Luise Davies, who has died aged 91, described in her memoir Just Another War: How I Survived the Siege of Leningrad (2018) how, as a girl of 13 during the siege of Leningrad by Nazi troops, she watched her mother slowly starve to death. Her father was able to organise Luise’s escape in 1942, but was left behind and also died of starvation.
Luise was able to flee the city, travelled across the frozen Lake Ladoga, went from there to the Caucasus, and then across Europe to her mother’s relatives in Germany.
There, a few years later, she met Roland “Dave” Davies, who was serving with the British army in Germany, and they married in 1947. His regiment was posted back to England the following year, and the couple settled in Ilford, Essex, staying initially with his parents. Dave joined the civil service and they had a son, Michael.
Luise was one of the few remaining survivors of the Leningrad siege, which lasted for two-and-a-half years, from 1941 until 1944, and led to the death, from starvation and hypothermia, of between 500,000 and one million residents, according to different estimates. The true figure may be even higher.
In January 2019, the project Humanitarian Gesture was set up to help survivors of the siege and to establish a German-Russian community centre in St Petersburg, as Leningrad is now known. Luise’s memoir, which I helped to publish, was recognised as a valuable historical document and translated from English into Russian and German.
Michael describes his mother as having had a happy childhood before the siege. She was born in Leningrad to a German mother, Helene (nee Boegenhold), a legal secretary, and a Ukrainian father, Anton Posvistak, who worked in a chocolate factory.
She had to carry the emotional burden of the siege for the rest of her life. She was outspoken, something not everyone liked, a bit impulsive and a risk-taker at times, an animal-lover, and generous to family and friends in need.
After Luise and Dave divorced in the late 70s she moved to Spain, where she worked as a hotel receptionist and ran a boutique, remaining there into retirement and helping to run a local centre for stray cats and dogs. She returned to the UK, to live in Southend-on-Sea, in 2010. It was a joyous event when Luise met her first great-grandchild, born five weeks before her death.
She is survived by Michael, two grandsons, and her great-granddaughter.