Irina Povolotskaya

Leningrad Siege (Russia)
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Irina was born on June 2, 1931 and lived in Leningrad with her older sister and two parents that had both come from large families. Irina’s parents had a clothing business and even though her mother was not educated, she was talented at sewing clothing. Irinia’s father worked in construction. She finished the first grade prior to the war and in the second grade, she moved.

Irina was separated from her parents with her sister for a period of time; however she kept in contact through letters. Eventually Irina’s mother brought them back home by the time the Siege of Leningrad had began (1941), the city was blocked and they had to walk from the train station. Irina’s father worked at a factory in a different location. There were no forms of communication and she was often left alone with her sister, while their mother was in charge of a volunteer neighborhood governing group since there were no proper police forces. Irina’s sister was in charge of walking throughout the city and checking to see if people were dead or needed assistance. It was one of the coldest winters in history and food cards provided only 125g of bread. Irina attended school inconsistently and survived on watered down pea soup, bread, and pieces of sugar. Irina’s mother was 36 at the time and aged very quickly due to the stress of harsh living conditions. Her sister took her along to check up on dead people and orphans, she was only 11 years old but felt grown up and independent. People died in the street due to the extreme cold and hunger; dead bodies were gathered up in cars. Her sister was also afraid to leave Irina home alone due to bombings; this is how their relatives that lived nearby died. At night they threw gas bombs from roofs and their uncle fought for Leningrad. One day an officer came to take them from the city; the car they were in moved slowly and the Nazis bombed very close to them. A car traveling parallel to them got bombed and fell under ice. They witnessed the deaths of all the passengers which caused panic and hysteria. After, they took a train to an evacuation zone. During the train journey, Irina got infected from a boy with typhoid which could lead to a coma. Irina’s mother’s younger sister evacuated from a hospital and saved her life by bringing her medicine.

In 1943 at the age of 12, Irina only finished the first grade and she was extremely embarrassed to be uneducated and behind her peers. She received a psychological examination after the siege; however she was extremely happy to be in school. Eventually they found their father and in 1947, they returned to Leningrad. There she caught up academically and enjoyed math and literature. Irina graduated an Institute in Ship Building Construction studies.

Irina married a Polish Jew who is talented, plays many instruments and they had one daughter. In 1988, they immigrated to the United States where she lives a happy life. She is very thankful for the simple things in life and regrets her relatives were unable to experience the gift of life.

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