I tried to write this article several times, but every time I put the papers in the drawer. I was doing so not because I did not know what to write about, I just did not want to bring harm to very good people, who were doing their hard and extremely dangerous work, which was necessary for everyone – the sappers.
There are cities in our country, which did not avoid any war, any invasion that were shocking Russia from time to time. The first position on the long list of such martyr cities is taken by the city of Volgograd. Millions of people died, when they were defending it. Hundreds of thousands of them have not yet been buried the way they should be. Thousands of tons of the military iron, which were left here after the latest two wars, are still slumbering in the long-suffering land, waiting for their hour. This military metal sometimes shows itself – either in a foundation pit, or on an agricultural field. This is the time, when we recollect about the sappers; and it was exactly what happened to me.
I have to say that my house is standing right on the same spot, where there used to be one of the defense lines of the city both during the Civil war and the World War II. This area has never been freed from mines completely. That is why I sometimes find in my garden the fragments of artillery shells, helmets, bullets and shells from all over the world – from Australia to Yugoslavia. I have already collected dozens of kilos of such things. There can be more serious things found too. Last year, after hard rain, I found an ingot of a 105-millimeter artillery shell, weighing 40 kilos.
But the thing that I found this year, was even more serious. Eight 152-millimeter shells were lying close to each other, barely covered with a very thin layer of ground and turf. The three of them had fuses and patterns, and there were also two empty jackets nearby. These shells were in a very good condition and they could explode, even if you touched them incidentally. Eight shells, containing almost 20 kilos of TNT each. If they blasted, they would leave a five or six meters deep shell-hole on the place of my house.
I was sometimes throwing the things that I found before in a swamp, but I had to show much more appreciation to this discovery. The sappers that I called, arrived a couple of hours later. To be more precise, there was only one real sapper among them. The rest of the people accompanying him, were the police officers.
The captain carefully examined my find. Having touched the ground with a probing rod ten or twelve meters around, he put the shells on the floor of the military vehicle, at which they arrived. Well, I actually had another impression of how the sappers should work – from the movies and documentaries. But there was nothing – no protection measures, no special vehicles, not guard – nothing. There was only the captain and an old military vehicle. “And what if it blows up?” – a driver asked. “We are not going to know about it,” – the captain answered without any allusion to a joke.
When he turned to me – I was standing paralyzed - he said: “You must be surprised? If I was taking the shells away from you the way I should, then it would take me two days. But I have two more occasions like that to deal with today, taking account of the fact we do not have either vehicles, or gas, or people. It is so good the president announced the anti-terrorist operation in the country, otherwise, we would not have even this truck!”
Three years ago I was begging the commanders of a neighboring military unit to take my dangerous discoveries away and destroy them. They never had any people, gasoline, vehicles. Once I had to do their job myself – to take the 76-millimeter splinter shell at the disposal of a military unit and give it away to the specialists. I have been sinking them in a swamp since then – this is a lot easier.
But the most important thing is not even that. There has been no complete mine clearing performed in my area, the mines and shells were basically found incidentally, when someone found them in the ground. There was a field in our settlement, it did not belong to anyone and no one cared a bit about it, but when they started building houses on it, the death, which was sleeping under the ground, became a hidden danger.
Since the military actions were taking place along the entire western part of the perimeter of the current Volgograd, all the new settlements, which were built on the outskirts of the city, are now like a delayed-action mine. I do not have any doubts: this mine will blow up one day. Maybe this is the reason why I got this new habit now - I carefully watch my step, when I walk.
Andrey Cherkasov PRAVDA.Ru Volgograd
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/01/04/35333.html
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