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Rzhev - Tough Memories

Rzhev gifted the world with a genuine compromise, transforming its tragic history into a beautiful humanifying statement.

The holiday of November 4th here in Russia was prolonged, really prolonged. In Moscow, it started on the 30th of October for most of the people. For me, it started normally on the 4th. The idea of going out on a trip was itching my brain. Unfortunately, the weather outside wasn't really an inspiration for that. I decided to stay home, do some work with my videos and actually do some online shopping, which has been a sort of an attraction for me these days.

However, I broke out of my comfort zone the next day. The previous night, through a phone call, my friend Misha and I agreed to go on a one-day trip to Rzhev, a city located 2 hours from Moscow going west. And so, the following morning, despite the weather with that same crying face, I saw no barriers. I packed my bag with my Canon, my mirrorless Xiaomi (yeah, that's what I've been using to shoot my videos), lenses, tripod, timer device, laptop and a bunch of other things. Depending on the angle from which one would look at me, there could be the impression that I was moving somewhere.

Shortly before 9 am, the car pulled over near my place. And the trip started.

The way to Rzhev is one with pretty okay roads, only being that, as we drove through the outskirts of the town, things got a bit more bumpy. But that wasn't any issue. Plains, plains and plains. Little country houses, small villages. Some lonely gas stations along the way. And, of course, some road cops, one of which decided to stop us and give Misha a fine. By the way, the situation took away a good deal of our time and the ride that should have lasted two hours ended up lasting over four hours. Fun.

After all, finally, we reached the city of Rzhev. And actually, we still managed to see various places. As soon as we stepped out of the car, we started our way through the quiet center of the town. The buildings along the streets weren't any higher than few floors mostly. One of the things that seized my attention at that fresh start was a little fun fair area, placed in the middle of pretty old greyish buildings. It was deactivated and seemed to have been like that for some time. Shortly later, in that same place, a man who supposedly works not far from there, told us that the minuscule amusement park stopped due to lack of electricity.

As we went on with our exploration, we found the first attraction linked to military honor. Along the high bank of Volga river, a little gardened alley with pine cone trees featured a Second World War cannon and more ahead a square at the middle of which stands an obelisk. At its bottom, an engraved concrete image of soldiers and near the monument, a memorial flame, a common thing to be found in several Russian towns. The elevated park area with its typical wooden benches make it for a perfect spot when one wants to sit and appreciate a view. I'm personally often delighted in such places

By 15h30, we started our way to another tourist attraction. A bit out of the town, there are two famous cemeteries where Russian and German soldiers from the war time were buried. These graveyards were purposefully placed together to symbolise the peaceful relations kept between both countries and to purge any offensive intentions that may surge.

The last place we chose to visit (which was my main interest) was the memorial monument of the soldier, also located a few miles out of the town. The Rzhev Memorial to the Soviet Soldier, as officially named, is a complex where one can find artistically designed walls with an almost endless list of the names of soldiers who perished during the war. Around, creatively, a set of lighting was placed and made a perfect effect to illuminate the great and fantastic statue of the soldier standing at the center of the memorial. The monument features a soldier with a heroic pose, with his bottom fading and being covered by a bunch of eagles. With the lighting effect, one has the impression that the monument is actually up in the air without any support below. The whole bronze monument, including the structure below, is 35 meters tall. An interesting detail we observe as we walk the path leading to the monument is the classic, patriotic and instrumental music playing from speakers fixed all over the place. The beautifully lit memorial complex, with the atmospheric musical background, can really get you thinking.

They can get you thinking because of the sad and tragic episode that this town witnessed. The reason why Rzhev was chosen to possess this monument is the heavy fate met by the hundreds of thousands of soldiers during the conflicts. The Red Army had great losses while fighting the German troops in the surroundings of Rzhev. For almost nearly two years, the province was under Fascist domain. Rzhev was, throughout the war, seriously ruined. Also, as we learned from that man in the amusement park, the handling of deaths was of such a trouble that many soldiers who fought here and who were supposedly buried in graveyards, were later with the years accidentally found in their forgotten battlefields. As I heard many say, Rzhev contains a painful part of Russian history that is rarely discussed.

Compared to the time spent on the road, our exploration in Rzhev was indeed short. But it was fulfilling.

One can be easily hit by a sense of sorrow while visiting the spots we looked at in our small expedition. But, with proper reflection, it may leave you with valuable wisdom. The wisdom that ideologies shall never again lead men to kill his peers.

More about the memorial here:

The Battle Of Rizhev

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