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Karagandans at Nord-Ost: One yearlater
Written by   
, 22 2003

I had only one thought. Ithought that Ihad to get out. Iknew that if Russia started to storm (the theater), there would be countless victims. And, of course, that's how it turned out

Karagandan Svetlana Gubareva. American Sandy Booker. Chechen Movsar Barayev. TheMoscow theatrical center. ‘Nord-Ost’. Taken hostage. Shock. Fear. Thestorming. Death. Exactly one year ago people, destinies, understandings, and tragic coincidences were all intertwined. Exactly a year later Svetlana Gubareva talks about it all.

Svetlana Nikolaevna brought a full bag of documents and videocassettes. Wetalked for over four hours.

About life 'before'. Howher life was almost turned out otherwise. Hervisa to the US was almost ready. Allthe documents were ready; Svetlana with her daughter Sasha and American fiancé Sandy Booker were walking about Moscow. Hereare pictures of her loved ones. Sasha and Sandy at a delfinarium. Ina trench at the World War IImuseum. Sandy in a Kazakh folk costume hat, and here, sitting at a computer printing up a translation for his Russian family. Ontheir faces is happiness, smiles. OnOctober 23rd, 2002, they bought tickets for the musical at the Dubrovka theatrical center

About her life 'after'. TheTroekurovsky cemetery in Moscow, where Sasha is buried. Documents and films about the terrorist seizure of the Dubrovka theater. Correspondence with foreign journalists, regular meetings with those who spent 56terrifying hours in the audience, and with those who lost loved ones there.

I'm trying to figure out what all went on back then

Invitation

Karagandan Svetlana Gubareva met an electrical engineer from Oklahoma through the Internet. InFebruary of 2002she found his ad on a Russian personals site, and decided to send him a message. Sandy immediately replied. Theywrote to each other, exchanged pictures, called each other, and already by June they were meeting in the Russian capital.

The second time we went to Moscow was in October, said Svetlana. Though we had decided to meet a little later. Wefigured that if everything turned out all right we'd go to the US sometime before New Year's. Butthe appointment for an interview at the US embassy came quite unexpectedly. OnOctober 12th Igot a letter saying that we should be at the interview on the 23rd. Sandy wasn't supposed to come, but he got lonesome and found a good reason to come they needed some documents from him about his financial situation, proof that he could support us. Andso he decided to bring all the needed documents himself even though he could have just sent them to Moscow by mail.

Early morning on October 23rd we stood at the gates of the embassy waiting for them to open. Andwe were the first to enter. Everything went well. The consular official was very surprised to learn that Sandy was waiting for me out in the hall it's not very common for the fiancés to cross the ocean to help out their ladies. Theofficial asked how we had met, how many times we had met, and said that if everything was okay in two days time we should receive our documents While we were sitting there at ‘Nord-Ost’, our biggest worry was that our passports were at the consulate and we had nothing with us to prove we weren't Russians."

Coincidence

We went to the musical quite by chance. Itwas my idea, I'd heard about the show for some time, it had been advertised everywhere. Theysaid that a real airplane lands in the second scene. Thatwould have been very interesting to see. Well, and except for that, we didn't know if we'd ever be back in Moscow again. Andso there were, walking along the Tverskoi and there by the metro station were two ticket kiosks. Iwent by one, looked in, but Ididn't buy anything. Istopped at the second one and thought 'Buy tickets? No, let's keep going'. Butthe saleswoman was shouting 'I'll give you such great tickets!' and promised a great show. Shehad two tickets left for the 15th row and two for the 17th. Irefused: 'We need three together'. Butshe insisted that we could change them at the theater with someone. Andso she talked me into it. Weended up sitting together at the end of row 17. Seats 24through 26. There were a lot of people in the audience; the hall was about two-thirds full. Inall honesty, Ididn't really think much of the show. Iwanted to leave, but Ithought Ishould wait for the bomber to land. Themost interesting things usually happen in the second act. Andso we stayed

Taken prisoner

October 23rd, 9:00 PM

Svetlana Nikolaevna showed me a film made by an English director by the name of Dan Reed, called 'Terror in Moscow', in which the hostages recounted minute by minute the terrible events in the ball bearings plant's cultural center (on Dubrovka). Allof the documentaries concerning the tragedy at Dubrovka start with the same footage: a video camera is fixed on the show, filming the moment that the theater is seized. Thelights in the theater hall had been turned off, and only the stage was brightly lit. Dressed in aviator's jumpsuits, the tall actors were smiling and dancing. Then, unexpectedly, from the left side of the state a man in a black mask appears, wearing loose camouflage clothing and carrying an assault rifle. Something is shouted and he pushes the actors into the audience from the stage and shoots at the ceiling.

