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Volkova, Elena
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, 11 2008

Age 22, from Istra, Russia.

1 Lena was our first child. My husband graduated from the college of chemistry at Moscow University in 1980, and on October 22nd our little Lenochka was born. My husband went straight away to graduate school, but Ireally wanted a daughter, and so she was born. Oh, how happy it was! All mothers believe that their children are the very best, and so did I. At a very young age Lena showed character. Once Iput her in the corner and she stood there for several hours, declaring that she was not going to beg forgiveness, because she did not know how. Lena started reading at age 5. By age 7she had already read The Magician of the Emerald City. Back then it was her favorite book, and she read it over and over.

Lenochka got straight As, and participated in all possible knowledge Olympiads and took home prizes. From eighth grade on she attended the physics and mathematical class at the Moscow Aviation Institute base. She graduated top of the class, with a gold medal, and entered MAI without having to take the entrance exams, since in the spring of 1997she got first place in the math Olympiad. At the MAI she studied at the 3rd college (ASU) to be a programmer. It was very difficult. We did not have a lot of money back then (nor did anyone else), but Lena never complained. Lenochka was very thoughtful, serious, goal-oriented, and a very industrious person. Each summer we traveled to grandmothers village in the Stavropol district, and Lena knew how to do everything: pull weeds, wash clothes, cook, and even milk cows.

My husband and Iwere always proud of Lena. Lenochka was gifted in every way, not just able to understand physics, mathematics, and programming, but she even wrote poetry, sketched, and did embroidery. She was superior in Russian and English, and literature. And she was also a beauty.

That year on October 22nd Lena became twenty-two. We joked that only once in a lifetime was a person 21on the 21st of October, and 22on the 22nd.

We celebrated Lenas birthday as a family, and Lena was going to celebrate with her student group on Saturday, the 26th. On the 23rd Lena and two girls from school went to the musical Nord-Ost (row 10, seat 22on the balcony). Fortunately her friends made it. Lena had seen the musical on June 23rd that year. She liked it very much, and said: Mama, you must see it without fail. Somehow Inever found the time, and Lena decided to go see it with her girlfriends. We live in the city of Istra, in Podmoscovy, and Iwork here, but on the 23rd Ineeded to go into Moscow. I was able to stay in the city awhile, but some strange sense of unease drove me back home. I arrived home just as Lena was getting ready to leave for the theater, and Iwatched her get dressed, do her make up, and in general the usual girlish preparations. After the musical Lena was going to spend the night in Moscow at a girlfriends. I watched Lena through the window while she walked to the E-train. Had Ionly known that it was the last Iwould see her alive! That evening my husband and Iturned in, never suspecting anything, but we were awakened by a call from the mother of one of Lenas girlfriends: Turn on the television, theyve taken our children hostage. And so began Hell

On Friday, October 25th, we had returned home after spending the entire day at the Polytechnic (note: where the relative of hostages collected to receive updates from government officials). We have another daughter, who was 12at the time, and we could not leave her alone for the night. Once home we got a call from the grandmother of one of Lenas girlfriends, and she said that the girls had been freed and would soon be sent home. The parents of Lenas two friends were still in Moscow and said that there was no need to come to Moscow. A car was sent from Istra to bring our girls home. All night long we waited, and in the morning we learned about the assault. Back then we knew nothing about the gas, but then we learned that no one had released our girls, and to this day Ido not know why they had to deceive us so cruelly. All day Saturday my husband drove from hospital to hospital in Moscow while Istayed home by the phone. All our friends called, and all of Lenas as well. They found Lenas two friends in different hospitals, but we had no idea where Lena was. On Sunday, the 27th, we spent all day at the Polytechnic waiting for information. We ignored the bureaucrats suggestion to drive to from morgue to morgue to identify our loved one. We believed that Lena was alive. Finally, towards evening, they brought in a list of victims in the hospitals, but Lena was not among these. Twice they assembled those who were unable to find their loved ones and read from a list of those identified as dead. Lena was not on those lists, either. Later, already at night, they brought in albums of photographs from the Moscow morgues. That is where we found Lena. In the photograph Lenochka looked as if she were asleep, her face was so peaceful and beautiful. Later, at the morgue, they told us that she had died at Hospital #13 on the 26th. They were never able to awaken Lenochka. We buried her on November 1st in our city cemetery, in the alley where they bury heroes of the Great Patriotic War. All the fuss and expenditures were taken care of by the Istra city administration. It seemed to me that no one in our city remained indifferent to our grief. We thank everyone who shared our sorrow and made it easier to bear this intolerable suffering.

Every year on Lenas birthday her friends, classmates, and our friends gather together. We talk about Lena as we would about someone living, and it seems to me that she is among us, and listening.

After the funeral the police brought us Lenas jacket. Inside the coat we found my husbands business card, on which Lenochka had written this note:

Mommy, daddy, Natashenka!
Ilove your all very much. That is all Iam thinking about now. And about all my friends. I must tell you this because it is possible that we will never see each other again.

Forever yours, Lena.

After Lenas death our younger daughter started writing poems. Some of them are here.

Written by her mother, Tatiana Volkova

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