It is absolutely impossible to describe the devastation to the palaces and park surrounding Leningrad during the war. A few pictures will not be enough also. The palaces (except Oranienbaum) were completely destroyed (during the occupation the Germans used most rooms a toilets, most walls for target practice and even boarded their horses. As they retreated they bombed and burned everything in site). All the park statues were destroyed. The parks themselves were mined. The towns were destroyed. Not many people remained and those that did were home less. In Pavlovsk for example only one house in the town remained standing.
The Russian artillery had to fire on their own palaces and towns in order to defeat the Germans (it broke their hearts to do so).
If it had not been for the foresight of the Russian people to hide what they could and to transport out of Leningrad and the surrounding areas as much of their historical treasures as was humanly possible, there would be nothing left today.
If it had not been for the courage and pride of the Russian people to go out everyday to clean up after the destruction, there would be nothing left today. Women, voluntarily, would walk the park grounds to find the mines - at least one died every day in the grounds of Pavlovsk. And they cleared rubble from the Catherine Palace, the AP, Peterhof, Pavlovsk and many more every day for years saving anything that could be restored and anything that could be used as an example to create a new copy.
If it had not been for the many many Russian people who learned the restoration techniques of the old masters and then dedicated their whole lives to the painstakingly restoration work, there would be nothing left today.
A very good book to read is "Saving The Tsars' Palaces" by Christopher Morgan and Irina Orlova, 2005.
My heroes are Anna Zelenova and Anatoli Kuchumov but there are thousands more, even today.