Dona Nobis Pacem / by Rob Fleming

Grand Hall, St. Petersburg Philaharmonia. *Not my photo.

Grand Hall, St. Petersburg Philaharmonia.
*Not my photo.

Today, St. Petersburg marked a painful, joyless anniversary.

74 years ago today, German troops completed their march across the Baltics—blockading Soviet Leningrad (St. Petersburg) and severing the city’s food, transportation & energy lifelines.

During the lead-up to war, some residents escaped. But with the Nazis’ arrival, 2.2 million people became trapped in their own city; surrounded by Hitler’s army, they were cut off from the rest of the world and forced to fend for themselves.

For 2 1/2 years.

Without food. Electricity. Heating. Or running water.

Disease ran rampant. All the while, the German army pelted the city with endless sprays of air and artillery bombs.

1.5 million people died of starvation, the brutally cold weather or bombing raids.


I attended a moving concert tonight at the glorious Philharmonic Hall.

The composition—“The Last Message,” for orchestra and 80-voice male chorus—illustrates the futility of war (and the humanity of its fighting soldiers) via handwritten letters from the front lines of WWII.

No matter the Theater of War, the letters are essentially the same. Letters written in English. Italian. German. Japanese. Russian. French. Chinese. Turkish. Hungarian. Greek. 

“I love you, I miss you, I hope to see you soon.”

Fittingly, the final, futile hymn is in Latin—the universal language, the mother tongue: Dona nobis pacem—Grant us Peace.

* (Not my photo)