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Former Nord-Ost hostages: We pray for every baby
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, 23 2007
Five years ago, on October 23rd, 2002, terrorists took hostage more than 900people who had come to the musical


On October 26th, 2007, on Dubrovka in Moscow there will be memorial service dedicated to those slain in the terrorist-seized theatrical center. Joining the former hostages will be victims of terror attacks in Beslan, New York, and London.
Five years have passed since more than forty bandits seized a building in Moscow with over 900people inside, and held them at gunpoint and under threat of being blown up for three days. Afterwards, alas, the nation shuddered again and again: there was the Moscow subway bombing, suicide bombers blew up two airliners, and, finally, there was bloody Beslan, where 330died, half of them children. Theevents of these three days have been obliterated from the memory of the country, but not from the memory of those who spent those terrible hours in the auditorium, or stood outside in the rain, waiting for it to at last be possible to embrace their loved ones, but later searching for them hospitals and morgues.

Grief does not disappear

Their pain has still not been healed. Theycreated their own memorial on the website www.nord-ost.org, and a Book of Memory dedicated to the 130victims. There they write about their current feelings. “I still remember how Iwent into hysterics when Ifound out that Sasha had died,” wrote Sasha Letyago’s cousin. “There was not much difference between us, just 11months. Istill cannot sleep, and in late October Ifeel pain, a lot of pain. Sometimes Ithink that it did not really happen to our family, it did not happen to us, and all is well, everyone is alive, everyone is happy.”

“It is hard to write about Dennis in the past tense,” wrote Dennis Simonov’s mother and father. “Because we still feel as if he just left home on business, and that in the evening, as usual, he would definitely come back. There is a huge wound is in the heart, and the pain remains for the rest of life.”

“In April this year Ithink Sasha would have been 70! Yes, only 70years old! Hewas young and spirit and body: handsome, smart, strong, cheerful, spontaneous and as inquisitive as a kid. Henever ceased to learn. Heeagerly lived and made plans. Evennow, we do not part! Heis always with us! Hisremarkable smile, his quiet and gentle voice, his kindness and his love!” So tenderly about Alexander Volkov writes his wife.

Do not deny them help!

They constantly communicate with each other, and even with those who experienced similar grief, those who were either a victim of a terrorist attacks themselves, or relatives of those who perished in such acts. Theydo not allow strangers in their ‘family’. Theyknow that no one understands them. Iask, how people are doing, since so much time has passed, has anything nice happened in anyone's life? “We have no happy stories,” says Tatyana Karpova, shaking her head. Sheis the head of the ‘Nord-Ost’ public organization. Herson, Alexander Karpov, was a gifted translator and died (in the tragedy). “You know, we pray for every new baby,” admitted Dmitry Milovidov. “Doctors recommended that women who survived ‘Nord-Ost’ not become pregnant for five years. Justnow babies are starting to be born, or are on the way, and we cross our fingers for each one. Well, we try to protect the children who survived the attack. Myoldest daughter Nina died, while the militants released her sister during the first hours after the capture. Thatwas enough for me to worry about her psyche for the rest of my life. Shehad a very hard time getting over the loss of Nina.”

Another child all the ‘Nor’easters’ worry about is the 5-year-old son of former hostage LiliaD.She was at her last stage of pregnancy when the tragedy occurred. Thechild was born with cerebral palsy, and only just now has the Moscow government agreed to pay for emergency treatment in Israel for the boy. Themother found herself at a dead end: going there would mean that her helpless parents, Chernobyl survivors, would be left alone, while not leaving right away carried the risk that the officials after the anniversary of the terror attack would forget their fit of kindness. Thenewspaper ‘Argumenty IFakty’ exhorts Mr. Luzhkov to not deny her help if she could go after some delay.

