08 May 2007

Victory Day (День Победы)

62 years ago in Soviet Union, there was a lot to celebrate. The country has risen from the ashes of its initial and gigantic defeats against the Axis powers and fought back with a historical fury that ended up with raising the Red Banner over the ruins of Reichstag in Berlin, the very place where it all started.

Yesterday, the streets of Moscow were decorated and a lot of citizens enjoyed a warm spring day through the activities organised to commemorate the 62th anniversary of the Great Patriotic War (This term is used to define the Second World War. "Patriotic War" is the one where they have beaten the Napoleonic Army -by burning Moscow while French soldiers were enjoying wine there-)

Although, I knew that the neo-russian nationalism (which may be pretty fatal to people with black hair) will reach a temporary climax, I couldn't keep myself from going outside and see the legendary Red Square parades. When I was just a kid, our TV's had some cutscenes from those parades to scare the people of a probable communist invasion (Anyway, the Soviets weren't showcasing the nukes for keeping them in frozen silos). First of all, I was disappointed thet those parades weren't open to public when I met a barrage of Army recruits near the Red Square (Boring Fact: The Russian Army still holds the Red Star as its symbol, thanks to Mr.Putin) So I detoured back home and watched the parade on TV, which ran for approximately an hour and was one of the worst I have ever seen. It was just like a roadshow of talented army bands or the uber-boring parades of Turkish Victory Day celebrations, where the most interesting part is the slow motion parade of Janissaries in overcoloured costumes. Another thing I have realised from our parades is that we have no or very few veterans around. Maybe that's why there is no soul or active heartly participation in Turkish parades any more. In Russia, it is almost a daily practice to witness veterans around the city, as they love to wear they decorations on the streets. The reason is almost mathematical though: Our Victory Day was in 1920s (when we had kicked the invading Greeks back to their islands) but the Soviet Victory was in 1945, which makes a rough 20 years between and a logical reason why most of our veterans have already perished since.

Thinking about the joy and the neverending banners of "We Remember", I have realised that one of the foundations of Soviet Union was the war itself. Nearly all households have drastic memories and losses from that war, especially Ukranians, whose country was the main battleground and they were primarily to suffer from both of the aggressors.

After watching the parade on TV and a brief period of dissilusionment, I made it back to the streets; but now to the Victory Park. As the name implies, this was to be another ground for a major celebration and so it was. The metro was crammed with Veterans and their relatives and some younger men were carrying Red Army division banners. At first, I thought that it was another absurdity to carry war banners in Metro but I was then ashamed to realise that those banners would then be used in the park to make up meeting points of the veterans according to their units.

The bannerholders were made up of veteran relatives, carrying their medals. One of them were carrying his uncle's double Gold Star of Hero of The Soviet Union and told me that his uncle destroyed numerous German tanks (one of them by phsically sliding from the turret entry and slicing the crew's throats while they were preparing to fire). I also met a very eccentric veteran named Vadim, who also had a gold star and a kilo of other medals. Without any hesitation, he described each one of them and how he got them. He was a fighter from somewhere in Siberia and he made it from the battles of outskirts of Moscow to Prague. He told me that the ride from Moscow to Hungary was easier, because he was a tank commander; but they had to fight their way to Prague on foot, after he lost his tank to a friendly fire. He was already telling me how he killed each german and Hungarian soldier when his daughter gave him some pills and water and excused his way to rest on a bench nearby (One of them was really interesting because he told me that they had to kill 3 germans with whom they unintentionally shared the same flat in Budapest). I waited nearby the banner for some time and only 5 veterans showed up. The banner holder, a guy in 40's, named Roman, told me that last year they were 7. One of the veterans died last year and the other was hospitalised 4 days ago. They found him in his ceremonial dress when he was suffering from a minor stroke.

One of the most interesting things I have witnessed was the answer to my question of "What do you think about the russian guys celebrating Hitler's birthday and crossdressing into SS uniforms?". Roman answered after a brief pause "Those bastards know nothing. They would be cleaning German shit if our relatives didn't fight back for their lives...I pity on them"

So was another Victory Day in Moscow...

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