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Memorial Day in Moscow

The lump of rock glistens in the damp, cold city

Set on a raised plinth in Lubyanka Square.

Its very presence mocks the infamous building opposite

Shouting defiant curses at those who once ruled this land.

Kokarev, Alexander Danilovich, 30 years old.

Expelled from the communal farm for being a kulak.

Shot.  January 31st 1938.

The small knot of people starts to form and builds

By ones and twos from well before the dawn.

As the veil of night is slowly cast aside

The numbers grow, each year greater than the last.

Kokkinaky, Grigory Georgiyevich, 50 years old.

Member of the council of defence attorneys.

Shot.  March 8th 1938.

This is not some grand imperious military parade

With men and machines following painted tracks

Along a broad and shuttered Moscow street.

Rather a humble, simple ceremony of quiet dignity.

Kazantsev, Yakob Yegorovich, 33 years old.

A father.

Shot.  June 22nd 1938.

For now it is ordinary, everyday, decent folk

Paying their respects to honour the memory

Of victims killed in the dark forbidding past

Long dead - but not forgotten.

Jiganin, Ivan Georgievich, 59 years old.

Roads and waterways employer.

Shot.  December 31st 1937.

While waiting their turn to perform their sacred role

On this open and exposed public stage

Each is handed a candle and a slip of paper

Bearing the name of one who is not here.

Eromenko, Grigori Mitrofanovich, 22 years old.


Shot.  March 16th 1938.

Moving to the microphone they each in turn

Read out that written name and honour the memory

Of some poor citizen who didn’t have a choice -

Who had no chance to argue or to plead.

Gerassimov, Nikolai Grigorievich, 33 years old.

PE teacher.

Shot.  April 13th 1937.

Each year those deaths sink further in the past

Yet each year more people come to play their part.

But so vast are the numbers to be remembered and recalled

It will be many decades before all their names are spoken.

Andrei Sergeevich, born in 1888.

Participant of the First Russian Revolution.

Four years hard labour from Tsar Nicholas.

Executed by firing squad.  July 1938.

Fifty million human souls were killed

To satisfy the sick, barbaric plans

Of a simple Georgian peasant named Joseph Dzhugashvili

-  Known to the world as Stalin.


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