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     Home page: http://www.anycities.com/user/conrad/
     E-mail: croy2000@mail.ru
     Date: 19 Feb 2003
     Russian original of this text is placed at
     http://lib.ru/MEMUARY/CHECHNYA/grozny.txt
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     Dear Reader,

     You  have  surely  heard that far away,  in South  Russia, a  cruel and
bloody  war has  been going  on  for many months. In a small anclave  called
Chechnya,  the Russian  military are  fighting  several  rebel groups  which
demand independence and creation of an Islamic state.  Some of these  groups
wish to  establish such a  state only  in Chechnya itself. Others intend  to
create a  larger  state  that would  include  vast areas of southern Russia,
areas  that  are predominantly  Moslem.  Some of  these  groups are  extreme
fundamentalists, others are  following the mainstream Islam.  Some emphasize
their connection to Taliban,  some deny. Some groups are heavily involved in
organized crime and  drug  trafficking,  some  are not. Some  groups consist
predominantly of  natives, some  others are  dominated  by fighters who come
from Arab countries, Pakistan, Afganistan and even  from England in  hope to
die  for  Allah  and  to  ascend  to  the  Paradise.  Some groups  obey  the
self-styled  rebel  "government,"  while  most obey only  their fearless and
lawless warlords.
     Accounts  of  that  conflict,  provided  by  the  Western   media,  are
controversial  and sometimes  contradictive. Prior to 9-11-2001,  the  media
emphasized  the  cruelty  with  which the military were  trying to quell the
rebellion.  Some  of  those awful stories  didn't hold water, but some  were
true.  After  that  date,  it  has  often  been mentioned  that  the Russian
Government is fighting its battle against international terrorism, that some
Al-Quaeda associates have got refuge in the Chechen mountains and that  many
Chechen warlords had been trained in the Taliban military schools.
     Still,  many  critics  of Russian policies  insist  that  the  army  is
excessively  tough  and  that  the  suffering  of  the  civilians  has  been
unbearable.  The  Russian  media,  on  its  part,  writes  a lot  about  the
atrocities  against the population carried  out  by the  rebel gangs.  As  a
matter of fact, a considerable portion of the population has  left that area
and has found refuge in the nearby regions of Russia.
     What  is really going on in Chechnya?  How many faces does this tragedy
have? In  fact, even for an  experienced political scientist it is very hard
to offer  a full  account of the events and of their  roots. The life of the
Caucases  region  is a tapestry of  many  strands,  some  of  which have for
centuries  been stained  with  blood,  vengeance  and  unrest.  The  present
conflict  is  a result  of many political,  cultural, religious and economic
reasons  and its  complexity  cannot be reduced to a  small  set of  pivotal
matters.
     This war has  a strong smell of oil, but it would be extremely naive to
state that this is merely a fight for oil-rich terrain.  This war has a very
distinct smell of heroin, but it  would  be utterly  wrong to think that the
Russian  Government is simply  trying to cut the old drug-trafficking roots.
The  past decade  has been marked  by revival of the ancient craft of ransom
kidnapping and slave trade in Chechnya,  however,  this  military  operation
cannot be defined  as another  attempt  to reduce crime.  This  is a war for
political independence and for  the tribal pride, but at the same time it is
a  tragic sibling feud, because the Chechen society itself  is  dramatically
split on this issue. This  is a war for the unity of Russia, but at the same
time  there are  circles in  the  Russian society which  benefit  from  this
warfare  through  shady  arms  deals.  Finally,  this war  is  largely about
militant fundamentalist  Islam,  and still this  struggle  is not merely  an
anti-terrorist action similar to  that  carried out by the US in Afganistan.
There is still more to it...
     Once, in some pro-rebel newspaper I came across an article by a Chechen
intellectual who insisted that this war is not merely a conflict between the
State and  the rebel underground, but rather  is a profound conflict between
the freedom-loving tribal  spirit and the modern way of life. Well, I am not
an  expert in history, even less  in  ethnography, but all my  experience of
life  in those lands  tells me that this author  has his point. What is  for
certain is that the old rule "War  is continuation of economics" badly fails
in this instance.
     I have lived in Chechnya for 40 years. Though being of Slavic origin, I
know the language and the  ways of the Natives. Together with  that  land, I
have  lived  through  its most desperate  and cruel months. I witnessed  its
successful push for de-facto independence from Russia and I saw  how swiftly
this independence evolved into a complete independence from law and order. I
saw how barbarianism and anarchy swept over that area and I have acquired an
experience  of living  in an almost  neandertal  society which was,  though,
equipped with cars, rifles, machineguns, and cellular telephones.
     In my documentary story I  shall  describe  the events  that  I  became
witness to, and which have  dramatically changed  my life,  the life  of  my
family, as well as the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who had been
unfortunate to live in Chechnya in early 90-s.I'm  one of those who suffered
from Holocaust in Grozny. My story will help you learn something you haven't
heard before, something which was concealed from you.
     Since this is an introduction, may I start out with a bit of history.
     The area where I used to  live  was known, in the Soviet epoch,  as the
Chechen-Ingush Republic and used to be an administrative unit of the Russian
Federation  (which itself was a Republic  or in  the American terms, a State
within  the  former Soviet Union).  The Chechen-Ingush Republic consisted of
two anclaves:  Ingushetia and  Chechnya, which  were populated predominantly
(though far  not exclusively) the Ingush and Chechen peoples, appropriately.
Most  part  of  the  1.5-million-strong  population  of  the  Chechen-Ingush
Republic has always  been Moslem. The capital of  the  Republic  was Grozny,
founded  in 1818 as a fort  to  protect the  boundaries of  Russia  from the
attacks of savage  Caucasian tribes.  Through almost two  centuries the town
had  been developing and eventually grew  out  from a provincial fort into a
prominent industrial city which had its theaters, universities and colleges,
industries and crafts.
     Some 12 years ago Grozny was a hardworking city with  the population of
470,000 people. It used to be a large center of oil-processing. It also  had
dozens of factories producing mechanical hardware. Their production  used to
be exported to more than 60 countries. It  was some 12 years ago... A lot of
water and blood have passed under the  bridge since then. Changes began when
a group of  enthusiasts came up with a good slogan:  Return  the  historical
tribal  land  to  its  people   and  establish  an  independent  Chechen  or
Chechen-Ingush state. The  Ingush people soon rejected this option and chose
to form  a separate  Ingush Republic which has  been  since then a  part  of
Russia. In  Chechnya,  however, the slogans of independence and tribal pride
began gaining  support  from  various strata  of society: from the organized
crime  and  from  the  clergy,  from  some  tribal  elders  and   from  some
intellectuals, and  even  from  some  of  the  former  Soviet officials  who
understood  that  in  a quasi-independent  anclave  they would  be  able  to
privatize the state-owned property without giving a share or even a bribe to
the Moscow bureaucrats. One of such high officials,  retired Soviet Airforce
general Dudaev  was  "elected" as  a  "President" of  the new-born  "Chechen
People's Republic of Ichkeria." Whether he was elected by democratic vote or
by  some other mechanisms  (like, say,  fusillades in  the streets) will  be
studied by the historians. What is truly important  is that the then Russian
President Yeltsin accepted Dudaev as a ruler of Chechnya and agreed to grant
him  a very  large degree of independence in exchange for support in federal
matters. This is how the story began, in peace and agreement. It ended  in a
bloodshed unseen by those lands since the years of the World War ll.
     I  want to tell you  this story as seen by the eyes of a simple citizen
who  happened to become  a cog of the  state  machine in an  hour  when that
machine started to badly falter. In my story  you will not find a scientific
analysis  of  that tragedy, but  you will  find an  account of  the everyday
events, an  honest sketch of that life. Possibly, some future historian will
want to use it as food for thought.
     Before I  start, may I express my sincere gratitude  to my friends  who
helped me with translating this story intoEnglish.



     In my  story I tried to present a concise chronicle of events that took
place  in  the city  of Grozny  prior to and during  the  period  which some
journalists  used  to miscall "Chechen Revolution". A term like "The eve  of
Chechen Tragedy" would be more adequate. I apologize for some possible minor
chronological inaccuracies.  Over the past years,  my life has been  full of
events and changes; so it is hard to trace back some of the past events with
high precision in time.
     I  will not offer  to  your  attention  an  exhaustingly  comprehensive
account of those months and years. This is, after all, not a  diary but only
a  short memoire, a description  of that  life as experienced by an ordinary
man from the street.. After this story had been written, it came not once to
my   mind  to   add  to   it  more   details  and  descriptions.  When   the
Russian-language  version  of  this story  appeared on  the  web,  I started
getting letters  and calls from my friends who  lived  in Grozny during  the
described  period. They began to  remind me of more and more episodes  which
were  relevant  and  deserved  being included  into  the story.  After  some
hesitation, I decided not to  do this. First of all,  the present content is
sufficiently  informative, and I  do not want to  overload the  reader  with
excessive  amount  of  heart-rending  episodes  or  with  excerpts from  the
official news of that time. Second, it is quite a  burden for me to write of
those events  and even to cast my thoughts back to that my past. For several
years after having  fled  Chechnya, I used  to  often  wake up in the  night
because  of  nightmares  tormenting  me: each  night  I  saw  ruined houses,
desolete parks, and  a burned skeleton of  my  apartment  building. In these
nightdreams,  I was running away from the gang. I  heard their war-cries and
gunshots, tried to shoot back, and was persistently missing the  approaching
targets, and only awakening used to save me from what  seemd to be imminent.
I  heared that some  of the Holocaust survivors used to  experience  similar
symptoms for years after the war.
     Nowadays I live a happy life and don't want those nightmares to return.
I don't have guts  to live through  that inferno again and again, even in my
thoughts and recollections.
     Dozens of thousands of people who  fled Grozny live now all over Russia
and abroad. Some of them are professional jounalists, writers and  academics
and they  can write better than I did. I  asked one of them to do so, but he
refused  and  honestly  explained me the reason: he  and  his family live in
Russia,  and no one  will  protect them  from  the possible revenge  of  the
tribesmen  insulted  by  his  testimony.  Russia  does  not  have  a witness
protection  scheme.  I understand him,  because  I  myself did often receive
agitated and aggressive "responses" from some  readers who threatened me and
promissed to cut my throat.
     This story has been written at the  request of Vyacheslav  Mironov, the
writer who participated, as a Russian army officer,  in the military campagn
of  1995, also called First Chechen War. (His semi-documentary book "Assault
on Grozny Downtown" can be found at).





