Just Because

Tea with Bears

Watch your lap. An early postcard by John Allen St. John, far better known as the illustrator of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books, from the V.O. Hammel Publishing Co. of Chicago. The subject is the Roosevelt bears, from the “Days of the Week Series.” The other cards were: Sunday/Promenade, Monday/Washing, Tuesday/Sewing, Wednesday/Matinee, Friday/Marketing and Saturday/Baking.

The Siege of Leningrad

Excerpts from Writing the Siege of Leningrad; Women’s Diaries, Memoirs, and Documentary Prose (2002), collected and edited by Cynthia Simmons and Nina Perlina:

“G. Popov dropped in on us today and played the piano. He called me into the room and started to play Ravel’s ‘Promenade in auto.’ At the most bravura place he says: ‘They’re shooting.’ I tried to calm him down, but he ran to the window. High in the sky there were white balls of explosions — the desperate efforts of the anti-aircraft guns. Suddenly, from behind the roofs a white cloud started to grow; it expanded quickly and other clouds piled on this one. They were all dyed amber in the setting sun. They filled up the entire sky; then the clouds turned bronze, while from below a black stripe started moving upwards. It was so unlike smoke that for a long time I could not comprehend that it was fire. They say it was the oil tanks and Badaev warehouses burning. It was an immense spectacle of stunning beauty.”

— From the diary of Liubov’ Vasil’evna Shaporina, September 8, 1941

“They had sounded an air-raid alarm with the late dawn of a day in December. I was in the attic, frozen to the bone and, as always, hungry. My partner, Tat’iana Novikova, and I had agreed to take turns running home to get warmed up and have a bite to eat. I hadn’t managed to enter my room and get as far as the warm stove before some gigantic power silently lifted the building, which then settled down ponderously with a heavy thud. The floor underneath me began to sway, and I only barely managed to stay on my feet. A horrible crash followed, the glass in the windows blew out, the doors flew wide open. In a state of utter terror I ran out into the courtyard. The yard was filled with an impenetrable column of dust that was swirling upward. It was impossible to see what was happening. Only here and there columns of red flame shot through, which, as it later became clear, turned out to be columns of brick dust. From those around I learned that two bombs had fallen on our building…”

— Sof’ia Nikolaevna Buriakova

“…even though it was so deadly cold, and almost everyone’s windows were broken, even then not one Leningrader cut a living tree. No one ever did that. Because we loved our city, and we could not deprive it of its greenery… They could tear down a fence, break up some kiosk, tear off an outer door. But they couldn’t saw down a tree. They burned furniture, various rags, letters (it was painful to burn letters). They burned many books (also a pity).”

— Ol’ga Nikolaevna Grechina

“Generally in the wintertime, corpses lay along the sidewalks wrapped in sheets, legs and necks bound by string. This is how families buried them. Next to our entrance lay a woman who asked us to help her get up, so that she could make it to her building on Pushkinskaia Street. My mother didn’t have the strength for this. For a long time afterward, that woman lay there dead.”

— Natal’ia Vladimirovna Stroganova

“As a result of bomb and artillery attacks and fires, many libraries of private individuals and institutions were left totally unguarded, in ruins or open to the sky, and they were destroyed by fire, water, or inclement weather. The library staff took it upon themselves to gather and preserve this wealth of books. This work demanded incredible strength. The books had to be picked out of destroyed buildings, lowered through the window frames, extracted from under piles of bricks, and carried on one’s back (only much later was the library supplied with a car for this).”

— Lila Solomonova Frankfurt of the Saltykov-Shchedrin National Public Library