Greetings from Volgograd

by Yury Fyodorovich Starovatykh, Volgograd*

Dear friends!
  Accept the most heartfelt greetings from Volgograd, the former Stalingrad.
  First of all, there are the most respectful human regards to be paid to the organisers of this Forum – the best citizen-to-citizen Forum, as I see it. Thank you very much!
  I would also like to thank you – those who gave the Forum their physical or virtual presence – for keeping your soundness of mind during these difficult times, when the world itself has gone insane, when the most violent Russophobia has morphed into the genocide of everything Russian, and even the names of Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Shostakovich are being erased from poster boards. 
  Believe me, my friends – as an 80-year-old man who spent 60 years serving the cause of world peace, there is a lot I have to say about this situation. And yet, today I will limit myself solely to the words of gratitude.
  Because the thing that matters most is that we are all human being (and not violent beasts), and the “Manifesto for Europe” adopted at the “Mut zur Ethik” Conference in 2015 proclaims that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”. [Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1]
  Because the German military surgeon Kurt Reuber, surrounded in Stalingrad and sitting in a frozen fox-hole at the light of a single candle, used the backside of a geographic map to draw the Madonna and Child – an image known today as “The Stalingrad Madonna” – and write the words “Licht, Leben, Liebe” (“Light, life, love”). These are the most important formulas in our life.
  There is another example. On 21 August 2022, Volgograd welcomed participants of a motor rally for “Peace and Friendship with Russia” – the rally about which our city newspapers wrote a lot. Sixteen German citizens of different ages, ways of life and worldviews, were brought together by a single purpose – calling for peace and cooperation.
  The rally’s organiser, Mr. Reinhold Groß, told our journalists that their group is the group “…of the Germans who do not support Russophobia and who understand what exactly is happening now in Germany and in Europe as a whole. Of course, it will be dangerous for us to return, because the mission that brought us here goes against the liking of the official German Government, and so we might be subject to repression. We might have our bank accounts closed; we might be fired from our jobs. But we do not let it concern us, because it is the friendship between nations that matters most, and so we will continue down our road with an open heart”.
  Another thing that Reinhold Groß was totally right about is that “We are building up people’s diplomacy – grassroots diplomacy. We are demonstrating that we have hearts and that we support peace. We have always been warmly welcomed in Russia, despite the very difficult past between Germany and Russia. To my Russian and German friends alike, I keep saying – don’t look back. We must only look ahead, towards what the future holds for us. And what happened in 1941 will and must never happen again.”
  On 21 August 2022, I, together with my colleagues, welcomed the rally participants at Volgograd Peace Foundation’s office and told them, “Our today’s meeting is a remarkable occasion. It is like a single blade of grass that has found its way through the paving asphalt, and from this sprout, reason and peace must spread back all over the planet.”
  Not so long ago, the Prime Minister of Denmark Mette Frederiksen declared that “This is more than the war for territories and borders. This is a war for what we believe in. This is the war against the values on which Europe and the free world are built.”
  The problem, though, is that the things which they are talking about – the tyranny and the oppression – are nowhere to be found in Russia, and for a very long time. Same goes for what they are calling their values: both freedom and democracy are nowhere to be found in Europe. The words are still there; the values themselves are gone. 
  And so, in consideration of those two facts from the life of the Russian and the Germans, I am now thinking a lot about my participation in the Nuremberg Congress of the Social Democratic Party of Germany in 1985. This Congress was held by the never-to-be-forgotten Willy Brandt under the motto “40 years later: East – West”. Both my participation in the Congress and my discussions with Willy Brandt and Egon Bahr were about the fact that only through reconciliation can we bring peace to Europe. So, isn’t it the time for Olaf Scholz to halt, come to his senses and start working for the benefit of the German citizens – instead of catering to Biden, against the common sense?
  But stop!
  Forgive me, my friends, for breaking my earlier promise to limit myself solely to the words of gratitude.
  Let us be reminded of the year 1950, when the International Congress of the Friends of Peace took place in Warsaw, the Congress that resolved to establish the World Peace Council. 226 delegates were elected to the first panel of the Council, with the Nobel Prize winner Frédéric Joliot-Curie as its Chair. Much has been done in 72 years, and yet, lately, this most important Council has played very little role whatsoever, – despite the nations’ will for peace being a powerful factor in the de-escalation of international tensions.
  Let us dedicate our hearts to finding the ways and means for making this organisation active again, so that the International Movement of the Friends of Peace and its battle body, the World Peace Council, would be searching again for the various modes of action and uniting those who cherish Peace. In conclusion, I would like to emphasise that everything is not as bleak as it seems, and that we will continue our fight for the right to live!
  From Volgograd with love.  •

* Presentation at the annual conference of the working group “Mut zur Ethik” (“Europe – what future do we want?”) from 2–4 September 2022

Yury Fyodorovich Starovatykh, born in Stalingrad in 1937, was the Lord Mayor of the city of Volgograd from 1986 to 1990. He was evacuated during the Battle of Stalingrad from August 1942 to February 1943. He trained as a civil engineer and worked in the construction sector for 21 years. He helped build the “Panorama Museum of the Battle of Stalingrad”; the metro and several objects of the social sphere.
  He was Vice-President of the international organisation “Mayors for Peace”, a member of the Executive Bureau of numerous international organisations such as “The International Association of Peace Messenger Cities”, the Federation of Twin Cities, etc. To this day, he is involved in twinning Volgograd cities all over the world.
  During his term as Lord Mayor of Volgograd, 40 twinning agreements were concluded with Chemnitz and Cologne, Toronto (Canada) and Cleveland (USA), among others.
  Yury Starovatykh is the chairman of the board of the Volgograd representation of the international public foundation “Russian Peace Foundation”.
  He holds numerous honorary titles, including Honorary Citizen of the City of Hiroshima and recipient of the Medal of Honour “For the Consolidation of Peace and Understanding between Peoples”.

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