Kyiv Mayor halts hotel plans

We would like to sincerely thank all those who have signed and circulated our petition and those who have expressed similar concerns.
As many of you may already know, the voices of all those who protested against this plan have not gone in vain as the Mayor Kyiv used his veto power yesterday to block the plan for building the hotel on the site of Babyn Yar.

Below is the article from AFP with details.


KIEV — The mayor of Ukraine’s capital Kiev has blocked a plan that could have seen a hotel built at the site of the memorial to the largest Nazi massacre of Jews in the Soviet Union, reports said on Saturday.

A plan adopted by Kiev’s municipal council to build a range of new hotels in preparation for the European football championships in 2012 included a scheme for a complex at the site of the Babi Yar memorial in the Kiev suburbs.

The plan prompted outrage from Jewish groups, who accused Ukraine of insulting the memory of those killed under Nazi occupation in World War II.

But Kiev Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky has used his veto to block the plan for hotels and “in particular the hotel complex at 52-54 Melnikova Street”, the municipal newspaper Khreshchatik quoted his press service as saying.

That address lies right next to the Babi Yar memorial. The Interfax Ukraine news agency said members of the municipal council had voted for the hotel completely unaware of its location.

Israel’s President Shimon Peres, in a statement, hailed the mayor “for having taken this just and important decision which preserves the memory of the Shoah as an education for future generations.”

The Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem for the Holocaust, also swiftly welcomed the reports from Kiev.

“I welcome the decision of the mayor of Kiev who must have taken into account the protests of Jewish associations including Yad Vashem,” its committee president, Avner Shalev, told AFP.

“Babi Yar is a memorial site not only for Jews but for the whole of Europe … It would have been inconceivable to turn it into a commercial centre.”

Chernovetsky described the reports that Kiev had already approved the construction of a hotel on the site as a “crude provocation”. He said the vote by municipal authorities in no way meant land had been granted for the hotel.

The memorial complex at Babi Yar (Woman’s Ravine) marks the place where on September 29-30, 1941, nearly 34,000 Jews were shot by occupying German forces and their local collaborators in the largest shooting massacre of the Holocaust.

Up to 60,000 more people were killed at Babi Yar up to 1943, among them Jews, Roma, resistance fighters and Soviet prisoners of war.

The solemn ceremonies in commemoration of the Babi Yar victims are conducted in Ukraine every year, and some anti-fascist and Jewish organisations are planning to organise a meeting-requiem on the occasion of the 68th anniversary of the Nazi massacre on Sunday.

The massacre was the subject of the revered 13th Symphony of Soviet composer Dmitry Shostakovich who set to music the poem “Babi Yar” by Yevgeny Yevtushenko.

The massacre was played down by the post-war Soviet Union and the authorities only allowed a memorial to the murdered Jews to be built in 1991.

Ukraine is under enormous pressure to improve its facilities ahead of its joint hosting of Euro 2012 with Poland after being repeatedly criticised by UEFA for its slack preparations.


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Petition against the construction of a hotel at Babyn Yar

We learned today through various sources in the press about a plan that was voted by the city council in Kyiv to build a hotel at the site of Babyn Yar (or Babi Yar) the renowned site of one of the largest mass murders by shooting conducted by Nazis during the Second World War.  It is estimated that more than 33,000 Jews were killed and buried in this place.  Other victims included members of the Ukrainian resistance, Soviet PoWs, Romas, mentally handicapped people, and others. Some estimates suggest that as many as 200,000 people died at Babyn Yar.

Upon consulting with members of the Ukrainian community here in DC, we wrote a petition to show the condemnation of this outrageous decision by the citizens and friends of Ukraine.
If you share our views on this issue, please read, sign and circulate the petition below.  We are trying to get as many signatures as possible to send an open letter to the Mayor of Kyiv.

