Khodorkovsky’s statement on Victory Day

May 9, 2015

Khodorkovsky's statement on Victory Day

The following statement on Victory Day was issued by Mikhail Khodorkovsky

The history of humanity has been witness to a multitude of wars and, in human terms, seventy years represents an immense span of time. Why, then, can we just not forget about that war? Why is the ninth of May our main, and bitter, national celebration?

Some are convinced that “those Russians have nothing else to be proud about”; others allege that the holiday is nothing more than a propaganda opportunity.

And indeed, there are those who really do have nothing else to be proud about, and those for whom gravestones are merely propaganda springboards. There are even those who call Hitler a “decent bloke” and adorn their bodies with Nazi symbols. I saw plenty of those tattooed halfwits in the zona.

With a population of 140 million, you’re bound to come across all sorts of people, but Victory Day remains untainted because, even seventy years on, the price paid for Victory by every family in the country remains colossal.

What price did my own family pay? Well, my grandfather was killed outside Moscow in early 1942; my mother fell ill with tuberculosis—a disease that would undermine her health until the end of her days—during evacuation; while my other grandfather, who was employed in the defence industry,   succumbed to radiation sickness and passed away prematurely.

What is Victory for me? It’s the war-stories of still-young veterans, younger than I am now when I heard them speak at school.

It’s the bomb that claimed the lives of a group of kids making a fire on the same clearing where we’d always bake potatoes at Pioneer camp.

It’s the mortar bombs that suddenly surfaced in 2001 in the volleyball court of the Podmoskovny Lyceum.

It’s the stele at the mass grave on the territory of the lyceum that gradually emerged into the light of day as the burial ground was refurbished, growing taller and taller until the surnames of almost all the men from the surrounding villages were finally revealed. These men were called up to fight and fell right there, on their own land, while the villages burned to the ground. Almost no one returned from evacuation, and only later did people from all over Russia journey to the restored grave, having finally learned where their loved were buried.

On the ninth of May, then, we shall make our way to the Eternal Flame, and we shall do so as long as we live. And even when we are no more, others will take our place — mindfully, sorrowfully and with eternal gratitude.

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