We started the morning by watching the Mikhalkov film Burnt by the Sun a movie about the life of a Red Army officer and his family who lived during the Stalinist Soviet Union. It is a very tragic and heart-wrenching film but is very well-known in Russia and has been referenced in many of our tours. We then spent the rest of the day learning more about the 900 Day Siege and the devastating effect it had on St. Petersburg in the 40’s. We first went to the Museum of the Defenders of the Siege. The monument is built in the shape of a huge broken ring to represent the determination and blockade that was put up to protect the city’s boarders.
After the museum we went to the trenches which were at the front of the battle. During the 900 days the city was surrounded, over 700,000 civilians died and almost 1 million military men. We were able to really feel the devastation of the war when we went to Piskarevskoye Cemetery and saw the 186 mass graves. It was terrifying. There is no knowing who is buried in each mass grave. Sergey told us that when people had not eaten for a couple of days and began to feel weak, they would use whatever energy they had left to begin walking to this cemetery so they could die here because then they knew they would at least be buried. From the movies we had watched in class, we saw people who just died in the street and then were dragged to places in the city where they would then might be transported to the cemetery. We then went into the Cemetery museum where we were able to see the journal of a little girl who recorded when each member of her family died from starvation. We also were able to see the bread that was rationed and given to people, it looked like a piece of wood.The afternoon was very emotional and I was thankful we had the chance to see the memorials to the war and to better understand how World War II affected Russia.