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Nord-Ost our sharedgrief
Written by ,   
, 18 2002

Russian Aid Fund http://www.rusfond.ru/panushkin.html?id=7

Today we are publishing personal information on the Dubrovka hostages. Ourregular readers have been calling up the Fund and asking that we put together and print this list. Their feelings are understandable, as they are motivated by compassion and a desire to at least in some way to express their sympathy with these bereaved families. Theyknow about the existence of a general assistance account that opened in Moscow, but doubt its effectiveness, and so they wish to directly help victims of the terrorist attack without intermediaries.

And this is a legitimate desire, but how can an ordinary person with normal mentality and no personal disaster directly express his condolences and sympathy to strangers who have found themselves under this steamroller of national tragedy? Byhanging banners out in the street, or buying time on TV or space in a newspaper? Ihave been tirelessly reminding you that Iam not against the ‘Kommersant’ PR campaign, and those who might wish to do so may do this, but most participants in that campaign share with us nothing but a name, and they basically do not keep us informed.

And so your request has been carried out and the accounts have been opened. Wevery much hope that this list will attract the attention of not only our old acquaintances, but also all of you, our dear friends. Ofcourse, none of those named on the list asked us for assistance, but they certainly do need our help now! Young people have died. Someof them were just starting careers and thought they would earn a decent future for themselves and their loved ones. Manyof those killed were breadwinners. Theyare an irretrievable loss. Yourcontributions, whatever they may be, will help such families survive this most difficult time for them.

We did not divide this list into families of the performers and members of the audience, or Muscovites and residents of the rest of Russia. Inmy opinion, they will always be, for everyone, ‘Nor’easters’. Unfortunately, our list is incomplete. Itlacks the 68families of victims from Moscow. Forgive us for this. During the fund’s six years in operation, this is the first time we have made such mistake, and this demands an explanation. Hereit is:

It is virtually impossible without the assistance of the authorities to organize a newspaper campaign of direct and targeted assistance by our readers to victims of catastrophes. Thegovernment bureaucrat, in whose hands the necessary information is concentrated, however, finds this to be an annoying burden and resists. Usually we are able to go see the heads of the bureaus, and the heads come to see our point of view and the situation works itself out. That is how it was in Novokuznetsk, Samara, Volgodonsk, and even Moscow after the bombings on the Kashirsk Highway and out on Pechatniki. After the tragedy with the submarine Kursk, we made a list of widows and mothers, because there was no official list and no time to lose, so our list was the first in the nation (and it was used, by the way, when the government issued compensation).

I have already written in ‘Kommersant’ about the resistance we ran into this time with the Moscow Social Protection Committee. Letme remind you of the main points: the deputy chairman of the committee, Valentina Fedina, is the chief of staff for assisting ‘Nord-Ost’ victims. Sherefused to give us a list of relatives of the slain hostages, as she put it: “after consultation with you know which officials.” “Apply in writing to first deputy mayor Mrs. Shvetsova,” she advised. OnNovember 4th, Iasked, and so began a bureaucratic football match. Wewere kicked from one office to another. Overthe phone, Lyudmila Shevtsova’s assistant, Olga Presnyakova, said she got the letter and sent it for resolution to the chief of the Department of Social Welfare. Fromthere the letter was sent to the offices of Moscow Social Protection Committee, but it was no longer there. Mrs. Presnyakova recommended that Icall Igor Syrnikov, the chairman of the committee, since he, allegedly, was up to date on everything. Mr. Syrnikov’s secretary refused our call and sent me back to Valentina Fedina, without further comment.

The result was a vicious circle. Andhere is the question: what are they all afraid of? Earlier they at least talked about the ethics and morality of publishing such lists, that is, we must first ask people if they would mind. Butwho are we to ask them if all the information is with the committee and they will not share it and have no intention of asking?

So what are they afraid of? Chechen bandits? Butwe already know that they miscalculated, that the attack was a strategic mistake that made enemies out of hundreds of thousand of people across Russia, who before this did not consider the war as their own. Arethey afraid of their own citizens? These days Icannot help feeling that we are having bad policy shoved down out throats. Howdifferent is ‘Nord-Ost’ from previous campaigns where they used to give out lists of victims? Before now people were killed by the sloppiness of others, while others died from the elements, while in down in fourth place at the hands of terrorists. Isthis now, perhaps, different? Wellthen, why this desire to hush it all up? Ido not know the answer, but it is obvious: they are not protecting themselves from the terrorists, but from their own people. Anemployee of City Hall, however, admitted that while the Kremlin is not very pleased about Moscow’s actions during those days in October, “they don't want any finger pointing.” This tactic of silence, however, only breeds new questions.

They say some of the relatives of the slain hostages have even refused compensation from the government. Why? Nocomments yet. Isit because these people felt, even rashly, that the government was trying to pay them off? Sortof like they murdered our loved ones, and now they want to buy us? Orare these people offended by the amount of compensation? Forgive them, they are in mourning, but perhaps they remember how the authorities calculated compensation for the deaths of innocent submariners from the Kursk? Military service members, by the way, take an oath to die, if necessary, for the fatherland. Butwhen a loved one dies from something not connected to war his life is estimated to be worth seven times less.

It is difficult to understand an official who mindlessly, hiding and wagging his finger at us at the same time, puts the government that protects him in a bind. Weare what we are, with all our mistakes, our dreams, and our grief. ‘Nord-Ost’ these are our victims, and our payment for peace.

You do not need to be a bureaucrat or a politician to understand this.

By Lev Ambinder, chairman of the Russian Aid Fund

November 18th, 2002


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