Russia experienced many wars in their past while fighting or transitioning between various rulers, but WWII and the 900-day siege they went through in St. Petersburg was all about survival. On Thursday we had the honor of representing our church in paying tribute to all
the people who died during the siege. We took a large display of flowers to the Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery to honor the 650,000+ people who died of starvation and cold during the siege from Sept 4, 1941 to January 22, 1944.
There were 107,158 air bombs dropped on the city and 148,478 shells fired into the city. 16,744 citizens died from the bombs, 33,782 were wounded and 641,803 died of starvation.
The Memorial complex, shown above, is designed around an eternal flame to honor and remember all the people buried in these mass graves.
There are 186 mass graves where about 420,000 civilians and 50,000 soldiers from the Leningrad front were buried. I have added a link for those of you who want to learn more about the history.
The day was full of rain, but that didn't dampen the spirit of the thousands of people who came from various organizations to pay tribute this day. As you can see from the pictures, there is an eternal flame near the museum and then a 480-meter long walk way up to the bronze monument symbolizing Mother Motherland.
There was a reverence as the military marched in procession and the band played tribute to those being remembered. Everyone wore ribbons symbolizing the bravery and heart of those who fought the war and held off the siege during this difficult time.
The memorial museum showed a video of the city after the bombing and then the beauty that was rebuilt into today's spectacular St. Petersburg. Kathy and I were proud to be there to support the people of Russia and to learn about what all their ancestors had fought for and to understand the strength behind their culture.
The next day, Friday May 9th was a huge celebration for the victory of WWII and the end of the siege. There had to be several hundred thousand people who gathered on the streets to celebrate the victory and honor the ancestors who had died during the war or during the siege. I have attached below a good article explaining the significance of the day and the events that took place.
Kathy and I left our house early Saturday morning. It was still raining and we decided to honor Russia by attending regardless of the weather. We took the metro and it was absolutely packed, as you can see, with all the people headed for the day's celebration. The streets were no different and the excitement was fun to see on all the faces of the people.
We worked our way down to the main square where all the events were taking place - across from the Hermitage Museum and other very famous architectural buildings. I put Kathy on my shoulders and stood at the edge of the crowds so she could cheer and see the events.
After the marches were complete and crowds started to disperse we headed across the bridge next to the Hermitage and spent the day walking the town. We went to the zoo, walked through the park, ate a french dog (hot dog in a roll) along the way and stopped for a lot of pictures. They have an amazing park set up with bronze statues of several of the main architecutral beauties within the city. You can see by the pictures that they are amazing.
We then worked our way past the Peter and Paul fortress that we shared pictures of earlier in our blog, across the river and back onto Nevsky. We walked back past the Savior on the Spilt Blood Cathedral and through the park. It was amazing to see the spirit of Russia everywhere we went. The little boy in the picture was typical of the celebration honoring their country and patriotism that is felt within the country.
Later in the day we did a little shopping and got Kathy a couple of scarfs for Mother's Day, and then we stopped by some friends' house and waited for the second parade to start.
The second parade was one filled with all the remaining survivors of the siege. There were military marches, bands and people carrying signs of their ancestors who had fallen during the siege. The rain again poured, but it didn't dampen the spirit of the people of Russia. They cheered and shouted as their ancestors were remembered for the brave war they fought and the ability to survive under such an awful siege. Again we were humbled and honored to be part of such a great day.
We finished the week by attending two wonderful baptisms and helping all the missionaries skype with their parents on Mother's Day. The missionaries are only able to call home or skype twice per year on Christmas and Mother's day. Needless to say there was great excitement as these wonderful kids reached out and shared their love with their families. I reflected back on how important those calls were to our family when each of our kids served a mission. We are also truly honored to watch the strength of these young missionaries who give up 18 months or two years of their lives to come to Russia and share the gospel. I know the Lord was smiling from heaven as he saw the love and spirit that was present in the office that evening. The mission president and his wife came down and shared the moment with many of the missionaries and it was a night to remember. Well, we have better run. We know the gospel is true and that there is a special reason we were called to serve the people of Russia. We were also able to skype with our family which is always the highlight of our mission. They are such great examples to us and we are so proud of all of them. Love Bob and Kathy