As a teenager growing up in the 1960s I remember sitting around the campfire singing the folk ballad “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” As the campfire glimmered, sparkled and glowed, we would ultimately sing the painful fourth stanza with its melodic woe: “Where have all the soldiers gone? Long time passing. Where have all the soldiers gone? Long time ago. Where have all the soldiers gone? Gone to graveyards every one. When will they ever learn? When will they e-v-e-r learn?”
Perhaps some of you are already humming, but the purpose of my writing is to move beyond yesteryear’s summer in the woods, and touch upon an awesome future that is being given a preview in another set of forests and fields on the other side of the globe.
Americans are even now planning to fire up their barbecues and warm their tummies on hamburgers and hot dogs during the coming summer months. Yet there is another kind of warmth and glow emanating from the hearts and minds of a number of Russian folk far away from the great military spectacles found in Red Square commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Allied victory over the Nazi regime. This sneak preview with prophetic implications is found in the still and quiet of a long abandoned farm field. This pastoral setting is given color, light and meaning by Los Angeles Times staff writer Kim Murphy in an article titled, “A Somber Realization in Battlefields of Bones,” which appeared May 7, 2005.
The Valley of Death
The dateline is Mozhaysk, a Slavic word that is hard to pronounce for the English tongue. But it is here, in what is simultaneously called the Valley of Glory and the Valley of Death, that the annual thaw of spring brings forth an earnest search for the bones of 9,000 men who still lie buried in a long-abandoned collective farm field that is slowly being encroached upon by the surrounding forests.
Over 60 years ago, it was here that the Soviet Union’s 32nd Rifle Division, with its defensive back to Moscow, moved forward during the great counteroffensive of Soviet troops against the German foe.
What first appeared as a triumphant break through the enemy’s ranks, slowly became a noose around the Red Army as they had moved too far ahead of any support system. In February of 1942, the Germans slowly tightened the noose around the stranded division, and 14,000 soldiers were trapped by their foe. They were starved, frozen and ultimately slaughtered. Only 3,000 would get away.
The battle at the Valley of Glory and the Valley of Death, Mozhaysk, is credited in part with slowing down the German army enough to save Moscow. It is but one battlefield on what was that awesome and dreadful wall of despair called “The Eastern Front.” Reporter Murphy reminds us that nearly 26 million Russians died in World War II. That’s nearly 60 times the number of American deaths in the same war.
The chilling news is—some historians believe the death toll was even higher. The Siege of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) is famous, as is the Battle for Stalingrad (Volgograd); but it is here in a field of sod that we connect with the grim reality that no one truly knows how many actually died or where they fell. Unlike Allied military cemeteries with their neat rows of crosses and stars of David, it is believed many a Red Army casualty was buried in mud on the very spot that he fell.
Coaxing the field to give up its bones
Their spot of death has now become the place of search. The rhythm of the seasons brings the melt of snow and the thaw of ground. Two thousand victims have been recovered, but it is believed 9,000 yet remain. The searchers come with shovels, spades, metal detectors and probes. Each is used to coax the grassy field to give up its secrets—to give up its bones!
Murphy happened upon two weeks of work that uncovered the remains of 94 men. There were pelvic bones, skulls, ribs and knee bones lying on plastic sheets. Though many bones are found, many soldiers still go unnamed because the troops often considered it bad luck to carry the small plastic ID capsules. Thus, between the scattering of bones and the lack of ID, only one in 100 can be identified.
Murphy shared one of the “identified finds” of this year. The remains were almost “Pompeian,” captured in freeze-frame. This man’s ID capsule was in place, revealing him to be Pavel Potilysen, a 36-year-old soldier from the village of Bateni. His skeletal fingers were found clutching a pair of binoculars. His death seemed to have been caused by the shrapnel of an exploded grenade that left him frozen in death’s grip. Finding his name was encouraging to searchers, for most remains will not be identified.
In 1941 and 1942, Stalin put up a great wall of men to try to stop Hitler in his tracks. Modern historians are beginning to attribute Hitler’s defeat as much to the staggering number of men Soviet generals were willing to sacrifice as to the shrewdness of their battle tactics.
Yuri Smirnov, chairman of the Union of Search Teams of Russia, bluntly states: “It turned out there are not dozens or hundreds of thousands of people missing, but millions. It turns out that from Brest in the West to Sakhalin, the country is covered with bones. And I decided I should take time to look for these people.” It is often the case that people have a good suspicion of where the skeletal remains lie, but no one has the time to sift, and time is what it takes. Time to find men who were thrown into tank trenches, thrown into bomb craters or blown to smithereens when their corpses were used as barricades by their own troops to thwart the advancing German tanks.
Murphy gives not only an account of the dead, but of how the living honor those who have fallen. The operation is accomplished through many young volunteers who may have had grandparents in the war. Others are sent by parents who feel such an opportunity might have a life-changing effect on their wayward child. No matter where they are from or why they came, they are faced with the rigors of three-week stints of life in the forest and field camps.
