Memorial Day

Memorial Day is more than just a three-day weekend and a chance to get the year’s first sunburn.
Memorial Day was a response to the unprecedented carnage of the Civil War, in which some 620,000 soldiers on both sides died. The loss of life and its effect on communities throughout the North and South led to spontaneous commemorations of the dead:
 In 1864, women from Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, put flowers on the graves of their dead from the just-fought Battle of Gettysburg. The next year, a group of women decorated the graves of soldiers buried in a Vicksburg, Mississippi, cemetery.
 In April 1866, women from Columbus, Mississippi, laid flowers on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers. It was recognized at the time as an act of healing regional wounds. In the same month, up in Carbondale, Illinois, 219 Civil War veterans marched through town in memory of the fallen to Woodlawn Cemetery, where Union hero Maj. Gen. John A. Logan delivered the principal address. The ceremony gave Carbondale its claim to the first organized, community-wide Memorial Day observance.
Waterloo, New York., began holding an annual community service on May 5, 1866. Although many towns claimed the title, it was Waterloo that won congressional recognition as the “birthplace of Memorial Day.”
Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. This date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.
From the practice of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths and flags, the holiday was long known as Decoration Day. The name Memorial Day goes back to 1882, but the older name didn’t disappear until after World War II. Federal law declared “Memorial Day” the official name in 1967.
In 1915, inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” Moina Michael replied with her own poem.

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

She then came up with an idea of wearing red poppies on Memorial day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need.
Since the late 1950′s on the Thursday just before the Memorial day, around 1200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing. In 1951, the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of St. Louis began placing flags on the 150,000 graves at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery as an annual Good Turn, a practice that continues to this day.

In 2000, Congress established a National Moment of Remembrance, which asks Americans to pause for one minute at 3 p.m. in an act of national unity. The time was chosen because 3 p.m. “is the time when most Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the national holiday.”

And in 2004, Washington D.C. held its first Memorial Day parade in over 60 years.

