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Writing The Siege Of Leningrad

Writing The Siege Of Leningrad: Womens Diaries Memoirs And Documentary Prose

JONATHAN HARRIS EDITOR
CYNTHIA SIMMONS
NINA PERLINA
WITH A FOREWORD BY RICHARD BIDLACK
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wrch4
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  • Book Info
    Writing The Siege Of Leningrad
    Book Description:

    Silver Winner,ForeWord MagazineBook of the Year, History

    From September 1941 until January 1944, Leningrad suffered under one of the worst sieges in the history of warfare. At least one million civilians died, many during the terribly cold first winter. Bearing the brunt of this hardship-and keeping the city alive through their daily toil and sacrifice-were the women of Leningrad. Yet their perspective on life during the siege has been little examined.

    Cynthia Simmons and Nina Perlina have searched archival holdings for letters and diaries written during the siege, conducted interviews with survivors, and collected poetry, fiction, and retrospective memoirs written by theblokadnitsy(women survivors) to present a truer picture of the city under siege. In simple, direct, even heartbreaking language, these documents tell of lost husbands, mothers, children; meager rations often supplemented with sawdust and other inedible additives; crime, cruelty, and even cannibalism. They also relate unexpected acts of kindness and generosity; attempts to maintain cultural life through musical and dramatic performances; and provide insight into a group of ordinary women reaching beyond differences in socioeconomic class, ethnicity, and profession in order to survive in extraordinary times.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7274-7
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. FOREWORD: HISTORICAL BACKGROUND TO THE SIEGE OF LENINGRAD
    (pp. ix-xxvi)
    RICHARD BIDLACK

    THE SIEGE OF LENINGRAD BY GERMAN AND FINNISH ARMIES DURING World War II was one of the most horrific events in world history. According to the most recent and reliable estimate, fighting in the Leningrad area from the summer of 1941 to the summer of 1944 and during the 872 days of blockade and bombardment of the city itself took the lives of somewhere between 1.6 and 2 million Soviet citizens (not to mention enemy casualties). The entire range of this estimate exceeds the total number of Americans, including military personnel and civilians, who have perished in all wars from...

  2. CHRONOLOGY OF THE SIEGE
    (pp. xxxviii-xl)
  3. Map: Front Line around Leningrad, 21 September 1941
    (pp. xliii-xliii)
  4. Map: Leningrad, with Points of Interest
    (pp. xliv-xlvi)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-18)

    OLDER LENINGRADERS STILL REMEMBER THE BRIGHT, WARM SUNDAY when German forces invaded the Soviet Union. Many had already moved to their dachas outside the city in preparation for summer. 22 June 1941. Despite the nonaggression pact that the USSR and Germany had signed in August 1939, Soviet citizens had followed with unease the Nazi expansion into northern and central Europe and northern Africa. Still, it was hard to believe.

    22 JUNE 1941. MORNING

    I carried Lena out into the garden together with her colored rattles. The sun already ruled the sky completely.

    A cry, the sound of broken dishes. The...

  6. DIARIES AND LETTERS

    • LIUBOV’ VASIL’EVNA SHAPORINA (1885–1967)
      (pp. 21-24)

      Liubov’ Vasil’evna Shaporina (née Yakovleva), artist, stage designer, and organizer of the marionette theater in Petrograd, kept a diary for decades, beginning in 1917. Her diaries, purchased by the manuscript department of the Russian National Library (St. Petersburg), were prepared for publication by the department’s senior researcher, Valentina Fedorovna Petrova. When publication of the diaries was delayed, Petrova (herself a Siege survivor) secured for Shaporina’s manuscript a place in the anniversary exhibition “The City of Leningrad during the Siege.” In 1995, V. F. Petrova generously shared with us cultural and biographical information about L. V. Shaporina and a number of...

