Conversations With The Dead
Beslan Russia School Hostage Takeover 9/1/2004
“Why do you not come to my dreams? Zalina Dzandarova, Russian hostage survivor who had to choose which one of her two children would live.
Beyond the toys, candles and flowers,
colors long ago faded to black.
On her knees, Zalina converses with her daughter,
she questions her own existence,
questions her adult choices,
questions her questions.
That first day of school was to become burdened history,
the innocent to be smeared with both,
the blood of the old
the blood of the new –
mingled with years of denial, repression, and revenge
forged between Russians and Chechens,
ghosts with murderous memories stilll battling for their land.
Before school began that September 1st,
Chechen militants staked out the building –
rigging explosives in the library storeroom.
What a message it would send globally!
Recognition for those who have
long been discriminated against –
Chechens, the scapegoats for centuries –
Knock the Chechens down, but they don’t fall,
try to contain them, the blood spreads and infects
From the time their footprints touched the region, it was a struggle.
Colonial repression, Muslims conquered and exiled,
kicked off their own land,
The Caucasus people have suffered like many others oppressed
to be hauled away like Jews –
Stalin shoved the Chechens into boxcars in ’44’ bound for Siberia,
deported for almost 13 years, their land denied.
Russians denied them their independence,
Russians who wanted their oil,
Russians who for hundreds of years mistrusted the Caucasia people.
These Muslims would not cave to Soviet Rule and
were never forgiven because of that.
Being blamed and burned makes one hard.
Many living through generations of hate
adopted their method of attention from the Palestinians-
crafted their war from terror used by al-qaeda.
Suicide bombings worked, the larger the numbers, the better.
But this time the militant Chechens took it a step beyond,
brutalizing with a bully’s glee
they picked on victims that made them look like cowards.
This simple task of walking an excited first grader to class was a joy,
Zalina carried her two year old son as she and her daughter Alana
made their way inside the classroom,
masked terrorists closed in –
brandishing weapons and attitude against children, and grandmothers,
against toddlers , mothers and teachers,
displacing anger and resentment onto the innocent.
Rebel Chechens’ rounded up 1200 hostages into the sweltering gymnasium;
all of them saturated by surging adrenelin, panic and ravenous fear
by terrorists as ready to implode as explode.
For three days the smell of sweat, urine, excrement lingered,
the air thick with the anguished wails piercing the crowds,
parents, relatives, politicians, the army,
gathered helplessly outside –
pleading to spare the lives of the children.
Hooded men and two disguised women kept vigil,
promising to let the hostages go after the Russian troops withdrew from Chechnay.
The terrorists on edge, concessions were made.
One local political leader had broken through,
several mothers with one of their children could leave,
the concession made, but which child would the parent choose?
Zalina was given a choice, one of her babies would live —
one must be sacrificed?
She was anguished,
she begged and begged for the children to be let go and she would stay,
terrorists refused to bargain.
She looked at her clingy toddler, Alan. How could she leave a baby?
She looked into the teary eyes of her 6 year old daughter, Alana.
She was being pressured, she had to decide,
she had to leave or all of them would be killed.
The mother abandoned her daughter – the small petite hand torn from her own–
the echoing voice screamed at her mother not to leave her,
the tears raining down upon those soft, young cheeks as her mother
That is the sight Zalina and others will live with,
the sound of a pitiful cry will forever be stuck into a memory groove.
That is the last visual of their children they will recall,
it is the yoke with the serrated edge that constantly stabs at the heart
and nothing will make it heal again.
Children sacrificed for politics,
the most moronic game humans ever devised
Zalina and others cannot go back
she is forced to question the dead,
while begging for her daughters’ forgiveness.
She asks herself how she could be a mother and not protect her child?
She and the others mourn the hundreds who were killed for nothing.
Zalina fights a sleep disturbed by images the day won’t seal.
And she fears that she will never see Alana in her dreams.
Zalina is convinced it is payback from the child she deserted.
At the gravesite she rocks back and forth, begging Alana to come to her,
visit her dreams so she can explain…
but what can a mother explain of such a choice?
How can one live only to know it is one more slow day of torture?
How do you ever wake up after nightmares to face another in reality?
All the flowers and promises for revenge are nothing.
Zalina is hollow now,
the terrorists took more than they know,
she is left wondering why she didn’t stay and die,
why she didn’t just let them kill her like they said,
it would have been easier, far easier than what life has become,
this is just a prerequisite to Hell,
another day of purgatory to succumb to,
another day of hatred,
another day of no color, no joy,
only negative emotion.
One can only imagine what it is like to live in a colorless world
where love has been torn from your flesh and soul,
you live for the day when you die
or get even
anything that makes the killing pain feel better,
and this feeling is why the terrorists also have their way
this is why they never heal…