Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany. День Победы, as it is known in Russian, marks a day of tradition, pride, and remembrance of those who served in the Great Patriotic War. That’s the official description at least. For all the Russians that I've met here in Moscow, the day holds a meaning of both joy and pain. It is nearly impossible to find a Russian family who has not been personally affected by the war. Moscow, after the parade that was televised for all the world to see, was full of concerts, delicious food, fireworks, and people of all ages in celebratory moods. At the same time, people marched around the city with portraits in hand, of their family members, whom they had lost to the war. The mood was quite hard to fully capture.
I consider myself incredibly lucky to have been able to take part in the traditions of the day. I woke up in time to watch the parade that all of Moscow eagerly anticipated. I attentively watched the televised program for two hours with my host mom, while eating a Russian breakfast. It definitely felt to me like a happy, lighthearted, spring holiday. As we continued to watch, the war songs played by the orchestra/band, started to bring my host mother to tears. She began to reminisce over her own memories of the war, and in between tears, described to me her personal experience. And it was at that moment that I felt the significance of the day.
During the second half of the day, I decided to venture out into the city in order to explore and observe the traditions and festivities for myself. I met up with friends and we walked around the crowded city that had never looked quite so beautiful. We enjoyed the beautiful weather, walked by all the displays, and stands selling foods and souvenirs for hours, killing time until the fireworks at the end of the day. Speaking of which, I can easily say that it was one of the most amazing fireworks shows I have ever seen. There were sites all over the city, filling the entire sky with brilliant colors.
While watching the fireworks, I remembered a story that my host mom had told me earlier this semester. She had described to be how she perfectly remembered this day 70 years ago. She recalled, though she was a little girl at the time, hearing sirens and loud calls in the middle of the night, signaling both the arduous victory and the end of the war. Her family, as well as her entire neighborhood, ran out of their homes, in their nightgowns and pajamas, to celebrate the end. My host mother described the happiness, the sense of relief, and the pain that the families, crying, yelling, cheering, embracing each other, felt at that particular moment.
I couldn't help but feel a little bit of that history, as I stood outside, looking into the brightly lit, night sky. It truly was a perfect way to wrap up my semester in this beautiful country, nicely paralleling how bittersweet the end of my time here really is.
Posted by Kyriaki Christodoulou / 05.12.2015