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Crimeans look back on two years of reunion with Russia, count minutes to gala shows

March 18, 2016, 17:42 UTC+3 SIMFEROPOL SIMFEROPOL March, 18. /TASS
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People take part in a rally marking the second anniversary of Crimea's reunification with Russia in Simferopol
© Alexei Pavlishak/TASS
© Alexei Pavlishak/TASS
© Alexei Pavlishak/TASS
© Alexei Pavlishak/TASS
© Alexei Pavlishak/TASS

SIMFEROPOL, March 18. /TASS/. The people of Crimea, where Friday, March 18 is a local day off, are celebrating the second anniversary of reunification with Russia. Festive hustle and bustle in the central square Simferopol, the capital city, began at 10:00, but the main events are due later in the evening. In the meantime, the city's old-timers, new-comers and guests are sharing reminiscences of what happened two years ago and how and telling each other the latest news. For all street cafes and souvenir vendors it is certainly one of the busiest days in the whole year, but hardly anyone of them complains they cannot close shop and celebrate with everybody else. Business will be business.

Russia’s three-color flag in Crimea

The main eye-catcher in Simferopol’s central square, due to see the main festive celebrations Friday evening, is a large motto reading CrimeaRussiaForever, its letters painted the colors of the Russian state flag. Whole families keep taking turns in front of it to pose for a photo.

Teenage girl who introduced herself as Anastasia, a 9th year local school student, says this year she made her first-ever trip to St. Petersburg.

""Now we have a good president and a great country in every respect. We enjoy far wider opportunities. Last year we went to St. Pete for a sports competition. Our country is now the largest of all," said Anastasia while posting her selfie in a social network.

Young man Daniil is in the center of Simferopol with a huge bunch flags hoping to make some money. He offers the smallest three-color sheet to passers-by for 200 rubles a piece (roughly $3), and the largest, for 500 rubles ($7).

"We’d ordered the flags especially for the occasion. Few have been sold so far, but we hope to sell many more in the evening. Prime-time is still ahead," Daniil said.

A podium for the evening show is already in place and musicians are busy testing the sound equipment. All tables in the cafes nearby are booked.

Memories and hopes

The people of Crimea take special pride in the spring of 2014.

"This holiday has been my dream since 1954, from the very day when we were told we’d been given away to Ukraine as a gift. I studied well the history of serfdom in Russia and I know that only landowners used to give away or sell lands with their residents. After a while we learned to live the way we were told, though. But the last few years before reunion were just terrible. Our strongest wish was to get back home. Now we are with our mother country again," Valentina Saltan recalls.

Retiree woman Zoya, who was taking a stroll about the square with her grandson, said that since Crimea reunited with Russia her pension had doubled.

"I’m on retirement pension and I’m paid enough. With the Russian pension life is much easier than it was with the Ukrainian one. I’m saying this on my own behalf. As for the problems we have we just don’t pay attention. We know where they come from and when they’ll be gone. Blackouts will be over some day. We are ready to wait," she said.

A volunteer working for a local charity organization in Crimea, Nina Strelets, is certain that two years were surely far from enough to do away with all problems that had been piling in Crimea for many years.

"Nothing is done overnight. Each single person should start with oneself. Do something to help the city. Keep it clean. No manna from the heaven is in store for us. We should avoid putting spokes in our leaders’ wheels. And very soon we’ll be living a hundred times better than today," says Nina with certainty.

Saleswoman Svetlana Amelina recalls that Crimea has lagged 15-20 years behind Russia.

"But a great deal has been done since reunification. Just recently we had many streets that had been asphalted last time back in the Soviet era. Now we’ve seen them repaired. Clearly, a whole lot more is still to be done. We’ll hold on," she said.

Crimea on the film screen

Simferopol’s central square has been crowded since early Friday morning. Many went there especially for the first screening of Miracle in Crimea - the first full-length feature filmed in Crimea since the peninsula’s return to Russia’s fold. The presentation ceremony was at a local musical theater. All of the 800 seats were occupied and it is anyone’s guess how many had to stay outside. In the main lobby many were heard sharing recollections of the filming process, in which many local residents were involved.

"I’m so eager to see myself on the screen. In general, it is a very emotional moment when you can see yourself and your own city. You cannot but feel very proud - of Simferopol, of Crimea and of Russia," local woman resident Nadezhda told TASS.

The film’s director Vitaly Pavlov and leading actor Mikhail Porechenkov, who presented the film, congratulated the audience upon the second anniversary of the Crimean Spring to draw long and hearty applause. US musician Jimmy Wilgus sang a Soviet pop-song from the mid-1970s and expressed his affection for Simferopol.

Tonight’s agenda

The second anniversary of the reunification of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, located in its territory but enjoying the status of a separate region of the federation, with Russia has been celebrated across the nation. All large cities - from the Far Eastern extremity Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky to the westernmost exclave region of Kaliningrad have seen rallies, outdoor shows and flash mobs. The main events are due in Moscow, Simferopol and Sevastopol on Friday night.

Moscow will see a traditional rally and outdoor show just outside the Kremlin wall next to Red Square. The event titled We’re Together was initiated by Russia’s Civic Chamber. Russian politicians and public figures will attend. The State Duma (lower house of parliament) will work shorter hours on Friday to let its members join the festive crowd.

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