Memory of the siege of Leningrad, Yelena Osipova still demonstrates as a “grandmother for peace”

This Thursday, the mayor of the city of Mariupol, in the very south-east of Ukraine, accused Russia of wanting to besiege this eminently strategic port city located on the Sea of ​​Azov. “They destroyed the bridges, destroyed the trains to prevent us from evacuating our women, children and old people. […] They seek to impose a blockade, as in Leningrad”, the current Saint-Petersburg.

Read also: the historical articles of the “Journal de Genève” and the “Gazette de Lausanne” on the siege of Leningrad

Leningrad… The historical reference is not innocent. We are talking here about the siege of nearly 900 days imposed on the city by the Wehrmacht during the Second World War, from September 8, 1941, and lifted on January 27, 1944 by the Soviets, who had then finally succeeded in repelling the Germans , despite colossal human losses: 1,800,000 victims, including nearly a million civilians.

With “The Scream” by Munch

The reference is not innocent because, precisely, a 77 year old lady was arrested Wednesday evening by eight Russian police officers in the streets of Saint Petersburg (formerly Leningrad). It was the artist and activist Yelena Osipova, a retired art teacher, victim of Soviet machismo against women artists, who was arrested while demonstrating for peace in Ukraine. This, with signs made herself, which evoked among other things The Scream, the famous expressionist work by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, which symbolizes the modern man carried away by an anxiety attack. With this inscription: “Soldier, drop your weapon, and you will be a true hero.”

“Beret screwed on the head, scarf around the neck”, we see on the images filmed – and shared thousands of times – this “little lady surrounded by a crowd of young people who cheer her”. Then, in Olympian calm, she raises “her eyes to the eight imposing policemen […] came to arrest him and follows them without protest”. Yelena Osipova did not experience it, this historically tragic siege of Leningrad, since she was born in 1945. But a good part of her life, she campaigned for these horrors never to happen again. So, Marc Allgöwer, deputy editor at RTStweeted that when such things happen:

It’s that we have already lost

New star on social networks, “Yelena Osipova has become in a few hours the symbol of the Russian movement for peace in Ukraine”, explains Paris Match. Victim of prohibitions, in Russia, of “any act in favor of Ukraine”. “A fervent defender of peace”, she had also, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the historic siege, “drawn graffiti on a wall in her city, in honor of her friend Nikitina, whose entire family was killed in the ‘era”.

The first demonstration of “the grandmother for peace” goes back years, and her first arrests too. Asked by website, she explained in 2015, when her works were exhibited for the first time, having been detained several times for decades. “One summer there was the G20 summit here. I went with a poster that said, “Don’t believe in the justice of war,” and another about nuclear waste disposal. The police arrested me and it has happened several times since, sometimes even violently,” she recalls.

At the time of the annexation of Crimea, she also regretted that “fewer and fewer inhabitants were able to demonstrate, because of restrictive laws. People are staying at home, like in Soviet times. […] In 2020, another article from the same media recounted a new arrest of this artist, when she took to the streets to honor the 34th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. The police detained her at the station for three hours, confiscated her paintings and charged her with an administrative offence.” His story moved the writer and journalist Robert Savianoknown for having described and denounced mafia circles in Italy.

In fact, tell, Russians know Ms. Osipova as the woman who has been raising her voice against Putin’s policies for two decades. She demonstrated for the first time in October 2002, firmly opposing the violent approach of the Russian president during the hostage-taking, by some forty Chechen terrorists, of 912 spectators during a musical at the Dubrovka theater in Moscow.

Also read: To the challenge of faith (26.10.2002)

The Belgian site also recalls that “since the beginning of the demonstrations in Russia against the war, the organization for the defense of independent human rights OVD-Info estimates that 7,586 people were arrested by Russian authorities. These call on the population not to join these gatherings, which have been banned” under a very practical pretext:

The fight against the spread of the coronavirus

Humanity made of Yelena his “Woman of the day”, writing: she, who was “rocked by the memories of desolation and death told by her parents, did not hesitate. She came, together with other brave inhabitants of St. Petersburg, to demonstrate against Putin’s war in Ukraine. During her lifetime, she began to use hand-painted posters to draw attention to the tragedies themselves on the one hand and the lack of response from Russian civil society on the other. On subjects like the war in Iraq or the Russian bombardments during the Syrian civil war.

In 2017, a video also caused a sensation in Russia, which showed her as a defender of pacifism during the Victory Day parade, insulted by passers-by. Inflexible, she now more than ever embodies the critical opinion of Saint-Petersburg. But in the media, she was often incorrectly described as a “survivor of the Leningrad blockade”, which had actually already ended before she was born.

find all our press reviews.

Leave a Comment