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Russia marks 70 years since the ending of the blockade of Leningrad by Nazi troops…

On Thursday September 8th, 2011, Russia marked 70 years since the beginning of one of the longest and deadliest sieges in the history of warfare – the blockade of Leningrad by Nazi troops…

Now on Monday January 27th, 2014, Russia marks the end of that deadly siege…

­Bombed out, isolated and taken to the brink of starvation, Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, survived 872 days cut off from the rest of the country…

When the German army encircled the city it was not the shells and bombs that the inhabitants feared most, it was hunger…

“It got far worse when the famine spread. There is nothing more terrible than famine, than to be there when your nearest and dearest starve to death,” remembers blockade survivor, Irina Skripachyova…

Those trapped inside the city had to resort to whatever means necessary to survive…

“A horse slipped on an icy street and collapsed. Immediately, people rushed out of their houses to chop it up. Our dad went out with an axe. He managed to get something like a hoof. The whole family lived off it for a week,” recalls Zinaida Goncharova, another blockade survivor…

Sometimes the need to eat saw people take drastic action…

“There were days when I would step outside my house and see dead people lying in the snow, with their buttocks severed for meat. This isn’t something we should try to cover up with heroic stories. That would be unfair to the history of the siege, and the people who endured it,” says Viktor Vilner, reflecting on what he saw back then…

70 years ago that terrible siege ended, but the memory has lived on within the Russian people..

Post by Kyle Keeton
Windows to Russia…

One Comment

  1. faraa January 27, 2014

    On January, 27 Russia will mark a memorable date – the 70th anniversary of the lifting of Leningrad siege, which lasted for nearly 900 days. The Road of Life marathon has kicked off in St. Petersburg (the new name of Leningrad) January, 26, and a military and historical reenactment of the former events, titled “On the Line of a Breakthrough” was held at the January Thunder Memorial Complex.

    For 872 days the residents of besieged Leningrad, overcoming hunger, cold and bombings, heroically defended their hometown. The siege of Leningrad by the Nazi troops started September 8, 1941, and on January 27th, 1944 it was completely liberated.

    The siege of Leningrad is an example of unprecedented courage and staunchness of both the army and peaceful civilians. It is not only one of the most tragic pages in the history of WWII but also a world event, Academician Yuri Rubtsov from the Russian Academy of Military Sciences says.

    “Not only Russian but also the US historians as well as other foreign authors stressed that the siege of Leningrad was a heroic deed committed by the people, including peaceful civilians and the army. The defence of Leningrad was carried out under the most difficult conditions of blockade.The city was sealed, and its resident were dying of starvation and cold plus insanitary conditions, and the lack of electricity and other services. The siege of Leningrad is a chain of tragic events that made its mark on the war history.”

    The heroic defence of Leningrad has played a very important role in the other key battle of the war period and influenced the outcome of the war, the Russian historian continues.

    “There is no doubt that not only the lifting of the siege of Leningrad in January of 1944 but also separate stages of the defence process made the warring sides to change their strategic plans, and besides, they raised the spirit of the Russian soldiers in the front and in the rear. The fact that the city survived the blockade which lasted for nearly 900 days demoralized both the German and the Finnish soldiers. As you know, when the Germans approached Leningrad in September of 1941, they were sure that they will occupy it within a one or two-month period.”

    The survivors of the siege of Leningrad continue to pass away. Zinaida Shevkunenko was seven when the war broke out. She spent one year and a half in the besieged city. Since she was a first-grader at that time she needed time to understand the whole horror of those events. She says:

    “After the Babayev Warehouses were destroyed by bombing food rations were immediately cut. Children started receiving 125 grams of bread, and workers received 250 grams of bread per day. The bombings were carried out mainly in the night time but there was a bomb shelter in our house, and usually we went there. Our house was not bombed out but there were many houses in the city to which serious damage was done. At first, me, my sister, my brother, and my mother were alive. My older brother was at the front. Gradually, my brother and sister died, and for a long time I lived with my mother. Then my mother also died, and I was left alone. Soon after my mother’s death I was taken out of the city and sent to the children’s home where I arrived, travelling along the Road of Life on Lake Ladoga.”

