Updated: Jan 10
As an international group we are lucky to have supporters, members and followers all over the world, some of our videos now receive well over a million views from over 100 countries.
We thought it would make for an interesting short story to hear from some of these people and see if others out there would like to add to how they heard about us and what we do.
Of course, the place to start is with one of the co-founders of Legenda, Talis Esmits, as its probably one of the most common questions we get asked is about how and why the group do the challenging work we choose to do. In an average year we will recover over 1,000 soldiers and have since our founding in 1999 recovered around 20,000 soldiers, but there is still plenty more to do, as Talis says...
“I’m a farmer – when a farmer ploughs a field, he starts from one side and keeps going until he finishes it or collapses – that is a farmers nature. This work won’t be finished until the last soldier is found but that won’t happen in my lifetime. There are sadly 10,000s of soldiers left and I won’t finish ploughing this field myself’.
The trauma of war and the scars it leaves are of course well known but the recovery of the missing, even many years later is now known to help heal those psychological scars. One of our supporters Alexis is an advisor to the United Nations Development Programme, his career has taken him around the globe from Liberia, Libya, Somalia and Sierra Leone in Africa to Pakistan to name just a few and as he states.
“In my humanitarian and development career, I have worked in many countries in crisis and post-crisis situation. I reside in a post-genocide country in Africa, namely Rwanda, and I have learned that, in addition to all that might have negatively impacted people’s socioeconomic life, missing loved ones and not finding their remains, have a devastative common denominator to affected families and friends. I have followed very closely the amazing expert work accomplished by Legenda in assisting the Latvian Government to geo-localize and find missing people victims of WWI / WWII and it procured within me a huge hope that very soon this will help our Governments resolve a long pending issue including the inextricable psycho-trauma situation of families and friends who lost hope in finding and burying their loved ones with dignity.“
This background is interesting as it feeds to the very heart of this sensitive issue and to the families of those directly affected. Barbara Simpson is a follower and supporter of the group whose family and indeed her own past are directly and intrinsically linked to events in Kurland.
Barbara’s story is going to feature as Part 1 in our new series of blog posts ‘The Missing of Kurland – Cases Studies’ but some of her thoughts I will share here as they are so relevant to this article.
‘My German mother, pregnant with me, had had to flee from the advancing Russian Army in West Prussia : my Wehrmacht father died in Kurland, in November 1944, according to an eye witness, a fellow soldier, who saw him die from his wounds.
Being the daughter of a Wehrmacht father killed in November 1944 I shall never know for sure if his remains have been found, or ever will be. All I can do is hope ... I am a ‘Legenda’ fan, because they are doing what must be done… I believe that when you give your life for your country you should be entitled to a decent burial and some acknowledgement… Thanks to Legenda, I do not feel as alone, as I once did. May all those who died RIP, as they deserve to ...Their families will not forget them. Thank you, Legenda. No other cause is more worthwhile.
There is so much more to this story and one we are excited to tell in the near future…
As stated we are incredibly humbled to have gained the level of support we now enjoy, both in numbers and quality of people from around the world, we are a small close knit team and try our best to do the right thing in difficult conditions.
Colonel David Carson MBE served as a reservist in the British Army and wrote to us in regards to the work we do.
‘Without your efforts these soldiers would have no known grave and their relatives would only know that they were missing in action. Allowing them to be given a proper burial and where possible their name on a grave marker which is so very important, and restores dignity to them in death, after years remaining lost and unknown.''
''I have some experience of practical Archaeology, and from what I have seen and read you carry out your excavations with care, and respect the remains you uncover. You take great care in recovering evidence of identity in terms of personal items. You are also most importantly liaising with the appropriate authorities in dealing with any unexploded ammunition and ordnance.
I am also impressed that there is no attempt to turn this venture into one of financial gain by the selling of any of the items you excavate, and that you either donate to museums or keep these for future research and display. Having served as a reservist in the British Army, I understand how important it is to give all soldiers regardless of which side they served on a proper burial so that their sacrifice is never forgotten.
Thank you for all that you do on behalf of the fallen, and I hope one day to be able to visit one of your excavations.
We also hope David that in the future you will be able to join us, the pleasure would be all ours.
Finally, having opened with Talis I think it’s right we close with him as he shares his final thoughts on this piece...
‘Soldiers who have been left on the battlefield, their graves forgotten, have been betrayed’.