The parade in honor of the 75th anniversary of the Victory was held in Voronezh on Wednesday, June 24, in the face of high alert due to the coronavirus. All the zones for participants and spectators had been disinfected beforehand. Voronezh residents were allowed to enter the parade zone after a mandatory temperature measurement at the metal detector frames and only upon wearing masks and gloves. Those who had removed the mask already in the “clean zone” were reminded of the necessity to put it on again by volunteers and police officers. The sidewalks were marked with crosses indicating the acceptable social distance but there were more people than marks.

Historical uniforms and new equipment

The parade involved 2.3 thousand troops and 104 units of military equipment.

The holiday began at 10:00 with bringing out the Victory Banner. The parade was hosted by the Commander of the 20th Guards Combined Arms Army of the Western Military District, Lieutenant General Andrei Ivanaev. The parade was commanded by the Deputy Chief of the Voronezh Air Force Academy, Major General Alexander Nagalin.

Honorable seats on the stands were occupied by veterans. Next to them were Governor Alexander Gusev and Chairman of the Voronezh Regional Duma Vladimir Netesov. In addition, the celebration was attended by deputies of all levels and clergy.

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Фото — Михаил Кирьянов
Unmounted detachments of the military unit of the 20th Army including ceremonial-historical ones - with the banners of the fronts of the Great Patriotic War, in the 1943 uniform, with Mosin and PPSh rifles - solemnly marched past the stands. The column was continued by representatives of the Yelninskaya and Vislinskaya motorized rifle divisions, cadets of the Zhukovsky and Gagarin Air Force Academy. For the first time, the parade involved a combined detachment of female military personnel. The ceremonial detachments of the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Russia in the Voronezh Region composed of combat officers of fire and rescue units closed the column.

The Head of the Region addressed the guests with a welcoming speech. He noted that thanks to the participants in the legendary Victory Parade, which took place on June 24, 1945, and millions of their fellow soldiers, several generations have not faced such terrible adversities as war.

‘Their great feat will forever remain in our memory. It is exactly what today’s parade prepared with a special commitment to the veterans is dedicated to,’ the Governor stressed.

Chairman of the Voronezh Regional Duma Vladimir Netesov added that the military parade was ‘a pride in one’s country, a tribute to memory, gratitude, and great respect for the liberator soldiers’.

‘The Great Patriotic War had affected every family in our country. And even though this year we had to cancel the traditional festive events on Victory Day because of the pandemic, the Victory Parade still took place. We express our deepest gratitude to the veterans who have granted us, their descendants, independence and freedom. They defended the territorial integrity of our state at the cost of incredible efforts and losses. And today's Victory Parade is in their honor,’ Vladimir Netesov emphasized.

Photo – the press service of the Voronezh Regional Duma

The memory of the fallen soldiers was honored by a Minute of Silence. After that, a mechanized column passed along the main square. It included BTR-82A armored personnel carriers, Nona-SVK self-propelled mortars, Iveco LMV Rys, GAZ Tigr, and Kamaz Typhoon armored vehicles, Palantin-A electronic warfare system, Medved towing vehicles with towed 125-millimeter Msta-B howitzers, self-propelled howitzers and tanks, signal and communication equipment.

For the first time at a parade in Voronezh, spectators were able to see the Iskander-M operational-tactical missile system.

‘I have not missed a single parade’

Veterans came in protective masks but took them off from time to time if the social distance allowed for it.

Tank crewman Ivan Kuruchev said that he considered it his duty to come to the parade despite the epidemic:

‘How could I not support the country in these difficult times when everyone is so worried? And we live in this country, we make up the population of our hometown. So I could not but come!’

Ivan Dmitrievich recalled his participation in the 1945 parade in Moscow:

‘The first time I saw a parade being met on horses: Zhukov was on a white horse, his adjutant too, and Rokossovsky with his assistant were on the black ones. I didn’t march in the military column at the parade: you had to be at least 178 cm tall to do it. But I walked along the square with all the people, I walked in the third row and saw Stalin very close.’

Ivan Nizhebetskiy is also a participant in the 1945 parade in Moscow.

