On May 9, the Immortal Regiment in Artek united children from nine camps and 47 countries as well as employees of the children’s center and Gurzuf residents who are war veterans and homefront workers. Almost 4,000 people carrying portraits of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers who served in the Great Patriotic War set out from the school to Artek Embankment. The procession at Artek was essentially the last of the formal Victory Day events held on that day around the world.
The children carried pictures of heroes and victors who will remain forever young. On this most important day they marched in in file with their young descendants. Each child carries a photo – perhaps the only one in the family – with pride and confidence that memories live on in our actions. The Artek children in the Immortal Regiment, like the endless tributaries of a river, flowed together at the embankment in front of the children’s center.
The Immortal Regiment honors war veterans and homefront workers whose heroic acts will always remain an example for generations to come. Pyotr Stolyarov, senior sergeant of the 20th separate airborne guard brigade, fought on the Karelian, Belorussian, and 3rd Ukrainian fronts. He ended the war by meeting up with the Americans in Austria. In his address to Artek campers during the event, he recalled the victory celebrations in May 1945: “When the war was over and demobilized soldiers returned east, locals welcomed them at every station, even at night. People laughing at one carriage, crying or dancing at others. This is how Victory Day was born: the noblest, most wonderful, truly national holiday, which our country paid a heavy price for.”
Artek’s children honored those who did not return from the field of battle with a firework salute and memorial wreaths lowered into the placid waters of the Black Sea. All of Artek took part in a moment of silence during which everyone thanked the victors for life and peace and also recalled the history of their own families’ trials during the war.
“My great grandmother, Nina Arakcheyeva, and great grandfather, Vladimir Arakcheyev, both were in the war,” says Alyona Zhuravlyova from Ulyanovsk. “My great grandpa flew in the Navy, and great grandma was trained as nurse and saved wounded soldiers on the battlefield. My great grandpa flew over the Black Sea and attacked enemy vessels. When his plane was shot down by Nazis, he spent seven hours in cold December water. After the war, they both returned to civilian life, and they shared their memories with us, their grandchildren and great grandchildren. We have preserved them ever since.”
“Today I am walking with a photo of my great grandfather, Private Maxim Mamontov. This is my second time carrying his picture in the Immortal Regiment, the first was back home last year,” said Yury Grigoryev from Astrakhan. “I also go with my family to parades and battlegrounds. I also took part in a historical reenactment back home and here at Artek: it helps you understand and really feel what life was like during that distant war. If we don’t remember those horrible days for Russia and the world, they can happen again.”
The Immortal Regiment weaves together family histories across time and generations. Yelizaveta Boikova from Cyprus marched with a portrait of her grandfather, Alexander Boikov. “He lived not far away, in Sevastopol, and defended it when the enemy came to Crimea. Grandpa was killed by a landmine in 1944, not long before the hero city was liberated,” Liza recounted. “This is why it is especially important for me to spend the holiday here, in Crimea. I took part in the Immortal Regiment on last May 9 at home, on Cyprus. Today I took part in the memorial event on Sapun-gora with everyone at Artek and thanked grandpa for everything. I think the point of this event is to thank the veterans.”
Cadet Matvei Melnikov from Perm marched alongside Yelizaveta. “For me, May 9 is a reason to remember our great grandmothers and great grandfathers. Thanks to them, we live under peaceful skies,” the cadet in his dress uniform said. “I want to carry on the family tradition and become a military pilot, like my great grandfather I was named after, so the sky will stay that way.”
Speaking about the importance of the Immortal Regiment, Artek Director Alexei Kasprzhak reminded the young campers that those who served in the Great Patriotic War had to endure terrible ordeals to make the world a better place for generations to come. “I believe they fought for moments just like this, when you can feel the heartbeat of the person next to you. Moments when you can do something brave, which isn’t limited to fighting, but is more about following your heart. We must reflect on bravery and act bravely in peacetime, too. This is what I hope for you.”