… number 1
fter years of swallowing metal in Stalingrad during WWII, it seems the Russians never forgot what non-stop bombing can do to a city and a people. They dusted off that lesson during both wars in Chechnya. But this time, they dropped the bombs… with more falling on Grozny than on Stalingrad under the Nazis.
When I was in the capital of the prickly republic – not long after the bombs stopped – the city was falling away like chunks of leprous flesh. Buildings gaped, craters cupped oily water, people scampered and victorious troops traded in the eternal currency of war – bodies, souls, bribes and sedatives.
Grozny is my number one hell hole. And I’m not the only one who believes it has a hellish quality; in Russian the word “grozny” means “terrible”.
It is where:
- Battle-scarred Chechens are frightened to teeth-chattering at check stops manned by Russian troops.
- At the maternity hospital a nurse runs into the street pleading for someone with the same blood type as a hemorrhaging mother-to-be.
- Russian soldiers throw concrete from the roof of a bombed-out shell onto passing cars, pointing their guns at those who stop.
- Sparse city traffic slows to a stop as tanks lurch down the road and sappers scour the ditches for IEDs.
- There’s a sightless mural of a mother and child on the side of a crumbling six story building – the eyes peppered to dust by small arms fire.
- Mute people live with wide eyes; abrupt; always moving.
- Educated people talk at supper of who will die tomorrow for the sake of vengeance, a blood feud or necessity.
…dust to dust…