Hoarding of food became a problem throughout the city. During the initial period of the siege a midwife, Fania Viktorovna, who was considered kind and generous before the siege, was asked again and again to perform abortions. The women, in desperate straits, brought her gifts of food, “which they could barely spare, and pressed it upon her to ensure they could obtain an abortion.” As her stock of food mounted so did her obsession with it. A family of six lived across from her, slowly dying from starvation; she still did not share a crumb with them. Eventually, her obsession forced her to sleep during the night at a downstairs neighbor’s apartment. Ironically, she would die there after succumbing to the fumes of a blocked stove. “After she died the concierge opened up her room – and found enough goods to fill a storehouse.” The food was divided amongst the other occupants of the building. Selfishness also began to take on a new meaning for Leningraders. Kyra Petrovskaya Wayne mentions how she carefully guarded her chocolate from having to share it with the others; she explains “I had no feeling of guilt about my selfishness. We Leningraders reached the point where sharing food had become a folly which could cost one’s own life.” For one child, not even familial bonds could overcome conditions of starvation and his selfish need for sustenance. “I watched my mother and father die. I knew perfectly well they were starving. But I wanted their bread more than I wanted them to stay alive. And they knew that. That’s what I remember about the blockade: the feeling that you wanted your parents to die because you wanted their bread.”
One mother, perhaps exuding both selfishness and selflessness, went to the desperate lengths of suffocating her six-week-old daughter so that she could feed her other three children. Within two months of the start of the siege, death from starvation began to be registered in hospitals throughout Leningrad. A survivor of the siege claims the private stocks of food the population supplemented their diet with “were exhausted toward the middle, or at the latest, toward the end of November.” In addition, rations were cut to their lowest in late November. It was at this point that famine conditions prevailed as workers were allotted 707 calories (compared to their norm of 3,500) and dependents 423 (compared with their norm of 2,800). By the end of December ration levels would rise, but it would not be until April of 1942 that they would reach a “minimum subsistence level.” If in November the first deaths from starvation were registered, by mid-December up to 160 bodies were found and picked up on the streets each day. Food scarcity forced industrial workers, men and women, to look out for alternative sources of food, including anything edible that they could get their hands on: “lubrication oils and greases, oilcakes, glues, leather drive belts” and spirits. Leather dust from tanneries was mixed with sawdust to produce “a paste that was added to so-called food patties.” Sheep guts were processed into jelly and flavored with herbs to disguise the smell.
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