May 9th is a sacred day across Russia. Today is the 66th anniversary of the surrender of Nazi troops to allied forces. Every Soviet family was affected by the war. According to Russia Today, 27 million Soviets died whereas the combined deaths from the United States and United Kingdom were less than 1 million.
This evening I paid a visit to Victoria, my neighbor upstairs (double-click photos to enlarge). We sat at her kitchen table where she spread out photos and medals. Her family's story is typical: Her father Oleg, center, was a pilot before he was shot down and killed on his first flight in September, 1941. Two months later, Victoria was born, named in a spirit of optimism.
Victoria's mother spoke fluent German, which got her a job as translator for the Nazis. Later, she was sent to prison for collaborating with the enemy. Enter our hero, Oleg, far left, a classmate of Mama's who had loved her from afar during their teens. Oleg was an army physician, serving on the front. He managed to get Mama released from prison and sent home to be with little Victoria. They married and after the war, it was Oleg who would be a father to Victoria during her childhood and youth. Her mother died at 55 but Oleg lived considerably longer. Both are buried here in Rostov-on-Don. Victoria plans to visit the cemetery soon to decorate their graves.
With dear sister Nina, left, a friend from church, in front of a neighborhood cultural center. The banner proclaims, *(Congratulations) with the Great Victory!*
Elena Lalaevna, our sister from church is a decorated war hero, having served as a nurse in a army hospital near Volgograd, then Stalingrad. Once again this year, she received personal congratulations from Russian President Dimitry Medvedev.
Area veterans pictured on a billboard, downtown Rostov. As you can imagine, the number of veterans is dwindles daily. For lots more great photos, please check out these photos and videos. Last year, I spent a morning wandering around downtown and shooting everything. Just for you!
Now let's turn our attention 1,000 kilometers north to Moscow. Russian parades are something to behold, particular those held in Moscow. Red Square is the size of 12 football fields, the perfect staging area for displays of troops and military hardware. According to Russia Today, 20 thousand troops participated in today's parade. Magnificent as it was, last year's was even bigger, being the 65th anniversary. Imagine: US troops marched through Red Square.