It was in Russia that he met his wife Irina, and named his newborn son Dmitry, in honor of the son of the first Soviet soldier whom he found.
Back in 1998, the editor of the Amersfor newspaper "Amersforte Courant" in the Netherlands asked one of his journalists to find relatives of Soviet soldiers who died in Holland during the Great Patriotic War, buried in the city of Amersfoort. The young sports correspondent Remco Reiding took up this business. By that time, he had already been to Russia and, literally, fell in love with our country, so this task aroused hot interest in him.
First of all, Remko was faced with the fact that little is known about the “Soviet Field of Fame”. The search was made difficult primarily by the fact that in the local archives, for some reason, the names of the deceased were indicated in Latin. He picked up documents, archives, found the sources of the necessary information. Now he is perhaps the only person in the world who knows almost everything about the “Soviet Field of Glory” in the city of Amersfoort.
Cemetery "Soviet Field of Glory" in the Netherlands was officially opened on November 18 1948 of the year. The 865 of our soldiers, each of whom has its own gravestone, is buried there. Some of the gravestones contain only the number and the inscription “Unknown Soviet Warrior”, but most still have names, and sometimes dates. Most of these people are considered missing in Russia and the former countries of the Soviet Union. Thanks to the search for enthusiasts from this list are no longer missing.
The main difficulty was that there were almost no documents left where the address would be, the name of relatives or some other thread that could lead to relatives in the homeland of the deceased.
At first, even intensive work with archives, lists and military documents did not bring any fruit. More than once the young correspondent dropped his hands, more than once he asked himself why he was doing this. But, being a stubborn man, not abandoning even the most difficult unfinished business, he continued out of sports habit - to bring everything to its logical conclusion. He made inquiries to the governments of the Netherlands, Germany, Russia, the military departments, tried to attract people in his own home, in the Netherlands. Until finally, in February, 2000 did not find the first family, relatives of Vladimir Batenko from the city of Yalta. And, perhaps, it was only then that Remco Reiding realized at 100 percent that his work was not in vain and, moreover, the results were worth all this effort. And he also understood that this task had long ago outgrown for him a kind of commitment to this world. A commitment that he perceives as his mission on Earth.
Following the first family of the deceased, the second family was found. There in Ukraine, but in Alushta. And Remko went to Ukraine to bring the long-awaited news of the missing soldiers in the family. During the month stay in Russia and Ukraine, Remko has accumulated a lot of interesting information and materials. And then he decided to publish a special supplement to his newspaper, in which he placed articles about the cemetery, his stories, their research and the first happy results.
The release of this supplement to the newspaper aroused interest in the "Soviet Field of Glory" and the work of Remco from other residents of the Netherlands. Volunteers appeared, the authorities stepped up the search, residents of the city of Amersfoort began to visit with a blessing a beautiful, well-kept cemetery of unknown, unfamiliar Russian soldiers.
Soon another, but really unexpected success - in the archives of a hospital in Germany, Remko found a whole stack of “Burial certificates”, where there were names from his list. It was so possible to find out the addresses: the truth is, there were not many of them. And it was a rare good fortune.
It should be noted that, even at the beginning of his search, all those buried in Amersfoort were divided into three groups.
The first group: deceased prisoners of war of the Amersfor concentration camp - 101 people.
The date is set when the first Soviet soldiers hit this camp - this is 27 September 1941 of the year. They were brought here in cattle cars.
The Germans wanted to show to civilized Europeans as a propaganda campaign what kind of "beasts" these Russians were and therefore for this purpose they chose a 101 man with a narrow cut of eyes, as the researchers suggest, these were military men called up from Uzbekistan. Thus, the Germans wanted to sow panic and disgust among the local population towards the Russian soldiers. And it turned out the opposite.
When, after two weeks of transportation, their hungry people were driven across the city to the camp, the residents of the Dutch town really were horrified by what they saw: some of them tried to transfer bread, water or fruit, but the German guards were not allowed to do that. And the horror in the hearts of people was not from prisoners of war, but from what kind of monsters turned out to be the German liberators, who used batons to beat emaciated, exhausted people.
