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6.2. Recollections of former hostage Marat Abdrakhimov
Written by Administrator   
, 21 2006

Marat Abdrahimov: "We just prayed for a miracle to everything we knew that was holy.

The artist Marat Abdrahimov arrived at the operational headquarters on

Marxist Street
, the first former hostage after that terrible night. He came on his on. Everyone ran over to him, to embrace and kiss him. For his part, Marat Abdrahimov broke into tears.

At the headquarters, they had not slept for three days straight. Whatever somebody brought in was on the table: tea, bread, a few Tulskoi teacakes, some chicken. Marat sat down and they gave him something to eat. He said, however, that he was unable to.

Marat Abdrahimov: The gunmen conducted themselves very correctly. They told us: We always conduct things correctly. They only thing we ask is that you conduct yourselves like hostages. Well give you whatever you need. You want water you got water. But you dont need it, because there arent any toilets. We said: Well go in the orchestra pit, girls to the right, boys to the left. And they said: We guarantee a good relationship, but if someone does something stupid if someone tries to escape then well have to shoot.

Moskovsky Komsomolets journalist: They spoke good Russian?

Good enough, understandable, with an accent. At first Ithought that Iwould talk to the women somehow, find out something about them. They wouldnt respond right away, but later opened up. One of them even was an actress. I asked her if she studied at the GITIS here, and that we had a studio in Chechnya once. I asked her very carefully what her name was, but she replied: Just call us sisters. Those are the brothers and those are the sisters. No names. A different woman who was guarding us was named Zara.

She introduced herself?

No, they were just talking among themselves. The one who was supposedly an actress was Sveta. You knew, these werent just dull fanatics. They asked us if we wouldve done any different: My mom buried my brother just his leg and his head, that was all that remained. They said that were far away and dont know about these things. But theyve been 8years in Hell.

They swore about our soldiers: Whatever they want: narcotics, weapons they bring it in no problem. And if you need to do the same, you just have to pay up. They close their eyes to all the rest. The terrorists said: Were expecting to sit here a week, or more. If nothing comes of it, then that means that we blow ourselves up, together with you. Well all die either way either there or here.

Is it true that this morning they killed two hostages?

It was an accident. The first person, he wasnt a hostage, we never saw him before, we wasnt sitting in the hall. The Chechens said: Someone is coming. Well get him now. Ten minutes later they dragged in this man whom none of us knew.

But there were a lot of people in the hall; perhaps you did not notice him? Maybe he was sitting in the far rows?

No, you know, when youre sitting in the fourth row and the people walk by you to go to the bathroom, in about two days you get to know everyone. No one saw him before a black sweater and black jeans. He said that he came to exchange himself for his son. He said the first, middle, and last name. The gunmen asked everyone ten or so times, if there was anyone by that name in the hall, but there wasnt. They took him out, and we didnt know if they killed him or not.

But they shot the woman?

You see, they had this strategy to scare us. They were walking around yelling, and then some man jumped up and ran off. Where to, we never knew. And then the Chechen woman who was sitting under the explosives pulls out her pistol and starts shooting at him. He fell, but the Chechen woman hit a completely innocent person. She got a woman. Its clear that they provoked it, even though they said that they were going to kill anyone.

They had to know everything about the building. They had to shut off something in the orchestra pit everything was wet in there from urine and a wire started to burn. Georgy Leonardovich (Georgy Vasilev, the producer of Nord-Ost) grabbed a fire extinguisher and went to put it out. When he climbed out of the orchestra pit, he accidentally squeezed the handle and foam hit one of the gunmen in the face. The terrorist yelled: What are you doing? and Georgy said: I did it by accident, but he had fire in his eyes.

Marat, what were the events before the storm? Can your recall them?

Every day they would scare us with something. Theyd yell: Thats it! Get started! Get ready! Bring out the bomb! Put it in the middle. Later theyd start to pray real loud.

On stage, or what?

No, everybody in his or her section. They never left. The women stayed where they sat. You could go to the right or left, and that was it. Those rumors that they were shooting up and drinking, forget it. They never ate and only drank a tiny bit, just like us. They said: Why, if Ican put up with just a little water, what makes you any better? Justsit and take it. They said they had nothing against us, just against our government.

What about the first woman, whom they shot the first day?

She showed up about an hour after wed all been seated. She comes in, just opens the door, in a jacket and a beret. She says: Everyones so scared! What are you up to here? They said: Who are you? I know everything here, she says. I went to music school here. One of the gunmen says: Sit down our Ill shoot. And she just says: Well, go ahead and shoot! That threw them into a panic. They took her out and down a narrow corridor, in the actors foyer, then a burst of automatic fire. They didnt do this in front of us. They didnt kill any hostages, but Ithink they were trying to provoke it. What really happened? A lot that was inadequate. I had the feeling that Iwould go crazy from hunger.

Do you remember what happened before the assault?

I was sitting in the fourth row, in the stalls. We couldnt sleep, though we wanted to terribly. We didnt know anything: did Putin know, or not? One Chechen said: We are completely certain that Putin will give up on you. You all will be blown up with us. Of course, theyll try an assault, but it wont end with us fighting anyone, well just press this button. We were frightened most of all of an assault.

