Heroic Defenders of Leningrad Memorial
On our way back to St. Petersburg from Catherine’s Palace, we took the opportunity to stop at the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad Memorial. Given the time of day we arrived, the closing time of the underground museum, and the time remaining on our tour bus, we had to sprint through a space that invited reflection.
The memorial is located where citizens of Leningrad dug a trench as the last line of defense against Nazi troops. As we drove out of town with our guide, she said that her grandmother had walked 7 km in sandals and a summer dress to dig and after hours of hard work walked the 7 km back. She noted that lories were used to move food and supplies around; people could walk. Now the memorial sits amid a traffic circle.
We entered at the back of the memorial. We could see the large obelisk and the figurative statues ahead as we descended steps to an area that contained another figurative statue in the center. Above our heads was a ring of bronze-like metal that had quotes, several large 900s (the length of the siege in days), bas reliefs of Lenin, and flames. The concrete from the ground up to the ring had an interesting pattern that reminded me of barricades put together from scraps of wood. In the center was another figurative statue.
Near a small set of evergreens was a set of square markers and the entrance to the lower level of the memorial. After paying to enter that section, we walked down to a large, open, rectangular room with large paintings or mosaics (not enough time to look closely). There was a largely silent film near the entrance that documented life in Leningrad during the blockade. The center had a bas relief map of the city and battle lines. To either end were six raised shadow boxes that contained artifacts related to the siege, items as diverse as violins and military equipment.
What struck me hardest, however, was the empty space. The negative space highlighted for me how many lives were lost during the siege.
Finally, we ascended the stairs as the gates were closing for the evening. The figurative statues appeared to represent a wide range of people involved in the defense of Leningrad, bit with sun in my eyes it was hard to see details.
Ironically I have spilled many words trying to capture a memorial that touched me in large part because of the negative space. I hope that by describing details, the contrast of the vastness of the open space is at least hinted in this post. Most of all I hope to remember the experience. To my knowledge I don’t have a personal connection to the blockade heroes, but they still inspire me with their fierce determination to survive.