Photo by Vova Pomortzeff Новая страница 1
 

Forgotten Prisoners of the Great War

Documentary photo project by Vova Pomortzeff

One hundred years ago, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophia were assassinated by Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo. One month later Austria-Hungary declared war against Serbia. Four days later Germany declared war against Russia. The First World War began. Only Serbia lost in the war a third of the male population. Millions of people were killed at the fronts, while other thousands and thousands died of starvation, exhaustion, poor hygiene, and epidemics in captivity as prisoners of war. The largest Austro-Hungarian POW Camps were located in the present day Czech Republic. Cemeteries were growing up rapidly next to the each of them. On the eve of the First World War anniversary, documentary photographer Vova Pomortzeff spent several months visiting all important burial places in the Czech Republic, where Serbian, Russian and Italian prisoners of war were buried. Many of these cemeteries are abandoned for decades, while some others have became victims of not very skilled improvement works before the centenary.

1. Broken and fallen tombstone of Serbian POW Čedomir Glišović at the abandoned cemetery of the former Austro-Hungarian POW Camp Heinrichsgrün near the town of Rotava in Western Bohemia, Czech Republic.

The Heinrichsgrün Camp was the largest Austro-Hungarian POW Camp during the First World War. Approximately 30,000 prisoners of war, mostly Serbs, but also Russians and Italians, were interned here. Every day around 40 men died of exhaustion and epidemics and camp cemetery spread out rapidly in the nearby forest. Almost 4,000 prisoners of war were buried here. In the 1920s, about 2,300 Serbian POWs and some Russian POWs were exhumed and reburied from the cemetery to the Mausoleum of Serbian and Russian Prisoners of War in the nearby village of Jindřichovice. At the present time, at least 1,000 Serbian, Russian and Italian POWs are still buried at the abandoned cemetery in unmarked graves.

 

2. Fallen column of the cemetery fence covered with moss at the abandoned cemetery of the former Heinrichsgrün Camp near Rotava in Western Bohemia, Czech Republic.

 

3. Broken tombstone of Serbian POW Dušan Nedeljković at the abandoned cemetery of the former Heinrichsgrün Camp near Rotava in Western Bohemia, Czech Republic.

 

4. Concrete cross at the abandoned cemetery of the former Heinrichsgrün Camp near Rotava in Western Bohemia, Czech Republic.

 

 

5. Mausoleum of Serbian and Russian Prisoners of War in the village of Jindřichovice, Western Bohemia, Czech Republic.

The mausoleum designed by Russian architect Vladimir Brandt was built in 1925–32 by the Yugoslav government on the place of the former Austro-Hungarian POW Camp Heinrichsgrün. In the 1920s, 7,381 Serbian POWs and 189 Russian POWs were exhumed from different cemeteries in Czechoslovakia, include about 2,300 Serbian POWs exhumed from the nearby cemetery of the Heinrichsgrün Camp, and reburied in the mausoleum. In 1938, the remains of 89 Serbian POWs exhumed from several transit camps in the Netherlands were added. Totally 7,659 victims of the First World War are buried in the mausoleum now and this is the largest burial place from the time of the First World War in the Czech Republic and obviously one of the largest in Europe.

 

6. Russian journalist Konstantin Gerbeev examines wooden coffins with remains of Serbian and Russian POWs in the underground crypt of the Mausoleum of Serbian and Russian Prisoners of War in Jindřichovice, Western Bohemia, Czech Republic.

 

7. Wooden coffins with remains of Serbian and Russian POWs in the underground crypt of the Mausoleum of Serbian and Russian Prisoners of War in Jindřichovice, Western Bohemia, Czech Republic.

 

8. Funeral processions in the Heinrichsgrün Camp seen in old photographs exhibited in the entrance hall of the Mausoleum of Serbian and Russian Prisoners of War in Jindřichovice, Western Bohemia, Czech Republic.

 

 

9. Mausoleum of Yugoslav Soldiers in the Bezručovy Gardens in Olomouc, Czech Republic. The inscription on the facade in Czech and Serbian languages means: Loyalty for loyalty. Love for love.

The mausoleum designed by local architect Hubert Aust was built in 1926–28 by the Yugoslav government as a burial place for 1,188 Serbian prisoners of war as well as for Slovenian, Croatian and Bosnian soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian Army fallen during World War I. They were exhumed from different cemeteries in Moravia and reburied in the mausoleum's ossuary. The mausoleum is completely abandoned for the last decades because of unclear property rights after the breakup of Yugoslavia. Restoration works funded by the city council of Olomouc are expected in 2015 only.

 

10. Human bones and skulls tossed over the floor in the ossuary of the Mausoleum of Yugoslav Soldiers in Olomouc, Czech Republic.

 

11. Saints Cyril and Methodius depicted in the mural painting badly damaged by graffiti in the chapel of the Mausoleum of Yugoslav Soldiers in Olomouc, Czech Republic. The inscription in Czech language under the painting means: I'm looking for a man who still can.

