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The Indelible Mark of World War II on Modern Russia

Great Patriotic War has accutely impacted the vast majority of Russian families

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This is an excerpt from an article that originally appeared in The Moscow Times

Victory Day hits a raw nerve among Russians, likely owing to the fact that the vast majority of Russian families have been acutely impacted by World War II.

<figcaption>A woman holds portraits of her father and father-in-law</figcaption>
A woman holds portraits of her father and father-in-law

President Vladimir Putin recently tapped into this widespread sentimentality with a rare act: he penned a family history, published in this month's edition of Russkiy Pioner magazine, recounting the harrowing tale of his own family's struggle to survive.

At the start of the war, Putin's father — also named Vladimir Putin — joined a small detachment of soldiers tasked with carrying out acts of sabotage, targeting bridges, railways, and other strategic points. Due to an act of betrayal, the detachment was almost immediately discovered and ambushed by Nazi forces.

As the Germans chased the Russian fighters through the woods, Putin Sr. managed to escape. He spent hours hiding in a swamp, breathing through a reed, waiting for the last of the enemy combatants to depart.

Shortly thereafter, the elder Putin was deployed to Nevsky Pyatachok, one of the Leningrad siege's most blood-soaked battlefields. He was gravely wounded there. For the rest of his life, shrapnel would remain embedded in his leg.

During a period spent recovering in a Leningrad hospital, his son — Putin's brother — succumbed to diphtheria. He was buried in the city's Piskaryovskoye Cemetery, where the remains of some 470,000 civilians and soldiers remain amassed among dozens of mass graves.

When Putin visits St. Petersburg, he often lays flowers at one of the cemetery's mass graves, where his brother is believed to be buried.

Leningrad endured the deadliest siege in history. Starvation claimed hundreds of thousands of lives between 1941 and 1944.

Upon returning from the hospital, Putin Sr. found medics lugging corpses from the building he lived in to be buried. He then spotted his wife in the medic's clutches. She was still breathing. 

Read more at The Moscow Times.

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