This post first appeared on Russia Insider
Thursday, Russia celebrated Victory Day, commemorating 74 years since the end of WWII with parades and processions around the country. The main action, as always, was in Moscow.
Among the participants were thousands who formed the "immortal regiment," carrying portraits of relatives who fought.
So, Russia celebrated Victory Day, marking the 74th anniversary of the end of the Great Patriotic War and the complete defeat of Nazism throughout Europe. Military parades were held all over the country today. Then, along the streets of Russian cities and practically the whole world, "Immortal regiments" marched. People, and in our country, there were at least ten million of them, carried portraits of their relatives who participated in that terrible war in their hands. The main action, of course, took place in Moscow. Hundreds of thousands of people marched from Belorussky Railway Station to Red Square. In the procession, as in all previous years, Vladimir Putin took part again. Other famous Russians, whose family history will always remember the war, joined him.
Polina Ermolaeva has the details of how the Immortal Regiment marched around the country.
The immortal heroes are back in the ranks. This great river of people's memory flows from Belorussky Railway Station down Tverskaya Street and spreads over Red Square.
“If you walk once, you'll never forget.”
“Thank you, grandfather Vanya, I'm proud of you!”
“This is my great-grandfather. He went missing.”
“We are proud of him. He was our beloved grandfather, the hero of our big family. We love him very much.”
They walked shoulder to shoulder: soldiers and generals, sailors and foot soldiers, and those who forged a victory in the rear. Millions took place in the procession. No statistics can measure this heavenly army, how many deceased are behind every living person.
Olga Kabo, Meritorious Artist of the USSR: “Isaac Solomonovich Kabo was a 1st rank captain, commander of a submarine. Initially, he dreamed of being a violinist, to enter a conservatory. That's why I remember that when I was very young, he came to visit me, and it was my grandfather who gave me my first violin.”
“He fought on the submarine ShCh-309. I also want to be a sailor.”
The children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren of soldiers of victory today carefully carry the memory in their hands. Robert Rozhdestvensky said that it isn't the dead who need it, but the living.
My grandfather, Ermolaev Mikhail Vasilyevich, was this 19-year-old cadet who met June 22nd, 1941 near Gomel. He was a career officer and served his country all his life, but didn't like to remember the war. And this is my grandmother's elder brother. I couldn't even talk to him, and there's no grave to pay tribute. He's Shmarov Nikolay Georgievich, a defender of Leningrad, who stood on the Oranienbaum Bridgehead. He went missing in February of 1944.
How they waited for letters from the front, how they survived in the hell of the siege - each story is a page of the history of the Great Patriotic War, washed with tears. Zinaida Sergeevna Tsebrikova's father, when going off to war, left his children all 11 pounds of flour given out to the conscript.
“She baked 11 pounds of kalaches of that flour. We called them "sweet koraliks" in Ukrainian. The youngest son said, "Dad took all of the koraliks." And he threw that bag from the car and said, "Feed the children."
Veterans' memories are priceless. Ivan Stepanovich served in a medical battalion. When they arrived at Auschwitz, they had no idea of what was behind the barbed wire.
Ivan Martynov, veteran of the Great Patriotic War: “We looked them in the eyes and saw that their eyes were shining and they understand that the liberation had come, that the hell in which they lived for many years was over for them.”
After 1, 418 terrible days, there was a victory, one for all. Vladimir Putin, holding a portrait of his father, is in the ranks again. His father almost died on the Nevsky Pyatachok, where he was seriously wounded.
“There is no such household where the stories are not retold.
And the eyes of the young soldiers
watch from faded photos.”
Vasily Lanovoy, People's Artist of the USSR: “This is a colossal movement. The memory of that generation that defended our life, our country, our culture, Russian soul, created it.”
Yuri Levitan's frontline was radio, his voice was his bayonet. Like his great-grandfather on May 9th, 1945, his great-grandson is on Red Square today.
