I was rapidly deteriorating like a pickled tomato left out in the sun, and my friends were bleary-eyed from the lack of sleep, but we still decided to tempt fate and try and watch the Victory Day parade in the morning. Victory Day(Den’ Pobedy/День Победы) is a nuke-filled holiday that commemorates the end of the Great Patriotic War (the Eastern Front of WWII). This year was the largest parade since the fall of the Soviet union — and by large, I mean absolutely absurd in regards to the tanks and nukes and what not — 11,135 troops, 127 aircraft and helicopters, and the new Topol-M mobile intercontinental ballistic missile. I don’t even know what that means. Also, for the first time, they included military personnel from France, Poland, the UK, and the US. Here’s part of the parade, for those of you who are interested.
As we waited for Molly (Wisco reunion!) in the Chekohvskaya metro station, my heart sank as I watched the seas of people decked out in kitschy-communist garb flow towards the exit. When Molly arrived, we joined the human ocean and slowly shuffled our way out…only to find that instead of being near the parade, we had been placed behind a barrier 200 meters away from where the parade was. Moscow is a sprawling, enormous city, and I guess it makes sense to put up a barrier, because the parade would become chaotic with all the people clamoring to watch the old Soviet tanks roll by. But still! They weren’t allowing people to exit a good number of metro stops, and they were closing entrances to streets left and right. No forewarning. This is Russia. I should have listened to my host mom and all my Russian buddies and stayed home to watch the parade on TV. Also, in regards to barriers in Russia, it’s not just a fence of some sort, it’s rows of fierce-looking omon — riot police. They’re basically beasts who beat up people for fun.
However, aside from not seeing the parade (and some hostel glitches), everything was absolutely great in Moscow. We arrived the day before Victory Day at 6:30 am and essentially didn’t stop moving until we passed out from exhaustion on the train ride home. Moscow was particulary spruced up and groomed for Victory Day, and the 80 degree weather was a pleasant surprise. Among some of the sights we saw, we stopped by Novodiviche cemetary and said hello to some interned poets, writers, and former leaders.
One of the more touching moments in Moscow was when we went to Park Pobedy to see more Victory Day celebrations. While they were still setting up the stage for the concert, there were rows of veterans in their uniform and medals sitting along the fountain. Russia has a beautiful tradition of thanking her veterans — people bought large bouquets of flowers to hand out to veterans and thanked them for their service and for helping secure Russia’s future. Call me maudlin, call me a sap, but I was almost moved to tears. Molly and I bought a couple of flowers and gave them to one woman who was sitting all by herself by the fountain. When we handed her flowers, her face softened and she wished us, “Счастья, чтобы не было войны, чтобы вы не видели то, что я видела.” — happiness, that there has not been war, and that you have not seen what I saw.
a little boy singing for a veteran