Three years after the crash of MH17 flight in the Ukrainian sky, nearly 2000 relatives paid a tribute to the 298 victims on Monday in the Netherlands, at the inauguration of a “memorial wood”, an official monument in their memory.
Forming a “green ribbon”, 298 trees were planted as tribute to each of the victims, including 196 Dutch, who died after the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was shot down by a missile in eastern Ukraine at war.
The monument was inaugurated at 14:00 by King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands in the park of Vijfhuizen, near Amsterdam-Schiphol airport, from which the plane took off on 17 July 2014 To Kuala Lumpur.
The names of the passengers and crew members were read by their families and friends before the King and the Queen, accompanied by 17 children from Vijfhuizen, deposited the first flowers at the memorial. They will be followed by relatives from the Netherlands but also from Australia, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, Germany and Indonesia to commemorate the victims of 17 different nationalities.
These “298 trees keep alive the memory of the victims“, said the foundation of the families of the victims in a statement. This “green ribbon gathers them together and serves as an oasis for reflection, comfort and hope“.
Funded by donations, the project designed by artist Ronald A. Westerhuis and landscape architect Robbert de Koning was selected in November 2015 by 60% of the relatives among three proposals.
“Do not forget”
At the dawn of the third anniversary, the alleged perpetrators have not yet been arrested, but the Dutch authorities have already announced in early July that they will be tried in the Netherlands.
The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) concluded that the aircraft had been hit by a BUK-type missile from Russia and fired from a pro-Russians-controlled fighting area. A hundred people “who played an active role in the drama” were identified by the investigators.
In Kiev, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Monday that Russia should “respond” to the destruction of MH17.
“It was a shameful crime that could have been avoided if there had been no Russian aggression, Russian equipment and Russian missile brought from Russian territory,” Petro Poroshenko said on his Facebook page.
But the separatist authorities and Moscow deny any responsibility and accuse the Ukrainian army.
Some relatives also criticise Russia for “hindering” the investigation, reports the Dutch press. On this anniversary, “it is not only about sadness, mourning and memory. We also want justice,” said Sander van Luik, who lost his brother in the crash, quoted by the popular daily De Telegraaf.
Each tree of the national monument MH17 of Vijfhuizen bears the name of a victim. An apple tree will be devoted to Gary, a sixteen-year-old teenager from Rotterdam (east) whose body has not yet been identified.
“It is nice that there is a tree for him because we have not received any remains,” his father Jan Slok told the popular newspaper AD. “We do not want Gary to be forgotten, let none of the 298 victims be forgotten.”
Sunflowers will be planted in summer in reference to the Ukrainian flower fields where parts of the aircraft were found. In the heart of the forest with eleven different varieties and changing over the seasons, the memorial is an eye directed towards the sky. The eyebrow that borders the iris, steel wall sixteen meters long and four meters high, represents “the heaviness of the loss,” according to the Dutch daily newspaper Trouw. The steel wall should, over time, be corroded by rust, a symbol of the slow evolution of grief. And the names of the 298 victims are engraved in the pupil of the stainless steel eye. “If we look inside, we see ourselves and the name of his beloved,” says artist Ronald A. Westerhuis, quoted by Trouw. “This steel is so polished that it reflects the sunlight on the dark wall.” “The memory literally illuminates the grief,” he adds on his website.
Sources: AP, RTBF