East Prussia, 1945
This month, 20,000 people were evacuated from over 100 buildings in Moscow after bomb threats. We look back at some of the largest mass evacuations in the world, mostly triggered by natural disasters or looming war.
2 mn evacuated
An estimated two million Germans were evacuated from East Prussia in 1945 when the region was ceded to the Soviet Union under the terms of the Potsdam Agreement.
Airlift from Kuwait, 1990
Air India operated 488 flights between August and October 20 to airlift an estimated 170,000 Indians stranded in Kuwait after Iraqi’s invasion.
The 63-day operation, on which the movie Airlift was made, is called the largest air evacuation.
Akshay Kumar played the role of Mathunny Mathews, the Indian businessman in Kuwait credited with leading the evacuation.
Hurricane Rita, 2005
3 mn evacuated
The fourth-most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded and the most intense tropical cyclone observed in the Gulf of Mexico prompted one of the largest urban evacuations in US history with Texas and Louisiana officials moving over 3 million residents.
Yangtze River Floods, 1998
14 mn rescued
The Yangtze, the longest river in Asia, has seen major floods in 1870, 1931, 1954, 1998, and 2010.
The 1998 flood, the worst in 44 years, killed 4,000 and destroyed 5.6 mn homes. The UN said direct economic damage was estimated at over $20 billion.
Operation Pied Piper, 1939
3.5 mn relocated
Fear that German bombing would cause civilian deaths prompted the UK government to evacuate children, women with infants and the infirm from towns and cities to rural regions during the Second World War.
Evacuation took place over three days, starting September 1, when Germany invaded Poland.
Manhattan Water Evacuation, 2011
When two planes collided into the World Trade Center towers in September 11, hundreds of thousands were trapped on the southern tip of Manhattan Island.
The US Coast Guard led a water evacuation of more than 500,000 people.
The water evacuation was “bigger than Dunkirk”, according to former commandant of the United States Coast Guard Admiral James Loy.
Operation Dynamo, 1940
But let us not underestimate the spirit that made Dunkirk possible. In May 1940, German invasion had pushed 338,000 Allied soldiers to the beachhead in the French coastal city.
Saving them meant having a force to fight another day. Over the course of nine days, more than 800 fishing smacks and other boats set out to bring the troops home, some with civilian sailors at the helm.
(Text: Ram Mohan, ET Bureau)
Questions over Ukraine space church’s future
To divinity and beyond
Inside a traditional Orthodox church topped with a gold cross, instead of icons, visitors can see a lunar rover and the helmet of the first man in space Yuri Gagarin.
The wooden church in central Ukraine is one of thousands of buildings that were repurposed or simply destroyed during an anti-religion campaign in the Soviet era.
But now some believers are asking whether it’s time for the blue and grey painted structure to be returned to the Church, especially as Ukraine is undergoing a religious revival.
Last month the country created its own Orthodox Church in a historic break with the Russian Orthodox Church, against a backdrop of its ongoing war with Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 10,000 people.
“Today, when it is no longer forbidden to pray and believe in God, the church must be used as a place of worship,” said priest Mykhaylo Yurchenko, from the new Ukrainian Orthodox Church who serves in one of the nearby churches.
Space for prayer?
Museum staff say clerics have visited and even tried out the acoustics, but there are no plans to reconsecrate it.
“The museum was founded in the 1970s,” said Sergiy Volkodav, its 37-year-old chief curator.
“It happened when space flights were wildly popular and every boy dreamed of becoming a cosmonaut,” he said, standing beside a spacesuit worn by cosmonaut Vyacheslav Zudov for a spacewalk in 1976.
There are over 450 exhibits here
Built in 1891, the Church of Saint Paraskeva houses over 450 exhibits, including a scarlet training parachute belonging to Gagarin, a collection of portraits of him and other personal items of the cosmonaut whose historic 1961 space flight made him a Soviet icon.
The museum is part of a vast outdoor ethnographic complex, located in Pereyaslav-Khmelnytsky, a small town some 80 kilometres (50 miles) southeast of Kiev.
Soviet anti-religious propaganda used images of space exploration to persuade people that God did not exist.
The Soviets also put some former churches to ideological use such as opening a museum of atheism in a cathedral in Leningrad, now Saint Petersburg.
Some other churches were converted into planetariums.
The original intent
Volkodav said that, in opening a space museum in a church, the Soviet authorities’ intention was not necessarily to mock religion.
They simply chose a building that could display large exhibits that include a model rocket several metres (feet) high, he said.
Some, like Volkodav as well as priests and other locals, argue that the creation of the museum in fact saved the church from destruction.
It formerly stood in a Cossack village that was deliberately flooded to build a vast reservoir in the 1960s.
Why the church?
The church was one of the few buildings to be painstakingly dismantled and moved to a new location.
One of those who lived in the village, Borys Stolyarenko, a 60-year-old mechanic, recalls services being held there in the early 1960s.
“Later, when the Soviets turned it into a granary, we climbed through its windows with my friends and jumped down into the grain,” he said.
He has no photographs of his former home village, he went on.
“All I have is this church. The creation of the museum saved it,” he added.
No plans to reconsecrate
Today though, the museum looks like it has seen better days. The exhibits are shabby and blue paint is flaking off the interior walls.
Most visitors come in summer due to the lack of heating: a thermometer inside displays minus 10 degrees C (14 degrees F).
“It’s as cold as in space,” joked a museum employee, wearing a sheepskin coat and hat.
The fall of the USSR and the proclamation of Ukraine’s independence in 1991, followed by religious freedom in this predominantly Orthodox country have not changed the museum’s status.
Source: The Economic Times