets, my dad isn’t here today. My throat tightens, I need to breath, to fill my lungs at least 200,000 times, at least 200,000…

Above my head, the wind dances and the branches murmur. What can they even say? Did they speak before? Do they speak of seasons? The trunks split and grow from long grievances. Their roots are deeply anchored in the soil. They seem to draw their strength in the layers of the past, at the edges of the graves that rise up. Maybe they are growing on top of anonymous bodies, on faces that will forever be silenced. Magnificent, majestic, standing, 200,000 perhaps, they whisper and they dance. Before my eyes, the soaring trunks become faces and bodies full of life. I recognize Sarah, Herold, Anna, Isaac and all the others, they sway in the wind, proud and peaceful.

May they never stop murmuring.

May they keep dancing so that they never stop remaining standing.

It is very far from childhood.

I can never look at forests the same.

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