Kerala

Biography of Tanya to be out in Malayalam

‘The Savichevs are dead. Everyone is dead. Only Tanya is left.’

So ends the short diary of Tanya Savicheva, the young Russian girl whose jottings captured the horror and despair of one of the darkest episodes of World War II; the 872-day siege of Leningrad (present-day St Petersburg) by the German forces.

Tanya - short for Tatiana - died of intestinal tuberculosis in 1944 at the age of 14, a victim of the war. On the 80th anniversary of the siege of Leningrad, Tanya’s poignant story is being told in Malayalam, possibly for the first time. Tanya Savichevayude Katha (The Story of Tanya Savicheva) has been written by Ratheesh C. Nair, the Honorary Consul of Russia in Thiruvananthapuram, and published by the Russian House here (formerly the Russian Cultural Centre).

“Apart from being the 80th anniversary of the siege, 2021 also marks the 80th anniversaries of the start of the Great Patriotic War (following the German invasion of the Soviet Union) and the opening of the ‘Road of Life,’ the ice road route across Lake Ladoga through which eight lakh people were evacuated from the besieged Leningrad,'' Mr. Ratheesh Nair said.

Tanya’s diary contains only a few pages, but they record the deaths of her family members during the siege. Today it is on display at the St Petersburg History Museum.

Tanya Nikolayevna Savicheva was born on January 23, 1930, the youngest of a large family. She had two sisters and two brothers. Her father Nikolai succumbed to cancer in 1936. After the war broke out, the invading Germans launched a blockade of the Soviet city of Leningrad on September 8, 1941. The Savichevs, except for Tanya’s brother Mikhail, were trapped in the city.

Ten lakh people died in the siege, a majority due to starvation and extreme cold. On September 10, 1941, the Germans had bombed the main food depot. Electricity too was cut by the time winter set in. Tanya's old diary was used as fuel for cooking food, and she was presented with a small notebook belonging to her sister Nina.

It was this book in which she wrote the first lines of her famous diary ‘Zhenya (her sister) is dead. 28 December, 12 noon. 1941.’ The diary contained eight more pages, recording the deaths of her grandmother, her brother Lyoka, uncles Vasya and Lyosha and her mother Maria Ignatievna.

Her sister Nina and Mikhail survived the siege, but Tanya had been unaware of it. Tanya was evacuated in July 1942 along with 142 other children. But she had left her diary behind. She passed away on July 1, 1944, at a hospital in Shatki. Nina, who returned to St Petersburg after the war, discovered her sister’s diary, paving the way for its eventual fame.

Tanya Savichevayude Katha contains numerous rare photographs and documents from the period of the war. The biography also has a preface by Alexander A. Inshutov, director of the Shatki History Museum which manages the Tanya Savicheva Museum today.

The biography, which will also have an English translation soon, will be released shortly. The Russian House in Thiruvananthapuram is opening a photography exhibition on the ‘Road of Life’ on Monday to mark its 80th anniversary.


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Printable version | Jan 17, 2022 7:44:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/biography-of-tanya-coming-out-in-malayalam/article37598768.ece

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