Skip Navigation

The aroma of Victory Day

May 18, 2009 at 7:53 am
By Nikki Reich

Even a week later, the aroma of Victory Day is still in the air. Literally, as this year, Columbia decided to present Russia with a 100,000 lush red roses in celebration of the day. As I strolled along Tverskaya with Andy, Charlie, and my host family, my host mother was all too surprised to receive a free rose! Of course, my three host sisters requested roses as well, so now, even a week later, we have four Victory Day roses on our kitchen table.


Actually, my Victory Day began the week prior to May 9th when our phonetics professor gave us black and orange striped ribbons to put on our bags. This particular ribbon symbolizes Victory Day, and I had already seen many Muscovites wearing them. Without thinking twice, I proudly tied the ribbon to my purse. Not until I arrived on the metro and opened up one of our books for Diane’s class, which happened to be in English, did I realize that it was rather strange for me to have such a ribbon on my purse. Actually not so strange for me as I feel rather at home in Moscow, and frankly, at the moment I am much more familiar with Russian history than American, but maybe for the other Russians on the metro. Regardless, the ribbon was a gift, and I felt proud to wear it.

As for the day itself, after returning from a morning run, I received quite the appropriate greeting from my little host sister, Nika. She ran up to me, raised both hands high, and gave a big 3-year-old shout, “Dyen Pobedi!!!” (Of course, grinning ear to ear!) I certainly couldn’t leave her emotion unmatched, so I did the same, hands high, big shout, “Dyen Pobedi!!!”


As Charlie mentioned, my family opted to see the parade on TV. The big hit was when the planes flew overhead. My host sisters all called my host father to come see, as he was in the kitchen preparing breakfast.

The festivities continued later in the afternoon when my host family headed to Tverskaya Street to join the crowds, hear the music, see the dancing, and just enjoy the lovely day. There was one moment when I glanced over at my host family and saw little Nika in her stroller, ice cream smeared all over her face, a Russian flag in her left hand, and a rose in her right. I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself. At the same time, in the midst of the excitement and family fun, like many of the other students have mentioned, I sensed the devastation and horror of WWII. Just the day before, I had an excursion with other Carleton students to the WWII museum at Victory Park. When we walked into the main hall, there was an incredibly powerful and solemn memorial dedicated to those who lost their lives in battle. When I looked up, there were thousands of tiny chains hanging from the ceiling, some with glass tear drops. The wall to the left and right held records of those who died, and upon walking closer to the back wall, there was a statue of a solder. My attention was continually brought upward, reminded over and over again of the tears shed during war.


Yet with this sadness comes an incredible sense of pride and triumph. Like many of the other students, I too watched the fireworks from Sparrow Hills. I was with the crowd standing above the Leninskiy Prospekt bridge. I had invited a Russian friend to join us, and she was incredibly excited. It was her first time seeing fireworks! Even today, when I met up with her again, she just raved about her Victory Day experience, not only the fireworks but also all of the other parts of the day as well. For her, it had always seemed too dangerous to stroll the streets of Moscow. I didn’t think it was the time to ask, but I’m sure many of her loved ones died in the battle.


Finally, as a girl raised by a mother in love with flowers, I cannot help but comment on the tulips! I was more amazed by the thousands and thousands of tulips in full-bloom than by even the fireworks! Although one of the students mentioned that they were freshly planted, I had hoped they were all simply blooming right then. When we took a detour through the Alexander Garden, I noticed a full-fledged Muscovite photo-shoot happening among the flowers. I couldn’t help but join the fun! Did I mention the aroma of Victory Day?