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22 Jun, 2008 05:11

Russia remembers Great Patriotic War

One of the bloodiest pages in the history of Russia and the former Soviet countries is being remembered today. On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. The four-year-long war claimed the lives of nearly 3

The motto of the Soviet Union was to stop the enemy at all costs – and the cost was immense.

In the first three weeks of the war the Red Army lost almost a million of soldiers.

When the war broke out, Taisia Sorokina was in Moscow. She was a high school student.

Together with her friends they decided to go to the front. 

“I was one and a half years too young – I was not eligible. I begged and I cried, and I managed to persuade the recruiting office to let me go. They added a year to my file. I got into the first women's rifle brigade,” says Taisia Sorokina, a war veteran.

22-year-old Ivan Pstygo was a flight commander.

“On the very first day of the war we formed two groups, nine planes each, and flew to bomb the fascist forces that intended to cross a river. These were Romanian divisions fighting on the side of Nazis and it was as if they didn’t expect us. That day none of our planes was gunned down,” says Ivan Pstygo, a war veteran.

The war became a national tragedy and a fight for the whole nation. Those who weren’t at the front worked for it.

“I would not dare to compare whose exploit was greater, those who fought or those who were in the rear – a soldier attacking the enemy or a teenager working 24/7 at the factory. The scale of heroism was equal,” says Igor Orlov, a historian.

Ludmila Alekseeva says there are two days she can remember to the minute, June 22, 1941 and the day when the Great Patriotic War ended – May 9, 1945. She says she was lucky to have witnessed a moment when it seemed everyone was happy – even in sorrow.

“I was walking down the street and saw a woman, she was crying so hard. And I said how can you cry today when you have to be so happy. And she said: I am happy, but I'm happy alone, my husband and my three sons perished,” says Ludmila Alekseeva from Helsinki Human Rights Group.