After the war…

Sometimes I sit and think about how stupid man is what all will he think up in order to send someone else to the gods?

When I came out of the forest after the battles, our family was hiding there, I saw them here. At home there were fallen soldiers, around the house. They were blown up, and the smallest breeze brought an unbearable stink of rotting human flesh to the entire region. My father and I rolled them down the stairs, and we tossed them into the grenade-torn ditches that were all around. I heard that story many years ago. I paid no attention then, but it stuck in my memory.

Soldiers have been buried near a farmhouse. How many? From which army?

We don’t know. We stand and look at a meadow. Approximately there. The possible location of the grave is somewhere in a territory that measures some 200 square meters.

We make two control digs. The sand content of the second hole shows that the black earth has been mixed with yellow sand. Maybe here? maybe? someone? at some time? dug? something? At a depth of approximately 1.5 meters, the shovel hits against something hard. The black sole of a boot appears a moment later. So! It’s only a black edge looking at us from the hole of the ditch. We’ve found the place. Judging from the condition of the boot, we can make some judgements about the condition of the remains of the soldier.

After 30 minutes we already can see five half-rotted boots, chaotically dumped. Undeniably these are Soviet soldiers. The tank protectors on their feet are not worn out, which suggests that the last owners of the footwear had just recently received it. We dig up a pile of cloth, pressed together, from a soldier’s uniform. We get the feeling that this cloth was thrown in separately. From rotted pieces of uniform three shells fall out, stuck together. Apparently there was a pocket there. Centimetre by centimetre we open up the grave. The sand that is tossed out is sifted once again. The tines of a rake dig out some teeth. There are no skulls, just a few pieces. On a black cellophane sack we gradually arrange black bones one, two, several dozen. I look at Diggers the bones and think about the relatives of these men. Perhaps someone is still waiting for them? They are here, young boys whose still immature bones have in most cases already turned to dust. The unworn soles? Perhaps this was their first and last battle? Everyone says that it was their first battle. No matter the stupid politicians, strategists and military leaders. A small, nasty piece of metal destroys you in a moment, destroys your thoughts, destroys the destinies of a few dozen other people. After five hours the work is done. We’ve found the remains of three lost soldiers.

Personal property? Six tank soles and a bit of rotted cloth. That’s it.

Vikctor Duks

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