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Doctor Roshal tells about the events
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, 02 2002

By Olga Boguslavskaya in Moskovsky Komsomolets

Doctor Peace.

He went to the theatrical center on Melnikov Street all on his own

(Olga Boguslavskaya): Do you believe in God?

(Leonid Roshal): Ihave already had to answer this question. Everyone has his or her own god, but Irelate to religion very carefully, because Ithink that someday mankind will arrive at a single religion. Nowadays religion doesnt unite, but divides people.

I think that in going there and coming back, now you would know something more about people that you did not know before. Or is this not so?

I have been in tragic, emergency situations in many countries during wars and large catastrophes. I feel it all and Iknow it. I did not see anything new to me in this situation. I had guessed approximately what it would be like, and so it was.

Certainly, it was awful in peacetime in the center of Moscow there could suddenly about a thousand people taken hostage and threatened with death. They were completely innocent, healthy, and normal people who bought tickets, paying in advance, and went to see the show.

Have you seen it?

I was never able. I have never been in this theater. I made it one time, not on a ticket but on my legs. And Isaw the people. Without any hysterics, obedient, and this is correct, in such a situation this has to be.

Do you mean the hostages?

Yes, with definite obedience, with definite quiet. There were no loud conversations. People somehow spoke to each other quietly in order not to attract attention, because anyone who attracted attention got reproof with a pistol in front of their nose. They all knew this, just as all knew that the first day they killed a young woman and would not release a very sick man with peritonitis. They said: Let him shut up or die, but if hes going to shout then well shoot him too. So, shooting for them was no problem.

What happened to the man?

He was alive until the assault.

People have long and bitterly argued about what whether the terrorists really wanted to die, as they declared to the whole world. What do you think?

I knew from the start that we want to die was all bravado. I have the feeling that they did not wish to die. The best outcome would have been to fly home, with the building blown up or not, Ido not know, but the main thing for them was that Russia pulled out of Chechnya.

Do you believe that they came intending to get the forces pulled out?

I do.

Which of the terrorists did you speak with?

A lot of them with Barayev, with his assistant and about twenty gunmen, including women.

Did they call you, or did you come on your own?

I felt the necessity of communication between the world and those who were there. And Ithought: who, what professional is needed there? There is not for a sanitarian, or theorist, or cyberneticist. Who should it be? Why, a physician, of course. So Icalled (Moscow Mayor) Yuri Mikhailovich Luzhkov. And here is something interesting: Icall up Josef Davydovich Kobzon after he had just left them (the terrorists) and he says: I was just talking with Luzhkov about you. Kobzon asked permission for me to get inside the theater building, and it turned out that he and Iasked Luzhkov about this almost at the same time. And Idid not know this. Otherwise they would not have let me in, it was all very complicated.

And Kobzon offered your assistance to the terrorists?

Yes Iam thankful to him.

Here you went in there

The first time Iarrived there with a Jordanian physician. This was when there were reports on radio and TV that there were two Jordanians there. I was one of the Jordanians. By the way, the journalists were always calling me director of the medical catastrophe center, but the chief is a worthy person, General Goncharov. Here Iimagine his condition: What, they fired me and put Roshal in my job? Roshal already has a job. And when we went inside they asked us: So, why have you come? and we showed them our documents.

And they looked at them?

Of course, and very closely. Later they ask me: Why you? I explained that Iam a physician and Ihave worked in many countries during wartime, including in Chechnya, in Urus-Martan, in Achkhoi-Martan. Theyasked: Well, where are your instruments? and Itold them that for now Ihad come to find out how to help, so they said: Get out of here. If you come next time without instruments, then well kill you.

Who said this?

One of the masked terrorists, and he added: On your way out, on the ground floor, is some dead girl. Gopick her up. Shecame here drunk. Shes an infiltrator, a spy, so we killed her. And so the Jordanian and Icarried this woman out first.

What happened later?

I got a special satchel from the ambulance and in 8to 10minutes we came back.

You remember the minutes?

Yes, Iremember.

Tell about the Jordanian doctor.

I am delighted with this man. He did not have to come; it is a strange country, an awful situation, and not understood what would happen in the next minute, you see, once again it is about minutes. But he is a physician and carried out his duty. He almost said nothing, but listened very attentively.

Did they check the case of instruments just like a passport?

They checked it out, what do you think? And we went to the balcony, to the hostages there. Certainly everyone was surprised, who is it that has come in the lab coat? I smiled and told everyone hello as if Iwas out for a stroll. Later Iasked: So, who needs my assistance? in a cheerful voice. We organized an operating room in the womens bathroom and worked on one of the terrorists who had an injured hand. A physician is obliged to do this, please do not look at me like that.

Did he ask for you?

