Belarusian scientists’ ‘Lilacs of Victory’ project to help preserve memory of heroic deeds of fathers and grandfathers

Lilac branch of remembrance

Belarusian scientists’ ‘Lilacs of Victory’ project to help preserve memory of heroic deeds of fathers and grandfathers

Symbolically, and heartwarmingly, on the eve of July 3rd (the day on which we recall the liberation of Belarus from Nazi invaders) Minsk Botanical Garden gained a new avenue, of lilac bushes named in honour of ‘military’ deeds. The Belarusian grown seedlings have been planted on Partisan Glade, to mark Independence Day, their genetic DNA gathered by Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian botanists, from various corners of the former Soviet Union.

‘Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya’, ‘Marshal Zhukov’, and ‘Captain Gastello’ varieties, bred by prominent Soviet self-taught selectionist Leonid Kolesnikov, are blossoming again, brin­ging delight to citizens of hero-cities and those of military glory. Several memorable avenues have already appeared and more are being planted, via the ‘Lilacs of Victory’ project.

The initiators have received the prestigious ‘Stars of the Community’ award: academician of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus Vladimir Reshetnikov, Director of the Central Botanical Garden of Belarus Vladimir Titok, and the Head of the Laboratory for Applied Biochemistry, Yelena Spiridovich.

The award is given to those who have made considerable contributions to science, music, and film, and was this year presented at the Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre in Minsk. Other laureates included famous actor and stage director Yuri Solomin, Azerbaijani pianist Farhad Badalbeyli, Kyrgyz composer Muratbek Begaliev, Tadjik artist Vafo Nazarov, and the Director of the National Library of the Republic of Kazakhstan Umuktan Munalbaeva.

On the eve of the ceremony, all those receiving awards joined forces to plant the lilac bushes. “Work done, have your fun,” joked the Director of the Botanical Garden, Vladimir Titok, handing out shovels and watering pots. Like some ­others, actor Yuri Solomin confessed that it was his first attempt at planting a sapling, but he did well, being entrusted with the ‘Valentina Grizodubova’ variety, named after the first woman to receive the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, for her bravery in piloting planes. Within a few years, the sapling will be ready to bloom, delighting visitors to the Botanical Garden each May. Yuri recalls the stories of partisans he heard as a child, and remarks that the ‘Lilacs of Victory’ project will help future generations remember the great heroic deeds of all those who fought.

Farhad Badalbeyli, who visited ‘Khatyn’ the day before, also planted a seedling. He underlines, “It’s important for us to remember history. Today, there are so many wars and there is so much bloodshed around the world. Meanwhile, Belarus is comfor­table and quiet, which should be valued.”

All those who took part in planting the avenue were presented with commemorative certificates and were promised that the young lilac bushes will be well cared for, like the memories of war-fallen loved ones.

At the CIS Interstate Humanitarian Cooperation Fund, it was noted that the ‘Lilacs of Victory’ project is the only non-commercial project to unite modern biotechnologies in crop growing with patriotism. Marshal Alexander Vasilevsky, pilot Alexey Maresyev (upon whom the hero of the ‘Story of a Real Man’ is modelled), and Captain Nikolay Gastello (who sent his burning aircraft into an enemy column near Minsk at the start of the war) are long gone. However, we have not forgotten them. In gratitude for the peaceful sky over our heads, these lilacs, as symbols of the Great Victory of May 1945, blossom in Volgograd, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sevastopol, Kerch, Kiev, Odessa and Minsk.

By Inna Kabysheva
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