These surveillance shots have become part of St. Petersburg’s modern history. The placard is not seen on the video, since the camera is pointed at the crossing. But it’s quite visible that at 23.30, a shadowy figure walks away from the building and starts painting over the wall. A woman stops by and tries to tell the man off.
“Having seen that he was being watched, he hid into this passageway – too his time to think about his next steps. Whether he should flee or return and finish the deed. But, clearly, hate to this city, its residents – dead and alive – was stronger than the fear of getting caught”.
The man came back. It took him just 36 seconds to desecrate the memory of the Blockade which lasted 900 days. Of all the passers-by, only one girl could not be indifferent. She followed him and took several pictures.
I asked him – what were you doing, young man? He did not react. A girl and a boy passed by, saw what was going on, but did not react. I thought that if I got nasty with him, he would attack me – and there was no one to defend me here, unfortunately.
At first, the girl gave an interview, but having learnt that this case is becoming a criminal one, she asked for her name to be changed, face concealed – and she even re-named herself on social media. But thanks to her the police acquired pictures of the vandal – although it was not easy to identify him with those. His face was concealed by a hood and a mask.
Having left the camera’s scope, the man boarded bus number 3 and left towards Teatralnaya Square.
In the morning, parents of school number 210 pupils saw the defaced placard. School workers tried to wipe the paint off with a dissolver. But it became even worse. Here’s how the placard looked before restoration workers showed up. A can of navy-blue paint and a letter form – the memorial’s resuscitation took five hours.
Such placards were put onto every building at dangerous streets – says military historian Evgeniy Yurkevich.
“When shells fell from the South – over there - the ammo shrapnel hit the right side of Nevskiy. Leningrad is the only city in history to have gone so long under artillery fire”.
Nina Lebedeva survived the entire Blockade in Leningrad. After the Victory, her parents – just like many others – tried not talk about the war. Some even wanted to paint over the warning signs on the walls. This historic shot from summer 1943 shows how happy the anti-air defense soldiers were to perform this task – paint over the symbols of the Blockade.
“When the subject of the Blockade re-surfaced in the 1960-70s, memorable places were being resurrected. It did not receive much of a fanfare. It was done modestly – the Leningrad way”.
The first to be resurrected was this placard at Nevskiy. Poet and war reporter Mikhail Dudin was the one who came out with the initiative, authoring these words as well
Street signs were different at the Nevskiy
Yet one was common for any wall
This side of street is the most dangerous
When artillery bombs are about to fall
There are three more placards like that in the city. One of those – at Vasilievskiy Island – was stolen back in September. After the sign at Nevskiy got vandalized, MP Alexey Kovalev tuned to the police.
Alexey Kovalev, deputy at St. Petersburg’s Legislative Council: “I think we are dealing with Nazi movements here – since this sign got vandalized several times over the last several days. Meaning this is a systematic action. Somebody purchases paint, picks a time of the day when no-one would be looking. It’s not just vandalism, it’s an ideological diversion”.
Its plain weird that nobody ran to the police immediately – and the police lost the several hours invaluable for catching the perpetrator red-handed. “The Pulse of the City” show wants to express its civic stance too – we wrote a letter to the regional directorate of the FSB, asking them to launch a criminal case about “extremism”. We went to their public office at Liteyniy 4.
Attacking the memory of the Blockade has become a dangerous trend. Here’s a brief list of informational and psychological attacks. Four years ago, in a show about the 70th anniversary of the Blockade’s end, the “Dozhd” TV channel conducted an offensive survey – should Leningrad have been surrendered for the sake of saving its people?
The channel was forced to apologize later. A year after that, a horrible incident happened at a supermarket. The Blockade survivor Rauza Galimova was accused of stealing butter and was taken into police custody – where the 80-year-old woman died of a heart attack and shame.
These days, director Alexey Krasovsky is about to release a comedy about the Blockade. The “Holiday” movie tells about a Leningrad family which is getting ready to celebrate the 1942 New Year’s night. With a Christmas tree and baked chicken in the oven. In the most horrid of all winters of the Blockade. Those who survived it – like Lidiya Kippor – cannot believe that St. Petersburg’s cinemas would show something like that.
“I would smack that person so hard. I cried non-stop last night...”
Even businesses started to use the Blockade for commercial needs. The recent commercial by a fast-food chain “You won’t starve to death in this city” made thousands of people angry.
Meanwhile, people stop by the memorable sign at Nevskiy 14. Here’s a tourist from Riga taking a picture, and here is a grandma from Moscow with her grandson. Artem will show the photo of this placard to his classmates in Moscow. And his grandmother says that while people come here and bring their children, nothing would erase the memory of the blockade. Like words from Mikhail Dudin’s poems – the man who kept these signs alive in our city
The war is over, but I’m still cautious
Despite its not needed anymore
Taking the side which is less dangerous
When artillery bombs would start to fall
A scary habit – you’re almost ready
That all of a sudden, at any time
Death sized at four hundred millimeters
Would end your life – with evil chime