Moscow has spent weeks preparing for this year’s Victory Day celebrations; Russia’s biggest holiday, and this year was the 70th anniversary. May 9th starts at 10am with a huge military parade in Red Square. As much as I tried, you cannot see anything in Red Square. They completely block it off and it’s invite only. The next best thing is to watch the tanks come down Tverskaya before they reach Red Square. On Monday I watched the rehearsal so I didn’t need to worry about getting a good spot on the day. Even the practice run attracted thousands of people who lined the streets.
As imagined, I didn’t get the best spot on the day and was pushed and shoved in a crowd near Belorusskaya Train Station waiting to see tanks and planes. People were all very excited waving flags and cheering. Until it started and they all filmed it on their phones.
The little people had the best views. They climbed up poles, sat on top of trucks and on mum and dad’s shoulders.
After a long wait, suddenly we had tanks going past over the bridge, and planes coming over our heads. The little boy in front of me was so excited shouting “look, look, tank, tank!” then “plane, plane!!”
War Veterans get spoilt on Victory Day. I met one in a restaurant who was having lunch at the next table. At first I kept looking at this old man in a white shirt as he was shouting into a mobile phone. When he’d finished he leant over to our table and told me he had been speaking to his daughter in Minsk. She had been asking what he was up to – drinking wine and eating cake! They had been invited to watch the parade in Red Square, and asked if we’d seen it. He showed me his jacket, with the most medals you’ve ever seen. I told him I was from England, he told me he spoke German (in German) Ich auch! We clinked glasses to Peace and then he left, looking very smart in his jacket and hat, carrying his flowers and waving at everyone in the restaurant, feeling a hero.
While this day feels like a celebration, it is definitely a day of remembrance to those lives lost. I didn’t see it, but there was a huge march called the Immortal Regiment where 300,000 people walked with portraits of parents, grandparents or great-grandparents whose lives were lost in the war. They say that nearly every family was affected by the war, which is why this day is so important.
With 16 locations around the city, it was a difficult choice of where to watch the show. Finally I chose Patriarchal Bridge as it’s one of my favourites, and pedestrian only.
We arrived around 8pm ready for the fireworks at 10pm. Maybe didn’t need to be quite so early, but it was very peaceful as the sun was setting.
And of course I had a beautiful view of the Kremlin, which was lit up with dancing lasers, making the crowds cheer.
The fireworks started right on time, and the crowd were amazing – cheering and shouting “hoorah” each time a big one went off.