A tale of two Victory Days

We won then. We will win again here

May 9, Victory in Europe Day, was a time to look back and celebrate the liberation of Europe, the end of the war against Nazi Germany, but also a point from which to look forward, the plan and to rebuild Europe and to ensure that nothing like the devastating destruction of WW2 ever happened again. Spoiler alert, it did happen again. It is happening again and it’s happening on our watch.

Looking at the heart wrenching destruction of the cities in Ukraine, even those that have thus far escaped the fate of Mariupol’s constant bombardment, I can’t help think about what happens when all this is over.

It will be over, eventually, but at what cost? Europe was rebuilt, Ukraine will be rebuilt, but how much will it cost to rebuild Ukraine and who’s going to do it?

Read any interview with President Zelensky, or indeed any Ukrainian, whether remaining to fight or having fled, and you’re in no doubt that Ukraine will be rebuilt by \Ukrainians, Maybe, definitely , with a lot of help from the rest of the world, but the passion, the drive, the sheer will and heart to get it rebuilt will be the Ukrainians’’.

This is a fight for the soul of democracy, it’s not about land, not really. It’s about power and Putin’s need for validation which has back-fired on him catastrophically. But more catastrophic for the people of Ukraine, of Mariupol, of Kyiv and Irpin, of Bucha and, yes, for the Russian solders sent in on what they believed would be a quick operation to liberate a grateful Ukraine from Nazi grasp.

In Russia, no-one celebrates the end of the Second World War on May 9, they celebrate the end if the Great Patriotic War, fought between Russia and The Nazis, who are anyone and everyone who might be against Russia. It has nothing to do with the National Socialist Party of pre-war Germany. To Putin, you are either Russian and therefore good, or you are not and therefore bad.

I can’t help but compare the empty, boiler-plated speech of Putin’s Moscow military-extravaganza on May 9, with Zelensky’s barnstorming speech on the same day, walking towards the camera through the empty but still standing streets of Kyiv. And also, with the way the British celebrates VE Day in 2020, the 75th anniversary.

Not for us, the massed troops, the militaria, the guns, the missiles and the tanks. We prefer to celebrate with a pot of English Breakfast, a slice of Victoria Sponge, shortbread, Jammy Dodgers and Union-Jack decorated cupcakes. Oh, and bunting. So, so much bunting. And possibly a glass of something fizzy at 4pm, which even at my great age always seems slight daring and grown-up.

Putin thinks that his military might makes him better than everyone else. He’s wrong. He is so, so wrong and history will prove that to be the case.

This guy, on the other hand…

Bloody hell, he’s good.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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