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Pole to Pole

Day 34: Kiev

Kiev, USSR 
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Michael Palin - Pole to PoleHe reassures Vadim that the rehabilitation committee set up by Gorbachev last year to investigate the cases of political prisoners in the USSR has cleared 1200 people in less than five months, and that he himself will personally try to expedite matters in the case of Vadim's father. Then he offers us all green tea from Uzbekhistan complete with a special herb which, he tells us proudly, he has grown himself. It is altogether a smooth performance, but Vadim, who has grown very cynical about Soviet justice, feels that there is substance there as well.

We take a quick tour of Kiev, which looks a green and handsome city with broad boulevards and trees everywhere. It's hard to imagine that, in my lifetime, these green and pleasant hills were the scene of unspeakable suffering. During the time the Nazis occupied Kiev - from October 1941 to October 1943 - 400,000 people were killed, either in the city or in extermination camps, 300,000 were deported to forced labour camps in Germany, and eighty per cent of all residential houses were destroyed. The reconstruction of the city, especially the fine old buildings like the Monastery of the Caves, must be one of the more tangible achievements of the Soviet regime. There has been a price to pay, such as the erection of an enormous stainless steel statue of a female warrior, 320 feet high, dominating the heights above the Dnieper. Huge, gross and unavoidable, it dates from the seventies and is known locally as 'Brezhnev's Mother'.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 34
  • Country/sea: USSR
  • Place: Kiev
  • Book page no: 76

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