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Kamchatka Captive
Written by   
, 30 2010
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If there are people in this world who have spent some time in the afterlife, then Yekaterina Matyukhina is one of these people
Kamchatka learned about her in October of 2002. Chechen terrorists captured Yekaterina and her mother-in-law, Anna Tunik, when they had gone to see the musical 'Nord-Ost' at Moscow’s Dubrovka theatrical center. During the rescue operation, both the terrorists and their prisoners were put to sleep by gas dropped through the air vents. After this, commandos began to destroy the bandits, while doctors worked to save the hostages. Butthey were not able to save them all. According to official figures, 129hostages were killed, the vast majority never regaining consciousness after the gas attack.
After the musical
Yekaterina Matyukhina, fortunately, did not die, but neither did she awaken. Shefell into a coma and did not regain consciousness for several weeks. Doctors had no hope that the patient would survive, and were preparing to disconnect her from devices supporting her body's vital functions. Begging the doctors to keep 'Katya' connected was her mother, who the night before had a dream that Katya would recover. And, much to everyone's surprise, she really began to come to, thus beginning a long road to recovery.
I was taught again how to eat, drink, walk, and talk, said Yekaterina. Every day was exactly like the previous one. Forhours they would tell me or show me or explain something to me, and by evening I'd start to understand, but by the next morning I'd once again forgotten it all. Ididn't even remember that Ihave a child. Ididn't recognize my husband when we met, so we had to get to know each other all over again. Theonly person Irecognized was my mother.
By the way, even today Ihardly remember my life before 'Nord-Ost'. Onlya few moments from the past float into my memory, such as when Iwas in the theater writing a farewell note to my husband. HowI cried and tore out my IVbecause Ididn't believe that I'd ever return to a normal life, and how they calmed we down and tied me the bed."
Yekaterina still remember some episodes from her coma. Avoice said that she had arrived too early, and that she had to go back to where people were waiting for her. There were other visions, but Yekaterina does not talk about them with anyone. Sheonly says that she now knows more about life and death than most.
I ask her: do you think that there is an afterlife?
I'm 100percent sure of it.
And were you sure before 'Nord-Ost'?
No.
Excuse me: do you go to church?
I was baptized as a child. ButI was never really serious about it. Butnow Iunderstand that everyone should have someplace where they can go to fortify himself psychologically, to talk about personal things, both good and bad. Ihave two such places: church, and my mother's grave.
When did your mother die?
A few years ago. Shemanaged to ensure that Iwas sent to Moscow, to a rehabilitation center. Shedied on the eve of my return to Petropavlovsk. Shehad a weak heart. Itwas probably my illness that made her die so early.
Wake up call
On the outside, Yekaterina Matyukhina looks completely healthy, and her thought processes are normal. Butit is still premature to speak about her full recovery, of course. Sheunderstands this better than anyone else. Yes, and our fellow citizens do not let her forget her illness.
I just can't get used to the rudeness and the insults that Ialways have to face, says Yekaterina. Showing my handicapped IDon the bus, this for me is a real trial. Right away the questions start: someone so young, you should be ashamed, how much did you pay for it? Ihave a lot of problems at the store, and at my son's school.
What are these problems?
I have a very weak memory. Itry to write down everything, but it doesn't always help. Sometimes Iget to the cashier and Iremember that Ididn't put something in the shopping basket, so Iwalk away, and then come back again. AndI do this a couple of times. Theother shoppers and the store people get nervous. Theysay: she walks here and there over and over again, why can't she just get what she needs?
My son Kolya is in third grade. Occasionally Iforget to put books or notebooks in his satchel, or sign his report card. Theprinciple once called and said that, if Iweren't able take care of my child, I'd be deprived of my maternal rights. Fora week after this Icouldn't get over it. Thank God that my neighbor's daughter is in the same class as Kolya. Italk to her ten times a day and ask what Ineed to get ready for school the next day.
I have a lot of domestic problems. Recently internal revenue said Iowed five or six thousand rubles. Iwalked six kilometers to their office and asked them to help fill out the forms, but they said it's all written on the wallboards, fill it out yourself. ButI couldn't figure it out. Imade a mess of something so the money goes to the wrong address, and then you can't prove a thing to anyone.
You receive disability?
Yes, four thousand rubles a month (ed: about$160). Butwe live, of course, on my husband's earnings. Heships out as a sailor. He's almost never on shore.
Are the medications you take expensive?
I don't know. Iremember that my mother-in-law sent some medicine from Moscow. Iwas told later that here it would have cost 50thousand rubles.
Good people
Despite the difficulties, Yekaterina does not give up or allow herself to become bitter. Shebelieves that her husband and child should not suffer because she is not like other people. Ourheroine tries to live a full life riding a bike, shopping, and even skating. Notlong ago she and her husband flew to China on vacation, though to do this the Matyukhins had to sell their car.
Her mother-in-law, Anna Tunik, who now lives in Moscow, tries to help as much as possible. Every summer she takes her grandson for three months.
But the Matyukhins do not receive any assistance from the authorities, though our leaders, certainly, could be a little more attentive to Kamchatka's only living participant in the 'Nord-Ost' tragedy.
And even more so, since, at the time, so many things were promised the victims of the terrorist attack. Yekaterina, however, takes it in stride: Who am Ito them? Theyhave their problems, and Ihave mine.
She tries not to remember what happened 8years ago, saying that it has a bad effect on her psyche. Butlast March, when there was a terrorist attack on the Moscow subway, the memories came flooding back on their own. I couldn't calm down for a long time. Iwatched the TV news with my tears flowing, said Yekaterina.
She has suffered a lot for her 32years, but she mostly tries to concentrate on the good in the world around us, not the bad. Whenwe parted, she asked to thank through the newspaper all who understand her: first and foremost, her husband Oleg and her son Kolya, as well as relatives, friends, doctors, and many other good people.
In ‘Argumenty i Fakty’ Kamchatka, #37 (1558), September 14, 2010.

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