The opening ceremony of the Memorial Museum of the Union of Soviet Citizens in Belgium (USC) was held in Brussels. The event took place in honor of the 75th anniversary of the Victory in the World War II and of the 75th anniversary of the Union!
In her speech, director of the Russian Centre Vera Bunina presented the unique history of the Union, welcomed and thanked the Chairman Vera Kushnareva and her predecessor Klavdia Bezrodnaya for their work and contribution to the preservation and promotion of Russian culture and Soviet heritage.
Bunina emphasized that the Union of Soviet Citizens was engaged in programs similar to the ones carried out by the Russian Center in Brussels, namely, teaching the Russian language, promoting culture, organizing creative concerts and meetings, assisting in the development of bilateral dialogue, preserving historical memory, and much more. In the Soviet era, the Union of Friendship Societies had been its main partner.
The Russian Ambassador to Belgium Alexander Tokovinin highlighted the importance of the activities and the development of the Union of Soviet Citizens. He also noted that the members of the Union had maintained their love for the Motherland throughout their lives.
The “grandchildren” of the Belgian Federation of Russian-speaking organizations also addressed the audience. Later in the evening, there was a Gala concert, including songs, music, memories and refreshments.
The USC is a unique organization. The fact is that the only Western European country where so many Soviet girls (about five thousand girls from hundreds of cities and villages of the USSR) arrived in the aftermath of the Second World War is Belgium.
In 1942, they were 16-17 years old. They were ruthlessly wrested from the hands of their parents, sent to a hostile country and literally enslaved. They spent three years in Germany. These were years of hard work, humiliation and constant fear. After the war, many Soviet girls ended up in Belgium. At first, they thought it was only for a short period of time, but the Cold War broke out, and they had to stay in Europe.
The Union of Soviet Citizens did not arise from scratch. During the war years, Russian emigrants of the first wave created the Union of Russian Patriots in Brussels. It was this Union, in 1946, that the arriving girls began to join, and gradually the ranks of the Union began to grow, the Central Board began to work in Brussels, and the Charter of the organization was adopted.
The Belgian authorities did not obstruct the activities of the new alliance. Apparently, the personality of Queen Mother Elizabeth played a large role here. In difficult post-war times, she was not afraid to express her sympathy for the Soviet Union, which resulted in her nickname the “Red Queen”.
The USC was a fairly large organization; in the 60s-70s, it was composed of up to a thousand members. Throughout its history, the Union has lived a very active life. In total, there were 14 regional departments. The most active were the USC units in Brussels, Antwerp, Boome, Sint-Niklaas, Ghent, Liège, Mucron-Courtre, and Charleroi. The USC has always been proud of its choirs. Every year, since the late 1940s, amateur performances were held, work was conducted with young people, and schools of Russian language were opened. The most important part of the activities of the Union consisted in patriotic work. Members of the organization kept the graves of Soviet soldiers throughout Belgium. From 1946 to 1992, the Union of Soviet Citizens in Belgium published its own magazine “Patriot” - a digest of the Soviet press and materials about the life of the organization.
The members of the Union had a difficult fate - to be Soviets in Belgium and Belgians in the USSR. Those who sincerely and disinterestedly loved their homeland came to the USC. They were born in the Soviet Union, and throughout all their life they were proud of their involvement in the life of this great country, that they helped as much as they could. This was the first completely literate generation in the history of our country. The generation that won the war... Throughout their lives, they very worthily carried the title of Soviet citizens.
Today, in the building where the Union used to gather, there are Russian language courses at the Russian Centre for Science and Culture in Brussels. Nearly 250 people study there, and all levels of the European ALTE system from A1 to C2 are taught, as well as interesting special courses. And in February, right in the museum’s premises, the course of speaking practice “Talk about Russia and Russians” will begin.