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Road of Life

From Academic Kids

es:Camino de la Vida

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Supply trucks on their way to Leningrad on the Road of Life

Road of Life (дорога жизни - doroga zhizni in Russian) became the term for a transport route across the frozen Lake Ladoga, which provided the only access to the besieged city of Leningrad in the winter months during World War II (known as the Great Patriotic War in the Soviet Union) of 1941 to 1945. The siege of Leningrad itself lasted for 900 days from September 1941 to January 1944, as German and Finnish forces cut off all land access to the city. Over 1 million citizens of Leningrad died from starvation, exposure and German bombardments. The Road of Life began to operate on November 20, 1941 when the first convoy of horse-pulled sleighs brought supplies to the city. Shortly thereafter, the road began receiving truck traffic. Via the Road of Life, supplies could be brought into the city, and civilians evacuated to the still Soviet-controlled opposite coast. During the winter 1941-1942 the ice line of "Road of Life" operated for 152 days, till April 24. About 514 000 city inhabitants, 35 000 wounded soldiers, industrial equipment were evacuated from Leningrad during the first winter of blockade. While the road was protected by antiaircraft artillery on the ice and fighter planes in the air, truck convoys were constantly attacked by German artillery and airplanes, making travel dangerous. Some survivors therefore bitterly recall the route as a "Road of Death".

During the following winter, the Road of Life began to operate once again. On December 20, 1942 horse traffic began, and on December 24, 1942, motor vehicles began to operate. The construction of the pile and ice railway of 30 km long also began.

Subsequently, Operation "Spark" -- full-scale offensive of troops of the Leningrad and Volkhov Fronts -- started in the morning of January 12, 1943. After heavy and fierce battles, the Red Army units overcame the powerful German fortified zones to the South of the Ladoga Lake, and on January 18, 1943 the meeting of Leningrad and Volkhov Fronts units happened, opening a land corridor to the besieged city. Almost immediately, both truck and rail traffic began to bring supplies to Leningrad.

The city of Leningrad was still subject to at least a partial siege, as well as air and artillery bombardment, until a Soviet offensive broke through the German lines, lifting the siege in January 1944.

For the heroism of its population, Leningrad was the first city to be awarded the honorary title Hero City in 1945.

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