For us, former Soviet citizens, May 9th is not just a day of reconciliation or memory, but the VICTORY DAY, the day achieved at the cost of tens of millions of Soviet citizens. In May, 2016, when I decided to visit my daughter, who was studying in London, my sons and I got a chance to feel it for real.
When we got onto the aircraft we saw 12 WWII veterans Those people made our flight incredible and we didn’t even notice how quickly the time passed.
The boys were listening to the veterans carefully, all of the stories about their life on the front lines. My sons touched the medals with their hands like sacred symbols. I realized that no movies, stories or my teachings would not have had such an impression on them like veterans had.
The commander of the crew upon landing after the regular “thanks for choosing Aeroflot” suddenly paused and uttered in two languages: “Dear passengers, today I have the honor of being the commander of the flight crew on which our veterans flew to celebrate the Great Victory in the capital of Great Britain.” After those word the Russian Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Goncharov, who accompanied the veterans, commanded to the whole board “Hooray! For the commander and the entire crew !!! For our veterans !!!” And the whole board of the huge liner from cab to tail lit up with two short and one drawl … “Hurray! Hurray! Hurray! ” Everyone on the board was crying, smiling and clapping, both Russians and the foreigners.
In a few days, we met our veterans one more time in the park of the British Imperial War Museum, situated in the central London, near the memorial of the Soviet soldier, which was renamed The Soviet War Memorial last year. The plate on the monument says:
“For the Victory of the Allies in the World War II.”
This is probably the biggest of what the West today can agree to. And I was not embarrassed by these words back then, the meaning of which is like the sound of an echo, still in my head. Being aware about how shamelessly the history of the World War II and the role of the Soviet army in it is rewritten in the modern Western world, I asked one of the veterans, “How do you cope with the fact that even here, in England, children are taught a completely different story about the war,” and he replied,
“Honey, we are going to a place where we don’t have to prove or remind who led the world to the victory.”
That day there were not only our veterans and Russian representatives, there were veterans and representatives from France, Italy, England, USA, Africa, Israel and almost of all countries of the former Soviet Union (except for one, it is not difficult to guess which state did not sponsor a meeting for the veterans of the allied forces). There were plenty of flowers, words, flags of all Allied countries fluttered around the perimeter. By the end of the ceremony, the entire monumental figure, a woman with a bell over her head, was buried in flowers, flags, and candles.
When veterans of the “Normandie-Niemen” flight squadron have emerged, we couldn’t hold our tears back. One of them was in a wheelchair. When the French pilots reached the line of laying flowers to the Soviet soldier he threw back the hands of the man who led him the carriage and got up, slowly step by step, he and his countrymen reached before the memorial. These small steps of an almost motionless person are the most frank and loud worship of our dead citizens.
Then the children came out and stood at the Memorial, as the pioneers used to be. One boy read Simonov’s poem “ Wait for me.”
One boy read Simonov’s poem “ Wait for me” in English, and then two girls started singing a cappella a Russian song “Zhuravli”, and everyone sang along. You’d get goosebumps all over your body if you’d only heard the song about Russian soldier flying over London like a dove of peace. Even those who did not know Russian seemed to understand the meaning of words. And we proudly walked with St. George ribbons, tied with our tricolor. Also, like all veteran allies with the same two ribbons. Nobody needed to tell the story, everyone knew it.
Happy Victory Day! Do not forget what it cost us. Our sacred duty is to preserve the memory of a great feat and by all means avoid another war. A nation that does not remember its history is doomed to repeat it. We are responsible for the continuation of genetic memory before our generations.
Natalia Veselnitskaya – official website