Missing after World War II in Russia – volunteers “digging for their lives”

Officially, over four million people are still considered missing in action after having fallen on the Eastern Front during World War II, where about 26 million people lost their lives.

Illustration photo: German infantery before Stalingrad, September 1942. Wikipedia Commons

Illustration photo: German infantery before Stalingrad, September 1942. Wikipedia Commons

A BBC piece by Lucy Ash tells the story about volunteers examining the former battlefields, determined to give the soldiers a propper burial and a name.

Volunteer Olga Ivshina, serarching patiently with a metal detector, told the BBC that bodies are still laying where they fell “…the soldiers are waiting for us – waiting for the chance to finally go home.”, she said.

Her friend, Marina Koutchinskaya, has been looking for fallen soldiers during most of her holidays the last 12 years. “Every spring, summer and autumn I get this strange sort of yearning inside me to go and look for the soldiers,” she says in the article. “My heart pulls me to do this work.”

Personal stories of loss, hope, luck and dignity is what drives the voluneeters. Olga Ivshina told the BBC the story of Khasan Batyrshin, who was 21 years old when he disappeared on the battlefield in 1943. His family never gave up requesting information about him, but answers from the authorities were always the same: “No data found. Soldier missing in action.” However, even at the age of 105 his mother repeated that Khasan would come back.

Olga said that last year, during one of the final days of digging, Khasan’s body was eventually found. He had been hastily burried in a pit made by one of the thousands of shells that rained over the battlefield. Olga said: We found his ID tag. It is always a miracle, because many soldiers didn’t have them at all. And even those who did often didn’t fill them in.The piece of paper in his tag was neatly pencilled in. It was not easy to decipher, but after four hours, Khasan got his name back.

When his family got the news, the first thing they did was visit the tomb of Khasan’s mother to tell her. She had died a year earlier.

Read the full article here.