    Lydiya Khomich, also a survivor of the siege of Leningrad, despite the fact that she was very young, remained in the city until the end of the blockade. At that time she studied at a musical school. She and her friends did their utmost, trying to raise the soldiers’ spirit. And this is her story.

    “We formed special brigades where there were, violinists, cellists, pianists, and reciters. We gave concerts for the wounded soldiers. A concert that was held on January 28th, 1944, was dedicated to the victory of the Red Army on the Leningradsky Front. Of course, all survivors of the siege of Leningrad remember it very well.”

    Many exhibitions and expositions dedicated to the past events have opened in St. Petersburg to mark the 70th anniversary of the lifting of the siege of Leningrad. The action titled “The Ribbon of the Leningrad Victory” has been in progress in the city since January 20th . A moire olive green ribbon was attached to “The Defence of Leningrad” medal, which was awarded to all participants in the defence of Leningrad. Besides, some districts in St. Petersburg have been temporarily turned into the “Street of Life”, where one can see antitank hedgehogs. This is how the city looked like in the 1941-44 years. Ahead of the festivities on the occasion the Governor of St. Petersburg Georgi Poltavchenko promised new apartments for the war veterans and for all those who were awarded a badge of honour and identity “To the Resident of Besieged Leningrad”. 26 war veterans and survivors of the siege of Leningrad received such documents.

    Vladimir Putin to attend 70th anniversary of Leningrad liberation

    Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will travel to St Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) on January 27 to attend memorial ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of full liberation of Leningrad from Nazi siege, the Kremlin press service reported.

    The Head of State will lay flowers and wreaths at the Piskarevskoye memorial cemetery, where many victims of the siege lie buried, and at the military history memorial complex “Nevsky Pyatachok (bridge-head).

    Putin will also tour Russia’s first 3D panoramic view of the “Breakthrough” battle of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. The panorama has been set up by a youth search team thanks to a Russian presidential grant.

    “Vladimir Putin will talk to participants in the Battle of Leningrad and veterans of the then besieged Leningrad,” a press servic official said.

    On January 27 evening, the President will attend a first night performance of the ballet “Requiem” devoted to the liberation of the heroic city, at the Alexandrine Theatre. The premiere will be presented by the Ballet Teatre of Boris Eifman together with the “Virtuosi of Moscow” orchestra and the Academic Grand Choir “Masters of Choral Singing”.

    The ballet consists of two acts, one of which is based on the production staged by Eifman in 1991 to Mozart’s music (“Requiem”). The second part is staged after the same-title poem by Anna Akhmatova to Dmitry Shostakovich’s music (chamber symphony “In Memory of thr Victims of Fascism and War”).

    To Lenigrader Vladimir Putin, who was born in 1952, the siege of Leningrad means not just the tragic pages of the country’s history. It is associated with highly personal, family history connected with the fate of his parents, with the death of his elder brother, who died of diptheria in the besieged city (Vladimir Putin’s another elder brother, born in the 1930s, died in infancy prior to the war).

    Putin’s mother lived throughout the siege in Leningrad, experiencing all the hardships. “Once, my mother lost consciousness and people around thought that she died. She was even put together with dead bodies. It was fortunate that the mother came to her senses in time and moaned. In general, she stayed alive by a miracle,” the President narrated in his book “Ot Pervogo Litsa” (the first-person point of view).

    Puitin’s father, a serviceman of the 86th rifle division participated in the defence of the city — on the Nevsky Pyatachok — in the thick of the “monstrous hack-and- slash”. He was heavily wounded by grenade fragments and was placed in a Leningrad hospital where he was sharing his food ration with the wife who was visiting him, thereby saving her from a death from famine, the President pointed out.

    Vladimir Putin in his capacity of a statesman repeatedly visited the Nevsky Pyatachok where his father had fought during the war. Putin last visited it in May 2010.

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