Not everyone has the happiness of living
What can I say about my grandmother, Elena Aleksandrovna Ponomareva (before Fedorova’s marriage), a little siege woman? If she had not managed to survive then, there would have been neither my father Nikolai Evgenievich, nor me.
When in the summer of 1942 she and her mother, my great-grandmother Anna Vasilievna Fedorova, were taken along Ladoga to the mainland, they probably thought that a new life had begun. On the mainland, the first thing they did was give them rations and help them fight diseases. Unfortunately, this could no longer save the great-grandmother, and soon she died.
But she did not just give life to my grandmother, she did everything to make her life go on. Only seven years later, Lena Fedorova returned to Leningrad, where she entered the university and began a long, happy, truly new life.
And at the time when the Great Patriotic War began, my grandmother Lena was still a child – she was only 10 years old. And she had to endure one of the horrors of the war – the blockade of Leningrad. My grandmother was very young, but she remembered many events, the memory of which she passed on to her relatives.
Unfortunately, grandmother Lena is no longer alive, but I was struck to the depths of my soul by everything she told us. For me, this story, albeit not so long according to my grandmother’s stories, is forever frozen in my memory. This is a story about human cruelty and human fear, about human powerlessness and human capabilities.
Lena Fedorova will remember for the rest of her life how bombs whistled over her head at the end of August 1941. She went to school that day with her older sister to find out what the new school year would be like. A terrible premonition literally haunted her. She and her sister never made it to school that day …
Grandmother Lena always told this story with such horror that anyone who heard her became scared. But she will forever remember the days when she saw her father for the last time, and then her older brother. My father left home for the front at the very beginning of the war, and his brother, who was only 17 years old, only closer to autumn.
In Leningrad, closed and already surrounded by the Germans and Finns, food was only enough for a month, and this terrible news quickly spread throughout the city. But everyone already knew that the Nazi planes had bombed the huge Badayev warehouses, thereby dooming the city to extinction. Already in our time it became known that the food destroyed then would hardly have changed the situation much, but people were terribly suppressed by the very fact.
My grandmother remembered how her mother cried from the understanding that she would not be able to feed herself and her three daughters. Anya, who was 12 years old, 10-year-old Lena and tiny five-year-old Tanyushka had to grow up very early. Tanya was soon evacuated on a barge through Ladoga, but no one from the family has seen her since. Perhaps she was lucky enough to stay alive.
And we have to not forget anyone
My grandmother Lena remembers how in the first blockade winter I had to get food in shops and in some abandoned shops with ration cards. He also remembers that the rate of issue per person was reduced by leaps and bounds. But there was still a terrible, unknown winter ahead.
My grandmother’s sister, Anya, fell seriously ill on the very first fall of the siege. The cause was zinc poisoning. The fact is that instead of normal oil, people were given refined linseed oil, which was diluted with paint, and contained zinc in it. Soon there were only two left in a family of five.
Once my mother brought Lena the news: “They will lead a road on the ice.” Joy at that moment knew no bounds, but in fact, not everything was so good. The first cars sank and did not reach the city, but soon they managed to solve this problem. There was some kind of hope, and so my grandmother and her mother continued to live.
They also wanted to evacuate my grandmother, Lena Fedorova, on the very first winter, but she fell ill, and therefore they did not take her, so as not to infect others. Amazingly, my grandmother managed to recover and survived. She remembers her mother making soup with chicken bones and skins. Today one can only guess where she got them from. And once my mother was able to get a chicken leg – a real luxury for the blockade. Where she got it is still a mystery.
In the first winter of the blockade, shelling took place almost every day, mother and daughter lived without electricity, they burned furniture to get warmth. As my grandmother repeated more than once, it was scary that no one could be trusted: people went crazy from cold and hunger, from the death of loved ones and from the fact that literally everyone himself could die at any moment. She herself has never really learned to be afraid of a lot.
Another significant day was May 1, 1942. Then each Leningrader was given an onion. Maybe for us now this is not surprising, but then it was a real miracle. And what is surprising – all this time my grandmother went to school. True, by the spring of 1942, out of forty people in the class had completed the school year, no more than a dozen.
In the summer, Leningraders tried to grow food, but even if they managed to get seeds, they rarely grew into full-fledged food. My grandmother Lena recalled how her mother made nettle soup. Even completely unripe sprouts and grass were used as food. In the summer there was no bread at all, because there was no way to deliver food to the city.
My grandmother never once told how they met the new 1942, but she remembered how much they rejoiced at the victory near Moscow and expected that the blockade would break through very soon. She remembered that she learned to distinguish when our ship’s guns were firing from battleships and cruisers, because the shots of German guns were almost not heard. But that only made it worse.
Also, my grandmother remembers the terrifying smell that began in the spring. Countless corpses left in the streets and in the courtyards after the first terrible winter, there was simply nowhere to bury. And practically no one had the strength to do it. Even a little girl remembered well that it was only closer to summer that they managed to put the city in relative order, but already May Day the besieged Leningrad really noted – to spite the enemy.