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The SSU Zonal Scientific Library contains unique diaries of the war years – five volumes of bound yellowed sheets printed on a typewriter. For all four years of the war, they were conducted almost daily by the scientific secretary of the library, Anna Nikolaevna Grozevskaya, who then became the deputy director of the library for scientific work. It was these documents that formed the basis of the book And There Was a War ... (Turning Pages of Military Diaries), prepared for the 75th anniversary of Victory at the publishing house of SSU. The book became the winner of the regional competition "Best Books 2020". Readers were struck by how incomprehensibly the history of one small cultural institution in the country – the SSU Scientific Library – reflected the spirit and realities of that time.

The author of the book is Irina Vladimirovna Lebedeva, a specialist in interlibrary relations at the ZNB SSU, who headed the library from 1999 to 2019. Presenting her work, she says: "This is an expression of my respect for the history of our library, pride in it."

On the eve of Victory Day, we asked the author of the book to tell us what impressed her most in these diaries, which we will return to again and again…

– I know these bound volumes well from a young age. Back in 1973, when she came to work at the library, she answered the commission's question about which documents attracted special attention without hesitation: "Diaries of the library of the war years". I am from the family of an officer who went through the war from Leningrad to Berlin and was wounded. After graduation, my father became a career soldier and served in the army for decades. I was born in Leningrad, my birth certificate says: the city of Leningrad, Kronshtadtsky district. My father held senior positions, and also lived in military towns in the Baltic States, so my childhood was spent among the military. For me and my family, the military theme is special.

I've known Anna Nikolaevna Grozevskaya pretty well since the 1970s. She is a historian by education, and an ascetic by lifestyle. In her living room, books and manuscripts on the table were the only, main and natural decoration. She was infinitely devoted to her work, unpretentious to working conditions, honest and uncompromising. So her diaries are devoid of emotional coloring: they are distinguished by accuracy, restraint, and authenticity. Actually, this makes them a genuine reflection of the life of the library staff during the war years, recreates the real situation of those years.

The 1941 diary begins with an entry dated May 28. I'm flipping through it, trying to slow down time... to that fateful date. Our colleagues who worked in the library did not have such knowledge. And here is this entry: "June 22, 1941. At one o'clock in the afternoon, the news of the outbreak of war with Germany was received in the library. At 3 p.m., a meeting for readers and library staff was held in the general reading room."

And then there are hundreds of pages about how the war changed people's lives, how they learned to live in new conditions. 600 people were sent from the university to the active army. The scientific library also saw off its men to the front – the artist A.I. Shchelgachev, carpenters N.P. Tyukhtyaev, I.P. Mikheev, A.I. Baskakov, the caretaker I.V. Panchenko left to fight.

It is impossible to tell about all the events of those days, I will focus on the most significant ones. The library staff mastered agricultural work, harvesting firewood, digging trenches. Or, for example, such an entry: "In September, library staff participated in unloading a coal barge. Each employee unloaded a ton of coal." If you remember that they were mostly women… They sewed warm quilted trousers and sweatshirts for our soldiers from material purchased with their own money in the store, worked on cleaning urgently under construction workshops at the Ball Bearing plant, participated in clean-up work at various facilities. And throughout the years of the war, they worked in 13 Saratov hospitals – they gave out books, organized exhibitions, and cared for the wounded. A permanent section will appear in the reports: "Library services for hospitals."

The work of the scientific seminar continued in the library during the war years. It is amazing that in this most difficult time, people had an amazing thirst for knowledge, for a book. In the diaries, one after another, there are reports of crowded library halls.

Meanwhile, the situation was becoming more and more alarming. "Since 9 a.m., the III building of the SSU, in which the library is located, has been declared under martial law. There were two air alarms; library staff, members of the self-defense group, performed their duties according to the combat schedule." There are many such records.

Not only people, but also books had their own difficult history during the war. Even before the war, the library received parcels with books ordered by scientists from Saratov University from cities that soon found themselves under martial law – alas, we know what happened to the libraries of the occupied territories. These same books turned out to have a happy fate: they were carefully stored in our library and were returned home after surviving the occupation in the "evacuation in Saratov".

I cannot but mention the rescue of the books of the German Pedagogical Institute of the Republic of Germans of the Volga region, which was closed due to well-known events. Books from the unique scientific library were on the verge of destruction, they were in a barn at the stadium in Engels for almost two years. How much effort has been made to start sorting them out. For two weeks, the books were loaded manually by library staff and several three-ton cars were taken across the Volga River crossing to Saratov.

Many libraries today live, work, and develop successfully thanks to the "literary donation" of the National Library of the SSU during the war years. From the section of the diaries "Sending books to restored libraries" we learn in numbers about the invaluable contribution of Saratov employees to the cultural fund of the country.

At the same time, people experienced constant hunger (according to the cards, each library employee received 400 grams of bread) and cold (in the winter of 1942, the temperature in the rooms was from minus 8 to minus 18. "... Entries in readers' forms were made in pencil, and houses were circled with ink, because for 4 months in the library room with ink it was impossible to write, they froze on the pen. Books were processed at home, for this they were handed over to employees on receipt, and they were sledged home and back to the library. Bookkeeping and subscription workers had swollen hands from constantly working with frozen books."

I admit that it was not easy to read the diaries, not only because they were printed on bad paper, with a very worn-out typewriter tape, but also because of the huge emotional impact they have despite their restraint and conciseness.

I can't help but tell you about another story. We are talking about the evacuation of Leningrad University to Saratov in 1942. Then Vera Alexandrovna Artisevich, who was acting rector of SSU at that time, met them at the station. LSU students and teachers traveled that harsh winter for two weeks in unheated wagons, with almost no food. Exhausted and weakened, many were carried out on stretchers. One of the oldest professors of our university told me that Vera Alexandrovna gave everyone who was carried out on a stretcher... an orange.

When a piece of bread caused incredible happiness, an orange was probably not only a vitamin, but also a symbol of life for these people. It turns out that they were waiting for them here, thinking about them.

To my great joy, this story turned out to be true, it was later confirmed by Olga Dmitrievna Golubeva, Deputy director of the Russian National Library, who then arrived in Saratov in a group of students.

With every year of diary entries, we are getting closer to our Victory. The life of the library is beginning to improve, the funds, including the rare books fund, are returning to their places. The life of the team is noticeably changing. The supply of food and industrial goods is improving, and the library premises are being renovated.

If at first I wanted to slow down the reading of diary entries, when my colleagues of those years did not yet know about the beginning of the war, then I wanted to quickly flip through the diaries of 1945 in order to bring this date closer.

From the memoirs of A.N. Grozevskaya: "The news of the unconditional surrender of nazi Germany is spreading at the university; professors P.V. Golubkov and Ya.Ya. Dodonov report this after learning about the news from foreign radio broadcasts. Now the news is reaching us. Our mood is joyful, festive, the current work is not glued. We alternately go down to the second floor to the physicists and listen to the radio... we also alternately run to the train station, there is a large loudspeaker on the square, continuously reporting the details of the surrender. We go home at five o'clock in the evening, we hurry home to the loudspeakers."

MORE EPISODES OF THE BOOK And There Was a War ... (Turning Pages of Military Diaries)


Reading a newspaper in a sponsored hospital (from the book)


Text by Tamara Korneva, photos by Dmitrii Kovshov

Translated by Lyudmila Yefremova

About other projects of the ZNB SSU – in the article The Book Tells You about the War