FOUR Spanish cities will simultaneously host the Immortal Regiment event on May 8.
The mass event, organised by the regional association of Russian expatriates in Spain with the support of the Russian Embassy, will take place in Barcelona, Madrid, San Sebastian and Altea.
For those un-familiar with the Immortal Regiment, this is not just an event for Russians but is in honour of all those who lost their lives in the Second World War, commemorated on Victory Day, which in Europe is on the May 8, and in Russia on May 9.
The mass procession consists of individuals, friends and family, walking together, holding up photographs of their family members, who participated in some way in the Second World War. There is no discrimination: whether your loved ones survived or died, each person has the right to bring their photograph, or just the dates of their birth and death, and proudly walk them through the streets.
The black and white photos of the deceased assemble themselves as if marching in the army, hence the name, The Immortal Regiment.
The march is an act of admiration and remembrance of all those who showed bravery, who overcame the odds and who helped others, during this terrifying time in our still very recent history. It serves also to show that each person who perished or suffered in the Second World War was someone’s loved one, someone’s son, daughter, mother, father, sibling.
In Russia, the Immortal Regiment has been met with unprecedented popularity and support. Having been started by two workers of a regional TV station in 2012 in their local town, the very next year saw the event take place on a national scale, with 120 of towns hosting the procession on May 9 across Russia. By 2015, the mass event was also held in seven other countries in post-Soviet and European territory.
In 2016 President Putin publicly joined the procession on Moscow’s Red Square, holding a picture of his father, who fought in the war.
It is inspiring to see small children on their parent’s shoulders, carrying photos of their great grand-parents; the general hope is that by understanding the sacrifices that their ancestors made for peace, they will not repeat the mistakes of the past and the atrocities of the mid- 20th century will well and truly remain history.
Particularly poignant are the responses of the children of the veterans, who tell first-hand stories of their parents and the war; the hunger, the suffering, but mostly of the love, hope and courage that their parents possessed.
It has been said many times that to forget the war, whether it be the first or second, or any of the revolutions and wars that have happened in between on European and other territories across the world, is to invite them to happen again.
The Immortal Regiment serves to unite people through common memory, and the four events in Spain will bring together Russians, Armenians, Ukrainians, Byelorussians and Spaniards, who will carry their portraits together as a united front.
In Barcelona and Madrid, both marches will take place at 11:30 am on Monday, and start at the Placa de Cataluna and in front of the Museo Reina Sofia, respectively. The organisers of the Immortal Regiment stress that it is a non-political event.