Within five months, in less than a year, 24 people died from exhaustion, illness and bullying. And on 9 on April 1942, the remaining 77 soldiers were taken to the field, promising to be sent to another camp, and shot without giving a reason. The German propaganda machine broke down: the Dutch showed extreme disapproval of the inhuman attitude towards the prisoners.
According to eyewitnesses of the tragedy, they were shot in groups of four people. Just did not want to drive the prisoners to another camp. Bodies dropped into a common pit. Now on the spot of execution in the forest belt there is an obelisk - a stele, which the locals also call the “Russian monument”. The names of all the prisoners are not known, and there is no hope to ever know them.
Dutch journalist was able to find live witnesses. He met with Gerring Kleinfeld, a police officer. Together with his colleagues, Kleinfeld interviewed hundreds of witnesses. Their stories were combined into a general interrogation record. At home in Doorné Kleinfeld keeps several copies of the protocols, but the evidence of the prisoners and camp staff is probably much more.
"And about the Russians, too, of course," says Kleinfeld, smoothing his hand with neatly combed up gray hair.
Speaking on his favorite topic, Kleinfeld does not tolerate objections and claims that among the prisoners who were shot were war correspondents, although information about this could not be obtained.
Some sources say about a hundred Russians sent to the camp, others report about one hundred prisoners of war.
"One hundred and one. This is an exact figure, says Kleinfeld. “We exhumed so much of the remains of the victims.”
Despite his venerable age, he is a wrestler. Now he is completely absorbed in the creation of a worthy memorial at the camp site. It is unbearable for him to think that the POW camp has not taken its proper place in history. Where there were the mass graves of the prisoners of the concentration camp, including the Russian soldiers, which he excavated, based on the testimony of the arrested camp commander Karl Berg, there is now a golf course.
And people come to honor the memory only to the place of execution of 77 prisoners, which is in a completely different place.
Every year, exactly at half past five in the morning - this is the time of the shooting - many activists come here and light exactly 77 candles in memory of the dead Soviet soldiers. Sometimes a cello plays here, and relatives of the victims come in hopes of finding their loved ones.
Local resident Wanda Dijkstra has been a trustee of one of the gravestones (the name given to people who care for graves) for many years has thought how hard it was for mothers who lost their children or husbands and do not know that they found their last refuge here in a quiet Holland. And here is what she wrote:
“I think you are as old as I am.” Maybe you wear a scarf. Maybe you have grown a beautiful daughter who fills you with pride. Maybe you have more than one child. Maybe you also have a son who has his own children and he called one of them in the name of his grandfather who went to war. He will never return from hell. And no one will ever know how he died. But we know. This place is in the forest, far away from Holland. You don't know what 9 was April 1942 of the year, but I can tell you everything, because I know his name. I do not know who he was, and I do not know who you are. But I'm here for him, for your grandmother, for you. He is not forgotten. I light a candle for him and put more 76 candles in memory of the other dead. I want it to be known there, in far Uzbekistan. Your grandfather died here, and I think about him.
The second group consists of soldiers re-buried from October 1947 to May 1948 from the American cemetery located in the Dutch city of Margraten - 691 people. At the end of the war, a prison hospital was located in the village of Lüdenscheid, Germany. Most of the soldiers were sick with tuberculosis and, not having survived (sometimes a few days before Victory), died in the spring of 1945. These “burial certificates” were the initial source of the search. Our soldiers who were dying there were buried in the nearest cemetery, which was originally American and was located in the city of Margareten. Two years after the war, the American authorities began to put in order the burial places of their compatriots. It was then that a decision was made to re-bury all the warriors of other nationalities in the cemetery, where there are graves of the dead from these countries. So the place of reburial for the Soviet soldiers was chosen as the city of Amersfoort.
The third group is 73 people, reburied from different places in the Netherlands.
