Directly after the first chlorine gas attack in Ieper, Belgium, the German army deployed the same deadly weapon on the Eastern front in May 1915. The scale of the attack during the battle at Bolimów, Poland, was unprecedented: almost double the amount of chlorine gas was used in Bolimów than at Ieper, leaving thousands of people dead.
A hundred years later, Anna Zalewska, a Polish archaeologist, arrives at the banks of the River Rawka near Bolimów. To the naked eye, this area’s tragic past seems buried and forgotten. But as Anna identifies the lines of old trenches, she unearths human remains lying just under a thin layer of forest soil. When local people flock to the re-enactment of the historic battle, the past suddenly reveals its gruesome face with the pungent smell of chemical weapons, and the noise and chaos of combat. For Anna, too, her efforts bring the past alive for us in the present: “Archaeology may put an end to certain traumas. What we have to show may be difficult and heartbreaking, but it can enrich us.”