‘I was an engineer during the war. After the Victory, when we were traveling from Koenigsberg to Moscow by train, I undressed, took off my boots, uniform, and lay down on white sheets - for was the first time in three years. In the capital, we immediately began to train – we marched under Krymsky Bridge. There were so many people gathered on the suspension bridge to watch us that we were afraid to march under it – we were afraid it would suddenly collapse. Later we were transferred to march in Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure, where there was a large exhibition of captured German weapons, but soon they transferred us from there as well - to VDNKh. On the morning of June 24, we were given ceremonial full dresses and went to Red Square. Our 3rd Belorussian Front stood just opposite the mausoleum, I saw all members of the government in full view. And then there was the march - it was not in vain that we rehearsed for so long,’ the veteran told.

Semyon Rudin stood at the origins of a veteran organization in Voronezh.

‘I had been at the war since day one: on June 23, 1941, I was already at the military registration and enlistment office, I enlisted in the Dnipropetrovsk Region. The day before, I had graduated from the 10th grade and was supposed to be transferred to the Odessa Infantry School but instead was sent to the front right away. First I served in engineering troops, then - intelligence. I went through the entire 1941 on foot, wearing boots and footwraps, from the Dnieper to Stalingrad itself. I survived a bombardment, got a concussion, my nose was broken, my arm was injured. The victory happened when I was in the Far East, our division fought there against the Japanese. After the war, I served in the Navy for another three years, came to Voronezh in 1948 and have not missed a single post-war parade since then,’ Semyon Moiseevich shared.

‘We came in the memory of war veterans’

Despite the difficult epidemiological situation, the sidewalks were filled with people: Voronezh residents came to the parade with their entire families, mostly with children. RIA Voronezh correspondents asked the audience why they had risked coming to the celebration with so many people.

‘After all, 75 years is a big anniversary. And we must honor our veterans, all who had fought and served. I believe that everyone should have come to the parade in memory of the war veterans. My grandfather had not returned from the war, he went missing,’ said Angela Stepanova.

Kristina Grishina and her son Arseny had planning to go to the parade long before the holiday itself. The mother admitted:

‘We were ready to come on May 9 too. Arseny really wanted to look at military vehicles, and he also liked the fireworks.’

Yekaterina Patrysheva came to the parade with her two sons - nine-year-old Timofei and four-year-old David.

‘We want the memory to live not only in us but in our children as well. May 9 is a very important holiday for us. The children waited for the parade, kept asking when we would go to it, and after the parade was rescheduled, they waited for June 24 with the same impatience. Today they got up at seven in order not to be late. Previously, we have participated in the Immortal Regiment march. My great-grandfather, front-line soldier Mikhail Sokolov, managed to see me: I was one month old when he died. But my grandmother used to say that he did not like to talk about the war, he kept everything inside,’ Yekaterina shared.

Alexander Telnykh and his daughter Olga also came to the parade not willing to give up on the established tradition. Olga remembers her grandfather, a front-line soldier, who passed away in 2004 at the age of 79.

‘This is a day we hold dear. There are fewer and fewer veterans every year, but they still come on Victory Day. My father Sergei Telnykh returned from the war, but his two brothers died. Father had reached Germany. A few days before the end of the war, he was caught in a bombing and jumped into a shell crater of an explosion. And there was a German with a gun at the ready. Father realized that he would not have time to stand up to him, but the German gave him a signal to lie down. So they waited for the bombing to end side by side, and then the German asked: ‘Comrade, where imprisonment?’ He tore off shoulder straps, threw the machine gun into the shell crater and went to where my father showed him,’ said Alexander Telnykh.

Galina Kapustina always took part in the Immortal Regiment march and only this year came to the parade without photos of her relatives. Six members of her family had fought in the war.

‘My grandfather, his three sons and daughter had fought. One of the sons - my uncle – had died. The aunt served in a medical battalion, she was a donor. My father, Ivan Nesterov, was enlisted to the front at the age of 17. I always come to the parade on Victory Day in memory of my loved ones and this year is no exception - the only difference is a medical mask,’ Galina Ivanovna noted.