Letter: In Diana's memory

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Sir: The day after the Princess of Wales died school started in Russia. For thousands of seven-year-old children, it was their first day and, by tradition, they visit the war memorial in their town or village and lay flowers. In my town, Korolyov, the memorial was decked out with flowers by a line of little children.

It was a beautiful, warm, Russian summer morning, and for a moment it seemed that it was Russia that, for once, was living in reality and Britain that had gone completely mad. There seemed so much dignity and gravity in the way that children remembered the sacrifice of 26 million of their countrymen in the war, and it seemed so hysterical to bring Britain to the edge of its senses over the death of one women, who, after all, had done nothing to affect my life. War memorials in Russia are always looked after, especially on special days like Victory Day (9 May) and 1 September.

When I got the train and started reading, a man opposite realised I was foreign and started talking. "So, what a tragedy about her death, eh?" he said. I don't think he was impressed by my use of the Russian word skazka, meaning fairytale, to describe what I thought about the whole business. It reminded me of nothing as much as Stalin's death, I told him, with all the ridiculous hysteria that this had entailed.

It even got to Russia, with lots of young people signing the book of condolence at the embassy for a women they had never seen and knew little about beyond the soap opera foisted on us every week.

I hope that in 10 years the kids will still lay flowers on war memorials in Russia and the death of the Princess of Wales will be left for her family and friends to remember in peace instead of being turned into cheap gimmick.