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International web project on Leningrad siege presented at Itar-Tass press center

January 23, 2013, 21:20 UTC+3

It shows the wartime St. Petersburg not as a city of death but as a city of life

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ST.PETESBURG, January 23 (Itar-Tass) – An international Internet project titled “The Siege. The Voices” was presented at the Itar-Tass press center in St. Petersburg on Wednesday. It shows the wartime St. Petersburg not as a city of death but as a city of life.

The project was launched in 2010 by Alexei Oliferuk, a special correspondent of the GTRK-St. Petersburg television channel, who started recording interviews with siege survivors. His 13-episode documentary cycle titled “I Remember the Siege” went on air on the MTRK Mir TV and Radio channel. American producer Steven Wayne joined the project later. He learnt about the siege of Leningrad also known as the Leningrad Blockade from books at the age of 14. Wayne has adored the city’s war feat since then. Wayne considers the voices of live people to be a treasury which should be collected and stored so that they could become a world heritage.

The project encountered several difficulties. The ranks of witnesses of the 900-day siege are growing rare. Their average age is about 80. Very few of them agree to remember the past. Soviet writers Daniil Granin and Ales Adamovich who wrote their famous “Blockade Book” in the 1970s admitted that they had heard many times an opinion that “all the true siege witnesses were already dead and were lying at the Piskaryovskoye cemetery.” So it must be a great trial for Alexei Oliferuk to start this work again in the 21st century. Oliferuk said that the main peculiarity of the project was that it reconstructed “live pictures and exclusively personal stories, created a collective portrait of the outgoing generation.” Oliferuk pledged to continue his work so long as the voices of that generation would be heard.

Yuri Kolosov, the 85-year-old siege survivor, believes that Leningrad played the key role in WWII. . "The residents of Leningrad committed a massive heroic feat having covered Russia with their bodies. Forty-two people literally committed that feat on the Leningrad front,” said the war veteran, who is the chairman of the Association of Siege Historians and of the Battle for Leningrad. Yuri Kolosov is the consultant of “The Siege. The Voices” project.

The American side will translate the interviews into English and will post them on “The Siege. The Voices” portal. The producers see their task in making personal recollections of siege survivors part of world human history. The authors will show the project’s televised version titled “The Frescoes of the Siege” next year that will see the 70th anniversary of lifting the siege of Leningrad. The 900-day siege started on September 8, 1941. It was broken on January 18, 1943, on the eve of the Orthodox Epiphany. A narrow ten-kilometer corridor connected the unconquered city to the rest of the country. The 900-day siege was fully lifted on January 27, 1944.

An exhibition titled “War and Peace of Dmitry Buchkin” opened at the Baltic media center in St. Petersburg on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the break of the siege Leningrad. The exposition includes 18 picturesque paintings, original sketches from Dmitry Buchkin’s “diary of the siege” and also drawings from an album of Yulia Luganskaya, a six-year-old girl who died in the besieged city. Buchkin, who was an art student during the siege, drew sketches of the besieged Leningrad. Later on, after the war, Dmitry Buchkin used those sketches as the basis for creating such paintings as “An Apartment in the Besieged City” and “The Sphinx near the Academy of Arts”. Some parts of Buchkin’s diary have been put on view as exhibits at the Museum of Defense of Leningrad.

The painter said that bread was the most precious thing in the city during the siege. Buchkin recalled how writer Alexander Kuprin had given a silver cup with a greeting and signature on it to his mother as a birthday present. During the siege the mother told the painter to take the silver cup to the market. “I returned with two loafs of bread,” Dmitry Buchkin said.

Leonid Krivsky, the hero of one of Buchkin’s diary sketches, came to the exhibition’s opening-day.

The six-year-old girl Yulia Luganskaya also drew what she saw in those war days. Yulia died in 1942 but her father kept her album. When he died, the album with Yulia’s sketches was thrown away and found itself in a scrap heap. But luckily Dmitry Buchkin found it and preserved it as yet another evidence of the tragedy and the ordeal which Leningrad lived through in those war years.

The War and Peace of Dmitry Buchkin exposition will be on view till late January.

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