Thus began the Siege of Leningrad, an episode of the War filled with unimaginable suffering and heroism, which changed her life overnight.
The siege lasted 900 long days and nights during which over one million citizens died from starvation, stress, exposure and bombardment. The city was cut off, food warehouses were destroyed and the winter of 1941 was the coldest in history (temperatures dropped below -40C). The only access to the encircled city was across frozen Lake Ladoga – the legendary Road of Life. Under constant German fire, this route was the only means of evacuating people (mainly children) and bringing in supplies.
Throughout the siege, Zina helped unload the trucks that made it through the bombardment of the lake, carrying food and medical supplies – sometimes on a sledge, sometimes on her back – to hospitals, schools and factories even in the terrible freezing temperatures. A true key worker, she risked her life repeatedly to help others as she believed that the survival of her city depended on the unified action of the community.
She did not talk much about the war (I guess it was too painful), but when she did her stories made me realise that the life we have right now we owe to people like my grandmother and millions more who fought in that terrible war…
Never to be forgotten.
In Zina's honour, I am wearing this beautiful emerald green silk/satin handmade dress that she gave to me and which I shall treasure forever. You can see her wearing it with a smile in this wonderful picture. The dress is now 74 years old and it is still absolutely perfect!