Writing the Siege of Leningrad

Womens Diaries Memoirs and Documentary Prose

An impressive contribution to both Women's and Soviet history with an informative Foreword by Richard Bidlack, this book points to the uniqueness of the siege of Leningrad, where women, then a vast majority of the city's population, both retained their traditional private roles as homemakers and moved beyond them into the 'public theater of war.' There are three parts, each with appropriate introductions, entitled: Diaries and Letters; Memoirs and Oral Histories; and Documentary Prose.
Kazimiera J. Cottam, editor and translator of Defending Leningrad: Women Behind Enemy Lines

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.

about the authors

Cynthia Simmons

Cynthia Simmons is associate professor of Slavic Studies at Boston College.

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Cynthia Simmons
Nina M. Perlina

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.

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Nina M. Perlina