On September 8, 1941, less than three months after the Soviet Union was first attacked in World War II, Leningrad (as St. Petersburg was called at the time) was completely sealed off from the rest of the country. Nazi Germany planned to “erase it from the face of the Earth,” according to historic documents. Thus began the Siege of Leningrad, often called “900 Days of Courage.” 

What the Germans didn’t count on was that the citizens of Leningrad would not give up. They’d rather die than give up. They would bury artwork, plant vegetables in the Summer Gardens, evacuate children in trucks across the frozen Lake Ladoga, survive on boiling leather belts and making pancakes out of weeds, hold nightly watches to put out fire grenades and work at factories around the clock but never let the enemy step into their city. 

Over 2.5 million people died in Leningrad or defending it during those 900 days. Every third house was destroyed.

Entire Leningrad families died from hunger. There's a piece of bread on display at the museum of the Piskariovskoye Memorial Cemetery. A daily ration for the people of Leningrad, it is a 125-gram rock made of sawdust and flour. 

At the same museum, there’s a famous diary of Tanya Savicheva, a little girl who was documenting her family passing away from famine, one by one. The last note says, “Everyone has died. Only Tanya is left.” 

There may be very few survivors of those terrible days left in St. Petersburg now, but their lesson of perseverance and sacrifice lives on in the new generation. And you’ll probably not find a local family who will ever throw a piece of bread away.

The commemorative events this Monday will start with a march on Nevsky Prospect and laying of wreaths at several cemeteries.  

The torches at the top of the Rostral Pillars will be lit twice - from 9 am till noon and from 5 pm till 11 pm. 

An interactive program featuring historic and modern military equipment, as well as music of the time will take place at the Palace Square between 10 am and 9 pm.

The pinnacle of the events will be a reconstruction of the victory fireworks that took place 76 years ago. A historic reconstruction “Leningrad Fireworks 1944” will start at 6 pm at the Spit of Basil Island, and the fireworks will take place at 8 pm.

To learn more about the Siege, you can also visit the Blockade Museum and the Museum of Breaking the Blockade.