When the research work in the Netherlands began to clear up, the journalist first turned to the Russian government. The administration of three Russian regions at once rendered effective assistance: the Rostov and Belgorod regions of the Krasnodar Territory. In the Rostov Region, we managed to track down the relatives and friends of the three dead. A Dutch journalist went to them. He was to visit: the city of Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, Taganrog and the village of Sinyavskoye Neklinovsky district. At the same time in a short time and without knowledge of the Russian language.
It is hard to say how an enthusiast from Holland would solve this problem if the search engines from the Rostov regional club “Memory-Search” and the committee on youth policy of the Rostov region again did not help him. They contacted the relatives of the victims, found a transport and an interpreter.
First, Remko went to the city of Kamensk-Shakhtinsky. His sister and niece of Konstantin Khodyakov who died in 1945 year were waiting there. Kostya was taken to the front from a military school in 1942 year. He just turned 18 years. On the way to war, he drove home for a few days. This was his last meeting with his mother and sister.
When in August last year my sister got a call and was told that her brother’s grave had been found, she could not even believe that after so many years this was possible. And so she met with Remco Reiding, a Dutchman, who found her and brought sad information, the truth about Kostya's fate.
The second address is Taganrog. Found a cousin of Konstantin Pilyuchenko, who died of tuberculosis in February 1945, in the village of Vlodron in the Netherlands. He was 20 years old.
The last stop in the Rostov region was the village of Sinyavskoye Neklinovsky district. Here, for many years, the news of Peter Belyansky were awaited for his three children: two daughters and a son. And then, finally, they waited.
It is noteworthy that almost every year the names of unknown soldiers become known.
In 2003, Remco Reiding received an award from the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation "For active search work." In 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a letter of thanks to Remko Raiding on the eve of 9 May celebrations for his great, painstaking work, thanks to which the names and names of 200 soldiers are known today.
So Muscovite Lydia Petukhova learned that her father, Red Army soldier Tikhon Salnikov, who was considered missing, was also buried in Holland. Remco also managed to find his relatives. They did not receive any messages from their father from the front. Daughter does not remember her father: she was born in 1938 year, and he went to the front in June 1941 year. He was captured in July 1941 of the year, died of 17 tuberculosis in May of 1945. And although on the tombstone is the name of Shal'nikov, despite this mistake, the Dutch search engine was still able to find out about another soldier’s fate.
It is noteworthy that the fate of Remco turned in an amazing way, thanks to the longtime task of the editor in 1998 year. Almost the day before, he buried his mother and was in deep despair, which unwittingly pushed him to commit suicide, and he thought about it seriously, but the real thing, suddenly, radically turned his view of this life. He realized that he bears much greater responsibility than he assumed and is responsible not only for his life, but also for those unknown people who have been waiting in their homeland for years and do not fully believe in their death in the most brutal war of the XX century.
An excerpt from the book by Remco Raiding:
"Thursday. Morning. Not just Thursday morning. Today, 4 May 2000, Holland recalls the unfortunate who died during World War II.
At the grave of Vladimir Botenko is a short man with silver-gray hair. The man slightly bows to a stone on which the name of his father is carved in Cyrillic. Today, on Thursday, after so many years of hope, they are together again.
Almost fifty-nine years ago, at the recruiting station, the father kissed his son goodbye, and now Dmitry Botenko is standing at his grave. He does not hold back tears. For the first time since Dmitry found out that his father was found, he, always so seasoned, cannot cope with himself.
“God, what a nightmare you had to go through,” Dmitry says to the father with pain and diligently wipes the gravestone with a handkerchief.
Dmitry brought some land from his mother’s grave in Yalta and now lovingly scatters it around Vladimir’s stone. Then he fills the empty bag with Lesden land to take to the grave of Alexandra. Soon this woman, who had waited for her beloved husband to return in vain for years, will rest, as it were, in the same land in which Vladimir lies.
I look at him a little distance, tears coming to my throat. For the sake of this moment alone, it was worthwhile to endure all the perennial difficulties. For the first time on the Soviet Field of Glory in Losden, a living relative of one of the 865 tortured Soviet soldiers stands. Son at the grave of his father. Who could have believed it a couple of years ago? ”