 

12. Wooden coffins with human remains in the ossuary of the Mausoleum of Yugoslav Soldiers in Olomouc, Czech Republic. Some of coffins are opened and bones and skulls are tossed over the floor.

 

13. Crucifixion at the Golgotha depicted in the mural painting badly damaged by graffiti in the chapel of the Mausoleum of Yugoslav Soldiers in Olomouc, Czech Republic.

 

14. Human bones and skulls tossed over the floor in the ossuary of the Mausoleum of Yugoslav Soldiers in Olomouc, Czech Republic.

 

 

15. Jesus Christ seen at a tombstone from the time of World War I at the Černovíř Military Cemetery in Olomouc, Czech Republic.

At least 3,218 men, include fallen soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian Army as well as Russian, Serbian and Italian prisoners of war, were buried at the Černovíř Military Cemetery during World War I. In the 1920s, 172 Yugoslav soldiers and Serbian POWs were exhumed and reburied in the Mausoleum of Yugoslav Soldiers in the city centre. The cemetery was abandoned for decades and most of graves are unmarked now. In 2013, the improvement works funded by the city council of Olomouc were carried out here.

 

16. Tombstones of 17 Russian Muslim POWs at the Moslem section of the Černovíř Military Cemetery in Olomouc, Czech Republic.

 

17. Grass covering the Orthodox section of the the Černovíř Military Cemetery in Olomouc, Czech Republic, where 288 Russian prisoners of war were buried. Iron cast crosses from the Russian graves were stolen in the 1990s, and the graves are unmarked since then.

 

18. Original iron grave markers used to mark graves of POWs during World War I at the cemetery of the former Austro-Hungarian POW Camp Karolinenhof near the town of Planá in Western Bohemia, Czech Republic. The grave markers were found at the cemetery during the improvement works few years ago. At least 278 prisoners of war, mainly Russians and Italians, are still buried at this cemetery. In the 1920s, most of the Serbian POWs were exhumed and reburied to the Mausoleum of Serbian and Russian Prisoners of War in the village of Jindřichovice, some 70 km north. The cemetery was abandoned for decades and almost all the graves are unmarked now.

 

19. Memorial cross at the cemetery of the former Austro-Hungarian POW Camp Braunau near the village of Martínkovice in Northern Bohemia, Czech Republic. At least 2,599 Serbian POWs and 133 Russian POWs were buried at the cemetery during World War I. In the 1920s, most of the Serbian POWs and some Russian POWs were exhumed and reburied from here to the Mausoleum of Serbian and Russian Prisoners of War in the village of Jindřichovice in Western Bohemia.

 

20. Visitors pass by a block of the former prison of the Austro-Hungarian POW Camp Theresienstadt in the town of Terezín, Central Bohemia, Czech Republic. Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip, who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophia in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914, was kept in this prison until his death of tuberculosis and exhaustion on 28 April 1918.

 

21. Visitor examines the cell where Gavrilo Princip was kept in the Theresienstadt prison in Terezín, Central Bohemia, Czech Republic.

 

22. Peephole of the cell where Gavrilo Princip was kept in the Theresienstadt prison in Terezín, Central Bohemia, Czech Republic.

 

 

23. World War I Memorial at the abandoned cemetery of the former Austro-Hungarian POW Camp Theresienstadt in Terezín, Central Bohemia, Czech Republic. Approximately 1,700 prisoners of war, include at least 1,150 Russian POWs, were buried at this cemetery during World War I. Gavrilo Princip also was buried here after his death in the Theresienstadt Prison in 1918. In 1920, his remains were exhumed and reburied in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

 

24. Fallen angel at the abandoned cemetery of the former Theresienstadt Camp in Terezín, Central Bohemia, Czech Republic.

 

25. Obelisk marks the place where Gavrilo Princip was buried previously at the abandoned cemetery of the former Theresienstadt Camp in Terezín, Central Bohemia, Czech Republic.

 

26. Broken and fallen tombstones of Russian Jewish prisoners of war at the abandoned cemetery of the former Theresienstadt Camp in Terezín, Central Bohemia, Czech Republic.

 

27. Tombstone of a Russian Muslim POW at the cemetery of the Theresienstadt Camp in Terezín, Central Bohemia, Czech Republic.

 

 

28. Cemetery of the former Austro-Hungarian POW Camp Josefstadt near the town of Jaroměř in Central Bohemia, Czech Republic.

The largest Russian POW cemetery from the time of World War I in the Czech Republic is famous for the Russian Monument designed by Russian amateur sculptor Nikolai Sushkin and erected by the Russian POWs in 1916. This is the only example of the memorial to the Russian prisoners of war allowed to build by the Austrian authorities during World War I. At least 1,352 Russian POWs as well as 466 Italians and 111 Serbs were buried at this cemetery. In 2012, the improvement works funded by the Russian Embassy in Prague were carried out here. As a result, the original graves were destroyed by bulldozers and new gravestones were installed on random places.

