Monday, June 21, 2010
The Darkest Hour
It happened exactly 69 years ago, on the night of the Summer Solstice: The Nazi Attack on the Soviet Union. The night before, the country's high school graduates were happily celebrating their graduation. Now, at the dawn of June 22nd 1941, all the celebrations died off and the Western part of the biggest country in the world was sleeping... only to wake up to a nightmarish bombing attack coming from an ally, Germany.
To say that the country was not ready for the war with Germany is to say nothing. Millions of Russians (Soviets if you wish) died only during the first days of the war, because they simply did not have guns to shoot with. "Get the guns from the enemy!"- that was the high commander's advice. The person in power, though, the notorious Stalin, was probably surprised by the attack more than anybody else. He thought USSR had at least a year to prepare..
Clearly, Stalin did not care as much about his people as he did about defeating Germany and showing everybody the advantages of the communist regime. However, today, looking back at the Great Patriotic War, I think if somebody even an inch softer than Stalin was in power, we might have been defeated, enslaved, and annihilated, and whatever else was in Hitler's plans. Who else other than Stalin would have ordered to shoot any soldier who tries to back up and flee the battle of Moscow?! Yet, the battle was won... Not to deny that it was Stalin himself that brought Russia to its knees in the beginning of the war, by simply killing off all "white" Russian generals and whoever else was not "red" enough.
Even despite all that, that war is the single most horrible and glorious part of Russia's history that I hope none of us will forget. For Americans, US has clearly won the war ( so what if it was the only one to ever use atomic bombs? No biggie, right?), Brits can make the same claim, French-not so much after their surrender in 1941. For me and for any Russian, at least I hope so, there was only one winner, the one that was bleeding with 22 million hearts lost forever. 22 million! Has any other country ever lost so many lives??? Can any other country even perceive this number??? No.
That is why WWII will be the most touching topic you'll ever ( and better not) discuss with me. Too much to forget (and we'll never forget), too few that still live to remember. There's never going to be enough words to express our gratitude to the veterans who fought for Russia 69 years ago... and shame to feel for Neo-Nazis and skinheads proliferating in the very same country today...Oh well, each country has its darkest and brightest moment. I hope that my country will be strong enough to reinvent itself one day like we did back in '45.