A typically untraditional place to visit in Saint Petersburg is the Piskariovskoye Memorial Cemetery (Пискарёвское мемориа́льное кла́дбище), located further away from the center of Saint Petersburg. In order to get there you will need to take both the metro and the bus.
The cemetery contains almost 500,000 Russians in 186 mass graves who died during WWII in siege of Leningrad. To give you some history, the Leningrad siege is one of the most devastating times in Saint Petersburg’s history. In fact, there has been no city in any part of the world that gave so many lives for victory as Leningrad did. For over 2 and a half years the Nazis kept Leningrad under siege, but despite it all Leningrad did not give up. More than a million people died during the siege and tens of thousands died during the evacuation.
Entering the cemetery, on the upper section is the Eternal Flame that stays lit for the thousands that died. From the granite staircase is a central alley that faces the common graves. Each of them has an oak leaf and the date, mainly 1942, when the most people perished. For the perished citizens there is the year of their burial, and a hammer and sickle. For those in the army, there is a star. At the end of the alley there is a monument to the Motherland, which portrays a mourning woman – a symbol of all of the mourning mothers. However, the face of the woman not only shows sorrow, but also courage for the future, and pride for all of her children who gave their lives for the victory. She holds a garland of oak leaves, walking towards the graves. Behind her it is written, “Nobody is forgotten, nothing is forgotten.”
For myself, it was a poignant and vivid reminder of Russia’s suffering in WWII. It is a powerful place which really stunned me as I thought about how half a million people were buried around me. To put it in perspective, about 400,000 Americans died in WWII, the Vietnam War, and the Korean War combined. Even now has I write these words, trying to put my thoughts and feelings down, it’s hard to stomach. I can’t help but to think of every person that is buried there, and to think about what could have happened if they had survived. Would there have been someone that could be the next Ilya Repin? The next Alexander Pushkin? Who knows. It’s one thing to say that war is horrible and tragic, but it’s another thing to actually stand next to a mass grave of 10,000 people. If anyone is in Saint Petersburg, I insist that going to this cemetery will be unforgettable experience.