The gaze travels vertically along the walls and falls on images that smell of history. I have always thought that Moscow is about stone: it is made of stone and has a smell all its own, that you can’t find elsewhere. The streets, the buildings, even the wide and perhaps enormous spaces, the very wide streets, even the void smacks of stone, of a place that has been built by history, which has faced history like no other country on earth.

I am once again in Red Square, which the Russians call beautiful square and today it is the theatre that is hosting the patriotic parade. It is the first time that I have witnessed it live and it is not very different from the others that happen regularly on 9 May each year The elderly, and the very elderly with medals blossoming on their chests, take their place, with a wise gaze. They know everything: what happened and what the sacrifice then allowed to happen. There are children, who have been given a military hat by their grandfather or their mother and which they crumple in excitement. Soldiers are already in ranks by the thousand, they smile and talk to each other, and as the minutes pass they are transformed from people into those who will celebrate the anniversary in the name of everybody: the old and the children, the living and above all the dead. The many millions that implacable Russia remembers with this parade, not only in Moscow, but in dozens of cities around the country because every family has a grandfather, a great-grandfather, or even a father, a mother, someone , in short, close and loved, dead, killed, who sacrificed themself, even as a civilian, in the great patriotic war.

This celebration machine is a huge number of soldiers who make up an unprecedented fanfare, the sound of which echoes in the huge square. When they parade it becomes a large number of divisions and squadrons and flags and men and women and some smiles and many faces turned upwards, to look at all the citizens. Their footsteps beat hard on the pavement and caps, colours and helmets distinguish one group from another. Enormous medals are reproduced on the facades of the buildings, armoured vehicles pass by and planes fly overhead. But all of this does not offset the gazes of the people who are indeed soldiers but who, first and foremost today, are citizens of this country that they are going to honour today just like those millions of dead did 76 years ago. 

Valerio Festi

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