The war is not ended until the last soldier is buried. This phrase has become deteriorated from using too much, but still if you think over its meaning, than it becomes clear that we are still in the state of war and are very far to the decisive victory.
The price for the Victory
Due to historical reasons Ukraine in the middle XX century found itself in the thick of the most disastrous and slaughterous world war. Two times the front line went through its territory as the murderous Moloch of war hacking a great deal of people. Tens of millions of people died – such an enormous price our nation paid for our Victory. Six millions from them are itemized as missing to this day. Think it over – six million people were gone forever! It is a population of an average European state. It is somewhat less than in Sweden and somewhat more than in Finland. On the territory of Ukraine about the third part from the total amount of the people are considered missing. The trouble is that in reality these people did not disappear anywhere. And they lie in the fields, plantations and along the country roads. The grim truth is that Ukrainian land is still strewed with remains of the deceased soldiers and the most of people walk on this land without taking any care. The country forgot its heroes turned over their bones on the fields and sowed upper with corn and rape. It is necessary to find all these soldiers, to identify them if possible and to bury with deserved honors.
Nobody is forgotten, nothing is forgotten?
The problem of the search of soldiers died in the Great Patriotic War is not new for our country. As far back as in the Soviet time there were some enthusiasts, who did this work by themselves. Then it was a paradoxical situation. The Soviet state declared the motto: “Nobody is forgotten, nothing is forgotten”, but in practice it preferred to turn a blind eye to the fact that almost all the European territory of it is scattered with people’s bones.
Nothing has changed so far. In the course of the years of independence of Ukraine a lot of programs concerning the systematization of searching activities were written, but all that withered on the vine. Ukrainian state pretends that such a problem as tens of thousands of unknown soldiers’ burials does not exist. In this connection only one hope remains – for the enthusiasts who really care, who are ready to tackle this problem on their own authority and for their own costs. Fortunately there are people in our country, for them an admiration for the exploit of the deceased heroes is not a mere name. They spare neither leisure time, nor energy, nor money spent on the discovery, exhuming of remains of soldiers fallen on the battlefield and their reinterment with deserved honors.
Up to the middle of 90’s in Dnipropetrovsk region there acted some scattered groups, which on their own peril and risk handled with searching of Soviet soldiers’ remains fallen during the Great Patriotic War. In fact they were outside of legal environment. By that time a lot of searching people – unofficial figures came to a decision that it is necessary to legitimate, to regulate and to put under tight control and, the most important thing, to bring under a uniform system all the searching activities. In Ukraine some searching organizations exist that were able to gain official recognition from the state. One of them acts in Dnipropetrovsk region. Its name is “Poisk-Dnepr”.
To snatch from oblivion
In 1995 in Sinelnikovo city on the initiative of the known since the Soviet times seeker, Evgeniy Trushenko, searching public organization “Poisk-Dnepr” was legally registered for the first time a history. It was created on the basis of school search party of Red searchers acted from 1983. Already in 1997 on the basis of “Poisk-Dnepr” a same-name regional public organization in Dnipropetrovsk was created and in September of 2008 a search party from Kryvyi Rih was joined to it. All this time lieutenant colonel Evgeniy Trushenko has been its unchallenged leader.
“Poisk-Dnepr” has a legally admissible right to conduct searching works in Dnipropetrovsk region on places that used to be battlefields. It works hand in hand with local authorities. In the organization there are up to fifty active members, who handle both diggings and archival research. The organization is fully indifferent to politics. And whereas sympathizing persons from different political parties participate in its activities, all of them are knit together by one thing – a sincere respect to the memory of the fallen soldiers. The people of “Poisk-Dnepr” are a spectacular example of joining representatives from various layers of society and from various professions to achieve a noble aim.
