On May 9 every year, Russia celebrates its victory against the Nazis and Germany in World War II. The army parades down main streets in ever city. There are marching bands, tanks, and patriotism on display. People line-up on the curbs and cheering as the different groups march by. It’s a lot like America’s Fourth of July celebrations. However, there is one difference. After the parade is over, another parade starts: The March of the Immortal Army.
Russian citizens wear black and orange striped ribbons and walk shoulder to shoulder holding up 16X18 photos of their relatives who died in World War II. Entire families gather round each other and march down the same route the current army took. This way they commemorate those who participated in the war and keep that memory current. War, and especially World War II, isn’t something learned in a history book. It’s something that happened to the family. It’s something that took a family member away and left the rest of the family with a hole and some medals.
There are several different days of remembrance for the dead. Russians have personal days they remember for close family members. They have other days when they remember family and friends. May 9 is the day they remember, in a personal and affecting way, those who fought for their country.
World War II was fought in part on Russian soil as the Germans attempted to blitzkrieg their way to Moscow. About 27 million Russians died in the war, which was approximately 14% of the population in 1939. The citizens still feel those losses, and the older generation keeps its March of the Immortal Army. (For more about life in Far East Russia, check out the Adventures on the Amur. Check out more about Russia on penguinate.com)