Born 1923 Novozybkov, Soviet Union
Interviewed In: Toronto, Ontario
Medals Awarded: Order of the Patriotic War (1st and 2nd Class), Medal for Defense of Leningrad and Victory over Germany In The Great Patriotic War
Senior Sergeant, 34th MPVO Battalion (Local Anti-Aircraft Defense Forces) 551 battalion (All Female) – Anti Air Defense Leningrad.
Liya moved to Leningrad with her husband before the war. She was drafted in March 1942 at 19, soon after the blockade began. Liya was part of an all female anti aircraft unit. The goal was to create an infrastructure that could anticipate Nazi air raids and organize strategic evacuations:
“I was drafted, the call-up paper came in on April 27, rather March 27, 1942. I was sent to MPVO forces, which is Local Anti-Aircraft Defense. After several months’ training we were given military ranks. I was given the rank of a senior sergeant”.
During The Siege Of Leningrad Liya’s job was to protect more than 2 million people living without food, water, and electricity from air strikes:
“By that time the entire city was divided into sectors. We became military. We were part of 34th battalion, local anti-aircraft defense. The sectors matched the militia divisions. One or two years later we became 351st detached municipal battalion. My post was a watch tower on top of a 6 storey building. There was a glass tower there, with a wooden wall. There was a diagram with German aircraft silhouettes on the wall. Our duty was report on the phone about the types and the moves of aircrafts. Secondly, we searched buildings hit with a bomb, looking for casualties in order to provide them the first medical aid. And thirdly, we called sappers if a bomb didn’t explode. I had to comb the building from the ground floor to the top floor looking for casualties because the shrapnel was scattered all around.”
Liya would also enforce the curfew in her sector, by patrolling the streets to ensure people were inside, with their lights off after dark:
“In the dark time of the day I patrolled my sector making sure there was a perfect black-out. Nobody was supposed to be in the street after 10pm if they didn’t have a pass, those were our responsibilities”.
After the siege was lifted, Liya would stand guard at military buildings in her sector. This was the only occasion she was given a weapon:
“We were given Canadian rifles. They were had been during the WWI. If someone approached the military warehouses, not knowing the secret password, we had orders to shoot. Besides, we safeguarded military garages. That was at the end of the war after the Germans had been pushed away from Leningrad.”
Liya lived in Leningrad with her husband before immigrating to Canada.