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Hostage Alexandra Chaplygina tells about the events
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, 10 2002

By Alexandra Chaplygina in Philharmonic #4/2002, November 10th, 2002

When the seizure took place, Zhenka (my husband Evgeny Kochat) could not believe it because he was sitting under the edge of the stage. I was with the violinists and Icould see a little bit. At first there was the sound of an explosion or a gunshot, and they began to shout in the auditorium. I saw an armed man in a mask go out onto the stage from the wings. Everyone froze; no one knew what to do or what was going on. Director Maxim Gutkin was very courageous. He got his bearings right away and told us, Run! and we all dashed through the door of the orchestra pit with our instruments, and down the corridor towards the orchestra rooms, the men to one and the women to the other. Once again Ihave to say that Gutkin was brave: he sat awhile, and then said, Lord, the women are there alone and he went by himself into the corridor and into the room where the women were sitting.

We tried to sit quietly so that no one heard us. The feeling was not to leave. If you were to go upstairs, you would not get a single step before automatic gunfire cut you down. I found out later, the television stations broadcast that there were people hiding in the basement, and so naturally they came for us. They led us to back to the orchestra pit and then told us to climb out into the auditorium.

Zhenya was very brave. Many were also very worthy, but either way it was obvious from their changed faces that they were scared. He was not like that. I was very frightened for him, while he, a big man, was sitting in the center and you could see him from everywhere. I was afraid that if they started to single out people, that he would be among the first because he was so apparent.

The question of foreigners came up several times. At first they said that they would be moved to a separate corner of the auditorium. Another time some woman started to make a list. Zhenya was a citizen of the Ukraine, and he could have declared himself, but he would not.

A woman terrorist sat next to us. She was always listening to the radio, and there were often broadcasts that had absolutely nothing in common with the situation in the theater: that women were being raped and hostages shot. She constantly told us, Well, did you hear what your people are saying, and what the truth is here?

They told us that if it were necessary they would blow everything up. Barayevs widow was very calm, and always addressed us correctly. She did not humiliate or insult anyone. But it was obvious that she would not hesitate to blow us up, and that she had come here to do just that. She was not concerned about tomorrow, but there were many girls who stole furtive glances in their pocket mirrors, and shared perfume with each other.

Their main assignment was to maintain 800people in a calm condition, to prevent panic, hysteria, and unpredictable actions. Everything was done to ensure that they spoke courteously, quietly, and not to provoke. In this regard they acted correctly and did not try to frighten without good reason, so that the people did not try anything or lose their head. But it happened anyway.

Everyone, whom they shot, as a matter of fact, broke this calm. The girl who died first entered the theater and started to say, What are all of you afraid of? I walked through an open door you can all just leave in peace. She acted this way, and so they shot her. The night before the assault there was a tragedy when a fellow ran across the backs of the chairs, and as a result two other people ended up shot. It was not on their hands: they called for the Red Cross, and Movsar (Barayev) demanded a neurosurgeon. Later he went out on stage and said that he had good news for everyone, for us and for them. The negotiations were moving forwards, Kazantsev (the top Russian general in Chechnya) was coming, and so everything would be okay. But it was said that we soon would see how our government conducts itself. If Kazantsev did not show by 10in the morning, then things would go differently. And so we got this feeling: Lord, how long is this going to go on? Kazantsev, then negotiations Idid not personally have a feeling that an assault would happen that night.

There was another person. He was led in with a bloody face, and they said that they had caught a spy. Zhenka turned my head away and said, dont look. They started to get to the bottom of things: who was he, why he had come. He said, for my son. Show us your papers, but he had none. They said the name of a boy. From the balcony they yelled that there is such a boy, from the Nord-Ost cast. They asked how old, eighteen. The boy stood up and he was only eight. The matter ended here and they shot the man. Zhenka said, they set the man up, they didnt even tell him how old the boy was.

I am trying to recall the chain of events. We sat barefooted because we just could not bear to wear our shoes anymore. His tennis shoes remained in the auditorium. He thought that it would continue longer, that we might stay there a week. I wish Icould remember what Icannot recall. The last thing Iremember was that we were sitting, or where we lying? I was always talking him into lying on the floor. He was very big, 1.9 meters (6 ft 3in). I could sit as long as necessary in my seat, but he sat uncomfortably, and so for the last days he was, of course, very tired. I talked him into lying on the floor; it was the last thing Iremember clearly. After that everything is all muddled. Sometimes it seems to me that shooting started and we were sitting. Sometimes it seems that it happened earlier. I cannot reconstruct the whole picture. I passed out and did not even notice the gas.

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