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This swampy forest area around a village bearing the strange name Myasnoi Bor (meaning Meat Forest) has a special place in the history of the Great Patriotic War. It is the largest area in the world that is completely covered with the remains of Soviet soldiers killed in the war.

In late 1941, the Red Army was conducting an operation here to lift the siege of Leningrad. The place where German defences were broken near Myasnoi Bor has come to be known as the Valley of Death. The 2nd Shock Army quickly moved into the breach towards a major strategic target, the densely populated city of Lyuban.

Fierce fighting for the narrow corridor near Myasnoi Bor lasted seven months in 1941 and 1942, its width changing from 3 or 4 km to 300 metres as fires swept through the area. This further complicated the positions of the Red Army, which suffered from supply shortages. It was the main reason for the failure of the Lyuban Operation and the routing of the 2nd Shock Army. On 25 June 1942, German troops and the Spanish Blue Division closed the corridor, encircling the 2nd Shock Army. The majority of the Soviet servicemen who tried to break out of the encirclement were killed, and the rest were taken prisoner.

Many years after the tragedy, living people continue to meet the dead in the Valley of Death. One of the most striking stories is about Vasily Roshev, member of a search party from Novgorod. Nearly everyone who has visited the Valley of Death knows that Vasily spent ten summers working there, looking for the remains of dead soldiers and organising their reburial at the local cemetery in accordance with Christian traditions.

Vasily Roshev started having dreams about the war – attacks, battles and death – when he was 30. He woke up and rushed to a place he saw in his dream to leave a stick with a scarf there. In the morning, the search party found the remains of a solider or several soldiers there. When the archaeologists looked at the photo they took near a shell crater, they saw the outlines of several people behind Vasily. In fact, dim figures can be seen standing behind Vasily in all pictures.

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