The Second World War is called the ‘Great Patriotic War’ in Russia for a reason: it has been estimated that at least twenty seven million Soviet citizens lost their lives. The hecatomb of the Great Patriotic War was the largest public sacrifice in the nation’s history. It is thus all the more surprising to encounter some of the sanguine sentiments expressed in the wartime poetry of Olga Berggolts, whose greatest work was inspired by the experience of living through the Leningrad Blockade. ‘We were so happy’, she writes, for example, in “Leningrad Diary”, a poem written during the cold months of January and February 1942 and dedicated to all those defending her city during the siege; ‘We radiated such stormy freedom, /That our grandchildren would envy us’. The fact is that during the war years, everything was simplified. Russians lived in a black and white world of ‘us’ and ‘them’ (that is, the enemy threatening the nation’s destruction). To quote the remarkable Blockade Diary written by the literary critic Lidia Ginzburg, another outstanding female survivor of the Siege of Leningrad, ‘life was cleansed of substitutes and hoaxes’. After decades of paralyzing fear, the trials of war set the people of Soviet Russia on a journey of self-discovery. It was perhaps inevitable, then, that the brilliantly gifted composer who was Dmitri Dmitrievich Shostakovich would find a way of expressing this cleansing and self-discovery in his music when he came to compose his Seventh Symphony.