Marking the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and Remembrance Day with The Cambridge Russian-Speaking Society in 2020

We are delighted to inform you about the successful completion of our community project “Remembering the Second World War.” It included a range of public events and the publication of a brochure with autobiographies of 15 veterans, 20 personal stories and tributes to family members who experienced the war first-hand – during the Blitz bombings or during active service with the Royal Air Force or on the Eastern Front.

The first part (pp 3-20) of the brochure ‘Veterans of the Second World War in Britain’ was produced in May this year. It featured short autobiographies and photographs of veterans, all of whom took an active part in the Arctic Convoys.

Then we complemented the brochure with a collection of personal stories written by members of the Cambridge Russian-Speaking community which has resulted in the production of the second part entitled “Living Memories of the Second World War” (pp 21-43).

We are most grateful to all the contributors who helped to realise this publication, including the 15 veterans and their families, 13 CamRuSS members who kindly shared their family stories, Beverley Lott, who helped with proofreading, designer Maria Bestujeva and CamRuSS volunteers Yelena Karl and Ksenia Afonina who initiated and managed this project. Our special thanks to Cambridge City Council whose Community Grant VE-75 helped us to arrange printing of this publication.

We hope that you will enjoy reading these moving stories and that our thoughts and hearts will connect in remembering and paying tribute to the generation that had to face the enormous challenges of the Second World War.

Over the years of our charitable work in the UK, The Cambridge Russian-Speaking Society has had the pleasure and honour to get to know our local heroes – veterans of the Second World War, who are residing in the UK. We have organised several public events in Cambridge with Russian and British war veterans and have stayed in touch with them via letters and phone calls.

It has become a tradition for us to send cards to the veterans for VE Day. Some cards we procure in Russia, others we print locally using original designs produced by students at  Cambridge Russian School and Cambridge Russian Academy. Since 2015, every May CamRuSS members have attended the annual commemorative wreath-laying ceremony at the Soviet War Memorial in London. This event has become even more poignant since a group of Russian war veterans started coming to the UK to celebrate VE Day with their British colleagues.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of VE Day and the end of the Second World War. Originally we had planned to hold a range of public events. However, due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, we had to divert our activities to the virtual realm, which, apart from its apparent limitations, has helped to engage new audiences.

We recorded a special VE Day greeting by Captain Rolfe Monteith – one of the UK-based veterans (in May); organised a screening of the feature film ‘Franz+Polina’ and an online discussion with its director Mikhail Segal (in June); took part in an informal virtual meeting with the Russian veterans in Moscow who were due to come to visit us in the UK in May (in August); held an online talk on ‘Operation Barbarossa. The turning point of the Second World War’ by Dr John Barber (in September); and an evening of poetry of the Second World war with translator Maria Bloshteyn (in October). Recordings of the talks were made available to CamRuSS members.

Let us continue to stay connected.

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