     Well,  that  was it!  My working day was over and  it  was time to head
toward  my  garage.  I  was driving  there  with one  thought  in  my  mind:
"Hopefully,  the day when I shall drive my "Own" car, is not  that far away.
Sure, it will be neither a fancy  Mercedes,  nor even  a Lada, but  rather a
tiny Zaporozhets, but still - my own". "Some day..."

     I did understand that it was a kind of shame not to afford a car at the
age of  38. What made things worse was that having a car  had always been my
cherished dream. Anyway, not much could be done about that: cars were highly
expensive  in the former Soviet  Union and in the  post-Soviet era they were
regarded  as  a  sort  of  luxury.   I  am  quite  a  handy  man,  almost  a
jack-of-all-trades: I can fix various equipment and appliances  with  my own
hands.  Besides being a qualified craftsman,  I am  a pretty  stubborn sort:
when necessary, I can work double shifts. I really  did enjoy working like a
drudge horse: it is  a  part of my nature. I  started my career as a  simple
worker right  after  I  had  finished  my  compulsory  military  service. My
part-time  studies at a  technical university  helped  me to  grow  from the
ranks:  from a  worker, I  was promoted  to  a  technician  and  then  to an
engineering position.

     My wife  was  a schoolteacher and a really good one she was. "She had a
talent  for it". Beside  our regular full-time jobs, we both  used  to  work
extra hours part-time. Nonetheless, we never became really rich, for a thing
was true  in those days that  are still true in the post-Soviet  era: honest
labor   never  paves  the  way  to   wealth.  Those  who  have  studied  the
sophisticated mechanism  of the post-Soviet economy know that straining  the
limits  of  the law has made almost  all good fortunes there.  In the Soviet
epoch we had quite a  few underworld millionaires,  especially in the South;
but  their success  was achieved  through corruption  and the  black market.
Later, when the market and private enterprise became legal, many became rich
with their hands remaining clean. But don't look under their nails...

     The mockery of it was that in mid- and north Russia there was and still
is, a  common opinion  that the folks from the Caucasus are moneyed and well
off. It was a ridiculous assumption, wholly  provincial in  concept,  and as
nonsensical as  any  myth. These days, crowds of the so-called New  Russians
travel across Europe, with a lot of  money to  burn and vice to  spare. Does
this mean that Russia is a prosperous country? No, it simply illustrates the
strident gap  between our oligarchs and the rest of  the population. Back in
the late Soviet era, we had a similar stratification  in the  Caucasus. This
may sound like  a revelation  to those who think that the Communist ideas of
economic equality were fully implemented in  the former Soviet Union. In its
European  and  Siberian parts they were in force (to  some extent, at least)
and the level of corruption was not that high.

     But please do not ask about Middle Asia and the Caucasus. Rather try to
imagine  a  weird symbiosis of  feudalism and  early capitalism, where local
feudal lords hold the  positions of  Party bosses  and unofficially  tax the
underground  economies.  A certain share goes to  the  local police, while a
considerable part goes to  Moscow, sometimes to the very top of the pyramid.
Here are  the rules of the game.  The  regional  Party bosses (many  of whom
represented the local tribal  aristocracy) were  doing their best to conceal
the incredible corruption and to make  the impression that the  Caucasus and
Middle Asia were living in compliance with Soviet laws. Moscow, on its part,
pretended that  it believed in this. This concord rested on mutual interests
and often on  generous "presents"  in money  and in kind, that used to  flow
from  the  southern provinces to the  Moscow  political elite. The paramount
reason was the one known since times immemorial: whenever aging rulers of an
oversized empire were trying to keep it under control, they often  preferred
to  give carte blanche to  the local satraps in  exchange for their loyalty.
This system can work  for dozens of years,  sometimes even for centuries. It
works until the  central government gets weak, so that the satraps can break
out and become kings of their domains.  So  it happened in the Soviet Union,
but while the center was strong enough, the satrap system kept  functioning.
As a result, most population in the semi-feudal regions of the Soviet  South
lead the  life of sweat  and toil, but  the richest part of  the southerners
used to travel to Moscow and Leningrad, and to  dazzle everyone  with  their
thick wallets and unbelievably deep  pockets. Much like the New Russians are
embarrassing Europe these days. Hence  the myth about the Soviet southerners
being rich...

     According  to  the  official Soviet ideology  inherited  from  Stalin's
epoch,  the  Russian people  collectively were  the "Senior Brother"  of the
other  people, which were  labeled as  its "Junior Brothers." An interesting
nuance of the real life in  the Soviet Asia and Caucasus is  that  the major
landowners and black-market  businessmen, as well as  most  of the  (utterly
corrupted)  local  Party  elite  were  representatives of  the  local tribal
aristocracy and,  generally,  of the  local nations. As a result, the ethnic
Slavs and other  people of non-local origin were, typically, concentrated in
the poorest  strata  of the society  in  such provinces. They  were workers,
engineers, teachers,  small-time governmental  officials, but never big-time
shots  or, Heaven forbid, underground businessmen.  The  latter was reserved
strictly for the locals who knew the way around  and,  most  important, were
interconnected by tribal links  and  the Omerta.  The social texture  of the
Soviet South will forever remain a puzzle  for  the Ivy League and  Oxbridge
cognoscentii...

     How  did this  social  mechanism  work in  Grozny? Well,  in  a  pretty
standard manner. When so ever  it came to work at a factory or in a foundry,
that sort of jobs was left for the "Senior Brother." However, the profitable
jobs (the ones that had  something to do with goods distribution of steeling
deficit  raw materials)  were  by  default reserved  for the locals. "Simply
because they had connections." The  local Party bosses  had their  families,
clans  and tribes; and  one's loyalty to his clan  has  always been the most
important  thing  in  the  South.  Suppose,  some  local  guy  gets  through
protection of his relative Party boss, a good profitable position that gives
him an  opportunity for  some illegal business. This guy has a wife, and she
has numerous relatives. Hence, it will be  a  matter of honor for the guy to
do his very best, to help all those relatives  to  get employed in a similar
manner at the same place. And so forth...

     Involvement in illegal economics  may once a while lead people to jail.
But never for too long for the  local judges and prosecutors alike, know the
rules of the game, and  their  positions  are merely a camouflage for  their
extortion business. To  put  it  bluntly, they all took bribes, bribes  that
were presented as gifts, either to  them  or to someone  else in their clan.
Sometimes it was not about "gifts" and "cash", but about "special" relations
between clans and families. As a rule, everything  was eventually settled in
a peaceful way. This rule, as any, had exceptions.

     Those exceptions,  though, reflected  not the  ability of the system to
punish  corruption,  but  contradictions  between  the tribal  and political
clans.  People  who came from traditional, especially Moslem  societies know
what I  mean. One may be the most honest man in the world, but he will never
have guts to challenge the laws of tribal solidarity.

     Of course, many of  the local nations worked  on  the farms and plants,
but only at positions where they could get some extra profit. In addition to
that, they acquired the habit to litter with money. Why should one save that
what is earned so easily?

     Especially  at  resorts,  Ministries, because of that  the Caucasus has
received a fame as a prosperous rich area. This fame has  been  fortified by
different auditors and commissions from the Capital (Moscow). The guests are
traditionally  honored  in the  Caucasus,  but  not  all,  just  exceptional
ones-like bosses.  Not  only are they treated to  many  delicacies, but also
given expensive gifts. Exactly after such an honorable hospitality, a famous
"Human  Rights  Activist" - Sergey  Kovalyov  - had  fallen in love with his
future supporters.

     As for us, we didn't rub shoulders with top  dogs or "younger brothers"
so we earned our living, which was extremely meager. By the way, our pay was
far too smaller than the one in Russia and even far  less than in Moscow. We
had to shop at black markets, but in Moscow they  could  shop at the  stores
with stable  prices. That's why  whenever we had a vacation, we didn't think
about going  to the seaside, we  thought about clothes and  shoes we need to
buy for a stable price and went to Moscow for  shopping. We lived from  hand
to mouth,  borrowing  the  money  all the time.  Some  people were  a little
luckier than others,  but the  time  was flying  and the  life went  on  and
everybody knew what to expect in the future.

     I still remember the general hilarity which was caused by Gorbachev. It
was like a mass psychosis. Everybody felt as if they were newly born! I wish
these hilarious people had  a  vision into the nearest future, about 2 years
ahead.  What  has  he done, what  kind  of  "nationalistic"  porridge has he
cooked? It will take a long time to manage this hopeless mess. Possibly with
his coming to power I developed a gift  of future vision, frankly, I call it
intuition. To my great  pity, almost all  of my predictions had been carried
out, some of them even in a more horrible way than I wanted.