My first thought was that this was the Chechen syndrome, being carried over into art, Svetlana Nikolaevna says. A director's idea. Onlymuch latter did Irealize what was going on. Forthe longest time Icouldn't get used to the idea that it was really happening. Ihad a strong desire to simply stand up and say, 'Well, this has all gotten on my nerves, I'm going home!' and Ihad to force myself to stay in my chair.

Judging from everything, these people had entered the theater earlier. Ithink that many of them had been at the show a few times in order to familiarize themselves with the building. Iheard that many hostages say that the Chechen women came from the audience when the hostage taking began, but Iremember that they came in. Maybe their first detachment sat together with us, and left afterwards. Idon't know."

The first victim

October 23rd, 11:00 PM

But Ifinally realized how dangerous it all was when they shot Olga Romanova Ithappened two hours after the capture. Inthe English journalists' film, there's some partial footage done from the center of the theater. Onthe screen a frail little girl in a dark jacket and beret decisively heads for the glass doors, the main entrance to the cultural palace. Sheyanks on the handles. Thedoor doesn't open. Shegrabs another. Itopens and she disappears inside.

I can't understand how she managed to get by the three rings of soldiers surrounding us!" Svetlana yelled indignantly. Later someone told me that a man from the street wanted to get into the theater to be with his family, and they threw him in jail! Whydidn't anyone stop Romanova? Whenshe pushed her way into the hall we were sitting with Barayev in the same row. Onlywe were at one end, and he was at the other. SoI could here very well what was happening. Shedidn't carry deport herself, adequately. Theysat her down with Barayev. Heasked: 'Who are you?' But she answered with a challenge, yelling to the audience: 'Why should you be afraid of these guys?!' The people muttered to her: 'Sit down, they'll kill you.' But she just got more inflammatory. Ican't really say if the girl was drunk or not, but when they took her out to shoot, it didn't seem to bother her. Shewalked evenly. Andit's even visible on the film that the FSB secretly made from the inside.

Olga Romanova was 25or 26. Later Imet a classmate of hers named Natasha. According to her girlfriend, Olga had to connection to the secret service. Shelived next door to the theater, and Natasha said that Olga was just a very emotional person.

Waitresses from the concession stands, light operators, managers. Andspectators: parents with their children, teachers with their classes, young people on dates, foreign tourists. Documentary footage has captured the tension in the closed spaced of the red hall, tinged with an artificial yellow light. Inthe center seats and on the balcony lay big bright green cylindrical bombs. About the stage walk men with assault rifles. Atthe ends of the rows stand or sit girls, covered in black, girded with bright packets of explosives. Andkerchiefs, covering their faces, leaving open only their large dark eyes. Intheir hands the 'martyrs' hold pistols and grenades.

All the Chechen girls were so young! Sometimes it seemed to be the balcony was empty. Later Ifound out that many up there had taken their seats apart and laid them between the rows in order to sleep, but Ididn't see those people. Somepeople broke apart the dividers between the seats and armrests, in order to lie down. Butwe were law-abiding and didn't break anything. Andthat's how it was, how we hung out for days in the hall: changes seats, for example, a bit further from the bombs, which stood under the balconies, or by the foreigners. Sowe changed places four times.

