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‘I was fourteen when I was kidnapped’

9 December 2017

‘I was fourteen when I was kidnapped. I lived in a village with my parents, two brothers and my elder sister. I was a teenager by then, but mentally still a child. I liked playing naughty games: climbing trees, jumping from heights, fighting devilishly.’

‘I got a lot of attention because of the colour of my eyes, they said I was beautiful. My mum and aunt often scolded me for my childish antics, and would tell me I was already old. I won’t say I was completely indifferent to the opposite sex; I had a crush in my class. A neighbour boy; he was a year older than me.’

‘Strong arms grabbed me’

‘Once when I was walking to school, a dusty car with unknown people stopped next to me. Calling me by my last name, they asked where some person lived. I couldn’t hear them well, so I came closer. At that moment, strong arms grabbed me, and I found myself inside the car. I was frightened.’

‘I gasped and could not scream.’

‘There was an old lady in the car. She offered me water and apples, but I didn’t take them. All the way I was silent. In about two hours we were driving through the streets of a then unknown to me city, Grozny.’

‘The next day I calmed down a little. I liked the old lady and happy kids. I was fed tasty food, dressed up, and spun around like a doll. I was wondering how my mother was, who my future husband would be.’

‘Two days later my aunt and a neighbour from the street came to visit me. “Mum is busy”, they said. They gave me a few things, including my favorite stuffed fox toy. (Later I found out that my mother was sick, having suffered a nervous breakdown.)’


‘They explained to me that I would live in a big house. That I will have a lot of new clothes and gold earrings with blue stones — “befitting my eyes”.’

‘The wedding was the next day.’

‘From the first moments I was scared of him’

‘My husband turned out to be fifteen years older than me, and shorter. The first meeting was upsetting not only because of his appearance. He was drunk and got into a fight with neighbours. He scared me by smashing a TV set with an empty bottle. From the first moments I was scared of him.’

‘I was not allowed to go to my native village for a long time. They needed a nanny for my nephews, and a cleaner for the big house. After five months, they allowed me to visit my Mum. I was already pregnant.’

‘Our young family lived in a house with the family of my older brother-in-law. The entrance to our home was separate, but the chores were shared. There were three buildings in the courtyard, with many relatives and children. Around 100 pairs of shoes were gathered under the porch for the night!’

‘All the  women in the family baked bread and cakes. We would sell products wholesale to the market; all the money went to my mother-in-law. I was tired. Soon I gave birth to my first child — a son. He lived for four days and before dying. “He was weak”, the doctors said. I remember how he cried.’

‘After the hospital, I was allowed to go to my mother. By that time they had got used to living without me.’

‘Another two years passed, and I once again gave birth to a son. He was strong, dark-skinned like his father, but he had my eyes. I devoted myself completely into caring for the child, I loved him with all my heart.’

‘His crying at night was annoying my husband. We began to quarrel. My husband would hit me, he was constantly finding faults in me. My sister-in-law was helping us financially. But at the same time she was sowing discord, she would badmouth me to her brother. Every day, by evening I would fall down with fatigue, but I couldn’t please everyone.’

‘At first I saw your son, and now — you’

‘In spring, my son and I were approached by an unfamiliar man. He started talking to the child, gave him some money, and left. This strange man began bumping into me at preschool, where I pushed my son on a swing, or by the café (we delivered cakes there). Once we met at a children's polyclinic.’

‘He didn’t speak to me, but to my son, always giving him treats. I was afraid that people would see us and was rude to him. But the man was persistent. Gradually I got used to him being there. We got acquainted. I heard his story about his wife and son, who were killed by shelling. I learned about the fighting in the village of Bamut, and the capture of the village Orekhovo.’

‘He told me about a Russian soldier named Pavlik, who fled to the Chechen side because of hazing. I learned many things from this man, things about a different life.’

‘He once said: “At first I saw your son, and now — you. Do you want me to talk to your husband and tell him not to hurt you. I will say I am a relative?” ’

‘I of course forbade that. I suddenly woke up to what was happening and began avoiding him. But I was always thinking about him and missed him greatly.’

‘The love that I read about in books had finally come’

‘The summer of 1999 was approaching, and after another beating, barely conscious, I ran away to my village, to my parents. I left my son and all my possessions. It was as if I was half-dreaming. My family saw the effects of the beatings for the first time. My hairpins had stuck into my head.’