    • ANNA PETROVNA OSTROUMOVA-LEBEDEVA (1871–1957)
      (pp. 25-32)

      Anna Petrovna Ostroumova-Lebedeva was an artist, printmaker, and book illustrator. Her husband (m. 1905) was the chemist Sergei Vasil’evich Lebedev. Ostroumova began her professional education in Baron Stiglitz’s institute of technical drawing. She then studied at the Academy of Art and spent several years in studios in Paris and Italy. In 1899 she joined the famous Petersburg society of artists called “The World of Art” (Mir iskusstva). City landscapes, especially St. Petersburg and its environs, figure significantly in Ostroumova’s works. Notable among these are the etchings she created for the bookPetersburg(1912), written by the historian of urban culture...

    • ÈL’ZA GREINERT, LETTER TO HER CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN FROM BESIEGED LENINGRAD
      (pp. 33-36)

      The editors received this letter from Èrna Mikhailovna Shusterovich (Èl’za Greinert’s granddaughter), a medievalist and translator. Èrna’s mother, Ol’ga Ivanovna Greinert, was German, and her father Mikhail Shusterovich, Jewish. During World War II, Mikhail Shusterovich served in the Red Army, which to some degree protected his wife and her family from persecution. In the summer of 1941, Ol’ga Ivanovna Greinert, a kindergarten teacher, was evacuated from Leningrad. Her younger son Arnold (Arnolia) went with her. Her older daughter Èrna was sick and was not permitted to accompany her. Èrna remained in Leningrad with her grandmother and grandfather and only later...

    • ANONYMOUS LETTER FROM LENINGRAD
      (pp. 37-38)

      The author of this testimony insisted that her name, as well as that of the family she describes, not be revealed. Her persistent fear is another aspect of this painful memory of persecution.

      I will speak only about a few people well known to me during that horrible time for the simple reason that they turned out to be doubly unfortunate: first of all as inhabitants of a city surrounded by an enemy; second, by reason of their membership in the same nation as the soldiers of Hitler who held this city in the iron vise of the blockade.

      They...

    • EVGENIIA VADIMOVNA SHAVROVA (1919–1991) Introduced by her sister, Elena Vadimovna Fassman
      (pp. 39-46)

      Presenting us with the diary of Evgeniia Vadimovna Shavrova, her younger sister Elena (b. 1946) gave a brief history of their family. Below are excerpts from the interview with Elena Fassman (July 1995), a letter of 26 May 1942, written by Zhenia (Evgeniia) and her mother to Vadim Shavrov, and fragments from Zhenia’s diary.

      ELENA FASSMAN

      Her name was Evgeniia. Mama’s married name was Shavrova; Shavrov was a famous aircraft designer. His first hydroplane (as noted in the Museum of the Arctic and Antarctic) was launched in 1929. It was for polar flights. And Mama, when she married him, took...

    • VERA SERGEEVNA KOSTROVITSKAIA (1906–1979)
      (pp. 47-52)

      Vera S. Kostrovitskaia grew up in a cultured Petersburg family of Polish descent. She was the niece of the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire (Wilhelm Apollinaris de Kostrowitzki). In 1916 she entered the Imperial Theater Academy (Imperatorskoe teatral’noe uchilishche) and, on graduation in 1923, was accepted into the Mariinskii (Kirov) Theater of opera and ballet. Until 1936, when her performance career was cut short by tuberculosis, Kostrovitskaia danced with the company, for a time working with George Balanchine. After several years’ training, in 1939 she began her career as a teacher.

      Kostrovitskaia is remembered by her student Gabriela Komleva in “The...

    • MARIIA VIACHESLAVOVNA KROPACHEVA
      (pp. 53-57)

      Mariia Viacheslavovna Kropacheva, a history teacher and party member, in 1940 received the title of “Honored Teacher of the Russian Federal Republic of the Soviet Union.” During the war she joined the volunteer civil defense and was decorated for her actions. She was twice chosen as a Deputy of the Supreme Soviet. From 1950 she was a Corresponding Member of the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences and Assistant Director of the Leningrad Scientific Research Institute of Pedagogy. Kropacheva’s politically correct assessment of events often differs from that found in other documents in this collection. Her diary served her well in her...

    • ANNA IVANOVNA LIKHACHEVA (B. 1887)
      (pp. 58-61)

      In 1942, Anna Ivanovna Likhacheva was a doctor in the clinic of the Red Banner factory.

