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30 Apr, 2010 14:20

“If it were not for books I would not have survived” – WWII veteran

RT presents War Witness – a special project dedicated to the 65th anniversary of the Victory in the Second World War.

World War II veterans recount their stories about the war, its effects and its human perspective.

Child of besieged Leningrad Nina Sigal remembered the days of the blockade and the books that saved her life, literally and figuratively.

“During the siege I would wake up in the morning and give my nurse Sophia a heavy old fashioned smoothing iron for her to get it on the stove when we had something to stoke it with. We heated with what we had – stools from the kitchen, bookshelves and finally books, especially the hard covers. They burnt really well. It was such a pity, of course,” she said.

“I was very fond of reading Don Quixote over and over again. Once I happened to take the ‘The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel’ because it had a description of a feast – just fancy that! After I had read my [copy of] Don Quixote I hid it in order not to burn it,” Nina Sigal added.

“Mainly, though, my day was filled with reading. It was food for my soul,” she said. “If it were not for books I would never have gotten through these horrible days of the siege.”

Robert Mendoza, who served as a code breaker for the Atlantic Convoy, recalled the moments when he thought that there were only a few minutes left for him to live.

“That when the Germans released over an area of several miles loads of floating mines and we accidentally found ourselves in the middle of them,” he said. “[The captain] slowly went between various mines and it took about nearly two hours before we got out of the mine field.”