Some weeks ago our teacher asked us if anyone knew what День Победы (“Day of Victory”) was. I joked that it was the day for dinner (the word for “dinner” sounds similar to the word for “victory”) and got a good laugh.
Unfortunately, I had never heard the word “victory” before, and — jokes aside — actually didn’t know what the holiday was for; so I asked. This was my teacher’s response:
You don’t know?
Are you serious?
You’re joking, right?
—Really, I don’t know. Seriously.
Do you know what WWII is?
—I am American. We Americans don’t know anything.
At this point in my public humiliation, a friend of mind just whispered it to me in English and I spent the rest of the class simmering simmering simmering, outraged to be asked whether or not I knew what WWII was and condescended to for not knowing a word that wasn’t at all obvious, nor was I the only one ignorant of it.
They say Necessity is the best teacher — I think Humiliation wins a close second.
The “Day of Victory” is so called by the Russians who lost some 23 million soldiers and civilians in WWII before embarking upon another half decade of Stalinist repression and persecution.
No wonder I had trouble understanding why the end of WWII would be considered a “victory day” for Russia: the name demonstrates the residual, Soviet revisionistic view of history with sickening irony. 23 million dead civilians and a ruined country is not a victory by anyone’s standards (except Stalin’s, for whom the ends always justify the means).
In America, where WWII casualties are around half a million, there is a similar holiday at the end of May known as “Memorial Day”.
God, however, is a true lover of irony. I’m not one to invoke God, but today I really think something was there. I watched a blue sky darken and an enormous black cloud billow up from the Gulf of Finland and spill over the Admiralty into Palace Square where, at first, gusts of winds inspired whirlwinds of dust, followed by heavy, heavy rain just as the Parade was arriving.
Ironic fact number 2: Tatyana, who is always reminding me not to forget my jacket, or wear a hat etc., forgot her jacket today.
I did publicly drink a Coke in honor of Victory Day.