After 80 years, survivors of the siege of Leningrad finally receive a pension

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Georgi Korobov does not have many memories of the siege of Leningrad during WWII, the German military blockade of the second city of the Soviet Union, again known as St. Petersburg.

“I only remember constant hunger and fear,” said the skinny 83-year-old. However, Korobov did not only survive the siege of Leningrad.

During the nearly 900-day blockade, the arms factory her father worked for, including all of its employees and their families, was evacuated to Stalingrad, a major industrial center that the Germans sought to bring under their control. control in another month-long battle.

Korobov was only three years old when the siege of Leningrad began, but it was not only war and hunger that threatened his family and that of his future wife Yulia Kinovskaya: as Jews, the prospect that the Germans take the city was much more serious.

Despite this, 27 years ago the couple decided to move to Germany to join their daughter and grandchild in the city of Wiesbaden.

Getting a fresh start was difficult as they did not speak German and their diplomas were not recognized. Living on a meager pension supplemented by social benefits, they felt relieved recently to learn that Kinovskaya may soon be entitled to additional compensation for the horrors she suffered under the German siege, which claimed the lives of around 1.5 million people, most of them civilians. .

Kinovskaya shows a blue painted teacup, one of the few items she and her husband were able to take with them from their home country when they moved to Germany in the 1990s.

Korobov and Kinovskaya couldn’t take much with them when they moved to Germany in 1994. Kinovskaya pulled out tea cups with a pattern of blue flowers, one of the few keepsakes from the couple’s past.

“Our great-granddaughter should have them someday,” Kinovskaya said, carefully picking up the pre-revolutionary porcelain.

The 89-year-old woman recently learned that she is now eligible to apply for a compensation pension for the Leningrad siege of survivors, thanks to the Claims Conference, an alliance of Jewish organizations that continues to negotiate reparation payments with the German government 75 years after the end of the war.

While a lump sum payment was agreed upon years ago, the payment of a regular pension is intended to provide longer-term support to now elderly survivors.

Indeed, many survivors have yet to receive support, typically as many in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union were unable to file claims during the Cold War.

Pensions for those who performed forced labor or for those who were forced to live in Jewish ghettos were only negotiated two decades ago. Much of the compensation process still involves identifying and struggling for recognition of different groups of survivors.

“Each year at the bargaining table, we work to identify, recognize and achieve some justice for every survivor and will continue to do so as long as one survivor remains with us,” said Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the claims division. Conference.

Ruediger Mahlo, the Claims Conference representative in Germany, believes the new pension is an important step towards justice.

“For almost three years, the people of Leningrad suffered indescribably during the German blockade,” he says. “For the Jews trapped there, there was also the constant fear that the city would be captured by the German Wehrmacht, which would have meant certain death for them.”

The additional monthly pension payment of € 375 (RM 1,792) would make a huge difference for survivors like Kinovskaya, who often live in conditions of poverty.

“For many, the question at the end of the month is whether to spend the money on food or medicine,” says social worker Valentina Sustavova, who also cares for Holocaust survivors in the city. Jewish community of Wiesbaden.

According to the Claims Conference, Jewish survivors who were in Leningrad for at least three months during the siege are eligible for the additional monthly payment.

“My mother was only 30 years old at the time, but her hair turned gray overnight during the air raids,” Kinovskaya recalls.

The community building they lived in at the time did not have a basement.

“During the German air raids, we all met in the stairwell and hoped to be spared.”

Fortunately, Kinovskaya’s mother decided to go into hiding in Russia instead of joining her grandparents in Ukraine. Kinovskaya’s grandmother was shot dead by the Germans, while her grandfather was buried alive in a mass shooting.

Kinovskaya, who lived under the German blockade for over a year before she could escape with her mother and sister on a train journey that lasted for weeks, says she hopes that with her new pension, she will finally be able to afford a good place. at the Philharmonie. – dpa


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