Battlefield bounty hunters: the detectorists of eastern Europe

In the quiet of the forest, Aleksander holds a rusted pistol and turns it over. Others gather round to admire the handgun, each feeling its weight before shooting an imaginary bullet into the trees. More detritus of war is placed on a picnic table – a swastika-adorned badge, shards of shrapnel, a Soviet medal inscribed “Proletarians of all countries, unite!” The remnants of fallen regimes.

The men are among the thousands of detectorists across eastern Europe hunting for relics of the Red Army, the Third Reich and Imperial Russia. Beneath ploughed field and remote woodland is buried treasure from a turbulent, vanishing past. Even today, the war dead lie in these lands. Sometimes bodies are found.

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