Over 500 WWII veterans marched in Jerusalem to mark their victory over the Nazis 71 years ago.
Since he was a boy, Yuri Lykin has marched alongside Red Army veterans donned in medallions and freshly-pressed World War II uniforms at the Jerusalem Victory Day March marking the anniversary of Germany’s surrender.
Today, 19-year-old Lykin is in uniform himself – as an Israeli soldier.
“Now that I’m in the army it’s even more important for me to come,” Lykin told Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “Today is Victory Day and we celebrate the victory of Europe over the Nazis. The 8th of May has always been a Russian holiday. Russia bore the brunt of the fighting – most of the casualties were Russian.”
Lykin commemorates the acts of his great uncle, Yasha Lykin, a WWII pilot awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union Award, the highest honor in the Soviet Union.
“When I hear about the stuff he’s done, it’s unbelievable,” Lykin said. “He took out 70 convoys and talked about it like it was nothing – it was just something he had to do.”
Lykin holds out a flask and offers a swig of alcohol.
“In the end it’s a happy day – you celebrate, you drink,” Lykin said. “I’m grateful for the founders of Israel and I consider these people also to be the founders of Israel,” he said, gesturing at the elderly veterans. “I’m grateful to be living here and serving in the army like every good Israeli should.”
The ceremony included participation from members of the Knesset, representatives of the City Council, youth movements, and soldiers.
“As someone who served as a commander in paratroopers and went out to battle, as someone who lost friends and witnessed injuries, it is still difficult to for me to fathom the intensity of the battles you fought in WWII,” said Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. “Ten million Russian soldiers fell in WWII – more than the amount of the population of Israel. Year after year you fought and participated in battle after battle and we are here as Israeli soldiers today because of your actions.”
“There is no greater and sweeter revenge against the Nazis than marching through the streets of Jerusalem,” Barkat added. “It marks the closing of a circle. We look back in admiration and gratitude and look forward with great hope and faith.”
MK Tzipi Livni stressed the importance of coalition and opposition members coming together to remember both the joy and sadness of Victory Day in the runup to Israel’s Memorial Day and Independence Day this week.
“This is not a matter of partisanship,” Livni said. “While this is a joyous day, we also remember those who were not so victorious in the battle against the Nazis. We will always remember that in our country the sadness for the fallen and the joy of our victory come together as one.”
By: Joshua B. Dermer/TPS
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