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A Hostage from Kazakhstan
Written by   
, 09 2004

ImageAmong those killed in Beslan was a boy from Karaganda

Natasha, if you were face to face with the killers of your child

“I would tear them to pieces. These aren't men and not even animals,” says Natalya Gutnova. Thewoman is calm and in control of herself. Herten-year-old son, Zaur, was among the hostages in Beslan. After the explosion in the school gym of the school that had been captured by terrorists, he was among the slain. He tried to escape. Hewas shot. Inthe head.

Zaur's mom could not make it to Beslan for his funeral. Forone thing, she was unable to borrow the sum needed to buy round-trip tickets. For another, her Ossetian relatives warned her that because of martial law the road to Beslan was closed. And Natalya had no documentation; all she had was a divorce decree. They would not have let her in, so that was that.

A modest wake service for the slain child was held at home, in Karaganda. Itwas on September 6th, the same day that Zaur's body was buried in North Ossetia.

The inter-ethnic marriage of Natalya and Vladimir fell apart, unable to take the strain. Onceupon a time the family lived in Karaganda, but six years ago Volodya's mom called him back “to their historic homeland”, in North Ossetia. Living in a new place, she had come to Karaganda for her son and daughter-in-law.

Natalya does not like to talk about how life was in that foreign land. Sheanswers the questions in monosyllables. Clearly it was not a good life, and she came back to Karaganda, pregnant and her little daughter in tow. Andwith a divorce decree. Heroldest, Zaur, remained in North Ossetia. His father and grandmother would not give him up to his mother: they said they were within their legal rights.

Natalya comforted myself with the thought that she would soon see Zaur, it was not as if he were living on another planet. Beslan was a quiet town, and she was sure her son's life was in no danger. Whenshe heard the news on TV about the hostage situation, she fainted.

“I tried calling my mother in law, but nobody took the phone,” she says. “Finally got hold of a neighbor. Hesaid he knew nothing, that his family was also taken hostage. Icalled every number Ihad, and everywhere got different information. Someone said that Zaur was not in school. Afriend told me that my son went alone to the first day assembly. Butnot to worry. Theterrorists were giving them something to drink and taking them to the bathroom. Butthey weren't feeding them.”

Someone else raised Gutnova's hopes with the news that Zaur had escaped and was being evacuated with his grandmother. Thetension eased slightly. Onthe third of September, however, her ex-husband phoned Natalya's sister and said that Zaur had died.

It happened when the gym was blown up and the children rushed out of the building. Those who could, got away, but those whom the terrorists were able to catch were shot to death in the cafeteria. Zaur received three bullet wounds, one to the head. Volodya did not immediately recognize his own son.

The family is suffering its unbearable grief in silence, their pain known only to close friends. Natalya now thinks of only one thing scraping together enough money to go to Beslan, to her son's grave. Sheunderstands that this will not bring him back, but the soul strives for this. The woman is hesitant to beg strangers for the money to travel to her son's grave, but she admits that she would be very grateful if such assistance were provided.

Ten year-old Zaur was a kind, considerate boy, a good student, and loved his sister very much. Onthe first of September he would have been in the fourth grade. For these murders of children Natalya has but one word: monsters.

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