     I was "lucky" with  my  car, but there was no choice.  With each coming
day the economic  situation worsened. Agriculture,  light industry, chemical
industry was almost dead. Only gas and oil industries were still working. If
on  the mainland  the  people didn't  suffer  from delayed  pay  crisis,  in
Chechnya  we experienced great  difficulties because of stopped payments. It
looked like something was going to happen. I needed to hurry. As a result of
a long search, I managed to find a car, which I could  afford.  The deal was
6,000 rubles.  I  paid  with  my gold  ring  (my  mother's gift  during  the
"stagnation"  period, - 500 rubles), a  state bond (valued at 2,500  rubles)
plus 3,000  rubles in cash, which  was borrowed from  my wife's student.  My
wife had to pay back  by teaching her student privately for almost 6 months.
As a result, we because  the owners of a cute white body (ZAZ - 968M) with a
set of wheels,  disintegrated dashboard and a six-year-old engine. Thanks to
the fact that the car stayed in a  shack  there  was no rust,  but the  hens
living  in  the  same shack  seemed  to  like  it  because there was lots of
feathers and straw in it.

     The car was towed to the  garage of one of my friends in a plant region
and  I  started  the  restoration. I didn't  have any previous car  mechanic
experience;  only sometimes I  had to deal with car problems. Also, I didn't
have blueprints, so having started from scratch, step by  step; I managed to
reanimate the car in 1 month. The easiest  part was the electric part; there
I had a  lot of experience. As a result, all hardware was restored thanks to
the help of my friends, the specialists. I  lacked many things to finish the
job successfully, but our people  would never fail. It's no  problem  if you
stopped by a neighbor's garage and asked for advice. Car owners -  were like
one family, but  I was  just a beginner, so  why not share their experiences
with  me?  Frankly speaking,  I  had to  stay  in  the  garage  rather late,
sometimes well  over midnight, and sometimes  I even stayed there overnight.
The day when the car started  to "cough" for the first time was the happiest
day for me, so I decided to finish early. It was 9 or 10 pm. It used to take
15 min.  to reach  the  tram  stop,  up to  the  "Central" stop. Then up  to
"Grozneftyanaya",  and  20 min.  more  up  to  "12th  Trust"  stop  where my
apartment was. I used the same route many times but the  only thing I didn't
think about was  safety  at such  a late  hour. But, here I need to stop and
explain something.

     For many years,  beginning with the `80s, the city dwellers didn't have
a  wish  to  go  outside   when  it  was  getting  dark.  We  lived  in  the
Chechen-Ingush republic, where the law and the power were only on paper, and
taking into  consideration some specific features of  native  people, it was
not safe (putting it mildly)  to go outside  at night. Chechens have  always
hated the people  of another  faith, and  after Gorbachov  has  successfully
destroyed  the  country  and every  nationality  has  started  a  fight  for
independence, the dream of ousting the "aggressors" had become more real.

     Well, some people  acted in a civilized way,  some only started to talk
about  it,  but Chechens  had their own  way of solving  this  problem. Even
during the  so-called "stagnation" period  our  republic topped the list  of
criminals  in the country. Almost every Chechen teenager carried a knife and
never hesitated to use it. Robberies, violence,  and fights were  so common,
that nobody cared much about  them. Only sometimes, when  the prey was a top
dog or some boss, for an example, the leading actress of one company touring
in  our  drama theater. Chechens managed to kidnap  her right after the show
and the parts of her  mutilated body were found  in the local river the next
day. Besides, the laws  were indifferent to such situations. The explanation
like  "not blooded  Caucasians" was very  handy, and  it  was not allowed to
upset "the  young brother". But if by chance Russian guys  beat Chechens, in
this case the law would ask a question, "How did they dare!"

     Some  people  moved out  of  the republic,  some came.  Those  who were
leaving weren't numerous. Some people  including me,  started to  understand
that a thunderstorm was coming. To say that it came out of the blue would be
wrong. In our city  we  had  a TV program schedule, which  was  printed on a
flyer, and  on the backside of that flyer they printed  intercity apartments
exchange. First, those ads occupied only a quarter of a page, but then there
were many of them. I analyzed their quantity and meaning attentively.

     The number of  people moving out of the republic was the  same, but the
number of people  willing to move to  the republic was increasing.  Chechens
were  willing to move  to the republic. Very soon the moving ads started  to
occupy  the whole flyer.  I knew perfectly  well  what  it meant. I tried to
discuss  it  with my  parents,  acquaintances and friends. But all  of  them
didn't take the situation  seriously. They used  to say that it  was natural
that  Chechens and  Ingushes  wanted to live in  their own  republic because
everybody wanted  to be  independent.  Not once did I talk with my wife, she
was all for moving out, but... Everything depended on our parents.

     Unfortunately, we couldn't  just flee  and dump our parents.  But  they
didn't want to move out. They laughed  at my forecasts. They used to calm me
down  by saying  that Chechens would soon change for the better, they  would
get  their cherished independence  and everything would go well. They use to
tell me: - "Well, Just think, how  will they do without our  hands,  because
technology is  not their field? Russian hands are needed everywhere. How can
they handle refineries!"

     Well, my parents were  not that old. They didn't need constant care and
were ready  to  start  any moment,  if  it  came  to that  (as  it  actually
happened). But, as for my  wife's parents, the problem was far more serious.
Her  father  could walk slowly to the nearest  store (40 min.) using a cane,
although  the distance was about 300 m. As  for her mother, she could hardly
move. That's why we had to shop for groceries for them, visit pharmacies and
do some house chores almost every  evening. That's  why they didn't  want to
leave their long-occupied place. Though, they had a wonderful chance because
their son (my  wife's brother) was a top dog  in Vladivostok and worked as a
Professor at  the University  there. But,  unfortunately, he didn't have any
desire to see his parents, well, and they also didn't want to move. Frankly,
taking into consideration the changes for the worst, we managed to own a car
even though it was very hard. As it proved later, the car did save our lives
not once.

     Usually I came home from my garage after midnight. At that  time it was
not that dangerous. Everybody had a chance  to party  and  come back home. I
was happy at that time but  I  didn't think that I picked the wrong time for
coming back home.  I got on  a  street car and took a seat behind the driver
starting to think about  my car and what else  I could do for it. There were
some  elderly  people on  the tram sitting here and there. A  group of young
Chechens  got  on  the street car  at  the  next  stop  and became  rowdy. I
understood that if they paid attention at me, I wouldn't be  in for it,  but
my  stop was rather near. Unfortunately, my hopes were in vain.  The  voices
came nearer and sounded meaner, more aggressive and squealed.

     According  to  the number of their voices,  there were four of them, "I
thought". So, to hope  for a "gentleman" style fight was stupid. Not without
reason,  200 years ago  the Chechens were given the nickname - "jackals". In
addition, they  had  knives. If I tried to resist, they would cut  my throat
anyway, but in that case my wife is under  threat, because they  would never
calm  down unless they  revenged upon the family of their prey that dared to
resist. Only one thing remained - to grit my teeth and try to stay calm.

     - Well, you, kike, it's not Moscow here!

     The  blow to my  face came  from the side! My glasses got  broken,  the
blood poured  into  the eye. Blows and  blows, and more blows...  I couldn't
think of  anything, only  ringing  in the  ears, only  one  thought kept  on
piercing my mind - "don't  move and don't fall". Then  there was a stop  and
the voices disappeared.
     I  tried to revise  the damages. A piece of glass was above my eye  - I
took  it out. Got up, looked around,  one eye could  still see. Same elderly
people, they  all looked  down,  to the floor. I  understood them and didn't
accuse.  Only  one  old lady  -  Chechen  lady - not  far from me started to
lament.

     - Vakh, vakh! What have they done to you? These hooligans?

     I couldn't suppress my  tears any more and  they poured from my eyes. I
cried  because  of  lack  of retaliation, lack of  fighting back and holding
myself back  in order  not  to fight.  Shame and  hatred to myself filled my
heart?

     - Why were you silent? They are YOUR grandchildren. They MUST obey when
you talk. And now you feel sorry for me? Remember!!! When you, your children
and grandchildren will be obliterated like mad  dogs, remember  me! Remember
your silence!

     The street car stopped  and I got out. I didn't remember  how I reached
my apartment.




     Life is becoming harder and harder every day. No authority.  Well, lots
of people in police uniforms  were on the streets, but the republic was full
of  anarchy.  Who did  they  serve and protect - remained  unknown.  On  the
streets there were lots of armed Chechens in  civilian and military clothes.
Pay and  pension  pays were delayed for a  few  months and were not paid  in
full. The delays became longer and longer.

     A new  high-rise KGB headquarters building was seized and robbed. I was
told about the  details of that seizure  by one of our friends, a KGB major,
which worked in that building. One  weekend  there  were only 2 officers  on
duty in the building. They  were in the hallway. When the  crowd started  to
bang on the locked  doors, one of the officers  -  a Russian - headed to the
door  to talk to the crowd. His partner - a Chechen  - shot him in the  back
several times. After that he unlocked the door and let the crowd in. Robbery
and vandalism started. The bandits  seized a thousand  uniforms and armament
for  Special Forces.  But,  they  seized not  only  this.  They  also  stole
everything  they  could, even pens and paper. The things they couldn't carry
were  smashed  on  the spot. A unique telephone  system was in the building.
Only 5 or  6 kinds of such a system were produced in Russia and the cost was
terrific. The equipment was crushed and shot.

     Later,  some  Russian technicians from the  Central Security Department
were  "invited" as specialists to restore the equipment, at least partially.
They  told  me as their  former colleague what  they  saw  there. The  whole
building looked like a huge  public restroom. Dingy, shabby walls, urine and
excrements everywhere. It was impossible to  look at  the equipment  without
shudder. Torn out cables  and wires, crashed bulbs and indicators, scattered
parts of equipment. There was no word about any restoration.
     But even if  it were possible  to restore  some parts,  the technicians
didn't have  any desire to  talk about it. They  knew perfectly well that it
would be the job done for the enemy.

     Whatever general conviction could be about everybody working for money,
the people started to wake up. Not everything can be bought or sold.

