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


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