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.
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.
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.