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Multirole MiG-29 fighter jets fly over Red Square in the shape of the letter Z during a rehearsal for the Victory Day celebrations. May 7, 2022

‘This should be a day of mourning — not a celebration’ Meduza’s readers on how the war has changed the way they view Victory Day

Source: Meduza
Multirole MiG-29 fighter jets fly over Red Square in the shape of the letter Z during a rehearsal for the Victory Day celebrations. May 7, 2022
Multirole MiG-29 fighter jets fly over Red Square in the shape of the letter Z during a rehearsal for the Victory Day celebrations. May 7, 2022
Sergey Bobylev / TASS

The weekend before Victory Day (May 9), Meduza asked readers to tell us whether their feelings about the holiday have changed since the war began — and whether they plan to observe the holiday at all. We received more than 1,600 answers from readers in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and other post-Soviet countries. Many of them plan to steer clear of the official celebrations.


Krasnodar Krai, Russia

The closer it gets to May 9, the more I feel like we shouldn’t celebrate it this year. I can only imagine the scale of the propaganda they’ll try to put out that day. I really don’t want to see it.

You can’t deny the heroism shown in the Second World War, of course. But it should be left in history — how long can they keep trying to capitalize on it? Let them honor the veterans and recount the battles and the victories, but it’s time to stop boasting about how wonderful “we” are for it. We have exactly no business being proud of ourselves. We’re completely different people. We’re not the ones who went to Berlin. We’re not the ones who stood on the front lines. We’re not the one who fought to the death. That wasn’t us. Our ancestors are heroes — every family has someone to be proud of — but what are we celebrating ourselves for? We’re just taking credit for someone else’s achievements. And for some reason, we’re wildly proud, as if we were the heroes.

I get the feeling that everybody forgot what it is we’re celebrating a long time ago. All that matters is that there’s an excuse to shout, brag, and drive through the city with a flag and a bumper sticker that says “We can do it again.” But I'm ready for us to stop "doing it again."



I was born and raised in Volgograd, which, of course, used to be Stalingrad. My family had a house in the city center — in the middle of the combat, just a bus stop away from the famous Pavlov's House. I heard stories about how my 10-year-old grandmother, her brother, and her mother survived living in the thick of the fighting in the city. I’m not a scientist, but I can tell you the horror seems to get passed down genetically — the idea of war as absolute evil is literally hardwired into me.

I’ve always celebrated Victory Day — it’s almost the only holiday I observe. It’s a deeply personal holiday. It’s a day of pride and remembrance — not a day for saber rattling. Of course, I don’t accept the way the state has established a monopoly on the victory and exploits it mercilessly. It really makes me angry when they merge what happened then with what’s happening now. I feel bitter about it — we’ve lost the moral sense of victory for future generations. That’s something we’re going to have to deal with.

On May 9, I’ll watch the movie Only Old Men Are Going Into Battle. To me, the movie isn’t about war; it’s about having a love for life. I want to hear [Soviet actor] Leonid Bykov’s character say, “Everything is fleeting, but music is forever” and “Today we fought over my Ukraine.” He says it with such love!


Khabarovsk, Russia

My country has betrayed the memory of the war. Everything my ancestors fought and died for has been violated. For my family, this always was and will remain a sacred day of remembrance, but this year, [we won’t be watching] any parades, not live and not on TV; we won’t be part of the Immortal Regiment. We’re going to watch old Soviet films about the war and go to the cemetery to visit our grandfathers, who fought in the war, and grandmother, who served on the home front.


St. Petersburg

Both of my grandfathers fought. We still have two boxes of their orders and medals. My grandmother was a siege survivor; she worked at the radio station, leading the broadcasts for the resistance fighters. So our family was fully involved in the war. They observed the holiday reluctantly, and so do. The memories are too difficult, but they would drink vodka in remembrance.

Now those ancestors have died, but that might be for the best. They don’t have to see this terrible, shameful the war with Ukraine. In the last few years, all of the Victory Day hysteria on May 9, all of the flashy parades and the ribbons they give out, it’s all just made me angry. We plan to celebrate the end of the Second World War on May 8 with the slogan “Never again.”



My perception of the Second World War hasn’t changed dramatically since the war in Ukraine began. Just as before, I don’t see any point in separating the two wars. For me, it’s one historical process. Terrible and inhuman. And I consider it extremely unethical to single out the military actions of one country against Nazi Germany and downplay the contributions of others.

It’s important to talk about all aspects of the war — not only about the victories, but also about the mistakes, about the war crimes. Including those committed by Soviet soldiers on occupied territory. We shouldn’t build our idea of the war on mythology, which is what's currently prevailing in Russia.

May 9, in my view, should be a day of mourning, not a military holiday with parades, ribbons, and barbecues. It’s an important day for understanding how many smart, talented, and simply kind people this world lost due to the ambitions of a narrow circle of people. Right now, it’s happening again. It just proves again that Russia didn’t grasp the lessons of the 20th century. Part of the problem is how most people think about May 9.

victory day

Russia’s maybe-mobilization The Kremlin’s spokesman calls it ‘nonsense,’ but speculation is mounting that Putin is poised to expand the war against Ukraine

victory day

Russia’s maybe-mobilization The Kremlin’s spokesman calls it ‘nonsense,’ but speculation is mounting that Putin is poised to expand the war against Ukraine


Makhachkala, Russia

I understand I have nothing to do with my great-grandfather’s victory in the war. I understand that the war has been used by our government to lay the groundwork for the new war and to maintain the level of support it needs from society. I don’t want to be a part of the celebrations anymore; I didn’t even sign up for the Immortal Regiment on [online government services portal] Gosuslugi this year. I think the holiday should be observed with a moment of silence throughout the country.