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Father Sebastian saving sacred art

Father Sebastian, a Ukrainian priest and one of the characters portrayed in our documentary has taken upon himself the mission of saving old sacred art from destruction (either deliberate destruction or simply resulting from neglect and ignorance).

While doing this, he does not discriminate between Ukrainian, Polish or Jewish sacred art, he collects all the artifacts he can find and works on restoring them.

This short scene illustrates both Fr. Sebastian’s unique personality and his exceptional mission.

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More updates…

These past few months we have been working non stop on editing the film but we have also “gone public” with several screenings and events.

In mid-March we participated in a screening of Docs-in-Progress on the campus of George Washington University. It is an organization that helps documentary filmmakers by organizing screenings of incomplete works so that the audience’s feedback helps to shape the film.  More than 50 people were present at the screening where we showed a 15-minute clip that deals with the Ukrainian-Polish relations.

In early April Larysa Kurylas and Steve Lann were incredibly gracious to host a fundraising event for Land of Dilemmas at their house in Kensington.
It was very fun, informative and fruitful. We screened a 20-minute segment that we have edited so far as well as the trailer and held a Q&A discussion afterwards.
More than 25 people attended and the event was able to raise more than 2000 USD!




Fundraising events like this one are beneficial in two ways: first, the funds raised help us in outsourcing some of the work and move faster with editing. And second, the discussion held after the screening allows us to see how the audience responds to our work, which makes them active participants in creating the film. We benefit a great deal from this because we can see which themes resonate better with the audience and what issues we should emphasize on.

This coming Thursday, we are also holding a presentation at the Foreign Service Institute for the officers in training for their posts in Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic States. This is the second time that we hold such a presentation there and it is particularly interesting for us since we are planning on using the film for different educational purposes.

We will keep you posted with updates. 


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New Photo Gallery

A lot of exciting things are happening with the film, but we haven’t been as good in updating the blog as we should have.

First update comes in the form of a new photo gallery on the website. It features some of the production stills we took while on location in Ukraine and Poland.  It’s a little “behind the scenes” of the documentary and also a tribute to the beautiful land that we were priviledged enough to film.

check it out!

Petro in the field

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At the train station

As we were going through our footage, we got accross this clip that we thought was pretty funny – well maybe I should say: we got accross this clip that seems funny now that Petro, the camera and I all survived!


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When the adrenaline rush is over and the editing begins

Deepest apologies to all of you who missed our blog!

We are back with a brief update… we haven’t been writing for a while just because we thought no one would be interested in hearing stories about staying up endless hours in dark editing rooms; translating endless hours of tapes, and roaming the school’s hallways with five hard drives, one computer and a suitcase full of tapes. But then when people started to recognize us from a distance by our pink dotted suitcase; we thought it was about time to update the blog and tell you about it.

First things first; anyone remembers the story about Olia’s daughter saving us in the airport when the stewardess didn’t want to let us go onboard with all of our carry-on equipment? Well, that was the suitcase we were holding.

It has been in planes, trains, cars, horse carriages; it has been on highways and dust roads and now that it is back rolling on the American soil, it has the great mission of holding our precious 150 tapes.



With the current economic crisis going on and all sources of funding currently on hold, our pink suitcase is literally the only thing that we can hold on to. We thought we would be able to outsource translation, but now it doesn’t look like it is going to be possible, so we are staying even longer hours in the editing lab.

Well, to be completely honest, throughout those long nights editing, we did get a sponsor, well kind of. During another one of our long nights working, I was walking through the hallway, when I noticed something left out on a table.  It was baklava.  Real baklava from Lebanon! Just left on a table there waiting for us.  After getting over the fact that someone would actually leave such good stuff go to waste, we were pretty happy and we thought, well, we might not have funding but we have small gifts sent from heaven! That helped us go through the night 🙂

Mac pro+macbook pro+150 tapes in a suitcase+5 hard drives

Mac pro+macbook pro+150 tapes in a suitcase+5 hard drives


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