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German Veterans Come for Church Dedication

Published: September 23, 2003 (Issue # 904)


About 500 German war veterans and relatives of those who died in the Second World War attended the handing over of a restored Orthodox church beside what is to become the largest German war cemetery in the world in the village of Sologubovka, 80 kilometers southeast of St. Petersburg, on Saturday.

Many grey-haired men and women, who traveled to Sologubovka all the way from Germany, could not hold back their tears when getting to the spot, which is intended to be a "unique symbol of Russian-German reconciliation."

For many Russians, the atrocities committed and suffering caused by the Germany army, which invaded Russia in 1941, before being smashed by the Red Army and pursued to defeat in Berlin, are unforgiveable.

The area around the city could be expected to be particularly hostile given the huge price in human lives paid during the 900-day siege of Leningrad that cost the lives of more than 700,000 people, many of whom died of starvation.

The Soviet Union did not bury many of its own soldiers, and made no provision for graves for German soldiers on its soil.

However, in 1992 the Russian government finally allowed the exhumation of German soldiers as part of putting the hostilities of wars behind it and the united Germany.

"This Russian church was restored using the donations of private German citizens, and we thought this project could serve for further German-Russian understanding and reconciliation," said Fritz Kirchmeier, spokesman for the German nongovernmental People's Commission of German War Graves.

"While preserving the memory of the victims of that war and its violence, we are making a contribution to the mutual understanding and reconciliation between our nations," said German ambassador to Russia Hans-Friedrich von Ploetz, who spoke at the ceremony.

The Sologubovka cemetery was opened in 2000 under the initiative of the commission. To date the remains of about 32,000 German soldiers have been buried in Sologubovka. The cemetery can take the remains of up to 80,000.

The area around Sologubovka, called the Sinyavin Heights, was the scene of some of the toughest battles of the Second World War.

"I had some of the worst times of my life here," said veteran Hans Mueller, holding back his tears. "In a matter of one day in September 1943, I lost a large number of my comrades here."

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Friday, Oct. 31


Put your grammar and logical thinking to the test in a fun and friendly environment during the British Book Center’s Board Game Evening starting at 5 p.m. today. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.



Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at today’s Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nation’s premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the city’s elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolan’s latest film “Mommy” at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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