Voices from Russia

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Marking the 65th Anniversary of the End of the Blockade of Leningrad in World War II


Bread During the War

Andrei Drozdov



This was life during the siege of Leningrad. See this and understand why Russians have not forgotten World War II, unlike most Americans. This is self-sacrificial love, at its best and finest. Glory and honour to the blokadniki!


65 years ago, on 27 January 1944, the blockade of Leningrad was lifted. It lasted 900 days and claimed more than 700,000 lives. But, for those who survived, 27 January will forever remain the most memorable day of their lives, as the blokadniki (those who lived in Leningrad during the blockade: editor’s note) often say, “For us, this was a little Victory Day”.

On 27 January 1944, the residents of the city heard on the radio the long-awaited news, “The blockade has finally been lifted”. A year before these events, in January 1943, the first break in the ring of the blockade was made. After heavy fighting, the soldiers of the Leningrad and Volkhov Fronts pushed the Fascists back in a narrow corridor in the area of Shlisselburg. This corridor was used to send food, weapons, and ammunition into the besieged city from the rest of Russia. But, it took another year to fully lift the blockade. The forces of the Leningrad, Volkhov, and Baltic Fronts initiated a decisive offensive on 14 January 1944.

Boris Pidemsky, who served in military counterintelligence, remembered the days of the assault. “Following our orders, we prepared for this operation. Our main task, first of all, was to prevent the Germans from learning the start-time of the operation, and, secondly, the location of the main thrust of the offensive. Indeed, we began our preparations in the autumn of 1943, that’s when we received our first orders from higher headquarters about the new operation. We carried out a major dezinformatsiya action; we fed the Abwehr, that is, German intelligence, false information about the timing of a possible offensive for the lifting of the blockade, and gave a false indication of the direction of the attack”.

Many years after the war, Boris Pidemsky wrote a book, Pod Stuk Metronoma (The Ticking of the Metronome). This is based on documents that describe the lifting of the blockade of Leningrad, thus, ending the siege of the city. “I dedicated the book to the 1,276 counterintelligence officers who were killed in battle in the Leningrad area. We believed in our final victory, and were willing to give up our lives for it. We had the unshakeable conviction that the blockade would be lifted, that our victory would be inevitable. Not only was this true of us in counterintelligence, it was the common belief of all the soldiers of the army. We were all confident of victory. Specifically, this conviction gave us the dedication, the courage, and all the other qualities we needed on the battlefield. It allowed us to bear the harshness of the blockade. The same was true of the civilian population, even though they were hungry, dying of starvation, but, nevertheless, all were convinced of our victory. This conviction led us on to victory”.

27 January is a special day for all the residents of the Northern Capital on the Neva. Solemn ceremonies of remembrance will be held at all cemeteries where fallen Russian soldiers and innocent civilian victims of the Leningrad blockade are buried. At the Piskarevsky Cemetery alone, nearly half a million people are buried, both soldiers of the Leningrad Front and civilians who died of starvation, shelling, and bombing. This is the largest cemetery in the world of victims of the Second World War.

19 January 2009

Yelena Kovachich

Voice of Russia World Service



The Village of Panfilovo: The New Home of 22 Orphans


The adoption of orphans has become a local tradition in the village of Panfilovo in Vologda oblast. Several generations of the villagers have done so. In 2008 alone, the village became the new home of 22 orphans, as eleven local families adopted them. Foster-mother Galina Yevgeneva, who, by the way, has seven children of her own, said, “In our village, on our own, we decided to start a programme to help parentless children. We take them into our families; we give them warmth and love”. Another mother of a large family, Natalia Treshchalova, recently became a grandmother. Two charming granddaughters were added to her family of her three natural and four adopted children. Those two little girls were adopted by her daughter, Oksana Potemkina. Oksana said, as she was rocking her children to sleep, “My mom’s example was inspiring. I always wanted to do something good for children. I have compassion for them. When we learnt that these two kids were in hospital, our hearts went out to them. But, we think we can manage this”.

The villagers are fully aware of their responsibility for bring up the adopted children. A proof of this is the weekly meetings of foster-parents. Concerning this, Natalia Treshchalova said, “We gather not only to speak of our common problems, which are numerous, but, also, to resolve them by our common effort. I can’t say that raising adopted children is all sweetness and light. No. All of the kids have their problems. But, their problems are our problems”. Practically every adopted child has serious health problems of one sort or another. Some of them lag in their mental development or have psychological disorders; others suffer from early forms of scoliosis. Since the villagers are kind-hearted and closely-knit people, they usually resolve the difficulties of their adopted children through a common effort.

So, they collected money and bought a unique form of medicine… two horses. They were not meant to work in the fields, but, were purchased especially for hippotherapy sessions. The term “hippotherapy” stems from the Greek word “hippos”, which means “horse”. So, hippotherapy is a form of physical therapy involving horseback riding, and it is used in many countries. Galina Yevgeneva said, “Hippotherapy is most useful for your spine. Riding lets the backbone move around, and that helps to reduce inflammation and swelling. Hippotherapy sessions are also important lessons that teach the kids unselfishness. They are fond of the horses; they like to take care of them. In this way, they learn what thoughtfulness is and come to understand that they are responsible for domestic animals”. This year, in 2009, the villagers of Panfilovo expect to adopt 17 more orphans more from various orphanages in Vologda oblast. Shortly, this village will become their new home.

22 January 2009

Maria Domnitskaya

Voice of Russia World Service


The Fanfares Are Over, Mr Obama Gets Down To Work


US President Barack Obama (1961- )

The inaugural fanfares are now over, so, Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, is getting down to work on the foreign policy issues expected to feature prominently during the first months of his presidency. Naturally, what worries Americans most is the worsening impact of the global crisis on their own well-being. But, they are not the only ones in trouble. The fact that the crisis has global proportions proves that everything in our world is interconnected. The same is true of international politics and how it influences the life of people across the globe. Few doubt the importance of Russian-American relations in international affairs. What are they going to be like under President Obama? Up to now, his statements about Russia were rather vague, although he did say that relations should improve.

The new US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was more specific. In a speech at the Congress following her nomination for the post, she dwelt at length on the prospects of Russian-US relations. A bit earlier, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov did the same at a press conference in Moscow. To make it more descriptive, let’s compare the two countries’ positions on key points. Here are some “general remarks” first. In Mr Lavrov’s words, “Russia hopes that there will be a drastic improvement in US policy and that there will be honest cooperation”. Mrs Clinton said much the same thing, pointing up that the Obama Administration was ready for constructive cooperation, above all on strategic stability and security, but, would stand up for American values. Well, who is against that as long as these values aren’t imposed on others?

In the sphere of disarmament, Russia wants “more specific and constructive talks about a new regime to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction treaty, or START, which expires at the end of this year, whilst Washington intends to discuss further weapons cuts within the START framework. Speaking about current regional conflicts, Mr Lavrov said they should be handled through the joint efforts of Russia, the United States, and Europe, something Mrs Clinton didn’t deny. In regards to anti-missile defence, Moscow firmly opposed plans by the Bush Administration to deploy missile defence components in Europe. Mr Obama does not seem, however, to share Mr Bush’s enthusiasm on the issue. Moreover, one of his military advisers has made it clear that Russian interests would have to be taken into account. So far, the foreign policy approaches outlined by the Obama Administration give rise to cautious optimism. How long this optimism will last remains to be seen.

21 January 2009

andrei-ptashnikovAndrei Ptashnikov

Voice of Russia World Service


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