At the start of the academic year, now 9 months ago, the children, parents, teachers and staff at Znaniye Russian School began learning, teaching, preparing and anticipating the long awaited celebration: VE Day 2020. The school quickly became filled with excitement as many children rushed home to find out stories about how their grandparents and great grandparents were affected by the Second World War. Pictures were found in archives and old photo albums were rediscovered as the students at Znaniye became more intrigued by sacrifices that their family members had made. And so, as the school year unfolded, more and more stories were shared by all the students which then quickly became incorporated into all the heritage, art, choir, music, video projects that the school was running.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the staff at the Znaniye HQ were working with various partners, friends, charities and other organisations to plan and prepare an entire week for our Veterans, including visits to our schools, concerts, evenings at which the veterans would share their stories, the event of the laying of the wreaths for our fallen soldiers, and for the big finale - the V Day 2020 Gala Concert at the Kensington and Chelsea Great Hall. The concert event plans grew each day as more performers joined the programme and more organisations began to get involved. There came a point where the capacity was becoming so stretched so a collective decision was made to finalise the programme which would welcome 250 performers and over 900 guests. The increased support of the Russian Embassy then further empowered the staff at the office to continue to explore new exciting ideas which would leave a long lasting memory with all the guests, performers, organisers, and veterans who would join us on this very special day.
What was just once a vision soon became a reality as tickets became available to buy online and were quickly selling out. Everyone was looking forward to welcoming the veterans from both Russia and the UK for the week surrounding 9th of May for celebrations and surprises.
But then in 2020 talks began about a virus that was spreading, which soon became known as Covid-19 and would result in flight cancellations (meaning our veterans couldn't fly over), event spaces cancelling bookings (meaning our event would not take place), schools being shut (abruptly putting a stop to all lessons) and finally a lockdown which meant we would all stay at home. This was definitely not a situation anyone could have foreseen. Although, there was a wave of sadness, anxiety and uncertainty that spread across all those who had been involved in the organisation of the event we knew we couldn’t just give up… after all, we were celebrating the victory of all those who never gave up and never allowed any obstacle to overcome them! Our children and our staff also wanted to persevere, we wanted to do our bit to thank all the veterans who served for us. So the team all sat down (remotely) to re plan how we would execute the organisation of the Victory Day celebration 2020.
And so our projects continued and today we are very proud to share with everyone just how much the Children at Znaniye have managed to achieve (whilst sitting at home). We hope that the veterans enjoy all we have to share...
The children at Znaniye Russian School’s Art Studio have been creating art work in their lessons each week in preparation for VE-Day. Using what they have learnt in lessons they have created wonderful tributes for our veterans, and emblems of remembrance. This preparation began long before lockdown, and we are so pleased to be able to share this with you at this time.
Alongside this art project, more children, including those who do not study at Znaniye, sent through their VE Day artwork which was planned to be used as the main decoration at the Gala Concert. As the Gala Concert was unable to go ahead some of the best works have been selected and shared online. With the support of the Russian Embassy in the U.K. when quarantine comes to an end, these children will be invited to receive awards and certificates at the Embassy.
Video project with Maksatic camp
Znaniye and Maksatic camp came together in running a video project. Maksatic camp visited Znaniye Russian School in early 2020 and spoke with children about the importance of the 75th anniversary and taught children how to best put together videos, as this competition was announced. Children aged 8-16 had the opportunity to send through their creative videos along with their wishes for the children of the veterans and those who fought in the Second World War. These were all compilated together and shared online during the VE day bank holiday. The children with the most creative videos are now being awarded with a trip to Maksatic Camp.
Children video wishes to veterans
Over 350 children from around the world sent in their video messages for Veterans. Videos included songs, poems, recitals, messages and more, and some classes at Znaniye Russian School even made video compilations remotely. Znaniye Russian School in Germany sent through their incredible children and Bilik (Azerbaijani school) also wished all the best to the veterans.
Znaniye VE Day Card
The Znaniye HQ also wanted to make a contribution and had a project of their own. The team worked together to create a unique VE Day, 75th anniversary card for all the veterans, families and friends. The idea - to bring together two countries in celebration. The 7 and 5 were filled with the British and Russian flag with the name of every child, teacher, staff member from Znaniye Russian School and partner schools in Germany, Russia and Bilik (The Azerbaijani school in London) imputed into the numbers. The card also saw the two symbols of the war from both countries, the poppy and the carnation brought together with the Ribbon of Saint George. Each member of the team had their input and after a very long day of typing up over 400 names, the card was finalised and sent personally to every Veteran.
Although things did not go as originally planned, we have enjoyed every moment. The 9 months of preparation has been so insightful and brought a new appreciation to each person involved. Overall it was amazing to see the inclusion, diversity and happiness which was shared by all those who participated. One thing is for sure: we will never forget the 75th anniversary of victory day.
This weekend over 20 classes will run online at which all children at Znaniye will be immersed into lessons about the history of World War Two. The youngest will have poems read to them whilst older students will delve deeper into the stories of the War. We are hopeful that things will resume back to normal life in due time and we will be able to welcome back all our wonderful students and teachers, and we will continue to celebrate the incredible victory throughout the remainder of 2020. We continue to hope that one day this year we will be able to celebrate at the Kensington and Chelsea Grand Hall with the event we had planned and be able to welcome and honour all the Veterans with the wonderful performances which would have taken place on the 9th of May.
Thank you to each veteran and all those involved for all you have done. We are and will forever be very grateful for the sacrifices you made to give us the life, our freedom and the world we have today. Thank you for everything you have done to give our children a life of opportunity.