City Remembers Siege of Leningrad
Published: January 26, 2014 (Issue # 1794)
In fall of 1941, Antonina Vetikova, who was then 14 years old, stopped stammering — a problem that she had suffered since early childhood. Ironically, Vetikova was cured of her speech impediment due to the fear she experienced during an air raid on the peaceful residents of a village outside Leningrad where her family lived.
“There were no bomb shelters in our village and when the planes began shooting at us, we all just ran into a neighboring forest to hide,” Vetikova, 86, told The St. Petersburg Times on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the end of the Siege of Leningrad, also known as the Blockade, to be celebrated on Jan. 27.
“The planes flew so low that we could see the faces and goggles of the Nazi pilots. I still can’t forget how they smiled as they shot at us!” Vetikova said.
When she returned home after one such air attack, however, she realized that she had lost her stammer.
“I’m even ashamed to speak of it, but it’s a fact,” she said.
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Vetikova was one of around a million people who lived through both the Nazi air raids on Leningrad and the experience of the Blockade. Although she lived 36 kilometers outside of the city, the area of her residence was also cut off from the rest of the country by Nazi troops.
“The situation in our village was better than in Leningrad itself because we had peat to burn for warmth and we had easy access to water. The situation with food, however, was terrible. We ate anything we could find: Pine bark, potato peels and that famous 125 grams of Blockade bread,” Vetikova said.
The siege of Leningrad was a prolonged military operation undertaken by Germany’s Army Group North against Leningrad, as St. Petersburg was then known. The siege started on Sept. 8, 1941, when the last road connecting the city to the rest of the country was severed. Although the Soviets managed to open a narrow land corridor to the city on Jan. 18, 1943, the siege was finally lifted just over a year later, on Jan. 27, 1944. Lasting 872 days, the Siege of Leningrad was one of the longest and most destructive blockades in history and overwhelmingly the most costly in terms of casualties.
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