“From July 19 to July 21, while conducting more excavation work on the mass massacre site of civilians, which probably took place in the early years of the soviet regime, in 1919-1921, we managed to exhume the remains of 29 persons. Most of them are young children and women. The number of human remains found since the beginning of our excavation work comes to 173. Poshuk will continue excavating the area, as there are probably other bodies scattered across the whole territory.” the workers said.
The mass grave is located near Zhytomyr, in the village of Shumsk, which was destroyed by the communist regime in 1952 in order to build a tank firing range. At one time, the village counted 540 homesteads.
Oleksandr Loviniuk, head of Poshuk, notes that of the 170 bodies found during the excavations, about 120 are children… children of all ages, ranging from infants to 13 to 15-year-old teenagers.
“Some local fellows were searching the area for old coins and stumbled on some bones. They called us immediately and we arrived as quickly as possible. What we saw when we started digging was just plain horrifying. These people were killed brutally with bayonets, swords and axes. We saw shocking injuries – bones cut in half, heads seemingly cleaved by swords, crushing blows to the temples…many, many children. Of the 170 bodies found during the excavations, about 120 are children… children of all ages, ranging from infants to 13 to 15-year-old teenagers.”
Local historian Oleksandr Tarabukin adds more details:
“From an archeological point of view, most of these people are victims of some specific events, horrifying and tragic events… They suffered a violent death and were buried so that no one would even know or guess anything about it.”
Poshuk believes that the tragedy occurred 100 years ago, and that the mass massacre is linked to soviet food-requisition divisions that helped establish the soviet regime in Ukraine; the villagers were taken hostage and held in ransom in exchange for food and farm products.
The remains of skulls and teeth revealed that almost all the bodies belonged to women, children and older men.
Oleksandr Loviniuk and the other members believe that the villagers were victims of Bolshevik terror, which was later confirmed by findings in the local archives.
“… Documents, memos and notes were found in the archives. The local Cheka reported to Kyiv about food-requisition divisions operating in the village of Velyky Shumsk. These notes are dated December 1919 – January 1920. The Bolsheviks were taking everything the villagers had produced, so the men naturally took up arms and the women stayed at home. But, the communists came and seized them as hostages. Anyone who refused to hand over weapons or food was eliminated on the spot!”
Poshuk member Andriy Savchuk adds that the villagers were probably held hostage to undermine the resistance of the local men.
“According to our findings, the bones showed that these people were killed in a very cruel and violent manner… with different cutting or thrusting weapons. The people were held by the Bolsheviks in order to undermine the resistance of the men who fought against the establishment of soviet power… or in order to force the villagers to surrender their produce to the local soviet authorities.”
Today, the search is ongoing. Historians are also talking to old-timers who might have heard something about this tragedy.
Later, members of Poshuk plan to bury the dead at the cemetery in the nearby village of Sinhury and erect an oak cross at the scene of the massacre.