Nu är det redan onsdag och det är otroligt vad fort tiden går! Förra onsdagen kom min pappa och hans fru på besök och stannade över helgen. Det är riktigt kul att få visa upp det vackra Ryssland här i Sankt Petersburg och det är ganska lätt att bli imponerad av staden.

Vi hade det riktigt trevligt och gjorde turistiga saker såsom att besöka många trevliga restauranger samt det självskrivna Vinterpalatset med Ermitaget, Artillerimuseet och kryssaren Aurora. Vi gick på Mariinskyteatern och såg vacker balett. Ja, vi gjorde nog allt det man kan förväntas göra under 5 dagar i stan…

En mkt speciell och årligt återkommande händelse inträffade i lördags då ryssarna firade dagen då den 3 år långa belägringen av staden upphörde 1944. Det är fasansfulla skildringar av svält, kyla och död som beskriver dessa tre långa år då tyskarna under Hitler belägrade Leningrad. Det som hände för över 60 år sedan lever fortfarande kvar i St Petersburgsbornas ordspråk, vanor och attityd. I lördags var det stor fest på Palatstorget och tillsammans mindes man sina landsmäns kamp och den efterlängtade seger. Här kan ni läsa om en kvinnas upplevelser under belägringen:

Living through the Siege

My mother has never been able to speak about these days

“Siege” and “Blockade” are the words which I have heard from my childhood, though my mother has hardly been able to speak about it for all her life. But sometimes, when I asked her why she has been keeping everywhere flour, matches, sugar, she answered that if something happens again this will help us to survive. Even now she still continues to do the same.

…Four sisters aged from 4 to 20 and their mother tried to survive during that devastating three year blockade by the Nazi army and they were all saved by some miracle. How could they do it without any help? The oldest one of these four sisters was my 20years old mother. During the siege she went to the seaport and unloaded the coal there. The people who were at port could sometimes get American tins of meat, of course it was very seldom, but it was a real gift for people who otherwise got just 125 g of bread a day. Can you imagine it – just 125 g of bread as the food available each day! Once a girl from the street snatched at a piece of bread out from the hand of my mother and then she immediately shoved it into her mouth and swallowed it. My mother couldn’t do anything; it was a shock and disaster for her.

But my mother and her sisters and their mother were fighting for their life all the time. The factory for making shoes was situated nearby. It had a lot of leather for making shoes. Most of leather was left without being used. This leather was in formalin, which is a toxin, a poison in ordinary life. But women were putting the leather in water, keeping it there for several days for getting out the formalin, then were boiling and eating this boiled leather and drinking the clear “soup” water it was boiled in. It supported them a little, though any water from the city also was a serious problem. Usually they carried water by sleighs, pulling these sleights by hand for a long distance.

Bodaevsky food stores were burned in the beginning of blockade due to canon fires and bombs and Leningrad was left without any food for winter time – well, for 3 winters! Sometimes people came to the place where these stores were situated and took the soil from there, because in places it was sweet where sugar had split on the ground before. They would put this soil in water and drink this “tea”. It was sometimes a little sweet and could give them some vitamins and energy.

The windows were without any glass from the early part of the siege due to the first bullets, canons and bombs. They were closed with pieces of cardboard, pasteboard, plywood, furniture and everything they could use. After this they had to live in their flat without any light. They had to put almost all their furniture, their books and everything else they could find in the street in the fireplace and burn it to keep the flat warmer.

…My uncle (their brother) and my grandfather from this side were on the front line of the siege as volunteers, defending Leningrad (now St Petersburg). They both died during the first winter from starvation and frost. My grandfather could visit his women from the front only once before his death. The last time my uncle (my mother’s brother) came home was after he had already lost all his strength and been frostbitten. He was also so weak from starvation. But his mother and sisters couldn’t help him. Their soup from leather didn’t help him to recover. They didn’t have anything else to support and feed him and he died in their hands. The sisters had to deliver him by hand, pulling the sleigh with his dead body on it along the ice covered winter streets to the Volkovo cemetery. But they couldn’t bury him as they did not have the strength. They just had to leave him there as others did with other dead relatives. Even now my mother simply cannot speak about him. He was just 18 years old when he died in their arms!