They fed us with whatever they found in the concession stand, mostly chocolates and other sweets. Chechen women sat behind their men. No, we weren't hungry, because they gave us enough to eat, and various juices. There was milk, and chocolate fills you up. Because we sat on edge, we weren't hungry or thirsty. Those who sat in the center probably had it worse. Foodwas carried from the buffet and passed out by rows. AndI saw with my own eyes people who just grabbed up everything in their row. 'I need it too', they said and didn't pass anything on

The Chechen women took the seating by the toilets. Thewomen who sat on the balcony went to a normal bathroom located nearby, but men were given some kind of area to use. Inthe front rows we had it a bit rough. Inorder to go to the regular bathroom, you had to cross the hallway with the glass wall. Andbeyond the glass out on the street lay snipers who might shoot at any moving target. Theyassigned us the orchestra pit for a toilet. Boyson the right, girls on the left. Manyfound this degrading. Women in expensive outfits, of course, were indignant. I'm supposed to crawl into that hole?! But Ijust took it in stride. Ifyou've got to, you've got to. Nothing pleasant about it, of course: the pit quickly filled up with two-three centimeters of this nasty mess. Thesmell from there quickly spread through the hall, but we sat at the end of the row, were there was a little breeze from the broken windows.

Waiting

Why didn't Sasha leave when they started to let the kids go?

Well, they only let kids under 12go, and Sasha was already 13. Secondly, when this happened, we sat in the 17th row and didn't know what was happening below the sound carried poorly. Iunderstood that that they were letting kids out only when they were at the exit, and by then it was already too late.

They let a few foreigners leave. Fromwhat Icould make out, it was because various foreign governments made direct contacts with the Chechen representatives, going around Moscow. Iwas simply deeply shocked by Interior Minister Gryzlov's declaration that he was against freeing the foreigners. Asif among the foreigners weren't women and children!

It was hard for us to prove that we were also foreigners, because we had no documents with us. TheChechens could care less that Sandy could barely understand Russian. Somany people there spoke foreign languages. Andfor the terrorists it was all clear: show your identification, then talk.

How did you behave?

We slept sitting up. Ihad only one thought: we've got to get out of here soon. Oursituation was different from the other hostages. Theterrorists told us all the time: 'Don't worry, we're not at war with foreigners, we'll let you go soon.' Of course, they threatened that they would shoot everybody at any moment. Theyhad to keep about 800people quiet. Butwe weren't afraid of the Chechens like the Russians were.

Did Sasha ask for anything?

No.

Did she complain about anything?

No.

You wrote something on her hand?

She wrote down the number of my Moscow friend. Andalso wrote it on a slip of paper and kept it in her pocket. Iwas sure that we'd all leave the hall. Sowe talked mostly about what we needed to do after we left, whom we had to call.

Sandy tried to amuse Sasha, while Itried to find out a bit more about what was going on, to talk with the Chechens. Tostand in the aisles was forbidden, but you could go from place to place. Whenthere was some hope of letting Sasha out of the hall, Italked with Barayev and Yassir.”

Another shot

October 25th, 11:25 PM

They brought him into the hall. Hewas rather plump, with normal musculature, a balding man. Somewhere he'd been attacked, because his head was all bloody. Inhis hands he had a polyethylene packet. Oneof the Chechens poured out the contents onto the stage, something bright, yellowish red. Without my glasses Icouldn't tell what it was. Itwas something similar to a kid's plaything. Theytook the man to Movsar; it was in the aisle not far from us. Barayev asked him: 'Who are you, and why have you come?' The man said that he was looking for his son Roma. Barayev didn't believe him. 'Are you lying?' But Yassir came up and said: 'No, no! Iknow that kid. There's one Roma. Howold is he?' 'Sixteen,' answered the man. 'No, that kid is little. Perhaps a different Roma.' And later they yelled at the hall: 'who is his son? Whohere is Roma?' The people were silent. Thenthey took the man to the stage and put him where everyone could see, then asked: 'This means there is no such son?' 'I guess not.' The Chechens declared that the man had been sent by the secret service and took him out to be shot. Iheard a couple of bursts of automatic fire.

Desperation

Movsar Barayev was rather talkative. Andhis outward appearance was not unattractive. Hetalked with many hostages. Manyof Chechens were well humored. Butthere were a few cruel ones among them. Iremember a young man; Ithought perhaps not even twelve years old. Ihad a feeling that he was aching to assume command, that he wanted to take over things. Whenshooting started, the hostages all fell the ground without any command, while the Chechens insisted that everyone remain in their seats. Andat that moment the boy began to run over to make everyone get up, yelling 'Sit! Everyone sit!' beating people with the butt of his assault rifle. 'Now you're going to get it from me.' Barayev at that point sat on the stage. Helooked at the kid and asked: 'Have you seen the movie Slave of Izaur?' The boy stopped. 'Yeah, so?' 'Well, you look just like the task master from that film.' He embarrassed the boy and lessened the tension.

