For many Americans May 9 is just another spring day. In Russia, however, one would have to be comatose not to pick up that this date marks the anniversary of the Allies’ victory over Nazi Germany. World War Two will not be soon forgotten here. Much of it was fought on Russian soil, resulting in the majority of total war casualties on both sides. They say that some 20,000,000 Russians, both soldiers and civilians, died in the war. Some believe that this estimate is low.
I Love a Parade
Every year this day is marked with parades. In Moscow and some other cities this includes a display of military might. Here in Akademgorodok the celebration is more modest. Yet hundreds of people, from the few remaining veterans and the children of the war to young students who only know that time as long-past history, take part.
Watching this parade is like going back in time, stepping into another world. Since the end of the Soviet Union things have changed so dramatically here that scarcely anything from that era remains. Not so on this day!
Once again loudspeakers blare out patriotic marches and songs from the ’40s. An announcer congratulates the people on the great victory, with a voice and inflection right out of old Soviet movies. Old-timers sit together and sing the old tunes. Only relative newcomers such as helium balloons remind one that the year is 2013, not 1945.
In Akademgorodok, a city founded to facilitate higher education, not only soldiers, but also children’s schools, the university, and the various scientific institutes all participate in the parade. In addition, clubs and organizations take part. Most people are on foot. A few are on horseback. There are motorcycles and a jeep or two, but no floats as we know them.
The memory of veterans is highly honored here. This year many people brought their photographs of deceased fathers and grandfathers (and sometimes mothers and grandmothers) who fought in the war to a special place, which blew them up and put them on placards. The living generations then marched with these in parade, in the stead of their ancestors.
Sadness Mingled with the Joy
May 9 is a day of great joy here. Yet such joy exists only against the backdrop of unspeakable human suffering and death. It’s impossible—for me, at least—not to contemplate the dark evil that lay behind this war. What about those who weren’t celebrating at the parade, because they were never born, their “fathers” having been cut down in the bud of youth? What about those countless fallen soldiers who had no one to march for them, because they left no one to remember them?
Still, the festivities give little time for brooding. Sorrow is quickly replaced by gladness. This day is a humble preview of how it will be at the end of the world, when Christ returns and raises up His followers: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Cor 15:54–55).