Get Online Week in Russia: Honoring the World War II Heroes

As part of the Get Online Week, Volgograd State Agricultural University held several video conferences, but the one between Volgograd and Novosibirsk proved especially significant for all its facilitators and participants.

The two cities have many important connections, but one that still looms the largest in people’s minds is that more than 200 army divisions from Siberia took part in the epic WWII Battle for Stalingrad (as Volgograd was named before), and one of them, 35 Guards Division, is known to all the staff, faculty members and students of the Agricultural University, since the division protected the very place where the university’s campus stands today.

When the university decided to organize a museum honoring the history of 35 Guards Division, experts from the local Museum of the Battle of Stalingrad told them it was virtually impossible, since the whole division was killed in battle, along with its commander General Glazkov, whose name was given to a street near the school. However, thanks to the untiring efforts of volunteer students, about 300 survivors were found, and since the late 1970s the University has faithfully kept in touch with all of them.

35 Guards Division veterans travel to visit the school on the anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad and on Victory Day and are always welcomed as the dearest of guests. There are fewer and fewer of them with each year: old battle wounds and advancing age make travel more and more difficult. That’s why the university decided to organize an online meeting for WWII veterans from both Novosibirsk and Stalingrad, members of volunteer history groups that search for and bury remains of fallen soldiers, as well as those history volunteers who had traveled from Novosibirsk to Volgograd ten years previously, going part of the way by train and part by boat.

The video conference on both ends took place in offices of MegaFon, the second largest telecommunications provider in Russia, so the video and sound were superb.

It was especially poignant to hear the story told by a brother of a fallen Siberian soldier, whose remains were recovered sixty-five years later in Volgograd and transported for burial to his home village near Novosibirsk. During the war the young soldier’s mother waited at the train station for several days and nights only to get a glimpse of her son, as his division was passing through from the Far East closer to the western borders of Russia: it’s like she knew deep down in her heart that it would be the last time she saw her son alive.

The veterans present at the conference were touched to the very core, and many of the virtual meeting’s participants could barely restrain tears. The veterans from Siberia – the youngest of them is now 87 – asked their friends in Volgograd to erect a monument for their compatriots and fellow-soldiers in Sovetsky district of Volgograd, and said that they were hoping to live long enough to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad in early 2013.

The two hours of the video conference felt more like two minutes. As the professors and students were leaving the room, everyone was quiet, thoughtful yet very happy and grateful for Internet technologies that can give us so many exciting and memorable moments.

It’s wonderful to see that Get Online Week encouraged many people to do something good for others.

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