The first time we talked with Barayev it was right after our capture. Hesat a row behind us. Well, of course, everyone around him turned to him and asked him questions: 'why are you here? What's going to happen?' And you know it's simply not true that the Chechens demanded relatives of the hostages to go out on Red Square and demonstrate. Whathe said was, when people claimed that they were against the war, Barayev replied: 'Well, you don't act like you're against the war, you don't go out onto Red Square and demand they stop the war!' A few hours after these words a lady got up from the front row and said: 'You see, the government’s not going to do anything? Ourlives our in our own hands! Comeon, let's call our relatives and tell them to go have a meeting out on Red Square to stop the war!' Barayev merely shrugged his shoulders. 'Go ahead and call if you want' and told his people to hand out the cell phones.

We also talked with the Chechen girls. Ican't speak for everyone but the majority was there out of desperation. Theysaid, 'we don't care were we die.' And Iunderstood that. AChechen girl, who stood next to me, was about my age. Hertwelve-year-old son was taken from school by the federation forces, and he disappeared. Herhome was destroyed in the first Chechen war. Herhusband built a new one, and it too was destroyed. Herhusband was killed, and her brother was killed. Sheleft her fifteen-year-old daughter with a sister, and then came to 'Nord-Ost'. Iunderstand, why she came here. Idon't want to say that she was right, because no terrorist act is right. Butit was desperation.

Explosion

October 25th, Midnight.

It happened sometime around twelve at night. Iwasn't asleep, Iwas looking at the stage, and at that moment Isaw in the corner a Chechen jumped from his chair. Suddenly he started shooting. Ilooked in the direction where he was firing. There was a fellow, 2030years old, in a thin gray sweater, holding a little glass bottle of Pepsi. Heran in the direction of the explosives. Itwas obvious that his nerves had given out. Thewhole hall gasped. Thebullets didn't hit the fellow, and they dragged him away, didn't hit him. Whenthey brought him to Barayev, Barayev was amused by the act, and asked: 'What did you do that for?' The fellow mumbled something: 'I don't know. Iwanted to save all of us.' They pushed him from the hall. Barayev said that he would be judged according to Sharia law. Hewasn't shot. Whathappened to him, Idon't know. Somebullets hat hit the people who he ran by. Tamara Starkova and another man. There was a one doctor there, he said that woman had a penetrating wound of the abdominal cavity, and the man was wounded in the head. Iheard the people next to me calling for help on their cell phones, asking for doctors to take away the wounded. Allwas shocking why didn't anyone want to arrive for so long? Thenone Chechen took the phone and said: 'if you think that you can smother us here, you are mistaken. Youare smothering your own people. Atleast come and get your own!'

Hope

It was completely clear that the Chechens were under external command. Somedecisions Barayev made himself. Butas for liberating some of the hostages, the orders certainly came from somewhere higher up. Sometime about a half-hour after Tamara was wounded, there was some talk about freeing us. AsI understood it, for this someone in the US had contacted someone. Wheneveryone in the hall had calmed down a bit, Barayev asked: 'well, any Americans here? Callthe consulate, talk to them, and tomorrow morning we'll let you go.' Barayev gave Sandy a phone, and we called the consulate, and started to talk but the batteries gave out. Itold Movsar: 'The phone doesn't work' and he told me: 'Over there they're talking about the wounded, go and take their phone.' Iwas surprised that it had already been an hour since we'd been calling about the wounded, that they needed medical help. Butwhen Iwent over there, it turned out that the other hostages were still trying to convince the authorities to send help. Itwas a big shock for me. Andthe radio and televisions all were saying that they were ready to save us! Buthow did it all turn out in the end? Thedoctors didn't arrive until 3AM.

I waited for them to finish their calls. Iwas given a phone, and a called the embassy once again. Theyasked me: 'What time should we come?' Iasked Barayev. Hesaid: 'whenever is good for them.' Iunderstood that it wasn't a serious conversation. Again Iwent over to Barayev and said: 'Go ahead, you set the time.' Igave him the phone. Theydecided on eight in the morning on the 26th. About 5AM the storming of the theater started. Justthree hours separated life from death"

The Assault

October 26th, 5:30 AM

Here they're carrying Sasha out, Svetlana Nikolaevna hits the 'pause' button and goes up to the screen.

