Thursday 9th May 2013.
It’s Victory Day. Moscow is alive with celebration: pomp, ceremony, shining medals, stamping boots, arms, tanks, planes, sunshine, bright colours and a gleaming, dazzling display of power. Most people are in the centre of town today. But you know me: always peering through the gaps between moments to spy the invisible; to watch the quiet unfolding of every day stories and the drama of real life. This is what happens on Victory Day if you’re not in the centre of the action…
Everything is unusually eerily quiet. At around a quarter to eleven the silence deepens, becomes thick, as if the city draws in a long, slow breath. We are all waiting. Here they come, the planes. The rhythmic churning of the air overhead brings everyone wriggling out of their homes, as worms from underground to sudden rain.
Onto the roof, here they come: cameras held up, hands lifted in a salute to shield the eyes from the glare of the sun. Out onto the balconies, clumps of people clotted together, cameras held out of windows, necks straining as faces lift to the skies.
On the streets below, everyone stops walking. The pedestrian crossing signal beeps uselessly into the red-carpet silence that lines the route of the coming procession. The air is heavy with expectation. All of us are holding breath, holding hands, holding cameras at the ready.
At its peak, the sound of each passing over is almost no longer audible. By now it has entered your bones and you have to feel it until it leaves your body, drawing a sliver of something after it on its way down to Red Square. As each wave slowly rumbles overhead, it is preceded by a swooping shadow: a giant salute.
It’s a victory dance between the people and the past, and you will find yourself joining in somehow, like it or not.