Monday, February 04, 2013

Volgograd ~ Stalingrad ~ Commemorates February 1943 Victory

Over the weekend, Volgograd observed the 70th anniversary of the bloodiest battle of World War II, the battle in which Nazi forces surrendered, a turning point in the war. The victory of February 2, 1943 was the lead story on the news all day last Saturday, with special programming, interviews with veterans and grainy black-and-white video footage. The battle of Volgograd, that is Stalingrad, waged on for 200 days and has been described as one of the bloodiest in history. As many as two million Soviet citizens were killed.

Just as a rose by any other name is not a rose, veterans have campaigned that Volgograd return to its Soviet-era name, Stalingrad, a rather controversial request. City officials have compromised:  Stanlingrad will be the city's official name on six patriotic days scattered throughout the calendar year including February 2nd. 

A member of our congregation, Elena Lalaevna, served as a nurse during the war. As a decorated veteran, she receives regular letters of appreciation from Moscow, as she puts it. Elena Lalaevna graciously allowed me to photograph her with the newest card signed from the president, himself.

Elena Lalaevna with her card, *70 years after the Battle of Stalingrad.*  (Click  photos to enlarge.)

Pictured inside is Mat' Rodina, or The Motherland Calls, the symbol of  the Volgograd victory, a monument taller than the  Statue of Liberty. The card is beautifully written, expressing gratitude for each veteran's role in the war effort, what a difference his or her bravery made in stopping the Fascist aggression and how their efforts will always be remembered. The card is signed by Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, a most interesting signature.

Speaking of The Motherland statue, here are shots from my trip there one fine May.

Massive. See the people at the base of the statue? Mat' Rodina is atop a hill, 200 steps above the entrance to the memorial area. Each step represents one of the 200 days of the battle.

The general public is not permitted inside the statue. In the second video below, The Motherland Calls, meet the team of mountain climbers assigned to maintain the statue 

This video captures the reverence with which Russia observes such memorial days and the respect given war heroes.Video is courtesy of RT, Russia Today news service.

In this video, we meet the statue's designer and sculptor, the curator and the mountain climbers who maintain the statue.

So, dear Blog Reader, have you been to Volgograd, per chance? Have any family members who served in Russia? Or are you a World War II history buff? Please do share.

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