Victory Day

Victory Day, marking the defeat of Nazi Germany, is Russia’s most important secular holiday.On this day, TV networks broadcast World War II-inspired films, younger generations honor veterans, and the festivities culminate in a military parade at Moscow’s Red Square.
Victory Day or 9 May marks the capitulation of Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union in the Second World War (also known as the Great Patriotic War in the Soviet Union and all post-Soviet states). It was first inaugurated in the fifteen republics of the Soviet Union, following the signing of the surrender document late in the evening on 8 May 1945 (after midnight, thus on 9 May, by Moscow Time). It happened after the original capitulation that Germany earlier agreed to the joint Allied forces of the Western Front. The Soviet government announced the victory early on 9 May after the signing ceremony in Berlin. Field-Marshal Wilhelm Keitel submitted the capitulation of the Wehrmacht to Marshal Georgy Zhukov in the Soviet Army headquarters in Berlin-Karlshorst. To commemorate the victory in the war, the ceremonial Moscow Victory Parade was held in the Soviet capital on 24 June 1945 (four years and two days after the beginning of Operation Barbarossa – the invasion of the Soviet Union).
The war in Russia was to change the course of World War Two in Europe. In June 1941, World War Two witnessed what was then the largest land attack in history  -‘Operation Barbarossa’. A vast Nazi force used Blitzkrieg to devastating effect on the Russian Army. Hitler had long made it clear that he hated the Russians and that war between the two countries was inevitable. The Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939 had only delayed what Hitler was apparently planning even when the Battle of Britain was at its height. He believed that the Russians were sub-human (the ‘untermenschen’ ) and that they had no right to live where they did. That they were East European was compounded by the fact that Russia was communist and led by Joseph Stalin. Hitler hated communism and Stalin.
Hitler wanted all the land in Eastern Europe to be given to Germans as they, Hitler believed, could farm it properly while East Europeans could not. Also many Jews lived in Russia (also known as the USSR at this time) and Hitler wanted them exterminated.
In August 1939, Hitler and Russia had signed a treaty of non-aggression which was meant to last for 10 years. However, for both countries the treaty was merely to buy time to get their armies into shape before one attacked the other. Hitler wished to stabilise his western frontier before turning east. Stalin desperately needed to reform his army after the 1930’s putches when his senior officers had been effectively wiped out either by imprisonment or execution.
In June 1941 Operation Barbarossa took place – a massive attack by the Germans on Russia.  
Hitler’s senior commanders had advised that the bulk of the German attack should be concentrated on Moscow. Two smaller armies would target Leningrad and Stalingrad and engage the enemy. These two armies would then be helped by the troops in the main bulk once Moscow had surrendered. They felt that once the heart of the nation had been cut out, the rest of the country would fall. 
Hitler would not have this. He did not believe that the Russian army was a match for the Wehrmacht and decided on three equal forces attacking Moscow, Leningrad and Stalingrad. As always, he got his way. 
The German attack on Russia involved:
3 million soldiers,  
3580 tanks, 
7184 artillery guns, 
1830 planes  
750,000 horses 
The Russian army collapsed under this onslaught and the attack was initially incredibly successful. Moscow was nearly reached, Leningrad was surrounded and the oil fields in the south were swiftly approached. But it had one main failing and that was created by Hitler himself. 
As the Russians pulled back (retreated) they destroyed anything that might be of use to the German army as it advanced – bridges, railways, buildings etc. and poisoned water supplies. This policy was known as “scorched earth” and it was not expected by the Germans and severely hindered their armies. The supply lines of the German army stretched from Germany through Poland and into Russia itself – a huge distance to defend and control. These supply lines were attacked by guerrillas called partisans who did a considerable amount of damage to the German army and caused major shortages.
The winter of 1941-42 was one of the worst in recorded history. Daily temperatures fell to 40 degrees below zero. German soldiers had not been issued with warm winter clothing as Hitler believed that the invasion would be over by the winter. Soldiers froze to death in their sleep, diesel froze in fuel tanks and food was in very short supply. Russian soldiers had been issued with winter clothing and did not suffer as badly as their German enemies.
The defeat of an entire German army at Stalingrad was a disaster for the Germans and some historians consider this battle the turning point of World War Two because the German army could now only go in one direction and that was back to Germany.
However, while the army was fighting the Russian army, soldiers from the SS Einsatzgruppen murdered hundreds of thousands of civilians. This was all part of Hitler’s plan to get rid of ‘sub-humans’ from Europe. It is thought that as many as 26 million Russians died during the war. The slaughter was so great that Himmler believed that the policy of shooting civilians might disturbed those doing the killing. A direct result of this was the order to find a quicker way of murdering the people of Russia and the idea of death factories developed from this which lead to the Holocaust.
However, from a military point of view, the defeat of the Germans by the Russians was vital to the Allies overall victory in Europe. Over two-thirds of the German army was in the Russian war and its defeat meant that the Allies in the west (GB, France and USA) had more chance of success against a smaller force. Winston Churchill stated that it was the Russians who “tore the heart out of the German army.”
What was the war like for the people in Russia and for the German soldiers?
From a German soldier who fought in Russia : 
“Do you know how we behaved to the civilians? We behaved like devils out of Hell. We left those poor villagers to starve to death, thousands and thousands of them. How can you win a war in this way?
We shoot villagers on the slightest excuse. Just stick them up against a wall. We order the whole village out to watch. It’s a vicious circle. We hate them and they hate us, and on and on it goes, everyone getting more inhuman.
The civilians were all ready to look on us as saviors. They had had years of oppression from the communists. What did we do? Turn into slaves under Hitler.
If the Russians should ever pay back one half of what we have done, you won’t smile or sing again.
We were quartered (living) in a house outside the town. Our dwelling for the night was a wooden house occupied by a Russian family of five children and an old grandmother. We were bitten by fleas all night. We opened our tins and made coffee, sharing what we had with the children and the old woman.
The man of the house was a soldier and the mother had been taken away to dig trenches. The children all had protubing bellies of long-term malnutrition. The reality is that after 22 years of Communist rule, a salted fish is the height of luxury. How this country depresses me.”
From a soldier who fought in southern Russia :
“I watched my mother and father die. I knew perfectly well that they were starving. But I wanted their bread more than I wanted them to stay alive. And they knew that. That’s what I remember about the blockade (of Leningrad): that feeling that you wanted your parents to die because you wanted their bread.”
Daily rationing quotas for the people of Leningrad in November 1941:

