May 9 in Kyiv, almost a normal day

By Florence Obenas

Posted today at 10:37 am

In the Garden of Eternal Glory, in Kyiv, they ascend the long corridor to the war memorial one by one, cautiously, eyes lowered, a few flowers clenched on their chests. In Ukraine, they have not been seen since the Russian invasion of the country on February 24, hiding in the shadows, silent. “I haven’t been out in weeks,” Retired teacher says. Suddenly she lowered her voice. Take a look around. “In the current situation, I feel on the side of Moscow,” she says. This time, I ventured outside on this very day: It’s May 9, the date the Kremlin officially commemorates World War II, while the rest of the world chooses May 8 instead. Like the countries of the former Soviet Union, Ukraine has kept this holiday despite its independence. But this year, when the attack killed thousands, all celebrations were canceled To avoid provocations. Only a wreath is allowed. In an alley in the park, a couple is rushing for a walk. “Let’s not stay here, The boy said to his fiancée. There are only supporters of Russia. »

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It is ten in the morning, when, according to tradition, everything should begin. At the foot of the monument, one soldier in a festive Soviet-era uniform stands attentive: Major Sergei Vasily, 73, has a medal on his chest, a carefully smoothed mustache. About, hardly anyone yet, no noise, except for two children in soldiers’ clothes, berets skewed, terrified to be there, like a parody of a parade. The veiled women watch over them, and expel those who approach him.

Men come to lay flowers in front of the monument to the Unknown Soldier, in the Garden of Eternal Glory, in Kyiv, on May 9, 2022.
Meditation in front of the Monument to the Unknown Soldier in the Garden of Eternal Glory in Kyiv, May 9, 2022.

The Pope arrives, then another, and it stays long enough for an Easter song. Expendable small group. Will Russia survive? one whisper. Other: We try to pass this party in silence, to humiliate ourselves. » Nobody survives, but it happens all the time. The youngest are in their forties, the oldest always are, ghosts of the Soviet Union, nostalgia and the best remnants of Sunday’s empire, overwhelmed or enraged with the double rage of having to contain them. In the sparse promenade, we recreate images of 2021, a way of reviving the past: we see a crowd proudly gather in a small procession from the subway station to the memorial. Even sellers of carnations and tulips preferred not to come this time. So, we put what we have, two apples or a few grapes.

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