     The seizure was  successful, Moscow preferred not  to pay attention and
the Chechens were  glad they were not punished. Only some people knew  about
that in our city because nobody  took any  interest in such  departments and
their fate.  So much more anxiety was caused by the outrageous kidnapping of
the State University Rector Viktor, Kan-Kalik.

     The purpose of the kidnapping was rather clear in spite of the followed
official  explanations.  The  Chechens  sent a  message  for  the people  to
understand whom the real master in the Republic was and what would happen to
those  who  didn't  understand  that. The  process  of  ousting  all  of the
unfaithful from leading positions was under way.

     Among  our  acquaintances, there  were  people  of  different  classes,
including directors of plants and CEOs. We heard from them that the Chechens
advised  them  to  quit  their  jobs.  But  nobody took  it  seriously.  The
kidnapping was bold and outrageous. In broad daylight, Chechens  in civilian
clothes entered Rector's  cabinet,  grabbed  him, forced him into  a car and
drove away. The  witness didn't  say a word. After a few months of  official
search a burned corpse was allegedly found somewhere, but we will never know
the truth.  Only one  thing  was real  - his death  was horrible because, he
became human prey in beastly hands.

     Every day we went  to work, discussed  current events and all that time
we had a feeling that it was a dream. What was happening seemed  unreal.  It
looked like everything was just going on it's own way but something sinister
was  above  the  head.  Shootings  were not  rare.  The  shops  didn't  have
groceries. We could  shop only  at the market. The prices were  skyrocketing
and there was no money. To withdraw the money which one  saved  for years in
the bank was impossible. At night the city was solitary and quiet.

     Somewhere, in  the still  of the  night, gunshots could  be  heard. Who
fought against whom was unclear. Some people who owned orchards dared to  go
there, only during daytime but often useless. Somebody had  already gathered
the harvest and the  security was reluctant to  explain. But, what could  an
elderly  security man do against  armed robbers? The only thing  he could do
was to sit quietly in his cabin and prey they didn't kill him.

     My father called me at my job place.

     -  You were right. Look  for somebody  who  wants to  buy our apartment
urgently. Your mother and I want to leave.

     - Ready?

     - Yes.  It's terrible. Don't  want to talk about it  on the phone. Come
quickly.

     My  parents' apartment was downtown on Partizanskaya St., opposite  the
Republic's Art Foundation. From their  4th floor, they  witnessed
the scene, which soon became an  ordinary sight in many parts of the city. A
few  Russians were passing by the Republic's Art Foundation  Building. A car
"Volga"  passed by and then stopped.  Some armed Chechens got out of the car
and shot  down the poor guys with their automatic guns. Then slowly got into
the car and drove away. After this horrible scene, which was witnessed by my
parents, they understood at last what  "independent Ichkeria" meant. Both of
my parents went through war,  fought  against fascists during WWII, but this
scene shocked them with its senseless cruelty.

     We  had many acquaintances  among Chechens but to  pick out a  reliable
buyer was  really hard  in order not  to pay  their life's savings for that.
But, anyway in a week  the problem  was solved. One of our  acquaintances, a
University Professor, an intellectual  guy of our age was glad  to have such
an  opportunity. His  relatives were coming from  Russia and  the  apartment
price, which went drastically down due to a great outflow of the population,
was  just  good for him.  A  few days before the sale  of  the apartment, my
father  asked  me  to  move  his  car  -  "Zhiguli-5" to  the  relatives  in
Prokhladnoe. He was not a good driver and the car mileage was ridiculous.

     So,  he wouldn't make it. This trip was  a very  risky  one, to put  it
mildly, because many drivers were killed even for used cars. There were many
accidents like  this, they killed not only unfaithful but also the people of
their faith,  and in our case my  father's car was almost brand new and made
for export. But there was no way out. My father didn't want to part with the
car;  it was  his  favorite toy and  joy, which he was able to buy  with his
honest work. He  used to drive the car when he went fishing or  visiting his
relatives, the rest of the time he used to polish and admire it.

     It  didn't take a long  time for me  to get ready for the trip. I put 2
jerry cans of gasoline into the trunk  because of gasoline shortages, an old
fish net for  camouflage, some fishing accessories and 2 bottles  of `Vodka'
into the glove compartment. Of  course, I took `Vodka' not for drinking, but
it served as  a form  of currency,  which could be used at  any time. In the
morning I went into  the garage, made  the sign  of  the cross  for  myself,
although I was not baptized yet at that time and left. The most terrible and
risky part was to cross our own border.

     I reached the post between the Chechen-Ingush Republic and Osetia at 10
am. I  tried  to reach  there not too early, in  order not to  attract extra
attention. I drove  up  to the post  slowly,  fortunately,  there wasn't any
traffic. Who could drive under such circumstances and not be shot?

     I was not  so lucky. There  was a fire not  far from  the post and some
people were sitting around eating shashlik. One  man got up and headed in my
direction,  staggering  without making a sign  for  me  to stop. However, he
pulled  a  machine  carbine   gun  from  behind  and  another  large-caliber
machine-gun was beside the  people, sitting around the fire. Of course, if I
revved up quickly, then in a few seconds I could  be one, two hundred meters
away  from  this place,  and he wouldn't be able  to shoot, his reaction was
impaired, but the position of the  machine-gun was  much better and it could
shoot rather far, but my car could move only along this straight road. I had
to put on the brakes and smile.  I got out of the car and the "dzhigit" with
his swollen, unshaven face, didn't even didn't look at me.

     - What's there in the trunk?

     He saw the jerry cans.

     - Wine?

     - No.  There's gasoline. I'm going fishing; there  are  no gas stations
there. But I have some `Vodka'. There's no fishing without `Vodka'?

     Only at that moment  he looked at me, but I didn't  know whether he saw
me because his glance was blank.

     - 'Vodka' is good. We've run out of it.

     I  immediately  gave  him both bottles from the glove  compartment.  He
grabbed them and turning  away  from  me said, - "On your way back get  some
wine."

     Trying  not to hurry, I got into  the car, started it and slowly pulled
away. I revved up slowly at first, then faster and faster. There was no time
to look  straight  ahead, the  road was empty, only in the rearview mirror I
could watch  what was happening behind, if  anybody went to the  machine-gun
from  the  fire. A few kilometers which separated the posts of  Chechnya and
Osetia  I drove  like  crazy,  momentarily, though  those were  the  longest
seconds  of my  life. When I looked away from the mirror, I saw Osetian post
ahead,  concrete blocks  across the road, bumps and roadside  "hedgehogs". I
started to put on brakes but  the  speed was too fast and the car bumped and
rocked like crazy. Twenty, thirty meters more and I felt as if I were riding
a huge vibrator. I  could hardly hold the steering  wheel.  At last, the car
jerked and stopped. "I made it"!
     From the post I could see a group of people in police  uniforms running
to  me  loading  their  guns.  I hurriedly  got out of the car and raised my
hands. The senior of them, an Osset, looked at my car's  license plate, then
at my face and said, questionably.

     - Russian? From Chechnya?

     It remained only to nod. The guns were lowered down.

     - Do you need help?

     - No. I'd like to examine the car. It got it.

     The Osset smiled.

     - I'm not going to give you a speeding  ticket, though you  raced  like
hell. Was it scary?

     I shrugged my shoulders. How can I admit that it was so scary?

     - It's OK. Don't worry. Go now. That's all right;  you're not the first
from there.

     They  treated me to a cigarette and only then I saw my hands trembling.
I finished  smoking, examined the car, looked under  its  bottom, and pulled
some  parts, which I could  reach. It looked like  everything was  OK.  Good
strong cars were produced  in our country! Tried  to start it. Started,  but
only from the second try. Listened  carefully, the sound was clear. I forgot
to  show  my  ID,  so  I reached into my pocket to find it. The Osset smiled
again.

     - You don't need to. Everything is clear with you. Are you coming back?

     - I'm moving the car. Then I'll come back. My wife is staying there.

     He nodded his head understandingly.

     - Well... You know better. Good luck!

     - Thanks.

     I waved to the gunmen and got into the car. Squeezed between the blocks
and the  post and slowly drove away. When I  was passing  by the next  post,
nobody stopped  me; they only  looked carefully at  me. Probably,  they were
informed  about me.  During that  day I crossed  5 or  6 republican borders,
intentionally trying to make a circle. Why? I didn't know, just  in case. In
Prokhladnoye, I  parked the car into my relatives' garage, left the car keys
and car  ownership with them and  took  the  train  back to  Grozny the same
evening.

     In a few days I  put all our parents' possessions into a container  and
took a train the same day. It was very problematic to buy the train tickets.
I had to  pay extra  money for the  tickets but we had to leave immediately.
The  hunt  for people selling their apartments  was  under  way. Only  naive
people  could stay in  the city after their  apartments  were sold. And very
often such people had night visitors.  After  the  night visitors' departure
one could  rarely stay alive. We tried  to  avoid stupid  risks. My  parents
asked me to accompany them to Ryazan where their relatives lived. We reached
Ryazan without problems,  though I tried not to get  out  of our compartment
very often. In Ryazan our  relatives met us. When we got out of the train on
to an empty  platform, a very strange feeling seized us. We rode  in the car
along the city  streets; answered questions  but the  feelings  of unreality
didn't  leave us.  And  only when  we sat down at  the dinner table,  did we
understand what the matter was. Nowhere did we  see crowds of  armed people,
or, the armed people in civic clothes or  in camouflage. We haven't got used
to ordinary,  peaceful life. Of course, we didn't have a war,  but  the city
was on the front line. We were scared of  the silence without  shootings. We
couldn't get used to it.

     My mother asked me.

     - Maybe you will stay?? Won't go back??

     - Mom, Irene is still there.

     - Yes. I see...

     And suddenly she started crying.

     - Why do you need all  this? We  fought at the fronts against  fascists
and for our country. Why do you need to die! What for!

     It was very hard to calm her down...

     In a day, early in the morning  I went back. I asked them not to see me
off. I got up when it was still dark outside, got dressed and left. I didn't
have any luggage, only a train ticket and some money.

     I haven't  seen my mother alive since then. And now I  can't even visit
her grave...




     The morning was on the frosty side.
     Through a snow-drift I dug my way to the gate of my garage. This is how
I  used  to call the  shed  where I kept my  car,  little rusty four-wheeled
monster well up in  years. Having  got inside, I started the complex process
of bringing this piece of hardware to life. I never  managed to  make a real
little jewel  out of this car. Sometimes in my dreams it  came to me  in the
image of Lego vehicle composed of  huge amount of simple parts. Those  parts
embarrassed me  by their vast amount and infinite variety amidst which I was
losing my way, much like a child who is eager to  assemble the  toy but gets
desperately lost  in the  overwhelming  complexity of  a  too  advanced Lego
set...

     To put  it bluntly,  I am not too good with machinery.  It is  not that
hard to turn the car on in the summer time, but the winter is a pain. I used
to start  out  with  stretching out  a long  cable and  plugging  it  into a
self-made socket attached to a stone pillar that propped  up the  shaky roof
of the garage.  Blessed be my Dad, for on his leaving  the town for  good he
presented to me this  shed with a lump of machine parts and metal garbage in
it. Well, he wasn't that  great in machinery either; he rather was a sort of
wanna-be,  one who pretended  to be familiar with all these devices, gadgets
and   fixtures.  He  felt  himself  comfortable  in  the  company  of  these
grease-smelling steely things. After he left the town, bequeathing to me his
treasures, I benefitted  much from his strange devotion. Many a time and oft
his weird collection saved my car and, therefore, me and my family. The most
valuable acquisition was, of course, the jump-up  kit, item without which my
life would be simply impossible. It took me seconds to attach the wires, and
then  the real  "fun" followed:  after  twenty  minutes  of laboring  on the
ignition system, pushing on  the gas pedal and alike toil the car eventually
gave  out  several  specific  sounds   in  which  I  gladly  recognised  the
approaching triumph: the engine  was  on and  working.  It spared me for the
next round of physical work: clearing the passage to the gate.

     The garage, my  priceless  posession, was located in a remote  district
called Microrayon.  The  garage was a well done  separate structure  with  a
two-room basement underneath. Good shed, really.  Sadly, it was too far from
home. One could, of course, cover that distance by the  city train that used
to go from  Microrayon to the Factory,  but it was a risky  gamble. The zone
between these two areas was one to keep away from. It  was though impossible
to avoid such trips completely for it happened from time to time that my car
needed repair. And it happened all too often, every third or  fourth day. On
such days I simply moved to  my garage together with my car. If lucky enough
to finish the work in the day time, I drove away  to leave the car overnight
at an  open  parking lot near  the  Factory. The lot was within some fifteen
minute walk from home and  that  was splendid: the shorter the distance, the
less dangerous  the stroll. Last, and by no  means least, the guards working
at the lot were ethnic Chechens. My wishful mind kept  telling me that there
my car would be safer. A crow will not peck out  an eye of another crow... I
convinced myself in this. I had to. For the car was my and my family's means
of survival.

     Back to business. After having cleared the way to the gate, I drove out
to my first destination that  morning, the dairy store located on the nearby
boulevard. By a certain hour a cistern should be delivered. That day it took
me only an hour of standing in the line. When the cistern appeared, the line
was already about 150 - 200 people long, but since I had come much  earlier,
I was among the first that day. And I did get some milk that day, and then I
brought it to  my  mother-in-law.  It was not  every day that  the  milk was
delivered,  but on the other hand it  still was quite a luck  that it was at
all delivered from time to time. Whether that milk deserved the name or not,
is another part of the story. When the jar  got emptied, it  did not need to
be rinsed. It was clean like after having water in it.

     The School used to be my  next destination. Every  day I gave my wife a
ride to  our district school where she worked as a teacher. This was my dear
school, High School  number  41  where I studied years  ago.  Back  then the
school was newly  built, and  my class  was the first  to graduate from  it.
Later my wife became  a teacher in it.  She could, of course, commute by bus
but it  was a bit too dangerous. So I gave her  a ride. After  that  ride my
working day was to begin. I was give-a-ride guy, a self-styled "cab" driver.
On the  one hand, I had  merely a Zaporozhets, mini car that in the everyday
conversational  speech goes under  the  nickname of Zapor (which in  Russian
means:  constipation).  This ugly car is  not that  handy for the  job:  one
cannot earn out of it as many roubles as from a middle-size Lada or Moskvich
cars. On the other  hand, giving people rides on a Lada or Moskvich had more
danger in it: those days  it was only some  stupid ethnic Russians in Grozny
city who went out unarmed. Hence, the worse the car, the safer the business.
Well, it did of course  happen that even  crappy Zapors  got hijacked, their
owners  left alive  or dead. Nevertheless, with a Zapor the risk was less. I
convinced  myself  in  this. I had to. But  I still knew the perils.  I knew
them, but there was no way  out, for the salaries were not paied in the town
of Grozny  that  year. All the  money  flows  entering  the "Republic"  went
directly  to its  "President",  Chechen-born retired Soviet  general Dudaev.
Some  of that  money  was then paid to the "President's Guards",  some  were
funnelled to  unknown directions.  Those  were  the  directions  whence huge
amount of weapons was arriving every day into the "Republic". Weaponry trade
flourished. A rich  menu of arms was at  sale in farmers' markets. Then  the
street traders started selling  them in the street near the bank. Everything
was  available,  from  daggers  through  mortars.  And,  needless  to   say,
cartridges, mines, whatever  other ammunition. Strong was my desire but thin
was my wallet.  Imagine: 60  roubles for one machine-gun cartridge, - wasn't
it outrageous? Only a Brave and Proud Chechen Tribesman could  afford  this.
Besides,  it was not at all obvious that the  street traders  would agree to
sell it to me, because it was inappropriate for the ethnic  Russian trash to
carry arms. In Chechnya weaponry is cherished much more than in the American
Wild West: while for a Texan macho his gun is currency of self-esteem, for a
Chechen tribesman  his  gun is  a sacred  artifact of his faith. Not of  the
official faith explained in  Quaran,  but of  that  clandestine unpronounced
faith which gets passed from ancestors to their offsprings through blood and
mothers' milk. In Caucases, and in Chechnya in  particular, making a gunshot
has always been not merely an  act of assault or defence, but a  sacred rite
which must always be fulfilled with a prayer. Or, perhaps shooting itself is
already a prayer: after all, everyone in that country knows that Allah helps
the strongest and the bravest, no matter what particular act of heroism they
perform - defend  their  village, rob a bank, hijack an airplane,  or hunt a
boar. Verily, carrying arms  was a privelidge of a Real Chechen  Guy. Ethnic
Slavs were scum of the earth: after  all, they  were not  even Moslems. They
were wicked aliens subject to oppression and, from time to time, for a funny
manhunt. Literally. So they did not deserve holding a weapon.

     After the Orwellian "expression of people's free will and enthusiasm" a
Chechen-born  retired Soviet  general Dudaev and his clansmen took power  in
the "Republic".
     Dudaev  stroke a  deal with  the  Kremlin and assured it that  he would
become  Yeltsin's  agent in Chechnya. The  Russian military were ordered  to
leave  the province  and  to  hand  their  arms and  ammunition  to  its new
self-established "government". And the military did it. It was  the order...
Together  with  the  armory, Yeltsin  "presented" us all to his then protege
Dudaev. This is  how we, non-Chechens, became aliens in this land. We became
aliens  to Chechens who  conveniently labelled  us as  "occupants" and  thus
explained to themselves the numerous  acts of spontaneous "requisitions" and
"expropriations" of our  property and  often  lives. We became aliens to our
own  Government which  regarded  us as subjects of the  remote province of a
legal status yet to be  determined. That legal status was  far not the  sole
issue in question. Other unanswered questions stood open.  For example: what
was our  guilt?. After  all, we had simply worked  for  all our life for the
Country that  we used to know under  the name of the Soviet Union. Possibly,
there was something wrong in this, but it  had never been an issue of choice
for  any  of us. (After  all, the Chechen "President"  Dudaev used  to  be a
general  of the Soviet Army in charge of a division of nuclear  air bombers;
and most of his aides used to be  Communist officials and pillars of the old
regime.) Perhaps, our guilt  was that our ancestors paid a  high toll to the
death in battles for  that land. The recentmost was the military campaign of
year 1942 of our Lord, when elite German divisions crushed through Caucasian
mountains, thirsty for  the  Caspian oil. Against the impossible odds and at
the highest of prices,  our grandfathers stopped them here. This  was one of
the most dramatic pages of the  World War II,  page carefully torn  out from
the official history for the sake  of political correctness. The politically
correct  history cannot  tolerate the fact that in the  Caucasus the Soviets
had to  fight two simultaneous  battles, one against  the assaulting  German
divisions  manned with Tirol  mountaineers,  another against  Chechen gangs.
When Germans  ceased  the strategic  hights of  the  Caucasus and  it became
evident that within days  they would get through to the  precious oilfields,
the Chechens started a revolt. Not for the sake of high  treason, but in the
name  of  Allah, of  course. But  Allah refused to  accept their  martirdom.
Instead,  he  helped out  Russians who managed through an increadible effort
and despite uncountable losses to  turn  the  tide: the Germans were  driven
out, and the Chechen rebellion was quelled. Later Stalin (who himself hailed
from the  nearby  Georgia on the opposite slope  of  the mountains and whose
mentality did not  differ much from that of his  Chechen neighbors) took his
bloody vengeance upon the rebellious tribes. Massive deportation of Chechens
to Kazakhstan ordered by Stalin  in 1945 failed to go as planned: an epidemy
stroke and decimated the deported people. I do not know if Stalin cared much
about  turn  of  events. I  am not sure  if his  barbarianism  aimed towards
barbarians was justified. The idea of collective punishment  belongs to  the
Old Testament and is  incompatible with  the New One. The  only thing I know
for  sure  is  that  the  Slavic,  Armenian,  Jewish and  other  non-Chechen
population  of  that  area  should  not  be  saddled  with   any  historical
responsibility for  Stalin's misdeads.  Not by our hands  those were carried
out.  (The deportation was organised and  orchestrated  by the Home Security
Minister, comrade  Beria  who too had originally came from Georgia,  and who
too knew and followed the laws of the Caucasus.) On the other hand,  it were
our fathers  who brought crafts and  industry  to this  once barren land  of
shepards  and hunters. They erected  schools and a university. And committed
an awful sacrilidge by admitting there women to sit and study in the classes
with men. And they presented the Chechen  people  with  an alphabet.  As  it
always happens under totalitarian rule though all these presents were handed
to the intended beneficiaries without asking for their consent. So when time
came, we realised that for too many local people the rule of gun and dagger,
the clan allegiance and the law of bloody vendetta  were far more dear  than
alphabet and schools. Especially when vendetta meant profit.

     Each and every evening of  that  eventful  year, I  met with my friends
when we returned from our give-a-ride shifts, or from whatever other work. I
deliberately  use words  "shift" and "work"  avoiding  the term "job". There
were no  jobs in  the  "Republic" in  the proper sense of the word. Some oil
refineries kept functioning but they were controlled  by  the local warlords
and  their clans.  Some  schools and even  hospitals  kept  working  but  no
employee was getting a salary.

     So, every  evening I met with my friends  to exchange news and  rumors.
Even though the city had in its better times population around 470 thousand,
it seemed  that everyone knew  or had heard of  everyone. Or, at  least, had
common  friends  or   neighbours.  Or  worked  at  the  same   factory.  Our
conversations typically started with a certain topic and ended with it:

     - Do you  happen to  know that fellow? The one  who used to work at the
nearby shop.
     - Yup. His name rings a bell. Why?
     - Yesterday a gang broke into his house...  They cut the throats of his
whole  family  and his  children.  And "expropriated"  their  apartment,  of
course.
     - By the way, did you know that other family next block?
     - Yup. That  I  already  know. All  gone.  Throats cut...  Some Chechen
villagers are living in their house now.

     When an individual or a family were simply asassinated, it was  trivial
and elevated no interest. More often families were exterminated with cruelty
unusual for the modern society: still alive people were fleeced or sliced in
pieces, children were raped and then thrown out of the window.
     That was chilling. Chilling and, once again, very unusual. In the first
weeks  of the "Chechen People's Republic of Ichkeria"  many preferred not to
believe in such stories. But  the  sacred  traditions of tribal society were
getting  more and more devotees, and the so profitable "people's  resistance
to nonbelievers and occupants" was rapidly gaining momentum.
     Soon no  one refused to believe such  news, because these  news were no
longer unusual. They became our everyday reality. People eventually get used
to  everything. The death was  deprived of its aura of  fear and  became our
good neighbor. It was accompanying each of us through the entire daytime. It
moved  even  closer  in the night and its embrace  became  unbearable in the
early morning hours when shots and visceral groans  were  heared in the dark
streets of our erstwhile cosy town.

     Anyhow, the life was going on. Everyone had to earn his everyday bread.
When I said that  there were no paid jobs in town,  I certainly exaggerated:
there existed a major employer, one always in search of working force.  That
employer never asked for resume or reference letters, but paid damn well and
gave benefits in the form of one's and one's family's relative security. The
name of that generous employer was  "President's Guards"  Corp. I knew  even
some  ethnic  Russians who  eventually submitted to  the demands of life and
enlisted there. Well-fed, they  went around the  city with rifles  and  were
regularly  getting  their  high  salaries.  You  see,  in  this  world  each
individual has a price of his own.
     I  mean  not the salary  that we get  in  green  or by cheque from  the
payroll  department. I  am talking about that  other price which  every  man
establishes himself  for his own priceless  self.  Every  individual,  thus,
wares his  selfmade pricetag visible only to our Maker and to his angels and
possibly to some rare people who  can read other people's  hearts and minds.
Those  Russian-born  folks who joined the "Guards" established  their  price
with the highest of precision: 30 silver coins and no cents.

     I can't say that I was always lucky but sometimes I managed to earn for
gas, 100 gr. of sausage and a few eggs.  Then  it  was a real feast  for us.
Half of the sausage  went  to our black cat Teddy. Actually,  he used to eat
only bread, sometimes for a better taste we put some  marrow  spread  on it.
Maybe some people remember that kind of spread, which  used to be sold  in 
litre jars and which nobody liked to  buy? It appeared to be a real delicacy
at  that time!  I wish we could understand that during  peaceful time.  More
often we  used to survive on potatoes which also  were expensive. Very often
there were the days when  we  used to  boil one potato and divide it  into 3
parts: for breakfast, lunch and  dinner.  We  always shared  it with  Teddy.
Bread was a real savior. No,  they  were not those wonderful fragrant loaves
we used  to  buy. They  were  grayish bricks  with  a terrible rotten  smell
inside. But the crust was still edible. When it was fresh, it was OK to eat.
That was great. One could eat as much as one wished. To buy bread was really
extremely problematic. The line was huge near the central bakery long before
bread was delivered  there. When it was  delivered, the first to buy it were
Chechens elbowing and jolting the  crowd with swears and  shrieks.  Then the
ones who were stronger followed, and  at last such people  like  us. I don't
know how the Winter Palace was stormed, but  the siege of our central bakery
was probably  even more  outrageous.  Of  course,  not  all  the  population
suffered from malnutrition like our family. We were simply unlucky.  As  for
my mother-in-law's  neighbors,  it  was hard  to believe  that the power had
changed. They used to have a fully stuffed fridge with sausages, meat, bacon
and caviar. Probably, I would have been in a clover if my mother-in-law were
a  jewelry  store  owner.  But then I would have been unlucky with my  wife,
because one cannot have all the luck of the world. Well, it's better to have
a good wife, all the troubles can be overcome together.

     Sometimes it was hard to earn enough  money  for gas, but even in  that
case  to fill in the car was problematic. Not every gas station had gas, and
even when  it had, the line of numerous cars  was seen from the distance. Of
course, "djigits"  wanted to be the first,  very  often threatened with guns
but all the drivers knew that if  there  was no gas for the car, there would
be  no bread  on the  table. That was  why  they had  to be patient. Once  a
furious "djigit"  left the  gas station in his BMW and  fired from  the  car
window at  the  cars waiting for  gas  in the  line. But  luckily nobody was
injured. He immediately drove away because  he understood that the people in
that line were also on the verge of fury. I also heard that rather often the
incidents like that one used to end fatally.

     I  used  to give a  ride to my  wife  when she finished her classes  at
school.  Also, warned her about danger outside  the school  limits, told her
that  she was supposed to wait for me  unless I come, however long it  would
have taken never to go home alone. There were some strange disappearances of
Russian girls and  women  when they disappeared without a trace after having
been pulled forcefully into the cars. My wife witnessed an incident when one
of her students became an easy prey to a young Chechen drug addict  who  was
pulling her screaming into his black Mercedez. Thanks to an old Chechen  man
who was passing by and witnessed the scene, the girl was saved. The next day
the girl didn't show up in school and we learned later that her family moved
out  of  the   city.  Generally,  the  number  of  students   had  decreased
dramatically. The school Principal Mr. Gelman hired  two armed  soldiers  to
protect his school  and his car which was parked at school premises.  Mainly
chechen students studied at school  but their parents had to give them rides
because it  was not safe even for them.  By the  end  of  classes the school
premises looked like a big parking lot where the cars used to park on flower
beds and sidewalks. The passability of my "armoured" vehicle was of  a great
advantage.  I  used to find the best  spot  closest to the school  gate. The
owners of  BMWs, AUDIs and Mercedezes didn't  take it personally,  they knew
that that car gave rides to the teacher. So, they were patient.

     The fact that my  wife was a highly qualified professional  of teaching
English and was very  popular with the students also helped  us during  that
period of  hunger. The children of  Chechen and  Ingush elite  were going to
study at  Universities of  England. Many of them were going to leave for the
Emirates. The Chechen intelligentsia  anticipated a big change for the worse
- the revival of savegery  with  the coming of Dudaev to power - and was not
going to  go  back to the dark  ravines where their  ancestors lived before.
Many Chechen families were going to leave. That's why private tutoring  from
time to time helped  us  to survive.  We  also  opened  English courses  for
emmigrants which was also a little help although people were not comfortable
with money. Sometimes  we could afford meat. Of course, it  was difficult to
be called meat because there were more bones and cartilage, but still it was
good  for us. The meat lines at the  market were the same as the bread lines
in our central bakery. And if the salesman didn't like the  buyer, the buyer
didn't get anything. We used to eat nutrias (coypu).  Do you happen  to know
such an animal like a water rat? It was very delicious and nutritious.

