The gathering of the ‘immortal regiment’ was designated to take place to the north of the Gulf of San Francisco; namely, in the cozy, tourist town of Sausalito. Subsequently, a convoy with the Russian flag, US flag, and the battle flag of the USSR passed under the arches of the famous Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. In memory of fallen soldiers, members of the motocross placed a wreath at the Holocaust Memorial, established on the grounds of the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. Afterwards the legion, consisting of hundreds of participants, moved from the eastern end of the Chrissie-Field beach to the foot of the Golden Bridge, the location of the historic Fort Point – one of the main military fortifications that used to defend the bay from enemies.
Russian-speaking activists, carrying portraits of their fathers and grandfathers who sacrificed their lives for victory over fascism in the Second World War, were recipients of unwavering attention of both San Francisco guests and residents, vacationing on their day off. Many Californians approached the participants of the demonstration, interested in the meaning and significance of the event. The ceremonial procession concluded at the base of the famous San Francisco Bridge, at which point performances of local musical ensembles took place. Military musical works and Soviet-era songs were primarily heard, including the well-known ‘Katyusha’, ‘Three Tankmen’, and ‘Day of Victory’. Each and every person who came to honor the memory of the fallen forefathers had the opportunity to experience what a military ration – traditional Russian buckwheat porridge with meat – was like, at no cost.
As a reminder, the commemorative procession ‘Immortal Regiment’ originated in Tomsk circa 2011 stemming from Russian journalistic reports, and transforming into an international social movement as time passed. The movement’s main goal appears to be memorialization of war veterans – soldiers, resistance fighters, blockades, POWs in concentration camps – in the nation’s memory. Few people are aware that similar rallies were held in the USSR several decades after defeating Nazi Germany.
San Francisco got involved in the event only three years ago thanks to a small but nevertheless active community of immigrants from Russia and CIS. The action team is headed by a several people, including Elena Nuzhnova from Richmond, Vera Skortseskul from Novato and others. ‘Russian Alliance’, an organization headquartered in the Russian District of San Francisco on Gary Street, took over as the authority over the organization of the memorial cavalcade. As stated on the organization’s Facebook page, “The ‘Russian Alliance’ corporation was established exclusively for charitable, educational and scientific purposes, including the development of friendly social and cultural relations between our countries, overcoming barriers in communication between the Russian and American people, as well as creating solid international relations between two countries – the United States of America and the Russian Federation.”
The organizers advocate ‘preserving the historical heritage, introducing people of different ages and nationalities with cultural values’ and are also working on the social integration of ‘various national groups living on the West Coast’ and ‘strengthening intercultural ties between the multilingual population living in the USA’. Besides this, the activists proclaim that with their actions, they are trying to conduct impartial exploratory, educational, and informational events ‘to increase public awareness regarding the ongoing relationship between the Russian Federation and the United States of America’.
“People like our event, guests from other cities and states come to our action,” – Elena Nuzhnova, one of the main sponsors of the fundraiser, stated while speaking to ‘Slavic Sacramento’. – “People eagerly participate, we will continue on.” According to the organizers, Russian officials and diplomats, unlike in Seattle, do not in any way participate in the financing this patriotic event. Every measure required for the ‘Immortal Regiment’ to gather in San Francisco for the past three years has been undertaken solely through the efforts of local individuals committed to the cause. According to Elena Nuzhnova, the public movement in San Francisco began with a spontaneous action to distribute St. George ribbons on the streets of the city in 2015.
“Disregarding politics, I bow my head before people who stopped fascism on this planet,” – one of the participants in the motorcade, a biker from Sacramento named Aleksander, commented in regard to the action. Aleksander was born in Kiev and immigrated to the United States in the late 90’s when Ukraine, having gained independence, was in dire condition and complete ruin. A member of the Communist Party of China also joined the demonstration telling the ‘Slavic Sacramento’ correspondent that his parents remember the Soviet era and to this day are grateful to the Soviet Union for their help in raising their countries economy.
The convoy, which had already traveled through several neighborhoods of San Francisco, was decorated with St. George ribbons and American flags, as well as USSR symbols, including a portrait of Stalin. Joining the march alongside the Chinese student, American activists were handing out leaflets celebrating Humanism and refuting ‘provocation’ and ‘falsification’ of the American and British imperialists in respect to Russia. In particular, the proclamations denied Russia’s involvement in the recent poisoning of a former Russian Intelligence Officer, Skripal, in London. The leaflet concluded with ‘Ode to Joy’ by the German philosopher and poet Friedrich Schiller.
One of the bright participants in the meet was a motorcyclist, Oleg Kharitonov, on a solo circumnavigation expedition going on its fifth year, during which he has visited more than 70 countries in the world. The column of demonstrators was accompanied by a Russian policeman, Konstantin Ivanov, who expressed his deep appreciation to the Soviet veterans for their combat during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45.
“I am very glad to be here, as all of my compatriots celebrate the victory. Both of my grandfathers had fought in this war,” – Konstantin relayed to a ‘Slavic Sacramento’ correspondent in an interview, – “I am happy to celebrate this holiday, thanks very much!”
Konstantin has been working in the San Francisco Police Department for four years, regularly patrolling the Russian-speaking neighborhoods of the city.
Similar events took place in New York, Seattle, Orlando, Los Angeles, as well as other cities in the US and Canada.