1945-2005 - VICTORY IN EUROPE
- 1945-2005 - VICTORY IN EUROPE
Those who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind. Proverb
There hangs by my desk an old black and white photograph. It shows my late father in his
sergeant’s uniform, looking rested in late spring sunshine. He is sitting on the grass of the
hills above the lake at Millstatt in southern Austria in May 1945. Together with hundreds of
thousands of other soldiers of the British Eighth Army, he had fought his way through death
and destruction, from the deserts of Egypt, up through Italy and his war had finished there,
in Austria. When I was young, his memories were still fresh and he related many of the events
of that time to me.
Sixty years have passed since 6 May 1945, Orthodox Easter Day 1945, and also the day when most
Orthodox celebrate the feast of the Great-Martyr George the Victorious. Although the Nazi
surrender was not signed immediately and VE Day was not celebrated until 8 May, or in Russia 9
May, by Orthodox Easter 1945 everybody knew that the War in Europe was at last over. However,
although in 1945 the Orthodox faithful could celebrate the Paschal victory, Christ’s triumph
over death, for most of them the end of the war did not bring victory over persecution and
tyranny. Ironically, the War which, from the English point of view, had begun with a
dictator’s invasion of Poland, had also ended with a dictator’s invasion of Poland, and this
time there was not even the distant prospect of freedom.
For ordinary English soldiers like my father, there was no great celebration sixty years ago,
just relief that now that long war was at last over. Now was the chance to take off the
unwanted military uniform and return to family life, friendships, village cricket, the
slow-winding rivers and gentle-green countryside of north Essex and south Suffolk, the quiet
and homely way of life from ‘before the War’. Of course, the return to long-hoped for
peacetime turned out for many to be impossible. The return to the past would prove illusory.
For soldiers crippled by shells, airmen scarred by burning, sailors traumatized by sights
seen, wives widowed, children blinded, there was to be no normality. And soon the threat of
nuclear holocaust would hang over the world like the sword of Damocles. Nothing would ever be
the same again after that War. Never again would there be peace, only fear.
Outside England, in much of Continental Europe, the situation was even worse. The French, like
the Italians and the Belgians, had suffered humiliation and compromise. The Dutch, the Danes
and the Greeks were bitter. Indeed Greece, like much of Yugoslavia, would descend into civil
war. As for the Germans, they had lost large tracts of their territory and what was left was a
bombed-out ruin; apart from that there were the great human losses and the humiliating moral
knowledge that it was Nazi Germany that had started the whole obscenity of this second
Worse still, most of Central and Eastern Europe, ravaged by Hitler’s war, now lay in the hands
of a new, cruel dictator. For them there was no freedom to celebrate at all – out of the
frying pan and into the fire. For the peoples of the then Soviet Empire, the situation was
even worse. Before the War, millions had perished in Lenin’s and Stalin’s genocide, now some
twenty-five million more had been slaughtered under Hitler. For those who had survived, there
was even more folly. Soviet prisoners of war, freed by the victorious Red Army, were for the
most part sent from Hitler’s camps to Stalin’s camps in Siberia – their crime - they had been
captured by the Nazis. A brief glimmer of freedom for many Russians and other East Europeans
was about to be utterly snuffed out by the Iron Curtain of Stalinist ideology.
As for the Orthodox Church, its faithful in Russia had already suffered vicious persecution
for a generation since 1917, under the bloodthirsty Lenin and Stalin. Then the racist madman
Hitler had brought bloodshed and slavery to Slav Orthodox, the ‘subhumans’, ‘Untermenschen’,
as he called them. And after the War, the Faith was to be further persecuted by the Communist
tyranny of Eastern Europe, or else, more subtly, but more efficiently, weakened by the
self-imposed Capitalist tyranny of Western Europe.
Thus the destiny of Europe after 1945 was division into Capitalist and Communist. In more
recent times Capitalist Europe eventually spread eastwards, once Marxism had declared
bankruptcy. This has become the European Union (EU) Europe. Relatively prosperous, but
increasingly atheistic, uniform, homogeneous, without spiritual truth or beauty, it has
forgotten that we do not live ‘by bread alone’. European Union Europe, like Soviet Union
Europe, is a spiritual desert, shaded only here and there by the miraculous survival of
Orthodox churches. These are centres where spiritual life has not yet been altogether
extinguished by the tyrannical mediocrity of Western materialism.
Since the fall of Soviet rule by fear, there have been parts of Orthodox Eastern Europe which
have begun to see timid gleams of spiritual light. Timid, because even these patches of pale
light are often stifled by post-Communist nationalism and the dictatorship of the Mafia.
Indeed, it is still not clear what is happening in Orthodox Europe. There are now powerful
forces at work to divide and destroy what remains of Orthodoxy. Freemasonry undermines the
soft underbelly of Orthodox Europe, Washington’s dollars and Brussels’ euros finance
modernists and dividers, those opposed to Tradition and Unity in the Orthodox world. Whether
in Istanbul or Kiev, in Sofia or Bucharest, in Belgrade or Athens, in Helsinki or Paris, there
are those who, like the Polish-American politician, Zbigniew Brzezinski, seek only one thing -
the utter annihilation of Orthodox Christianity.
The fact is that the true VE Day, Victory in Europe Day, has not yet arrived, even sixty years
after the end of Nazism. Yes, of course some sort of peace, or truce, came into being in 1945,
amid the material ruins of Europe. Yes, of course, peace arrives in the glorious light of the
Resurrection at every Orthodox Easter, amid the spiritual ruins of Europe. But the fact is
that true Victory in Europe will arrive in its entirety only at the Second Coming. This will
be the first day of true freedom, the day which will know no evening. This will be the only
true Victory in Europe and all over the world.
Fr Andrew Phillips
St George’s Day, 6 May 2005