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Beslan aftermath

"I have nearly buried somebody else's child"

There is yet no official list of victims of the terrorist's attack on the school in Beslan. That is why it is rather difficult to determine the exact number of the dead.  And what is the worst – it is impossible to determine the number of missing either. Relatives search for the close ones not waiting for the State to help. And officials have already declared that there is no such category of victims as "missing".

People of Beslan are exhausted of searching for their children among living or dead. For parents, day starts with a visit to morgue, continues in the hospitals of North Ossetia and over the republic's borders, and usually ends without results. Parents are forced to seek their children themselves. They simply don't have anybody to rely on.

There is no official body or agency that would be searching for missing people. Such category of victims just does not exist for officials. Relatives are told at the Office of the Public Prosecutor that the number of missing is equal to the number of bodies in the refrigerators. But the parents claim it isn't so. They count at least 90 missing. And the official number of unidentified bodies is 76. "The latter seems close to truth, - tells to the newspaper "Novye Izvestiya" Marina Pak.

She has been looking for her 12 year old daughter Svetlana Tsoi for 21 days already. - I saw it with my own eyes, there are 36 adults, up to 30 girls and a little more than 10 boys in the refrigerators. But the number of missing is bigger". However, officials at the Office of Public Prosecutor refuse to consider the children that have not been found as missing. "Why? - Marina shouts with indignation. - After all, even if the difference between the number of missing and the number of the unidentified people is two, they must find these two.  And they don't even want to listen to us".               

Moreover, the exact number of people held hostages in the dreadful gymnasium is still not known, 23 days after the attack. Official data tells that there were more than "1156 people". This number was given by Vladimir Ustinov the General Public Prosecutor of Russia.

Nobody in Beslan trusts the official data, though. Beslan residents started to make up their own list of hostages. There are several lists already, and they all have different numbers
of victims. According to the list made by the teachers of the attacked school, there were 1380 people held hostage. Whereas the list of humanitarian organization "Caucasus refugee council", made up according to the class books (basically, the list of all pupils) of the school, questioning of relatives and neighbors of victims has 1345 entries. Committee of teachers has their own number - 1306 people. But almost all of them are being edited daily. "Our lists are being constantly updated, - told "NI" Taimuraz Kibizov the head of the public council of district's commission of material help distribution to the victim's families. - They are rechecked, some names are added and some removed. It will take a lot of time until we will be ready to announce the results of our work.”

Due to this entire chaos, Marina has nearly buried somebody else's child.

Her daughter's friends told her that they saw how Svetlana jumped from the window of the gymnasium and that she was placed on a stretcher. This information was confirmed by
several people. "It is just impossible to confuse Sveta (short for Svetlana) with anybody else. She is the only Korean in this school, - tells Marina Pak. There were no more children with Asian appearance in that school, - only the teacher Darima Alikova, whose is of Buryat descent. It  means, that children could not be wrong and they saw her alive.

In the middle of the week I went to the morgue of Vladikavkaz, again, - says Marina. -I have practically lost hope of finding my daughter alive. That's why we started visiting identification sessions more often. They have opened the refrigerators, brought the bodies. And I started walking amid them. Suddenly, it seemed to me that one of the girls, all
burned, looked like my Sveta. I looked at the teeth - seemed to be her. The girl was of approximately of the same height. The hair weren't hers, though. Asian people have different hair - thin and coarse. And this girl's hair weren't like that. But I thought that they might have changed since they were burnt. So I took the body."

Everything was ready for the funeral. Sveta's body was given for cosmetic treatment before the funeral. All clothes and jewelry were taken off and given to relatives.

"I took the earrings, which were taken off the girl and understood that it wasn't Sveta, - says Marina, crying. - My daughter didn't have those earrings. There was a different lock in them. And we couldn't notice it because the jewelry was heavily burnt. We should have given them a closer look. And afterwards, after the treatment, when her teeth were brushed,
and she was cleaned from ashes, we understood that it was not Sveta".

Marina says it's her fault. "Nobody convinced me that it's my daughter, - tells Marina. - The medical examiner was repeating all the time: "Take a better look, take a better look". So it turns out, that we didn't look closeenough".

Sveta Tsoi's relatives brought the body back to the morgue and continued their search. However, there are no results yet.

Marina Pak sits on the sofa and looks through her daughter's photos. Everything that happened, makes her think that Sveta is alive and that she is maybe held hostage somewhere outside
the republic. And she also thinks about the girl she nearly buried. Somebody is also searching for her and can't find her.

Irina Vlasova

Translated by Dmitry Pavlov

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