As we know the rest of Europe is marking the end of WWII on May 8 and there is a certain reason for that. German military surrender in WWII was signed late at night and according to Moscow’s local time it was already May 9, which is why Russia and most former Soviet Union republics commemorate Victory Day on 9 May.
It is important to mention that the 9th of May is an extremely important and special day for the former Soviet Union. The World War II is called in Russian the Great Patriotic War and it started on June 22, 1941 for the Soviet Union. It was a period of the year when most schools were holding school balls for their graduates. The sad thing is that most graduates had to leave their homes and forget about their future plans as they had to join the war. Many of them never returned home. In the Soviet Union, an estimated 16 million people died, half of whom were soldiers. As to the whole Europe 36.5 million Europeans are reckoned to have died between 1939 and 1945 because of the war.
Since 70 years have passed the number of veterans dwindle, and for many of
them this anniversary may be the last one. It is extremely important not to
forget our heroes. In Russia and other post-Soviet states young people honor their
grandfathers: groups of pupils are visiting childless veterans, some people are
parading with the photos of their grandparents, and others are writing or
telling stories about veterans from their families. Most Russians are wearing Saint
George's Ribbons as a special symbol to honor veterans and show their gratitude.
The history of this symbol dates back to the 18th century, being the
decoration of Imperial Russia. On 8
November 1943, was established the Order of Glory (Орден Славы) which features
the Saint George’s Ribbon (orange with three black stripes). One of the noblest
medals in the Soviet Union was the medal “For the Victory over Germany” (За победу над
Германией) decorated with
the famous ribbon and was granted to all veterans after the end of the war who
participated in the Eastern Front. In current Russia this symbol is also used
as a badge of Guard units. In 2005 during the 60th anniversary of the
Victory Day the Saint George’s Ribbon started to be worn by civilians in Russia
and other post-Soviet states.
Cross of the Order of St George, 1st Class (source)
Bearing in mind the difficult situation which we now face in Eastern Ukraine I would like to emphasize that despite current conflicts we should not forget our heroes and the Victory Day, honoring our veterans by telling them: “Thank you”.
I would like to conclude with the reminiscences from May 9, 1945, when thousands of people in Moscow were celebrating the end of the war with the Victory, kissing, dancing and waiving different flags, including the flags of allies. According to the recollections of Inna Solovyova, who was at that time a Russian 17 year old scholar, many people went to the allies embassies to embrace them: “It was a genuinely happy day. It was the victory of the people, of every one of us.”