About the Victory

At the age of 17, I went to see a girlfriend in Malta during the summer after completing the first year. We were invited by a family for a supper. We spent the evening by a pool with a fancy table around which many notables from this tiny nation were sitting. They were related to the girlfriend’s husband, and they were old enough to be my parents and even grandparents. And then they suddenly started to speak about World War 2.
It all ended with my girlfriend tearing me away from the Maltese aristocracy which couldn’t understand what triggered me. I was seventeen, and it was the first time I heard that USSR played only a minor role in that war. They were around, they helped bring victory closer.
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When people talk about the Great Patriotic War, they usually mentioned battle honors. I, on the other hand, remember my grandmother who spent the whole war in Moscow working at an orphanage. She was 18, and she was enrolled in the first year of history at the university. None of her school friends returned home from the front. None were left among the living. Her father, my great-grandfather, was one of the first to join the mass levy and became missing in action there, on the approaches to Moscow. The usual story. As he was leaving, he said she should leave the capital “with the last wave.” She remained, even though all of her relatives ran from Moscow. By irony of fate, they ended up under German occupation. But Moscow was not surrendered. The grandmother was responsible for the bomb shelter at the orphanage, it was constantly being flooded and she had to bail it out with buckets almost every day. She would carry the ice-cold water outside and pour it out. It would take forever, until the concrete floor was dry. A young beauty, doing nothing but up and down, up and down, day after day.
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May 9th

For some it’s a symbol, for others it’s something that has to be thoroughly forgotten and wiped from memory.
For some it’s ribbons on the exhaust pipes and “Onward to Berlin” stickers–obviously cottonjackets and commies. For others it’s something different. Deeper and, yes, more concrete.
This day has a meaning for every family, which is why it’s so important, unlike all other holidays.
It’s life, rebirth, it’s a leap forward, it’s overcoming.
It’s memory of nightmare and horror, of brave deeds and heroism.
This day encompasses it all.

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