Leningrad: The People’s War (Leningrad, Book 1) by Rachel R. Heil released last year in the Historical Fiction, Romance genre.
Leningrad, 1941. As Europe crumbles under the German war machine, the people of the Soviet Union watch. There are whispers of war but not loud enough for the civilians of Leningrad to notice. Instead, they keep their heads down and try to avoid the ever-watching eyes of their own oppressive government.
University student Tatiana Ivankova tries to look ahead to the future after a family tragedy that characterizes life under the brutal regime. But, when the rumors that have been circulating the country become a terrifying reality, Tatiana realizes that the greatest fear may not be the enemy but what her fellow citizens are prepared to do to each other to survive.
As his men plow through the Russian countryside, Heinrich Nottebohm is told to follow orders and ask no questions, even if such commands go against his own principles. His superiors hold over him a past event that continues to destroy him with every day that passes. But, when given the opportunity to take an act of defiance, Heinrich will jump at the chance, ignoring what the end results could be.
Leningrad: The People’s War tells the harrowing beginning of a war that forever changed the landscape of a city, told through the eyes of both sides in a tale of courage, love, and sacrifice.
Universal Link: mybook.to/LeningradWar
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08PMM3NX6
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08PMM3NX6
Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B08PMM3NX6
Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B08PMM3NX6
Rachel R. Heil is a historical fiction writer who always dreamed of being an author. After years of dreaming, she finally decided to turn this dream into a reality with her first novel, and series, Behind the Darkened Glass. Rachel is an avid history fan, primarily focused on twentieth century history and particularly World War Two-era events. In addition to her love for history, Rachel loves following the British Royal Family and traveling the world, which only opens the door to learning more about a country’s history. Rachel resides in Wisconsin.
Since the end of World War Two seventy-seven years ago, countless movies and books have been written about the event, from the European theater to the Pacific to the home front of both Allied and Axis nations. Yet, there seems to be a surprising lack of media concerning the Russian point of view.
I first noticed this void in high school. When I was a freshman, I read Paullina Simmons’ historical romance novel The Bronze Horseman, which followed a young Russian girl, the soldier she loves, and her family during the Siege of Leningrad. While the book has since become one of my favorites, I couldn’t help but notice how it seemed to be a rarity in the vast canon of World War Two literature. For one, it was told from the Russian point of view, and two, it was set during an event that is treated as a footnote in the history of World War Two.
“The fire of anti-aircraft guns in front of the St. Isaac’s Cathedral during the defense of Leningrad, 1941.”
The last point, in particular, was mindboggling to me. For those who have read The Bronze Horseman you might recall that the story leaves Leningrad halfway through the book when the two main characters are evacuated. While I was still invested in their story I remember wondering what happened to Leningrad. Did Leningrad collapse to the Germans and was then taken back by the Red Army later on? Did the Germans capitulate soon after? A quick Google search took me down a rabbit hole of misery, pain, and incomprehensible resilience, further stupefying me as to why so few write about this part of the war or have stories told from the Russian perspective.
There is certainly no shortage of stories from the Russian side that could be told. The Eastern Front saw some of the bloodiest fighting during the war and served as one of the turning points when the Germans failed to take Stalingrad, one of the few battles told time and again from the Russian perspective. The war on the Eastern Front was also a battle between two political ideologies, Communism and Fascism, political beliefs that led to nothing but suffering for those forced to live under them. This fact, combined with the lack of stories told from the Russian side, spurred my desire to write a book that combined both.
Once I decided I was going to tell a story from the Russian side, I next had to decide if I would put it up against a particular battle that took place on Russian soil. That decision was essentially the easiest. After reading The Bronze Horseman I knew I wanted to write my own story set during the Siege of Leningrad, except I wanted to cover the entire siege from start to finish.
“Three women on air defense patrol in besieged Leningrad, 1942. Many civilians took on various roles to defend their city including building trenches, working in factories, and serving on patrols.”
Researching the siege was by no means easy. There were few books and documentaries specifically detailing the event, and the reason for that may also explain why the Russian side is rarely written about. In the aftermath of the war, the Soviet government made it a priority to limit the information that was shared with the outside world to diminish the crimes they had committed against their own people. The Soviet Union had been vastly unprepared for the war with Germany, and as a result they used violence to control their citizens and soldiers. In Leningrad, for example, anyone caught talking about the German advancement or showed knowledge of anything foreign was arrested and shot. There are even some survivors’ accounts of young children being taken away by the police because they were overheard saying a few words in a different language or repeating something they had heard from their parents about the enemy.
The first winter of the war was particularly harsh for Leningraders as the city ran low on food and thousands died from disease and starvation. In an attempt to rectify this issue the Soviet High Command opened an ice road on the Lake Ladoga, known as the Road of Life, but it was so chaotic and disorganized that most had to make the long journey from Leningrad to Borisova Griva themselves. Most ended up dying along the way or turning around and returning to Leningrad. Not surprisingly, when the war was over, the Soviet authorities did everything they could to hide their failings.
With such censorship it was difficult for writers to accurately portray the Russian side for a long time. Very few writers decided to tackle the issue and when they did they were met with skepticism. When journalist Harrison Salisbury published his account of the siege in 1969 it was attacked not only by Soviet media but by the West as well, who believed Salisbury’s account of Soviet citizens being trapped inside Leningrad, Soviet authorities doing little to help, and allegations of cannibalism as too farfetched, regardless of what survivors told Mr. Salisbury. Thankfully, with the fall of Communism and more survivors from the war now feeling comfortable with speaking out about their experiences, we can now write those stories.
“Piskarevskoye Memorial Cemetery where an estimated 470,000 people who died during the Siege of Leningrad are buried.”
I think it is correct to believe that the Russian viewpoint isn’t the main one told in World War Two, and there are a variety of reasons for that. However, I am hoping that is an attitude that is changing. Within the last two to three years, I’ve begun to see a slight resurgence in looking at the war through the Russians’ eyes, and it’s a trend I’m hoping will continue to grow. There are still plenty of courageous stories to be told.
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Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Rachel-R-Heil/e/B07MY8DZT8Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18802162.Rachel_R_Heil