Thursday, February 6, 2014

Metal Detecting in Stalingrad

Russia also has metal detector enthusiasts. But whereas in Britain and France they look for lost Roman or Viking treasures, in Russia they look for the dead from World War II.
Seventy years to the day after the battle that changed the course of the Second World War came to its bloody climax, the earth of Stalingrad is still giving up its dead. . . .

Mr Deryabkin, a 38-year-old project manager at a tobacco factory, goes out with other volunteers every weekend to search for the remains of Soviet soldiers in the wheat fields and broken steppe to the west of the city, from where the Germans advanced. His group alone finds 200 bodies a year. Clothes have long since rotted away, but helmets, weapons and bones remain.

Some servicemen carried a small plastic capsule containing their details on a scrap of paper. Not long ago, Mr Deryabkin found just such a capsule on a soldier who had been shot dead through his helmet. "If am I killed, please tell my wife and parents," the young man had scrawled on his ID note. Miraculously, Mr Deryabkin tracked down the man's 97-year-old wife, and his remains were moved to a cemetery. If the volunteers are lucky, Mr Deryabkin said, they find other personal effects with the bones: an aluminum spoon, or a plate with a soldier's name carved on the back.

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