‘My family stood up for me, they made me stay in the house. They did not give me to my sister-in-law when she came with one of her brothers, or to my husband who appeared the next day. We divorced, and in retaliation, my husband said I would never see my son.’

‘I fell ill because of the experience, but I was very grateful for my parents care. I quickly became friends with neighbours along the street and with former classmates.’

‘In the hot July of 1999, my friend found me. I told him I was divorced, that I really miss my child. He touched my hand for the first time, wanting to reassure me. We did not want to date secretly. He went to my father.’

‘Their conversation wasn’t long. There was a scandal afterwards. I was accused of something I would have never done. I was immediately told: “we don’t need a poor beggar! He doesn't even have a car. We'll find you someone worthy!” My father was supported by my brothers.’

‘Soon the matchmakers came. Thankfully, my mother helped me. We managed to politely refuse.’

‘I saw my dear man several times. These were the happiest hours of my life. The love that I read about in books had finally come.’

‘He left with bowing to earn money for an apartment, and to take me away immediately. I promised to wait for him.’

‘The Second Chechen War broke out’

‘Summer was coming to an end. The eclipse of the sun foreshadowed trouble, but my stupid heart, beyond reason, desired happiness and warmth. As it turned out, this was in vain.’

‘Soon the Second Chechen War broke out. Autumn was cruel. Our family left for Ingushetia, then, after experiencing the hardships of tent life, we went to Volgograd Oblast to our friends. I knew nothing about my son or my dear man.’

‘Only in rainy September 2001 did we return to our native village.’

‘We restored one room in our ruined house. On a dark night, unknown people took my innocent brother from the house. His two daughters became orphaned. There were enough worries and grief to go around. My younger brother and father set up a boiler for heating. We decided to live tightly, but with our yard, and wait for spring.’

‘One day in December, a neighbour called me to the street. There was a dark car stopped at the fence. I saw a stranger. He handed me a small bundle wrapped in green thread. “From M ... for the memories” explained the man almost inaudibly, and drove off.’

‘I tore the thread. In the box were gifts: a white headscarf, a watch with a bracelet, photos, of my beloved as a schoolboy… In another photo he was in a military uniform with a gun…’

‘At the very bottom lay a note: “On 30 December 1999, M. was killed near the village of Komsomolskoye”.’

‘I took a few steps and fell down at the gate. I woke up in bed. Mum and aunt rubbed me with vinegar and prayed. I couldn’t get up; I didn’t want to live. Only my mother's tears and persuasion made me touch food.’

‘My husband and I made peace in caring for the child’

‘I became deeply religious; understood all of my mistakes. I started praying fervently five times a day. I asked Allah for forgiveness and mercy for M.’

‘To avoid empty conversation, I pretended to have gone deaf after faining. I did not respond to anyone. Only my parents heard my short “yes”.’

‘The spring that year came early and was warm. As the birds were singing the tears were suffocating me. I tried hide them from people around me; everyone has their own troubles.’

‘To work harder became the goal of my life. Thankfully, we continued rebuilding our home with our own hands.’

‘I went back to my son’s father. It happened like this: his oldest brother and his wife came to our door, they said my son had fallen off a roof. He had an open fracture and a concussion and needed care. I was needed! I immediately got ready and left for my son.’

‘My husband and I made peace in caring for the child. My son was very ill for a long time. We gave birth to a girl named Iman. Quarrels became a rarity and we both learned to be patient. My husband managed to buy us our own apartment.’

‘This is what the Koran teaches’

‘If someone takes my daughter at a young age, I will find the address immediately and return my child home. My husband will also not allow the kidnapping of his daughter; he loves her very much. We both believe that one mustn’t create a family without first getting to know each other or without having feelings towards each other.’

‘The elders in the family should definitely clarify things, and find out about the groom's side. In the absence of feelings or if the young people are unwilling to create a family, a marriage should not take place. If a girl is stolen as a bride, she must be talked to by several witnesses before the marriage goes ahead. This is what the Koran teaches.’

This article is a partner post written by Polina Zherebtsova. The original version first appeared on Daptar, on 29 August 2016.

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