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3850BBC Report: Children of Beslan

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  • mateliza@aol.com
    Aug 31, 2005

      Beslan children still tormented

      By Ewa Ewart
      Producer, Children of Beslan

      photo: Laima Torchinova
      caption: Every day Laima draws pictures of the attackers before
      burning them

      In the basement of his Beslan home, seven-year-old Chermen is kicking
      boxes with a surprising energy given his age and his tiny frame.

      His face is tense and betrays the turmoil he is feeling.

      But when we sit down to talk, he regains his composure. Looking
      straight into my eyes, he answers my questions with clarity and

      "There is no God. There is only military force. I believe in Russia and
      in our armed forces.

      "That's what I believed in during the terrorist attack."

      Chermen is a survivor of last year's attack. On 1 September,
      pro-Chechen gunmen seized School Number One in Beslan.
      More than 1,000 adults and children were held inside for three days.

      Photo: Drawing of gunman by Laima Torchinova
      caption: I draw the terrorist and burn them for all the children who died
      in the school. I want to take vengeance on them

      When the siege finally ended, 171 children and more than 200 adults
      were dead.

      A year on, he seems to be coping well. He has started to play his
      beloved computer games again and he smiles frequently.

      But as he recalls those three days in hell, his memories are as vivid as
      ever and reveal that his pain is unresolved.

      "After the first explosion, a terrorist's grenade was hit by a bullet. They
      all had grenades slung round them. He blew up and his brains hit me in
      the face. It was horrible. It was fatty and slippery."

      During the siege, Chermen's eardrums burst and doctors told him that
      he would never regain full hearing. He seems resigned to that verdict.

      Friends lost

      For him, other losses he has suffered are far more significant.

      Photo: Beslan cemetery
      caption: Angry survivors still want officials to answer for what

      "I was with my best friend Oleg inside the school. When the siege
      started, we tried to run together but I lost him. Later on I found one of
      the sleeves of his sweater. I never saw Oleg again. I found out that he
      had died.

      "He was my very best friend and I really miss him. If you could
      measure it in electricity volts, it would be 9,000 million volts."

      A familiar tension reappears on his face.

      "I feel pain. And also rage. And since then I want to avenge Oleg's
      death. If I were president, I would order them to send unarmed
      terrorists to me and I would, with my bare hands, using a knife, slit
      their throats."

      Photo: Chermen Bugunob
      caption: I was with my best friend Oleg inside the school. When the
      siege started, we tried to run together but I lost him

      In a small flat in one of Beslan's characterless compounds, nine-year-
      old Laima draws a picture. It shows an armed terrorist, his face covered
      by a mask.

      She draws several pictures until she is finally happy with the result.
      Then she picks it up, tears it to pieces and sets it on fire with matches.

      "I draw the terrorist and burn them for all the children who died in the
      school. I want to take revenge on them for killing those children."


      Since her lucky escape, Laima has been engaged in drawing and
      burning these pictures almost every day.

      "It's never enough. It is impossible to get enough revenge. All my life I
      will have to do it, because of how they held us for three days."

      Aerial shot of derelict remains of School Number One
      Explosions and fire destroyed the school

      Laima was on her own when she was caught up in the siege. As she is
      telling me her story, she pulled out something from under her blouse.

      "I found a little cross on the gym's floor. I kept it on me for all of the
      three days. It helped me to survive.

      "I had a dream that I was running out of the school and I saw a pram. I
      ran up to it and I saw myself in there. I asked my Mum what it meant,
      and she said 'You were reborn'.

      "I understood that when I escaped from that hell, I was reborn."

      * * *
      Children Of Beslan, produced and directed by Ewa Ewart and Leslie
      Woodhead, will be broadcast on 30 August on BBC Two at 2100BST.

      St. George-the-Great-Martyr Orthodox Church
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