Synopses & Reviews
Silver Winner, ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year, History
From September 1941 until January 1944, Leningrad suffered under one of the worst sieges in the history of warfare. At least one million civilians died, many during the terribly cold first winter. Bearing the brunt of this hardship—and keeping the city alive through their daily toil and sacrifice—were the women of Leningrad. Yet their perspective on life during the siege has been little examined.
Cynthia Simmons and Nina Perlina have searched archival holdings for letters and diaries written during the siege, conducted interviews with survivors, and collected poetry, fiction, and retrospective memoirs written by the blokadnitsy (women survivors) to present a truer picture of the city under siege. In simple, direct, even heartbreaking language, these documents tell of lost husbands, mothers, children; meager rations often supplemented with sawdust and other inedible additives; crime, cruelty, and even cannibalism. They also relate unexpected acts of kindness and generosity; attempts to maintain cultural life through musical and dramatic performances; and provide insight into a group of ordinary women reaching beyond differences in socioeconomic class, ethnicity, and profession in order to survive in extraordinary times.
“ ... profoundly important, deeply moving, insightful collection of human experience and a strongly recommended addition to Russian History, European Studies, and Women’s Studies supplemental reading lists and academic reference collections.”
“While hundreds of books on the subject spout official Soviet dogma, this volume has emerged since the fall of communism, and it offers the voice of the people. The authors successfully capture women’s battle for survival and heroic struggle to maintain a semblance of municipal life during the siege. ... A very touching account of these women’s remarkable accomplishments.”
Writing the Siege of Leningrad tells of women’s experiences keeping the city alive and functioning during the 900 day Siege of Leningrad. Utilizing the words and descriptions of these women, Cynthia Simmons and Nina Perlina tell the story of a previously overlooked section of the population.
About the Author
is associate professor of Slavic Studies at Boston College.
Nina Perlina, who survived the siege of Leningrad as a young child, is a professor in the department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Indiana University.