During the Great Patriotic War
, the Nazis laid seige to the Russian city of Leningrad
. Refugees had swelled the city's population to over two and a half million. Life during wartime
became especially difficult when a German air raid destroyed the city's Badoyev food depot. As the winter of 1941-42 approached, the inhabitants were placed on starvation rations.
During that winter Leningrad bread meant life for the occupants of the city. But with the food depot destroyed, the bread only contained 40 or 50% grain, the rest was filler of wood chips, grass, glue, paper or virtually anything organic and edible. The bread was accompanied by a "jelly" made from sheep intestines and calf-skins.
Under the rationing system a blue-collar worker was entitled to 250 grams of bread each day. A white-collar worker or a dependent received just 125 grams. These meager rations meant everyone lived on the brink of starvation. On Christmas Day 1941 the rations were increased by 75 grams. The people took to the streets in jubilation, but still, a quarter of the population - over 600,000 people - died that winter.
In that dark winter many Russian mothers faced a Sophie's choice; choosing life for one child over another. Hoping that a Leningrad bread ration meant for two might keep one alive.
Today Leningrad is known as St. Petersburg. The city has two dozen bread factories - none of them bake Leningrad bread. But you can find the St Petersburg State Museum of Bread Baking.