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Moscow commemorates
Written by   
, 09 2011

ImageIn September of 1999apartment buildings were blown up in three cities by terrorists twice in Moscow and once each in Buinaksk and Volgodonsk. These attacks killed 307people.

At 9:45 pm on September 4th in the Dagestan military city of Buinaksk: a five-story apartment building on Shikhsaidov Street was blown up. Living there were officers and their families from 136th Brigade. Thebuilding was completely destroyed.

At midnight on September 9-10th: an explosion destroyed a apartment building on Guryanov street in Moscow.

On September 13th, an apartment building along the Kashirskoe highway in Moscow was destroyed.

On September 16th, a truck packed with explosives equivalent to one and a half tons of TNT was detonated in the city of Volgodonsk. According to the degree of destruction, this terror act along the Oktyabrskoe highway is still considered the largest terrorist attack in Russia. Damaged in the explosion were 42apartment buildings and 15community facilities, including a police station, two schools, a kindergarten, and a library. Morethan 16thousand people (including more than one thousand children), all told about 8% of the city population, were officially recognized as victims. Hundreds of people suddenly found themselves homeless, without their property or health, 19Volgodonsk residents were killed, and 73permanently disabled.

On the 10th anniversary of the destruction of Guryanov number 19in Moscow, reporters from 'New Times' spent the entire day on the scene. Details were published in an article titled: “The epicenter of the pain”.

“Apartment 109. YuriAlexandrovich Pototski, age 54, Tatiana Viktorovna Pototskaya, age 40, Vitaly Alexandrovich Kapitanov, age 19: not found.” On a stand bearing the words: “We Remember and Mourn,” are roughly painted in red ink about 40family names. Eachis accompanied by a photograph and a brief biographical note: “worked at the factory” “taught children English” “was a wonderful grandmother whom the whole building loved” etc. These are the most striking of the victims, who died as entire families. The“We Remember and Mourn” stand is in the lobby of City School 1085, some two hundred meters from the explosion. Adjacent to it is a large announcement: “We are starting to register students for the Prague trip during fall break.” Students, however, gather by the memorial stand and ask to be photographed against the background of the image of the Pototski family, and make funny faces for the camera operator from the local cable channel. He, however, patiently waits for the end of recess so that he can film the Pototskis without interference. Inanswer to the question: “Do you know what happened here ten years ago?” Students answer almost in unison: “They blew up a house.” As for the question: “Who was it, and why did they do it?” this already leads to serious misunderstandings. A12-year-old boy in a tight white Gucci t-shirt quite seriously informs the reporter that “an American atomic bomb was set off.” A girl of the same age dressed in a school uniform starts to tell that “some gas leaked, a lot of gas.” There are, of course, those who just say: “Terrorists were responsible,” though it is true that who they were, where they came from, and what in fact they wanted and whether they were caught no one can explain.

“It seems that they were getting revenge on us”

Starting at 9am, older pupils begin to periodically exit the doors of the school in formation and march to a memorial monument dedicated to the victims of the terrorist attack. Thehonor guard of two students, explains 9th grader Yulia, is changed every five minutes, “otherwise your back gets tired.” Yulia is also unable to explain why she has to stand at attention in front of a chunk of metal during one of the last warm days of autumn. Onenice thing, though you get out of class. “I heard that they blew it up, but Idon't know anything else.” She nudges her girlfriend in the side: “Why do Ihave to do all the sweating? Youanswer!” Her girlfriend Masha is a bit more politically savvy: “The house was blown up by terrorists. Whowere they? Chechens. Thiswas proven. Iread online that right after the explosion a Chechen called up and said: you Russians deserve it.”
“Why did they do that?”
“It seems that they were getting revenge on us for something. Idon't remember for what”
With adults the situation is not much better. Tothe left of the memorial is a group of low-level clerks from the district council. For'the evening' they have already prepared a few boxes of candles and three wreaths, which are for now hidden behind a wide birch tree. Besides relatives of the victims of the terrorist attack, guests from city hall are also expected. Oneof the wreaths for some reason is not for mourning, but for a holiday, and bears the Russian tricolor. ADJ puts Mozart's Requiem on an official government laptop at full volume, and says that “the wreaths and music CDwere issued by the council boss, but they forgot about tea and coffee, and we've got to hang around here until midnight.” At three o'clock, deputy city council chief Mrs. Nevskaya shows up. Sheonly just moved to Moscow from Kostroma, and has been in her new post for just a month so far. Because of this, according to one of her young employees, “the lady doesn't know anything, she was on the Internet all day yesterday and read about the explosion and put together a speech, so it'd be completely pointless to interview her.” Indeed, when 'Capital TV', as if on a mission, goes up to the deputy head, Mrs. Nevskaya, stammering and blushing, states: “On this spot, of course, there was a horrible tragedy, we all grieve, but they weren't able to knock Russia from her chosen path.”