But on the second day, in the evening they said: Good news. Tomorrow at 10oclock Kazantsev is coming. Everything will be okay. They came to an agreement, and we like this. Calm down, we arent animals. We wont kill you if youll just sit calm and peaceful. As a result, everyone relaxed instantly, they started to smile, drink water, and they even allowed us to freely use the bathroom. Not one at a time under guard.

They didnt let us leave our seats, but a little bit at a time Islid underneath, so Icould lie on my back or my stomach. And Ifell asleep right away. They stress left me, and Ijust collapsed. Later it turns out, the shooting started, automatic gunfire, and Iwoke up and right away Icrawled out.

What did you see?

Everyone sitting next to me was covering their heads with their arms. No one fell on the floor, though they remembered the warning. It seemed that they people didnt care: so what if they shoot somewhere or whatever. No one yelled.

Did you feel the gas?

No, maybe Iwas saved because Iwas lying down, and the air was moving poorly there. The ventilation had always been on; otherwise wed have suffocated from the smell of the cesspool. All our clothes stank.

Later they grabbed me, Isaid: Im warning you, Im an artist. Fine, lets get out of the hall quickly, someone said. It wasnt rude. Even if theyd dragged me out, Id have been thankful. They said: Be patient, be patient.

They took me out. I understand that questioning, well, thats to be expected given my non-Russian face. So thats why right away Istarted talking about everyone Iknew at the show, and which roles Iwas playing. I filled them up with information. At some point they got the point: Youre going to the prosecutors office. Theyre working. Theyll question you about your phone numbers, since you dont have any documents on you. There were three just like me who were debatable, they put us in the back seat of a jeep and took us to a nearby school. My throat had dried out, and couldnt even remember my own phone number. I gave them my friend Selitskys number, and my wife in Zelenograd. They handed me the phone and Iidentified our colleague Dasha, and she identified me. Then they gave me some water. I drank it, but everything came right back up. I was nauseous.

Recall what it was like in the hall during those days. For example, when did the doctors come with the delegation?

For one thing, the doctor there was from inside, from the spectators. Later some came from the Red Cross, two Jordanians. The gunmen tied them up and shouted that they had led somebody else in behind them. They were terribly frightened: Thats it, were going to shoot everyone. Everyone was scared again. That was the first day. Later there was only one doctor, one of the spectators. Then everyone got involved, especially Marina Krylova, the theater administrator. She went around measuring peoples blood pressure and giving medicine tranquilizers most of all. They sent us a first aid kit, though for a while they didnt send us anything, and then once again they sent things again.

How did you get information?

That was difficult. The gunmen walked around the hall and were listening to the radio. They had a little portable battery-powered television, and if they were sitting next to you, you could hear something and later wed tell one another what wed heard. On the second day they took away all our cell phones, CDplayers, calculators, electronic watches, and cameras people had been filming on the sly. The gunmen ripped out the film and crushed it. If you dont give it up on your own, then later youll be in trouble.

How did the people act all this time? Did they come unhinged?

In general there were no hysterics. The people understood what it means when theres a gun to your head. You cant act any other way. Its like a stress condition you cant even eat.

How about the children?

At first the children were crying, but not the Nord-Ost actors. I took some of the kids by the hand, whoever was next to me: Calm down, they wont kill us. I started telling jokes, making up funny things. I said: That which werent able to show you, well be showing you now. I started to tell the plot, pointed out how everything would happen on stage, what would move where. It sort of calmed the children down.

But right after this they asked: Any foreigners? Two French children responded. So, kids, quickly, well let all of you go, this gunman was acting noble. Then some boys almost 18years old jump up. Calm down, Im not letting anyone over 12go.

There was this feeling of a complete lack of reality that none of it was happening to you. Everything was so strange. One had to support other people. While you are taking care of someone else, you are helping yourself out. Just as soon as something happened, Itook one of them by the hand: Relax, Im with you, well win this. You had to help out each other with energy. I had nothing left, but to pray. I prayed with everyone Iwas holding hands with. We just prayed for a miracle to everything we knew that was holy.

When did the feeling of overwhelming hunger occur?

There was no feeling of hunger, and there still isnt. When there was no mineral water, we simply drew it from the faucet, but when they brought us juices and all the rest, we drank juices. Though at first we used up all that remained from the concession. The gunmen grabbed out Nord-Ost t-shirts right away. Now theyre showing the dead terrorists lying in our t-shirts.

When they turned the ventilators on, Isaid: You know guys, it would be nice if theyd send in some kind of a sleeping gas. Two women were sitting nearby and they said: Why hadnt we brought Harry Potter with us? Right now wed freeze someone, or made some kind of a magic gas.

Will you go on stage again?

We thought about it. Next to me sat an Aeroflot stewardess. In 30years Ive never found myself in such a situation. We carried Japanese terrorists, everything that was possible. In the air everything depends on my hands, my skill, but here Icant do anything but just sit stupidly and wait. This stewardess told me that after Nord-Ost she wouldnt ever go to the theater again.

From an interview in Moskovsky Komsomolets, October 28th, 2002

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