Sep. 29, 1999


by Philip Booth

Broadcast Date: WEDNESDAY: September 29, 1999

Poem: "Hope" by Philip Booth from Pairs, published by Penguin.

It's the FEAST DAY OF ST. MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS in the Greek and Roman Catholic Churches. Folks in central Pennsylvania make it a point to have their annual goose dinner tonight; a local tradition that grew out of the old English proverb: "If you eat goose on Michaelmas Day, you will never want money all the year round."

It's the anniversary of the BABI YAR MASSACRE, in 1941, the annihilation of nearly 34,000 Jews in just two days by the Nazis. The Germans had captured the Soviet city of Kiev in mid-September. Most of the city's nearly 200,000 Jews had fled — but those who stayed were held responsible for a series of bombings against the Germans' command posts. Notices were put up on September 28 ordering all Jews to appear the following morning at 8:00 a.m. at the corner of Melnik and Dektarev streets, for purposes of resettlement to new locations. On the 29th, 33,771 Jews showed up and were marched down Melnik to a picturesque ravine at Kiev's outskirts called Babi Yar. There, they were stripped and ordered in groups of 10 to advance to the lip of the ravine, where they were machine-gunned. In 1961, Dimitri Shostakovich based his Symphony No. 13 on the poem, "Babi Yar," by the Russian Yevgeny Yevtushenko.

The British naval hero, HORATIO NELSON, was born on this day in Norfolk, England, 1758 — the symbol of early 19th-century England's prowess on the seas, right down to the black eye patch over his right eye, which he lost in battle. In the climactic naval battle of the Napoleonic Wars off Cape Trafalgar, Spain, on October 21, 1805, Nelson captured the French and Spanish fleet, ending Napoleon's hopes of ruling the seas.

It's the birthday of the Spanish writer MIGUEL DE CERVANTES, author of Don Quixote, born just outside Madrid in 1547. In 1571, he was a 24-year-old sailor in the Spanish fleet off the coast of Greece, when a battle erupted with Turkish ships. Though Spain won that battle, Cervantes was later captured by pirates and sold into slavery. Five years later his family bought his freedom, and Cervantes spent the rest of his days in Seville and Madrid writing, first short stories and plays that found hardly any readers; then his novel, Don Quixote, completed when he was nearly 60 and which made him a household name across Europe; the story of the old knight, Don Quixote. His name became the source of the word "quixotic".

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