When isn’t yet history

01/29/2009

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Historical re-enactors tend to belong to close-knit groups that attempt to recreate aspects of past historical events or periods, and strive for authenticity and accuracy whenever possibly.

In SC, re-enactments can be seen at a variety of locations on a regular basis, such as Cowpens (scene of the 1781 Revolutionary War battle), Columbia (recalling the Federal devastation of the Confederate city in 1865) and Aiken (site of the 1865 Confederate victory).

Re-enacting isn’t just an American pastime, either. Last weekend, about 4,000 people gathered near the Russian village of Nikolskoye outside St. Petersburg to watch a re-enactment of the battle that led to the breaking of the Siege of Leningrad during World War II.

At least 350 participants, dressed in original Soviet and German military uniforms, staged a 40-minute battle to mark the 65th anniversary of the end of the Siege on Jan. 27, 1944, according to The St. Petersburg Times.

A real German T-4 tank, a Soviet T-34 tank, 45-mm antitank guns, an armored vehicle and a truck were used in the battle, which simulated the repulse of the Germans from Leningrad, as St. Petersburg was then known, by Soviet forces.

However, due to the massive human cost and the relative recentness of the battle, this re-enactment had a much rawer feel to it.

The Siege of Leningrad, which lasted just under 900 days, was one of the longest in human history and cost more than 1.5 million lives. The city’s residents were reduced to eating leather, glue, rats, wood and just about anything else they could find. Hundreds of thousands starved.

As the Times’ story relates, the Siege left an indelible impression on its survivors:

“Valentina Sysoyeva, 81, a survivor of the Siege, who attended the show, said she was ‘moved that young people still remember about the tragedy of the Siege.’

“Sysoyeva was 13 when the Siege began. She said her most dramatic memory of the Siege was dragging a sled carrying the body of her 15-year-old sister, who had died of starvation.

“We buried her in a huge deep mass grave where coffins were stacked on each other four rows up,’ Sysoyeva said.

“Sysoyeva said she only survived by begging for food.

“After my sister died I felt such a great desire to live, and then I like many other children went to beg from military men. They always shared their food with us,” she said.

“Alexander Kruzhkov, 73, who also survived the Siege as a child, said he came to Sunday’s re-enactment with his son and grandson.

“I still can’t hold back the tears when I remember cutting a tiny piece of bread into several parts for my brothers. Our parents had died of starvation by that time,’ Kruzhkov said.”

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