Cats helped save people's lives in besieged Leningrad.
These days are special for St Petersburg – on January 18, 1943 the siege of Leningrad was broken. This was the end of 900 days of hunger of the residents of Leningrad. One million of them died, others marvelously survived. Unusual events and circumstances assisted to the survivors. Cats also contributed to saving people’s lives. For this reason students of Leningrad offered to erect a monument to the cat enabling residents of Leningrad to survive the siege.
In 1942 besieged Leningrad was flooded with rats. Siege survivors recall rodents moving around the city in big colonies. When they were crossing the road, trams had to stop. People tried to fight rodents: they were shot with guns and ran over with tanks, special teams killing rodents were established. However, all this produced little effect. Grey creatures ate the last scarce food supplies of the city.
”In spring of 1942 my sister and me were going to the kitchen garden planted in the stadium in Levashevskaya street”, says Zoya Kornilievna, the siege survivor. “All of a sudden, we saw grey mass approaching us. Rats! When we reached the kitchen garden, all its vegetables had already been gobbled up by rodents”.
In addition, hordes of rats created the danger of epidemic in the city. And the city ran out of main rats’ hunters – cats.
”All the residents of our communal flat ate our neighbors’ cat at the very beginning of the city siege”, says Zoya Kornilievna.
The decision were made to bring cats to Leningrad. Another siege survivor Kira Loginova wrote in her diary that in April 1943 the Chairman of Leningrad City Council issued the decree about “ordering in Yaroslav region and delivering to Leningrad four train cars of smoke-colored cats”. To receive a cat one had to stand in a long line. Cats were in extremely high demand, people were ready to give away the most valuable thing they had – bread – in exchange of cats.
”I was giving a part of my bread allowance to the woman whose cat had kittens”, Zoya Kornilievna said.
Children from Children Dunes Rehabilitation Center (for rehabilitating after having cardio and gastroenterology diseases) learnt about this story from their Art teacher Alexander Milyukov and offered to erect a monument to a cat-winner. They submitted to the teacher about 50 drawings-projects for the future monument.
”This monument can be erected in any city neighborhood, but the best area is where warehouses for flour were located”’ Milyukov says. “The monument should be little, in height of a child. Maybe, when passing it the granny will tell her grandchildren: “You wouldn’t have been born if this cat hadn’t saved your great-grandmother’s life by protecting the bread supplies from rats".
Historians still argue it the story of cats in the besieged city is true or not.
”I heard this story. It resembles a legend, although it could be true”, says Doctor of History Andrei Dzniskevich. “However, no proof of this fact have been found”.
"If this story is not true, how could cats appear in Leningrad after siege?", children asks.
Elena Rotkevich, St Petersburg
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