Publishing my grandfather's letters 

by Tatyana Yassievich

My grandfather Nikolay Yassievich (1902 - 1976) was a Soviet artist. During WWII he went to the front. He was already in his forties, and had a teaching position at the Leningrad Art Academy, where he was working on his dissertation. Stalin had granted exemption from military service to graduate students, but he volunteered. From 1941 t0 1943,  he fought at one of the most dangerous locations on the front, the Oranienbaum Bridgehead, a small strip of land on the southern coast of the Finnish Gulf which remained in Soviet hands during the siege of Leningrad. 

Creation of the book

The book began in 2013 as a publication based on a previous project about the letters called Field Post. A Russian, Dutch and German team worked on the book. Among the special contributions were the introduction by Jessica Gorter, the director of the film 900 Days, Myth and Reality of the Leningrad Blockade, and the map created specially for the book by Zhenya Pashkina. James M. Boekbinder translated the letters and Jessica's introduction from Russian and Dutch into English, and helped write the biographical sketches and other texts based on the stories of my mother Irina Yassievich, family members and others, as well as our own desk research.

Significance of the book

For the youngest generation of students of European and Russian history, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get a general understanding of the USSR, which as a context is essential for research into more specific topics. For example, in our conversations with students, we notice that they find it difficult to determine whether and to what degree texts and sources are the product of ideological requirements imposed by the state, or represent the views of the authors. Authentic sources like these letters, annotated to provide context, can help them fill the gaps in their knowledge.

We hope that not only students, but anyone interested in the events of the war and life in Russia during the Soviet period, will find the book interesting.

Tatyana Yassievich 15 May 2017