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HostageL.Abramova tells about the events
Written by ,   
, 06 2002

Komsomolskaya Pravda, November 6th, 2002

By Olga Saprykina and Andrey Pavlov

56 HOURS IN A BOOBY-TRAPPED ROOM

When the hostages were seized stage property-hand Larisa Abramova managed to hide in a tiny room for three days without food or light, and with almost no water

This skinny woman was also a hostage, though no one ever pointed a gun at her or ordered her to sit. But in another sense of the word she had it even worse than the people in the auditorium. Larisa Abramova, a worker on the musical, was locked alone in a tiny room without food, light, and with very little water for three days. How did she keep from going crazy? Listen to her story, recorded at the hospital:

Im a property hustler. As always, during intermission that day, the guys and Iwere had finished some rearranging and had gone to our room. Then the second act started. When the pilots dance finished Chkalov was to go out on stage. And at that moment the guys brought me a haversack, a canister, and some wrenches Iwas supposed to take these away so that they didnt make any noise by accident. And so Igo over there and Icant see the dancers on the other side of the scenery. Strange. I see a man shooting at the ceiling and shouting. At first Ithought it was OMON (SWAT-type elite police ed.) and that something was going on in the auditorium. Behind me was the chief of the assembly shop, and he says: Come with me away from the stage! and we went. The guys went to their area and Iwent to mine. Calm, not hurrying, still not afraid. And then we hear some running and shooting. I locked the door of my room that leads to the stage, and a little later the other one that leads to the corridor. During the show makeup and property have live feed from the stage, and Iwas listening: people on stage were talking in a language Ididnt know, and then in heavily accented Russian. Something along the lines of: Were from Chechnya and youre all hostages.

You didnt try to run away?

It didnt enter my mind to leave my post. Icalled home and warned them. Three minutes later the Chechens came to the doors, kicked one, and then started dragging something heavy. They yelled: Put it over here! And Iknew that they were booby-trapping both doors.

Only after about half an hour did Ifigure out that things were rather serious, and that Ishould do something. But nothing could be done. I decided to stay right there in the room. I looked at my resources, if you could call them that. For drinking Ihad about a 180ml of water in a mug (about half a cup ed.) and for food Ihad a capsule of Corvalol medicine. Well, Ithought, Ill take the pill, drink some water, and lets hope Ill make it somehow. An hour later Ishut off the lights, just in case, so that they wouldnt guess that someone was inside. I had a little pocket flashlight, but Iturned it on very rarely, since Iwas afraid someone would see it.

The room where Ispent those three days is long, like a stocking, with an area of about ten square meters (about 100sq. ft. ed.) The walls have three-tiered shelving with property for the show: umbrellas, trunks, bags, and lights. There is a worktable and two chairs, and a little bedside table. And a telephone on the table. Thats it.

I was very afraid of making any noise. The door is weak and you can hear very easily whats happening on the other side. If they suspected anything, theyd shoot a burst through it.

There was a little room on one shelf to lie down, and Itook down the umbrellas so that they wouldnt fall by accident. I put two stage pillows under my head and covered myself with a shawl and lay fetal-style, because the space was so tight. Fine, Ithought. Ill be smarter in the morning. Well see then what to do.

On the second day Iheard the sound of running water. On the phone they calmed me down and said that a pipe had burst somewhere. This was a rough moment. It was a hot water pipe and steam was coming out, so it got hot and stuffy. I undressed down to my underwear, and my thirst got twice as bad from this hot damp air. Perhaps it wasnt really that hot, but it was an unendurable feeling. I called and said: Guys, Im afraid Idont have the strength. But this was after theyd shot the first girl. Later they told me: Sit tight for as long as you can. But the next day they shut off the water and it got a lot easier.

How did you contact the outside world?

Very carefully. There were two gunmen on the other side of the door. One was named Akhmad, but the others name Ididnt catch. I got used to them by the second day. In such conditions my sense of hearing got very keen. I synchronized myself to the guards. I could guess almost exactly when the sentry was there, so that Icould stretch. Then Iwould change position. Sometimes he left the stage and Id get down, do some exercises, and creep over to the phone. Id tossed some rags on the floor so that Icould move around quietly. I moved around, trying to spread my weight and not make the floor creak.

The phone had a short cord; otherwise Id have taken it onto the shelf with me. Id creep over, dial, and not say anything. My family would say, when they answered and heard nothing: If its you there, breathe into the phone. And Id start to breathe like a dog. Later Iwhispered: Information. And they would tell me where theyd been and who theyd called. At home my husband and 16-year-old daughter kept watch on the phone.

You called them, but did the phone ever ring in the room?

It happened on the third day. Later they told me that there had been a chance to get me out of there in the morning, a day before the assault, but Ididnt pick up, because it was so quiet at the time that you could hear a fly going by, and since my guard was standing right by the door, Icouldnt move from my spot. Theyd have caught me for sure.

The hostages made a toilet out of the orchestra pit. How did you solve this problem?

It was hard to force myself. It was my work area, and here Im to soil it I found a jar, and wrapped it in rags so that it would be quiet. The whole process was long and torturous, because the floor creaked under the tiniest movement, and Ihad to move a millimeter a minute.

How did you pass the nights?

By counting and recounting valuables. I thought that Id done something incorrectly, that Ihadnt managed, and about where the mistake was. Later Id fall into the next interrupted dream. In general Ilost track of time. I couldnt remember if Id talked on the phone yesterday or today, how much time had passed, or if it was even night or day.

Im afraid that many would have gone crazy in such a situation.

I was afraid of this too, but Itold myself that my loved ones had it even worse, and that Ihad to hold out. Back home friends were calling, and people were calling who Ihad long ago lost track of. They said: Were praying for you! I was touched by how many there were. The main thing was not to lose consciousness, because Iwas weak.

When did your water give out?

I still had some left! Twenty milliliters (about an ounce ed.) By the second day Ididnt even want to drink, because of the stress. On Friday Icalled a certain Sergey Konstantinovich, who they told me was in charge of me at the headquarters. He said: Hold on. Something is going to happen soon. And Iunderstood that there would be an assault. The Chechens then were playing their music on the radio or tape deck, and it seemed to me that they were getting ready to shoot people, because they were always praying on stage.

I detected the moment of the assault when all around things started blowing up, and the Chechens were yelling and running around like crazy. The guard on the other side of the wall fired a long burst. Bullets went through one door, then the other, and Isaw the light of tracers. Then the door leading to the corridor was kicked open. I hear a Russian voice: Get your hands on your head right now! I said that Iwas a hostage. Someone yelled: Seryoga, take the corner! My soldier yelled: Sit! Sit! And obediently Isat down and lost consciousness.

It turns out that my friends came to the theater to offer themselves. They wanted to take my place. My husband came. I love them so much. It was only thanks to their support that Isurvived.

 
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