Siege of Leningrad
The Seige of Leningrad was a 900-day attack on the city of Leningrad by the Germans during World War II. Named operation Barbarossa, the Germans created a blockade around the city, cutting off all contact and resources from Leningrad while executing both artillery and aerial bombardments upon the city. Starting on September of 1941 and lasting to January 1944, the Russians in Leningrad were forced into many hardships, ranging from the harsh winters, lack of food, and the constant threat of bombardment. Over 1 million Russians in Leningrad died as a result of the Siege, making it one of the most savage sieges in history. So many people died during the siege that bodies would be buried without coffins. Death was so common at this point that people started to become blunt towards death, not showing emotion, and being completely silent throughout the service. Many eye witness'of the siege say they didn't have time to worry about the dead. The only good they did was take up unwanted space, or be preyed upon by cannibals. Although the Germans seemed to be winning during the siege, German forces eventually began to withdraw after eventually succumbing to the brutal Russian winters, due to their lack of proper winter supplies, making an end to the siege. The Russian winter drove back the Germans in more ways than one, during the end of the siege the Russians took advantage of the cold conditions by sending supplies across the frozen Lake Ladoga, giving Russians in the city the aid they desperately needed. After two and a half years of bombardment under the German Blockade, the Russians were able to end the Siege and win the war as a result.
The bombardment was a constant threat during the siege of Leningrad. Buildings would be destroyed in a blink of an eye, and you would have no way to escape or know where the next bomb would fall. Loss' was so common in the bombardments you didn't have time to feel sad or sorry about those beneath the rubble. When Lev home was destroyed during a bombardment, he didn't know until it was too late, and all he could do was move on (p. 68).
After numerous German bombardments destroying food warehouses, and a blockade between the rest of Russia and Leningrad, food started to decrease in quality and in quantity. Portion sizes decreased, flour was substituted with sawdust, and many were dying as a result. People would do anything for food, even if it meant taking their friends or pets life. Although uncommon at the beginning of the war, cannibalism started to grow throughout the course of the book, Its even observed by one of the officers in the book that talks to Lev and Kolya, saying ¨There are cannibals in every building (P. 61)¨.
A hardship shared by both Russians and Germans around Leningrad was the brutal conditions of the Winter during the Siege. Despite the Russians being familiar with brutally cold winters, their lack of preparedness as a result of the blockade and bombardments caused many to perish from the harsh cold.
Journal #1: Hardships or Hunger
City of St. Petersburg also known as Piter
Before the War broke out the Dolgorukov Mansion was a monument. Inhabited by the late Dolgorukov family who was according to Russian NKVD officers "A bunch of aristocrats who got their necks snapped." (Page 27). During the War, this mansion was used as headquarters for the NKVD. What was once a beautiful building is now described as falling into disrepair after the poor way the NKVD treated it (P. 28). Although Lev is more shocked to see the NKVD, the way they've treated people in the past such as his father reflects very much on the condition of the house as a result.
During the War, bombardments became completely normal to people. Walking through the streets of St. Petersburg, Lev takes notice of a sign that says " WARNING! THIS SIDE OF THE STREET IS THE MOST DANGEROUS DURING THE BOMBING" (Page 42). Although it may seem like helpful advice, it's about as helpful as a 'Bridge Ices before road' sign. He doesn't pay much notice to the sign at first, but he will surely look at signs like that differently after witnessing the destruction of his home as a result of the bombing.
By the End of the War in January, citizens throughout St. Petersburg rejoiced. It's described by Lev that "Three hundred cannon fired an hour-long fusillade of the white, blue, and red rocket" (Page 255). After 900 days of pain and suffering, a celebration that size only seems necessary. Lev made out with Sonya after the fireworks, only feeling embarrassed as the kiss reminded both of them of Kolya. Although initially happy, Lev only felt sad afterwards because of the reminder of Kolya's death.
Journal #2 - Emotional & Physical Challenges
The story of The City of Thieves contained many Horrors of War. Lev and Kolya throughout the book dramatically change over the course of the book after experiencing such terrible travesties they thought no human being could be capable of. Even when Lev and Kolya seemed to be in the clear, war showed them there would be no shortage of casualties, even if those to die would be your friends, and you were helpless to do anything to save them (P. 251). Being helpless to save others is a common theme in the book, coming from the sheepdog, Zoya, and Kolya at the end. No shortage of events that unfolded during the book could've shaped Lev more into the man he is now. Although war changes almost everything it touches, war itself never changes.
