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‘Nord-Ost’: aftertaste
Written by Елена Рябинина   
Воскресенье, 01 Декабрь 2002

By Elena Ryabinina

ImageA view of the problem

We offer for your consideration the story of two former hostages from ‘Nord-Ost’, and their further adventures, as written by a close relative. Members of the Citizen’s Cooperative human rights organization sent the following material to the editorial offices of MXG Chronicles.

A remark by a member of the Moscow southern district prosecutor’s office:

“You have many people arrive like this, but none came back.”

No, Lord, no matter what you say, our man does not know when to be glad. The terrorists did not blow them up, our government did not poison them to death, and they were taken to straight to intensive care and not the morgue. They were all pumped out (with artificial resuscitation), and, in short, they got impressions of the show that will last them a lifetime. But it is not enough!

They do not even catch their breath, and suddenly it is: “I had this or that with me!” Well, everybody’s got something: different documents or money, while several people for some reason or another were in the theater half naked. Later, in intensive care, everybody’s wearing in their great-grandparent’s clothes, while the clothes they had and whatever was in the pockets, they have to go on a receipt somewhere. Our man is remarkable in a way: he contrives to wake up at the same time that they are putting together that cursed list. If only he could have waited a few minutes and finished up his Fentanyl dreams, but no, just as soon as he hears how many of his dead relatives they are putting into storage, right then and there he opens his eyes, his memory returns, and it is: “Look at how beautiful this world is!”

And so it begins…

Roza Yakovlevna awoke to the sound of a doctor’s voice. The doctor was shaking her, trying to bring her to her senses, and so right away he was using her first and middle name. Later she realized that it meant that her documents were still on her when she was brought unconscious into the hospital. She still remembers the doctor saying: “Roza Yakovlevna, I’m counting your money, it’s right here.” She also nodded afterward that the doctor had counted it correctly. When the “second act soloists” showed up at ‘Nord-Ost’, Roza managed to hide all the money (hers and that of her son Oleg, who was with her in the theater), where women have always hidden it, i.e.: closer to her heart. And her documents went there as well.

To make a long story short, when, after a few days, Roza Yakovlevna’s youngest son came to visit her at Hospital #7, she threw on the hospital scrub shirt that he had hastily grabbed from home, wrote in her hospital discharge form that she felt fine, then went home. She already knew that all was well with Oleg, so this meant that all the unpleasantness was now in the past?


She was discharged from the hospital on October 28th, on a Monday. After resting at home, she went back to the hospital on Friday, November 1st, for a copy of her medical history. “Today we’re not giving them out, we’re changing the wordings (?!) (added by the author). Come back on Monday.” This is what they told her at the hospital. Fine, she thought, we will survive until Monday; we made it through ‘Nord-Ost’! On Monday, the 4th, they gave her the records, but as far as her documents, her belongings, and her money – alas, “all was taken by the prosecutor’s office”.

At this same time, Oleg was being discharged from the Botkin (medical research institute). It seems that he was not in a different hospital, but in a different hemisphere of the planet. And it was not because everything on his receipt was returned to him in its entirety and in good repair, but mainly because already on the evening of the 26th, when very few people in other hospitals were answering questions about those who not so long ago were hostages, a physician from intensive care came to the phone (or perhaps a nurse, I do not know) and said that Oleg was doing better and had asked if anything was known about his mother, and then (this doctor or nurse) ran to tell Oleg that his mother was alive and located at Hospital #7!! And on the next day, on a Sunday, the attending physician called on Oleg’s behalf to find out about Roza Yakovlevna’s condition. Perhaps having such doctors and nurses is the strongest medicine of all?

After his discharge Oleg fell into the caring arms of our normal, everyday health care system. It was like this: he called the regional polyclinic, and then went there in person. He shows up and asks for a form to go see an optometrist, since one eye had started to see poorly. The very kind and attentive lady doctor disappears from his field of view, and a half hour later she reappears together with the chief physician with the news that they have orders: to send ex-hostages with problems quickly, by ambulance, to Hospital #13. Oleg is surprised: “Why an ambulance? I’ll walk there, it’s right next door.” But an order is an order in Africa, and all the more so in a polyclinic, and either way, they have already called the ambulance and it is on its way. “Fine,” he thinks. “They called one, so I’ll wait, why put them through the bother for nothing?” After an hour and a half (traffic jams!) he waits long enough, and they are off.