A healthy man in a camouflage uniform carries in his arms a thin girl. Herhead hangs awkwardly; her long hair dangles from side to side. Thespecial forces soldier comes down from the wing of the theater and, like a doll, drops the miniature figure to the ground.

Intensive Care

I came to in city hospital number seven, on the evening of the 26th, continues Svetlana. In intensive care. Onmy left, an IVset, on my right a heart monitor. Iwas told that my heart had stopped. Whenthey brought me out of my coma and Iwas awake for a moment, they asked me who Iwas. ButI don't remember any of that. Therefore when Ifinally came to, Iwas very surprised to see that the doctors already knew my name. Inmy room there were two ‘Nord-Osters’ and an old lady. Ienvied my neighbor Alfiya: her husband was brought to the same hospital and she found out right away. Allthe staff tried to calm me down: 'none of yours has died, your daughter is okay'. Iwas so thirsty. Anorderly brought Alfiya and me some water. Wetook a few sips, and suddenly started vomiting. Theycouldn't even change bedpans. Continuous vomiting with blood, Ithought that it would never end. Mychest hurt terribly on the left side. I'm generally a patient person, but the pain was so bad that Istarted to cry, and Iwas given some pain medication. Forthe first time Ifelt that just in order to think Imust move my brains. Imean, that Itried to think of something, anything, but couldn't. Iforgot even the most elementary words. Theybrought me crossword puzzles, in order to help my memory. Whatreally worried me was my vision: all the time Ifelt like Iwas looking through a tube. Icould only make out what was in right front of me; all my peripheral vision was gone. Myfirst thought was that it would be like this forever. Andof course, the very worst were my thoughts about where were Sasha and Sandy.

I sat on the bed, looking out the window. Aman had a radio, and when Isuddenly heard my name, Ilistened closely. Theyreported that unfortunately there were losses among the Kazakhstan citizens. Thatyesterday Alexandra Letyago died at the hospital."

Sasha

I should say that the Kazakhstan embassy in Moscow worked very well. A representative of the embassy came to the hospital right away, before the police cordoned it off. Representatives of the US and Kazakhstan embassies visited me. Butnone of the Russians even felt it necessary to express their sympathy. Theysimply crossed me out from life and that's all.

Svetlana Nikolaevna took out two school notebooks. Inside: all that the mother wrote down from the official report of her daughter Sasha Letyago's death. Thewoman is convinced that the medical documents are false.

They wrote: she died because she sat a long time in an incorrect position Notlong ago, in the beginning of October (2003), Putin gave foreign journalists an interview. Andthe question arose about the gas used at 'Nord-Ost'. Thepresident said that it was a completely harmless gas, only people with chronic medical conditions had problems, and many of hostages had been sitting a long time in one position, and died from this. ButSasha had no medical problems ever, except for some gastritis once! Idon't know of a single case where a person died from complications of chronic gastritis! Andin the medical report they wrote of cerebral inflammation. Andso they tried to say that there might have been a problem that under normal circumstances would not bother a person.

But Sasha had no encephalitis! Shedidn't complain about anything in the hall. Notabout headache, or stomachache. Theday before Sasha and Ihad a medical exam, and the doctors who were under contract of the American embassy declared us completely healthy!

The first who identified Sasha were my Moscow friends. Andthere the police and medical examiners were a bit shocked about how she was brought in, and right away talked about what really happened. Sasha had been loaded into the bottom of a bus packed with adults. Shewas simply crushed! Sasha was the only child who was brought to the adult hospital.

