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6.3. Recollections of former female hostage E.G.Akimova
Written by Administrator   
, 21 2006
On October 23rd, 2002, my husband of 11years, Igor Alexeevich Finogenov, DOB September 16th, 1970, and I, went to the musical Nord-Ost.

At about 9pm, during the show, several armed men dressed in camouflage and wearing masks rushed out onto the stage. They fired assault rifles and shouted that they were taking us hostage and no one was to move.

At first Iwas surprised and did not understand what was going on. There was confusion and dismay, and only after a time, when they were forcing the service personnel and other people into the hall, did my husband and Iunderstand that it was not a scene from the play, but really what the terrorist had said.

All the audience remained in their places. They brought the remaining employees and actors out from the orchestra pit. When the lights were turned on the terrorists once again declared that we were taken hostage and that we could call by cell phone and report what had happened.

This is what we did. Igor called Petrovka, the 38th interior ministry unit for the city of Moscow, and reported that there was a hostage situation and described how many terrorists there were, what kinds of weapons they had, how many explosives of what type, and all the terrorists actions. Interior ministry officers asked my husband what the terrorists were saying, but he could not answer this, since the terrorists had not said anything, and that by the way, frightened us as well. Notknowing their intentions, we were continuously on edge. The shock and horror of what went on remained during the course of all three days that we were hostages.

At the beginning Iwas terribly frightened when they shot a young girl practically in front of me. This girl showed up in the hall through the back doors, and they shoved her along with their gun butts. The terrorists questioned her as to where she came from. We all say this and were tense, since we understood that events could take a turn for the worse. The girl, as we later found out, was Olga Romanova, and it seemed to me that she was taken aback, and could not say anything understandable while the Chechens pressed her and demanded explanations. It did not last long, and afterwards one of the terrorists ordered her shot. They did not take her far, just to a side door, and Iheard 4or 5shots and instantly thought that it was too much for one person, and naturally we all understood that she had been shot. I felt ill. It was understood that if it was that simple for them, to kill someone without a reason, then we could share this girls fate for what they saw as the wrong look or gesture or movement.

That same night we heard shots in the foyer. One of the terrorists said that they had killed a police officer.

During the course of the first 5or 6hours the terrorists did not say why they had taken us hostage. Later there were rumors that someone heard the terrorists talking, or that the terrorists themselves told someone that they had been taken hostage in order to free Chechnya, while on Thursday, October 24th, 2002, they declared that they had come in order to stop military operations in Chechnya, and to cause the retreat of the Russian forces there.

From phrases and conversations that Igor and Iheard, they were getting ready to either leave with victory, or go to paradise. Their motto was: Freedom or Paradise. One of the terrorists walking on the stage said this. Practically all the terrorists repeated this phrase later, and this was frightening to us, naturally.

The complete absence of information about what was happening outside the building frightened us and kept us very tense. How would the government react to what had occurred, and what measures were they preparing for our rescue? The television that was hanging in the hall, did not work. The terrorists had radios, receivers, and mini-televisions. We had a feeling of hopelessness and being trapped due to, first: our government was not supporting us as hostages the only thing we had heard was that the government would not surrender to this provocation, though we waited for some kind of word that they remembered us and we trying to save us. Secondly: there in the hall we sat in the stalls right next to a bomb (in the same row a few seats down), not far from explosives that they had set up in the back row diagonally across from us, effectively booby trapping the entire perimeter and the entire hall, and other places where they thought would be used during a rescue. Moreover, Igor had served in several hot spots, so we understood that we had no chance to survive these explosions. Thirdly, we sat on the right side of the stalls where the doors had been barricaded and booby-trapped, while all around us were the Chechen women terrorists with pistols and grenades and wearing suicide bomb belts while always holding the contacts. There were several gunmen nearby as well.

The terrorists declared right after capturing us that if there were an assault, then everyone would be blown up.

The situation was extremely nerve wracking. The hostages were always under severe stress, on the edge of breakdown, in order not to provoke the terrorists. The terrorists also threatened that if the hostages, i.e.: us, would not carry out their orders, and then they would start to toss grenades around the hall and shoot at us.

Periodically the terrorists would fire upwards, in order to calm us, and this brought the impossibly frightened people to a state of terror.

There was always the sound of shooting outside the hall. At first the audience, as if by command, would fall under their seats and cover their head under their arms or bags. The terrorists, on seeing this, forbad us from making any such movements and ordered us to sit peacefully, and once again threatened to set off grenades. In so doing they took away any chance of feeling any kind of an illusion of safety.

Because of the continuous tension Imadly wanted to dash out from the hall, quickly, right now, as far away as possible, but Ihad to hold on, to control myself, to keep myself from jumping up and running off and doing anything crazy.

In this situation we were afraid that our law enforcement agencies would try to take the theater by storm, while the terrorists would carry out their promises to blow us up.

After some time information got around the hall that negotiations had started. After various negotiations the terrorists reaction were different, while we tried to understand the results of these negotiations from their reactions, and this lead us to even more terror and insane fear. Sometimes hope appeared, and we very much wished to live.

When, for example, as Iunderstand it, the negotiations were not going as the terrorists had wished, they would return to the hall in a rage, and angrily and with wrath they would talk among themselves in the Chechen language all the while looking about the hall and making gestures, and this, naturally, terrified us. Or when they were satisfied, they would come into the hall happily, but this was a very rare, almost unique occurrence, and they would relate to us disdainfully, as if we were from the lowest of nations.

