WASHINGTON, May 5. /TASS/. About one thousand people gathered in the center of Washington near the White House on Saturday for the Immortal Regiment march commemorating World War II heroes. The participants in the procession, held in the US capital for the fourth time, walked from the presidential residence to the World War II memorial in the National Mall.
The march began at 15:30 (22:30 Moscow time). The people in the column carried photos of their relatives and dear ones - all Great Patriotic War veterans. At about 16:15 (23:15 Moscow time) the column moved to the World War II memorial to the tunes of Russian and Soviet songs popular in the middle of last century.
At the memorial the marchers observed a moment of silence.
Police patrols took care of security. Several streets in Washington’s center were closed to traffic for a while.
Participants in the immortal regiment march
In the crowd there were many CIS-born marchers and also US citizens whose ancestors fought in World War II for the United States. Some Russian embassy staffers and ambassador Anatoly Antonov joined the procession.
"I’m greatly impressed by today’s event. According to the Americans who joined us for this procession today there are some 1,000 marchers. It’s a significant increase in the number of friends, both young people and veterans, who have participated in this very special event. I’ve been pleased to learn that our compatriots managed to arrange for such marches in 23 cities," Antonov said.
"This is great, but we are still to do a lot to let people know and remember what the Great Patriotic War was for us," he said. "From my very first day here my counterparts, first and foremost, at the Pentagon, showed unequivocal understanding of how important it is to preserve our common heritage. I recall the meetings I had with former Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, who invariably supported Russia’s proposals for preserving this memory and for briefing the public at large on how we fought together for the liberation of the world from Nazism," Antonov said.
"I can see the Americans are very much interested not just in our past, but also the present day, in the way people in Russia live and in the rich culture we have. I can see no antipathy, no negative remarks from ordinary US citizens. I have a feeling that we and the politicians who often scold us here in Washington live on different planets. As I marched with the Immortal Regiment column today, I saw people’s eyes open widely with surprise. They watched with great respect and sympathy what we were doing," Antonov said.
One of the marchers, local resident Robert Mitrocsak, said his father fought in the US army during World War II, so he felt obliged to show respect for all World War II veterans who participated in that war for Russia and the United States. Robert brought to the procession a picture of his father who was in the army in 1942-1945. It was his third Immortal Regiment march, Robert added.
Another permanent participant in the march, who took part in two previous such events, Lyudmila, a Washington resident, too, carried a photograph of her great-grandfather, killed in the battle of Kursk two months after being drafted into the Armor from a village in the Tambov region.
"My great-granddad, Yegor, had six children. Only one daughter survived. He was more than six feet tall, so his wife was very anxious there might be not enough room for him in the tank. Yegor and his companions laughed at her and promised to keep the hatch open," Lyudmila said. "Today it is very important for me to feel my great-granddad is somewhere near. He and all other heroes are with us today. This is what makes us feel warm and happy, despite tears in our eyes," Lyudmila said.
What is Immortal Regiment?
Immortal Regiment is a relatively new tradition increasingly popular with descendants of World War II veterans who to take to the streets in the first days of May with large photographs of their ancestors to honor everybody who contributed to their countries’ war effort and eventual victory over Nazism in the spring of 1945. It is held in Russia and many other countries. For the first time such a march was took place in Tyumen in 2007 under the title Victors’ Parade. The Immortal Regiment name appeared in Tomsk in 2012.
In the United States, the Immortal Regiment demonstrations were first convened by the Russian Youth of America in New York, San Francisco and Atlanta in 2015. The Immortal Regiment marches in the United States are held under the aegis of the Coordinating Council of Public Organizations of Russian Compatriots.