From Kashirskoe to Guryanov

From the direction of the road a gray-haired man in an unbuttoned shirt, under which a cross is visible, approaches the wall of the memorial complex. Withhim is a woman in sunglasses, and he supports her with both arms. Theydo not walk up to the monument, and they do not place any flowers or wreaths. Justas the reporters from 'New Times' flock to them, the woman immediately walks away some twenty meters, indicating strongly that she will not talk. Theman has to take the rap. Heis a construction worker named Yevgeny, and in the autumn of 1999he was working outdoors on a high-rise on Guryanov street, not far from the blast site. FromYevgeny comes a strong smell of alcohol. Whathe has to say is somewhat disconnected, and the whole time he stops to cry: “It all happened in front of me Iworked the night shift Iran right here Guys, what Isaw I'm sorry, Ican't say any more”

Since the beginning of the day, Yevgeny is only the tenth person whose heart has summoned them to the memorial. There was also a teacher from the school near the Pechatniki metro station who lost her favorite student, a married couple whose friends were killed, and quite an elderly grandmother from down the street who “heard the explosion and was knocked down by it.” The explosion was in fact so powerful that homes across the street had windows shattered. Onthe spot where once a standard Moscow nine-story panel apartment house stood, there are now as many as four buildings, skyscrapers when compared to the other buildings in the region. While standing near the entrance of the new number 19(25 floors high), we meet a woman who says that none of the surviving occupants live here anymore. Mostdid not want to relive the horror every day, though for some the change of residence was an even greater stress.

“Everyone moved to Marino and Bratislavskaya,” says Nina Georgievna. “Whoever wanted to come back was not able to after they built new apartments. Theywere told: you want to live here? Payfor the extra footage. It's a new building and the apartments are much larger than in Marino. Nobody was able to pay it was big money” Then Nina Georgievna tells an amazing story: it turns out that in 1999she lived at number 9on the Kashirskoe highway just across the street from the spot where three days after the explosion on Guryanov another apartment building was destroyed. “For three days Iwas feeding everybody in my apartment,” she says. “Well, not very lavishly pasta, Bulgar wheat, tea and sweet rolls. Itwas impossible for people to live in that neighborhood because the water lines had burst, glass was shattered, no gas or electricity, and the walls looked like they'd collapse. Theykicked everyone out, and many had absolutely nowhere to go. Istood in front of the stove for days. Myhusband and Imoved here seven years ago after they evicted us from Kashirskoe. Atfirst it was hard we traded one nightmare for another but later, no biggie, we got used to it. Usedto be there were a lot of people crowding by the entrance, everyone asking questions, looking for someone. Nowalmost nobody comes either to the front entrance or the monument. Ifyou want to find survivors, you'd better go to the memorial chapel that they built after the attack. Acouple of old women who used to live here sometime go there.”

Three birthdays

In the chapel, which is not visible from the front of the memorial, it is deathly quiet no one is there at all. Atthree o'clock, however, an old man and an old woman appear. Theylight candles for the repose of the dead. Itturns out that the couple lost their entire family in the blast: son, daughter-in-law, their two grandchildren, and the daughter-in-law's mother. Living in apartment 123were Lyubov Nikolaevna Rykhletskaya, age 74, Natalia Sergeevna Rykhletskaya, age 47, Vladimir Leonidovich Borovsky, age 44, Nina Borovskaya, age 12, and Sergei Borovsky, age 6. Theapartment itself was at the epicenter of the explosion, so no bodies were ever found. Ludmila Alexeevna Borovskaya, Vladimir's mother, and her husband, a war veteran, were “lucky”: at the time of the terrorist attack they were no longer there, having moved to another apartment on Krylatskoye. Theonly thing remaining of the entire family is a portion of a carpet that had been drying on the balcony. Itwas found hanging from a tree over a hundred meters from Guryanov 19. “My daughter-in-law, Natasha, her birthday was September 10th,” says Ludmila Alexeevna. “Seryozha's was three days later, and Natasha's mother had come to visit because she was born the 5th. Wealways celebrated the three family birthdays at the same time. Sergei had just entered preschool and was waiting for me and grandpa to come” According to the elder Borovskaya, on the ground floor of Guryanov 19for a long time there was a store called 'Light'. Itclosed shop, and by the entrance they put up a 'For Rent' sign. “It stayed there for a long time, but for a few days before the explosion it was suddenly removed there were new owners. Theywent from door to door and offering sugar in bags, very cheap. Natasha said they were such nice guys, Slavic appearance. Shebought two bags from them and put them in the corridor so she could make jam for the winter. Shenever opened them. Isaid to her say: “Are you crazy? Whydo you need so much? Butshe only muttered in reply: it won't go bad Youknow, my father and my mother are gone, and my brother was killed right after the war it's painful, but it's normal. Butto outlive one's son and grandchildren Andnot even bury them Somehow Imade it through it, but Grandpa couldn't he had a stroke three days afterward. Hecan't talk, can't hear, and can barely walk. Atleast he still recognizes me, and can go to the pot by himself.”

“Prepare yourself”

At midnight on September 9th, the Borovskys are not at the official memorial ceremony at the site of the Guryanov street apartment bombing. ThePechatniki district council was there, all senior members. (Moscow mayor) Luzhkov was absent, though he was supposed to show up. Officials coped without him, giving an inspired speech about how “dark forces wished to prevent the birth of a new Russia.” Near the memorial hangs counter-terrorism instructions, the second paragraph of which reads: “If you are taken hostage, prepare yourself physically and mentally for possibly severe torture.”

By Yevgeny Levkovich and Yekaterina Savina, in 'New Times'

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