      The following excerpts from Likhacheva’s diary were published inOborona Leningrada (1941–1944): Vospominaniia i dnevniki uchastnikov(The Defense of Leningrad [1941–1944]: Memoirs and diaries of participants). Leningrad: Nauka, 1968, 682–89.

      15 MAY

      Since 7 May I have been working on a very interesting assignment—I am to observe and do a study of workers who have been sent to our factory’s cafeteria for supplemental nourishment….

      Who eats in the cafeteria? The overwhelming majority are factory workers; then office workers (with second-category...

    • TAMARA PETROVNA NEKLIUDOVA
      (pp. 62-63)

      An actress or musician, Nekliudova was sent to entertain the troops at the front. Her description of a special ration provided for the entertainers and notes on the death of Volodia back in Leningrad are held in the Museum of the Defense of Leningrad.

      From an exhibit at the Museum of the Defense of Leningrad, “War-Time Menu.”

      In addition, at the Colonel’s suggestion, beer in bottles and a kilo of candy was brought for the women. We shared the candy with Liusia and took about 400 grams to Leningrad.

      Nekliudova—Joined the ensemble on 19 November 1941.

      Continued in Leningrad,...

    • OL’GA MIKHAILOVNA FREIDENBERG (1890–1955) The Race of Life (Probeg zhizni)
      (pp. 64-76)

      Ol’ga Mikhailovna Freidenberg was born in Odessa to a Jewish family of cosmopolitan European orientation. Her father, Mikhail (Moisei Fedorovich Freidenberg, 1858–1920) was a playwright, a journalist, and an inventor of telephone and telegraph equipment. Her mother, Anna Osipovna (Asia, 1862–1944), a younger sister of the artist Leonid Pasternak, was the only female child in the family privileged with receiving a high-school education. Ol’ga was the youngest of three children and the only daughter in the family. The Freidenbergs and the Pasternaks maintained familial and friendly relations. Ol’ga was only two months younger than her world-renowned cousin, Boris,...

  7. MEMOIRS AND ORAL HISTORIES

    • VERA VLADIMIROVNA MILIUTINA (1903–1987) EVACUATION and THE SCOTTISH ALBUM
      (pp. 79-86)

      Vera Vladimirovna Miliutina, graphic designer and theater artist, was born and lived her entire life in Leningrad. Her father was a professor of biology, and her mother was a physician. In the 1960s–1970s and during the last years of her life, Miliutina worked on her memoirsWhat Is Remembered(To, chto vspomnilos’). After her death, her husband, A. S. Rozanov, and her friends compiled a small book,By and about Vera Miliutina.¹ This book provides vital information on Miliutina’s life and is the source of the fragments from her memoirs that follow.

      Miliutina began her professional training at the...

    • VALENTINA NIKOLAEVNA GOROKHOVA THE WAR, THE BLOCKADE, THE MILITARY HOSPITAL
      (pp. 87-94)

      The following excerpts are taken from the memoir of the surgeon Valentina Nikolaeva Gorokhova, which is preserved in the Museum of the Defense of Leningrad. They appear in Part I, which is entitled “The Eve of War and ÈG [evacuation hospital] 1012” and covers events from the end of May 1941 to the middle of November 1944. The first page of the memoir conveys a sense of impending catastrophe: Over a cup of tea “with a nurse from our clinic, [we] heatedly discussed the question that was troubling all of us. Will there be war? When?” From June 1941 until...

    • SOF’IA NIKOLAEVNA BURIAKOVA A HALF-CENTURY AGO
      (pp. 95-103)

      Before the war, Sof’ia Nikolaevna Buriakova (née Morozova) was a housewife. Her husband, Aleksei Ivanovich (1895–1942), was an accountant; her son, Viktor, a student in the History Department at Leningrad State University. Sof’ia Nikolaevna was born in the village of Troitskoe, in the Yaroslav Region, where until the war, her oldest sister, Mariia, still lived. Sof’ia Nikolaevna’s family—her mother, Aleksandra Petrovna, and her father, Nikolai Ivanovich Morozov, and their children—though living in Leningrad, kept up their connections to their native village. As Buriakova recalls, in the summer of 1941, they were preparing to spend the summer in...