“Poisk-Dnepr” did not get a kopeck from the state for searching and reinterment. The organization lives only thanks to personal finances of the searchers and sponsorship from indifferent people. Generally the participants of searching movement conduct works in old defense lines, where they find soldiers’ remains in the filled craters, fighting holes and rifle pits. A lot of them could not be even buried. They continue to lie in the earth whereon they overtook their doom. Thanks to the activists of “Poisk-Dnepr” organization, it succeeded to snatch these fallen soldiers from oblivion. Sometimes it is possible to know the name of the fallen person. It is generally thanks to finding in the remains related items thanks to which we can determine who the person is. There are personal household things, on which the name of holder is written or awards, from which numbers we can find out who they were given to. Very seldom we find a soldier's locket, the so-called "dead man’s info", or any documents and letters. Unfortunately so many years spent in land leave a mere chance for the paper to be preserved well. When it happens, the searchers consider it to be a great piece of luck.
The work conducted by the activists of “Poisk-Dnepr” organization is titanic. Only for some last years the soldiers of this organization exhumed about seven hundred soldiers and officers of Red Army fallen from August 1943 to March 1944 during liberation of Dnipropetrovsk region. A particularly large number of the deceased was found in Sophievka district.
Duty of conscience
How are searching works conducted? The legal searchers do not have any right to stick a spade into the earth without an official permit of State cultural heritage service. All official searching activities are followed by great many of documents. There are about ten different plans, permits, requests and act in all. Dnipropetrovsk regional Centre for the Protection of historical and cultural values oversees the work of the organization and helps it in every possible way. It will be observed that searching and exhuming of Soviet soldiers’ remains are performed not chaotically, but in accordance with a special dedicated plan. The searchers follow the “Plan of field works” and check in detail all the unsearched territory.
It is a difficult and thorough work, which the people from organization make consciously. All the team’s participants came to the searching movement at their hearts dictation. Almost each of them has a relative, who died during the war and now they give duty in conscience to the fallen. Before field searching a long work with archives is performed. The employees of archive – research department are in charge of this matter in the organization. They have the opportunity to access the museum funds of Dnipropetrovsk region. In addition, active work with using of Internet is performed particularly with the UBD (United Data Bank) “Memorial”. In this united electronic data bank information about the most of Soviet soldiers, fallen, died or missed in the years of the Great Patriotic War is kept. “Poisk-Dnepr” collaborates also with associates from Russia, countries of CIS and Baltic States.
After working in archives a field research is performed, in the course of it the places of possible remains’ location are set. The searchers try to reconstruct the picture of the battlefield and having rather wide experience they can sometimes constrict the search direction to the accuracy of some dozens of meters. Finally the site will be determined by metal detectors. Because near the fallen soldier one surely can find either a helmet, or deformed rusty arm parts, or scattered used cartridges.
It is a great pity that searching works in the phase of remains’ discovery are getting under the wheel of bureaucratic machine. When the place of a soldier’s location is determined, the searchers should get the permit for exhumation. This procedure can last for months. It is not worth explaining that during this time those, who are called by the legal searchers “illegal searchers” could come to the place. The “illegal” archeologists also learn with interest a history of the Great Patriotic War. However they have an absolutely other goal and it is far from honor. Illegal diggers search military rarities. These are foremost: ammunition, personal things, awards and other values, which could be sold thereafter at the illegal market or to private collections. It is well known that selling of antiquities is in the top ten of the most profitable activities.
Furthermore in the battle places a lot of ammunition is found. The findings of this sort can very often deprive of health, let alone the life of the person, who made finding. Even complete strangers can get hurt. A whole cohort of customer, negotiates, robbers and smugglers live from the illegal market of military artifacts. The existence of any conscience by such people is out of the question. To pull out a gold crowns from a skull or to take a pendant cross from the fallen is not unusual for them. The whole moral fall intensity of illegal searchers is clearly demonstrated on their websites on the Internet. Take the looters’ slang alone: “to strive for a bribe” (to perform the searching works), “to thump coffins” (to open the soldiers’ burials), “to grub up gold tooth caps” (to pull out the gold crowns), “to pinch the corpses” (to examine the remains of a fallen soldier if there are some valuables near the latter).