They take him, however, not to Hospital #13, but to the Botkin, and only after another hour and a half and after driving half across Moscow. Here Oleg finds out the diagnosis under which he is being transported: cerebral hemorrhage, which, one must admit, is rather flabbergasting. Astonishment is evident in the eyes of the admitting surgeon. Everyone is interested, because during his previous stay in this very same hospital, Oleg’s skull was fully examined (since the second act of ‘Nord-Ost’ for him began with a rifle butt to the head), and no hematoma had been found. But! If a hematoma is written, then it means ‘hematoma’, and a hematoma needs an x-ray. At this moment the health care system treadmill speeds up, and Oleg listens with pleasure to an inspiring monologue from a radiologist about the usefulness of a second weekly dose of radiation. He gets this dose (orders!) and leaves with his records in hand, attesting to the absence of a hematoma in the cerebrum, and only wasting 5 measly hours in the process.

True, he did not get to see the optometrist, but to Hell with the optometrist, Oleg’s eye recovers on its own a few days later. And thank God, since a repeat request for a form and maybe the ambulance would have taken him to have something amputated?

This happened 3 days after universal reconciliation with the understanding that the next episode of ‘The Rescued and the Slandered’ would take place on November 10th. On that day Roza Yakovlevna together with Oleg go looking for their belongings and documents, which had either vanished at the prosecutor’s office, or sunk into oblivion. (These were all trifles, really: just a passport, some pension identification, and an insurance policy.)

At the business office of Hospital #7, they are told that their receipts are in their medical records, while the medical records are at the prosecutor general’s office for the southern district. Interesting, now they are doing the work of VTEhK (the Russian OSHA)? The people over at the southern district prosecutor’s office turn out to be very firm, do not give in, and after the last “we didn’t take anything” they advise Oleg and his mother to go looking for their things at the headquarters on Dubrovka. Over there the officials search for the belongings by computer, and, it is clear, also come up empty handed. They then invite Roza Yakovlevna to return on November 18th; perhaps something might show up in the theater’s cloakroom.

The “rehabilitaton” of the victims of the Dubrovka terror act ends for now at this stage. But now, the arid remainder: 1) Roza Yakovlevna and Oleg receive monetary compensation, true, but there is still the question – is this is for their health being wrecked at ‘Nord-Ost’, or is it an advance for all the trivial yet nasty dirty tricks that await them in their contacts with our bright and shiny bureaucrats while trying to get back their documents, money, belongings, or in short – the possessions that disappeared after the terror act? 2) Psychologists and psychiatrists are constantly telling us that the aftermath of these terrible events will be long evident in people’s nervous systems. Perhaps, and even probably, they are correct. But even if these same nervous systems turn out to be uncharacteristically durable, then they may successfully be healed under a therapeutic procedure called ‘turning a person into a bug’, for which no terrorists are needed.

But perhaps an incompletely poisoned, I mean, excuse me, a rescued hostage, should not feel anything other than deep satisfaction at not being one of those killed? If this is so, then looking at the whole ‘Nord-Ost’ story from this standpoint as Shenderovich, I can give the following recommendation to future rescuers: next time pick a gas that has less effect on the bronchi, liver, and kidneys, but with more effects on one’s feeling of self-worth. For some reason the gas did not work up a feeling of deep satisfaction.

P. S. Roza Yakovlevna and Oleg, by the way, are still hoping to see the rest of ‘Nord-Ost’. They liked the first act.

P.P.S. On November 20th, 2002, Roza Yakovlevna was summoned to the headquarters on Dubrovka, and all her confiscated possessions were returned. Possibly after a letter from Citizen’s Cooperative to the prosecutor general.

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