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In the book, City of Thieves by David Benioff, it is set in a time where their city is under complete chaos. Lev Beniov, the main character living in the middle of the brutal Siege of Leningrad, January of 1942. German soldiers surround the Russian city, food is scarce, and hope is shredding thin. Lev, a young boy alone in the city while his mother and sister have been evacuated, but he has volunteered to remain, working as a volunteer firefighter because he is too young to fight.
He and Nikolai Alexandrovich Vlasov, or Kolya for short, have been sent on a mission after being imprisoned by the German military. Lev was caught after taking items from a dead German pilot and Kolya deserted the war.
In order to not be executed, the two are told to find one dozen eggs in Leningrad for the Colonel’s daughter’s wedding in six days. Throughout Lev and Kolya’s mission they have many obstacles to face which is why they are being rewarded freedom in return.
Lev and Kolya have finally got their eggs for the Colonel and they are headed to him when they are being shot at close to Soviet lines. They duck for cover while screaming they are Russians and that they should stop shooting. Kolya has been shot and is put in a car to be rushed to the hospital but because of so many delays, he dies on the way there. Lev still brings the eggs to the Colonel and is awarded with two new officer-grade ration cards and his freedom.
This book raised a lot of questions in my head while I was reading. I was very eager to read what happened next. During this time, the city was harsh and a bad place to be. Many people were scared and there were certain rules the civilians had to oblige by. The city had a curfew which I was curious about but while reading I pieced together that most countries involved in a war had a curfew, that is an hour until which civilians were allowed to walk freely about the streets. After that hour, the civilians were supposed to return home and stay there until the curfew was over. Being in the street during curfew was dangerous since a person could be shot and killed by the soldiers trying to protect the city. Because of this, Lev and his friend became scared when they realized that they would be caught outside after curfew and decided to run but Lev was caught by the military and sent to prison.
There are a lot of historical factors during this time that I did not know before reading this book, City of Thieves, the action in the book takes part at the end of the Siege of Leningrad, in 1944. The siege lasted from 1941 and it greatly affected the city and its citizens. Shortly after the siege started, the city ran out of food so the government issued ration cards for each individual. The food given to the people was not enough for many so they had to find other ways to get food. Some began to eat the library candy, made out of books and cellulose and other people claimed that the dirt they were selling was actually food. Other people, like the giant in the novel, resorted to cannibalism in order to survive. All these facts are in the book as well as the countless deaths that were during the war and the way the people in the city became unaffected by death.
What the Haymarket shows is symbolism during this time, when Lev and Koyla were sent to get eggs, they went to Haymarket, the only place where contraband produce could still be found. Lev described the market as he passed through it and the items they were selling. The people were selling boots taken from the dead soldiers or dead people in the street and jars of dirt some were trying to sell as being food. This describes a horrid picture of the city, a picture that has no other choice but to eat dirt in order to survive.
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