Before the War I Had Toys
Children of Grozny
A photo essay by Iva Zimova
If you want to contact Iva Zimova, you can write to Prague Watchdog, by email: mail (at) watchdog.cz
“Leave town or be exterminated along with the guerrillas”
- an ultimatum given to the people of Grozny by Russian commanders at the start of both Chechen wars.
GROZNY- NOVEMBER 2000
Meet some young inhabitants of Grozny who suffered during the “anti-terrorist” war: children who witnessed the bombing of the city, children who saw the killing of their neighbours, children who lost their parents, children who lost their homes and their toys. These children show where they used to live and they speak about what happened to them and about the things that they like.
Khazbulat Bazayev (7 years old)
Used to live at: 4th Mikrorayon, Yoseliani 13, apartment 15, Grozny
“I used to live in this apartment, but it has been destroyed. The soldiers destroyed it. No, not Chechens, but “the” soldiers. I have done nothing to them - I swear.* I had lots of toys, but the soldiers broke them. Also, my toy-car and a teddy bear. I can tell the war is still going on because they are still shooting. Ours (“Ours” is a local title indicating Chechen fighters) and the soldiers are fighting. During the first war Ours won, now, the soldiers have won. I hear the gunfire very well when they are shooting at night. Of course, if a missile falls on our house where we live right now, we’ll die. Grandmother said that the soldiers will leave by the New Year. But I do not know.
I love my grandmother most of all. I live with her, Grandfather, my brother and my uncle. When I grow up I would like to be a Chechen surgeon.”
* Note: Recently Chechen children as young as 6 have been stopped by the Russian authorities from receiving foreign medical treatment. The authorities insist on lengthy bureaucratic checks to ensure that these children are not rebels.
Khazbulat’s mother was killed in uncertain circumstances in 1997. His father was killed in a car accident in 1993 two months after Khazbulat was born. The boy lives with his grandparents. His grandma makes sauerkraut at home and then she sells it at the Central Market. This is the only way to feed her family.