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Speeches at Ceremony Marking the 65th Anniversary of Bratislava’s Liberation from Nazi Occupation

April 7, 2010, Bratislava

President of Slovakia Ivan Gasparovic: Mr President of the Russian Federation,

Mr Speaker of the National Council of the Republic of Slovakia,

Mr Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovakia,

Ministers, deputies of the National Council, Your Excellency, ambassadors, members of the diplomatic corps, veterans of the liberation of Bratislava and the battles of World War II, ladies and gentlemen, 

For 65 years now we have paid tribute to the memory of the thousands of men and women of the Soviet Army, who shouldered the load of the great battles to liberate Bratislava and Slovakia from Nazi occupation and made their unforgettable contribution to Nazism’s total defeat. May their memory last forever! 

Fifty years have passed now since the day when this memorial of gratitude and glory to all those who made the greatest sacrifice in liberating our homeland and the peoples of Europe was built on this honoured soil here at Slavin.

We cannot bring back the lives that were lost, but we need to remember and remind ourselves of the deep meaning these sacrifices carry within them. We have a moral duty to tirelessly remind the living of the sense behind the words inscribed at this burial ground: “For human dignity, for the lives of humanity, and for your happy face we went to our deaths.” 

Sixty five years represents the lives of three generations, three generations of young people who could grow up in peace and not know the horrors of war thanks to those buried here. Many people seem to forget this fact, as if time not only softens grief but erases from our memories the warning of war and strips from us the emotion we feel before the heroism of those who fought Nazism, those who died and those who are still with us today.

This ceremony today and the other commemoration events marking the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II remind us that each of the soldiers buried here and in other places in Slovakia had their own names and their own dreams of how they planned to live a free and peaceful life in their homelands. Each of them had parents, family, friends.

The death of each of them brought unforgettable grief and desolation to individual families, real human pain and suffering. Their deaths left indelible marks on the future lives of every member of their families. This is something we must remember when we reflect on the immense significance of their personal sacrifices.

Dear friends, with us today is a group of Russian and Slovak war veterans who fought in the intense battles at Dukla, Dargova, Liptovsky Mikulas, Grona, and here in Bratislava, and completed the victorious combat against Nazism. We want to thank them for the personal heroism they showed in all of the battles that took place in Slovakia. 

The world had to unite to prevent the threat of extermination of entire peoples and nations and stop European civilisation from perishing. The war united the peoples of Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. Soldiers from the Czechoslovak First Army Corps fought shoulder to shoulder with the Red Army soldiers. The Soviet Union formed a paratroops brigade that distinguished itself in the Slovak national uprising. We remain proud to this day of this chapter in our common history with Russia.

I beliegve we need to constantly remind ourselves of the warning the war left us as its legacy and the sense of Europe’s peaceful efforts to build unity and cooperation. We cannot forget or underestimate the meaning of the fight against Nazism.

Today, in Europe the voices of neo-Nazis, of those who defend fascism, those who represent organisations that deny fundamental human rights and freedoms and call for the use of force to change post-war borders are once again making themselves heard. We must be vigilant and we must work together in mutual respect for each other’s interests, aware of our joint responsibility for peace, freedom, democracy and our citizens’ security.

Mr President, friends,

We stand on sacred soil. Slavin and the 7,000 Red Army soldiers buried here are symbols that unite our countries today. Let us bow our heads in memory of these heroes. We are grateful that three generations of Slovaks have not known the horrors of war and live today in a stable, successful democratic country of which we can be proud.

Once again, I want to say that we honour your memory, soldiers!

President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Mr President,

Mr Speaker of the National Council,

Mr Prime Minister,

Ministers, deputies, veterans, members of the diplomatic corps, ladies and gentlemen,

On this sacred ground today, on this beautiful spring day, we remember those who fought for freedom back in 1945. This victory came at a colossal price. Here alone, where the Slavin memorial rises today, around 7,000 Red Army soldiers lay at rest, and in total, many thousands of people from the Soviet Union – around 60,000, lost their lives in the battles to liberate Slovakia. Such was the cost of victory for our country, the cost of Slovakia’s liberation.

In his words just now, the President said very rightly that each of these lives lost had its own individual destiny. These destinies were cut short, but we are grateful to those who lie here for giving us the chance to grow and develop, and for those of us, like myself, who were born after the war, the chance quite simply to be born in this world. This was Europe’s greatest achievement in the twentieth century. 

Bratislava was liberated 65 years ago. The liberation of other cities lay ahead. In total, our country lost around 1 million people in the liberation of Europe. This was a tremendous price. But it was at this price that Europe could become what it is today – a free, beautiful and flourishing place.

But we must do everything to preserve and hand down this memory to our grateful descendents, no matter what their ethnicity, no matter what country they live in, no matter what the circumstances. This is why those who attempt today to put a different face on history and revive Nazi traditions are committing crimes before the soldiers who rest in this soil.

Everything we do, we do in the names of our children. It is good to see that schoolchildren are here today too. We need to do everything we can to ensure that future generations know the truth about war, know the price of peace, and how it came to be that we live in a flourishing society today. They must know at what cost victory was won.

Mr President, veterans,

It is a very happy and emotional moment to be here together with you today.

On behalf of the Russian Federation’s people I offer you our warmest wishes. Here today are war veterans from our country, who fought in the battles here. I wish you health, so that you can continue for many years more telling the truth about the war and about the price that our peoples paid.

Eternal memory to our heroes!

Health and happiness to everyone here!

April 7, 2010, Bratislava