Read | 25. Apr 2022

The Anne Frank of Leningrad

Every day when we read about the war in Ukraine and we particularly mourn the civilians. As if there was ever any war that did NOT involve innocent people. Maybe the Americans do not have a collective memory because there has not been any wartime action on their homegrounds in a very long time - but us Europeans? We very well remember the stories of our grandparents and parents.

And if you do not: A harrowing diary written by a Russian teenage girl during the Nazi siege of Leningrad 70 years ago might help you understand the system of war as we now get to know it.

Lena Mukhina began writing her diary in May 1941 aged 16, describing the horror of watching her family die, as well as the pains of growing up. The teenager paints the picture of how she survived the entire 900-day-Nazi-blockade of today´s St Petersburg, but not before she watched her mother starve and saw countless bombing raids by German troops.

Historians and experts have hailed that diary as a vividly-written chronicle of hunger, desperation and death.

In one section, the teenager writes in November 1941: 'Today I turned 17. I'm lying in bed with a temperature and writing ... Aka [a family friend] this morning brought my 125 grams of bread and 200 grams of sweets. 'I've already eaten almost all the bread and the sweets have to last for 10 days.'

The heart-wrenching diary was given to a Soviet Union state archive in 1962 by a mystery donor. It has lay there untouched ever since until it was recently unearthed by historian Sergey Yarov, an academic at the European University of St Petersburg.

To compare pictures from the Leningrad raid by the German Nazis with the pictures we watch right now every night when watching the news from Ukraine kind of breaks your heart.

Because they are just the same.

‘The Diary of Lena Mukhina’, published by Macmillan.