The Beating Heart of Men, Women and Children

Simon O’CorraApr 6, 2022

KHARKIV, UKRAINE - JUNE 17, 2017: Drobytsky Yar burial place and memorial complex - prior to Russian attacks - in a ravine near Kharkiv where 20000 local residents, mainly Jews, were killed by Nazi troops during winter 1941-1942.

Drobitsky Yar Holocaust memorial after recent Russian attacks.


Heritage provides us with a sense of place, a connectedness to that place, to land, traditions, customs and family (Beck, 1995) 

This article is about the cultural devastation being inflicted on the Ukraine by Russia in 2022. In the beginning of my research for this, I contacted a range of Ukrainian Organizations outside of the Ukraine, to ask them about the devastation, particularly of historical heritage, culture and the arts. Whereas most people were most kind and appreciated the need for such an account, one person, shocked me back into the comfortable reality I take for granted.

This person said to me “What use is culture if there is no one left alive to experience it.”

Of course, people are being killed, injured or displaced every day now and their immediate basic needs are and must be of paramount importance. However, culture is another part of the human condition, and its destruction can so often be used as a psychological weapon by aggressors and is being used right now in Ukraine.

In the midst of this terrible invasion the world looks on helplessly, in order to avoid an even worse situation for the Ukranians and the world as a whole. However, UNESCO is drawing up a list of important cultural and heritage sites that they know to have been damaged, albeit, not destroyed, during the conflict so far. All in order to bring Russia to account for its Heritage War Crimes as much as its human ones.

One such site is the Menorah Memorial, Drobitsky Yar, near Kharkov, commemorating the 15,000 Jews murdered by the Nazis, the nemesis of the then Soviet regime, on this site in WW2. The damage done to this cultural edifice is in effect and according to the Hague Convention of 1954, a War Crime, as much as those committed 81 years ago and now being committed by Russia, against citizens in the Ukraine.

Going back to the response I received which implied that this account was of little importance, I now seek to challenge that view.

Over 4 million Ukrainians have left Ukraine. So what of their cultural heritage and its importance to them, as they live out the short to medium term future as refugees and hopefully return to their homeland at some time? Once they return will they not need heritage and culture, as much as they ever have, if not more, as they seek to rebuild their lives, in a Post Invasion country.

This invasion brings new victims each day and in some respects we cannot know all that is being perpetrated by an aggressor on Ukrainian soil. But. We must not forget the vital importance of our cultural heritage, and at this time especially in the cultural hub of the Ukraine. To this end I shall seek to investigate the cultural and heritage destruction taking place in the Ukraine. 

Simon O'Corra has been a creative since childhood, working in theatre and film and also as a designer and artist. He now combines all these skills to write monologues, duologues, short and feature films and plays. He also has experience in the following: copywriting, research, ghostwriting, mind mapping and brainstorming, script editing and mentoring. Simon is a people's person and is a great networker. He currently has a range of short and feature films in development and plays also awaiting production dates post-Covid.

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