They will pay in full

Lena Mukhina

Lena Mukhina was sixteen when the German army invaded the Soviet Union in June of 1941, setting off a chain of events that would lead to the Siege of Leningrad—a brutal and devastating blockade that lasted more than two years and led to the deaths of 1.5 million people. Mukhina survived this hellish ordeal and was evacuated from Leningrad by train in June of 1942, but many others, including her beloved aunt, weren’t so fortunate. In Mukhina’s diary, which she kept for a year until shortly before her evacuation, she captured the daily life and struggles of a terrified young girl in a city under siege, resulting in a haunting firsthand account of this dark chapter in history. On 8th September 1941, the day she wrote the following entry, the the last road to Leningrad had been cut off. The siege had begun.

The Diary Entry
Lena Mukhina’s diary, June 1941

8th September 1941

Today for the first time they announced: ‘German aircraft attack Leningrad.’ It appears that a group of enemy planes managed to break through, and in the first raid they dropped incendiary bombs over various parts of the city. Fires broke out in several residential buildings and warehouses, although these were quickly extinguished. (Quickly, indeed – they were burning for five hours.)

In the second raid the enemy dropped high-explosive bombs. Buildings were destroyed. People died, others were injured. No military targets were hit.

It’s not yet nine o’clock in the morning. Another short air raid has just finished. Strangely, the all-clear was given some time ago, but I could clearly hear the drone of an aeroplane and individual shots from the anti-aircraft guns. 

It’s still droning now. It must be a spy plane, inspecting the work of yesterday’s guests. 

Well, it wasn’t a bad start. Yesterday they managed to burn down a gas plant, the Badaev food storage warehouses, the textiles warehouses and the Vitebsk freight station. Yesterday the ground literally shook beneath our feet. The bombs were probably large calibre. Yes, Hitler’s little gift to us is really something special. But we’ll get our own back, we’ll get our own back on ‘them’ for everything. 

Blood for blood! A death for a death! The horrors of medieval torture chambers pale in comparison to the tortures that these animals in human form are inflicting on Soviet citizens who fall into their clutches. They cut off people’s hands and feet, for example, and throw them straight into the fire while they’re still alive. No, they will pay in full. For the Leningraders, Muscovites, Kievans and others who have been killed by bombs and missiles, for the tormented, maimed and injured soldiers of the Red Army, for the women and children who have been shot, torn to pieces, stabbed, hanged, buried alive, burned and suffocated. For all the women and young girls who have been raped, for the death of young Sasha, who wasn’t afraid of them and wore his red neck scarf regardless, for the children and mothers with babes in arms gunned down by these barbarians, sitting at the controls of their planes and hunting them just for fun. For all of this, for everything, they will pay in full.

Further Reading

Lena Mukhina’s original diary arrived at the State Archive of Historico-Political Documents in St. Petersburg in 1962, but it would be another sixty years before it was published in Russian, titled, Сохрани мою печальную историю (‘My Sad Story‘). An English language edition arrived two years later, translated by Amanda Love Darragh and titled, The Diary of Lena Mukhina: A Girl’s Life in the Siege of Leningrad. It’s a heartbreaking, important read and has much in common with Anne Frank’s diary, to which it is often compared. Lena Mukhina passed away in Moscow in 1991.


Diary entry excerpted from The Diary of Lena Mukhina: A Girl’s Life in the Siege of Leningrad by Lena Mukhina. Copyright © Central National Archive for Historical-Political Documents, St Petersburg, 2012. Copyright © Editions Robert Laffont, Paris 2013. English translation copyright © Amanda Love Darragh, 2014. Reproduced with permission of the Licensor through PLSclear.

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