In the last weeks before the trip I had to do some serious repairs to my old car and with just two days to spare it was finally ready for a roadtrip. I built a mountain of food for my cats and instructed my brother to check up on them before I plotted the route into the GPS and sped off towards the Baltic states one early Sunday morning. Next morning I found the ferry in Helsinki and a few hours later I could park the car at the Legenda HQ and was welcomed by our Boss, Talis Esmits. We spent a couple of hours chatting and drinking coffee before he dropped me off at Duksi who took me into Rigas beautiful Old Town. After a quick shower at the hotel I strolled towards a bar and soon found some of the other diggers. We spent the next days eating good food, drinking some beer and enjoying the sights of the city. Soon we were all gathered except a few who couldn`t make it for different reasons, and Tuesday evening we raised a glass for them and went to sleep relatively early coz next morning it would all begin.
One of the Latvian diggers, Vlad, had earlier discovered what could be a large massgrave in the forest on the Machinegun Hill outside Riga and we headed there to investigate it further. The WW1 battles around this hill had been heavy with huge casualties on both sides so it was a good chance we would find fallen and lost soldiers between all the battle discards and old trenchlines. Vlad showed us the spot he had found a fallen soldier and Talis ordered the forest floor cleaned and test pits opened. The sandy soil is easier to dig than clay, but we soon got warm and sweaty and after an hour or so the first bones poked out from the sand.
In the evening at Radi we had a good time together with laughs and good food and some well deserved rest.
The work in the trench was successfull as at least 3 soldiers were found, one of them had a numbered Red Army award on him together with a vallet with remains of paper money and a soldiers book. A smaller group of diggers had went to another section of this frontline and found a German soldier with several big pieces of shrapnel stuck in his bones. So all in all it was a hard but successfull day when the evening finally arrived.
Back at the resort Kristine had prepared the barbeque for us and we had a very nice time together even though the mosquitoes was feating on us.
Saturday morning I woke up early as I often do, and being out on these expeditions makes my dreams very strange, so I was happy when I found George waiting for coffee, and we sat in silence looking at the mist dry up in the morning sun. Today was a big day, the reburials of the Red Army soldiers we exhumed last spring expedition. These events are very emotional and rewarding. Usually the reburials are financed by the Russian government, but for some reason they wouldn`t this time,so Legenda had to take the cost, ofcourse it pains the economy of a volunteer group like this but it is our mission to bring the soldiers home so we did it with a smile.
A group of diggers went out to the cemetery earlier to prepare the grave and coffins and when the rest of us arrived we were met by a lot of people. Journalists, embassy workers, relatives of the fallen and others who wanted to take part in it. Regina read out all the names of the soldiers before the priest held his part of the ceremony and then Legenda carried the coffins into the grave before we covered them with the soil. Then pine branches and flowers were placed on the graves. It is impossible to describe how this feels when it is you who have found and exhumed the soldiers for then to bury them, it has to be excperienced. It is a full circle and one is part of the history and these families forever. Rest in Peace for all these young men that fell in combat so many years ago.
Next morning was the time for wet eyes, lumpy throats and the see-you-next-times. Always a sad day. We jumped into the vans with our belongings and on the way to Riga we made a stop at the German Cemetery in Saldus to pay our respects. We had a few hours together in the Old Town before people left for their flights and the group grew smaller until we were just a couple left. I hope it wont be long till we all meet up again my friends.
I want to thank all you guys who made the expedition possible, all the Legenda guys,the other Latvian search groups , the Lithuanian team and the Russian searchteam we had company from. I hope to see you all again very soon.
Until next time, Keep Smiling,stay dirty, and do good things.
First one begins at 19:09