The Words of Another, Wartime, Generation

There can be no doubt about the tribute Russia paid its World War II veterans last week. Not in years had Moscow scrubbed, pruned, and decorated its streets so energetically. Impressive and bright, it was a celebration that the men and women who defended and gave their lives for this country deserved.


Yet it was not just billowing red flags and the solemn speeches of world leaders that saluted these veterans of the Velikaya Otechestvennaya Voina (Great Patriotic War). Rather, veterans spoke of the return of the language of that time, slogans that had been buried in generations past. For just a day, the parlance of the war and post-war years, of the voyennoye pokoleniye (war generation) -- returned to Russia's lips, and managed to do so in a way which recalled the sacrifice and heroism of the time without the communist overtones that everyone except a few hardy demonstrators would rather forget.


Slava narodu pobeditelyu! (Glory to the victorious people!) cried out from a poster wedged between billboard ads for Boomer bubble gum and Cadbury chocolate.


Not far away hung Rodina mat' zovyot! (The Motherland calls!), a famous period poster depicting a defiant woman draped in red thrusting her clenched fist out toward the consciences of millions of Soviet citizens. Even 40 years after the war, in the waning days of the Soviet Union, this poster was still sold for a few kopecks in Moscow shops. Today it appears nowhere to be found -- except, perhaps, on the dormitory wall of an eager college Russian major.


Near a Nestle's ad hung a banner offering Vechnaya pamyat' voinam pavshim v boyakh za rodinu (eternal remembrance of the warriors who fell in the battle for the Motherland).


Nikto ne zabyt, nichto ne zabyto (No one is forgotten, nothing is forgotten) greeted guests at the official opening of the Poklonnaya Gora war memorial complex, where if reminiscences weren't enough, bowls of grechnevaya kasha (groats), the usual fare on the Patriotic War battlefield, offered to do the trick.


Everywhere, people seemed to try to recall the glory of the event without the communist dogma that had shadowed it for so long.


S prazdnikom, druz'ya (Happy holiday, friends) Pizza Hut offered in place of the expected tovarishchi (comrades). Perhaps nowhere did new and old come together so well as in an elegant newspaper salutation from the Russian National Commercial Bank. Against the background of its own insignia were the words, My pomnim o Vas i my blagodarny Vam. Tak bylo, tak yest', i tak budet vsegda. (We remember you and we thank you. That is the way it was, the way it is now and the way it will always be.)


Still another reminded veterans of the pain of their victory: Dyen' slavy, dyen' pobedy, dyen' skorbi (day of glory, day of victory, day of sorrow).





(pyat' supervkusov! -- five super flavors!)