We attempted to never catch the terrorists eye; we were afraid that they would remember us and shoot us or take out their irritation, anger, or simply their bad mood, on us.

It is necessary to note that on the very first night the terrorists hung up black flags with writing in their language. A mullah, who was with the terrorists in the hall, started holding services, and later over and over again repeated them, practically without ever shutting up. I heard either prayers or a religious service or nationalist songs on recordings as well. My husband said that it was very serious, and we decided to prepare ourselves for the worst. Once again Ifelt the end coming near. This feeling would come to me quite often. Nonetheless, Iam one of those who believe that there is always a way out of any situation, but at that moment Idid not think so.

Awful discomfort was related to the absence of a bathroom. The Chechens made one in the orchestra pit, and it was terrible to go there because of the ever-changing moods of the terrorists. There was no water, and we were given sweet carbonated beverages. We did not drink these, because they made the thirst even worse and more importantly to prevent from having to use the toilet.

Towards the evening of October 24th, 2002, the terrorists mood got worse. Their fatigue was evident, as was their lack of sleep and the vagueness of the negotiations, which, Ithink, was due to the unspecific demands of their leaders, and it seemed at times that they had no orders and did not know what to do. Once again we had to adjust to the moods of people whom we wanted to be done with. We tried to use the toilet as little as possible and did not talk among ourselves. We just sat with our heads down.

I knew since the events of the first day that once the ultimatum had run out, that the terrorists were to start shooting hostages. At some point, Icannot say when, since the tense situation and all that Ihave been through to the present still will not allow me synchronize to the minute what went on in the Palace of Culture. The Chechens on the stage began to discuss something between themselves in the Chechen language, and they were looking around the hall and pointing out people. I decided that they were choosing those whom they planned to shoot first.

In those minutes imagined in detail what would happen to me, how they would lead me out, where it would happen, what they would say to me, how Iwould act, and what Iwould feel. Would it be painful? I asked myself: why should Idie at such a young age, in peacetime, never having done anything bad to anyone, never having done anything negative in my life. At the same time, Iwas afraid for the one person dearest and closest to me. What would be his reaction if something happened to me, or if something happened to him, what would Ido?

On the evening of October 25th, 2002, one of the hostages whose nerves apparently gave out threw himself upon a woman terrorist who was wearing a suicide belt and grenades, and had a pistol in her hand, just like the other terrorist women. At that moment, seeing what was going on, a terrorist on stage shot at him.

Another mans fate was decided in front of our eyes. He had got into the hall from somewhere, saying that his child was there. We all grabbed onto the question as to how he had gotten inside, and who he was? We did not understand what was going on. He was all bloody they had beaten him. We were scared. This man, after a few questions, was shot in the foyer.

During the evening of October 25th, 2002, the Chechens found some military mens and womens documents somewhere. They began to threaten and demanded that these people give themselves up. Later they started saying that nothing would happen if they would give up. The hall was silent. After this the Chechens started going down the aisles and comparing external features. The tension grew. All were afraid that one of the hostages might resemble the people in the documents. Later they began to check the audiences documents.

We were very frightened of this, since Igor was a policeman. After the situation had calmed down a bit, even though we were under the steady gaze of the terrorists, we began to destroy Igors documents that confirmed his relationship with the interior ministry. Somehow, after great torment and risk we destroyed the documents, some of which Igor had to swallow.

On the evening of the 25th, they ordered us to give up our cell phones. The last chance to hear our loved ones and friends, to hear words of support, to beg forgiveness for all that we had done wrong in life, had disappeared. We were completely cut off from the outside world.

On the night of the 26th, outside the hall and perhaps outside the building they were shooting all the time. I was afraid that shooting would start in the hall while we were sleeping, and that would be killed. Therefore we fought against sleep practically the entire night. It was unbelievably difficult, and we would fall into a trance just as soon as we would close our eyes, since for all these days and nights we had not slept but in snatches of perhaps 2030minutes.

Perhaps, since Iwas not asleep on October 26th, 2002, that early that morning Inoticed the smell of gas, and later saw smoke and a terrorist on the stage who was wearing a gasmask. A woman terrorist put on a second gasmask.

Igor and Itried to protect ourselves from the gas; Istarted breathing through a handkerchief, while Igor through the lapel of his jacket. We sat this way for some time. I was very frightened and the whole time was afraid that Iwould pass out. When Ilooked around, Isaw that many were already asleep.

I saw that my husband was also starting to fall asleep, and Imade him breath through his jacket. I was feeling very sleepy, and put my head down so that if they started shooting that they did not hit me in the head. In a few minutes Ipassed out.

I came to in a bus that was driving somewhere. I did not understand where Iwas, who the people were who were walking around. I saw a lot of bodies on the floor, lying there motionless.

I was placed in some kindergarten, then later loaded onto an ambulance and taken to a hospital where Iwas for all of two days. Only after the second day did they do a blood analysis, and not even knowing the results they, you could say, rushed me out of the hospital. At the polyclinic they said that Ileft of my own free will. They did not offer me any kind of therapy, where there were open spots, and people remained there for one and a half or two weeks for the necessary treatment and check ups.

I was bothered and amazed by the absence of elementary hygiene (the whole time Iwas in the same dirty clothes that Ispent all those days at Nord-Ost in), or elementary disinfection.

After everything Iwent through Ialso continuously ran into a host of problems whose solutions demand a lot of strength, nerves, and health.

From the plaintiffs declaration in court on December 14th, 2002.

 
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