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Hostage Marat tells hisstory
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, 28 2002
By Olga Gerdt, in ‘Gazeta’
Assistant stage director Marat (name withheld by request) was one of the lucky ones who got out of the ‘Nord-Ost’ building before the assault. Hisinterview with ‘Gazeta’ reporter Olga Gerdt was made while most of Marat’s colleagues were still inside the auditorium and various offices inside the theater building. Weare publishing this interview today as one of the first eyewitness accounts of a participant in the tragedy.
- Where were you at the moment of capture?
I was at my workplace. Iam an assistant director, and my job is to monitor the situation on stage and behind the scenes to avoid possible conflicts. Iwas on stage.
- When did you realize that something was wrong?
You perhaps recall how the second act starts? Thepilots are tap dancing, and then the main character comes on stage. Thatevening Andrei Bogdanov played him. Theyexchange a few remarks of a humorous nature, but before Tchkalov is to appear Isee some man jump from the hall onto the stage. Heis wearing camouflage and a vest, and has a mask all the way down to his shoulders, and has laced up black boots and a Kalashnikov assault rifle. Myfirst reaction: is this some kind of a bad joke? Ishe from one of our law enforcement agencies? SWAT? Why, and from where, was not clear. Thenthe man fires a burst from a machinegun and starts chasing actors out into the auditorium with his gun. Inthis scene there were nine, including the main character. Atthat moment Istill did not know what was going on, and our carpenters start to push me into the room where they have their workshop. Thisis past the stage area. Sowe went in there, the six of us: the head of wardrobe, the chief of the scenery shop and of his people, and me. Welocked it from the inside, and then turned off the lights and hid.
- Did the terrorists check the rooms behind the stage?
They went through them very quickly, you could say at times it seemed chaotic, and it suggests to me that they did not know the precise plan of the building, because a lot of actors escaped from the make-up room by climbing down from the windows using costumes that they knotted together. Theyknocked at the door, but we did not respond, and periodically the phone would ring here, and we heard it ringing in the prop room opposite. Forone and a half hours we sat and listened to everything going on in the hall, but then somehow they found out about the broadcast (of sound from the stage) and turned it off. Wewere in complete silence, but later technical director Andrei Yelovich called up and asked where we were. Wetold him, and just a half hour later some uniformed men with weapons came in, and Andrei. TheEmergency Ministry people got some hydraulic shears to cut the bars off the window and got us out.
- What floor was this?
First floor.
- Your wife, Anzhelika, was she at home that evening?
She came by that evening to see me at ‘Nord-Ost’ and almost caused a scene. Shewanted to stay and watch the play.
- And you sent her home?
She almost made a scene when Isent her home!
- What happened after you got out?
We were put in a police van, which was standing on Melnikov Street, and they took us a little farther from the scene of the action. Various officials came to visit us in the van: the duty officer from the Interior Ministry, two FSB majors, a RUBOP (anti-organized crime department) major, and they questioned us. Later they drove us through Volgogradka and Proletarka, to Dubrovka #1, where we were approached by other law enforcement officials. After this Iwas able to call ‘Lika’ (Anzhelika). Iwas in shock. Whenwe were still in the (scenery) room, we all quietly sat there, but for some reason there was this gush of emotion that came out at when everybody started phoning loved ones. There (in the scenery room) Iwas not nervous, Ijust counted time: at what time would the play have finished, how long would take me to get home, how long Iwould be delayed we were getting ready for a concert and it took a lot of time and energy.That is why so many of our people and children ended up getting taken hostage.
- Where were the children?
They were on the second floor, where there is the snack bar and the theater guestroom. There were some on the third floor, too, where there are lobbies where they were rehearsing. Galya Delyatitskaya is the assistant choreographer. Sheworks with the children. Georgy Leonardovich Vasilyev was also in the theater. Therehearsals went on until one o’clock. Onthat day it was my turn to lead them.
- Did the children stay behind at the theater because of rehearsals?
We have only one child in the second act. Allthe other children are in the first act. Sothat day it was Filipp Avdeyev. Somehow he managed to escape. Therest either left or went to rehearsals, and there they were when they captured them. MarkRozovsky’s daughter Sasha was also there.
- While you were sitting behind the scenes, what did you hear on the broadcast from the hall?
They herded people into the hall with a lot of shouting and a lot of firing in the air. Judging by the sound, the first shots were blanks, but then the live ammo started. Iwas in the army and Ican tell the sound of a blank round from a live one. Andagain, the burst that Isaw (while still on stage) was directed at the ceiling, where we have audio equipment mounted, and lighting, and a suspended ceiling. There certainly would have been some stuff falling or the sound of bullets hitting up there, but there was nothing like that. AsI understand it, they had the upper part of the ‘horn’ (curved magazine) filled with blanks to put psychological pressure on the hostages. Theyrounded up people and began to speak: “We came here from Grozny and we have nothing more to lose. Weachieved our goal and here we are. Wemade bombs in Grozny.” In all likelihood, they showed these to the hostages. “Do you see these three buttons? We’ve booby-trapped the entrances and exits. IfI press these then everyone here is blown sky-high.”
- Was the room quiet?
