Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

"We Screamed from the Horror of It All"

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

"We Screamed from the Horror of It All"

Article excerpt

Elena Zaseeva, 43, a widow from Tskhinvali

"When the conflict broke out, after midnight, the explosions were deafening. It felt as if all the shells were hitting our house. Then one huge shell did hit our house. We were screaming, crying and praying. The entire house shook, the room on the ground floor filled up with smoke. We screamed from the horror of it all.

"My eldest son ran outside and when he returned he said that the first floor of the house was destroyed. 'They want to kill us,' I remember thinking. 'Why aren't the Russians coming?'

"During a quiet moment our neighbours came running and told us to join them in their basement. We spent two days in the basement, in complete darkness. I put my 12-year-old son on one of the shelves that lined the walls of the basement, amid jars of home-made compote. Even though the shelf was uncomfortable, he was so exhausted that he slept all night and all day.

"Then the Georgians entered Tskhinvali. Some Ossetian guys came by in a car, we grabbed some documents, ran outside, and without any possessions we tried to leave the city.

"When we got back to Tskhinvali from Vladikavkaz, I found my house partially ruined. A house opposite mine burned down. Everyone is crying non-stop. There were many funerals. A woman I know had to collect the bits of her son's body into a box-he was hit by a shell. She buried him in her garden.

"Russia protected us from Georgia's aggression. If they hadn't come, we would not have survived such heavy shelling. …

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