The other side of Women's Day
8 March 2002
Last night the wind was so strong that every gust brought with it the fear that you could be left unprotected, under the open sky. "My God, if only the tent doesn't blow away. If only the gas is not cut off," thought Satzita Isaeva on this cold night in March. The same thought was probably running through the heads of hundreds of other inhabitants in the tent camp of Aki-Yurt, in the North of Ingushetia. The third harsh winter seems to have passed, but in this open area, the cold winds will keep blowing for a long time. Soon it will be March 8th, International Women's Day. It has been such a long time since Satzita felt like a lady, since she heard tender words, since she was given flowers, since she gathered with friends around a festive table. On October 2nd, 1999, Satzita fled from Grozny with her husband and three children, escaping the dreadful war. In late October they were given tent number 25 in Aki-Yurt. This year her elder son and her daughter are going to a school built for displaced persons. Unfortunately they missed two academic years. Maybe that is why her children are showing little interest in studies. Satzita often worries about it. She used to be fond of books, and would sometimes stay late at night reading. Now she and her husband read their children's books. Her son is already 17 years old. She knows that this is the age when teenagers want to meet girls and fall in love. But her boy does not even have decent clothes to wear. She would like her son to get a good education, though the most important thing now is that he is safe and nearby. Her daughter is 15, and her youngest child is four. The children, of course, get sick from time to time, but she is relieved that they are not invalids like the son of Taus Paizulaeva, who is in constant need of drugs. There is no money to pay for the drugs, and when the poor boy has fits, his cries can be heard all over the camp. It is not easy with children; they need food, clothes, boots. But the majority of the displaced families do not have any source of income and rely solely on humanitarian aid. Take, for example, Maidat Dadaeva. She only has half a tent for her family of 12. And the tent is leaking. Ten children, with the youngest in a cradle. Her husband is rushing between his family in Ingushetia and his sick, bed-ridden mother in Chechnya. Meanwhile, one of Maidat's neighbors, whose husband is missing, is struggling to take care of her seven children. All of them are barefoot and lack clothes. "We can bear anything," says Satzita, "but we just want the war to end". And her eyes fill with tears. Governmental aid is being cut. For two weeks there has been no electricity in the tent camp. On March 1st, bread distributions were stopped. Everybody keeps saying that this summer, all the displaced will be sent home. And everybody is anxious and afraid. But they say that even if there is no more humanitarian aid, they will not go home unless it is safe in Chechnya. They fear for the lives of their husbands and children. 886 long days and nights full of hopes and fears have formed a huge precipice separating today's reality with the past, when they led normal and human lives, when they had jobs, made plans for the future, and celebrated holidays. Life seems to have come to a stop, though the years go by. Soon Satzita will turn 43. In her previous life she was working at the Central Maternity Hospital in the city of Grozny. Her husband was a driver. Her children were attending secondary school. She was putting money aside for them in a savings account. They had a small house. But the house no longer exists. It was destroyed by soldiers' grenades. Satzita is not complaining. She thanks God that her family is safe and prays that she will have the strength to endure all this and return home. She dreams of getting her job back, and sending her little son to a kindergarten.