24 September 1999
They bombed us a bit today. And the neighbours already don’t go to work, they’re scared. Mum and I go to the market to trade.I help her. There are rumours at school that it might shut soon. Everyone says: “War”.
I can hear the roar of the planes. They’re dropping bombs, but so far it’s far away. In the centre of Grozny, where the market is, I just feel the ground trembling. I don’t go anywhere. Where should I go? I’m here.
5 October 1999
So far we’re alive! There hasn’t been gas for a long time. They’re bombing. Our four-storey house has started to sink from all the shaking. The walls have separated from the ceiling in one room. Today the planes flew in circles over the market. Many people ran away.
Including a healthy light-haired guy, Vandam, who studies in the law faculty. He regularly lets me and Mum trade in his wooden stall. It’s convenient in the rain. But I don’t love him.
21 October 1999
Mum and I were hurt. I saw a dead woman sitting behind the table. The injured hid in the cafe and in the entry ways of their homes. The men – volunteer rescuers – picked up the victims of the gunfight, distributed them around cars. The seriously injured first. … Everything started unexpectedly, around 5pm. We were packing up the goods that remained – two bags. One for me, one for Mum. Then we met Kusum with a little baby. We stood around, talked. All of a sudden a bright flash lit up an even brighter sky. It was followed by heavy thunder. Out of fear we hid under our table, sat under its iron legs. There was no other hiding place. A blast! Then another. It seemed like the same thing was being blown up over and over again. We ran, losing our goods, into the yard of Fashion House. Right in the centre of Grozny. Rosa Luxembourg Street.
28 October 1999
Then the aeroplanes started to buzz! We heard the first bomb drop . We ran to the residential part, across the street. We found a basement, but a small one. Five people were already standing inside, pushed up against each other. There was no room to enter. Back! To the entryway of a house! OK, it wasn’t locked. We crouched in the corner of someone else’s house. An explosion! Another explosion! A man in a house across the way screamed. The top floors were burning.
26 November 1999
A bomb fell next to the neighbouring house this evening. It broke through two floors – joined them together! Raisa, the Armenian who converted to Islam not long ago, 12 days ago, was killed. She was praying. It didn’t interrupt her. An old Chechen lady, who was teaching Raisa the Islamic faith, was with her. But she got scared and ran down the stairs. That woman was saved. She sat on the stairs the whole night through.
I cried. I’m scared to lose somebody to this war. Alladdin touched my hand and said: “Raisa is in heaven! She couldn’t have sinned in 12 days.”
24 December 1999
We found a jar of jam. I ate the jam with a spoon, until I got sick. Our main food is a glass of water with one spoon of flour and diced onion. We drink it and lie down. Five of our cats have already died. Mum buried them in the garden behind the house. She cried for each one, as for a child. One cat remains. He’s big and striped. He, like with the new people, showed up from another neighbourhood. We call him Khattab. The cat really wants to live!
26 December 1999
Mum is getting angrier and angrier. Her personality is totally ruined. Probably from hunger. I try not to snap.
My stomach always hurts. I constantly want to eat. I keep imagining a piece of real white bread. It seems there’s nothing more delicious. To eat that, it wouldn’t even be that scary to die.
8 March 2000
Morning! Mum still feels bad. She can’t sit, even when she leans back on two pillows.
Thankfully, Alik helps. He’s been chopping wood for me, for a week already.
Mum’s face has gotten big and strange. Sometimes I think she’ll die, that she’ll die right now.
31 March 2001
I’m 16! The age of one’s first ball! I think Tolstoy wrote that? There’s mess all around me. Holes in the hallway floor, from the damp basement it smells like rats and filth, pieces of wall hang over our heads, and dirty damp wood seems to have settled permanently in the kitchen.