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"My mother used to turn on the gramophone not to hear the siren wailing"

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"My mother used to turn on the gramophone not to hear the siren wailing"

09.03.2021

Valentina Vegvari 01.03.2021

Rosa Novikova was born in Leningrad in 1929 and as a teenager experienced the horrible Siege. Now she lives in the Hungarian city of Pécs, where the Russian Center operates. Roza Avvakumovna shared her family history with the Russkiy Mir. It is impossible to read this short chronicle without tears.

My dad was an engineer at an aircraft manufacturing plant, and my mother worked as a laboratory assistant at the Leningrad Optics and Mechanics Plant. There were two girls in our family - Rosa and Zoya. Right before the war, in May, we had another little sister, Allochka. My parents worked, so our nanny Musen’ka lived with us. She was like an actual member of the family. We lived in a typical Leningrad shared apartment. Our building was, and still is, located in Neyshlotskiy Pereulok, Vyborgsky District. It is a true Leningrad house with garths and wells. Five families lived in our apartment. We lived together, each family had children, and everyone helped each other. In general, we had a happy childhood.

Roza Novikova / Photo from Rosa Novikovas personal archive

How did you know that the war had started and how did you feel about it?

When the war began, I was 12 years old. In July, we were getting ready to go to a country house. The whole family sat down at the table, and they sent me for kvass. As I stood in the queue, there was an announcement that war had begun over the loudspeaker. We were children and run into the apartment with joyful shouts, “War! War!" At that time my mother was pouring tea from a samovar. Boiling water was running on her hands, and she did not seem to notice it. Then my father ran up and turned off the tap. This is how the war began.

What happened after that? Were school classes resumed in September?

In September we went to school, but we studied for about a month only. Many men went to the front, and my father was in reserve because he worked at a defense plant. He had the opportunity to evacuate with his family, but my mother was totally against it. She did not want to leave Leningrad because of a small child and hoped the war would end quickly. Later, she regretted her decision very much, but at that point, Leningrad was already closed, and the Siege began.

When did the bombing and famine start? How did you try to pull through hunger?

They introduced food cards, and never-ending bombing began. At the beginning of winter, my sister Allochka died. It got cold, there was starvation, and continued bombing. To keep warm, we burned furniture and books. My mother forced me and my sister to weave lace so we did not think about food all the time. She used to turn on the gramophone not to hear the siren wailing.

An icon lamp was burning in the apartment all the time, and that was the way we kept the fire in. Once my mom's cards were stolen, and we were doomed to starvation, but, fortunately, a friend of our parents helped - he gave us his bread and went off to the front. Later he helped us in the orphanage by sending his money, and then, unfortunately, he died.

Dad died of hunger on February 2, 1942, and mom died 25 days later. We stayed with our nanny Marusya. My sister and I were very weak, besides, I got sick, and the nanny decided to take us to an orphanage to save us. She took us to the detention center, from where I was immediately taken to the hospital, and my sister was sent to the orphanage. And our nanny died a few days later. Probably, she tried to save us from hunger like that.

Having recovered, I immediately began to look for my sister, it was very important for me since we were left on our own. Thank God, I found her, she also stayed in the hospital for a long time, and then we never parted.

There was a military hospital right opposite the orphanage. We used to go there to help the wounded write and read their letters. My sister was weak; she had panic-driven fear of bombing, so we were evacuated to the Gorky region through the Road of Life.

Life in the evacuation was not easy. We went to a rural school, worked on a collective farm, picked mushrooms, berries, and young nettles in the forest. This is how we were waiting for the Victory.

Victims of the Siege of Leningrad are buried at Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery / Photo from Rosa Novikova's personal archive

How was your life then? Where did you study and what did you do?

Immediately after the victory, we wanted to leave for Leningrad, and in August we were taken back. The city was in ruins, and labor was needed to rebuild it. Those who were over 16 years old, like us, were assigned to the Nogin weaving factory (spinning and weaving factory named after V.P. Nogin - ed.), And in the evenings I studied at the school for working youth. We lived in the factorys hostel, another family had already settled in our apartment, and, unfortunately, the apartment was not returned to us. Then I worked at the Lenin machine-building plant and studied at the plants technical school to become a draftswoman.

In 1954, I met my husband-to-be Leonid. He studied at the Leningrad Conservatory to become a bandmaster. Two years later we got married. This was how my life as an officer's wife began. We moved a lot, we had a daughter and a son. In 1985, after my husband retired, we returned back, although not to Leningrad itself, but to the town of Kirishi near Leningrad.

How did you end up in Hungary?

My children got their higher education in Leningrad. My daughter, while still studying, married a Hungarian man, and they moved to the city of Pécs in Hungary.

Do you still have relatives or peer friends in Russia? Do you keep in touch with them?

In my home town of Kirishi, I am a member of the Association of Survivors of the Siege of Leningrad. Unfortunately, every year our number becomes smaller.

Do you visit your home often? Do you visit Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery?

My husband taught at a music school until the end of his life. Unfortunately, in 2003 he passed away all of the sudden, and I began to split time between two homes. I spend most of the year in Hungary where my daughter lives. Here I have two grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. But every year I do my best to celebrate Victory Day in St. Petersburg.

My son found in the archive the place where my parents had been buried - this is a common grave at the Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery, and I regularly visit it. Unfortunately, in 2019, due to the pandemic, I could not go home, but I really hope that this year I will celebrate Victory Day in St. Petersburg. Of course, I regularly visit the memorial to Soviet soldiers at the cemetery in Pécs and lay flowers.

What commandment would you give to young people regardless of their nationality?

For us, Victory Day is the most important holiday, and I really want people all over the world to remember what price we paid for the peace they live in.

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