First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 ESV
May 9th, 1994.
I was standing on a bridge spanning the Neva River that runs through St. Petersburg, Russia. I had been invited to watch fireworks for their national holiday called “Victory Day.”
The day that they celebrate their defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.
A short distance away, on the bank of the Neva, in front of the Peter and Paul Fortress, I saw twelve howitzer-style canons. I sighed with relief when I saw that the canons were not pointed toward the bridge on which I was standing.
I turned to ask my interpreter what canons were doing at a fireworks display and…
The concussion of twelve canons firing together almost knocked us off the bridge. My interpreter, regaining her balance, said to me, “Welcome to fireworks – Russian Style!”
The Neva River Boom!
Another concussion, but this time I was holding the railing of the bridge.
The fireworks weren’t American-style with razzle-dazzle, fired intermittently, and synchronized to music. Twelve canons each loaded with a firework and fired together, with a million Russians shouting, “Ooh-Rah,” after each boom.
Every three minutes another volley of canon/fireworks fire – for about an hour.
I thought, “Hey, the Russians and the Americans were fighting together in World War II. Both my parents fought in World War II.” I had the roots to celebrate with them.
Boom! Pastor Grant, “Ooh-Rah!”
During World War II, in Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi’s blitzkrieged Russia in three parallel offensives. Nineteen Panzer divisions, 3,000 tanks, 2,500 aircraft, and 7,000 artillery pieces across a thousand-mile front as the most powerful invasion force in history.
Caught unaware, the Russians reeled back in disarray.
St. Petersburg was quickly encircled but the Germans were stopped from entering the city. To weaken St. Petersburg’s defenses a siege began – one that lasted for 900 days. At the beginning of the siege, St. Petersburg’s population was 2.5 million, and at the end about 1.1 million.
Boom! And one million Russians shout, “Ooh-Rah!”
When I first visited Russia, it wasn’t hard to find someone who had lived through the siege or who had parents or grandparents who been in the city encircled by Germans. In the early 1940s, St. Petersburg, with centralized food distribution, had a section of wooden warehouses where most of their food was kept.
The first thing the Germans did – firebomb the food! For 900 hundred days, 2.5 million Russians had little to eat. The starvation was unimaginable.
Boom! One million Russians and Pastor Grant shout, “Ooh-Rah!”
All nations have a consensus memory of struggle. Some of that memory is good but often difficult. Nations fight other nations, countries have persecution, and racism exists.
Still, there is honor and memories.
The Russian Victory Day would be similar to our Independence Day. In my community, we had “Buck Creek Boom” or fireworks – fortunately without canons – on the banks of Buck Creek.
Boom! Thousands from Springfield, Ohio, and Pastor Grant shout!