Justine in Russia: Victory Day

I waited a bit to write this because I do not think it is fair for me to put any of my opinions about this holiday, but I wanted to share my experience with it.

Victory Day also known as День Победы is celebrated on the 9th of May. The day is recognized to celebrate the German surrender of the World War II. The rest of the world celebrates it on 8th of May because of timezone differences. The day also is to commemorate war veterans and family members who died during wartime.

What usually happens on Victory Day is a military parade in the early hours, but I decided to avoid that and took myself to the sea to reflect a little.

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I decided to spend my morning at Primorskaya, where there were some groups of friends and families relaxing on the grass. 

I later decided that I will never have this kind of opportunity to see this parade again, so I decided to go down to the city centre to see the rest of the parade. I got to the city centre around 1:00pm, so the military parade was over.

The second parade of the day involved people bringing pictures of their deceased family members from the war and marching down the main boulevard to pay their respects.

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People marching down the main boulevard with photos of their deceased family members. (not a protest)

What made this experience even more powerful was that we were in Saint Petersburg. Many of the people who died and were being commemorated during this march were people who died during the Siege of Leningrad. The Siege of Leningrad lasted for about 900 days and over 1 million people died from starvation. At one point, I was trying to cross the street to reach the metro station, but I got sucked into the parade crowd. I decided to do the walk for the next thirty minutes, but I felt a bit disrespectful since I wasn’t there to commemorate any of my family members. There was a feeling of unity in this crowd, since there were people from all parts of the former Soviet Union. People were carrying flags from Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, etc. People were chanting about the end of the war and how their family members would forever be remembered.

I eventually ducked out because I had to go home and prepare for my exams the next day, but there were going to be fireworks later that night.

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The entire city was decorated with flags and flags to commemorate the end of the war.

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This pillar is only lit up once a year and it burns for 24 hours on Victory Day.

I have to keep mentioning this, but I know and am fully aware that I am a foreigner. I felt like a bit of a spectator and a bit disrespectful throughout this entire day because I had no connection to this holiday. However, I felt that the entire city was in a complete unity and everyone held the same feelings of respect that day. We gathered with the rest of the city and waited for the fireworks to start.

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I was a little too excited to see people with a Turkmen flag.

No doubt, these were the loudest fireworks I have ever heard in my entire life. I started screaming when they began, but the sky was clear and it was nerve-wracking, yet peaceful.

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I wish I could say more than “it was an interesting experience”, but I really have no right to give anymore input especially as a foreigner. I do not know their culture or their feelings towards the holiday, so all I can do is observe.

До следующего раза (until next time)


Justine G.

Жюстин, usually Джастин, Жастин, or Жустин.

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