Monday, May 12, 2008

Love lessons from a Soviet war veteran

9 May is Russia's most important holiday. Everything closes down on this day to make time and headspace for honouring the war heroes of World War II.

On the eve of Victory Day, as it is called, I find myself standing in front of the Kremlin. The Red Square is inaccessible to the public today as preparations for the victory parade are under way. According to CNN, this is the first full scale military parade, complete with army hardware and war planes, to take place since the Soviet days.

Outside hundreds of wreaths and bouquets line the wall of the Kremlin. A symbolic flame is guarded by officials and war veterans walk around donning their ribbons and medals.

'I survived because I come from a village, not from the city,' says Alexander, who was 18 when he started driving army tankers for the Soviet Union, 'village people are stronger.'

We laugh.

'My tank was fired twice,' he continues, 'first time six months in hospital. Second time I couldn't hear or see for longer.'

Alexander seems thrilled to share his war stories with whoever would listen while his wife observes from a distance, in awe. She is a simply stunning elderly lady. Being here makes it clear why Russian women are the fantasy of men all over the world. They are indeed blessed with perfect proportions.

'This is my wife,' says Alexander, 'she is younger than me and didn't experience the war. She was just a little girl when it ended.'

The way he looks at her moves me deeply. She smiles a coy smile. Her wrinkles crinkle like lines in a painting. Her eyes shine like the golden domes of the Church of Christ the Saviour. This is a woman in love, no doubt about that.

In all my life I had never seen anything more beautiful: an elderly couple that look at each other with so much love and admiration. They are still excited to be with each other after a whole lifetime together.

Love and war. These two extremes. Perhaps experiencing the worst in life makes it more likely that one would appreciate the best. Maybe seeing first hand how fleeting life can be makes it impossible not to live with all one's heart.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Or perhaps it's just easier for a man to love a beautiful woman; and for a woman to love a hero...