Friday, November 26, 2010

Никто не забыт, и ничто не забыто

In a rare stroke of motivation, I'm writing a blog entry before I have weeks of stuff to write about. Tuesday night Lyuda and I went to a CKA game with my friend Stephanie. The game was quite exciting. CKA feel behind by three goals by the end of the first period, but managed to fight their way back into it by the end of regulation. The game went to a shootout, where unfortunately CKA lost. We were all a bit confused by the way the shootout worked. Spartak (the opposing team) took more penalty shots than CKA, and CKA's captain took three of CKA's shots! It made no sense! We all had a bunch of fun though, and they even put us on the jumbo-tron!
This week has been bitterly cold in Peter (the predicted highs for Monday and Tuesday are 9 and 6 degrees fahrenheit), but on Wednesday, Hannah, Emily, and I decided to brave the cold and set out for the cemetery for the victims of the Leningrad blockade. I had already been to the cemetery, but I think it's a really important place in St. Petersburg and worth a second look. What should have been a short half hour walk however, turned into a 2 hour odyssey through swirling snow and bitter cold. Russia doesn't seem to get how useful street signs would be, and as such there are practically no markings as to what street one is actually on. After much staring at the map however, and an adventurous ride on the taxi bus, we arrived.
The cemetery was beautiful in the summer, but in my opinion, it may have even been more beautiful in the winter. We were alone in the park except for those workers clearing the paths between the burial mounds, and it was really quite moving to take in the cemetery in the quiet. As the snow swirled in the wind, you could pick out the faint traces of Schostakovich's "Leningrad Symphony" being played. While it is still debated whether the 7th Symphony was meant to be critical of Stalin's regime or the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, the "Leningrad Symphony" became a famous symbol of Soviet resistance and survival during the War. While the symphony was originally premiered in Samara on March 5th 1942, the most famous premiere was in Leningrad itself on August 9th, 1942, more than a year after the infamous "900 day Siege" had begun. Played by an orchestra reduced to only 15 members by starvation and death on the front lines, but filled once again by musicians pulled from the city's starving inhabitants, the performance was broadcasted over the radio across the Soviet Union, and in an act of defiance, over loudspeakers across the city, so loudly that even besieging Nazi forces could hear.
All in all a visit to the cemetery is a sobering experience. Over 600,000 victims are buried in the cemetery, most in mass graves, marked only by the year they were dug. There are literally hundreds of theses mounds, each with hundreds and hundreds of people in them. Even though we were all completely frozen to the core, I think we were all glad that we went. I had hoped to take pictures, as my camera hadn't worked last time we were there, but alas, my camera, the batteries, or perhaps both had succumb to the cold, and refused to work. So no pictures for this entry, sorry!
Thursday was Thanksgiving. Obviously Russia does not observe Thanksgiving, no matter how wonderful a holiday it is, so I decided rather than trying to recreate it and failing, I would just do something else. I ended up spending the evening with Lyuda, we went out to dinner and then went to the movies and saw "the Social Network", which while extremely difficult to comprehend in Russian at times, was still highly enjoyable. Yesterday Hannah's aunt and uncle met up with us for пишки, little tiny Russian donuts that are probably destroying my arteries. It was nice to meet them, and get out of the never-ending snow. Which brings us to today, Saturday. The snow is now entering it's fifth day and shows no sign of letting up anytime soon, but at least it's still a balmy 16 degrees outside! Got to appreciate the small things in life. I hope everyone at home had a wonderful, joyous Thanksgiving and that everyone enjoys their long weekend!
Much love,

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