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HostageL.Lokshina recalls the events
Written by   
, 30 2002

In Moskovsky Komsomolets , Irina Bobrova

Twice not shot

Were going to kill every tenth person, the terrorists told the woman. Sixty years earlier, the fascists had released her on the count of ten.

It has been a little more than a month since the seizure of hostages in the theatrical center at Dubrovka. On November 7th the authorities reported the precise number of dead hostages: 128. This week another woman passed away, and seven are still in critical condition. Forty-eight have had to be hospitalized once again.

Lilia Lokshina was in intensive care at the war veterans hospital exactly one month, and last week she was moved to the cardiology department. She does not know what went on during the assault on the theatrical center, how many people died, or how long she was unconscious. Lilia Mihailovnas husband is trying not to tell her anything.

Lilia Lokshina believes that she was born under a lucky star. She has twice been a hostage the other time was in the summer of 1943. Each time she succeeded in escaping from death.

Lilia and her mother Galina Antonovna lived in Minsk a long time ago. Galya was 20when she gave birth to her daughter. Half a year later the war started, and her husband went to the front, while Galya began working with the partisans.

There were a lot of informants in the city, and somebody found out that my brother was the commander of a partisan company, recounts Galina Antonovna. They searched the house and sent us to the prison where all suspects were taken. Lilia was only three at the time.

We were held hostage for almost four days, continues Galina Antonovna. There were about seventy people in the cell. Each night the fascists opened the door and singled out nine for death, and released the tenth one. We already knew that they took those nine in a truck out into the woods, where they had already dug some graves. Along the way they released gas into the back of the truck, and the people died in terrible agony. So whenever the condemned were taken from the cell, there was so much crying and yelling and moaning. My daughter was in my arms the whole time and asking me: Mamochka, why are they going to kill us?

They ended up lucky number ten, since Galina and her daughter counted as one person. In Minsk that year more than 5,000 were shot.

On a Saturday evening almost 60years later, Muscovite Lilia Mihailovna, now a teacher at Moscow Universitys boarding school for gifted children, headed for the theater with her girlfriend Galina.

We had the very best seats: the ninth row in the main seating, recounts Lilia Mihailovna. At the beginning of the second act a bomb showed up near our prestigious seats, in the 11th row, in the exact center of the auditorium.

At first we didnt know what had happened, and for another few hours we still could not believe what was going on. After all, we had no one to talk to, there no one was in the ninth row except for us, continues the former hostage. In front of us sat a Chechen woman in black, and behind us was the bomb. I didnt even see them bring it in and set it up. I had the feeling that it had been there even before the seizure of the building.

On the second day a man in a camouflage uniform showed up and declared that if the Russian authorities did not carry out their demands, they would start shooting every tenth person.

And Lilia Mikhailovna remembered Minsk in 1943. The pictures, long forgotten by her childhood memory, flashed before her eyes: cell #86 on the third floor of that Belarusian prison where she spent four days with her mother.

I sat there and remembered what Ithought Id forgotten forever, says Lilia Mikhailovna. In front of me Isaw the faces of the Nazis, familiar to the tiniest little line, the details of their uniforms, and Iheard with some inner hearing those sharp voices speaking in a harsh, foreign language. I was frightened. After all, they say that when a person is dying their life flashes before their eyes. So, in order to distract myself, Itried to speak with the female kamikaze.

Back then, in Minsk, did anyone try to speak with the fascists?

Well now, of course not. But all the Chechen women looked so young, though our Chechen was a bit older. Apparently she was the head of them all, continues Lokshina. I tried to talk with her, but she was so tired, and falling asleep all the time. She held a pistol in her left hand. The gun rocked from side to side, and fell from her hand a few times. I wanted to tell her to let me hold it while she took a nap. There were none of the male gunmen around. They were all sitting at the end of the auditorium. Once the Chechen woman whispered to us: Do you think we want your deaths? Dont worry, we wont kill you. They didnt want to blow up the building. Thats for sure! It seemed to me that they were waiting for someone the whole time. Only who?

After awhile they started to release the children, and a few of the women.

One Frenchwoman took her child as well as someone elses, and whispered to that girls mother that she could find her daughter later, recalls Lilia Mihailovna. I remember another little girl. She was so clever and happy. When they began to lead out the children, she latched onto her mama and didnt want to let go. They stayed there until the end. I dont know if they survived or not.

On the second day Lilia Mihailovna accidentally slipped in the orchestra pit where the terrorists had set up a latrine. A blood vessel broke in the womans leg, and she bandaged her leg with some kind of a rag, but it was unendurable to sit in a chair. They permitted the woman to lie under her chair, and from that moment on she lost track of time.

I didnt know whether it was night or day. I cant believe that we sat there for three days. It seemed to me that it all only lasted for a few hours, she recalls. Its so strange. After all, a long time ago, back in Minsk, my mother had the very same feeling. It also seemed to her that we were in prison for only a day, and Iwas too small to understand.

During the whole time she was there, Lilia Mihailovna only ate three pieces of Inspiration chocolate, and took a few swallows of water. The chocolate and water were given the hostages by the terrorists.

Back then in Minsk they also fed us, remembers Lilia Mihailovna. Once a day they gave us some kind of soup. Mama, Iremember, didnt eat her portion, but stuffed it into me. But Ionly wanted to eat on the first day, just like during this recent capture. I was squeamish about the going to the bathroom. People climbed down into the orchestra pit and covered their faces with their hands. They found it uncomfortable, shameful. The hostages up on the balcony were taken to the regular bathroom, though the flush wasnt working. Later the gunmen selected a woman from the audience and made her the cleaning woman. After every person she washed the toilets.

Did you suspect that there would be an assault?

Why it does not surprise me Idont know, but information percolated through from somewhere. When we were standing in line for the orchestra pit, people started to pass down the line a rumor that at any moment the assault would begin, and they would release gas. When Ireturned to my spot Isuggested to Galya that she not drink any more water, but use it to wet the hem of her skirt so that she would have a moist rag to hold to her face.

Both women awoke in the hospital.

Apparently, when the rescuers carried out the people, Iwas taken for dead. They had walked all over me. My lips, forearm, legs, my whole body was all covered in bruises, and these still havent gone away. They carried me out of the DK last. The probably saved first those who were sitting and conscious.

Lilia Lokshina was put into intensive care at the war veterans hospital, only a hop, skip, and a jump from the DK building. She was unconscious for two weeks, and has been on a respirator for an entire month.

More than forty hostages passed through our hospitals intensive care department, recounts department head Lyudmila Sergeevna. Practically all had the same diagnosis: acute poisoning. The reason for their illness was not just the gas. The fasting had its effect, as did the absence of water, long-term immobility, and, of course, stress. None of our patients needed to be re-admitted to the hospital. In most of the hospitals people did not allow themselves to finish their treatments, and asked to be released early. Many even went to work the next day. But obviously, after such a stress, a long period of recovery is necessary.

By the Proletarskaya subway station, not far from the theatrical center, is a poster advertising the show: Every evening a full-sized bomber will land on the stage. Nord-Ost. A classical musical.

The clock over the poster is broken. By coincidence, its hands have stopped at the time when the assault began.

 
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