Monday, May 9, 2011

Happy Victory Day--С Днем Победы!

May 9: today is Victory Day in Russia. The Soviet Union lost 8,806,453 combat troops and 13,684,692 civilians in WWII. Nobody lost more, and nobody won more in the battle against the Nazi's. So thank you Russia, Ukraine, and all other counties of the Soviet Union for stopping the Nazi Juggernaut with your blood. Celebrate. We celebrate with you!

I have to admit that my friend Alex Newby wrote this quote above, but since I found it so profound and true, I felt the need to share it with you. In the United States we may learn in history classes that the Russians fought hard in WWII, but (at least for me) I was never truly impacted by just how much. I realize that this is a generalization I am about to make, but I feel that often Americans believe that we came into the war and "shortly" thereafter, the Allies won. It is true that American participation in the war was vitally crucial, but we sometimes forget that without the deep, sustained, and determined resistance of Russia, and the other Allied countries, the Germans would have won. The graveyards throughout Moscow and the rest of Russia are jam packed with WWII soldiers. Today--this beautiful May 9, we celebrate the victory over Germany in 1945. This is the largest and most important holiday in Russia and I'd like to show you a few photos I took around town today.

For me, the celebration for this day actually started several days ago. In school on Thursday, my students took a short bus ride into the village of Zaitsevo where they gathered around a WWII memorial, placed flowers there, and honored some of the veterans from the village.

Later that afternoon, quite a number of veterans visited our school and came to each class to tell about their experiences in the war. These two gentlemen visited the 5th grade. I wish I could have understood everything they said. With my limited Russian, I did figure out that the gentleman on the right was a prisoner of war--which was later confirmed by one of my students.

All over the city, the government has been preparing for this big day. Russian flags have been placed everywhere and the white, blue, and red is everywhere.

This morning--May 9--a few friends and I went to Mayakovskaya--a shortish distance from Red Square to watch the military parade go by. We thought it would start at 10am, so we got there around 9 in order to get a good spot to see. The parade didn't start until 11:30:( It was actually a bit chilly, and amazingly enough--it was also cloudy. This was amazing because the government had spent 50 million rubles to seed the clouds with chemicals yesterday so it wouldn't rain. It didn't rain, but there were dark clouds. Anyway--the parade was okay. There was a helicopter fly over with flags that was neat and then lots of tanks drove by. It wasn't as exciting as I thought it would be. Of course there was a lot more to the parade, but it only took place in Red Square--which you could only get into as a VIP or a reporter.

Afterwards we went to a nice American diner called Starlight Diner, where you can get real American burgers and milkshakes. After eating Russian food everyday at school this is a nice change--even on Victory Day:)

Then we went to Park Pobyedi. "Pobyedi" means "Victory", so it is Victory Park. I drive past this park everyday on my way to work, but I had never been there before. It is normally very quiet with not many people there. Today however...there were many many thousands. You come up from the metro into the bright sunlight and your sight is filled with people, fountains, flowers and the towering monument in the distance. People are sporting their orange and black victory ribbons--they are tied to bags, pinned to lapels, and weaved in hair. Everyone is proud to be Russian today; and I am proud to live here among them. You go through security and then weave your way slowly through the crowds taking pictures of flowering monuments and veterans who are being honored by society. All around you see many veterans, their jackets pinned with decorations. And in their arms are many flowers. Someone goes up to them to shake their hands, give them flowers, take a picture, and say "Thank you for bringing us Victory." It is quite special to see.

We walked around to the back of the park by the museum and lay on the grass talking, laughing and eating ice cream. Hundreds of others had the same idea. Eventually we continued to walk and saw some holocaust statues and other memorials. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful park. This evening there will be a big fireworks show at Park Pobyedi, but I decided to come home--to relax, write in my blog, and prepare for school tomorrow.

It is so difficult to think of going back to school after such a nice holiday, but I need to remind myself that this was not just a day off of school. We all need to remember the sacrifices that others have made and to be willing to make the same sacrifices if necessary. This world is not all about me and my desires. One of my favorite verses is John 18:37. "For this end I was born, and for this end came I into the world that I might bear witness to the truth." Let us all remember that true Victory is from the great Victor and through Him, we can bring truth and victory to our world.