E was born in September 1941. Things were not good in Moscow, or near it, where her mother had fled, at that point. Her father, a 40ish engineer, went off to join the volunteers, to defend Moscow. To quote E, "he saw me once." He died in early 1942, and his widow never knew where he was buried.
In recent years, though, there have been a lot of attempts to put names to some of the dead more specifically. And so, E found out where her father was buried, in a little village on the way to Kaluga, a couple hours from Moscow.
So that's why we went. I helped E and her friend, whose father also died in the war, but who doesn't have a site to visit, clean up the monument that's at the spot where those who died at that battle were buried. It's something that's been there for years and years and years, but since E found out about her father, she's gone every year to take care of it. We straightened flowers, raked (I got called a peasant, approvingly, for my ability to rake), and painted the little fence around monument (my painting ability was also commended... I have to thank Дядя Иван for a lesson in how to load a paintbrush well for that). And we toasted the fallen with a little bit of wine E brought for our picnic.
All this got done this weekend because today's Victory Day, and it's a big deal, still. There were concerts and parades and this and that all over today. After I watched the big military parade on Red Square on TV this morning, this afternoon I went for a very, very long walk, and saw a lot of people just enjoying the day, but also heard lots of war-time songs on loudspeakers, and part of some ceremony (no clue what; I heard an echoing bit of it coming from some unknown loudspeaker, but not clearly enough to get what was going on), and part of a concert at Gorky Park.
I avoided the big site today, Victory Park, which seems to be more known by it's pre-park name, Poklonnaia Hill. This was in part because I thought the crowds would be mad. But it's also because I went there on May Day. E suggested taking a walk by our little tributary river that day, which turned into exploring a side path off that that took us across a bunch of railroad tracks and then up to the park. I knew it was close, but not quite that close. I'm really realizing it today, though, because today all the trains that go through there are blowing their whistles when they go by the park. This is not normal (thankfully), but kind of cool for the day.
Anyway, the park has a lot of sort of mediocre monumentalism, like the giant obelisk and then a huge WWII museum behind it. I'm being a little annoying by calling it mediocre, but some of it really is; the obelisk would be fine if it were plain, but it's really too overdone. And it especially clashes with the bright red Coca-Cola umbrellas and chairs surrounding the various food kiosks.
There's a sort of interesting, though again a little too overdone, statue in the back of the museum. It's supposed to commemorate the civilian casualties of the war, basically (the "victims," to use its term). I find it pretty effective, really. And I very much appreciate that that's part of the memorial space, even if it's kind of in back and out of the way.
So, anyway. Even though the whole militarization thing here can sometimes make me shiver a little, I have nothing but respect for the sacrifices of so many Russians during the War, and so, С днём победы!