Such is the gift from the government, the result of a 5-year struggle. Allthese years they have fought so that the bereaved families could receive financial compensation. Through the courts (!) they managed to get someone 250rubles a month (that is how much two children who lost their mom and dad at ‘Nord-Ost’ receive), and to get someone else 5000rubles. “When Inamed the above amounts at a session of the OSCE in Vienna,” says Tatyana Karpova. “Where we discussed the problems from the world’s major terrorist attacks, they asked me to repeat it again a few times, out of surprise. Tothem these pennies sounded so incredible.” They fought for a normal plaque at theatrical center, with the names of the victims. Theywent to Strasbourg, which is soon to consider their claim for moral damages. “We are normal Russians,” says Tatyana. “And up to these events we were patriots of our country. Theyforced us to air Russia’s dirty laundry at the European Court. And, in fact, it’s not for money that we’re fighting there. Wewant for them to listen to us at long last. Wewant an elementary apology for this whole nightmare, and for them to punish the guilty in our opinion, the entire leadership of the operational headquarters. Butthe guys from Special Forces, to them all of us express our great gratitude. Weawait them at our memorial service. Thanks to them, many of the hostages survived.”


912people were taken hostage at Dubrovka. Ofthis number, about 100were children.

130hostages were slain, including 10children.

41militants were killed during the assault.

81/2 years hard labor was received by Z.Talkhidov, for aiding and abetting terrorism and hostage taking.

7years imprisonment was received by I.Alyamkin, inspector for one of the passport services of the metropolitan police department, for accepting a bribe in exchange for a temporary visa for a Chechen native who was a member of the group of terrorists that seized the theatrical center.

“There was no panic in the auditorium”

After ‘Nord-Ost’, for Sergey and Alexander (not their real names), officers at the Special Purpose Center of the FSB of Russia, there was Beslan and another major special operation in the North Caucasus. Ofthose October days in 2002, however, they remember almost minute by minute.

Once the unit went on alert, we practiced for two days in a theatrical center similar to the one that had been captured by the terrorists. Whenon the news there were reports about the first hostages escaping, we all let it pass, let it through our emotions. There was only one mood: destroy the militants to free the people. Harsh information was received: the terrorists were armed, they had booby-trapped everything, they acted boldly and violently, and in the auditorium there were a lot of women and children. Werealized that if we made the slightest mistake, at any moment everything could be blown sky-high.

Each unit was assigned its own sector. Mygroup entered from the projection room, while the militants, who were not in the auditorium but in other facilities and in the lobby, they saw us and rushed helter-skelter, like cockroaches. Theyfired back and a battle started. Tomake sure we tossed flash-bang grenades inside. Thefire died down. Whenwe finally reached the auditorium, the first hostages were already running out of there. Iwas in a gas mask. Agirl ran up to me. Igave her some water to drink, and she kissed me. Shedid not realize that she was kissing glass and plastic.

They say everyone has their own war. So, Iremember the calm, confident tone of the commander as he gave orders. Heinspired confidence, and in that situation it was very important. Then, in the Kremlin after the awards ceremony (ed: Alexander was wounded in battle), the President told us: “Guys, terrorism is a war. Inorder to win, we must unite into a fist.” The war is still going on. There was Beslan, and there were other situations from which we came out with dignity, and most importantly, our people in the end have not become heartless and indifferent otherwise we could not resist the enemy.

My team immediately entered the auditorium and the shooting started. Ina few seconds most terrorists were neutralized, including the ‘shahidki’ (ed: female suicide bombers), who were wrapped in explosives. Iremember one episode, when a commando saw that a grenade had dropped out of the hand of a dead ‘shahidka’, and he jumped a fairly large distance and caught it almost as it hit the floor. Thenhe saw that it still had the ring in it, so he tossed it right under my feet.

But these were just some moments, because everyone worked to his upper limit. Iremember that there was still shooting going on, and out from the seats popped an artist from the musical. Hewas wearing a pilot’s costume, and with crazed eyes he asked what he should do Butthere was no panic among the hostages. Inprinciple, we were able to go in, do our job, and get out, while the people were to be rescued by the doctors and the emergencies ministry personnel. Butthe guys had a fit, and it quickly spread on the radio, that we would carry the people out. Wemet the wife of one of our officers there, but Ido not remember the other hostages. People often ask me if they ever found us later to thank us. There have been no such cases, in my experience. Although Ithink one needs such events in life, at least to understand that a stranger’s pain is also your pain. Ingeneral one needs to simply love life. Thatis all.

By Tatiana Kuznetsova, in 'Argumenty i Fakty'.

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