Siege of Leningrad

Chyenne Rielly

Background


In September of 1939, Germany invaded Poland ignoring the German-Soviet nonaggression pact and setting fire to WWII. Leningrad, also known as St. Petersburg was the USSR's second-largest city, a major industrial center and capital of the Russian Empire. For these reasons Leningrad was a major target when Germany invaded Russia in June of 1941. After many residents of Peter were evacuated to the east, more than two million inhabitants still remained. All who were able bulit an anti-tank blockade that surrounded the City; by late july German forces cut the railways going into St. Petersburg, isolating the city from supplys. The Siege of Leningrad lasted 872 days (two and a half years) but is known as the 900-Day Siege, because of it one million Red Army defenders and innocent people died.

Hardships

Journal #1 - Hardships or Hunger

The hardships of the people living in St. Petersburg were based around their survival. For example, according to the City of Thieves, they which included Lev, Vera, and the twins consumed items like pigeons and family pets (page 7). Some even sold jars of dirt from under a bombed sugar warehouse, those who lived in Leningrad were that desperate (page 48). Likewise, coming across corpses in the streets was normal in the city, unfortunately finding them with pieces missing also was part of Pete's reality. They all lived in constant fear, (page 19) and the addition of cannibals everywhere didn't help. With sustained aerial attacks, starvation and the cold setting in everyone was on edge and ready to anything to survive. That was both Leningrads advantage and downfall, they all wanted to be survivors.

City of St. Petersburg also known as Peter

Journal #2 - Emotional & Physical Challenges

In the novel City of Thieves, the two main characters Lev and Kolya experience many emotional and physical challenges. Just a few examples of the things Lev and Kolya experienced that tested them involve a dying group of sheepdogs, playing chess with Abendroth and the story of Zoya. Major trials can end up changing people for the better or worse. To each of the characters in City of Thieves, the things they were exposed to definitely were horrendous most of the time. Sadly for most in wartime St. Petersburg, their whole reality was a horror.

One emotional challenge that Lev and Kolya experienced was their encounter with the sheepdogs. What happened in the book was that Kolya and Lev basically were walking through the woods when off in the direction of a road they hear a dog howl. Normally hearing a dog in their situation would be frightening but in this case, the dog was in pain (page 110). Both characters eventually ended up following the sound to find at least a dozen dead or dying dogs lying in the road. They had been starved and trained to find food under Panzers so that they could unknowingly carry live landmines to the enemy tanks. (page 111). This scene was especially emotionally damaging to Kolya because of his distinct love for dogs. Kolya was even writing his own novel based around the loyalty of a dog at the time of the incident that he called, The Courtyard Hound (page 238). The fact that the dog was suffering, deeply affected Kolya enough that he risked being caught; and therefore risked his life to put it to rest. There was also a slight physical challenge in this situation due to the fact that the dogs were in the opposite direction of where Kolya and Lev needed to go (page 110). Both characters were starving, every movement used up precious calories that they both didn't have. Even just going to investigate the sound must have been a challenge in itself. Subsequently, another challenge that affected both Lev and Kolya was hearing the story of a 14 year old girl named Zoya. She was held against her will by German officers, and repetively raped and sexualy abused (page 130). Eventually she had enough and tried to escape, but was soon found. As a message to the others girls who were also held captive, Abendroth held the little girl down and cut off her feet with a wood saw (page 132). This story was so horrid that it affected Kolya and Lev like Zoya was their own sister. They felt a deep need to avenge her death and to make Abendroth pay. This emotional challenge drove Lev and Kolya to a major turning point of the book, playing chess with Abendroth. The whole point of summoning the Major to a chess match was to get close enough to kill him, that was the main emotional challenge of the situation (page 216-218). Another part of that was the fact that all throughout the game Lev and Kolya knew one wrong move would get them killed; they also knew that they had only one chance to act. Additionally, Lev had to consciously make the decision to end another human's life. Even though that person did terrible things, it was still a life and that emotional burden can drive some mad. Along with the emotional aspect Lev also had to physically get his knife, kill Abendroth and make it out alive with the dozen eggs and his friends. Unfortunately, due to what happened upon their escape, Lev lost half of his finger which created yet another challenge to deal with for the rest of his life (page 232).

The story of Zoya, chess match with Abendroth and the incident with the dogs all presented their own physical and emotional challenges. Lev and Kolya refused to let the horrors that they were experiencing define them and never gave up on themselves or each other. The point is, people can overcome adversity no matter how bad. Some will fail, but that's almost always an option. If you physically and emotionally know you can do something, such as live to see the next day, you will.

Journal #3 - Essential Question

World War II had a major role in creating and destroying identities. A great example of this is the case of Koyla in the novel, City of Thieves. Koyla started the war on the front lines fighting for his country. He was the typical strong russian soldier, with his blue eyes, high cheekbones and a particular braveness about him (page 20). Koyla was cocky and always seemed to be able to talk his way out of a problem, But in the time of the book he was labeled as a deserter to his unit and was thrown into the crosses (page 30). The war changed him buy taking away his whole identity, he went from the highest high to a lowest low and died by a shot in the butt. Similarly, the main character Lev started out as a shy, innocent and horny teenage boy. He had pimples, was short and had a nose that made him automatically identifiable as Jewish, he had never feel like a man (page 8). Throughout the war, Lev was put to the test. He had to escape cannibals, fight through starvation, lose everything, kill a man and watch his best friend die (page 251). These experiences turned him into a man and showed him what he was capable of, like the fact that he could not only protect himself but others too. Lev's experience reinvented his identity, almost created it. Koyla's war experience did the exact opposite.