Russian Federation

Previous kidnap victim pens this letter for Arjan Erkel

Vincent Cochetel, the author of this letter, was kidnapped for eleven months in the Northern Caucasus. Cochetel currently works for the UNHCR in Geneva.

Dear Arjan, It is such a strange thing to feel so close to someone without knowing the person. I have known like you the unbearable depths of loneliness, too much time to think, too much time to look back. What brought us to this beautiful Northern Caucasus region?

Not the money, not the curiosity, not the fame, but the feeling that the complex conflicts of this part of the world will not have any winner or looser, but just too many forgotten victims as elsewhere. Far away from media's attention, we thought and still want to believe that our humble day-to-day action is/was making a little difference for destitute and needy people. We had no big dreams, no big expectations, no illusion about changing anything about these conflicts, but we could not accept the silence, the unacceptable.

Showing some solidarity and bringing a bit of humanity were all what we could do and we did it, as best as we could. Did the Caucasian people in their diversity ever understand the meaning of our choice to work with them and for them? It is difficult for our friends, relatives to understand why we made such a choice to live so far away from them, from "home" for such simple objectives and it is so hard for us to talk about it.

So much sacrifice and they keep asking, "was it worth?" A simple smile on the face of a child or an elderly person who was receiving assistance was providing us the daily answer. It is also difficult for us to understand why such hospitable people have turned their land into such an inhospitable place for aid workers and ...themselves.

There is no easy answer to this question ...on either side of the wall. With my wife and children, we are counting again the days...and we know the length of each day. We never stopped to believe in tomorrow, whenever the tomorrow we are waiting for will come.

Arjan, it takes a bit of time to realize that each of these days makes you stronger. Never give up! We don't. I hope that they realize that what they do result in depriving thousands of people of badly needed assistance, but that they can change this at any time.

They cannot ignore it and bear the responsibility for this. Arjan, it is not easy to conclude this letter, I feel like saying "so long...", but believe in the strength of a simple "see you soon". Vincent Cochetel was kidnapped for eleven months in the Northern Caucasus. Cochetel currently works for the UNHCR in Geneva.