The story of the Sheepdog was the first of many emotional and physical challenges experienced along Lev and Kolya's travels. The disturbing image of the pack of dead sheepdog was felt by both characters to some degree, but out of the two, Kolya was effected much more noticeable than Lev. Such a talkative character like Kolya who always speaks his mind go's nearly quite during the scene, only telling Lev what happened just to clarify. Looking at the maimed corpses' of the dogs was tough on both characters, and finding out their purpose as being landmines for German tanks was saddening as well (P. 111). The wounded Dog, being both starved and wounded with no hope of survival just wanted to die peacefully past the tree line (P.111). Kolya slitting its throat I imagine was also a big emotional problem, even coaxing it before its final demise, saying "You're my good boy, (P. 112)" shows that Kolya, despite having such a good sense of humor in situations that involved death like this, is still aware when something as sad as the death and suffering of these dogs must be recognised with humility. The story of Zoya had many more emotional challenges than physical challenges. Zoya's death gave motivation to both Lev and Kolya to kill a man they had not heard about until that day, and it's easy to see why. A man who cuts off another person's feet and then bows afterward saying 'This is what happens to little girls who walk away (P. 133)' while the other person is screaming bloody mary in the background while doing so, just sounds like evil in its purest form. It seems like no human being could possibly do that to another person, not to mention, in front of others to make them watch. One of the girls even said, "Maybe I'll live a long time, I doubt it, but maybe I will, and I'll never get that scream out of my brain (P. 132)". A physical challenge, in this case, could be the loss of Zoya's feet, or how she bled to death in front of all her friends who were helpless to save her, much like Kolya was to the sheepdog. Zoya's death ultimately led to Abenroth's demise, as there would be no other reason to go after him with the partisans. Playing Chess with Abendroth was a battle between two brilliant minds. Abendroth, already deducing each of the characters as being disguised would only let Vika go, so Lev and Kolya's only way out was to kill him, win or loss. Although all three of the protaginists were exhausted from traveling, their minds were still functioniong, keeping them going, which Lev's did throught the high stakes chess battle. Lev knew either way he was the closet to killing Abenroth, so fueled with adrenaline and the thoughts of his friends and Zoya, he overcame his massive fatigue to kill a man who was "Built like a hammer thrower (P. 219)". Lev never invisioned himself killing another human being, but the battle with Abendroth showed that you could do anything in times of war in order to survive, even if that meant fighting against hopeless odds.
In conclussion the horrors of war bring with it many emotional and physical challenges. Whether it be survival in the bleakest odds, the feeling of loss and sorrow towards others, or the motivation to kill someone for doing unfathomable acts of violence to others, War changed Lev in many ways throughout the City of Thieves. Much like how the girls in the farmhouse will never forget Zoya's screams, Lev will never forget the harships he experienced, as it shaped him into the man he is now. Throughout the book, we see previous events in the book form Lev into a much different character as time goes on. First resenting others and keeping to himself, he soon began to lighten up and learn from his experiences how to remain calm and collected. Despite changeing to show humility in the face of death, the Horrors of War will always resurface, no matter how much you keep them down.Horrors of War
List and describe the emotional and physical challenges behind the story of the sheepdog, Zoya, and playing chess with Abendroth.
Journal #3 - Essential Question
War plays in creating and destroying national identities in most if not all characters in the book. Lev before the war was just an everyday Jewish teenager, but by the time the war broke out, he had to hide his ethnicity, as both the Russians and Germans were antisemitic. We see him avoiding Kolya's questions at the beginning of the book when asked whether or not he was a jew stating several times "Why do you care? (P. 21)". People before the war never acted defensively like this to a question, but in times where both sides of the war hate Jews, you have to learn to play your identity safe. Vika doesn't want to disclose who she really is for a long time in the book, by the time she finally discloses who she was before the war, she gives it in bits and pieces, knowing that what she could tell them could betray their trust. When Lev finally ask's her who she is she
What role does war play in creating and destroying national identities? Abenroth states: "Don't bother. You passed Kuefer's test, good, I respect that. You are survivors. But I am not a stupid man. One of you is a Jew posing as a Gentile; one is a girl posing as a boy; all of you, I assume, are literates posing as illiterate. And despite the attentions of our vigilant mountain rangers and the esteemed Obersturmfuhrer Kuefer, all these ruses have succeeded." - Excerpt from the City of Thieves, page 221.