The first winter was so severe (with temperatures falling to about minus 40-42), people were so weak, that by late winter nobody could bury bodies nor by this time even pull them by sleigh to the cemetery. Dead bodies were on the streets, on the stairs of apartments, near the hospitals; churches were full of bodies. In some places, sometimes, they were lying like stacks of firewood, looking like piles of logs. It was terrible, but what could those who remained barely alive do without food, without warmth, when the temperature was – 40 to -42 degrees below zero?

The house of my father’s family was not far from Nevsky Prospect, it had been one of the higher buildings and the people would watch from its tower to look around the city, trying to see where firebombs had landed, to try to then go to prevent the fire on the roofs of buildings around. They were constantly on duty with this task. To get upstairs to the tower they had to step over dead bodies on the stairs, because inhabitants couldn’t carry them out. Several generations of my family had been living in this same house and we are still living there today. In my childhood I was afraid to use these stairs alone and at night I had nightmares about the dead bodies while I was sleeping, but this is another story…

In the beginning of the first spring, following this devastating winter, when the weather was getting warmer, people began to take bodies off the streets, stairs and other places. It was so hard and sad to see the cars, moving along the street, which were full of bodies with the hair of women flying behind the cars as a cloud, because at that time most Russian women used to have long, long hair.

Of course, it was much easier to survive in spring and summer, but by August the legs, arms and body of my mother began to become swollen more and more. She hardly could move. It was the sign of a very serious disease – scurvy. It comes with the shortage of vitamins, particularly a lack of vitamin C. A lot of people died due to this reason alone. But my grandmother was able to buy one glass of black currants by parting with the rest of her jewellery and this glass of berries saved the life of my mother. For this reason I was later able to be born and I have had a profound respect for these berries all my life.

There was an epilogue to the eventual resettlement of my mother and her sisters after their terrible time in Leningrad – not a nice one though! They were moved to a Russian settlement in the Altai region and low and behold they were treated poorly there by many locals…losing all the meagre possessions they took with them. However this story would not be complete without mention of the support from some foreigners during the siege who were known as the “convoy club” and these people got food supplies through to the city of Archangelsk and some of this food successfully made its way to the besieged city through the “Road of Life”… These men saved many lives and some now came to Saint Petersburg each year to celebrate our mutual freedom.

…January 27th, 2004, was the 60th anniversary of the day this 3-year siege ended. It‘s incredible but all four sisters from this friendly and close family are alive and quite healthy now. Maybe because for all their life they have been together and tried to help each other all the time in any situation.

When my daughter was about four and I had some problems, my 4 year old daughter came to me and said, “Don’t worry, you know we will overcome them together. (Russian words, my computer won’t read). I looked at her, smiled and realized that Russian women are now able to overcome any difficulties.

By Irina Sentyurova Published: 1st March 04 in NewaNews

You want to learn more? Visit

Museum of the Defence and Blockade of Leningrad, Solyanoy Pereulok 9/8.

Museum of the History of St. Petersburg, Angliskaya Nab.44, Romantsov Mansion

Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad, end of Moskovsky Prospect/Pl Pobedy

Piskaryovskoe Cemetery, Nepokryonnikh 72, M Lesnaya/Pl Muzhestva Diorama (Breakthrough of the Siege) under the Motorway Bridge over Neva near Schlisselburg (small, but impressing). Take the road to Murmansk (goes by IKEA), take the exit immediately after crossing Neva, there is a sign!

Road of Life from Lake Ladoga to town, there is small monument every kilometre. Buy a map of the surroundings of SPB to get there

14, Nevsky Prospect: There are always flowers in front of the sign: “Citizens, this side of the street is dangerous under spitfire”