The Russian Anne Frank That Also Wrote A Diary During War
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The Russian Anne Frank That Also Wrote A Diary During War

Avatar of Alonso Martínez

By: Alonso Martínez

June 1, 2017

What's on The Russian Anne Frank That Also Wrote A Diary During War
Avatar of Alonso Martínez

By: Alonso Martínez

June 1, 2017

Anne Frank's Diary

Anne Frank's family might have been betrayed by the sister of one of the people who helped them hide during the Holocaust. That's the version given by the journalist Jeroen de Bruyn, as well as Joop van Wijk, the youngest son of Bep Voskuijl, the woman who supported the Franks. Anne's name and her diary gave the world a new perspective on the experiences of war. Nowadays, this document is one of the most relevant proofs of the Nazi warcrimes.

Anne Frank wasn't the only girl who documented what was happening around her in a diary. There was another girl who experienced a nightmare in what we know as St. Petersburg, during the Siege of Leningrad, when the Nazis tried to take the then Russian capital. As history tells, they failed to conquer this country. However, the people were trapped in a siege that lasted 900 days. A girl named Tanya Savicheva saw most of her family and friends die during this crisis. Nowadays, the descriptions she wrote about the siege are evidence of the pain and horror many Russian civilians endured.

Tanya and the Siege of Leningrad

Tanya Savicheva Russian Anne Frank leningrad-w600-h600

Tatyana “Tanya” Savicheva was born nine years before the beginning of the war and was only eleven when her life suddenly changed. The girl lived with her three sisters, two brothers, and her mother Mariya. When people heard about an imminent invasion, the family decided to flee to the countryside to wait for the confrontation to end. But it was too late.

On September 8, 1941, the Axis had already surrounded the city and was about to make its move. As a sign of support, Tanya and her family –except her brother Mikhail, who abandoned Leningrad before the Siege– devoted their time to help the army. Mariya sewed uniforms, Leka planned military strategies with the leaders of the army, and Zhenya worked in the ammunition factory. Her other sister, Nina, was assumed dead since she was secretly being sent to another place.

Despite serving the national cause, the spirits of all the Savichevas started to decline when the sources started to run out. Due to the defensive barrier, there wasn't a way to bring important sources like wood and gasoline to prevent people dying from hunger or cold, which was actually Germany's plan. Naturally, poor people died faster, especially during winter.

Tanya Savicheva's life

Tanya Savicheva Russian Anne Frank portrait-w600-h600

Tanya's small notebook is nothing like Anne Frank's. It lacks literary sense and detail. Actually, it consists of some pages, but many have interpreted this simplicity as the void she felt towards the suffering of those around her. The few pages of the document are a record of the days and hours when her relatives died.

The first one to pass away, on December 28 (only three months after the beginning of the Siege) was her sister Zhenya, who had to walk many miles per day to manufacture the cases of mines. The woman who would often donate blood to soldiers in need died of hunger and weakness. She's the first to appear in Tanya's notebook. The next was her grandmother Yevdokiya, who had a heart attack after losing a third of her body weight. Her brother Leka died in March also due to malnutrition.

Tanya Savicheva Russian Anne Frank street-w600-h600

The last ones were her uncles Vasya (in April) and Lesha (May), followed by her mother Mariya in the same month. The girl was only 12 years old  and had no one to turn to. One of her neighbors offered her a room for some days until she decided to look for a distant aunt, Evdokiya. The latter sent the girl to an orphanage where she would receive medical attention and food to eat. She was rescued together with 139 children to be healed, but she never got better. Two years after, still on medical treatment, she died of intestinal tuberculosis.

The Diary

Tanya Savicheva Russian Anne Frank diary-w600-h600

These are the contents of the diary which has been replicated in a memorial in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg:

Zhenya died on Dec. 28 at 12:00 P.M. 1941

Grandma died on Jan. 25 3:00 P.M. 1942

Leka died on March 5 at 5:00 A.M. 1942

Uncle Vasya died on Apr. 13 at 2:00 after midnight 1942

Uncle Lesha on May 10 at 4:00 P.M. 1942

Mother on May 13 at 7:30 A.M. 1942

Savichevs died.

Everyone died.

Only Tanya is left.

–Tanya Savicheva

Tanya Savicheva Russian Anne Frank book-w600-h600

It's interesting that the line dedicated to her mother doesn't include the word "died". It's likely that she was so afflicted by her mother's death that she didn't even dare write it. The ending is even more heartbreaking. Despite the fact that there are only a few words, they seem to represent all the pain and nightmares suffered not only by this particular girl, but by more than a million people during the Siege of Leningrad.

Tanya Savicheva Russian Anne Frank monument-w600-h600

The world remembers Anne Frank as a symbol of resilience and anguish of the Jewish people. Tanya symbolizes those citizens who lost their lives due to famine, disease, and even cannibalism. Both were innocent souls in the middle of a war they didn't understand and that shaped the world we live in nowadays. They paid the real price of violence.

 Children at War by Tatiana Sinitsin (2017)
Children during the Holocaust by Patricia Heberert (2017)

Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards