[ politics - december 02 ]
"Mountains! You will belong to us and no one will ever take you away! No one. Never."
Mountains... They are especially beautiful in winter - the white tops glittering, the sun rays drawing patterns, their beauty blinding. Among the mountains is the high-mountainous settlement of Kharsenoi.
Eitik was the third child in the family. Being the youngest, he was the parents' favourite. It was only he whom his father would let ride his horse, and mother would always put additional corn breads for Eitik whenever his brothers went to the woods to cut wood or hunt. Eitik loved to run together with the boys of the neighbourhood to the white mountain, where the kids had made a small skating rink and were taking rides on hand made sleighs. In early February of 1944 when almost every man in the village was fighting with fascist Germany, many military people arrived in the region. They were talking about some studies and the children would go to peep at the military equipment. Sometimes the soldiers were brought some food, as the kind-hearted Chechen women were compassionate with them, for many of the mothers had their sons defending the homeland.
In the early morning Eitik's elder brother, Bisolt, set off for the forest to cut wood. Eitik asked to be taken along. Nobody wanted to take him since cutting wood is hard work. But the boy was persistent and wanted to always be useful at home. Since childhood he was the sort of person who would assist anybody. He was only four when he jumped to rescue a doll dropped into a river by Hava, a neighbour's daughter. Bisolt was to take the boy along. They were going to the woods for two days. Mother prepared corn bread and the brothers left. It was cold outside; there was a lot of snow in 1944.
Dawn, February 23. When the cart was loaded with the wood and other contents, brothers returned home, overwhelmed by the exertions in completing their tasks, when a horrible sight appeared before them. Women screaming, the sound of engines, mooing of cows and barking of dogs. Soldiers confronted the children and ordered them to run home and assemble within half an hour at the central square of the town with their family. All seemed so strange to Eitik but he realised that something dreadful was going on. "Sudden idea of Fascists attacking the village." Everything seemed to be far more horrible. He heard an officer shout at his mother... this very day made him hate the officer's uniform.
...Long and endless path to the railway station, cattle wagons. And days, full of horror and suffering leading to the path of death in the far and alien place called Kazakhstan. Several corpses were left at every station, people were dying of hunger and cold. Eitik's mother and brothers shared the same fate. When their echelon arrived in Pavlodar, the boy, only six years of age, was left all alone, facing death, parting and grief, all alone. On the last station there was the department for dislocation of "nation's enemy" to the populated settlements. Eitik stood alone not understanding anything, just trying to realise that he had no mother, no brothers, no home and no mountains. His mountains. An officer approached him, shouting something in an unknown language, pulling his shoulder. Aunt Aset, who was neighbour of their family, showed up at this moment. She was taking care of Eitik after the death of his mother and brothers and was feeding him from that miserable ration that she was sharing between her children. "He has nobody. He is left alone. Can I take him with me?" "We will figure it out", said the officer and took Eitik into the station. He was put in a room together with other children, being guarded by drunk soldiers. The relatives of these children were left lying under the snow along the railway. Eyes of every child showed hopeless estrangement not adequate to their young age. They were all taken to the orphanages.
The dark eternity of 13 years passed. Eitik turned 19 when rehabilitation of oppressed nations was declared - it happened t be an "unfortunate mistake". Eitik was on the very first train taking the rehabilitated Chechens home - nothing could keep him here. On the way, looking through the train window, he was trying to remember where the corpses of his family were left. Several times it even seemed to him that he recognised something, but then he realised that it was impossible. Time took away the memory, time changed everything. And he stopped looking out of the windows, rather laid on the bench, trying to figure out the feeling which would not leave him ever since he headed home. A sudden feeling appeared that he was going to somebody, that somebody was awaiting him, but stirring up his childhood memories he could not understand with whom or with what his feeling was related to. But he knew for sure that this feeling was not deceiving him and once he was here, he would know everything for sure.
When the train stopped in Grozny, the scenery at the station slightly reminded him the freezing morning of February 23, 1944. Women were crying, men stood with harsh, thoughtful faces, children tried to realise what was going on. Elderly men were caressing the platform as if trying to reestablish links with that soil which they had been separated with.
Eitik found a lift to the Shatoi regional centre. And at the very moment when the peaks of the mountains showed up, Eitik realised who was waiting for him - these were his mountains, of which he had dreamed continuously. These were the mountains, which they could not exile or kill. He was taken away with the feeling of tranquillity, peace - he felt they were waiting for him.
2000. He was still standing at the bottom of the very mountains. The mountains, that somebody is trying to deprive him of for the third time in his lifetime. In the eyes of the grey-haired old man you can see pain and suffering, as well as passion for these mountains, to the land of his ancestors that is called Nokhchicho.
2001. Eitik also narrated to us that in 1994-1996 during the first Russian-Chechen war, his two sons were killed, his house which was full of children's laughter was bombed. He told how his daughter Madina, the baby in the family, perished in the bombing by the Russian planes, two grandsons together with her.
And again that feeling of solitude which has not visited him for 55 years, the feeling that he left in the distant and cold Kazakhstan.
I looked at the grey-haired old man full of pride for a long time, lost for words. This was the first time in my career where I was left speechless, not knowing what to say or how to comfort him. Together with him I glared at the mountains. The mountains which felt pain on themselves. Pain for the nation which has been fighting for love towards them.
Eitik sighed, looked around and said: "No, my son, I am not alone. I am the richest man in the world because I belong to my nation. Nation, which too this day defends its homeland. The nation can not be defeated. Years will pass and new buildings will be constructed, children's laughter will be heard and nobody will ever dare kill us with impunity. We are on the way, long and hard way but when I look at these children holding guns and fighting the most mean and insidious enemy I say to myself Mountains! You will belong to us and no one will ever take you way. Never and no one."