Every year on May 9, Russia celebrates Victory Day to commemorate the Soviet victory in World War II or the Great Patriotic War, as the World War II is referred to by the Russians. The peace treaty had been signed late on 8 May, 1945 in Berlin. Moscow (being in a different time zone) received the news in the early hours of 9 May. The Soviet government announced the victory early on 9 May after the signing ceremony in Berlin.
May 9th became a non-labor day only in 1965 and only in certain Soviet republics. But it was and is the holiday of celebrating victory over Nazis and remembering all those who had died, defending their Motherland.
Soviet Union lost some 27m people in the Great Patriotic War, and no family remained unaffected. Some people fought on the front lines, some worked three shifts a day to supply the army. Two of my grandfathers died in World War II. One went missing, the other died in 1942.
My grandfather’s letter
I grew up in the Soviet Union with stories, books and movies of sacrifice, courage and patriotism of Russian defenders. In films soldiers were strong, bold and courageous. They were Heroes. They always shared with canned meat and chocolate with civilians. I truly believed in that. Until my aunt, Dad’s sister, showed me a letter from her Dad (my grandfather) to her Mom. I was really shocked.
My grandfather was killed in 1942. If you remember the war started on June 22, 1941. Sometime in between 1941 and 1942 my grandfather wrote a letter to his wife asking to send him some croutons. I know that beginning of the war was a very difficult time for entire country. The Soviet Union was not ready for that scenario. The Red Army was backing up. And knowledge that soldiers were suffering from hunger made me feel really sad. My grandmother had three kids at that time. My dad was the youngers one, he was 2 years old. But despite this my grandfather was asking of croutons….It shows how bad the situation in the Soviet Army was.
Since then, I don’t watch too many Soviet style patriotic movies. I still like some of them though, such as “Only old men are going to battle”, “The dawns here are quiet”. You can find them on YouTube with English subtitles.
But any way, the Victory day is a holiday which brings families together. This is a day to remember and think of people who fought and sacrificed their lives for our happy future. The words “Thank my grandfather for the victory” became a slogan of the holiday.
Celebrating The Victory day
On victory Day, many Russian cities hold festive processions and fireworks.
Every year on May 9 Tomsk offers an extensive and interesting program of events.
- track and field run
- parade with the passage of military retro equipment and samples of modern weapons, columns of military units
- the march of Immortal regiment
- open-air cinema
- singing songs of the war
- military field-kitchen with soldier’s porridge
- and many-many other events
- festive fireworks at night
“Immortal regiment” is a public action when people carry pictures of World War II soldiers.
In 2011, in Tomsk, journalists Sergei Lapenkov, Sergei Kolotovkin and Igor Dmitriev noticed that fewer and fewer veterans take part in street processions on Victory Day, and decided to restore justice. They invited people to participate at the parade with portraits of relatives who fought in the War. For the first time the action “Immortal regiment” was organized in 2012 in Tomsk on the initiative of local TV journalists.
Since 2015, the action has officially become all-Russian.
In Tomsk, more than 25 thousand citizens took part in the parade this year. Whole families stood in the column of the “Immortal regiment” to carry portraits of their relatives.
“Immortal regiment” in Russia
More than 10 million people took to “Immortal regiment” action in Russia this year.
In Moscow, the action gathered about 700 thousand people.
More than one million people took part in the March of the “Immortal regiment” in St. Petersburg.
“Immortal regiment” in other countries
“Immortal regiment” is held on May 9 on Victory Day not only in Russia but in other countries too.
About 1.5 thousand people took part in the action “Immortal regiment”, which was held for the fourth year in a row in London.
In Riga, the action gathered 20 thousand people.
In Serbia, the action took place for the fourth time. More than 10 cities took part in it.
Action “Immortal regiment” was held at the first time in Gothenburg in Western Sweden.
A record 1.1 thousand people took part in the March of the “Immortal regiment” in the Austrian capital Vienna on Thursday.
Russian population in many countries celebrate the holiday regardless of its local status. Some multilanguage broadcasting television chains translate the “Victory speech” of the Russian president and the parade on Red Square.
I am glad that the holiday is not forgotten. We remember our Heroes and mourn.