Valentina Mitronova's right eye droops as if sagging under the weight of all she has witnessed. As a toddler caught in the nearly 900-day siege of Leningrad during World War II, her earliest memories were forged in an atmosphere of suffering. On her fourth birthday, she recalls eating soup made by her mother from the beans that rattled inside her plastic baby toys.
"Sometimes I want to erase it all, to wipe it from my memory," Mitronova said. "But it's impossible, there's no way, just no way."
January 27 marked the 70th anniversary of the lifting of the siege, and the city held a bevy of ceremonies, parades and exhibitions to commemorate the occasion. A three-day exhibit transformed a central neighborhood into a wartime recreation, drawing a steady stream of visitors, old and young. On January 27, Russian President Vladimir Putin joined local officials, survivors and their families to lay flowers at Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery, where nearly 500,000 victims of the siege are buried. Later, the Russian leader and dignitaries attended a commemorative parade.
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Noah Sneider is a freelance journalist living in Russia.