Murphy captures the essence of the experience through the voice of Yevgeny Shtukaturov, a Moscow search club organizer who explains, “When the young person excavates remains with his own hands, his thinking changes completely. He begins to grow interested in his history.”
They need to be buried
One such young person is 14-year-old Igor Lazarev. He hails from Saratov on the Volga River, which was the home of the 32nd Rifle Division. Most of his friends can’t understand why digging would be interesting. He retorts: “I’m here to find soldiers that died here. They died for us. They need to be buried.”
But perhaps the most telling comment captured by Murphy is in the voice of 40-year-old Vladimir Kharlov, who traveled all the way from the Urals. Kharlov shares his keen insight: “You need to come here to do it, if only once. You need to bring this all through your nervous system, through your heart. You need to see it with your own eyes when a grandmother, after 60 years, gets the document that shows what happened to her husband, how she receives it with tears in her eyes. You need to see the people still waiting for news.”
Memorial Day is every day in the spring and summer fields of Mozhaysk. The noise and clatter of shovels and spades speaks well of a younger generation that not only wonders but does something to seek out “where have all the soldiers gone, long time passing.”
And yet these poor souls have not even “gone to graveyards one by one.” These young Russian volunteers desire to carry out a tradition as ancient as the biblical patriarchs of old, whose descendents would gather them to their people (Genesis 25:7-10 Genesis 25:7-10  And these are the days of the years of Abraham’s life which he lived, an hundred three score and fifteen years.
 Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people.
 And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre;
 The field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth: there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife.
American King James Version×). When it was all said and done, it was about gathering bones and placing them in honor so as to allow future generations to connect with the past.
There is something special about bones and their intimate connections. It’s been that way since creation, when Adam said of Eve, “this is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23 Genesis 2:23And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
American King James Version×).
Knowing family, caring for them in life and death, tells people about a person, about a family, about a nation. A resting place is not only about a tombstone, but it is equally a touchstone to the future, for each of us is a part of all that has gone before us. Honoring the dead gives us roots that anchor our existence in the topsy-turvy world that swirls around us and seemingly demands of us to only care for ourselves.
Another Valley of Glory and Valley of Death
Ultimately, it is only God above who can answer what lies below in the mud of Mozhaysk and all the battlefields of earth and sea that speckle this globe. It is only God who can answer the ballad’s earnest inquiry, “When will they ever learn?” It is only God who can supply the names to the nameless and not only restore their identity, but give them a new hope. The same God who knows the names of the unreachable stars of heaven and calls them all by name (Psalms 147:4 Psalms 147:4He tells the number of the stars; he calls them all by their names.
American King James Version×) is, once more, going to reach into the bowels of the earth and recover those who were lost and give them a name.
Did you realize your Bible speaks of another Valley of Glory and Valley of Death? Yes, another valley of bones! Ezekiel 37 is one of the great prophetic chapters of Scripture. It is one of the ultimate joyous events of prophecy that each headline and article in World News and Prophecy points you toward.
No article in this publication is an end in itself, but guides your mind and heart beyond the problems of today into the future God has planned, such as the moment God sets Ezekiel down in the Spirit into a valley full of bones (Ezekiel 37:1 Ezekiel 37:1The hand of the LORD was on me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the middle of the valley which was full of bones,
American King James Version×). It is here in this valley of bones that God directs the prophet to utter these words: “O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!… Surely I will cause breath to enter into you and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the LORD” (verses 4-6).
“Breathe on these slain”
And then an incredible reaction occurs. No probing, or hit-and-miss discoveries of human remains. No day-in and day-out coaxing of the earth to give up its dead. While the recovery effort in Mozhaysk is commendable, it is but a glimmer compared to what God will perform.
Verses 7 and 8 vividly declare, “There was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.” And then verses 9 and 10 describe the awesome glory of God’s visitation upon these unearthed bones: “Prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.”’… And breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet.”
Yes, a deliverance of the fallen, the lost, the unidentified to a new life. He will introduce them to a world in which “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4 Isaiah 2:4And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
American King James Version×). Yes, a day is coming when the question “When will they ever learn?” will be answered. For every effect there is a cause. The same prophet declares the reason in Isaiah 11:9 Isaiah 11:9They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
American King James Version×. “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”
Until that day, something small and meaningful is happening in the fields of Russia.
The good news and the bigger story is that it is but a harbinger, both in deed and name, of how God will reveal His unfathomable glory. It is the words of Vladimir Kharlov that capture the essence of God’s words in Isaiah 30:21 Isaiah 30:21And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk you in it, when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left.
American King James Version×, “This is the way, walk in it.” Kharlov points the way by urging: “You need to come here to do it, if only once. You need to bring this all through your nervous system, through your heart. You need to see it with your own eyes…” God speed the day when He says to all the bones, “Live!” WNP