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Immortal Letters

Private letters give a touching glimpse of lives lived and lost in WWII

  • 9 May is the anniversary of the defeat of Nazi forces in WWII
  • Many families in Russia and other countries of the former USSR have kept letters written by relatives who fought and died in the war
  • These personal archives help us all to remember the real heroes of war and serve to remind us just how precious peace really is
  • Today those very private archives continue to help relatives, bringing families together, helping the bereaved find closure and reuniting descendants who now live far apart.

The 9th of May is the anniversary of the great victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, known in Russia and other former Soviet states as the Great Patriotic War. The conflict claimed millions of lives, in the USSR, hardly any family was unaffected by it. Though many survived the privations and terror of war against all odds, thousands died defending their motherland. Today, their legacy lives on in their personal letters from the front, now diligently preserved by descendants and historians alike.

Related: WWII veterans' first-hand accounts of the fight against the Nazis

These letters reveal heart breaking stories of young lives lost, the horror of battle, surviving besieged cities and the notorious evil of concentration camps. The letters are not all about death and doom; many also speak of love, patriotism, courage and the preservation of hope, even in the most desperate of circumstances. They give a human face to the cold historical facts of war.

Historians and publishers are now seeking to make the letters available to the public, so that future generations will know and remember their ancestral heroes and appreciate how precious peace really is. Some of the letters have helped bring war-torn families back together; others forged ties between people from different countries and gave life to new friendships. Relatives have been able to identify the graves of their fallen relatives, which has helped them to find some closure.

Related: "Lost hero detectives" look for unmarked graves of WWII soldiers to help their relatives find closure 

Having learned more about family members who made the ultimate sacrifice in war, many resolved to take part in a national march and carry portraits of relatives who played a part in the great victory and to commemorate their lives and heroic deaths. Though their lives were cut short, surviving relatives are determined that their memories will live forever. They have become, “The Immortal Regiment”.