Leningrad

Overlooked by a series of convenience stores, a massive apartment complex and a row of retail stores, lies one of the most sacred areas in St. Pete.  Lacking the typical grandeur and flamboyance associated with most notable sites in the great city, the Leningrad Memorial is constructed of simple gray jagged stone and marble and is positioned rather inconspicuously beneath the ground.  The only allusions to its existence are the dark figures and the marble colonnade with the dates 1940 – 1945 etched in gold at its crest.  Upon descent of the broad gray stairs, the thunderous sounds of a climatic symphony can be heard. 

Torches lining the rim of the memorial further convey the sacredness of the land on which I stand.  In the center of the monument stands more dark figures, each a touching representative of the unforgotten that died protecting their Mother Land.  One figure depicts a thin young woman with the limp body of a child firmly within her arms.  The image is a clear memorial, not to the devastation and despair of the Siege, but to the perseverance, heart, and tremendous pride of the Russian people.  The purpose of the monument is to force visitors to view the dead, not as a cold collective, but as separate distinct individuals, of different lives, different backgrounds, This tactic or method of presentation is to drive home the fact that these victims were people just like us.  They loved, they learned, they had hopes and dreams and goals.  By seeing these people as now deceased individuals that once lived, loved, and thought, the magnitude of their untimely deaths starts to be fully realized.

From the memorial, we visited the cemetery where most of the dead were taken.  The green grass spanning the length of the cemetery represents the dead as a collective mass.  Here, the figures of the total deaths of at least 632,000 in the span of three years can be fully evaluated.  By taking the students from the cold hard facts on paper to visualizing the individuals comprising this mass and imagining what their lives were and could’ve been, and then moving to the viewing those talented, strong, patriotic individuals as a collection of those who are now remembered in history, the BRIC students were able to begin to grasp the full magnitude of the event in Russian history and the Russian psyche.

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