  Labourer Child of Eight
Bread 252g 128g
Fat 19g 17g
Meat 49g 14g
Cereals 49g 39g
Sugar 49g 39g

Celebration of Victory Day:
Many people attend a local military parade and watch the fireworks at night on Victory Day. The biggest parade is in Moscow’s Red Square, showcasing Russia’s military forces. Most veterans wear their medals as they head to the parade or an event organized by a local veteran organization.
Another tradition is to give flowers, usually red carnations, to veterans in the street and to lay wreaths at the war memorial sites. Neighborhood schools may host a program prepared by the students, featuring wartime songs and poetry.
At home, families gather around a festive table to honor surviving witnesses of World War II and remember those who passed away. They may also watch a favorite Soviet film based on the events of World War II, which is also known as the Great Patriotic War. These films are repeated each year but the audience seems to never grow tired of them.
Public Life
Victory Day is a national holiday in Russia. Public offices, schools and most businesses are closed for the celebrations. There may be changes in public transport routes due to parades and street performances.
Common symbols of Victory Day in Russia are:

  • St. George ribbon – people wear this black-and-yellow ribbon on their clothes or tie it to car antennas as a sign of respect and remembrance.
  • Red carnations – blood red is the color of the Soviet flag under which the veterans had fought. Laying an even number of red carnations at war memorial sites signifies mourning and remembrance.
  • Red Star medal – a military distinction for bravery.

Road to Reading

Do you remember learning to drive, how you had to get used to using three pedals with two feet while holding on to the steering wheel and watching the road all at the same time? It was difficult to coordinate and may have taken a while to get right. Your child is in the similar situation when he learns to read.
Learning to read is new, it is not easy and it can take a long time.
Your child is just settling into primary school after leaving the familiar environment of pre-school or home. Now he will be expected to sit and concentrate for longer periods than before.
You begin to realize that your baby is a baby no longer. He looks so serious going to school with that big school bag! You can encourage your child by following their school work closely and, in particular, by showing an interest in the reading folder.
Your child may be eager to learn to read and write but he will soon discover that it is hard work. It is important not to let him get discouraged.
You may find you are not as relaxed about your child’s progress as you would like to be. If things do not go according to plan, you might see it as failure. Perhaps you feel helpless and don’t know what to say when he bursts into tears because, “It’s to hard, I can’t do it!” or, “The teacher is too strict.” It is not always easy to help a child who, sometimes, does not understand what he is reading.

Your child may need to repeat things again and again. In the early days, the meaning of a story can be completely lost as he struggles with the words themselves.
You, as parent, may feel impatient and worried. Is it normal that your child is still slowly fumbling his way, while a best friend is whizzing through whole books?
The road to reading is often rocky. Your child might get out of breath, slow down or even come to a complete halt. Don’t worry. He will get there in time.
 To be continued…
Reading Part I


