22 forgotten lives.
World War II left an indelible mark upon the history of Ukraine. Millions of human destinies, both past and present, are connected with the most destructive and destructive war: those who witnessed it, those who read about it, and who grew up hearing stories from older generations. And there is still so much physical proof – an ground full of human remains (millions waiting for the exhumation of soldiers to be carried out), shells, and ammunition — that while the war officially ended on September 2, 1945, its effects are still keenly felt.
Members of People’s Memory Union (https://unm.org.ua) are dedicated to keeping memories alive. We are often asked by members of the public to help find a brother, father, grandfather, great-grandfather – missing or killed during the war and bring them back home. We also get tips from the public who’ve accidentally stumbled upon human remains somewhere and are not sure what to do with them.
Recently, a local from a village in Kobelyak district (Poltava region) reached out to the Eternally Alive detachment (Kremenchug) with some information about a solider’s grave. We immediately decided to check it out. So, we met up with the informant, who rode along with us to a landing a couple of kilometers from the village.
Work began as usual:
– Check with a metal detector
– dig a preliminary pit
– look for hints of remains
This time, it turned out that it was a much larger grave than our contact even realized. As time was short, we needed to call in reinforcements!! Within a couple of hours, our Kryvyi Rih team from the Search Dnepr group promptly arrived to help their comrades out.
Together, we exhumed 22 soldiers, a relatively large find considering that it was based on an uncorroborated tip. Strangely, we found very little apart from the bodies themselves: only two Soviet coins from 1938 and a couple of PPSh-41 cartridges. We didn’t find any fragments of clothing or uniforms at all!
Searchers suspect that this burial site may be a medical burial site, as evidenced by fragments of crutches metal and wooden tires a little ways from the burial site. Also, one body had a German bullet lodged within its chest, another with a tourniquet wrapped around his leg, and another victim with both of his legs amputated.
After doing some research, we came to the conclusion that the burial was most likely made in the summer of 1943 at the Battle of the Dniepr.