Now and Then - Field of Mars

Field of Mars AA air raid observer

Square of the Victims of the Revolution, Leningrad. August 1941 / Field of Mars, St. Petersburg. April 2021

Soviet AA gun battery observer looking at the skies with his binoculars, standing on top of a granite plate of the Memorial to the Fighters of the Revolution.

From the diary of Pavel Luknitsky. Writer, poet, journalist, war correspondent.

Diary entry from October 29, 1941.

"9pm. Here comes the air raid! Today it lasted for an hour and ended recently. It had to be expected: the day was sunny and the night was moonlit. They dropped bombs, the house shook, AA guns thundered.

Yesterday it was way different. No one expected yesterday's air raid. At half past six PM I left the building of the Writer's Union after the Council meeting, one of the few of its meetings ever held in wartime. I'm not a member of the Council but there's no time for formalities these days and if they invite me, I'll come if I can be useful to them.

I left together with M.L. Lozinsky as we went in the same direction. We walked along the embankment on foot; there was blizzard, a real Blokian blizzard [reference to the poem by Alexander Blok "The Twelve"] - snow flailed into our faces; the Neva, with its threatening black waters, intermittently opened its dark maw, hidden by the trembling veil of snow.  I said:

- What nice weather - there'll be no air raid today!

And exactly in a quarter hour, just as we reached the Kirov bridge in order to get on a tram, sirens and horns wailed, loudspeakers shouted, people hopped out of their stopped dark trams and ran to the nearest shelters. Had I been alone, I would have continued walking back home. But I couldn't leave Lozinsky who was forbidden to walk alone on foot during an air raid. I offered him a ditch on the Field of Mars, but he declined. We went to the shelter of the Marble Palace - through the courtyard and into the basement. The shelter was built under a huge glass hall and there were many of petrol tank trucks in the courtyard. Only a complete blockhead could have parked fuel trucks straight next to the shelter's entrance! There's an auxiliary naval ship at the embankment.The Kirov bridge is all covered with AA guns, same for the Field of Mars. In short, it's was a very poor choice of a place for waiting the air raid out.

The raid continued for an hour. I sat next to M. Lozinsky in the shelter, which was spacious but still overcrowded: there were several hundred people, mainly Red Army soldiers. It seems like there's a hospital or some convalescent care facility in the palace.

We spent this hour talking on different topics and after the raid was called off we headed back to the Kirov bridge"

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