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The Presidential Library tells about firefighters in besieged Leningrad

23 January 2019

The Presidential Library continues to cover the siege from different angles. In November last year, a large-scale campaign to collect documents and photographs related to 1941-1944 in besieged Leningrad was launched.

Today we will tell about Leningrad firefighters, thanks to whom the city was not burned to the ground during the siege. 93-year-old siege resident Elena Tvereva told specialists of the Presidential Library about firefighters and a special mix of firefighters-Komsomol members.

The Komsomol Fire Regiment of the Defence of Leningrad was established in August 1941 and disbanded in August 1943. The main tasks of the regiment were the preparation of industrial facilities, institutions and residential buildings for fire protection, fire fighting, liquidation of the consequences of enemy raids and shelling. It was in those years that such lines appeared: “We hear everything! We are going confidently, / We will protect our Leningrad from fires, / We are entrusted with the matter, we are going confidently, / Brothers are at the front, we will win here... " 

At first, 50 experienced professional firefighters taught young people how to fight fire, roll out hoses, use attack staircases, etc. In the city, 15 companies were organized with three platoons each, each platoon - three divisions of 12 people. One of these people was Elena Ivanovna, who graduated from eight grades in the Zhdanovsky (now Petrogradsky) district of the city in 1941.

Since the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, in July 1941, it was aimed at digging trenches near Leningrad. Then she studied at the Komsomol formation at the fire station.

At some point, the Komsomol regiment was transferred to the Tikhvin forests of Leningrad Region. The personnel of the compound was transferred to the regional Lespromtrest for forest harvesting, as the city was in need of fuel.

For her work, Elena Ivanovna was awarded 11 medals, including "For the Defence of Leningrad" and "For Valiant Labor in the Great Patriotic War of 1941–1945". Subsequently, she headed the Council of Veterans of the Komsomolsk regiment of fire protection in the city of Leningrad.

As part of the campaign to collect siege documents, specialists of the Presidential Library were transferred to digitize Elena Tvereva’s memories, where day after day the exploits of young, if not too young (many were 15-17 years old) firefighters of the city are described: “From September 4, 1941, the Nazis started shelling the city. The first shells fell on the Krasny Neftekti oil depot, the Vitebsk sorting station, the Salolin plant ... On September 6, high-explosive bombs hit the Okhta chemical plant, on the Five-Year Plan factory ... On September 8, more than 6000 incendiary bombs were dropped. There were 178 fires in the city”.

At the same time, German bombers destroyed the Badayev warehouses, as a result of which the city lost a significant portion of its food.

“On that day, the Komsomol Fire Regiment defused more than 1,200 incendiary bombs, preventing hundreds more fires ... When the platoon of the Dzerzhinsky Company arrived at the burning Badayevsky warehouse, the picture was terrifying. Ahead - the sea of ​​fire. The flame in some places reached a height of several tens of meters. Everywhere there was the smell of burnt grain and sugar. The fire covered about three square kilometers. Numerous wooden buildings, crammed into a vast territory, were littered with incendiary bombs. Primitive buildings that appeared before the First World War, were located too close to each other. At the same time, the burning territory was subjected to intensified machine-gun fire from airplanes”, - recalls Elena Tvereva.

During this fire, about 3000 tons of flour and 2500 tons of sugar, which “looked like dirty, porous snow” were destroyed. Komsomol members still managed to pull out a piece of bags with provisions ...

Another fire in September 1941 was extinguished in a store on Liteiny, where "they fought with fire standing in chocolate melted from fire". 

It was a very difficult time when one of the platoons of the Komsomol fire safety regiment of Leningrad was summoned to fight the fire in the maternity hospital on the Mayakovsky Street. The fighters managed to pull out from under the collapsed floor two mothers and 12 nursing babies.

Then, in September 1941, during the liquidation of the fire at the corner of the Dekabristov Square and the embankment of the Red Fleet (now Senate Square and the English Embankment), soldiers of the Vasileostrovskaya company saved the State Archive. They carried documents from the fire marked “Top Secret”, where Catherine II’s signature was on the stamp paper ... that is, they saved the past of our Fatherland.

The extinguishing of the Printing House in the spring of 1942 was a memorable event. Only by the combined efforts of the five districts, after two days, it was possible to defeat the fire and save valuable publications. The five-storied building, almost full of books, magazines and rolls of printing paper, burned like a giant bonfire.

Recently, users of the Presidential Library’s portal had the opportunity to look at the siege through the eyes of artists. Alisa Bolshakova from St. Petersburg, author of The Besieged Girl (Memories and Reflections), also told the Presidential Library her story. In total, about 200 people responded to the call of the Presidential Library to share testimonies about that time. With the participation of the Presidential Library in St. Petersburg, the Unified City Information Center, which coordinates the coverage of events for the 75th anniversary of the complete liberation of Leningrad from the Nazi siege was established.

In addition, as part of the “Siege Diary” - a weekly program on the St. Petersburg Channel – a specialist of the Presidential Library talks about the special role of poetry in the besieged city or how the morale of Leningrad people was supported by people abroad.

On the Presidential Library, you can go on a virtual tour of the exhibition halls of the temporarily closed State Museum of Defence and Siege of Leningrad and get familiar with the electronic collection “Defence and Siege of Leningrad”, which includes official documents, periodicals, memories of Leningrad citizens, food cards, photo and newsreels.

It is also planned that the multimedia lessons of courage, which the Presidential Library holds for schoolchildren, will be based, among other things, on the military writings of D. A. Granin, the centenary of which is celebrated this year.

The Presidential Library’s portal makes available a virtual tour of the exhibition halls of the temporarily closed State Museum of Defence and Siege of Leningrad and get familiar with the electronic collection “Defence and Siege of Leningrad”, which includes official documents, periodicals, memories of Leningrad residents, food cards, photographs and newsreels.

Traditional courage lessons for schoolchildren in 2019, declared in Russia as the year of the centenary anniversary of Daniil Granin, will be based, among other things, on the writer's works on the Great Patriotic War.