Beslan, 2008

Beslan, 2008
I was shooting the school four years after the tragedy, in 2008. I went there myself in order to see it and to make several photos if possible. I knew it would not be easy. But when I was there, I felt more than a mere pain. The most astounding was the people’s attitude to what had happened. Not only the anger or the desire to revenge (although they were there also), but the warmth and the endless love to those who didn’t live anymore. And the appeal on all the wall written with large letters: «People of Beslan, let we all have the wisdom and patience! Let the God help us!”

When I was going back from the Beslan school after the shooting, on my way to the bus station I was called by a policeman who nodded to my camera. While he was approaching I was repeating the usual phrases in my mind, that I work for myself, that I wasn’t commissioned by any mass-media. I was very tired by the day’s end, it was getting dark, the last minibus shuttles going to Vladikavkas, and then I needed to go to Nalchik also. Irritated I nearly cried from despair, that I was to explain myself for a long time, and then I just didn’t want to talk to anyone after what I had seen. But to my astonishment he smiled and asked warm-heartedly: “You were photographing the school? How did you like it?”
I went to Beslan to see the school number 1, or more exactly what was left from it. Up to 2001 I had been living in Nalchik, and that time I went there on business and to visit my friends. The friends told me many of them had been there already. I didn’t plan shooting in Beslan, but I needed to go to Vladikavkaz and I decided to stop by. There were a lot of information and photo coverage in mass-media at the moment, but I felt it important to see it myself. I had my camera with me. On my way to the school I was thinking that I was to do so much for one day, the buses were rare, and not an easy meeting expected me in Vladikavkaz.
In the schoolyard I saw a lot of fresh funeral wreaths, they were standing along the walls of the destroyed building, as if propping its carcass with them. “Four years passed”, I had in my mind. I took my camera out of my backpack and made several photos. Then I entered the gym, the only room the visitor were allowed to enter at the moment. I was alone. It was silence, only the noise of the wind going through the room, because there were no glasses in the windows. And the first thing that caught my eyes it was toys all over the room. Pink, yellow, white bunnies, bears and doggies. They were sitting on the window sills and on the benches, smiling and huddling together merrily. Some of them were blown with the wind and they were lying on the floor, helpless but with the same smile… The walls were covered with the tracks of bullets and inscriptions of the visitors, the lying or leaning to the black bricks were the black charred remains of wooden panels and sports equipment. Photos of the killed. Flowers… After several minutes I heard the silence getting dense. I turned and went away. I knew I couldn’t bear it anymore. I couldn’t shoot, it was impossible. I went to the yard and took my way to the bus station. On the street I met two schoolgirls with schoolbags. They were in a hurry, being late for the second shift probably, it was around two o’clock p.m. They told me a new school was built nearby, a good modern building. The road to the new school was through the yard of the old one…
I returned to the gym and went on shooting.