Yes, of course. I do not even have to explain that we are obligated to help everyone who needs medical assistance. You know when a wounded enemy soldier is captured we must first treat him before we judge him. Here it was a large wound, and on another finger as well. Later, when two girls jumped out, a bullet ricocheted and hit another terrorist in the leg. The crossfire was right next to us. He came into the auditorium and everyone saw, he took off his pants and asked me to treat the wound. Not everyone had kind eyes for me while Iwas doing this, but Ihad to get through this; otherwise Iwould never attain the most important thing, permission to help the hostages. And they gave it.

Were a lot of medicines necessary?

Very. And here it was well worked out by the Moscow health department and by Seltsovsky the head of the city directorate personally. He was at the scene continuously. After all, providing medicine for almost 800people is a colossal responsibility, and they did everything accurately and quickly.

And helped the terrorists

Andthey returned us to the auditorium and sat us down. The Jordanian and Isat together with everyone for 4hours. We did not know what would happen with us. We simply sat together with the rest.

And did not talk with anyone?

We talked with them and with the female terrorists. They were all young. I talked to the one who was handing out the water: Listen, youve got to tell them that were still sitting here. And she said: Yes, Ill tell them, dont worry, go ahead and leave. But Iwas worried it was late, the pharmacy was closing, Ihad to get medicine. But she says: Dont worry, go ahead and leave. The whole time they tried to frighten us, everyone tried to convince us that everything was booby-trapped. They said: Why do you even come here? You know that you can get blown up? See the women who came with us, they are ready for anything, and we came here with only one goal that Russian forces leave Chechnya.

Did they have any pity for the people who were sitting in the auditorium?

No. Well blow up everybody, this is what Allah wants. And even when they released eight children and Isaid thanks, the terrorist answered: Its not us, it is Allah.

Was it possible to speak with the hostages?

Only about what hurt or who hurt, on medical themes. One of the terrorists sat nearby and could hear everything, it was quiet in the theater. Do you understand? People sat there for three days and were only permitted to go to the toilet and stretch a little. In such a situation all chronic diseases get worse, and people started getting headaches. How did these poor people hold out? When Ileft the first time, Isaid: Itll all be fine, so that people had something to hope for. And several people told me: Please, tell them not to make an assault.

How about with the terrorists?

I tried. One said that he studied law at Grozny University, but he never gave his name. During the operation Iasked the terrorist what his name was, but he looked me right in the eyes: Whats it to you? Call me Chechen.

Did you feel their animosity the whole time?

Yes, the animosity was continuous. They closely watched everything Idid the whole time, and followed every word. They were afraid of spies.

Really, were the children unable to say anything to you?

Nothing. They only answered questions: does this hurt or not?

Talk about Barayev.

When they released us once again, we went to headquarters and took all the medicines and returned at about 2 in the morning, and then Ispoke with Barayev. He said that in the end they would release all the children, but he released about 8.


You will have to ask him. In general they altered decisions rather often, but they were not high with narcotics that is completely accurate. But Inever saw them praying. You know that Moslems have times when everyone prays, but Idid not see this.

People from the Caucasus love children a lot. Did they not have any pity for the little hostages?

If they had no pity then they would not have released anyone, but Barayevs deputy told me: Why do you want us to release the children? When the federals surrounded, and here he said some city or towns name that Icannot remember, and they started sanitizing it, we asked them to release the children, but they didnt let them go. I said: You know Iread the papers and Ihavent heard of such a thing. Thisis what, revenge? But he answers: No, its just you keep saying release release and pour out crocodile tears, but why dont you pity the Chechen children? I say: Hows that? I went to Chechnya and Itreated them and operated on them, and today in Moscow there are 40Chechen children together with their mothers, were treating them. They are very seriously ill.

And what did he say?

He did not answer.

What do you remember most of all from your conversations with the terrorists?

Nothing. I simply sort through my memory, and nothing.

You went looking for two physicians who were among the hostages. You called them heroes. Did they turn up?

Thank God, yes. Only now Icannot say their names, because they are so tired, and to endure a squall of journalists in this situation would for them be an unendurable task.

I cannot avoid asking you about the aftereffects of the gas.

I am not a toxicologist. I am a surgeon and Iam only used to talking about things that Iunderstand.

After the terror act in Kaspiysk you said you would have personally shot the person who did it.

And Iwould have if Iwere certain that it was the one who did it. Terrorists are beasts.

You said once that all children are kind and beautiful. Why do bad adults grow from good children?

For me this is also a mystery, though if you think about it, the explanation probably can be found. We treat the young as if we were at war. There are endless murders on the television screen, shootings and people getting their heads cut off. For a normal person this is shock and violence. We have to make normal, humane movies. I miss these. Films about love. Can you really compare all this bang-bang to them? Meanwhile they showed all the corpses after the assault. That was not the correct thing to do.

What did you hear at home when you came back?

Nothing happened. Later my son called up and said: Dad, are you alive? Be a little more careful, please.

Would you like to say something right now to the terrorists you saw in the theatrical center?

What is there to speak about with the dead?

How about to those who can still do something similar?

Even if they capture the Kremlin palace, it will all end the same. There is no point to it, do you understand? One can never give in to terrorists.

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