Mr President of Ukraine, Presidents, Ambassadors, Chief Rabbis and religious dignitaries, Ladies and Gentlemen.
There is always a moment, in the destiny of a great nation, when the darkest pages of the book of the dead and the living come into the light of knowledge and remorse.
This moment, for Ukraine, is today.
75 years after the massacre, in Babi Yar, of so many Jews in Ukraine, three quarters of a century after the destruction, in this ravine now forever cursed and forever sacred, of 34 000 men, women and children who were just guilty to be born, time has come for contrition, for repentance and for the entrance of the crime into the great memorial of the universal consciousness.
And it is, of course, not insignificant that this moment should come just on the eve of the very special days that the Jews, all over the world, call « the dreadful days »; it cannot be a coïncidence that it occurs just before a jewish celebration (Rosh Hashanah…) that is the celebration of Judgment – when every single nation has to appear before the throne of God.
I don’t ignore, ladies and gentlemen, how difficult, even painful, this duty of appearance and remembrance may be.
I am well aware of the high price it may seem to carry for any national narrative and for its pride.
And I have the honor to speak, today, in the name of a nation – France – that went through the same sort of holy but sorrowful duty of memory.
Because, ultimately, breaking a silence paved over by decades of censorship (and, here, in Ukraine, by totalitarism, Stalinism…) is, essentialy, what President Jacques Chirac did, when he acknowledged the responsibility of the State for the deportation of the French Jews.
It is what German chancellor Willy Brandt did when he knelt in the Varsaw ghetto.
It is what Pope Jean Paul the Second proclaimed when he prayed in Auschwitz.
And this is what President Poroshenko is doing, today, when he encourages his nation to remember the genocidal mass murder of the Holodomor, to celebrate the righteous among nations Metropolite Andrei Cheptitsky and to pay tribute to those Ukrainians Jews who where killed and buried without a grave, without a trace and without being properly counted.
But we all know that this moment of reckoning is also the path of justice and of truth.
We know that nothing solid has ever been built by a country that did not come to terms with his own shadows and ghosts.
And we are well aware that the decent and righteous recording of history has been the true ground on which the new Europe was built.
Know, Mr President, Rabbis and dignitaries, Embassadors, that all the deeds done here today, know that every word spoken, every name whispered, are like a veil of mourning, forgiveness and redemption laid over an earth stained by the blood of innocents.
But be sure, too, that the very fact that this ceremony takes place, the very communion, on this afflicted ground, of so many Ukrainians from so many different faiths (Jews, Christians, Muslims, non believers), the very encounter of the highest authorities of the new Ukraine and of the states (Israel, Germany) who, with Ukraine and, from now on, with the rest of the world, share the heritage of the dead of Babi Yar, be sure that all of this, for this country, is a new step out of the age of totalitarism and of darkness – and a new step toward Europe.