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70 years since Leningrad’s liberation: the hero-city celebrates its biggest holiday

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Main celebrations of Leningrad’s relief from fascist blockade anniversary took place at the Piskarevskoye cemetery, Italyanskaya street, the Nevskiy avenue and the Dvortsovaya square. Every part of St. Petersburg marked the occasion.

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The “Sankt-Peterburg” TV channel’s reporters covered the main festivity events: Mariya Marchenko at the “Street of Life”, Tatyana Bazhenova and Alexey Zhukov – at the main avenues, squares and concert venues of the victorious city.

A tram frozen into snow, barricaded windows and anti-tank obstacles – everything here is just as it was in the most difficult days of the blockade. With one exception – fresh carnations and bread is the luxury unaffordable at that time. Someone put those here to commemorate those who starved to death. For three days, Italyanskaya street was renamed back to the Rakova street, “the Street of Life”

Mariya Marchenko, reporter: “Italyanskaya street was nicknamed The Street of Life by Leningrad’s residents – because all culture venues continued to work here in the times of the siege. This is the Komissarzhevskaya Theater, which opened in 1942, the Musical Comedy Theater, which gave performances throughout all of 872 days of the blockade, and, certainly, the Philharmonic Hall. It was here that Shostakovich’s legendary 7th Symphony was played for the 1st time. Today it was performed once again”

Shostakovich wrote the most memorable music to every Leningrad resident in the first year of the war. During its premiere at the Leningrad Philharmonic Hall, Carl Eliasberg was conducting, all lights were on then – which was a very rare occasion for the city under siege. The Hall was fully packed with people – just as today. Valentina Davidovna Shanidman is lucky to have heard the “Leningrad” symphony twice – back then, at its premiere in 1942, and today

Valentina Shnaidman, resident of blockaded Leningrad: “I don’t know how this part is called – maybe those who know exactly would correct me – that one where everything bangs and it feels like soldiers marching. This music impressed everyone in the city, which survived that rough winter”

Tatyana Bazhenova, reporter: “The composer had been evacuated a year before that, but he still sent a music sheet with the “Leningrad” Symphony to his beloved city. It was delivered by plane. Musicians of the Leningrad radio committee’s band had enough strength to play a concert – despite most of the band being severely starved. The music was broadcasted on radio. According to veterans, the Germans were perplexed – is this city still alive?”

Today Shostakovich’s masterpiece also sounded in the Mariinskiy Theatre’s concert hall – conducted by maestro Gergiev. Those who couldn’t make it into the Philharmonic Hall close by – at Italyanskaya street – witnessed the concert live on TV.

Elfrida Blinkova came to the “Street of Life” together with her blockade friends. All of them were still kids when the war started. 70 years on, they still cannot understand what miracle it took for them to survive – when death was all around them.

Elfrida Blinkova, resident of blockaded Leningrad: “We put our mother’s body into a blanket and took her to the morgue. And we had to give our sister’s body just like that, there were no coffins. We had no money to buy anything. So we gave our mother’s body to the morgue and we don’t know where she’s buried”.

Winter 1942 was the hardest one of Elfrida Blinkova. The girl lost her entire family, at the age of 11 she was left all alone in a dying city.

Elfrida Blinkova, resident of blockaded Leningrad: “Our neighbor helped me get into a care home. I was already suffering from dystrophy, barely walked – and I was only 11. They had some kind of soup, they gave it to us, that is why I survived”

Those who bravely took that situation cannot hold back tears today. One legendary voice takes them down the memory lane.

From replica agitation cars at the Italyanskaya street the calm and confident voice of Yuriy Levitan is being played. As well as those of Olga Berggoltz, Lazar Magrachev and ordinary defenders and residents of the city. Authentic, documental recordings of blockade’s radio broadcasts.

Mariya Marchenko, reporter: “Olga Berggoltz’s poems, frontline chronicles, musical programs – radio continued working in a besieged city. Broadcasts were made from here. When some programs failed to broadcast, a metronome sound was put on air. It was called “the heart of Leningrad”. For starving people, freezing in their flats, this was their only connection with the outside world. Radio broadcasts gave them hope that the city will survive despite everything. To commemorate radio hosts and ordinary residents of Leningrad, a “candle of remembrance” event was held at the Nevskiy avenue today.

Alexey Zhukov, reporter: “Tens of thousands of St. Petersburg residents took part in the “candle of remembrance” event. At exactly 7 pm they lined up on both sides of the Nevskiy avenue – from Malaya Sadovaya Street to the Dvortsovaya Square. They lit up candles to commemorate those who defended the great city, those who worked behind the enemy lines to forge the victory, those who died and survived”

Lights were dimmed in the city center, signs of cafes and shops faded. Youths held electric candles in their hands, so that they could stay lit amid strong wind. Elder people preferred real candles. 

Boris Kordochkin, event’s organizer: “Im doing this because my parents lived here, worked here – during the blockade. My father was in the navy – defending the city in war time. My mother worked at the city’s main pumping station and supplied the besieged city with water until the entire sewage system totally froze”.

After observing a minute of silence, residents – with candles in their hands – went towards the Dvortsovaya Square. Participants of the “candle of remembrance” event formed a live chain around the Alexandrovskaya column depicting the figure 900.

900 days and nights of blockade – in photographs and film shots. Shots of grief, horror, death and, certainly, life – which 70 years ago defeated death - were broadcasted on one of St. Petersburg’s main symbols. Shots of our, Leningrad’s, Victory! 

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