Nonprofits and the Missing Among Us: A Case Study in Persistence

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March 6, 2013; Source: CNN

CNN recently broadcast a remarkable story about a Russian soldier who had gone missing in action 33 years ago and who has recently been found by a nonprofit.

The group, Warriors-Internationalist Affairs Committee (WIAC), is dedicated to finding 263 Soviet soldiers who are missing in Afghanistan. Out of the 600,000 Russian soldiers who served in Afghanistan for a full decade of fighting, approximately 15,000 soldiers were killed. The man found by WIAC, Bakhredtin Khakimov, was reported to have “received a heavy wound to the head in the course of a battle in (Shandand) district in September 1980 when he was picked up by local residents,” according to WIAC’s website, which adds, “He now leads a seminomadic life with the people who sheltered him.”

In the past three plus decades, Khamikov converted to Islam, was married and widowed, and became an herbal healer, which was the profession of the man who nursed him back to health after his war injury. Of the 263 Soviet soldiers considered missing, WIAC has located 29 and of these, seven have decided to stay put. Reportedly, the committee is funded by countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a group comprised largely of veterans from the Soviet-Afghan war in former Soviet republics.

This story is a dramatic example of the kinds of things that really driven people do to resolve unfinished stories or surface and take action on things that might otherwise be ignored. Whether it is raising an unpopular issue, saving a theater, caring for feral cats or finding lost people, the nonprofit sector gives us the venues we need to organize ourselves around the issues that we care about. –Ruth McCambridge