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The heroes of Leningrad. Donors during the Blockade

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Incredible fact – the starving Leningrad, worn out by the Blockade, sent a total of 144 tons of donor blood into the frontline. That’s 5 full military trains. How was this possible? Anton Tsuman reports

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Anton Tsuman, reporter: “This is a special vial to store and transport conserved blood. At all fronts of the Great Patriotic War it was described as “the Leningrad vial”. And probably not because it could’ve been invented in our city. But because, according to statistics, a fifth part of these 250 milliliters of donor blood belonged to residents of blockaded Leningrad. 250 milliliters which separated life and death”

Valentina Nikolayevna Bondareva still keeps her shirt struck by a bullet during the Bobruisk operation of 1944 – after Leningrad was liberated. But back in 1941, she was a student – and a blood donor. And, as she recalls today, no donor back then asked a question – why would they do that?

They could only give blood once a month. Medics did not allow to do it more often. Donors, especially of blood type A, were protected. And their numbers grew exponentially. In 1941 there were 30 thousand donors in St. Petersburg, while in the most difficult year of the Blockade – 1942 – there were almost 60 thousand.

Head researcher of the Military-medical Museum Galina Gribovskaya reads out part of a gratitude letter from a donor. Which is part of the “Blockade’s blood” exhibition – items here are medical instruments and letters from that time

– This is an IV, which was used to collect blood from a donor into a vial – or for direct transfusion to a patient. But it was stored in such vials, upon availability.

This is the building of Hematology and transfusion research institute at 2nd Sovetskaya Street. During the Blockade it was called the Leningrad Institute for Blood Transfusion. Blockade donors came here to give blood, and you can donate blood here today as well. This is how the blood-giving procedure looked on the war-time footage. Today’s procedure is almost identical in principle. But the conditions cannot be compared. Back then, every milliliter of donor’s blood was treated as a gram of gold. And the work of Leningrad’s scientists on preserving it never stopped.

The value of that work – as well as contribution of donors – was acutely felt just a few kilometers from Leningrad, where battles to break the Blockade were raging. Valentin Bogdanov, who at the age of 15 was forced to join the fighting as a radio operator, remembers how older brothers in arms told him just how much donors’ blood was valuable.

The fact that the starving Leningrad, worn out by the Blockade, managed to send the overall 144 tons of blood into the frontlines – that is 5 full trains – seems absolutely incredible. But it is the fact. More than 10 thousand people received the title of “Honorary Donor” a year before the Victory. And almost 2 thousand of them were residents of Leningrad.

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