    • OL’GA NIKOLAEVNA GRECHINA (1922–2000) “SAVING, I AM SAVED”
      (pp. 104-115)

      Ol’ga Nikolaevna Grechina took pride in her Russian roots and her family’s long history in St. Petersburg/Leningrad. Her mother’s family came to the city at the end of the eighteenth century, and a number of her ancestors attained prominent positions in government and higher education. Her father, Nikolai Aleksandrovich Grechin, a doctor, was descended from Don Cossacks. Grechina followed in the footsteps of her maternal grandfather, Vladimir Ivanovich Lamanskii, who was a professor at St. Petersburg University, a renowned Slavist, and an acquaintance of Fyodor M. Dostoevsky. In 1941 Grechina was a second-year student in the Department of Russian Philology...

    • NATAL’IA BORISOVNA ROGOVA (B. 1948) Interview, July 1995
      (pp. 116-119)
      NATAL’IA BORISOVNA ROGOVA

      Natal’ia Borisovna Rogova, librarian and philologist, is a senior research assistant in the Manuscript Department of the Russian National Library.

      It is the siege that connects me personally to the past. I work in the Manuscript Department, in which we preserve ancient manuscripts, letters on palm leaves, birch-bark documents, monastery manuscripts, very valuable [war] materials. It is the book of ancient relics. They are perceived on the level of art—somehow separate from me. And there is an element of the aesthetic in [the siege materials]. And suddenly I find in the department colleagues who experienced the siege and lived...

    • VALENTINA FEDOROVNA PETROVA (B. 1927) Interview, June 1995
      (pp. 120-126)
      VALENTINA FEDOROVNA PETROVA

      Valentina Fedorovna Petrova, Research Assistant in the Manuscript Department of the Russian National Library, was raised in the best tradition of the Russian intelligentsia. Her mother, Elizaveta Mikhailovna (née Rodionova), knew several foreign languages and played the piano; her father was a civil engineer. At the beginning of the 1930s the Petrovs took up residence in an apartment on the Griboedov Canal. Their neighbors were the Osten-Sakens—of German aristocratic heritage. V. F. Petrova remembers the family well: the elder Osten-Saken, his arrest in 1934 and his return from exile; then the arrest of the entire family during World War...

    • NATAL’IA VLADIMIROVNA STROGANOVA (B. 1934) Oral history, recorded June 1994
      (pp. 127-132)

      Natal’ia Stroganova (née Evstigneeva), having learned of our intentions to publish an anthology of memoirs and reminiscences of the Siege, asked her friend Liubov’ Beregovaia (whoseThe Joyous and the Inimitableappears in the section of documentary prose) to convey to us a tape that was made at an unofficial meeting of veterans of the war. At that meeting, Stroganova read from her memoir of the Siege. The following is excerpted from that reading.

      I was in the besieged city for the entire nine hundred days. On 22 June 1941 I was with my mother and father in Leningrad. We...

    • VALENTINA IL’INISHNA BUSHUEVA Interview, June 1995
      (pp. 133-140)
      VALENTINA IL’INISHNA BUSHUEVA

      Valentina Bushueva, eighteen at the beginning of the war, was orphaned first by her mother’s death, when she was three years and eight months old, and then by the terror of the thirties—her father was purged and spent three years in Solovki. Most of her life she lived with her aunt. An orphan and daughter of an “enemy of the Soviet people,” she was forced to demonstrate her loyalty to the state. At the age of sixteen, during the war with Finland, she was drafted as a forced laborer together with thousands of other Komsomol members. She worked in...

