Impact of War Losing Its Effect on Youth
Published: May 7, 2014 (Issue # 1809)
Almost half a million people who died during World War II lie in the 186 mass graves found at St. Petersburg’s Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery. This number includes 420,000 civilians killed from starvation, disease and enemy attacks,
Nearly every family in St. Petersburg has a relative or knows of someone buried there, with many regarding the upcoming Victory Day on May 9 as one of the year’s most significant celebrations, its importance surpassing other, more joyous celebrations such as Christmas and New Year. However, as the years pass, fewer veterans are alive to share their stories, and the younger generation is growing up with less knowledge and understanding of what happened during those years.
Galina Semenova is one of a dwindling number of people left in the city who remembers May 9, 1945. Now 79, Semenova was only 10 when she first heard news of the victory on the radio. Having lost two of the four members of her family during the war, she recalls the moment with mixed emotions; incredible happiness at the war finally being over and deep sorrow for all those who had died.
“We forgot how to cry during the Siege,” she said. “I remember I cried when my father died and then the next time I cried was on the night of May 8 when the radio, which was on all night, informed us of all the latest news about the victory. It was a mixture of emotions — grief and joy. People were sobbing as they visited and consoled one another. While we were overjoyed by the victory, we all felt the enormity of what we had lost during the war. Every household suffered,” she said.
“People remember and celebrate Victory Day with tears in their eyes. It’s a day where I feel more emotion than any other day.”
Looking back, Semenova remembers May 9, 1945, as being a bright and sunny day. Along with her classmate Katya, the two girls were on their way to school when they decided to stop by Katya’s uncle’s house.
“Everyone was out in the streets and the atmosphere was full of joy,” said Semenova. “When we arrived at Katya’s uncle’s house we were given some ‘braga’ [homemade alcohol]. I remember it being a muddy-looking liquid. Both Katya and I drank a glass and we then immediately lay on the floor and fell asleep, missing the official events at school that day. We got into a lot of trouble with our teachers since we were good students with excellent marks and they could not understand why we would miss such an important day at school. Of course, we didn’t tell them what really happened. Having not slept the night before because of the announcement, added to the alcohol, we were so exhausted that we slept until evening. This is how I first celebrated Victory Day,” she laughed.
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