Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Day of Victory: The 9th of May

Veterans March: They went off to war much too young.

Today, the 9th of May is the 61st anniversary of the Day of Victory, celebrating victory over the Nazi occupation of Russia from 1941 to 1945. As I write these words, the first rumbles of the “sal-OOT,” the eveningfireworks have started.

Hundreds of silver-haired veterans marched through the city this morning, the street lined with cheering crowds. It was a scene duplicated in cities spanning the nation’s 11 (or so) time zones: By-standers rushed out into the parade to hand red tulips and lilacs to the marchers. The veterans proudly sported their uniforms encrusted with war medals.

Each of the veterans alive today represents 40 other soldiers who went to the war, according to my number-crunching. The Red Army managed to stop Hitler’s advance across Russia but victory came with a steep price. Only ten of 40 Russian soldiers survived the war and of those ten, only one solder lives to this day, 61 years later. (Another comparison, 62 Russians were killed for each American casualty.)

Victory Day is a sacred holiday, a tearful holiday even decades later. Many attend as families, especially those honoring a grandparent, and haul out special-occasion clothing for the day.

"(Congratulations) with the Holiday!"

Think of the typical Memorial Day celebration in the US, ratchet that up about 25 times, and you have the magnitude of Victory Day in Russia. And, as we say in greeting on such a day, “S PRASD-nee-kom,” that is, “(Congratulations) with the holiday celebration!”

Somebody's Beloved Grandpa. Stopping the parade for a quick photo.

Lots more photos in my Webshots.com photo albums.

Sources: Washington Post, CDI Russia Weekly, Moscow Times – English language on-line edition, Russian television – Channel One, The City Newspaper of Rostov (Russian language newspaper).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Through the decades I've likely read more than a couple of hundred books on Russia's involvement in World War II, and have come to understand precisely why May 9 is indeed a "sacred" day for aging former members of the USSR's armed forces--as well as surviving Soviet citizens of that incredible hour in history. I simply can't put into proper words the measure of respect and admiration I harbor for World War II veterans of every nation--Allied and Axis alike.