Archaeological research into twentieth-century global conflicts has understandably focused on sorrow, pain and death when interpreting the associated material, structural and human remains. There are, however, other approaches to studying ‘difficult’ (or ‘dark’) heritage, which reveal that such heritage may have a bright side. This study discusses a Russian canteen recovered from the German First World War prisoner-of-war camp at Czersk in Poland. Discovered in 2006, the canteen belonged to a Russian prisoner. It records biographical details of its owner, and offers an alternative narrative of difficult heritage by testifying to emotion and human creativity behind barbed wire.