    • AVGUSTA MIKHAILOVNA SARAEVA-BONDAR’ (1925–2000) SILHOUETTES OF TIME
      (pp. 141-146)

      Avgusta Mikhailovna Saraeva-Bondar’ was an art historian and, from 1950, a research assistant at the Leningrad State Museum of History. She kept her double name in memory of her parents; her father, Mikhail Saraev, a worker and participant in the revolutionary movement from 1895 on, and her mother, Zinaida Bondar’, a country school teacher who in 1917 became the head of a regional department of education. In her bookSilhouettes of Time, Saraeva-Bondar’ dedicates a chapter, “The Great Resistance,” to her memories of the Siege. In the other chapters, she recalls writers, artists, and actors whom she knew, and with...

    • KSENIIA MAKIANOVNA MATUS Interview, July 1996
      (pp. 147-155)
      KSENIIA MAKIANOVNA MATUS

      K. M. Matus was an oboist with the orchestra of the Leningrad Philharmonic, having been hired even before the orchestra returned from evacuation in Novosibirsk. In 1942, as a student of the Conservatory, Matus played in the orchestra of Leningrad Radio. Kseniia Makianovna is one of the few musicians still alive who took part in the famous concert on Leningrad Radio when K. I. Èliasberg conducted Shostakovich’s Seventh (Leningrad) Symphony. Not long ago Matus contributed her diaries and memoirs to the museum. “The Muses Did Not Keep Silent” (A muzy ne molchali) documents the history of music and theater in...

    • YULIIA ARONOVNA MENDELEVA (1883–1958) Excerpt from THE DEFENSE OF LENINGRAD
      (pp. 156-162)

      Yuliia Aronovna Mendeleva received her medical training in Germany and began work as a physician before the Revolution. Her membership in the Communist Party dates from 1905. Mendeleva became director of the Leningrad Pediatric Institute in 1928; she was a good administrator and succeeded in attracting the best specialists as teachers and clinicians. As a long-time member of the party, she commanded authority in the administrative and governmental apparatus and made good use of her official connections. When the evacuation of children began in June 1941, Mendeleva decided that the Institute should not leave Leningrad: “since a population of children...

    • LILIA SOLOMONOVNA FRANKFURT (1903–1956) “The Saltykov-Shchedrin National Public Library (of the Order of the Red Banner of Labor)”
      (pp. 163-169)

      Lilia Solomonovna Frankfurt entered Leningrad University, the Faculty of Social Sciences (FON), in 1924. There she became an ardent student of the history of the Revolution and the sociology of the literary process. She was a member of the Komsomol and lectured workers on the foundations of communism. She joined the Party in 1928. After graduating from the university, she worked in the publishing house “History of Manufacturing Plants and Factories” (ZIF). In early 1937, the press was closed, accused of promoting an “anti-party line,” and Frankfurt was expelled from the Party.80That same year Frankfurt’s husband, expecting to be...

    • OL’GA IL’INICHNA MARKHAEVA, SENIOR RESEARCHER, NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE DEFENSE OF LENINGRAD, AND OL’GA ANATOL’EVNA TRAPITSINA-MATVEENKO Interview, July 1995
      (pp. 170-174)
      OL’GA IL’INICHNA MARKHAEVA and OL’GA ANATOL’EVNA TRAPITSINA-MATVEENKO

      Ol’ga Il’inichna Markhaeva is a historian and senior research assistant at the now reopened National Museum of the Defense of Leningrad. She began the interview by recalling the tragic fate of the first museum, closed in connection with the Leningrad Affair.89A series of trials that occurred from 1949 to 1953, the Leningrad Affair claimed as its victims “thousands of party, soviet, agricultural, trade-union, Komsomol, and military workers, scientists, representatives of the creative intelligentsia, members of their families, relatives, and other citizens.”90Among them was Lev L’vovich Rakov.

      Rakov organized the exhibition “The Soviet Nation’s Great Patriotic War against the...

  8. DOCUMENTARY PROSE

    • ELENA OSKAROVNA MARTILLA (B. 1923) GRAVE MONTHS FOR THE BLOCKADED CITY (excerpts)
      (pp. 177-182)

      Elena Oskarovna Martilla, theater artist, set designer, and instructor of painting at the studios of the Pedagogical Institute and the City Palaces of Culture, became fascinated by art while still a child. In 1934, her drawings received awards at the All-Russian Competition in children’s drawings, and she was accepted into the school for gifted youth at the Academy of Art. Unfortunately, fate had something else in store for her.

