Massive statue in Kiev
Peace..children frolic on rusting war machines at the Museum of War History in Kiev. Here is where one of the fiercest battles of the last century took place.
by Henry Sakaida

Collecting Soviet orders and medals can be thrilling for those who care to go the "extra mile!" To actually see and meet the veterans wearing them has been my goal ever since I started collecting. I would like to share my recent adventure with my fellow collectors.
On May 1, 1998, I flew to Kiev, the capital of the former Soviet republic of Ukraine. I had "adopted" two Ukrainian families and they had invited me to visit. May is the best month of the year to visit Kiev and May 9th is Victory Day, which is celebrated in all the republics of the former Soviet Union. It is like our 4th of July! In Kiev, along the banks of the famous Dneiper River, there is a gigantic metal statue of Mother Russia, holding a sword and shield. Under the statue is the Museum of War History. It is located on a large hill, which can be seen from many parts of the city. Of the more than 11,000 war time soldiers who became Heroes of the Soviet Union, almost half of them won their honor at the Dneiper. Crossing this wide river was so murderous and formidable, Stalin decreed that those who crossed it and held their positions, would become Heroes. Thousands of men died trying.
When I visited the museum, there were few visitors. There were many Soviet WWII and postwar tanks, vehicles, and artillery on display outside. It was quite exciting to actually see a T-34 "Stalin" tank, one of the most famous Soviet tanks of the Great Patriotic War. In one of the museums at the complex, there were many interesting displays of original equipment and mementos which belonged to the deceased. There were letters, photographs, guns, medals, books, and artifacts. I saw a couple of original Gold Star HSU medals. In the main museum under the giant statue, there were uniforms in glass display cases worn by famous Soviet generals. But on close inspection of the Hero Stars, I found that they were copies! They just didn't look authentic to me, although to the general public, they wouldn't know! My observation was confirmed by my Ukrainian host. I also saw two sets of all three Orders of Glory on uniforms. These appeared also to be copies because they looked mint. I have never seen such medals without some wear on the gilt (2nd class) or soiling of the ribbons. The museums did not have security cameras. There would be a (continued)

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