Friday: Hili dialogue

Once again we’ve made it to Friday, and it’s the penultimate day of September—Friday, the 29th. It’s a double food (or rather drink) holiday: National Mocha Day and National Coffee Day (it’s also International Coffee Day, which has its own Wikipedia page). Most of us will be celebrating with coffee rather than mocha. In fact, at this moment I’m having my usual giant latte with 2% milk, Trader Joe’s French Roast beans, and some Splenda. To make it more mocha, I’ve put in a spoonful of instant cocoa.

It isn’t much of a “this happened in history” day. In fact, I have only two items. On September 29th, 1789, the first United States Congress adjourned. And, in 1941, the infamous Babi Yar massacre, conducted by the Nazis (or rather their Einsatzgruppe and local collaborators), began.  The object was to kill every Jew in Kiev, and they shot 33,471 of them over two days in a wooded ravine. Here’s a description by a witness, as recounted in Wikipedia:

I watched what happened when the Jews—men, women and children—arrived. The Ukrainians led them past a number of different places where one after the other they had to give up their luggage, then their coats, shoes and over-garments and also underwear. They also had to leave their valuables in a designated place. There was a special pile for each article of clothing. It all happened very quickly and anyone who hesitated was kicked or pushed by the Ukrainians [sic] to keep them moving.

Once undressed, they were led into the ravine which was about 150 metres long and 30 metres wide and a good 15 metres deep … When they reached the bottom of the ravine they were seized by members of the Schutzpolizei and made to lie down on top of Jews who had already been shot … The corpses were literally in layers. A police marksman came along and shot each Jew in the neck with a submachine gun … I saw these marksmen stand on layers of corpses and shoot one after the other … The marksman would walk across the bodies of the executed Jews to the next Jew, who had meanwhile lain down, and shoot him.

Imagine the terror these people felt! A short National Geographic documentary on Babi Yar and the Holocaust is here.

Notables born on this day include Caravaggio (1571; one of my five favorite painters of all time), Horatio Nelson (1758), the genetics charlatan Trofim Lysenko (1898), Enrico Fermi (1901), Gene Autry (1907), Michelangelo Antonioni (1912), Jerry Lee Lewis (1935), and Gwen Ifill (1955, died 2016). Those who died on September 29 include Émile Zola (1902), Winslow Homer (1910; another favorite painter of mine), Carson McCullers (1967, a favorite author), W. H. Auden (1973; a favorite poet) and Casey Stengel (1975). Here is a Caravaggio and a Homer.

First, Doubting Thomas; as the King James Bible says in extolling faith: “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29).

Caravaggio: The Incredulity of Saint Thomas 1601-02; Neues Palais, Potsdam


Winslow Homer, The Fog Warning (1885)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, fall is coming on fast after a cold, rainy summer:

It’s autumn already.
A: Does it worry you?
Hili: No, but I wonder why there was no summer.
In Polish:
Hili: To już jesień.
Ja: Martwi cie to?
Hili: Nie, ale zastanawiam się dlaczego nie było lata?

Here’s an  adorable tweet sent by reader Barry (did your cat ever bring you a flower?):

Grania sent in a “fox fail”:

And two bird tw**ts from Heather Hastie’s Daily Homilies. Kakapos (Strigops habroptila) are the world’s only flightless parrots, have all been moved to an island off New Zealand to protect them from predators, and breed only slowly. Last year, however, there were lots of chicks. Perhaps they can be saved. There are only 154 left, and every one is known and named.

Amazing aerial stunts by a hummingbird:


  1. Randy schenck
    Posted September 29, 2017 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    In this country we have been slightly better at prosecuting war crimes but only when it was the enemies crimes, not so much when it was our own. Overall, a very poor record. People like Bush or Trump take it a step further with a love for torture.

  2. Posted September 29, 2017 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    Thanks for writing about the massacre at Babi Yar. Half of my mother’s side of the family is from there, though her father’s family emigrated from there around the turn of the century, when he was a small boy. I was told that all of our remaining relatives were likely wiped out at Babi Yar. Here’s an embroidered religious artifact with my grandpa’s family name — Smolofsky or Smolowski in Russian. It got changed to “Small” at Ellis Island.

  3. Posted September 29, 2017 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    Actually, it seems to be a towel given for weddings. The first person supposed it was a tallis, a prayer shawl. Somebody else thought it was a celebratory towel.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted September 29, 2017 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      A “Рушник” sounds very familiar. When my Russian (technically Ukrainian, but let’s not re-open that can of worms) wife came over to visit first, she brought a “rusnik” as a gift for my parents, since it was Samhain-wali-mas-New-Year. She didn’t attach any religious significance to it (well, why would one ; no religious indoctrination), but it was a traditional “house-warming” gift to her. As I recall, it’s still gracing the top of their drinks cabinet, to muffle the clatter of glasses, with the heavily embroidered ends hanging down the sides to perplex visitors.
      Different groups within the FSU probably have different interpretations of what a “rusnik” is about. Isn’t that part of what culture is for – disagreeing about?

  4. Alan Clark
    Posted September 29, 2017 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    The first movement of Shostakovich’s Symphony #13 is about Babi Yar.

  5. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted September 29, 2017 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Any of the more Slavically-capable readers see any etymological connections between “Babi Yar” and “Babu Yaga”, the Russian (?) folk demon-witch in her chicken-legged house?

    • Malgorzata
      Posted September 29, 2017 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      I can’t see any other connection except that “baba” means an old woman. Yar in Babi Yar is a “ravine”. So the meaning is “Old woman’s ravine”. There may be some legend connected with the place but a Ukrainian would be better than I am in explaining this.

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