A voice from the grave at BykovniaFor more than a year now, I have been reconstructing the story of a Polish friend whose father and half-brother died in the Katyn Forest massacres. We have long known that the murders weren't limited to Katyn, and that Basia's father and other thousands of Polish prisoners were apparently taken to Kiev in the Ukraine, and there killed and buried in mass graves in the spring of 1940. Now we know that for certain, with the release of the "Ukrainian List" of victims. (Basia's father is number 862 on that list.)
This comb is one of the memento mori that have been unearthed from the graves. I'm told that it measures a tiny 4x7 centimeters (1.6x2.8 inches), so it was probably a mustache comb, with its fine teeth suggesting that it was meant to comb out lice. The comb was made in Austria of a plastic material soft enough for its owner to scratch a record of his imprisonment with a pin. On the top he seems to have listed the stops on his trek through the Ukrainian Gulag, from January 21 to May 24. Beside that are several names written vertically (as the image is oriented). Then there's a horizontal line with a list of names beneath it. Presumably the unidentified owner put the comb in his pocket as he was taken to the dank prison cellar to be shot.