Today Belarus celebrated Victory Day in memory of WWII and IFMA muaythai athletes were honoured to part of the Minsk celebration.
The athletes, supporters and officials travelled in buses to cultural complex outside of Minsk city known as the Stalin Line. There they were greeted by the sight of thousands of Belarussian families coming together to mark the end of what is known as The Patriotic War and the defeat of Nazi forces in this country.
Music of the era filled the air, with songs of valour and pride which the soldiers of that time used to sing and listen to while camped. Traditional food of Belarus was available everywhere with the aroma of roasted meats and sweet desserts enticing customers.
Many of the Minsk residents and people in the IFMA crowd from this region were wearing military-type clothing in honour of the soldiers who gave their life for peace so long ago.
A special seating area at the centre of the viewing stands was reserved for the athletes, many of whom had never seen anything like this before.
The fields and hills in front of the seating were filled with ruins of buildings and some broken farm equipment. Suddenly, the soldiers (actors) who were lounging in the ruins stood up straight and started looking around them, and a noise started to build which exploded into sound as an old bi-plane thundered over-head causing flames and black smoke to leap from the ground in imitation of bombs falling from the plane.
Tanks, machine-guns and squadrons of soldiers filled the space along with harsh commands over a loudspeaker in German and Russian to simulate the shouted exchanges between the attackers and defenders. The Belarus team and others were very helpful in explaining what was going on to their international partners, making the day more meaningful for everyone.
The athletes were enthralled, even as some jumped a little as the noises became maybe a little too real and black smoke from burning wood enveloped the area. Many were heard to ask how could anyone start a war when even this carefully controlled and somehow exciting spectacle shows how horrific life was for the soldiers of this time.
The commemorated events took place 70 years ago but the message was still clear – people should try to work together in peace and harmony as much as possible because the other option is what we saw today.
The athletes then continued on to the Old Town in Minsk, having an opportunity to learn more about the history of this beautiful city and try more food (for the athletes not competing tomorrow!).
A spectacular fire-works show finished off the day lighting up the city centre.