First Man in Space

April 12, 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. The 27-year-old cosmonaut’s mission lasted just 108 minutes and was fraught with drama: a break in data transmission, glitches involving antennas, a retrorocket and the separation of modules. And there was an overarching question that science had yet to answer: What would weightlessness do to a human being?
The flight was to be fully automatic, but what if weightlessness caused Gagarin to go mad and override the programmed controls? The engineers’ solution was to add a three-digit security code that the cosmonaut would have to enter to gain command of the spacecraft.
The flight was limited to a single orbit because of the questions about weightlessness, and Gagarin was supposed to parachute out of the capsule on return because a soft-landing system was not ready yet.
A top design official at the time, Boris Chertok, wrote in his memoirs that “Judging by modern standards of rockets reliability, we had no reasons for optimism by April 1961.”
However, James Oberg, a NASA veteran and currently a space consultant who has studied the Soviet space program extensively, says Korolyov( chief designer) and his men did all they could to make the flight safe.
“I don’t see any dangerous shortcuts in their approach to the Vostok,” he told the AP, adding that the two final launches before Gagarin’s flight were fully successful.
Despite the risks, competition for the mission was strong among the 20 young pilots on the short list, and Gagarin was the favorite. He was a man who made people feel at ease and radiated kindness, former cosmonaut Vladimir ShatalovGagarin, now 83, recalled at the Star City training center, which he headed for 20 years.
Just three days before blastoff from what would later be known as the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Gagarin was told that he was chosen for the mission. In a letter to his wife, Valentina, he asked her to raise their daughters “not as little princesses, but as real people,” and to feel free to remarry if his mission proved fatal.
“My letter seems like a final will. But I don’t think so and I hope you will never see this letter and I will feel shame later for that brief moment of weakness,” he wrote.
Gagarin’s rocket lifted off as scheduled on April 12, 1961, at 9:07 a.m. Moscow time. “Poyekhali!” (Off we go!), the cosmonaut shouted as he took off.
Korolyov and his engineers quickly got their first jolt: a signal suggesting a problem with the booster. It turned out to be just a break of a few seconds in data transmission. Gagarin’s confident reports from orbit eased the tension, and only after the flight, it emerged that an antenna malfunction had put the Vostok into a much higher and riskier orbit.
On re-entry, a glitch involving a retrorocket made the ship rotate swiftly, and the landing capsule was slow to jettison the service module. Scientists had to take a deep breath as they lost contact with the ship during its fiery earthward plunge.
Gagarin bailed out as planned, and parachuted onto a field near the Volga River about 720 kilometers (450 miles) southeast of Moscow. There he was spotted by a forester’s wife and her granddaughter who tried to run away from the stranger in his bright orange space suit and white helmet. They may have thought he was a U.S. spy “Hey, where are you running? I’m one of us!” Gagarin shouted. Then others arrived, realizing he was the cosmonaut they had just heard about on the radio.
First man in SpaceGagarin learned to his great surprise that while aloft, he was being promoted two levels higher, to major. Korolyov and others flew to the landing area and met with Gagarin at a Communist Party guesthouse. Their raucous reunion lasted late into the night. On April 14 Gagarin was flown to Moscow, where he was greeted by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and driven into town on a highway lined with cheering Russians.
Twenty-three days after Gagarin’s flight, on May 5, 1961, American Alan Shepard became the second man in space. But his suborbital hop lasted just 15 minutes. It wasn’t until John Glenn’s flight on Feb. 20, 1962, that an American managed to emulate Gagarin’s globe-circling feat. “Now let the other countries try to catch us,” Gagarin had declared after returning from space, and the U.S. quickly set out to do so. Barely three weeks after Shepard’s launch, President John F. Kennedy committed the nation to putting a man on the moon by decade’s end. The goal was achieved in July 20, 1969.
The first cooperative human space flight project between the United States and the Soviet Union took place in 1975. The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project was designed to test the compatibility of rendezvous and docking systems for American and Soviet spacecraft and to open the way for future joint manned flights.
Since 1993, the U.S. and Russia have worked together on a number of other space flight projects. The Space Shuttle began visiting the Russian Mir space station in 1994, and in 1995 Norm Thagard became the first U.S. astronaut to take up residency on Mir. Seven U.S. astronauts served with their Russian counterparts aboard the orbiting Mir laboratory from 1995 to 1998. The experience gained from the Mir cooperative effort, as well as lessons learned, paved the way for the International Space Station.
In-orbit construction on the Station began in November 1998, and it has been staffed non-stop with international crews since November 2000. The first Station crew, made up of U.S. commander Bill Shepherd and cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev, was launched on board a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. The crew returned to Earth on the Space Shuttle Discovery in March 2001.

Reading can be fun!

