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Belarusian hostages Zolina and Tkachuk tell about the events
Written by   
, 30 2003

In Komsomolskaya Pravda, Minsk

Anna Lyashkevich

Belarusian hostages at Nord-Ost: They wont say what they poisoned us with. We dont know what to expect.

Nord-Ost survivors Olga Zolina and Tatiana Tkachuk now closely follow the news about Chechnya.

While they were sitting in the auditorium among the hostages, it seemed that, just as soon as they could be freed, their previous life would return automatically. But everything has changed forever. We are drinking tea, and these two intelligent and gracious women, not raising their voices, or becoming hysterical, speak about things a normal person would never want to know.

THE HARDEST THING WAS TO GET OUT OF THE CHAIR

I decided that Id conquered my fear, so much time had passed. But Myhusband and Iwent to the ballet, and there were the same red seats like at Dubrovka. I couldnt look at the stage. I looked to the sides, where the shahidki (suicide martyr women) stood back then. My husband wanted to leave during intermission, and Ijust clung to him, said Tatiana Tkachuk with an embarrassed smile.

The first thing Tatiana heard when she awoke in the hospital was: Breathe, breathe! There were bruises on her neck, and a plastic tube lay nearby. Apparently they had been performing artificial respiration on her.

I looked at myself. My stockings were torn, and the first thing Isaid was: Oh, my stockings are ripped! and the thought that Iwas in a short skirt made me ashamed. Im afraid of closed spaces and Ijust had to get outside, at least for a minute. No one did any tests on me. I just wanted to get home.

Was it always frightening there?

Sometimes it would build up, and sometimes abate, but the worst was getting out of my seat and going up to the terrorists, or even just to pick my bag up off the floor, says Olga Zolina. Many people needed help, but there were only a few doctors in that whole huge auditorium.

When a woman nearby began vomiting from high blood pressure, they all got up and set to work, not thinking of the consequences. Fortunately, they had medicine with them. The rest of the time, when they were not helping people, they sat under their seats. It was easier like this, since they could sleep on the floor. The biggest ordeal was thinking about how my children would become orphans, says Olga. When Doctor Roshal showed up our spirits rose, but not for long. The Chechens said that they might now let him leave and they sat him down separate from us. Then we started thinking that we were all going to die for sure.

A few seats down in their row the terrorists had set up a bomb, the same one that was shown many times on television. It was a neighbor that from time to time froze their spines. After their release, they watched the chronicle of the event several times, yet they had the feeling that they were only watching a movie, and that none of it had really happened to them.

NOW WE FORGIVE THEM

I was a bit shocked by such a statement, and here Irecalled Stockholm syndrome, where victims take on the ideology of the terrorists and, to a certain extent, justify their actions. Understand, these were zombies who had grown up in war, continued Olga. One of them asked me if Ihad any children. I said yes, a son. And he said he wished he could go home a have a family.

Did they beat you, or pick on you?

No. A shahidka sat near us. She was about 16, no more. Whenever they brought her water or chocolate, she took a little for herself and passed the rest down the rows. One time there was an explosion and we all gave a start. She looked at us and asked: Scared? We live with this all the time. They showed them dead on TV a lot, but Ijust pitied them. Some of them, they didnt apologize, but they tried to explain that they had no other choice. Certainly, it didnt make it easier on us. The shahidki-widows were more unapproachable. They never forgot to remind us that we were infidels and would soon die.

The most tragic and vile thing was that the hostages and terrorists were not those who started this war and found it advantageous keep continuing. There are some who make a living off of this, in Russia and in Chechnya. Nowadays Inever miss a broadcast about Chechnya. Its a real Hell there, with no end in sight. They did their duty for their people, as they understood it, said Olga. Only it never made it easier on anyone, and no one knows how long this will continue. I cant understand why they killed everyone and didnt question any of them. Wasnt anyone interested in how they made it to Moscow, and who was in charge of them?

THEY TREATED US USING THE STICK METHOD

The hostages were very worried about an assault, but they never heard it begin. Olga woke up in the intensive care ward of the toxicology department, and this saved her life. Had she simply ended up in a general therapy ward, it is unlikely that she would have remained among the living.

The doctors there are experienced, but our condition was a mystery to them. The news that wed been put to sleep with Fentanyl was simply funny to the professionals. Undoubtedly this was a combat poison. Many physicians suspect that it was a new form of Sarin; nothing else could knock out such a large number of people so fast. The doctors selected drugs based their own experience, as well as our symptoms. So, lets allow for this being a political secret, what gas they used, says Olga. But what needs to be done later, what kind of an antidote to inject, they should at least say something now. Since we ended up as a group of research bunnies, there should be some kind of observation of our treatment, and of us. Were ill and its hard to monitor and operate on us. They didnt know what to do with us in the hospital, and they dont know what to do with here. I have my own treatment worked out, so when the drug Reamberin helped me, Igave it to Tanya. And thats how we are treating ourselves, because we dont know what were treating. Tanya wants to have another baby, and Im in my second marriage, so Id like to another one, too. But we dont know if we can. You get pregnant and may end up killing yourself.

When, after leaving the hospital, Iwent to visit Olga Vladimirovna, Tatiana adds. The head of the department took one look at me and said that Ineeded treatment. It was by mere chance that he even saw me.

And another question, which bothers me, says Olga. Why didnt military medics assist us first? A triage hospital under field conditions can be set up in ten minutes, while plans for evacuating mass casualties have been worked out since the time of Pirogov. Military doctors have special training and should know how to work with such poisonings. I was simply shocked on hearing that another 40people have died.

NO ONE HAS THE TIME OF DAY FOR US

Tatiana and Olga have more than enough grounds for serious thought. Before the act of terror each could pull a full load, but now they have no strength. They tire too fast.

Before, Iworked two jobs, but now thats impossible, adds Olga. You know, OB-GYN doctors get used to stresses and workloads, but for us now its very hard.

Their fear that they cannot keep up with work, and may find themselves unneeded, hangs over them like a sword of Damocles. And then what can they do, what will they live on? They received compensation: the professional union gave some small sums, and Olga was helped by city hall. But good medicines are very expensive, and they spend a minimum of one thousand dollars a year on drugs. Together with the Savitskys, they applied for a discount on a trip to a sanatorium. The ministry of labor and social protection sent them a reply: they had no right to discounts or any other benefits.

Olga, the mass media in Russia reported that victims of the terrorist attack and the relatives of the hostages are preparing to sue in the International Court in Strasbourg. How do you feel about this?

I dont know right now. I used to be very loyal, but now Im thinking about this a lot, says Olga.

But Tatiana is not preparing to sue anyone. She feels that it is of no use. Her husband and her are very glad she remained alive, and thankful for this. Soon Nord-Ost will come to Minsk. They wish to go there very much, and to finally get rid of the horror that they went through at Dubrovka.

 
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