Maybe that will dispel all this quietness

Karl Eliasberg conducting the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra during the siege of Leningrad on 9 August 1942

In September of 1941, the Soviet city of Leningrad was encircled by Nazi forces in a brutal siege that would last until January 1944 and result in the deaths of nearly a million civilians. The relentless blockade led to devastating food and fuel shortages, and the merciless Russian winter only intensified the suffering. Desperation permeated every corner of the city as residents were driven to extremes to survive, even resorting to tragic acts of cannibalism in the darkest days. One person who lived in Leningrad through the siege was poet Vera Inber, who kept a diary throughout the ordeal. This entry came a year into the blockade, capturing the eerie stillness of a city on the brink, yet also highlighting the hope and defiance symbolised by an upcoming performance of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony, played by a starving orchestra.

The Diary Entry

7th August, 1942. Midnight

The city is quiet and deserted to an extent that is shattering. Even the kitchen gardens hurt. The vegetables aren’t growing as they should, the cabbage seedlings weren’t thinned out. So huge, absurd leaves are growing without any body. They have such a bitter taste that even our hospital horses refuse to eat them. People carry away these tragic leaves, these shattered hopes, in the tram.

Quiet. Even the shelling has stopped. How can anyone write in such a city! It was easier even under the bombing. And what is it going to be like next winter?

On the 9th Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony is going to be performed in the Philharmonic Hall. Maybe that will dispel all this quietness.

Further Reading

Vera Inber’s Leningrad Diary was first published in English by St. Martin’s Press in 1971, translated by Serge M. Wolff and Rachel Grieve.


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