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The Presidential Library illustrates letter to the siege of the past

6 March 2019

A large-scale campaign to collect materials about the siege of Leningrad, announced by the Presidential Library in the autumn of 2018, found a wide response in the hearts of many people. About 200 people responded to the call to share testimonies about that time, they transferred about 2000 documents for digitization to the Presidential Library’s electronic collection.

Among them is a unique letter to the past written by Boris and Valery Kotov to their elder brother Vladimir... who died at the beginning of the siege, three and a half years before their birth.

“Little Vova, we are your younger brothers, we have never seen you alive, only your image lives in us from the only surviving photograph. But we carried love for you through many years, as a continuation of our parents' love for their firstborn”, - this is how the emotional message begins.

Then it is reported that the boy was born in September 1937, was the firstborn of his mother and father, he grew up healthy and happy. But the war changed everything. The head of the family went to the front, and the mother stayed with Vova at Levashovo near Leningrad, near the military airfield, which was constantly bombed.  

“There were two rooms and a veranda in the house. In the first one you lived with your mother, there was a stove-tile here, second room had a “Dutch” stove, it was handed over to pilots from the airfield for wood that was worth its weight in gold. <...> The father, as he could, helped you, sent his meager officer ration with opportunity, and rarely came himself”, - continue Boris and Valery Kotovs in a letter to his elder brother, whom they never saw.

The winter of 1941-1942 was terrible. It reached 30–35 degrees of frost. In December, little Vova caught a cold, developed pneumonia and, despite all attempts to save him, died on January 14, 1942.

“Only penicillin, which the Allies delivered through Murmansk, could help you”, - the brothers continue. - The lodged pilots promised to deliver this medicine from Murmansk, but failed, since they were shot down at the end of 1941. There is no hope after that. And we still cannot imagine what our mother and father experienced in those days. Then they carried all this unceasing pain throughout their lives”.   

Having lost his only son at the beginning of the war, the Soviet officer Vasily Petrovich Kotov seemed to have ceased to value his own life. The idea of ​​awarding him with the Order of the Red Star says that in battles with the Nazis he beat off several enemy counterattacks, inspired by the fearlessness of the personnel of the company to combat exploits, and also the first to rush into a grenade battle, personally destroying three opponents and receiving a heavy wound.

Shortly after the complete liberation of Leningrad from the Nazi siege, on September 7, 1944, twins Valery and Boris appeared in the Kotov family.

Little Vova still lives in the hearts of his relatives. They buried him at the Shuvalovskoye cemetery, where many other victims of the war and siege are buried. So, the pilot, lieutenant Lisitsyn, who is trying to save Vova by delivering penicillin to the sick child, is buried not far from him.. Nothing doing.

After the war, for several decades, his whole family came to the grave of Vova, and Anastasia Mikhailovna, his mother visited him every week, regardless of the season, in any weather.

“We continue to visit your grave and we are your brothers”, - concluded Boris and Valery.

This is only one of many tragic and at the same time exalted stories about the siege of Leningrad, which Petersburg residents are sharing in the framework of the campaign of the Presidential Library. Earlier, the electronic foundation of the institution was added by a letter from Kasym Maulenov, the son of an outstanding Kazakh poet Syrbay Maulenov, who defended Leningrad on the Volkhov front, was seriously wounded and carried the memory of that time through his entire life. Special mention deserve the works of Leningrad schoolchildren, written by them in the winter of 1941/1942; the diary in which the writer, author of Two Captains Veniamin Kaverin became interested; notes on the evacuation of Ivan Ilyin and a book about life in the besieged city of a little girl Alisa Bolshakova.

It is worth reminding, that with the participation of the Presidential Library in St. Petersburg, a Unified City Information Center, coordinating the coverage of events dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the complete liberation of Leningrad from the fascist blockade, has been established. The Presidential Library’s portal provides access to 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.