“When, on May 9th, he was to announce the order of victory (we see today how many people are here), he went to this square and couldn't get through because front-line soldiers, children, and everyone was waiting for the announcement in Levitan's voice. He shouted, "Comrades, make way, I have to go, I have an emergency!" They said to him, "What emergency? Wait here, Yuri Borisovich is going to announce an order of victory now.”
“Katyusha walked out to the shore,
To the tall, steep shore.”
Memory doesn't distinguish between borders and nationalities, of course. The entire world holds the banners of the Immortal Regiment. It's Moscow that the descendants of the participants of WWII come to. They're Frenchmen, Serbs, Britons.
- I congratulate you.
- I congratulate you, too.
They walked along Tverskaya Street with portraits of their heroes in this endless stream of people where the triumphant "Hurray" was regularly heard. There was a fantastic concentration of emotions. This is a story that is written right before our eyes. This is time, which, it seems, they managed to deceive. A letter from 1943 found the addressee today.
“I want to give you this "triangle" from 1943. This is a letter from my grandfather. A brother wrote it to his sister.”
Tatyana Vasilyeva, People's Artist of Russia: “Our family was more fortunate. Almost all of the letters, by some miracle, reached my mom. In these sheets, there's a particle of these people, the closest, the dearest.”
The farther the victorious May of 1945 is away from us, the less, of course, the hope for a miracle is. Maria Igonina, a researcher, managed to find photos of her two great-grandfathers only this year.
Maria Igonina: “I only had the clue that he was in a hospital in the city of Kazan after being wounded. They lost touch with him in March of 1943. Others went missing. Therefore, in any case, they're heroes for me even without award sheets, any information.”
In black and white portraits, there are eyes of those who are forever with us. Sometimes there's no photo left - just the name.
“I'm so proud to walk here with others so that everyone could see that small-numbered peoples - the Nganasans, who number only about 700 people - fought for their homeland, their tundra, their families.”
Evgeny Alexeevich Znamensky dug trenches when he was 16. When he was 17, he went off to war. When he reached the Reichstag, he didn't have a pen to leave his signature in history. Evgeny Znamensky, veteran of the Great Patriotic War: “There was a soldier there. I said to him, "give me your doodad." It was either a fork or a piece of iron, I don't remember now. I stood up on my tiptoes and scratched, "Znamensky, Serpukhov."
How they burned under Prokhorovka, how they died near Stalingrad. Near Rzhev, 400,000 people alone were killed, captured, or went missing. Here's the column of the descendants of the participants of those battles. Today, the start of fundraising for the construction of a memorial to the heroes was announced.
Vladimir Medinsky, Minister of Culture: “This will be the first monument dedicated to the Battles of Rzhev and probably one of the largest memorials in the territory of the former Soviet Union.”
Sergey Chemezov, CEO of Rostec Corporation: “The Battles of Rzhev have a particular significance to me because my grandfather was killed in them. His name is Feodosy Sergeevich. He's the father of my mom. Unfortunately, we still can't find his remains.”
Aleksandr Domogarov, People's Artist of Russia: “I'm here for the first time and I feel the unity of people. This is a great feeling. This is my father, he was severely injured. I walk as a part of the Rzhev regiment. He was transferred to the reserve near Rzhev in 1943, awarded the Order of the Red Banner.”
Today, all of the republics of the victorious country are together. They didn't divide the victory in the sacred war because they shared a loaf of bread and peace is shared.
“As my mom said, "Grandpa couldn't walk there, so you will."
“It's impossible to show it in Kiev today but we do it with great pleasure in Moscow.”
We use soldiers of the great war as our moral guide. They're alive while we remember them. And this past protects the future.
“I'd like to give him a hug. I regret that I asked him very little then, although veterans don't like to talk about it.”
“I'd say to my great-grandfather that I wish I'd had more of him in my life. I remember him when I was very young. Honestly, I'm very sad that he isn't here.”
There was an endless stream of people. The river of memory didn't shallow even in the pouring rain that started the capital in the evening. It was not even millions - the entire country with the names of the heroes in the hearts and the memory that gives immortality.
Sometimes it seems to me that the soldiers,
Who haven't returned from blood's fields,
Haven't lain in our land,
Have turned into white cranes.”
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
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