Emily Van Buskirk "Remorse in the Blockade: Experiencing the Reality of the Other"
Intense physical suffering placed immense strain on interpersonal relationships of Leningraders in the siege: "So painful, so horrible was the physical contact between people that in the closeness, the proximity, it became difficult to distinguish love from hatred towards the one whom one could not leave behind," writes Lydia Ginzburg, author of “Notes of a Blockade Person.” Ginzburg postulates that after the siege, survivors' remorse was universal: “For those who lived through the blockade, remorse was just as inevitable as the changes in a dystrophic body. Moreover it was the most oppressive kind of remorse—the uncomprehending kind. A person remembers a fact and cannot resurrect the experience; the experience of a piece of bread, candy, which inspired him to cruel, dishonest, humiliating acts." My paper analyzes Ginzburg’s quasi-autobiographical, pseudo-fictional “Story of Pity and Cruelty,” which treats the remorse of a survivor over the death of his close relative, a “dependent” with whom the sacrificing hero was locked in an antagonistic battle during the blockade. This story helps demonstrate the fundamental importance of remorse both for an ethical concept of the self and for the compulsion to narrative essential to this self, while also testifying to the therapeutic effects of narrative. It is remorse that makes "facts" especially stubborn and drives a person to surround them with context. This paper examines the psychology of self-other relationships in the blockade, as well as the compulsion to narrative, through the prism of the experience of remorse. I will compare Ginzburg's "Story of Pity and Cruelty" to diary accounts of other blockade survivors.