What is the message in Zabytko's "Home Soil"?
“Home Soil” centers upon the experiences and the guilt of a Ukrainian American, the narrator, and his son, Bohdan. The narrator committed a war crime in Ukraine during World War II, and he still replays “that scene in … [his] mind almost forty years after it happened” (paragraph 33). His son Bohdan, who has lost his Ukrainian roots (he prefers to be called “Bob” rather than “Bohdan” [paragraph 4]), has undergone some similar but undisclosed experience in the Vietnamese War.
The story itself takes place on a Sunday, the first section being in church (paragraphs 1–36) and the second at the narrator’s home. The parallel experiences of father and son reach a climax in paragraph 36, when the narrator speaks of the impossibility of finding inner peace even though he is leading a totally peaceful and successful life.
The son’s tears (paragraphs 40–42) show that he feels the same loss of inner peace. Interestingly, there is no solution to the existence of guilt. As much as the narrator can say is “I don’t die. Instead I go to the garden” (paragraph 37), an action that suggests the irrevocability of inhuman actions and the permanence of guilt.