May is a special month, being the month when we celebrate victory over Nazism in WWII. Belarus will always remember this, revering its veterans. Today, around 50,000 former front-line soldiers and partisans of the Great Patriotic War reside in Belarus, their number gradually falling. Naturally, they continue to feel respect and boundless gratitude from us.Our Victory remembrance is a sacred event, since the Great Patriotic War has left its trace on almost every family.
Our Victory remembrance is a sacred event, since the Great Patriotic War has left its trace on almost every family.
I’d like to mention some facts from my personal life. My father, Mikhail Kharkov, fought the Germans and was severely wounded, receiving two medals: ‘For Courage’ and ‘For Military Merit’. Today, these are relics of my father, who survived that war, after experiencing its hardships. Sons, fathers, grandfathers, brothers and sisters failed to return, with each Belarusian family facing bitter loss.
The heroic deeds and self-sacrifice of those soldiers live on. In this respect, I’d like to share an example with you, which vividly demonstrates the inseparable connections between the past and the present. Minsk artist Alexey Zinchuk experienced the 1941-1945 war first hand, belonging to that generation which had to survive those troubled years. Naturally, his path to art has been more circuitous than that of many of his colleagues.
He was born in the Belarusian-Ukrainian Polesie village of Bratalov, where he spent the first twelve years of his life. There, he met the fascist occupation. After liberation, the strong teenager was sent near to the front, as a subsidiary service soldier — digging trenches and creating models of military equipment to disorient German pilots. They often used horses to bring food to soldiers at the front, as it was impossible to drive, and wounded were brought to the rear in the same fashion.
“Roads in Ukraine were so muddy in spring that nothing short of a tank could get through,” recollects Mr. Zinchuk. “We had to use horses. I have a picture called Front Roads.” The military topic is vividly portrayed in his works, in portraits of grey-haired front-line soldiers. Front Roads reflects reality, of which the artist is well aware, having walked many kilometres of military roads during those severe years. Military columns, going into the very heart of war, are depicted in the background, while a cart of wounded soldiers moves in the opposite direction, placed in the forefront. Near a horse there stands its colt, symbolising new life.
At present, Mr. Zinchuk is the youngest veteran in the Belarusian Union of Artists. His path to the future leads on from his recollections of his young military years. He has a great deal to remember, spending much time in front of his easel with a clean canvas. There is so much to capture. He connects contemporary life with the bygone age. An interview with artist Alexey Zinchuk is available in our magazine, under the title Paths Leading To Future.
I’d like to continue the symbolic topic of the Victory. Usually, one or two weeks before May 9th, Belarusian TV channels begin to broadcast films dedicated to the war. These are always interesting, describing the courage of soldiers and the fate of ordinary people during those troubled years. We see the strong and weak features of human nature — cruelty, kindness and self-sacrifice. We see heightened emotions and levels of human dignity, which serve to nourish our spirit, helping us to realise the value of life.
We should remember that, after WWII, Belarus became one of the founders of the United Nations Organisation, alongside other states. Few countries can boast such a privilege. The choice was made in favour of Belarus — a USSR republic — because of its great contribution to destroying fascism. Our state clearly deserved this honour!
BY Viktor Kharkov,
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