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Volgograd Journal: For Russians, 75 Years Later, Stalingrad Is a Battle to Remember

VOLGOGRAD, Russia — Like every Russian schoolchild, I grew up learning about Hitler’s murderous advance into Russia during World War II, and how it was halted at the Battle of Stalingrad — a critical turning point in the war.

The fight raged for 200 days, and the city was reduced to ruins. Civilians who couldn’t evacuate starved, some eating rats and clay. Resistance to the German onslaught was fierce as the defending army had no choice but to fend off the attack or die standing, following Stalin’s order: “Not one step back.”

At the end, a population that had been half a million was just 35,000.

Since the war, the city has been completely rebuilt, and in 1961 was renamed Volgograd, an effort to erase Stalin’s legacy. But memories of the fighting, 75 years ago this year, are strong. Volgograders walking the streets or going to work pass by many kinds of memorials to those who sacrificed their lives.

The main memorial is the Mamayev Kurgan complex, over which towers “The Motherland Calls,” a statue that symbolizes the common mother of all Russians leading them to engage in battle. Visible from almost every vantage point in the city, the statue is a powerful reminder of the price that Soviet people paid to defeat Nazism.

Source: NYT > World

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