Sandy

But they didn't give any help to Sandy Onthe 28th, when they took me to a hotel by the Kazakhstan embassy, Icalled the Americans, and they told that it seemed that Sandy was in the morgue. Iwent there on the 29th to identify him. Inhis pocket was to have been a wallet with a large sum of money. Sitting in the theater hall we had written down telephone numbers on notebook paper that Sandy brought from the orchestra pit. Sandy put his sheet in his wallet, which disappeared. Andsince he had no documents, he was counted among the unidentified bodies for a long time Hismother, already an elderly woman, couldn't come to Moscow for her son. Afuneral service sent a coffin with his body to the states

They simply didn't even try to help him. Because it simply wasn't an operation for saving hostages it was an operation for destroying terrorists. Theyjust couldn't care less about the hostages

To read the big, lengthy medical reports about the deaths of her dear ones, Svetlana Gubareva had to go to the Moscow prosecutor's office. There the criminal case concerning the deaths of Alexandra Letyago and Sandy Booker is still open. TheKaragandan insists, that the Russian government take another look at the matter and give her straight answers to her questions. Where and when did her daughter and fiancé die? Wasany medical help given and why can't she find the results? Which bus carried Sasha and why wasn't the child taken to a children's hospital?

Indifference

Where do you plan to live now? InMoscow?

Say what? Ihate that city! Idon't know what I'll do next, Idon't know, Idon't know anything right now. It's all so complicated. Igreat part of this year Ilived in Moscow trying to find out what happened. Icollected documents, tried to get well. Ihad to be hospitalized another two times, and no one from this side helped a bit. TheRussians didn't want to pay for the treatments, even though they'd promised. Icame to the hospital and there they won't say yes or no. Theytell me to call someone up. Icall up some bureaucrat, he won't give me his name and says: 'Just go back to Kazakhstan. Ifsomething happens to you tomorrow I'll be stuck with transporting you.' This is crazy! I'll remember his words the rest of my life.

Well, in November of 2002 a representative of the industrialist and business union, Mr. Volskiy made the official declaration that they would provide for all those who suffered at ‘Nord-Ost’. Theyhave a list, and they calculated how much money, 50thousand (rubles) for every one who died, 25thousand for being a hostage. Butit all turned out to be a lie. Icalled, asked about the money, and they expressed their sympathy and at first acknowledged: Yes, yes, come on over. Butlater, Oh, sorry, we don't have enough money, we're going to give only to orphans. Ihave an acquaintance whose husband died, and is left with two children. Shecalled over there and they also told her: No, no, we don't have any money, and we can't pay you either. Inthe end they started in February to pay just those living in Moscow, but there wasn't enough money for everyone. Dasha Frolova's mother, for example, didn't get a thing."

Five graves in Troekurovsky

Dasha Frolova, the same age as Sasha, was buried alongside the Karaganda resident. Svetlana Nikolaevna taped the path to the girls' graves. Itis a big, well cared for cemetery. Ancient trees all about. There the road to the caretaker, while there, turning left, the path leads to Dasha and Sasha. Nextto the markers are live roses. Small toys lay there.

When we come to Troekurovsky cemetery, we go by all the graves. Iknow where four hostages from 'Nord-Ost' are buried. Thefifth one we haven't found yet. Butit's there somewhere. Onthe internet Ilooked at an article by Vadim Gazayev, 'Story of a dead girl'. Itdescribes the fate of Alena Polyakova, who wasn't included in the official version of the storming of the theater that during the liberation there were no hostage casualties from firearms. Thisgirl was found in the morgue of the military hospital with bullet holes in her body. Herrelatives were simply not given a death certificate, and without this document a funeral is not possible so they had to buy one 'on the side'. SoAlena Polyakova was buried under a different name. I'd like to find her mother, Olga Polyakova, but the Russian government won't allow the former hostages to get together.

I met Irina Fadeyeva during the filming of the English television program. Ira's son Yaroslav was killed. Shetold me that when she went to the morgue, she found a hole over his eyebrow, filled with wax and colored flesh tone. Ithe back of his skull was yet another hole. Butwax is easy to differentiate from skin by touch. Naturally, she decided that it was a bullet wound. Shetold about it during the interview with the journalist, but when the article ‘Nord-Ost, Row 11, Seat Number 30’ came out, the prosecutor's office began to threaten Irina. Mewent to the prosecutor's office to read the official report about the boy's death, and Yaroslav's form was just like the rest: died because he sat to long in an unnatural position."

Anniversary

A year passed. During this time Svetlana Nikolaevna succeeded in surviving a long legal process. Herlawsuit against the Russian government, like almost all the others, was refused.

Why did you sue?