     In May we experienced death in  the  family.  My father-in-law died. He
used to be reticent and tacit lately. He  worried a lot about our future but
understood  he couldn't change the situation, so  endured all the  hardships
with dignity, he was a true Cossack. Of course, he had reasons to worry. The
money  which  he'd been saving all his life to provide  for his old  age was
impossible  to  withdraw from the  bank account.  The banks stopped working.
Being a  serious, intelligent  person  he could see  perfectly well what was
going  around. He knew  that my wife  and I  risked our  lives if we  stayed
there, but he failed to persuade  my mother-in-law to  leave  the city.  Her
selfishness was beyong any limits. Not once had he asked us to dump them and
leave the city but we could not do that. Frankly, as for me, I could do that
but my wife couldn't, she  was a perfect daughter. At the end of March there
was a letter  from their son, a  Professor.  In  that  letter,  he tried  to
explain that he was unable to accept any of his relatives and he didn't have
enough  space in his apartment. He even included a drawing of  his apartment
with all the furniture and beds as if trying to prove what he had explained.
The letter finished with  the words: "Don't  come even if you're  threatened
with guns!" For a few days my father-in-law was reticent and then suddenly -
a stroke. We  managed to reach some  of our  friends, the  doctors to  help.
Somehow or other  we found some medicine for IV. My wife did IV for herself.
Almost wholly paralyzed, he tried to point to the bookcase with his eyes. My
wife and  I searched it all over, showed him everything what  was there, but
he  never  nodded. So, we never  managed to  find something he  was thinking
about. In spite of all our efforts and necessary medication he couldn't make
it. He  died in 9 days. Our friend, a wonderful  experienced doctor said  he
hadn't had any  chances but he remained  alive only because of our care  and
the treatment.
     Funeral problems were possibly the hardest at that time, which was full
of problems and  unexpected events. Thanks  to my  car I managed  to arrange
everything alone but as a rule two or three  people were involved in funeral
problems. There was no wood to make a casket  from and there  was no fabric.
With the  use of some "incentives"  (like `Vodka`) I managed to get in touch
with some fellows from the funeral office and they found some wet wood for a
casket  somewhere. The bed sheets were used as  a lining for a casket. Death
crtificate, the  grave spot at the cemetery, I don't remember what else, but
everything was  organized and  done. Not many  people came  to the  funerals
because many have  already left the  city, but those who came  paid the last
tribute to a distinguished man.
     My wife and I  had to move  to their  apartment.  We  sold our bachelor
apartment and all  the  furniture for  peanuts (40,000 roubles)  to the real
estate agent. That amount was so ridiculous that it was hardly enough to pay
for the funerals.  Also, we had to  sell some gold rings and a watch and had
to borrow some money to pay off in full for the funerals.

     Our life  (if that could be called a life!) went its way. Going to bed,
we never knew if we could wake up alive. There  was a  real "apartment hunt"
in the city  for more  and more  "djigits"  were  coming from the mountains;
everyone wanted to live in a big city and own a  nice apartment  and  nobody
wanted to  pay  for it, they just wanted  to get  it for  free, throwing the
tenants out by force.
     My mother-in-law's apartment was in the downtown, right across from the
Central Post Office, and it was a nice one.
     Anarchy  was  flourishing.  Before  going to  bed,  I used to  check my
shortgun which was made my friend from a two-barrel 28 calibre rifle and put
it closer to my hand. If it was calm outside, we couldn't sleep because  the
silence frightened us. But when the sporadic shooting was heard from time to
time, we could  fall asleep. Frankly, for some time my wife  and  I used  to
argue  about  the  kinds  of weapons  used  in  shootings. My  wife made  an
excellent progress in distinguishing the kinds of weapons used  in shootings
in sprite of their variety. She even used to oversmart me in that! Our night
sleep reminded us one of the animals in the woods when they sleep but remain
vigilant at the same time.

     One bright sunny afternoon I ran across a poster on one of the doors of
our big  apartment  complex.  It  said "Republican Cossacks Society".  I was
intrigued. Actually, I started to understand that I didn't  want  to die for
nothing. Of  course, I  knew that  we all were mortal, but I  wanted to give
away  my  life for as higher price as possible.  That's why I started to arm
myself  a little depending on the circumstances. At  least, I always used to
carry a dagger and a shortgun  in  a self-made holster under my jacket.  Two
cartridges in the barrels are for two chechens, it was not hard to part with
life  if you were taking  somebody else for  a company with you. Some of  my
Chechen friends started to respect  me more for carrying  a  gun.  "Djigits"
used to be brave when  their enemy was not armed. In my case, they called me
"a man's man". What  was strange for me and what  I couldn't  understand was
how they knew I  was  carrying a gun. Well,  maybe sometimes  the sheath was
seen  from  under  my jacket. As  for  the "Republican Cossacks Society",  I
wanted  to join  it. Started  to talk to  some  friends but  came  to  a sad
conclusion: everybody  was reluctant to fight. The  long years of Soviet era
were  not wasted. Only  one  of  my  friends, the one  who helped me with  a
shortgun, sided with me. He also used to be "always ready".

     I remembered  that  my  ancestors were Cossacks, dignified, independent
people and I became ashamed.  My  ancestors  used to  fight even without any
guns. In the besieged Cossack villages there were no prisoners, because they
fought  heroically till the last  soldier died. The oldest and  the youngest
fought equally selflessly. And what about us?! No words... My mother being a
young girl of  17  went to the WWII, defended my city Grozny, and what about
me??? The enemy was in the city  killing people  and  we all were playing  a
civilized game. Maybe it was called  a cowardice? Maybe  the  Cossacks would
act differently?
     I came up to some floor of  the building. There was a big empty meeting
room and rows  of chairs. In  the corner, there was  a table and a  man  was
browsing  through some papers. I greeted him  and introduced myself. The man
seemed to be glad to see me there, shook my hand and asked how he could help
me. I  decided not to beat around the bush and asked him  straight about the
real action which  Cossacks could  take in such a situation.  The man looked
disappointed  and started  to explain to me  that  it was not their concern,
that there  was a government to deal with  the problem. And  at that time we
all needed  to  concentrate  on  Ataman  election  campaign  which was  very
important for that time. I  understood immediately that all my hopes were in
vain. I  even didn't  want  to finish the conversation.  Went  out  onto the
street,  looked  around:  the sun  was  shining  brightly, the  weather  was
awesome, just live and be happy!
     Well, OK, I'll try to...




     I settled down  eventually. Last fall I understood  that  the  way  out
should be  found  from the existing  situation and  staying  in  Grozny  was
useless.  Anyway, we would be killed. One of my acquaintances  advised me to
look for a job somewhere around Zagorsk, Moscow region at one of  the health
resorts there. I  went there  to  look  around  and succeeded.  The Director
understood all the profits  from hiring me as an electrician  inspite  of my
being from another town. I also worked as a driver,  a stoker and a security
-  all  at the same time  and all  for one salary, but I discussed some very
important points with the Director. Every month right after my pay I used to
buy a roundtrip train ticket leaving some money for food for myself and also
bought groceries for my wife and my mother-in-law at our canteen. Of course,
it wasn't to much but my backpack was  almost full  and for  my folks it was
really a big deal. As  for me, I used to  survive on canned tuna  and bread,
sometimes I was treated  to some food by  the canteen cook, and some friends
also used to invite  me  over  to dinner.  As a matter of fact, I was absent
from my job for about a week but the Director didn't say a word for he was a
good and a compassionate person and understood my problem.

     It was terribly  hard for me to leave my wife and to go to another city
to work. It took rather a long time for me to decide on it, but there was no
choice. I had to risk. As for my  risk, it was minimal, but to know that you
were safe and your wife was there... I wouldn't wish it even to my enemy. Of
course,  before  my departure I did everything I  could  about her safety. I
taught her how to  use a shortgun, made her understand  the  inevitable:  if
somebody  broke  in, to shoot immediately.  When I tested my shortgun, I was
satisfied how it could easily shoot through a 1.5" thick rail and the bullet
even  ran through the next one in the middle. That's why I  knew that  if to
shoot from the apartment, it  would easily shoot  through the door and  into
the  person  who  was  behind  it.  Also,  I  took  into  consideration  the
"psychological" factor in "dzigits": if the shooting came from an apartment,
they would unlikely  come inside. I also trained my wife how to fight inside
the apartment, where to  position herself safely in the pier if the  granade
would be thrown through the window. Well, and at last, if in case they would
succeed  in getting through, to use one's  own  grenade. One  of our chechen
friends bought  a grenade by my request at  the local market though he  knew
perfectly well whom it would be targeted at. I asked him to buy exactly that
kind of granade because  I knew it's effect very  well and considered to use
it only as the last means in order not  be captured and not to die alone. It
was ridiculous that all my life I used to give flowers to girls but I had to
give a weapon to my own wife and train her how kill enemies and herself...

     Now I was almost 100% sure in my wife's safety in the apartment and our
chechen neighbors also  suspected  that there might  be  a surprise, so only
some  accidental  bandits  could  have tried.  But  the main  danger was the
street. Because my wife had to walk to  her job inspite of my ban. There are
two  kinds  of kinky  people: they are teachers and doctors, for them  their
serving duties are above common sense. Because of this I was very nervous at
my job and all  my thoughts  were there, with my wife. That's  why I counted
the days before I could go there. Of course, the trains were not the same as
they used to be in peaceful time. Every trip was a gamble. On the route from
Moscow  to  Rostov everything  was  more or  less calm, but  from Rostov the
uncertainty  ruled. Robberies  and murders on the trains were rather common.
The  armed bandits never gave  it  a second thought, just because they  were
stronger and more powerful. There was  no  protection,  the police  were not
interested  in anything. The conductors  on  the trains preferred to stay in
their compartments  and never  got out except  of  locking  or unlocking the
doors at some stations. Rocks and bullets were frequent through the windows,
that's why it  was desirable to  keep the blinds  down. Actually, there were
lots of troubles,  practically every trip was  dangerous,  but  I was lucky,
even the fragments of a bullet broken window glass didn't hurt me too much.

