The First Winter of the Siege of Leningrad – Every Day as a Feat

The most frightening time for the residents of the besieged city became autumn and winter of 1941-1942.

From dystrophy and freezing cold people fell right on the streets or died quietly at home in unheated apartments. In January-February around 3000-4000 residents of Leningrad died daily. And only 3% of those people died from bombings, the rest fell to hunger.

Without Water and Heat

Because of the early cold weather in October and absence of heating due to destroyed by bombings power plants and frozen heatingpipes, Leningrad residents lived almost with no light and no hot water. To warm up a little in their apartments, people burned anything they could – books, furniture, wooden panels from demolished buildings.

Without Water

Without Water. Leningrad 1942/2011. The collage by Sergey Larenkov

Frozen trucks were left on the streets, and the only means of transportation were sleds – they were used to carry children, the elderly and the sick. Also they were used to transport water that was collected from city’s rivers because both the water supply and sewerage got frozen.

But severe freeze-up at the same time saved Leningrad from numerous epidemics. Infections did not develop as quickly, although people lived in dirt and terrible unsanitary conditions.

It was a Feat to go for Bread

From exhaustion people could hardly walk, and every day it was a real feat to leave the house, walk to the pick-up point for bread and come back alive. Until someone from the family or neighbors could still move, theybrought for others food given out by cards. Nobody cleaned the streets, they were impassable due to snow piles and snow drifts.

In siege diaries of that time people wrote: “I am tormented by hunger. All pets areeaten, we catch pigeons and rooks on the streets. Now we peel off wallpaper to eat the remnants of the wheat paste, and from first aid kits we pick out castor oil, glycerin and Vaseline – anything that might be digested. Basements of houses are filled with corpses. If a person fell and died on the street, no one would even pay attention – today it is him, and tomorrow it will be me.”

Keeping up the Defense – Anything to Win!

In those terrible conditions of hunger, cold and bombings people continued to work and even went to theaters. On defense enterprises worked anyone who could, including 13-year-olds who made weapons for the front. People repeated as a prayer: “Anything for the victory!”

Daily from the city came out new tanks and went immediately to the front. In November and December of 1941, the production of mines and shells exceeded 1 million units per month, hundreds of guns, mortars and machine gunswere produced. Hungry and exhausted people did not leave the factories for days.

The city was defended fiercely, with persistence, just not to surrender to the enemy. The residents formed 10 divisions of the people’s militia. 300,000 Leningrad residents were on watch in defense divisions, were on duty in the yards and on rooftops.

On the territory of Leningrad more than 4000 bunkers were built, the buildings housed 22,000 firing points, more than 35 km of antitank obstacles and barricades were stretched out on the streets.

On December 25 the siege rate of the daily ration of bread was increased by 100 grams, and for Leningrad residents it became the first victory over fascism.

See also: “Lifeline Route” – every trip could be the last

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To discover Russia with Alexey Gureev

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