At this point, yes. Theyachieved that. There was a definite leader: he began his speech by first shooting, but before that there was a lot of talk in Vainakh (the northeast Caucasus language group that includes Chechen, Ingush, and others). Ifyou have ever heard it, you understand that it is impossible to even imitate this accent. Heasked if there were any Georgians, Azerbaijanis, or foreigners. Thenthere was a noise in the hall, a din. Thepeople apparently began reacting to his words. ThenI heard: “Documents, documents.” Iunderstand they determined, according to documents, who was a citizen of what republic. Thenagain there were a lot of shots, some cursing in Vainakh as they tried to calm the hall, or terrorize it. Thenthey divided up the hall: the women to the left, the men to the right. Thedivided up the hall and then again some shooting and intimidation. Someone asked for water.
- A man or a woman?
A woman. Shewas given water. Behind the stage we keep this sort of order: canisters of drinking water are standing there, since during transitions actors could have a dry throat, so it is there to keep them hydrated. Theytold her snidely: “Don’t drink too much, there’s not enough for a month.” Then again, more noise, chatter, and conversation that was impossible to understand. Theonly thing Icould specifically make out were the names of some of the militants: Rashid or Rashad, Idris, and Sultan. Thenone of the women tried to talk with them. Shesaid: “What are you doing, guys? There are women and children here. Youalso have mothers and wives.” At that one of the militants replied, not the one, not the leader who spoke fluent Russian and basically tried to keep himself correct like some sort of a correct hero, fairly balanced and not devoid of logic. Histimbre even had a calming effect on the hall. Butthis other gunman said to her: “In Chechnya your Russian soldiers drag our girls around like this.” Then Irealized he was using physical force on her. Theybegan shouting “Allah Akbar” with some phrases in their language. Itwas as if it brought him to some kind of religious ecstasy. Whenthey separated the men from the women, they said: “Sit down here in the second row. Youdon’t need any tickets. Hereare some good seats for free, so sit down.”
- So, when people say that the gunmen were well behaved, it was not so?
Everyone except the leader, they communicated with people with a jeer, and reveling in the fact that no one could do a thing about it. Theleader, apparently, could very cleverly make a veiled, and that was it. Theywere always shouting about their bombs and threatening people. Weheard all of this until they shut off the source of transmission. Theylooked like well-trained militants: in ideal uniforms of the same camouflage color and material, masks down to their shoulders. Everything as it should be, but they did not really know the building’s other facilities.
- Did you have security?
What security? Youraverage theater security. There were, of course, some strong guys, but there were there were mostly elderly people and they were not armed.
- After being freed, did you contact anyone still inside the theater?
On the first day, when they drove me around to all three headquarters, Igot home late and the first call on my answering machine from my colleague and friend, ‘Tolya’ (Anatoly) Glazychev. Hecalled from the auditorium. Fromhis wife Ilearned that he was in the hall sitting next to Georgy Leonardovich Vasilyev. Theywere holding up. HowTolya was able to call me, Ido not know, but his voice sounded quite peppy.
- Do you know how your colleagues saved themselves?
When the FSB was questioning me, it so happened that Isaw those who managed to escape. Isaw one of the scenery carpenters, the one who directs the elevation of the roads from a computer. Heran behind stage and a Chechen woman pointed a pistol at him, knocked him over and forced him to lie down. Helaid down and said farewell to life, and then someone shouted something in Vainakh to her. Sheran off, and he managed to escape from the building. Oneof the scenery carpenters, Kirill, managed to climb up to the gallery and, as his friend Dima said, he got out of the building through the catwalk over the stage. Today Iwas told that in the prop room is Larissa, the prop chief. Itis a dead end and does not have any windows or a backdoor, and it is completely cut off from everything. Ido not know how she will get out of there.
OLGA GERDT: We spoke once again with Marat on the evening after the assault, when the hostages were already taken to the hospital. Hesaid that, to his knowledge, all nine actors that were taken hostage were alive and well, and so was Georgy Vasilyev, the author of the musical.Assistant choreographer Galina Delyatitskaya, which was taken hostage along with the children, is also doing well. Those who left the building before the assault were definitely lucky, including the six declared released by the terrorists on the morning of October 25th. Noone released them, and it seems that the terrorists did not even know about them. These people, among them assistant director Oleg Klenin, hid behind an iron door in the cash room, by the administration offices. Theheadquarters was in contact with them and decided to get them out. Another five, according to Marat, were freed during the day of the 25th. These were stagehands that had spent two days on the third floor: two electricians and three from the sound department. Theygot up to the attic along a ladder, and then got out through the vents. Propchief Larissa, about whom Marat was worried on the first day after the capture (of the theater), was forced to surrender to the terrorists: she came out of her dead-end room and joined the hostages in the hall. Hedoes not yet know how she is doing.
Marat spent the day before the assault with his ‘Nord-Ost’ colleagues: they got a call from Anatoly Glazychev and Georgy Vasilyev, who were still in the hall and asked them to go to a demonstration. Atthat moment they all felt that they needed to make any concession that could save the lives of more than seven hundred hostages. Marat suggested that idea for the hostages’ calls was probably from the (hostage rescue) headquarters, and certainly not from the terrorists.
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