Siege of Leningrad

Ashley Houle


September 8, 1941, was the day the Siege of Leningrad began, also known as 900-Day Siege, lasting two and a half years of pure hell and hardships. Hitler and his German troops controlled and constricted the city of Leningrad or St. Petersburg, bombing, starving, and letting the Russian winter kill off the people of Leningrad. Food supplies were rationed allowing adults to get ⅓ of the food they needed. Bread was made of sawdust. Crows, cats, dogs, and horses, were new meals for starving people, pets were looked at as food rather than part of the family, cannibalism was the next step taken for everyone desperate to survive. Eye witnesses who experienced the horror shared their stories, Major Lozak a staff officer in the Soviet Army experienced first hand the hunger, he was kind enough to give up half of his rations for elders who needed them desperately. Giving up his rations caused him physical challenges, just walking to his house, he would have to take multiple breaks to gain energy back. Winter froze thousands of innocent people. Streets, parks, and frozen lakes, were dumping grounds of the estimated 1,000,000 killed. All Leningrad had going for them was their Red Army of 200,000 defending their city against the Germans. Only the strongest were able to withstand the conditions.


Journal #1 Hardships or Hunger

In the City of Thieves we witnessed the time period of hunger and hardships in the city of Leningrad. Lev went through the extreme hunger not only physically but mentally dealing with it too. In the book it gave us insight of how Lev felt and was experiencing. "You have never been so hungry: you have never been so cold. When we slept, if we slept, we dreamed of the feats we have carelessly eaten seven monther earlier-all that buttered bread, the potato dumplings, the sausages-eaten with disregard, swallowing without tasting, leaving great crumbs on our plates, scraps of fat. In June of 1941, before the Germans came, we thought we were poor. But june seemed like paradise by winter." (Page 7) Lev and the whole city of Leningrad were going through the intense new shock of being deprived. Dealing with such hunger made people go to extremes. For example Kolya and Lev on their journey to find the dozen eggs went through this traumatic event. " In the moment before it settled down I saw that lay behind it- not a bed, no furniture at all, just slabs of white meat hanging from hooks, suspended from a heating pipe by heavy chains, with a canvas drop cloth on the floor to collect the drippings. Maybe for half a second I thought it was a pig, maybe my brain tried to convince my eyes that they weren't looking at what they were looking at: a flaed thigh that could only be a woman's thigh, a child's rib cage, a severed arm with the hand's ring finger missing." (Page 5) This was a prime example in the book where reality is sinking in when hunger has driven people to cannibalism.

City of St. Petersburg also known as Piter

Journal #2 - Emotional & Physical Challenges

Throughout the novel the City of Thieves emotional and physical challenges faced the main characters Lev and Kolya everywhere. Three main events in the book showed these challenges clearly, the sheepdog tragedy, the bloody trauma with Zoya, and the intense game of chess with Abenroth. These events reflected back to the main characters showing emotional and physical challenges.

Emotional challenges prominently changed the main characters in the book, Lev and Kolya. Experiencing and going through events like killing a dog in your own hands, hearing what men have done to innocent women, and taking down a powerful leader then killing him had massive emotional effects . Koyla had been greatly affected by the sheepdog event. He has previous connections with dogs from his book he is writing. The book is based off of a boy's connection with a loyal dog that helped him overcome his own problems. With Kolya's feelings about dogs in this way, when he saw the dog dragging himself to the trees, bleeding out gunshot wounds in his stomach and hips, Kolya acted fast with one intention. Killing a dog in his bare hands was an emotional challenge for Kolya. Lev was younger than Kolya, meaning Lev hasn't experienced and gone through moments in his life that made him grow as a person, readers got to experience Lev's journey to manhood. Lev was emotionally affected with Zoya's story and killing Abenroth himself. Zoya was a girl forced to live in a farmhouse that Lev and Kolya found, this house was filled with females used as sex slaves to men in the war. Lev had become close to these women trying to help them escape and find freedom, but he soon hears the harsh reality to finding freedom. Zoya was a strong girl who tried to escape, while only the Germans tracked her down. They punished her in front of her farmhouse friends. The Germans tied her up and literally sawed her feet off. Lev comprehending this opened his eyes to how cruel people can be. Lev used this emotional challenge as motivations to take the next step and kill Abenroth, the man who killed Zoya. A simple game of chess Abenroth vs. Lev turned into an epic beatdown resulting in the killing of Abenroth from Levs bare hands and his knife. Officially knowing a life ended because of your actions was leap for 17 year old Lev. These emotional challenges changed Lev to becoming a man.

Physical challenges Lev and Kolya faced in the events of, the sheepdog killing, Zoya's cruel death story, and the chess game gone bloody with Abenroth were challenges that the boys tried to overcome. Obvious all people in Leningrad were starving and very weak due to all the situations, Lev and Kolya had traveled many miles making any further actions, and fights very hard due to lack of nutrition. Killing Abenroth was a big physical challenge for both of the guys, taking down well fed muscle men wasn't easy. The sheepdog killing physically was hard to do for Kolya because he was killing an animal in his own hands, he felt the dogs last moments through suffering, soon ending. Zoya's heart wrenching story gave Lev that feeling he wished he could have stopped Abenroth. Having the physical challenge of wanting to kill Abenroth, to pay him back for his awful acts.

All these emotional and physical challenges, made both main characters grow and become stronger mentally. Lev grew into a man experiencing his harsh reality of a life during the siege, also having Kolya by his side as a brotherly figure helped him deal with the hardships they were going through. Kolya also got to reflect on himself, his writing career, having Lev there to share his own writing with. Both men bounced off each other and grew close, overcoming things together.

Journal # 3- Essential Question

War plays a pristine role in creating and destroying identities, relating to the book, war shapes men and women into different characters who are more self aware and well rounded yet destroys some emotional factors in people that you can't get back. Using Lev as an example, going into this journey he was innocent in ways that he needed to grow up. Experiencing emotional and physical challenges and overcoming them gives anyone a boost in confidence, Lev definitely went through this. Yet some of these challenges definitely changed Lev as a person, losing a sense of innocence and going through such harsh problems, such as the fear of death, and dealing with death creates a better self, that gains and loses something at the same time. Gaining a better mental state, maturing, coping easier, yet losing the innocence, and your past self.