13 May 2009

Victory Day

Saturday, May 9 was День Победы or Victory Day. Russia really know how to celebrate this holiday! Starting Friday night with a ball and continuing until through Monday, Russians celebrate the end of the The Great Patriotic War, which is how WWII is named in Russia. You might recall how we celebrated last year, but if this is new to you, I'll add some history along the way, as I show you our pictures.

Early Saturday morning we headed to Дворцовая Плошадь (Palace Square, where the Hermitage is located) and found a spot to watch the military parade. We didn't get a very good spot, but we enjoyed the time outside and with friends.

Here's Isaiah just thrilled to be outside!

Lydia's family joined us for the morning, continuing a tradition we started last year. But we all pretty much agree that next year, we'll start in the afternoon.

This is a much-zoomed-in shot, we were nowhere near this close to the action, but on the stage stood many high-ranking officials who spoke during the parade. The orange and black striped banner represents one of the great medals of Russia. During День Победы people will wear this ribbon in celebration.

After the parade we were able to walk around on the square and get pictures and hand flowers to veterans and survivors of the blockade. I love this family!

We were thankful to know about the traditions of this day better this year. One that I particularly enjoyed was handing flowers to those who lived during the time of the war. The old soldiers were in their uniforms, usually and the women who survived the blockade wore special medals so that they could be identified as well. I was excited to buy flowers the day before in preparation for handing them out!

After the parade and some yummy Carl Jr's lunch, we headed down to a metro station in the center of town. I thought this square looked great with the flags blowing in the wind around the monument.

This year we went to the graveyard where the people who died in the blockade are buried. This flame burns in honor of the dead. People came and laid flowers around the flame, and all around the graveyard as you will see. Some people were trying to throw coins in to the flame

This lady is a "child of the blockade", which means that for at least part of the 900 days during which the Nazis had St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) cut off from the rest of the world, this lady survived. The lady behind her thought it was great that the two people in коляски (the word for stroller and wheelchair are the same in Russian) be in a picture together. Isaiah didn't seem to understand why he was in a picture with a strange lady and without mama and daddy, but I'm glad that we have this picture. The lady is holding a box of chocolate given to her by some men handing them out to all the veterans and survivors and of course, all the flowers given to her by people visiting the graveyard.

What looks like lovely green fields separated by sidewalks are the graves of the people who died in the blockade. No picture could adequately communicate the vast number of these graves. They are marked only by the year in which people died and were buried there. They appear to go on forever.

Behind Thomas and Isaiah is a memorial to those who died on the front or in the blockade. It was covered on all the non-walking areas by flowers left by people honoring their family members or long-lost friends.

When I gave this man a flower in honor of what he had been through, he wished me happiness and health.

People not only leave flowers; they also leave bread, representing the daily ration that was given to people during the blockade--half a slice of bread.

After visiting the graveyard, we returned to the center of town to get a good spot for the March of the Veterans. We enjoyed spending the afternoon with our friend Trevor, another missionary who is from Ireland.

Isaiah was ready to give flowers to the veterans!

The march was led by the governor of St. Petersburg, the lady in the white coat, and several veterans, including this lady in the navy uniform.

Following the governor and this first group of veterans were these soldiers carrying flags in honor of the heroic Leningrad.

Isaiah really enjoyed the parade this year. It's so fun to watch him be more aware of what is going on around him.

The next pictures of those who are called children of the blockade or of veterans. It was a very emotional parade as people shouted "thank you" and "for the veterans" in honor of these people who endured so much.

This man marches every year, and I mean marches through the whole parade route.

The communists were in this year's parade, too; but as they passed, the crowd became eerily silent.

Near the end of the parade people in uniforms from WWII rode by in these trucks, and the crowd began cheering again!

History is an interesting thing, when viewed from the eyes of someone from another country. In America, we often learn that America won the war. Since living in Russia, we've since learned that Russian often resent that implication, that America won the war. It seems that the truth of the matter is, it was definitely a group effort. Records recently released show that Leningrand probably would not have survived without help from the West, specifically America, who sent packages of food and clothing and necessities for survival. However, if Russia had not endured the brunt of Hitler's wrath for so long, dividing in a sense the focus of the German army, the West could have been in even worse shape. Every single family was effected in Russia by the loss of the war, something that is hard for someone as young as I to comprehend. Being able to celebrate Victory Day with the Russian people helps me to appreciate them better, always good to appreciate people to whom you want to minister; but it also helps me appreciate my own country better as well. I am thankful for the men and women who served and suffered and died to protect the world from evil. I pray that we will remember in order to help keep something like this from ever happening again.


schupack said...

great pictures! thanks for the run-down.

simplebeauty said...

Thank you for letting us be a part of this celebration of history. I really enjoyed it!

Michelle said...

wow that sounds like it is quite the emotional celebration to the veterans and children for all they went through.

Thanks for your comment on my blog; your son is adorable!

CristyLynn said...

You're welcome, my pleasure.