Russians take earth of Military Cemetery to Moscow

A soil sample of the Soviet Military Cemetery is on its way to Moscow. During an official ceremony a bag filled with this ‘holy earth’ was handed over to the Russians.

This morning Remco Reiding, who set up the Foundation Soviet Military Cemetery, scraped some sand off the graves on the cemetery. He put this in a ‘kislet’, a pouch. This he handed over to the ambassador and military attaché of the Russian Federation during an official ceremony.

The pouch filled with earth will travel to Moscow via diplomatic mail in the course of this month. There it will be added to a new monument in memory of the victims of the Second World War. The Soviet Military Cemetery in Leusden is one of more than 15.000 from which soil samples are being brought together.

During the war over 26 million Soviet citizens died, 865 of whom lie buried in the Military Cemetery at the Dodeweg. It is only in recent years that it received more attention, after the Amersfoort researcher Remco Reiding succeeded in identifying soldiers and informing their relatives of their fate.

“This ritual unites the soldiers with their motherland”, says Reiding. “But it also unites Russia and The Netherlands who fought the same enemy, the same evil. May this symbolic handover of Dutch earth to Russia contribute to an improvement of mutual understanding. And let it be a reminder that war above all harms people, regardless of nationality, religion or background.”

Mayor Gerolf Bouwmeester of Leusden stated in his talk that without the battles at the Eastern Front a successful allied invasion in Normandy could not have taken place. “The community of Leusden is proud to have these 865 heroes in its midst”, said Bouwmeester. “Rest assured that we will watch over them in the future.”

Ambassador Shulgin expressed his appreciation for the way in which The Netherlands cares for the graves of Soviet soldiers. He thanked in particular the municipalities of Leusden and Amersfoort, the Foundation Soviet Military Cemetery, Rusthof graveyard and the Netherlands War Graves Foundation which maintains the Military Cemetery.

The ambassadors of Armenia, Belorussia and the military attachés of Belgium and France also attended the ceremony.

Read here (part 1, part 2) the speech of ambassador Shulgin and here the talk by Remco Reiding.