The Immortal Regiment March in Washington, DC took place for the third time. About 700 people walked from the White House to the WWII memorial, while holding up photos of their relatives who had participated in the war.
HUNDREDS OF PARTICIPANTS
Traditionally, the event is attended by Russians, or those whose families come from Russia or other former Soviet Union countries. However, every year the march keeps attracting other US citizens wishing to honor the memory of their relatives who had fought in the war.
Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov also participated in the march. The only WWII veteran present at the event was heading the march.
Several hundred participants of the event have gathered at the White House at 3:30 p.m. local time (19:30 GMT) and before the march started were sharing their personal and family stories about the World War II with each other and with the members of the press.
Many of them were carrying photos of their ancestors who participated in the war.
Founder of the folk dance club "Kaleidoscope" Valentin Usmanov came to Washington from New York with the school’s students who performed Russian dances at the event.
"Our students here are from Russia, Belarus, Georgia, and Moldova. They are of different ages, from four years old to 21, and nationalities, but the Immortal Regiment march is something sacred that unites everyone," Usmanov said.
The club founder carried a photo of his grandfather Fyodor Muravchenko, from Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region, who was a schoolboy during the war.
"He did not fight due to his age, but was a child of war. The school he went to was burnt down and only three boys survived, including him. All his life he was telling us to value peaceful skies. I can hardly hold [back] tears today," Usmanov explained.
While a Sputnik correspondent was interviewing the founder of "Kaleidoscope," his students wearing Soviet military uniform of the World War II period, started dancing to the bayan music.
"They couldn’t resist. Their performance is actually to be held at the World War Two Memorial later," Usmanov said, smiling.
Another participant of the march, Yuri Melnik, held a photo of his father who survived the war and died in 2005.
"My father was on the front line during the war, although for a very short time and then he served at the Air Force headquarters. I am overwhelmed with feelings today. We are all very proud of my father. Besides, for my father, Washington was a special city as he worked here at Russia’s Trade Mission in the 1970s, and today he sort of returns here," Melnik told Sputnik.
Some people held two and more photos of their relatives.
Vladimir Matskevich who temporarily lives in Washington, DC brought photos of his grandfather and great-grandfather.
"In my family twelve people were on the front line and only two returned. This march is all about memory of all these people. If we don’t have memories, our children won’t have a future. Even 8,000 kilometers away from Russia people remember the war, are proud of their relatives… Thank you to our great-grandparents and grandparents," Matskevich said.
Yet another participant, Yevgeniya, also carried two photos, of her great-grandfather Dmitry Korenkov, and great-grandmother Luisa Lapshina, who both took part in the war, and saw its last day.
"I am carrying the photos of my great-grandparents with great pride and honor. They fought for our lives, for our future, and I am very happy that they are with me here today, and that they can walk with me as part of the Immortal Regiment," Yevgeniya told Sputnik.
Yevgeniya said that her great grandmother used to tell her how hard the war years were.
"My great grandmother kept the habit of keeping three-four loaves of bread, and used to worry if she had less saying that there is no more bread… I am very happy that they are walking with me here today. My parents will also participate in the Immortal Regiment march in Moscow on May 9, and will carry their photos," Yevgeniya said
Some people did not have any photos of their relatives and held the signs with their names instead.
Everyone could get the St. George ribbons, a widely recognized WWII symbol in Russia, from the organizers of the event, and people decorated their jackets, hats, purses, and photos with it.
At around 4 p.m., the group walked from the White House to the World War II Memorial where they laid down flowers and wreaths. The march was accompanied by the songs of the WWII period sung by the participants to the music performed by a bayan player.
PASSERS-BY REACT TO WAR STORIES
The passers-by were taking pictures of the marching people and asking the participants about the event.
The march concluded with a concert of wartime songs performed by the children of "Kaleidoscope" and Yale Russian chorus.
Karen Murzic, 81, from Germany, who is now married to a US citizen and lives in the United States, asked the march participants about the meaning of the event, and then shared her feelings with Sputnik.
"I am thinking about it every day, I am happy that Nazis got [defeated]. I wish freedom and good luck to everyone, and that we can work together, that we can understand each other, that we don’t have struggles with each other. I did not know about the Immortal Regiment march before but I think it’s a wonderful way to honor your dead and to remember them," Murzic told Sputnik.
Murzic’s uncle who fought on the German side during the war was killed.
"All my life I have been ashamed of what happened in Nazi Germany, and I never want it to happen again… The Nazis should never happen again," Murzic said.
The first US march was held in the city of New York on May 3, 2015. This year about 20 cities in the United States are hosting similar events.