The Russian constitution and the European convention guarantee us a right to life. Thegovernment, Russia, it is true that they took away my loved ones; they did not carry out this out their responsibility. Therefore it follows that they should answer for this. Tomy great sadness, the only means of responsibility for a government is material compensation.

What to you want to avenge?

What can you count on in the government when a responsible person in a position of authority, who 'prevented a terrorist attack' at 'Nord-Ost' receives the nation's highest award, 'Hero of Russia'?! Nowmany hostages are stuck in those three horrible October days. Theywho lost their loved are changing their declarations; in the search for justice they are going to court, beating on the doors of the prosecutors. They've united in a community organization by the name of 'Nord-Ost'. Together it's not so offensive to get indifferent answers from bureaucrats. It's not so awful to carry one's pain into uncaring offices. Whenthe powers all about declare victory and salvation of the hostages, we search for the reasons for our loved ones' deaths; we bother them with out of place questions. Weannoying ones with our unending pretensions and complaints ruin the positive statistics, we don't sign up for a new life or the conception of such a 'victory'.

Meeting such indifference in Russia, the victims of 'Nord-Ost' wrote to the European Court of Human Rights. Thespecial forces didn't knock out many of the terrorists when they entered the building in Moscow. Theleaders of the hostage rescue operation didn't try all means to save the people; the powers didn't try to find a compromise. Toomany were killed by the narcotic gas. Thepeople who were poisoned by the gas were sent to hospitals under terrible conditions. Knowing from the very first how the gas worked, the powers didn't ready a single ambulance, or enough beds in hospitals. Theyallowed robbing of the unconscious and the dead. Allthese accusations the victims sent to the European institution.

We are a small, yet stubborn group, compared to those who suffered, only 15to 20who were at 'Nord-Ost',” says Svetlana. And those who were around ‘Nord-Ost’ at the time, the relatives of the dead. Eachmonth we get together, even on the 26th of September. Thelast time, we talked about what we'd do on the anniversary. Since our loved ones are buried in various places, this October 26th we'd like to go to all the cemeteries, every one of them. Later we'll sit together and talk about ours, about the painful things. Onthe 26th, certainly, we’ll go to the theater. Iknow that now they’re working on making some kind of a memorial for the victims. We'll see what sort of a monument it is. Afew times we sent (Moscow mayor) Luzhkov and the Moscow city government letters asking that they make a plaque with the names of the dead. Ihave an answer which states that the Moscow city government it is not realistic, since the theater is not a place for such things.

Thoughtlessness

Eduard Topol wrote a story with you as a central character in his book 'Two at Nord-Ost'. Haveyou read this novel?

Topol has done a lot of nice things for me, he took an active role in my destiny. Hewent to the hospital, carried all of us fruits, and his books. Without his help they never would have given me the promised treatments. Iknew that the book ‘Nord-Ost’ with my story in it was coming out, and Iwanted it to be as factual as possible. ButI didn't read the book because Ihave my own view of what happened: Iwas in the hall. Ihave no desire to read it. Toexperience it all over again is too hard, impossible.

In his book Topol described the Russian bride of Barayev. Haveyou talked to this girl?

Yes. ButI but know her only from the internet. Iran across her letter on the site dedicated to ‘Nord-Ost’. Andthe girl's letter was written with such sharp pain, that her pain joined with mine. Theloss of my loved ones was thoughtless. Thedeath was only for someone's political ambitions. Iwrote her, she answered me. Fromher letters Ifound out that Movsar was not even 23. Ifyou take out the ten years of the war, he was but twelve when it all started. Butwhat is a boy at 12? Ishe guilty that he turned out the way he did? Itseems to me that Russia is obligated to share his guilt for what happened.

The terror act was not long ago, it's still fresh in my memory. AndI should, probably, confess that have no pity for Chechens, but Ican't exactly say that their deaths were thoughtless. Ilooked at these boys: young, handsome fellows and girls. Theyconducted themselves properly with us, didn't try to offend. Theyweren't rude or rough or insulting. AndI think that in principal they might have had completely different lives. Obviously everyone is someone's child, someone's brother or sister. Whether he was bad or good, for someone his life is important and dear.

P. S.

Karagandans can view the film that Svetlana and Iwatched on 8:00 PM on October 25th (2003). English director Dan Reed's film Terror in Moscow will be shown on ART.


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