      The war began six days after Elena Martilla came of age. As did many girls her age in Leningrad, she enlisted in a civil-defense unit; later, along with her former classmates,...

    • LIDIIA SAMSONOVNA RAZUMOVSKAIA (B. 1921) “To the People”
      (pp. 183-187)

      Lidiia Razumovskaia was born into a happy and nurturing family. Her mother was dedicated to the three children: in addition to Razumovskaia, her older sister, Mirra Samsonovna, who became a teacher of literature, and her brother, Lev Samsonovich. She recalled that her mother would say: “I have three five-year plans,” because the children were each born five years apart. Her father, Samson L’vovich Razumovskii, was an engineer and designed the renovated sewer system in Leningrad.

      Razumovskaia was a good student and studied in the Russian Department at the university for three years. Her professors included Gukovskii, Propp, Riftin, and Piksanov....

    • IRENA L’VOVNA DUBITSKAIA COLD SUN: STORIES
      (pp. 188-192)

      Cold Sun: Storieswas published at the author’s expense. The following synopsis appears on the copyright page:

      The trilogyCold Sunbrings together stories that document the tragic valor of Leningraders in the cruel days of the Blockade, difficult wanderings in evacuation, and the uneasy return home.

      Through the psychology and perspective of a child and [her] simple, clear language, the reader discovers the complexity of human relations in the inhumane conditions of a war for survival. Everything in the narrative is true—everything was experienced by the author herself. The book can also be considered as documentation of the...

    • LIUDMILA IVANOVNA VESHENKOVA “Sweet Earth”
      (pp. 193-196)

      “Sweet Earth” is held in the Museum of the Defense of Leningrad.

      At the start of the war the mother would come home from work later and later to feed her little girl and then immediately would go to bed. The little girl was alone all day, locked inside with no one to talk to, save her doll Katia, and she could only watch passers-by from the window. The window was almost even with the roadway; across the fence was the garden of the Karl Marx Hospital. The German air-raid attack began late at night while the tired city slept....

    • ANTONINA EMEL’IANOVNA MASLOVSKAIA “Blockade Lullaby”
      (pp. 197-197)
    • VERA VLADIMIROVNA MILIUTINA “Vitamins, or Ode to Grass”
      (pp. 198-200)

      Along with Miliutina’s memoirEvacuation, in the previous section, this work of poetic prose appears inBy and about Vera Miliutina.

      How agonizing the desire to eat was in the winter of 1941–1942…. And as if that was not enough, long distances had to be covered on foot, and because of this life became even harder. In the city’s empty streets there sometimes appeared trucks carrying the military. They were coming from the countryside and had pine and spruce branches with them. I would usually pull some tobacco out of my quilted jacket—if the truck stopped, I would...

    • LIUBOV’ BORISOVNA BEREGOVAIA THE JOYOUS, THE INIMITABLE …
      (pp. 201-208)

      Schastlivoe, nepovtorimoe… (The Joyous, the Inimitable). St. Petersburg: Papirus, 1997, excerpts.

      I’m eight years old. I go to school.

      They proudly call us “Leningraders” and [then] add the long, ugly word—evacuees. As for what happened before we arrived in Urshak, I try not to think about it. When they talk about Leningrad, I remember the window in our room, and in the window, like in a picture, roofs. In the narrow aperture there’s a sidewalk and people crawling below. The roofs smelled of heated paint, sun, and a calm life. In Urshak the house drew back its walls...

  9. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 209-212)

    THE COMPREHENSIVE RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE WOMEN OF LENINGRAD, both public and private, affected the traditional understanding of war and siege as much as it affected their own identity as women. In this collection of narratives, theblokadnitsyrecount their experiences in the traditional male spheres of government administration, industry, and defense. In the domestic women’s domain, in which they continued to function, they chronicle their superhuman efforts to nurture both body and soul and, when that failed, to take leave of their loved ones with the greatest possible dignity and respect. The broad scope of the documents included here conveys...