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HostageE.Alekseenko tells herstory
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, 31 2002


An issue of ‘Gazeta’ published the story of ten-year-old Yuri Alekseenko. Theboy was in a group of children released by the terrorists on the first day of captivity. Hefooled the militants by saying he was a few years younger than he really was. Hismother remained behind in the occupied theatrical center and was released by commandos during the assault. Elena Alekseenko met with our correspondent, Yevgeniy Sinevich.

- How do you feel?

I feel okay. Sortof normal, but, to be honest, when all this is shaken up in my head, then the tears well up in my eyes. I will say even more: Isuppose that Ibehaved somewhat bravely there. Atleast no tears came there, but here, the more it goes on, the more tears and the harder it is on me psychologically.

Just today Iwent to work and everybody rushes up and kisses and hugs me and they gave me an elegant bouquet and said: “Lena, it’s your second birthday. Wewere so happy when we saw you on TV yesterday and you were all right.” So now, here Iwas going to get some new glasses, Ihad left all my things back there in the theater, and found myself trying to avoid people of Chechen nationality.

- Back then in the hall, did you understand right away that everything was really serious?

I did, yes, but my son did not understand. Whenthe capture took place, Iwas sitting next to him and Isaid: “Yuri, I’m so sorry, please, darling, I’m so sorry this happened. Forgive me, my son, that this happened.” And he said: “Mom, what? Everything’s fine! Butwhat are all those people in camouflage doing?” He did not understand, because almost immediately he was able to leave, and Iwant to say that Ithank God that he got to leave, because if he had been there Iprobably would not have survived, just like Natasha the Hollander. Wewere sitting right next to each other and now Iam going to her funeral. Shewas there with her 14-year-old son, while her little girl who was either nine or seven years old, she remained back in Holland.

- Many parents were probably aware that the children needed to be gotten of there at any price, but, on the other hand, were they not simply afraid to let them out of their sight?

In the auditorium there was a woman with three children, and she wanted to let then go, but she just could not. Shewould cry and not them let go, and when Joseph Kobzon came in these were the children they started to release, but she was kissing them and crying, kissing them and crying, and he asks: “Well, but how?” So terrorists allowed her to go with them, and then everybody in the hall applauded!

- You could engage them in dialogue and talk with them?

I do not know if you can call it conversation. Theywere mesmerized somehow by (the thought of) an explosion, and the fact that they wanted to die more than they wanted to live. Forthem it was a fixation.

- Would you call them human?

I do not know. Icannot answer unequivocally. Manyof the female kamikazes were crying. Onewas always telling me: “Oh my God, at home Ileft my seven-month-old baby, my son, and Icame here to blow myself up so that he could have a better life!” There were sixteen- and seventeen-year-old Chechen girls Butthey had no light in their eyes. Theysaid that if they got shot, then they would have gold in the place where they were shot. Theywere all living for the other world, for their future life. Itwas we who were living here in this life. So, if she were to blow herself up with a lot of people, in the next life she would be all golden. Seriously, that was how they looked at it.

- But what did the people in the hall say? Howdid they deal with the situation?

The people were pretty quiet. Onlyat the very last did this young man run through the rows, and this provoked the shooting of one man in the eye and a woman in the side, but everyone behaved very calmly. There were no doctors who could have helped us cope with the situation. Onlyone woman who yelled out: “Let’s call up our relatives and tell them to go on a demonstration! Let’s rise up and get them to do something!”

- How about you?

I was totally inactive, and behaved very quietly and passively. Now, had Ibeen on an airplane (Elena works as a flight attendant ‘Gazeta’), there Iwould, of course, have acted because much would be depending on me. HowI would act depends, but here nothing depended on me. HereI was the same pawn as everyone else. Isat quietly and waited, as we were taught to do on the airplane: you comply fully with their demands.

- Did your knowledge somehow help at the time of the assault?

I cannot answer unequivocally. Ijust, when Ismelled the gas Igot scared and sat down, hunched over. Andthen Idown my head. Andthen Ifell asleep. Butthis was more instinct than anything.

- They talk a lot about ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, where a victim is filled with sympathy for his executioner.

You know, they came and said: “We don’t need money! Juststop the war!” They said the same thing that the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers has been saying. Theysaid what, in fact, every one of us understands and wants. HereI have a son, do Ireally want him to go to this war in Chechnya? No, not for anything in the world! Theysaid such things. Here, for example, a Chechen woman told me: “How can Putin not understand that a bad peace is better than any war? Now, if the troops would just withdraw, even if only to the border. We’ve already agreed to it!” The only reason why people succumbed to this ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ was because the terrorists said such obvious and correct things. After all, it has to be done. Howmuch blood do we have to shed there?

I keep saying over and over again: Thank you to the doctors who treated us as their own little children, and did so much for us, but most importantly: Thanks to God for bringing my child out of there, for everything working out for the best and he did not stay there. Iwould not want anyone to ever be in this situation, and another thing: it seems to me that if steps are not taken, this will be repeated. Theywill go and capture airplanes and theaters and blow up buildings. Theywill not stop no matter what. Thatis the worst thing.

By Yevgeniy Sinevich In ‘Gazeta’

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