This dusty bricked building is situated at Professora Popova Street. At a first glance, it looks like an abandoned mansion. But it is here that a monument marking a new page in Israeli-Russian relations is currently being created. Sculptor Vladimir Manachinskiy shows the first copy. A woman is holding a famished child in her hands – as a symbol of the horrible tragedy which Leningrad went through.
Vladimir Manachinskiy, sculptor: “There’s no hope here. No hope for the situation to get better. Then we suggested another variant – where there’s hope that he will live”.
But neither of the two has won the approval of the Israelis. According to the canons of Judaism, a sculpture of a human being is forbidden. So creators of the monument decided against taking risks.
One of the elements – the symbol of Blockade Leningrad, which represents an angel. This angels stands atop the Petropavlovskaya Fortress, and here it finds itself in enemy’s crosshairs. From the other side – the symbol of Israeli state. A menorah inside a David’s star, locked into barbed wire.
According to the joint ideas of both sides, the 8-meter pillar will be engulfed by the fire of the Holocaust and the Blockade, where the souls of the perished ones will be hovering. The monument breaks up, twists and then returns to its initial form. This monument aims at uniting the two countries in their tragedies.
Jerusalem’s monument to victims of the Blockade became a topic for discussion when the Russian leader met the Israeli Prime-Minister in Moscow on February 27th. Benjamin Netanyahu invited Vladimir Putin to attend the opening ceremony.
According to official numbers, more than half-a-million residents of Blockade Leningrad are buried at Piskaryovskoe Cemetary in St. Petersburg. Seventy thousand of them are Jews. Just like dozens of other ethnicities and nationalities, they went through the pain and horror of the Blockade.
Mariya Evsyukova, reporter: “It happened so that the victims of the two most horrible crimes against humanity – the Blockade and the Holocaust – are remembered on the same day. Leningrad was liberated on January 27th 1944, prisoners of Auschwitz were freed a year later on the same day. It is still unknown how many Jews were shot dead by the Nazi army in Pushkin. Part of them were buried alive. St. Petersburg already has a monument commemorating the victims of the Holocaust. Now there’s hope that there will be a monument to the Blockade’s victims in Israel”.
Around 1300 Blockade survivors live in Israel today. Just like in St. Petersburg, they gather every year on September 8th and January 27th. That’s why the “Candle of remembrance” will have text in three languages – Russian, Hebrew and English. Emiliya Larina heads the organization of Blockade survivors in Israel. She was taken out of Leningrad through the “Road of Life” – soon after it was opened. By then, the two-year-old girl already developed Rachiotis and she could not walk.
Emiliya Larina, survivor of the Blockade: “Not many in Israel know about this. The word “Blockade” is translated into Hebrew as “matsor”. People stop by and ask questions. So I tell them the story – as a person who survived the Blockade – that our city was like a ghetto. And we are trying to spread the word out about our city”.
Besides the monument, books by Evgeniy Lukin are due to be published. The anthology is to change the name, just as the monument itself. The pillar in Jerusalem will be another one in the plethora of monuments initiated by St. Petersburg’s government. There are already monuments in Erevan and Kemerovo.
Evgeniy Grigoryev, chairman of Committee on foreign relations at St. Petersburg’s government: “When we pitched this idea to the Israeli government, at the very first meeting, they asked no questions. Whether this was needed or not. Everyone said “yes” and we only had to find the best spot – which is what we told our colleagues”.
That best spot happened to be a park not far from the residence of Israeli President. The Jewish people will never forget what they went through during WWII. Nazis killed 6 million Jews. The world’s most striking museum commemorating the victims of the Holocaust is acknowledged to be the Yad Vashem Memorial Complex atop the Mountain of Remembrance in Jerusalem. The entire exhibition is built upon a psycho-physical effect – from hell to heaven.
Today’s geopolitics show – there are more than enough reasons for disagreements and mutual accusations on the international stage. But this is just that rare case when all the disputes and grievances have no weight in the face of the massive tragedy, which unites the people of Russia and Israel.