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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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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 21


Time is running out to see the fantastic creations on display at the 2014 Sand Castle Festival on the beach at the Peter and Paul Fortress. Adhering to the theme of Treasure Island, visitors can wander amongst larger-than-life interpretations of pirate life or attend one of the workshops held to educate a future generation of sand artists. The castles will remain on the beach until Aug. 31.



Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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