Thousands of live World War II explosives still lie buried around the world. This man lost his sight and hand to one in Italy.

In March 2013, a 15-year-old boy was planting potatoes in a field in Novalesa, Italy, when his curiosity led to a permanent change in his life. As he was toiling in the field, he saw something shiny out of the corner of his eye. Wondering what it was, the boy, Nicolas Marzolino, went over to pick up the object. It exploded.

Marzolino would eventually understand that he had picked up a grenade — one of many live explosives left over in Italy, and around the world, from World War II. When the grenade blew up in his right hand, Marzolino lost the hand, and his sight.

Italian photographer Mattia Crocetti met Marzolino in 2018, and they decided to collaborate on a project with the hope of bringing awareness to the dangers of live explosives left behind from a war that ended almost 75 years ago. According to Crocetti, there are tens of thousands of such explosives in Italy alone, including ordnance left behind by the Italians, Germans and Americans during the war.

Crocetti and Marzolino hope that by telling Marzolino’s story, they can raise awareness, especially among Italy’s youths.

Marzolino explained his eagerness to work with Crocetti to bring this issue to light:

I want to talk about my story because people have to know the truth. There are a lot of live explosives in Italy and in every country touched by the war. People have to know where they can find unexploded bombs, how to recognize them and how to remove them. We have to find a way to stop this kind of incident in Italy and all over the world.
After the incident, I was angry with the world because I could not understand how an object of the Second World War could still be there. How can an object left in a field 70 years ago change my life? I’m not a soldier. I have got nothing to do with that conflict.

Despite the traumatic losses Marzolino has dealt with after that fateful day in the potato fields, he says that today, he is happy. He has found ways to live a fulfilled life, living with his loving girlfriend, studying to become a massage therapist and relying on his guide dog, Wupi. His family is also very supportive. But, as he told Crocetti, “I want to speak about my experience because governments must do something to stop this kind of incident. I don’t want another young person like me to fall victim to an unexploded mine or any kind of ordnance.”

You can see more of the photographer’s work on Crocetti’s website.

In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.

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