 

29. Abandoned graves of the Russian prisoners of war at the cemetery of the former Josefstadt Camp near Jaroměř in Central Bohemia, Czech Republic, pictured in 2005 before the last improvement works funded by the Russian Embassy.

 

30. The first secretary of the Russian Embassy in Prague Anatoly Tomnikov inspects the improvement works at the cemetery of the former Josefstadt Camp near Jaroměř in Central Bohemia, Czech Republic. The bulldozer stands next to the gravestone of Russian military medical attendant Nikifor Sivov, who died on 18 July 1916. During the improvement works the gravestone were moved from the original grave to a random place.

 

31. Russian Monument designed by Russian amateur sculptor Nikolai Sushkin, who also was as a prisoner of war here, at the cemetery of the former Josefstadt Camp near Jaroměř in Central Bohemia, Czech Republic.

 

32. Old wreath from the Russian Embassy in Prague at the cemetery of the former Josefstadt Camp near Jaroměř in Central Bohemia, Czech Republic. The inscription in Russian language means: From the Russian Embassy.

 

 

33. Cemetery of the former POW Camp Deutschgabel near the town of Jablonné v Podještědí in Northern Bohemia, Czech Republic.

Approximately one hundred prisoners of war, mainly Russians, were buried at this cemetery during World War I. The monument to the fallen soldiers of the Ukrainian Galician Army designed by Ukrainian sculptor Mykhailo Brynsky was erected next to the cemetery in 1921 by the Ukrainian soldiers interned in the Deutschgabel Camp from 1919 to 1921. The monument is decorated by a statue of a kobzar, an itinerant Ukrainian bard. The cemetery was abandoned for decades. In 2008, the improvement works funded by the Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic were carried out here. As a result, new wooden orthodox crosses were installed indiscriminately on the all graves, include the graves where Jews or Catholics are buried.

 

34. Cemetery of the former Deutschgabel Camp near Jablonné v Podještědí in Northern Bohemia, Czech Republic.

 

35. Mausoleum of the First World War Victims at the cemetery in the town of Hranice, Northern Moravia, Czech Republic.

The mausoleum designed by military officer Ladislav Prochazka was built in 1937 on the site of the former military cemetery as a burial place for 1,430 war victims; include 130 Russian POWs, 54 Romanian POWs and 33 Italian POWs. The statue of the Lion was erected at the military cemetery in 1915 previously and then removed to the new mausoleum. In 2006–2007, the improvement works funded by the town of Hranice and the Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic were carried out here.

 

36. Concrete coffins with remains of fallen soldiers and prisoners of war in the ossuary of the Mausoleum of the First World War Victims in Hranice, Northern Moravia, Czech Republic.

 

37. Military section at the town cemetery in Kutná Hora, Central Bohemia, Czech Republic.

Soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian Army, who died in the rear were buried at this cemetery during World War I. Among their graves there are also nine graves of Russian prisoners of war, who died on their way to POW camps. Iron grave markers similar to those used during World War I were installed on the graves during the last improvement works.

 

37. Unmarked graves of Russian prisoners of war at the Ostašov Cemetery of the former Austro-Hungarian POW Camp Reichenberg in Liberec, Northern Bohemia, Czech Republic.

At least 678 Russian and Italian POWs were buried at this cemetery during World War I. Russian prisoners are buried under birch trees, while Italian graves are under pine trees. In 2009, the improvement works funded by the city council of Liberec were carried out here. Now, the cemetery is one of the few good examples of the tactful improvement of the WWI burial places in the country. The abandoned graves were just cleaned and the cemetery itself was fenced.

 

38. Orthodox icon of the Virgin Mary installed next to the graves of the Russian POWs at the Ostašov Cemetery of the former Reichenberg Camp in Liberec, Northern Bohemia, Czech Republic.

 

39. Russian journalist Konstantin Gerbeev examines the burial place of Karel Kramář, the first PM of Czechoslovakia, in the underground crypt of the Dormition Church at the Olšany Cemetery in Prague, Czech Republic.

The Dormition church designed by Russian architect Vladimir Brandt, who also was an architect of the Mausoleum of Serbian and Russian Prisoners of War in Jindřichovice, was built in 1924–25 by the community of the Russian White émigré in Czechoslovakia. The remains of 130 Russian prisoners of World War I were buried here in the church's underground crypt under the floor, while the remains of 30 Serbian prisoners of war were burred in two burial niches besides the graves of most notable persons of the White émigré.

 

40. The Dormition Church surrounded by graves of Russian White émigré at the Olšany Cemetery in Prague, Czech Republic.

 

The photographs of this documentary photo project were shot from February 2013 to April 2014 on twelve different burial places in the Czech Republic where Serbian and Russians prisoners of war were buried during the First World War. The project is in progress. New photographs coming soon.

Copyright Š 2014 Vova Pomortzeff 

 
   
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