For Russians, an Old Victory Lives OnAt first glance, some of the Russian veterans of World War II appear too small and frail to bear the weight of all those medals arrayed over their chests. But a closer look at their faces reveals the fortitude and fire — long banked — that must have sustained them in the battle for their homeland; a battle that ended in victory 65 years ago.
On Victory Day, celebrated May 9 each year, many veterans gather at Gorky Park in Moscow. James Hill, a contract photographer for The New York Times in Russia, attended the gathering in 2006, set up a canvas background and took portraits in this impromptu studio of field nurses, snipers, anti-aircraft gunners, wireless operators and partisans. He wove the images together over the popular wartime song “The Blue Handkerchief” to create the lovely portfolio, “Victory Day in Gorky Park: The Women of World War II.”
Mr. Hill returned to Gorky Park on Victory Day 2007. And 2008. And 2009. Even as the number of surviving veterans was diminishing, his gallery was growing — to about 500 photographs.
“They are rightly regarded as heroes in Russian society,” Mr. Hill has written. “But I did not try to make heroic poses of them. I wished simply to show them as themselves, ordinary people who were caught up in extraordinary times; men and women who lived and fought through the most tumultuous years of the last century and who have lived with those memories ever since.”
Victory Day 2010 is being marked by the publication of “Victory Day,” a collection of these portraits, by Kolibri, a division of Atticus Publishing in Russia. An exhibition at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art opened April 29.
James Hill | The New York Times
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