Today St. Petersburg is filled with memories of January 27th 1944. 72 years ago Leningrad broke free from the horrid chains of the Blockade.
Official events took place at War memorials in the morning. Government officials and ordinary citizens alike brought flowers. Alexey Zhukov with more details.
The entire Nevsky Prospekt has been decorated with hanging banners and flags ahead of the anniversary. But the façade of building number 14 sticks out. “This side of the street is particularly dangerous during artillery fire”. Hundreds of red carnations lay under the last plaque of its kind on the city’s main street. Veterans recalled those horrible days, poems of Blockade’s poets were read out loud.
Yuriy Metkin, resident of Leningrad under the Blockade: “The main thing about the Blockade was unity of people. We helped each other. The young generation remembers that, but we still have to remind sometimes”.
Egor Poluektov, pupil: “It was undoubtedly a heroic deed. I think that only the Russians could have survived this until the very end”
A minute of silence followed poems and first-hand recollections of the tragic days. For nine hundred days, the sound of the pendulum meant that the besieged city still had a pulse. Children of those who survived the Great Patriotic War proudly share their parents’ and grandparents’ memories.
Piskarevskoye cemetery has the largest amount of flowers today. The “Motherland” monument is drowned in wreaths and thousands of carnations. There is no larger burial site – also serving as the most frightening symbol of war. Half a million people are buried here. The scariest time for those who survived the Blockade was winter of 1941-42. Bread allocation for children and the elderly was mere 125 grams a day. No heating or electricity. Minus 40 degrees outside.
- Hunger and cold, that’s how it was. That’s why it was so scary. And bombings. And when children were transported over Ladoga. Cars sank under the ice, that’s why it was so scary
- My father is buried here in the central part. He died at Pulkovskie Heights in 1942. Got to hospital, but died there.
-My aunt, with two of my brothers and her husband. All are buried here at Piskarevskoye.
- Two cousin grandmothers, who saved my life. They gave half of their 125 grams to me and my brother.
People moved in an endless line along the central path. Almost every family in the city has been touched by that War. The city’s leadership walked alongside ordinary citizens. Later, they thanked the older generation off the stage.
Georgiy Poltavchenko, governor of St. Petersburg: “On this day I remember my grandmother and grandfather, my uncle – although I, unfortunately, never met them, but love them very much. On this day we remember our warriors, soldiers, navy men, officers, generals, ordinary citizens – who all laid their lives to defend this great city. We feel outmost pride for their heroism”
Vyacheslav Makarov, chairman of St. Petersburg’s Legislative Council: “The Blockade is a word as short as a strike of the pendulum we all heard. But it unites many things – the triumph of a human’s spirit, fearlessness. This sound carries our genetic code – that of Leningrad’s Victory”
Trams from the War epoch were travelling along Vasilievskiy Island all day – those carried passengers in the besieged city. Valentin Kuzminskiy rode it today – just like back then, when he was 7 years of age.
Valentin Kuzminskiy, resident of blockaded Leningrad: “My mother used the tram. She worked at the Academy of Budennyi. When the tram stopped, she walked for 10 kilometers, about two hours that is. And I rode this tram with her”
Many buildings and important strategical sites, standing along the route of the trams, were rescued only because balloons were put up in the air. Enemy’s planes had to avoid it at a high altitude and Luftwaffe pilots couldn’t aim properly. To honor teenagers who did that back then, full-sized replicas of those balloons were raised above Dvortsovaya Square. Also there, activists formed 900 on the square and released the same number of balloons into the air – to commemorate every day of the Blockade.
While white balloons were dissolving in night sky, the city was lighted by the flames of Rostral Columns. Hundreds of small lights lit up in the Youth Arts Center were even more touching. The “Candle of Remembrance” action was not cancelled even in spite of the rain. Teachers and students went out to commemorate all citizens who died in the horrid 900 days.
The day was concluded with two sets of commemorative fireworks. The first shots were fired from Marsovo Pole by exact replicas of artillery cannons of the Great Patriotic War. The exact same fireworks marked the end of the blockade on January 27th 1944. Today it was followed by 30 shots from beyond the walls of the Petropavlovskaya Fortress. Around 1,5 thousand light shells were fired into the sky.