Alexandra Garmazhapova

Russian journalist

“We cannot do it again”

Victory Day means millions of people’s stories carefully told from generation to generation. There used to be those happy days when the Kremlin didn’t need this holiday for its pseudo-patriotic frenzy, and real heroes were marching along central streets of various cities and towns tearfully greeted by young Russians.

We were taught in schools that our main task is not to let it ever happen again. We were told that war is the most terrible thing, which could happen on the earth. We grew up with that knowledge. We are not less patriots for not supporting wars. On the opposite, it’s us who are real patriots for understanding we should find ways to avoid deaths and broken fates.

We were told Stalin felt betrayed when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. We were not explained why would Stalin trust Hitler. We were not taught what was the essence of Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. We believed the leadership of our country had nothing to do with the crimes.

We believed we are descendants of great people who saved the world. We believed we must not disgrace their honor, be ready to do everything to save a fragile piece in the world and prevent the emergence of a second Hitler. We were confident he could appear in any other country, but not ours.

We should admit that the situation in Russia is very complicated at the moment. Victory Day and everything around it nowadays can be called as “podedobesie” [victory frenzy) when all newspapers, TV and radio stations sound like a mantra with their promises “to kick ass of our enemies.” However, we shouldn’t forget that millions of Russian people have their personal and true stories. The stories of their grandparents and great-grandparents, who survived the worst years in our history and did it for us – their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. To slide into this hysteria around Victory Day means to betray the memory of our ancestors.

Victory Day is a sacred and personal holiday. It the day when we remember and honor our fallen relatives and have tea with those who survived the war.

There are fewer and fewer war survivors every year, and it’s very touching when young Russians give flowers to our veterans. In 2015, my friend and I tried to find a war veteran in the Victory Park of St. Petersburg. We were able to meet an old man in a wheel chair surrounded by his children and grandchildren. There was a mountain of flowers on the bench near him. There was no politics, no slogans, no “Crimea-is-ours.” There were the veteran’s family and ordinary citizens who wanted to thank him, congratulate him with the holiday and express their admiration for his service to the country. The veteran couldn’t hear us well, but he was very pleased by the attention. And we felt great looking at him.

Unfortunately, the Russian authorities privatized a wonderful action – “Immortal division” when millions of people march with portraits of their fought relatives. Last year we could see President Putin leading the column of marching people, and we could notice lots of people with pseudo-patriotic slogans on their T-shirts.

On TV screens, it looked different – it was too political, and there was too much pretense. However, inside the columns of people, the situation was different. Ordinary people were marching because they were proud of their ancestors who were noble and worth of pride. People in columns didn’t think about Putin. Their “hurrays” were devoted to the Russian government, but to those who fought heroically in that war.

A new slogan created by the Russian authorities – “We can repeat” – is just a pop-phrase without any real meaning. It’s like a Snickers commercial for most people. I doubt people saying it are ready to die. “Never again!” is more appropriate.