Stretching from St. Petersburg roughly 50 kilometers to Lake Ladoga, the Доро́га жи́зни or “Highway of Life” connects a series of small towns that lie outside of Russia’s second largest city.
The highway is more than a route for moving people and goods from the country to the city. It is a symbol of the enduring Russian will and their resiliency. In the siege of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) during World War II, the battered highway served as the only route for moving supplies and munitions into the city and evacuating people out. The siege lasted around 900 days at a cost of nearly 1.5 million Russian lives.
Today life on and near the highway stands in stark contrast to typical Russian city life. The challenges of the residents provide a bridge between modern Russia and its storied past.
I spent the summer of 2013 living and working on a dacha (a Russian country house/garden) in a small forest clearing. The area was clustered with a half-dozen dachas next to this storied rail line and highway. The people, and their stories of life and survival, happiness and heartache, and hope and despair are universal in many respects, but they are also unique and paint a picture of rural Russian life rarely seen by foreigners.
This presentation shares a few of these moving stories collected last summer that will be included in a compilation that I am developing.
Jerry Ray Byers, ’14
Blue Springs, MO
Majors: International Relations, Russian Studies
Sponsor: Lynne Ikach