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While we carry the flag you win

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While we carry the flag you win


Svetlana Smetanina

Russian compatriots from all over Australia carried flags and banners supporting Russian Olympians at the People's Friendship parade inn Adelaide on January 26th. The march organizer, director of House of Russian Culture Vladimir Yezhov recounts how such unusual action was made possible.

- How did you have that idea – to parade in support of our Olympians?
- In early December IOC has announced under which conditions Russian athletes could not take part in Winter Olympics-2018: no flag at the Olympics opening, no possibility to play Russian anthem in case of victory. These conditions are certainly humiliating. I know many Olympics participants and understand how bad they feel about it to be unwelcome guests at someone's feast.

It hit me: the Friendship Parade is always take place on January 26 all nations living in Australia fly local flag and also a flag of their homeland. The marchers, and there are about 5 thousands of them just in Adelaide, are dressed in national costumes. They demonstrate variety and unity of Australian nation. We as people coming from Soviet Union background, can relate to it very well.

And then I thought that we can change a pace, and make our parade in support of Russian and Australian olympians. We have to carry Australian and Russian flags, and several banners. The slogans for banners came immediately. All three in English, so the locals could understand: “Olympic athletes from Russia: We carry the flag, you bring the gold”, Lots of luck in PyeongChang to Australian olympians. And the third one was joint: Rustralia Russia and Australia at the 23d Olympic Games. The Rustralia word was invented by Maria Plotnikova from Brisbane when Vladimir Putin came there for the G20.

At first, my initiative was not particularly welcomed by our compatriots instead, there were many critical remarks, such as that we steal from Australia Day, that we involve politics in this celebration. Then I have contacted the organizer of parade in South Australian government. I called him as a head of House of Russian Culture that I've created over year ago. Our organization conducts days of Russian culture Moscow Nights, that already gained popularity. And this parade organizer from South Australian government has shown incredible, I would say non Australian-style fortitude. You can't imagine how he was pressed not to let our action happen. By the way, the biggest pressure went from Ministry of Defense Psychology department worker, the graduate from Lomonosov MSU. He wrote to the university where I work and to the country authorities that it is a provocation and lobbying interests of other country, that it's against the law and I have to be sued for this.

It is worth mentioning that according to the local psychology it is better to keep as far as possible from any possible buzz or scandalous situation. So the South Australian government representative has shown incredible persistence and confirmed () our auction. By the way, his name is Bill Bell.

- Is it true that you've already worked with Australians before you moved to this country?
- Yes, I worked as a translator at Olympic Games in Moscow in 1980. I studied in Moscow University as a translator, and by chance I was asked to translate for Australian team. I liked their sporting spirit. They try to do their best and then don't get upset if they haven't succeed. After the competition they are friends with everyone spirit of comradeship.

This spirit of comradeship, I think, also appeared with support of our action. Here we're talking about sporting brotherhood of our two countries. The fliers that we've printed for this march, are talking about cross-ways of Russian and Australian history during Olympics' preparation and execution. Both our countries have hosted Olympic Games two times, both have Olympics champions. For example, my good friend Vladimir Solontsov has participated in Olympic Games race-walking competitions in Melbourne in 1956. Now he is 81. He is alive and well, in good physical shape, plays tennis and manages a sports base.

Russian athletes would see their compatriots in other countries cheering and supporting. Compatriots want it to be fair, they want Russian athletes participating on equal in Winter Olympics.

I'm very grateful for the courage of Australian authorities, that the didn't prohibit our banners. I want to share that Russian compatriots from all over Australia came to Adelaide to see our action. I have also requested Russian Embassy if they could send their representative to participate in our parade. And received immediate answer that it's a noble purpose that will be certainly supported.

Russian athletes would see their compatriots in other countries cheering and supporting. Compatriots want it to be fair, they want Russian athletes participating on equal in Winter Olympics.

- How Australians react on current situation with Russian sportsmen?
- Everybody understand everything, people are following news. For example, an American sprinter that was tested positive on doping test claimed that he was French kissing with a girlfriend who had these pills in her mouth at the time of a kiss. He was acquitted. Such a cynicism! Australians very well aware of that. Particularly as some US athletes take these drugs in official way, because there were prescribed by a doctor. It turns out that one country was chosen to be the guilty one.

Australians themselves are excellent athletes. I think that sport is a national treasure of Australia. Many regular people here lead healthy lifestyle it's their culture and tradition. The real sports spirit is always the true one. Therefore, when this kind of injustice happens, Australians feel it very deep.

- You shared that probably you were heard and supported by Australian authorities because you've introduced yourself as a head of House of Russian Culture. Why do you think so, and what Moscow Nights festival has to do with this?
- Here is why. We were staying in dacha (summer house) in Moscow outskirts one very warm summer night, and singing songs. And somebody said, How would be nice if Moscow Nights song would be played around the world. None of immigrant generations would be against it has such a great melody and words! This song could be played in China, India, America. And then he proposed me, Do you want to launch the Moscow Nights festival in Australia? It was in June 2016. In February 2017 we've conducted our first literary and musical improvisation Moscow Nights festival. The idea was not only to sing songs but to talk about the history of Russian culture.
We've received agreement to use the big house named Stirling in Adelaide Hills. The nature around looks like in Moscow outskirts, which is amazing. Willows and birches, like in Central Russia region, surround the big house that remains typical Russia dacha. We've called this place Peredelkino-Stirling SA. Our first festival was dedicated to Russian poet and writer Boris Pasternak. More than ten video messages from around the world were included in our evening. They were from the advisor to the Russian President on regional economic integration Sergey Glaziev, actor Veniamin Smekhov, daughter of poet Lev Oshanin Tatyana.
The night called success, and everybody wanted to get to the next one, so we had to rotate the guests because the house can accommodate no more than 40 persons.
Our next gathering was dedicated to Bella Akhmadulina, Rimma Kazakova and Robert Rozhdestvensky. Daughter of writer Yulian Semenov Olga told us how Rozhdestvensky worked on lyrics for songs written for the famous TV series Seventeen Moments of Spring based on the novel of her father.

The third night was dedicated to the 100 years anniversary of Yuri Liubimov (Taganka theatre director). I am myself is a big Taganka person - I have almost lived in this theater for ten years. It's interesting that we have found connection between Yuri Petrovich and Adelaide. In 1992 his Hamlet was shown at the annual local theater festival. Spokesperson of the Parliament of our State and the Parliament deputy of our district came to Liubimov event. Spokesperson had a 7-minute speech on our festival. Then he stayed for a night, in the break had a samovar tea with bagels. Afterwards we were talking a lot. May be this helped to organize our parade. When something done right it can affect many things at once.

Our forth night was dedicated to Yunna Morits outstanding poet. I have met her last year in June due to our Moscow Nights. She hosted me at her house, and we've become good friends. It's a big honor and pleasure for me. During the forth night called Songs of our Younnost we were talking about her creative journey; she is coming from the same generation as Bella Akhmadulina, Rozhdestvensky.

We have already completed the plans for 2018. It's a year of particular anniversaries 80 years of Vladimir Vysotsky, 100 years of Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Alexander Galich. Moscow Night Teacher's Day night will be dedicated to the life of outstanding German Naumovich Fein, head teacher of the Second school in Moscow. This well-known school is a Physical and Mathematical Lyceum.

We publish videos from Moscow Nights in our social networks. We are keen to know that our Moscow Nights to be viewed in other parts of the world.

Russkiy Mir

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