Tuesday, May 8, 2007

V-E Day

I never understood why certain things are celebrated every year. Maybe it is because "celebration" became synonymous to drunk people blabbering slogans they don't understand. Maybe it is because I came to understand that many events can be celebrated only once and after that they should be honored. Or maybe it is because only certain people are entitled to celebrate and the rest have no rights to claim any credit for the celebration. In any case, the Soviet government could care less when they decided that May 9 would be the Victory Day. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, when Stalin's cult of personality was still at its height and the war had touched nearly every single person in Europe, it was the most logical thing to celebrate the victory over the Axis Nazi Germany and return to repressions peace. As the Cold War was gaining momentum, Victory Day was losing its true meaning and becoming a way for the USSR to remind the West who and how had won World War II forgetting about the "whole Allies thing." Today, Victory Day is just another reason to get drunk and to reinforce fake and weak patriotism in some of the former Soviet republics.

Russia has started the blasphemous "Wear a St. George's Ribbon" campaign intended "to pay tribute to the fallen heroes." Can somebody please explain to me why people who are not related to military service (not mentioning actual battlefield) are wearing a ribbon bar of one of the highest military honors that exist in Russia? What rights do they have to bear that honor? Last time I checked, descendants of military heroes had no right to decorate themselves with their ancestors' honors. I can perfectly understand putting the ribbon onto a photograph of a person who fought or on a wreath or a bouquet to be laid to a monument in honor of those heroes, but putting a ribbon onto a tote-bag or a car antenna is simply disgraceful to that order. Many countries of the British Commonwealth have a similar tradition on Remembrance Day, but they wear poppies, a neutral symbol that has no other symbolism except for that purpose. Belarus, on the other hand, mixed together May Day and Victory Day to some extent. Nowadays, the people enjoy a special offer of 2-in-1 parades: a military parade that can't compare to the old glorious Soviet parades followed by a civilian parade that shows-off the latest civilian technologies such as tractors and harvesters. As far as I can understand from the news, the new tradition of St. George ribbons is catching on there as well.

The interesting thing is that neither V-E Day, nor V-J Day are celebrated in the United States or anywhere else in the world to the same extent as they are celebrated in ex-USSR. Also, the ending of World War I is celebrated more than the ending of World War II. Even the purpose of the celebration is different. In the West, these are days of remembering the fallen heroes and honoring those who brought that victory rather than glorifying the nation and the government. For all the nearly six years I have spent in the U.S., I saw World War II victory observed only once. That was on September 2, 2005, when I got scared by the sound of unexpected fireworks on the National Mall. Not a single person had told me that the end of World War II was celebrated on that day, while many people know about December 7 (the day Pearl Harbor was attacked). Homo soveticus say that at least Americans have no regard for the glorious deeds of the Soviet people. The only way I can respond to that is by just shrugging my shoulders because it will take a long time before people will understand that the only way to honor heroes is to pay respect to the graves of the fallen and taking proper care of the survivors. I am in no way claiming that American veterans are better off than their counterparts in ex-USSR. All I am saying is that military victories are there to be celebrated by those who brought those victories, while the rest must honor the victors and not take their glory.

My fraternal grandmother's father went through World War II as a part of a railroad unit. He was under Stalingrad. He was a part of the initial occupying force in Germany. I wish I knew more about him. He died when I was not even five years old, on May 17, 1990, just a week after the 45th anniversary of the victory, and my grandparents do not like to discuss war too much except for some anecdotes about their life while evacuated. My fraternal grandfather's father died of wounds near Kharkiv when his train was bombed on the way to the front. My maternal grandmother's father did not fight in World War II because of some injury he got either at World War I or during the Winter War of 1940. I know nothing about my maternal grandfather's father except for the fact that he died in 1946.

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