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Sunday 11 December 2016

Sick

Andrew Osborn

Published 09/09/2011 | 05:00

THE diary of a teenage Russian schoolgirl who lived through the Nazi siege of Leningrad has been published for the first time, leading to comparisons with 'The Diary of Anne Frank'.

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Historians and literary experts have hailed the publication of Lena Mukhina's diary, published in Russian under the title 'Keep My Sad Story', as a sensation in its vividness and the quality of the writing.

Unlike Anne Frank, who died in a Nazi concentration camp, Lena Mukhina lived through World War Two, surviving almost the entire 900-day Nazi blockade of Leningrad, which started in September 1941.

Aged 16 when she started recording her thoughts, she witnessed the death of her mother, suffered starvation and survived countless bombing raids while at the same time cataloguing the normal growing pains of a teenage girl.

"In the beginning, the diary reads like a love story," said Marina Rymynskaya, who typed up the original manuscript. "But on June 22, 1941, [when the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union] the handwriting changed dramatically. At first I thought that somebody else was writing.

"It was psychologically and physically difficult to work on this project. After typing up two or three pages, I often felt physically sick and had to get some air."

In one troubling passage, Lena describes how her family had to kill their cat and cook it for food.

"Today we had delicious soup with meat and macaroni. The cat meat will be enough for two more meals.

"It would be good to get hold of another cat somewhere. I never thought cat meat would be so good and tender," she wrote.

The diary was placed in the Soviet Union's state archive in 1962 by an unknown donor where it lay undisturbed before it was discovered by Sergey Yarov, a historian at the European University of St Petersburg. He was struck by its quality and decided to get it published.

Mr Yarov said the manuscript reminded him of the poignant writings of Anne Frank.

"Both diaries are about how they suffered repressions; but both diaries are also about how they developed, lived, how they were interested in their own girls' secrets," he said.

Editors assumed the girl had died in the blockade because the diary broke off abruptly in 1942. It later emerged that she had survived. Lena died in Moscow in 1991 without fulfilling her dream of becoming a writer.

Irish Independent

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