Troubles Temporarily Vanish as Holiday Spirit Blankets Moscow
MOSCOW (AP) _ Nearly every hand was clutching flowers or balloons, nearly every mouth was savoring ice cream, and even customarily dour subway guards were smiling.
Financial hardship, political tension and other challenges of living in Moscow seemed far away Monday as residents geared up for today’s grandiose World War II Victory Day celebrations.
``Look at all these holiday faces,″ mused World War II veteran Maria Yegorova, sitting on a park bench recently painted for the holiday. ``Everyone has forgotten their troubles. It makes my heart happy.″
As a veteran, Yegorova had plenty of reasons to feel honored this Victory Day, the 50th anniversary of the Allied victory over the Nazis.
Ten thousand World War II veterans will take part in two massive parades in the capital, which is playing host to more than 50 world leaders. Banners venerating veterans and their accomplishments line streets across the country. Every shop window bears a poster marking the anniversary.
As the sun emerged from a brief spring rain, Vladimir Sergeyev stood on bustling Kutuzovsky Prospekt to photograph the recently adorned street.
``This is what Moscow should always be like,″ said Sergeyev, a retired engineer. Above him hung a huge red and gold banner reading: ``To the Memory of Those Fallen in Battles for the Homeland.″
``We all feel the importance of this day,″ Sergeyev said. ``Everyone lost someone in the war.″
World War II claimed the lives of 27 million Soviet citizens, touching virtually every Soviet family. May 9 remains one of the most important dates on the Russian calendar _ and this year’s extravaganza is providing a welcome excuse for jubilation.
Lyudmila Abramkina pushed her 2-year-old in a stroller and watched her 8-year-old daughter, Masha, skip through Poklonnaya Hill, site of the larger of today’s military parades.
``The children especially need this. They are growing up in such a confusing country. They need something to get excited about,″ Abramkina said.
Masha confidently added: ``We’re celebrating so we can remember that terrible war and so that it will never happen again.″
The holiday spirit has not infected everyone, however.
A group of disgruntled veterans, angry that they were not chosen to march in the parades, demonstrated Monday outside the lower house of Russia’s parliament. In addition, about 25 opposition veterans’ groups plan to march in their own parade today.
Ice cream vendor Irina Zhukova can’t wait for the holiday to be over.
``There are too many people everywhere and the traffic is horrible. It’s a nightmare,″ she said, resting after her supply ran out.
Few harbor any illusions that this holiday atmosphere will last.
``Who knows where we’ll be on Wednesday morning?″ Sergeyev shrugged. ``But it doesn’t matter. Nothing could spoil this holiday for me.″