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 honour of the 75th anniversary of the Victory in the World War II and of the Union!
The director of the Russian Centre Vera Bunina in her speech presented the history of the Union, which is truly unique, 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 many of the programs that the Russian Center in Brussels is currently engaged in - that is, teaching the Russian language, promoting culture, organising creative concerts and meetings, assisting in the development of bilateral dialogue, preserving historical memory, and much more. In the Soviet era, the partner was the Union of Friendship Societies.
The Russian Ambassador to Belgium, Alexander Tokovinin emphasized the importance of the activities and the development of the Union of Soviet Citizens. He also noted that the members of the Union have maintained their love for the Motherland throughout their lives.
The “grandchildren” of the USC, the Belgian Federation of Russian-speaking organizations, also spoke in the course of the evening. Later in the evening, there was a Gala concert: full of 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) have 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 temporary, 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 in Brussels, Russian emigrants of the first wave created the Union of Russian Patriots. 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 organisation, 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 main pride of the USC were the 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 constituted 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 itself.
The members of the Union met 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 all their life were proud of their involvement in this great country, that they helped as much as they could. This is the generation that was the first in the history of our country to be completely literate. 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 learn there and all levels of the European ALTE system from A1 to C2 are taught as well as interesting special courses. And from February, right in the museum’s premises, the course of speaking practice “Talk about Russia and Russians” will begin.