by Henry Sakaida
Henry finds the original recipient of his Hero medal
Author Henry Sakaida points to the name of Guards Colonel Arkady I. Ponomarenko, original recipient of his Gold Star medal for Hero of the Soviet Union.
senior citizen employed to sit in a chair and keep tabs on visitors, to make sure nothing was touched. The most magnificient part of the main museum is the top floor, right under the statue of Mother Russia. On the white marbled walls are the names of each Hero of the Soviet Union, carved and painted in gold. There was one name under four Hero Stars; three under three; a bit more under two stars, and the rest were single award recipients. I have a Gold Star HSU in my collection which belonged to Guards Colonel Arkady I. Ponomarenko, a Ukrainian. He won the title of Hero of the Soviet Union for his brigade's break through of heavily fortified enemy positions on the west bank of the Oder River in April 1945. I was able to locate his name on the wall and touch it. Wow!
On May 9th, my host took me to the city center by bus. Adults and young children were lining the streets, flowers in hand, in readiness for the Victory Parade. Flower vendors were doing a brisk business. We arrived at this moment where there was an eternal flame burning for the fallen Soviet soldiers. The ceremony started promptly at 10am with the arrival of Leonid Kuchma, President of Ukraine. Two groups of young Honor Guards goose stepped to the base of a huge black monolith carrying wreaths.
Wreath laying ceremonies begin
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma starts the Victory Day ceremonies with a formal wreath-laying at the eternal flame for fallen Soviet soldiers.
People lay flowers at monument
The Victory Day ceremonies are attended by delegates from many countries including the United States.
Veterans march in the parade
Surviving Soviet veteran officers proudly march in the ceremony. They are highly respected and during the parade are often given flowers by well wishers.
President Kuchma followed and laid a wreath at the eternal flame, followed by his entourage. They were followed in turn by a large group of old Marshals and generals. The WWII officers were easy to pick out; their tunics were heavy with medals! The postwar officers wore ribbon bars and had fewer decorations. After the generals had laid flowers, there was a very long procession of dignitaries representing their respective countries. I could make out delegations from China, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, England, the U.S., Germany, and France. It seems that every foreign embassy and consulate sent a representative to pay their respects. It was heartwarming to see old veterans, many in their mid 70s and 80s, hugging and embracing old comrades. Some came with their great grandchildren. School kids thrust flowers into their hands. Many came in business suits with rows of ribbon bars; others wore their medals.
On the buses and subway trains, I ignored the beautiful women of Kiev to check out the vets. I saw a couple with the 3rd Class Order of Glory and one wearing the Order of the Red Banner. Almost all the other medals were Jubilee, Victory, and Defense of ... Medals. One of the great highlights for me was to actually see four or five Heroes, (continued)

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