Last night a girl from Buffalo New York stood in Red Square, Moscow, Russia and watched the practice for the 2010 Victory Day Celebration. This year is a HUGE year for Russian World War II veterans (and indeed all WWII vets) as it’s the 65th Anniversary of the defeat of the Axis powers and the end of the war.
My husband came home and said we had a lucky opportunity to go view a practice of the Red Square ceremony last night, if we were willing to find our way around the shut-down streets and through the crowds lining the roads to see the practice. I couldn’t believe it and still am amazed that we got there and witnessed something that until now has only been a small blip on the news for me, with the famous shot of the Kremlin on Victory Day.
I’ll save you the devastating history lesson on WWII in Russia–it’s one I study almost daily as I research story ideas. You can find summaries of dates, battles, lives lost and other historical facts readily enough. But you won’t find what I’ve had the privilege of witnessing on the faces of the many Russian WWII vets I’ve had the honor to meet during our posting in Moscow. Whenever one of the veterans holds my hand and tells me a bit of their particular story, I feel as though I’m talking to someone from my family. Any boundaries of country or nationality drop when the discussion of WWII comes up, for we are all human and utterly vulnerable when it comes to war. In the Russian veteran faces I see strength, love of homeland, sorrow, and resilience. Just as with our own generation of WWII vets in the States, these vets saw and did deeds that the vast majority of us will only know snippets of from film and television. Thanks to their sacrifices you and I have lived to see this generation enjoy the greatest life has to offer.
As I sat and watched the thousands of troops marching, I marveled when I saw the US contingent stride by, along with other Russian WWII allies. When I was doing air raid drills in 2nd grade against the outside hallways of my school I never could have imagined I’d not only see Red Square in person, I’d live in Russia as a military spouse. So many emotions flooded through me as I listened to the incredible orchestra play the most complicated pieces, yet all in unison across the expanse of the square. The years I served during the Cold War. Our grandparents and parents who fought and/or lived through the war. The suffering of so many on all sides during WWII. The tireless diplomats who’ve worked to make sure this Yankee can indeed sit in Red Square in 2010. Then the recognition of Russia’s rich, at times incomprehensible history. All of the Tsars and Tsarinas. The peasants who provided merchants with food and cloth. The many centuries of people who’ve walked across Red Square, day or night, in all seasons, all states of being that a country endures–war, peace, uncertainty, victory.
I’m here because of my husband’s job but I am a writer and I see Moscow and Russia with my writer’s eyes and writer’s soul. I am so grateful to be able to absorb what I’m learning about Russia and her people not just through the television or a book. I’m living it, with each trip on the Metro, each walk through a wonderful museum, each taste of a pemeni or borscht. Last night I realized what a blessed Yankee I am.
2 Comments on “A Yankee in Red Square”
Wow, what an awesome experience. Something I always find amazing is how different places have such different histories and experiences, it’s very easy to imagine that they are conscious beings that have been shaped by what has happened to them and in them. I remember walking in Washington D.C. for the first time, and just absorbing the feeling of how much happened there. Standing in the spot where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, literally standing in the footsteps of so many great people who came before. I can imagine what it must have been like for you in Red Square. It’s almost like you can touch all the people who came before you, like you can suddenly feel a very real connection to things that maybe didn’t seem so real when you read about them in books, and you can mourn or celebrate with them very sincerely. You can see things in yourself that might be in common with those who came before, and you realize that even though you are just a very small person, you are part of something very big.
Hi Madison–yes, you said it beautifully. The connection to history that resonates from such historically significant places is palpable and often overwhelming. I think writers are particularly aware of these kinds of “vibes.” Thanks for taking time to post, Madison!
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