Think of all the things your child has learned to do since birth- walking, talking, getting dressed, riding a trike- the list is endless. The next important step towards independence is learning to read.
Reading, a big step for your child.
Walking, getting mobile.
Children can be either cautious or daring when they take their first steps. Remember when your child was between eleven and twelve months? How he pulled himself on to his feet by holding on to the bars of his cot? How he moved around by holding on to the furniture? And how, finally, perhaps with a little help from you, he was fully confident… and was off!
Speaking, getting heard
Before you know it, your child is making “ago” noises and other gurgling sounds. Then comes the endless  ‘dadada’ and ‘mamama’ sounds and odd words here and there. This is followed by groups of words and sentences. By talking to your child, you have already been preparing him to learn to read.
Reading, a key to the world
Reading will probably not be completely new to your child. You may well have been reading bedtime stories aloud since he was very small, when he would snuggle up to you and ‘read’ the pictures as you read the words. The pictures are child’s word-free way into the story. By learning to understand the words, your child will be able to access the world of stories independently, and feel at ease in today’s world.
Whatever your child does later in life, he will need to know how to read and write.
Understanding the written word is important:
• to get on at school
• when filling out forms later on
• when reading instructions to operate a machine
• when accessing the world of technology and culture
•  to enjoy books and magazines
Walking, talking and reading are hard work for all children. They need time to develop at their own pace, and they need your support and encouragement to move forward. As a parent, you are an essential part of the process!
To be continued…



The ability to read well is a key to learning. Good readers can open up the entire world to themselves by merely opening a book. Helping your children to become good readers is a wonderful gift – it will help them to do well at school and to become lifelong learners.

Make Reading Part of Your Daily Routine
Establish a love of reading when you first bring your newborn home from the hospital. Long before they are old enough to comprehend the stories, your baby will love the time spent snuggled up with you, looking at the pictures, and listening to the sound of your voice as you read the words. Make reading as much a part of your daily routine as baths and mealtimes. Try to set aside a set time to read, say after dinner or at bedtime. Children do well when they know what to expect, so establishing a reading habit will be comforting to your baby.
Picture books and books with very simple stories or rhymes are great first choices. Babies and toddlers often enjoy repetitive rhythm, so choose a few books with a sing-song feel to them. Bright, colorful pictures will help to hold your child’s interest as you read, especially when they are very young and their attention span is somewhat short.
As your baby matures a bit, involve him in your reading by asking him to point to objects. Saying things like, “Where is the red truck?” will help them to be a part of the storytelling. In time, you will be able to ask your child what they expect to happen next in the story before turning the page.

Make Reading Fun
Be sure to make reading time fun and relaxing. Choose a comfortable spot such as a big, soft chair, your child’s bed, or under a backyard shade tree to sit with your child and read. Make the stories come alive by making silly faces and using unique voices for different characters. Soon, your child will have a few favorite books that they will request over and over.
Try to provide books on a variety of subjects to keep it interesting and to spark your child’s curiosity. Visit your local library and enlist the help of the librarian for suggestions on popular books. If you can remember the titles of a few of your childhood favorites, bring them home to share with your child.
As your child grows, ask him to read to you. In the beginning, he will merely recite passages that he has memorized, but over time, you will establish a routine of taking turns and reading to each other.
As your child’s interests broaden, include books on new topics. Those about hobbies, sports, athletics, gardening, cooking, music, travel, and history are all good choices.

Using Books to Stimulate
Help your children to create their own books. Make up stories with your children (one good way is to take turns every few sentences so that the story has some interesting twists and turns) and write them down. Once you have written the text, have your children add a few drawings and then bind the pages together. You can take the pages into an office supply store to have them professionally bound or you can simply punch holes along one edge and tie with yarn. These books are sure to become keepsakes!
Use the books that you are reading with your child to start conversations. Sometimes awkward subject matter can be a bit easier to approach by talking about the moral dilemma that a character faces. Often, even when children are at an age to be unwilling to share much about their personal experiences, they are comfortable talking about those same experiences in regards to a fictional character.
As your child gets older, many of the books that they will enjoy will be too long to read in one sitting. It works well to read a chapter or two each day or read for a set amount of time. Very often, children who are good readers have parents who love to read. Let your child see you reading for pleasure — books, magazines and newspapers. Show them that the love of reading is a lifetime thing.

Reading can be fun!Part I