With their dirty claws the illegal diggers destroy our heroic history. Because they while digging the remains rob the most valuable things, thanks to them the fallen person can still be identified. In chase of military rarities they kill soldiers for the second time. For the first time they died physically, for the second – informatively. The most heinous is that the looters often leave bones and skulls of soldiers simply lie under the open sky. Time after time the searchers found the marks of barbarian excavations of illegal diggers. At the sight of such terrible pictures you begin to doubt in the moral health of the nation. Could our soldiers imagine that after 65 years after the Victory their bones and skulls would lie about in the tree plantations mixed up with beer bottles?
In contrast to illegal diggers, who do not care about the bones or remains, the members of “Poisk-Dnepr” document all their actions and perform the exhumation of remains according to all the standards of archeology. Photo – fixation is performed, the report about finding of remains and an act of exhumation is filed. If appropriate, the experts to perform the criminalist examination will be invited. A layout plan with positioning to the location and a list of found things will be made, the same concerns to the report about the works performed. This documentation is sent to the Dnipropetrovsk regional Centre for the Protection of historical and cultural values. All this heap of papers complicates the work of legal searchers, but they understand that otherwise it is impossible.
The searchers’ activity is not only hard physically, but very dangerous. While performing the earth works a huge amount of shells, mines, grenades and air bombs are discovered. For the last year were unearthed, passed and neutralized under handover acts about 1.5 thousand items of explosive ordnance to the officers of Ministry of Emergency Situations. The most of them were on high alert. A lot of them went already through the bore and their actuators were in the firing order. In fact this ordnance could have detonated at any moment. In a serious matter concerning the deactivation of lethal findings the organization “Poisk-Dnepr” follows the pyrotechnical crews of the Ministry of Emergency Situations. The organization “Poisk-Dnepr” works side-by-side with Dnipropetrovsk history museum named by Yavornytskyi. The unearthed rarities were often passed thereto for exposition. The matter is that except of soldiers’ remains the military archeologists find a lot of related things. For the most part these are fragments of weapons, ordnances, helmets, elements of ammunition. Unfortunately the time and our Ukrainian black earth are implacable to these findings – it is a rare luck to find something in a state of fair preservation. Except from Dnipropetrovsk museum, the searchers divide their findings among other organizations. So far the members of “Poisk-Dnepr” have delivered at various times the exhibits to the schools and local history museums. There is an active collaboration with representatives of Ukrainian Registered Cossacks. The evidence of this is a lot of grateful letters from other organizations.
The last ditch fight
Anyway, the main task of archeologists is not searching military rarities, but searching of Soviet soldiers’ remains, identifying them and their posterior burial with the proper honors. A huge consideration we give to identifying the remains and searching of relatives of the fallen heroes. Unfortunately every year it is more difficult to perform this task. Whereas till 90’s the searchers identified every sixth found soldier, now it is just one in a hundred. To identify the fallen person they use each slight clue, for example, initial letters on a bowl or name of the city, where a soldier was drafted into the army, scratched on the spoon. If to provide the information with clear linkages to the place of remains location into the Central Archive of the Ministry of Defence of Russian Federation, where there are record books of temporary burials, then it is more likely to determine the names of other soldiers.
Unfortunately not all remains of the fallen fighters unearthed by the searchers find immediately their peace in the memorial parks. Only this year the matter began finally to move forward. In the villages Menzhynka, Vysoke, Viyskove, Dniprovokamyanka and Bazavluchok during the spring and the summer of this year mourning ceremonies concerning the burial of more than six hundred of Soviet soldiers were performed. Just imagine: six hundred soldiers – it is four infantry companies, a fully populated infantry battalion. All of them before lying down under granite slabs laid for very long time marked and stacked in plastic bags waiting for their time. Generally speaking, the people, who are not indifferent to the searching movement, do not wait for the money from the state – they are successful in finding of some means. They do not need fame – during ceremonial reinterments they stand, as a rule, aside and few people remember about them. The searchers need only one thing: their activities in Ukraine become full-scale and systematic and the authorities and society help them by all means while performing this noble activity.
All of us should understand that that disastrous war which began almost seventy years ago is not ended yet and by burying some other soldiers we won only one battle in the war against lie, cynicism and indifference!