09 May 2006


Tomorrow is Victory Day. All across Europe people will celebrate VE Day--Victory in Europe--and the end of WWII. Here in St. P we celebrate more. We celebrate the end of The Great Patriotic War (also known as WWII).

Everyone is in a festive mood. The streets have been full of fireworks, races and hundreds, possibly thousands, of men and boys in uniform. Tomorrow they will march down Nevsky Prospekt to Palace Square. I saw them two weeks ago practicing for tomorrow. The different groups of sailors and soldiers all converged on the square in front of the Hermitage. Then, a marching band took center stage--right under the angel.

If you haven't seen it, there is a massive statue of an angel right in front of the tsars' winter palace. She stands with arms raised and head bowed. As long as she stands, the people believe, St. Petersburg will be safe.

There is an excellent series of children's books about Russian history. These three fictionalized accounts take readers from the revolution, in "The Angel on the Square", across the Siberian wilderness and finally through the siege of Leningrad. It is the end of that siege that we celebrate tomorrow.

The tenacity of the people who lived in my new city amazes me! They were blockaded for five and a half months. Electricity was cut off and public transportation stopped. They were freezing and starving. They had eaten everything--grass, the bark from the trees in the summer garden... Finally, finally the water in Lake Lagoda froze and they were able to drive across it on "The Road of Life" to secure supplies.

Despite losing between a million lives, one-third of the pre-war population, the citizens of Leningrad fought bravely in fierce hand-to-hand combat and defeated the Germans. That defeat marked the beginning of the end of Nazi Germany. That defeat told the world that Hitler could be stopped; that evil would not triumph.

It's interesting to me that this part of the war is not often covered in our history texts. It's an amazing story! And yet in school all I remember learning about the Russian involvement in WWII is that they were part of the Allied Powers fighting the Germans. I know that the defeat in Russia (usually accredited primarily to Russian winters and the mud that follows in the spring). Yet, this is an amazing story of a brave, tenacious people! It is a triumphant, victorious story. I think it should be celebrated. Tomorrow, I will join the citizens of Russia in gratefully thanking the survivors of that war and celebrating their victory.

I hope you find a way to celebrate your own small victories tomorrow. Be triumphant!


kate said...

Yes, I'm forced to leave my own comments...

Victory Day is 9 May. As I posted it after midnight on 8 May (really 9 May) it seems like Victory Day is 10 May.

So, to clear things up, 9 May is Victory Day!

Anonymous said...

Happy belated victory day! I met a babushka here in Kiev who spent her college glory days in St. Pete right after the blockade ended and has some amazing stories to tell. See you in a few weeks!