In February 2020 I went for a walk with Tommy my German Shepherd dog in the forest that surrounds our country house. We had walked a long way and yet I still decided to clamber up the steep and inaccessible banks of the River Nara. Unexpectedly we came across places that were hard to reach with fallen trees and dense shrubs constantly blocking the way. I should also explain that during the fall (autumn British English) of 1941 Moscow’s line of defence passed close to where my country house is now situated and the surface of the earth is a reminder of this by the smooth outlines offormer trenches, dugouts and different size shell funnels. I purposely chose the more difficult path to test my own physical strength as testing oneself is always a useful exercise.Small black tubercles suddenly appeared in the distance obviously not of natural origin. Of course I was interested to see what they were ... anddrawing closer, it became clear ... several helmets lay partially in the ground in front of me damaged by the corrosion of time! I could not believe my eyes, they were scattered not far from each other along a flat depression, a former trench. Furthermore a skein of rusty barbed wire lay half in the ground!The soldiers had fenced the territory during the war to create a ‘thorn’ making it inaccessible to the enemy. After standing for a while and reflecting about what I’d found, coming to the realisation that I’d come across real artefacts that had remained in this tragic place for as long as 79 years, I silently stood and honored the memory of the fighters before deciding to return home having captured the place and the finds themselves on my camera.
Having spoken to my friends about my discovery in the forest, someone suggested making something from the objects I’d found dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the Victory over Fascism, and the idea was born to create an art object. Without hesitation, I started to implement the project. With a pencil in my hands, matches - as auxiliary sticks for modelling, I managed to put the future obelisk together on a small table. Having agreed with my friend about helping me get the bundle of barbed wire out of the ground and transporting it to my workshop, we went to his place. We agreed to meet at the location as we live far away from each other, he was on his quad bike with his children and I was on foot.Having reached the approximate location first, I had to make three loops, one kilometer in distance but I still could not find the place. When we all met up together, we still had to walk around a couple of times searching for our historic find. The exact place seemed to have disappeared. Eventually it was the children who spotted the very same tubercles shouting loudly about it in the forest in their shrill voices!
I had brought a candle which I put next to the coil of barbed wire and helmet, thereby honouring the soldiers’ memory. Well then we undertook to dig out the wire, which had been well preserved, but the empty space around it was densely filled with earth and the weight of the wire was incredible. Nearby, digging literally half a hole with a shovel, we found used and "whole" cartridges, a fragment of green bottle glass, a broken pot. Having collected everything, we just about managed to drag our findings to the ATV and transported the invaluable load to my workshop.
To complete the task, I had to cut out the inner part of this dense conglomerate of wire with the ground,increase the skein’s inner diameter by freeing it from dense, compact soil. Several attempts were unsuccessful, but nothing’s impossible!After a lot of effort a lightened skein of barbed wire lay in front of me! Now it remained for me to implement the work of art. For this I prepared three wooden beams, which I had purposefully aged, giving them years of appearance on the surface. The meaning was as follows ... the ‘hedgehog’ that was used to defend against tanks was made from three blocks of wood, the intersection of which symbolically pulls together a coil of real barbed wire. Three "hedgehog legs” are mounted on to two similarly aged wooden beams, shaped like an arrow which marked the movement of troops on the maps. There are three candles at the end of each beam and the fourth encloses the plot of candles symbolizingthe four long years of war. I placed the artefacts I’d found on the surface of the bars lying across.. cartridges, mutilated by explosion, part of a bowler hat and the soldier's helmet. I completed the entire process by sendingphotographs of the object to my friends.As a result my friend Nikolai Kanavin offered to make a "Crown of Thorns” from barbed wire and symbolically placed it on top of the helmet. Having carefully completed this task, the barbed wire has still retained its natural effect and has remained very prickly. I carefully placed the "Crown of Thorns" on the helmet. My eyes filled with tears at this point and even now recalling this episode my eyes are welling up. The dreadful image of the tragic and heroic past events plays out in my head. Taking the camera in my hands, I took some photos and when I developed them I could not believe my eyes ..... a rainbow is clearly visible above the helmet with the "Crown of Thorns", and not just off to the side but exactly above it !!! A MIRACLE!
How can one not believe in miracles now?
That’s the entire story behind my latest creation and I’d like to think that it deserves more attention and publicity.
And so look what happened.
Чеглаков Александр Дмитриевич, Москва, апрель 2020 г.