June 22, 1941

"On the 22nd of June, exactly at 4 pm, Kiev was bombed, and they announced to us that the war had begun...", so goes a well-known Soviet-era song

As someone with an extensive academic background in Russian history and culture, I view the Second World War as a battle between Modernity's three principal ideologies for the right to be its ultimate expression as well as a formative, baptismal experience for the USSR, specifically, as a new geopolitical entity. But as an ordinary person, I also realize that the war had affected the lives of just about every person in the country. That is why--even over 70 years later--we, Russians, remember the 22nd of June.

This is not just a political slogan.

Those of us with a sense of rootedness (no matter where we are in the world) really think this way. Nosce te ipsum is nothing without understanding our ancestors.

I always refer to the photograph below taken on that very day in Tbilisi, modern-day Georgia. My grandparents dressed in their best and went out to enjoy the summer weekend with their young son (my uncle), which included a photo session. Their facial expressions are the result of learning that their country was officially in the state of war. (This is somewhat different from the aesthetics of melancholy in historic photographs, which I mentioned elsewhere.)

Photo taken on 22-June-1941 in Tbilisi, USSR.

Photo taken on 22-June-1941 in Tbilisi, USSR.

My grandfather showed up at a military office as a volunteer almost immediately only to be rejected for poor health and eyesight. An engineer and an architect, he went on to build bomb shelters. A man of calligraphic precision, he earned extra money for the young family to make ends meet by creating dainty dress shoes out of cardboard (!) and other available materials for local socialites. My other set of grandparents participated in the Murmansk Run (which Westerns probably know as part of Lend-Lease).

I share this photograph with my friends on social networks every June 22nd. Today, I felt compelled to sketch my grandmother--my namesake--whom I've never met (she passed away long before my birth).