     At home I used to  get  behind the wheel to earn some money. With every
coming day it became more and more dangerous. More drivers used to be killed
and more cars hijacked. Some chechens  "give-a-ride guys" just  like me also
became easy prey. One day I peeked into the window of my neighbor's car (his
name was Movlady) and didn't  see his usual  grenade which used to be on the
passenger's  seat.  I  was worried  because it  might have fallen  somewhere
behind  the seat  and  could explode. Movlady was a good  guy and didn't rub
shoulders with chechen bandits who only robbed and killed. I decided to stay
for a while waiting for him.
     At  last he showed up. I asked what happened  and advised to search the
car  carefully. He laughed and said that he'd traded it for a "Makarov" gun.
I  was  very  surprised and  asked him how he had  managed  it,  because the
grenade price was  5.000  roubles,  and  the "Makarov" gun price  was 60.000
roubles.  His story was full of humor and jokes. It turned out  that he used
to keep the grenade just between  his legs while  driving for  the passenger
not to see it but in case of emergency it could be easily reached.

     At nightime  he was stopped by some chechens, there were three of them.
They asked  to  take them to  the bus terminal.  When they  started to  come
closer to the bus terminal, he was asked to turn to a small, isolated street
away from the bus terminal which led to  a cemetery.  The  driver refused to
drive there and explained that if they wanted  to go there, they  could just
take a walk. One of the passengers pulled out his gun, loaded it and pointed
to the  driver and they  all started  to laugh nagging him by saying that he
was too cowardly  for a chechen. He had to pull out the  pin of his grenade.
The look of their eyes changed immediately, there was fear there. Now it was
the driver's turn to laugh, because  in case he let it go, there would be no
survivors inside the car. Of course,  the  bandits said  it was a joke, that
they would  pay and leave, but  he said that it was his turn to make a joke.
He agreed to let them go after searching their  pockets and confiscating the
weaponry and wallets they had. As  a result, he had a gun, 2 daggers and the
wallets but without money and IDs, having mentioned that his relatives would
find them, just in case, but he kept the gun. By saying that he got into the
car and  left but  he  couldn't find  the  pin inside the  car for the light
inside was rather poor. So, he didn't want to risk. Having noticed  a  ditch
away from  the road, he dropped  the grenade there. That was the way how the
trade  in  took place. As  for me, I  highly  evaluated  his method of  self
defense and some time later even used it, not once. Luckly, I didn't have to
pull out the pin. But I can't say I was lucky all the time.

     One day I was giving a ride to  my  friend in  a microregion  (a remote
part of the city).I pulled  over a small street  market to  drop him off and
was  supposed to wait  for him to finish his business. Suddenly I noticed an
elderly "jackal" in civilian clothes unsteadily heading to my direction.  It
was  absolutely  clear  that  there  was nothing good to  expect  of such an
encounter. I looked around carefully,  it seemed like nobody paid  attention
to me. Loaded my shortgun just in case and put it between the seats. He came
up to my car.

     - You, kike! Take me to the sixth Microregion.
     I started to talk with him as if he were a mental patient trying not to
anger him.
     - You see,  pal.  I've run out of gas  and have enough only to reach my
garage. So, I'm sorry, but I can't do that.By the way, I'm not a kike, I'm a
Cossack, if you want to know.
     - I  told you, kike, if you don't take me  there, I'll drop  a  grenade
into your f...g car and you'll die!

     I tried to look at him more attentively, maybe he was saying the truth,
maybe  in one of his  big pockets he had a grenade  or maybe it was simply a
threat, he just had an apple  there.  Anyway, it didn't look like a gun. How
on earth  could  I know?! Well,  of course,  it would be hard to escape from
"Zapor", that was true. One  more time I looked around. Nobody was seemed to
watch us. That was good. I put my shortgun into a vertical position with the
barrels to the car door and pointed it directly to his stomach.

     - You really  need to know the  difference between kikes and  Cossacks.
And now you go away from my car  facing me and even don't try to move aside.
Mind, I shoot perfectly well.
     He sobbered up very quickly and his face became pale.
     - Yeah... You are not a kike, OK. But I'll catch you one day and...

     I started the car  with my left  hand and  slowly drove  away.  Twenty,
thirty meters more driving with a shortgun  out of the car door. It was very
inconvenient to drive and to hold the gun  at the same time but I was  lucky
to  escape.  Looking  into   the  rear  view  window,  I  saw  him  standing
motionlessly.
     Thanks God. It was my lucky day.

     In March I stated categorically to my mother-in-law: either we sell our
apartment and leave,  or I take my wife by  force to  Zagorsk. I told her if
she liked  to  stay and get  killed it was her choice, but we didn't want to
get killed there. She understood how serious I was inspite of her whining. I
also warned her  not to influence  my  wife's  decision,  not  to get on her
nerves,  it was  all too hard for  my wife. Enough is enough. Walking on the
street was  a gamble,  you never  knew  where  you could  get  shot.  Public
transportation started to die, too. The glass windows of the streetcars were
broken, in  some spots there were  bullet holes. To  reach the local market,
the only source  of groceries,  was a risky gamble, too. Of course, at first
sight  everything  around  looked  almost peaceful, but the  stootings could
start  at any moment because there were  more armed men on  the streets than
unarmed  ones, and moreover, there were enough drug addicts  among the armed
ones.  I  called my  boss in  Zagorsk,  explained the situation and  got his
approval for my delay.

     It was  extremely  hard to  find  a  buyer. Everything  depended on the
safety.  But  after a  month of  intensive  search  we found  one among  our
half-acquaintances.  I  tried to tell him  how  I hated surprises and how  I
always tried to  be "ready", he seemed to have understood. We agreed that he
would pay us on the day of our departure and in return he would  get all the
papers because our apartment  was  already privatized on my  wife's name and
all  the necessary papers  were  ready. I  charged  a  security deposit  and
started to get ready for the  depatrure.  The main problem was the container
but to find it  was next to impossible. As for my  mother-in-law, she didn't
want to part with her stuff, so I had to solve the problem. Using some of my
friends' leads and money, I managed to find a  small container but the price
for it was exorbitant.  To load all  the belongings into it was really  very
hard  for all my friends were already gone. Somehow of  other, I managed  to
ask some young guys who still stayed there to help me load the container. Of
course, I had to pay for the job done.  Train tickets also appeared to  be a
big problem. But we managed  it. On the day of our departure, the buyer came
over  and  paid  us  only  half  of  the  money we  agreed  on. Taking  into
consideration the security  deposit  I charged  him, I got only half  of the
money.  He started to complain  that all  his  money  was  in some  kind  of
business venture and that he didn't have  cash. I  understood that that  was
all we could get from him and nothing more we could ask about.

     So it happened. We  agreed  that we would  hand him over the  papers in
return for his money in Moscow.
     One more problem - our family cat Teddy. We couldn't neuter him in time
although we searched for a qualified vet for a long time. His mating  became
really a big problem  and we understood that  it would be impossible to take
him  and  my  disabled  mother-in-law  on  a  train  to  Moscow.One  of  our
acquaintances who owned  a nearby small  house agreed to foster him. We used
to pay visits  there  seeing  him, often bringing over some of his  favorite
snacks. In  two weeks he  had  changed a lot,  got used  to outdoor life and
activities and didn't seem to  recognize us. He also  was a part of our life
and however regretful it could have been, we had to part with him forever.

     The  container  arrived  and  we  almost  started to  load it  when  my
mother-in-law became hysterical.  She refused to leave without the remaining
money, she  just wanted to get paid in full. I finally  lost my temper.  All
the day I had  my hands  full with managing our departure,  and  her  stupid
trick seemed to take the wind out of my sails. I understood I was at the end
of my rope, but couldn't help it. Having  pulled out my gun, I yelled at her
like crazy threatening to kill her. My fury was beyong my control. Thanks to
my  wife she stopped  me at that moment seizing my arm. My mother-in-law got
dumb  with fear  and immediately stopped her hysteria. After that everything
went smoothly.  My helpers  were loading the container  with  all the  stuff
which my mother-in-law wanted to take, but as it appeared  later almost  all
that stuff was rubbish we  threw  away  later in Zagorsk.  We hoped that the
container would reach its destination safely, yes, we had to hope. We didn't
have any choice at that time. Some pieces of furniture were left and  we had
to call some of our acquaintances to come over and take them if they needed.
The  mother-in-law started  to haggle with the buyers, she  wanted to get as
much money as she could. But as for me, I would have donated an those pieces
of furniture to  people  who needed them because I  knew people  didn't have
almost  any money. Inspite  of my protests and interference, she  managed to
make some money, but I don't think it really made her richer.

     At night,  the car which ordered our buyer arrived and  we went to  the
railway station. Our compartment appeared to be occupied by some passengers,
so  the buyer and  myself had to settle down that problem. Of course, he was
interested in our departure as soon as possible. At  last,  we got into  our
compartment, locked the  door  and  departed.  Our  Grozny  life period  had
finished luckily. We knew that we  were leaving our native land forever, the
land where we lived most part of our lives, the land where our relatives and
friends were burried.

     When we arrived in Moscow the next day it was reported in the news that
chechen tanks started to storm  Grozny and several buildings were destroyed.
With  the money we had,  we didn't  manage to buy even a bachelor apartment,
thanks  God  I was entitled  to an apartment at  my job  place -  the health
resort. And our life went on...




     What happened later?

     The  fate of refugees in  their  own country is  one  of the  millions.
Wandering in  Moscow Region,  forceful  emmigration and  the  "farewell"  of
Eltsin's  regime  as  the deprivation of  Russian  citizenship... Some years
later -  Canadian citizenship for which a high price of  Western "democracy"
had been  paid, and  eventually life  and work in  Korea where I wrote  this
story.

     (November, 2000)

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