DALLAS – The BBC presented a video news report of the Victory Day celebration, May 9, in Russia.
Around my town, I couldn’t even find the Allied victory in World War II mentioned, but I retain my fond memories of being in Moscow on May 9, 1989 for the celebration.
My pal and I, visiting tourists, were thrilled to see what seemed like the entire Soviet Union turning out to honor their veterans and their 20 million who died in what they call the “Great Patriotic War.” It was a festive, patriotic occasion.
We could see why they were so happy. The German Army had taken all of Eastern Europe and much of the western part of the Soviet Union. They were stopped just a few feet short of the Volga River, a main artery of the Soviet economy.
People starved in the major Soviet cities, people froze to death. It was the Soviet counteroffensive in 1943, a year before American troops landed in France, that broke Hitler’s war machine. Soviet troops chased the Nazi-led forces all the way back to Berlin to end the war in Europe.
My pal and I had a vague intellectual understanding of these events thanks to “The Unknown War,” a 1978 TV documentary directed by Isaac Kleinerman and Roman Karmen, written by Rod McKuen, and narrated by American superstar Burt Lancaster. Lancaster, always one of my favorites, made a Communist out of me. Previously, I’d always been a little fuzzy about the war and the Cold War aftermath. Here in America, many try to take full credit for defeating fascism, forgetting the critical contribution made by the Soviet Union.
I had known that the U.S. and the Soviet Union were allies during the war, but always assumed that the communists played a minor role until they were “rescued” by the U.S.
I had no idea that the Soviets had crushed the German army after having survived the onslaught that had already overrun the rest of continental Europe.
Here in the U.S. May 8th is called “Victory in Europe” day. We should celebrate it more than we do.