Alchevsk, Russian-occupied Ukraine

Why shouldn’t we observe May 9? My grandfather died in the war — right near Kyiv. He was protecting his Motherland. I’m proud of him and I’ll continue to be proud of him. World War II doesn’t depend on current events.

Yes, we have something to be proud of. This is a holiday — one of the most important ones. We don’t need to start weaving current events into it. There’s no reason to deny the significance of the collective Soviet people — it’s just a fact. It includes Russians, Ukranians, Belarusians, Armenians, and Georgians…


Kharkiv, Ukraine

Yes, my feelings about May 9 have changed. I have a better understanding of war, of people’s behavior during wartime. I’ve begun to feel how commonplace death can become and how strong hatred can be. I’ve stopped wondering how my grandfather died in 1942; now I know there doesn’t necessarily have to be a heroic story, just a bullet or some shrapnel. Even before this, I didn’t celebrate May 9; I would just take the day to remember. And now I’m absolutely not up for celebrating holidays. The only thing we need is to win.



I’m convinced we no longer have anything to celebrate on this day. I think this is the last time Russia will observe it.


Kaliningrad, Russia

Victory Day has been a big holiday since I was a little kid. I remember the parade, bringing the flowers to the monument to 1200 guardsmen. I was born in 1979 and I still remember those ancient but noble people with awards hanging from their necks down to their waists. My dad and I would walk down the street and give flowers to all the veterans. There was a sense of triumph. Later, I continued the tradition with my own kids: every May 9, we would go to lay down flowers.

This year, we’re going to our dacha, where we’ll spend the day working. We’ll try not to think about anything at all. There’s no sense of triumph left. Only endless sadness and pain. I can’t write anything more. It’s too hard.


Kharkiv, Ukraine

After February 24, Victory Day gives me feelings of grief and sadness, not pride. My attitude towards Russia as a state has changed. For the sake of their own pride, they’re willing to make irrational decisions at their own expense.


Tambov, Russia

Over the last few years, the May 9 celebrations have become a farce. Every year, there are fewer actual veterans still alive, while the appeal to emotion gets stronger and stronger. There are the utterly awful tank-shaped strollers, children in military uniforms with [toy] machine guns, and tanks in the parade down the stone-block pavement on Red Square. What is it all for? It’s surrounded by complete poverty, by ugly roads; by older people who have to live off of a small pension. All while we proclaim that “we can do it again.”

Before February 24, all of that was just really annoying, but when the war began, I began to understand more clearly that our government has killed any positive feelings I had associated with the World War II victory. No, we’ll never forget our forefathers, who suffered a very difficult fate. But to celebrate anything after the authorities have negated everything is just blasphemous.


Oryol, Russia

I grew up in the 1980s, when life in our country was pretty militarized. As a little boy, I liked it. I would shout out to the whole trolley, “I’m a soldier!” I would drop my grandmother’s hand to hold hands with my grandfather, because he had orders and medals. And then I grew up and joined the army. I was proud of the glorious history, the victory of the Russian soldier.

And then that all went away overnight, when I learned about Bucha. Russian soldiers turned out to be killers and sadists. It was really difficult; it felt like a part of me was being torn off. So on May 9, my family and I will go on a short bike ride, then I’ll cut the grass and we’ll have a barbecue. Our own part in the festivities will be watching the fireworks from our street. From afar. As far as possible.


St. Petersburg

It really is difficult to figure out how to think about May 9 now. For the last few years, I’ve just gone to the cemetery to remember my grandpa and granny, and that’s what I’ll do this time too. Last time, I untied a St. George’s ribbon from the fence. 



I don't want to celebrate May 9 this year. I don’t even want to open my eyes or go outside that day. Because I know that from start to finish, the only thing I’ll feel that day is shame.


Sumy, Ukraine

For Ukrainians, May 9 is no longer Victory Day. Putin has made the day completely about himself. Old symbols have lost their former meaning. Instead of flying at the Reichstag, the red banner is flying at Mariupol and Kherson. The “fighters against Nazism” are no longer Red Army soldiers, they’re looters and rapists from Bucha. Ukraine’s liberation from fascism is what the Ukrainian Armed Forces are doing right now, not what happened in 1943. Putin calculated that if he could squeeze something in by May 9, it would make his regime look better. Instead, the opposite is happening — rather than making Putin look better, the holiday is just exposing how much he’s fucked up his chance at victory.


Vladivostok, Russia

I’ll be silent all day — silent in memory of those who died. Then and now.


City not provided

I’m a blockade survivor. It happened in 1941, I was six years old. I couldn’t care less about the authorities’ vile machinations and what they do and want. Victory Day was always my most cherished holiday — and I won’t let them take it. But instead of May 9, I’ll celebrate on the 8th!


Klin, Russia

I went out to the eternal flame [monument] with a sign. It turns out that it’s scary to go out alone, but I thought to myself, “No, I’m not alone — all of the people named on this granite slab, people who died in mass graves, who died so that we lazy fuckers could live, are with me. God, what are we doing?"


St. Petersburg

I can’t celebrate the victory over fascism when fascism won.

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