Unquiet Graves: Practices of Historical Memory and Reburials

Unquiet Graves: Practices of Historical Memory and Reburials

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June 15, 2019 / 5.00 pm

National Taras Shevchenko Museum, 12 Taras Shevchenko Blvd., Kyiv

In her introductory lecture to the film, a historian Iryna Sklokina will talk about the role of public rituals of reburials in memory policy. Reburials are used as a metaphor for opening/discovering a historical truth, as well as for reclaiming the dead into the due community of "dead, living, and the unborn." It is also a symbolic flashback and an attempt to repair historical injustice. However, it is a peculiar appropriation of a symbolic capital related to victims and martyrs. The perished seem to have lost their agency and are used instrumentally but can also resist attempts of straightforward interpretations.

Unquiet Graves(53 min.), directed by – Tom Roberts, produced by – Angus MacQueen.

When in summer 1991, some Lviv citizens were officially commemorating the 50th anniversary of the start of the "Great Patriotic War," others witnessed the exhumation and reburial of the remains of victims discovered in the courtyard of Zamarstyniv prison. Several thousand prisoners of Lviv prisons were murdered by the NKVD authorities in late June, 1941, during the evacuation prompted by attack of Germany. In the thick of emotions, participants of both political rituals had a mix of patriotic optimism, the heroism of war triumph, the wish for revenge, anxiety, and bitter discoveries.

Social moods of the moments are documented in a film "Unquiet Graves" that builds the non-existent dialogue of memories and gives voice to different actors in the old-time and recent turbulent events. The reburials and the public meeting are parallel rituals referring to the heroic victims, while some of them have been cultivated for some time, and others were only appearing.

The filming took place in 1991, as commissioned by Channel 4 of British TV as part of a well-known television series "Secret History".

The event takes place as part of the exhibition "Reburial-Transformation" at the National Taras Shevchenko Museum, in partnership with the Center for Urban History.

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Dr. Iryna Sklokina

is a historian and a researcher at the Center for Urban History. Dissertation about the official Soviet policy of memory of the Nazi occupation of Ukraine using the example of Kharkiv. At the Center for Urban History Iryna Sklokina researches historical heritage, in particular industrial and Soviet heritage in Kharkiv and Lviv.


Сover Image: Still from Unquiet Graves, Tom Roberts