For 872 days during World War II, the city of Leningrad endured a crushing blockade at the hands of German forces. Close to one million civilians died, most from starvation. Amid the devastation, Olga Berggolts broadcast her poems on the one remaining radio station, urging listeners not to lose hope. When the siege had begun, the country had already endured decades of revolution, civil war, economic collapse, and Stalin's purges. Berggolts herself survived the deaths of two husbands and both of her children, her own arrest, and a stillborn birth after being beaten under interrogation.
Berggolts wrote her memoir Daytime Stars in the spirit of the thaw after Stalin's death. In it, she celebrated the ideals of the revolution and the heroism of the Soviet people while also criticizing censorship of writers and recording her doubts and despair. This English translation by Lisa A. Kirschenbaum makes available a unique autobiographical work by an important author of the Soviet era. In her foreword, Katharine Hodgson comments on experiences of the Terror about which Berggolts was unable or unwilling to write.
Lisa Kirschenbaum is professor in the Department of History at West Chester University. Barbara Walker is associate professor in the Department of English at the University of Nevada, Reno. Katharine Hodgson is senior lecturer in Russian at the University of Exeter.