Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

Posts tagged “Writings

“Only Tanya is left.”

Tatiana Savicheva (January 25, 1930 – July 1, 1944) was a Russian child diarist who died during the Siege of Leningrad in the World War II. Her diary is one of the most tragic symbols of the Siege of 1941-1945.

The symbol of the Leningrad Blockade tragedy.

Twelve-year old Tanya Savicheva started her diary just before Anne Frank. They were of almost the same age and wrote about the same things – about the horrors of fascism. And, again, both these girls died without seeing victory day – Tanya died in July of 1944 and Anne in March of 1945. “The Diary of Anne Frank” (which was a carefully kept journal over a period of two years) was published all over the world and she has become one of the most renowned and most discussed victims of the Holocaust. “The Diary of Tanya Savicheva” was not published at all – it contains only seven scary notes about the deaths of her family members in Leningrad at the time of the blockade.

Leningrad Siege 

Leningrad (modern-day St Petersburg) was in the midst of a devastating 900-day blockade that lasted from September 1941 until January 1944. The German army had laid siege to the city, bombarded it and cut off all supplies in its attempt to ‘wipe it off the map’, as Hitler had ordered.

The Savicheva family had all answered the call to help bolster the city’s defences. Tanya, only 11 years old, helped dig anti-tank trenches. On 12 September 1941, the largest food warehouse, the Badayev, was destroyed, bombed with German incendiaries. Three thousand tonnes of flour burned, thousands of tons of grain went up in smoke, meat frazzled, butter melted, sugar turned molten and seeped into the cellars. ‘The streets that night ran with melted chocolate,’ said one witness, ‘and the air was rich and sticky with the smell of burning sugar.’  The situation, already severe, became critical.

Road of Life

As winter approached, Lake Ladoga, to the east of the city, froze. From December 1941, supplies of foodstuffs, fuel and medicine came through by convoys of trucks, a hazardous journey over thin ice and through enemy bombardment. What was brought in on this ‘Road of Life’, although vital, was only ever a fraction of what was needed.

Within the city, as that first winter progressed, whatever could be eaten had been consumed – pets, livestock, birds, vermin. And whatever could be burnt had been used for firewood. Tanya had kept a thick diary but this, as with every other book in the household, had been used for fuel – except for a slim notebook.

The youngest of five children, Tanya Savicheva’s father had died when she was six. Tanya, her mother and her five siblings, in common with every citizen of Leningrad, suffered terribly from hunger and cold. One winter’s day, Tanya’s sister Nina, 12 years older, failed to return. The family assumed that like so many hundreds of others, she had succumbed and died. In fact, Nina had been evacuated out of the city across Lake Ladoga at a moment’s notice. She returned to the city only after the war.

‘Savichevs died’

One by one, the remaining members of Tanya’s family died, and it was recording of each death that constituted the notebook.

The first entry recorded the death of her sister, Zhenya, who died at midday on 28 December 1941. Others were to follow until the sixth and final death, that of Tanya’s mother, on 13 May 1942. A neighbour described the tragic figure of this young girl:

‘When Tanya lost everyone, she became deranged with grief. She would clutch at a small house plant, which had only a few withered leaves left, and was virtually dead. Somehow, it seemed to remind Tanya of her family. She would stand by her stove, swaying from side to side, holding it close to her, in a terrible trance. She was trying to bring it back to life.’ 

Tanya herself was eventually evacuated out of the city in August 1942, along with about 150 other children, to a village called Shatki. But whilst most of the others recovered and lived, Tanya, already too ill, died of tuberculosis on 1 July 1944.

Her notebook was presented as evidence of Nazi terror at the post-war Nuremberg Trials, and today is on display at the History Museum in St Petersburg.

The text of Tanya’s notebook reads as follows:

Zhenya died on Dec. 28th at 12:00 P.M. 1941

Grandma died on Jan. 25th 3:00 P.M. 1942

Leka died on March 5th at 5:00 A.M. 1942

Uncle Vasya died on Apr. 13th at 2:00 after midnight 1942

Uncle Lesha on May 10th at 4:00 P.M. 1942

Mother on May 13th at 7:30 A.M. 1942

Savichevs died.

Everyone died.

Only Tanya is left.

How to assemble your very own WWI novel:

Choose a minimum of four:

•Grand Edwardian country house
•Upstairs/downstairs ensemble cast
•Forbidden cross-class romance (highly recommended)
•Multiple adult daughters of peer
•‘Home by Christmas’ said poignantly by the guy who dies
•PTSD, except the only symptoms are night terrors and the inexplicable, irrepressible need to obliquely reference dead war pals and the sound of the guns in every conversation
•Haunting memory of young man shot at dawn for cowardice
•‘Going over the top’
•Beautiful woman nurse constantly sexually harassed
•Shoehorned references to major events
•Egregious period colloquialisms chosen at random from online ‘Edwardian slang dictionary’
•Plucky young upper-class woman volunteers to do an un-glamorous job against her father’s wishes
•Plucky young lower-class person finally useful for something other than cleaning the toilets of aristocrats, however still must contend with snobs who refuse to believe their usefulness until critical moment
•Main character feels unwarranted responsibility for death of side character
•Blurb on front of cover mentions Downton Abbey
•Blurb on back of cover begins with some variation of ‘In the summer of 1914…’ and ends with ‘and nothing would ever be the same again’ (essential)

Choose at least one:

•Woman’s fiance killed
•Man watches good friend die in battle
•Matron’s five sons killed
•Permanent disabling injury
•Some idiot sticks their head over the parapet and gets shot

If you want to be really hip and daring, choose no more than one: 

•Facial disfigurement

Now, for your cover, pick at least one (remember, number of overlaid images inversely proportional to quality of book):

•Country house
•Silhouettes of soldiers
•Detail of uniform
•Old letters
•High-fashion Edwardian dresses
•But you’ll probably do best with the country house. Just give them some country houses. Motherfuckers love country houses.

Congrats you did it. You did the thing.

and here are the words written to describe the free people girl envisioned in this trend…

“and here are the words written to describe the free people girl envisioned in this trend…”

A wandering Empress exploring new land.

She’s broken free from her lasso to venture into a new frontier.

Sun rays stimulate her thought, while rocks beneath her feet call to her… “move forth”

She exhausts every visual through travel journals so intense the pages come alive.

smells, colors, emotions, textures, personality and old stamps and buttons picked up from dirt tracks along her way.

Her heavy canvas bag hangs on her back, full of family heirlooms, love letters and photographs.

She wanders into antique stores. The smell and history invites her.

She rummages through trunks discovering photo albums reminiscent of her ancestors.

She picks up items of sentimental meaning sticks them into her books.

She becomes nostalgic

But the spirit in the wind tells her to go.