Elena Filatova is a Ukrainian woman who gained some notoriety on the web for her remarkable pictures of the condemned zone around Chernobyl. Since posting those pictures (which I highly recommend), she has added more material to her site. One is a short photo set of the Orange Revolution, the event that has happily displaced Chernobyl as the world’s number one association with Ukraine. Another is her collection called The Serpent’s Wall, which describes her adventures as a camper and souvenir collector on the World War II battlefields around Kiev.
We get a steady diet of World War II nostalgia in the US, almost all of which, understandably, centers on campaigns with American involvement. But as Germans and Russians will point out, our war was much shorter than theirs and much less costly (more than that, ours was short BECAUSE theirs was long). The number of people involved in the battles of the Eastern Front simply boggles the mind. Filatova’s site lets you see through the eyes of someone from the Ukraine. I appreciate her pictures and her pithy no-nonsense prose. You learn that her favorite discovery isn’t a potato masher or a silver SS Death’s Head ring, but a box of German chewing gum. She also has a nice collection of personal photos taken by German soldiers during the 1941-1943 occupation of Kiev.
Even today, the war goes on killing. The landscape is riddled with bunkers, unexploded landmines, and artillery shells. Next to a picture of what looks like a twelve year old kid, she says, “Local boys are the best guides through the bunkers. In each village there is someone who lost arms, hands playing with the war toys. They are invalids of war.”