President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Dear veterans! Respected friends!
January 27, 1944 is truly a historic and memorable day for our people. Like last year, I feel that I must be here with you on this day.
65 years have already passed since the day when Leningrad was fully liberated from the blockade. The Fascists thought that this besieged city was doomed. But Leningrad persevered, and it persevered thanks to the people gathered here today, and thanks to those who are no longer with us.
The blockade was a tragedy affecting millions of people, one of the most horrifying and cynical crimes of the 20th century. Even the bravest of people recount this event with tears in their eyes. And at the very end of December 1942, addressing the people of Leningrad, Olga Berggolts said, “after a year under a gruelling seige, our spirits have not weakened and we have not lost faith; instead, we have become stronger and more confident, warm-hearted, loving of each other, simpler. The source of our moral strength comes from the great spiritual experience of our people, the national character that has evolved throughout the centuries of our history.”
I am very happy to see the defenders of our city here in the audience. You not only gave Leningrad a second rebirth; you gave all of us, the descendants, an amazing lesson in bravery and selflessness.
Yesterday I met with Daniil Granin and presented him with the highest national honour. He and an enormous number of other war veterans have a clear understanding of the nature of that tragic time: that during that period, the people who were able to save themselves were those who, first and foremost, saved others.
On August 9, 1942, in the Great Hall of Leningrad Philharmonic Society, Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony was performed for the first time. The performers were assembled in an unusual way, through announcements over the radio that all of Leningrad’s musicians were to report to the Radio Committee. Rehearsals began in the spring of 1942, and the opening night took place in August. And if there had not been such opening nights, there would have been no January 27, 1944, nor May 9, 1945.
Dear friends! Respected veterans! I see the social support of veterans as one of the main objectives of our government, an objective that we will fulfil consistently and precisely, regardless of any financial difficulties.
Everyone who has been awarded the medal “For Defending Leningrad” and “Resident of Leningrad during the siege” receives monthly payments and monthly allowances. The people who lived in the besieged city – military retirees and victims of the siege – receive two pensions. This is a good thing.
But there are many unresolved problems, and the government knows about them. Those are the very problems that we discussed today at the Victory Organising Committee meeting. We talked about how to prepare for May 9, the celebration of our great Victory, and we talked, of course, about other current business. In May of last year, I signed a Decree on Providing Housing to All Veterans of the Great Patriotic War. This issue will be resolved by May 9, the 65th anniversary of our Victory.
There is one other very important topic that we discussed today with the organising committee: the restoration of Great Patriotic War monuments, monuments of which there are many in our country and which must be under constant surveillance and care by the government. We must also look after memorials and burial grounds with equal care. That is our sacred duty, and we will certainly carry it out.
Dear friends! Everything that happened in Leningrad under siege will forever rest in the hearts of an enormous number of people living in our country, as well as people living beyond its borders. This memory must be passed on from generation to generation; after all, it is a truly heroic memory for our people. It represents pride for our historic past. It represents mutual support, compassion, and grace.
Dear veterans, I thank you from the bottom of my heart! And I once again sincerely congratulate you and all the residents of Saint Petersburg on the Day of Lifting the Siege! I wish you health and prosperity!