from the Diocese of Berlin and Germany
of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the "Fund
for Aid for Children"
As soon as reports came
in on September 1, 2004, on the tragedy in the Northern Ossetian
city of Beslan (Russia), parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church
Outside of Russia (ROCOR), with the blessing of His Eminence Archbishop
Mark of Berlin and Germany, began to commemorate the victims in
special litanies. Some 58 hours after the scale of this catastrophe
became clear, on Monday, September 6, Deacon Andrei Sikoeff received
a blessing to organize material help from our Church for the children
With this goal in mind,
Vladyka Mark made a public appeal with these words:
"We grieve over
the victims and especially empathize with the wounded and ailing
children. But along with our prayers for the dead and the orphaned,
these children need quick and practical help for their physical
well-being and spiritual condition!"
Deacon Andrei Sikoeff
first contacted the Chief Physician of the Ossetian Republic’s Children’s
Clinical Hospital in Vladikavkaz, Dr Djanaev, and the Chief of the
Endoscopic Department, Dr Khabalov, to clarify what the most urgent
medical and surgical needs were. At the same time, Deacon Andrei
presented a long-term plan to the Fund for Aid for Children (Kindernothilfe),
one of the six largest international children's assistance organizations.
After careful consideration,
it was decided that the Fund for Aid for Children and the ROCOR
would organize a transport plane to Ossetia with special medical
technology valued at 200,000 Euros. A approved list of vital medical
needs was sent to Deacon Andrei in Berlin via fax from the Ossetian
It was also decided
jointly with the Russian Orthodox Church in Ossetia to build and
finance over the course of two years a project for spiritual, educational
and social rehabilitation of traumatized children and their relatives.
Dr Thiesbonenkamp, President
of the Fund for Aid for Children, described the challenges facing
them to the press: "The Fund for Aid for Children will support
on a long-term basis the creation in Beslan of a walk-in therapeutic
center, in which heavily traumatized children, with the help of
spiritual fathers, teachers and doctors will cope with their terrible
ordeal and the memories of the last week, and find for themselves
new prospects for living."Berlin, Monday, September 6
The reports given by
Vladikavkaz doctors are alarming: Within minutes of each other,
over two hundred mostly seriously injured children were brought
to the Ossetian Republic's Children's Clinik of Vladikavkaz, and
the Clinic turned into a field hospital. According to Moscow surgeons
who had experienced the war in Afghanistan, the situation was like
that following a major military battle. All the children were dehydrated
and traumatized. They were witnesses to the rape of women, girls
and boys by the terrorists. The last few hours, the children shared
amongst themselves their last drops of urine to avoid dying of thirst.
Most of the little children and infants were taken right into resuscitation
rooms, because their mothers had no milk left. Many children could
not remember their names, and gave the names of others instead.
They all had two to three gunshot wounds, skull fractures, and gas
poisoning and burns from explosions.
The Ossetian surgeons
performed on a superhuman level. Operations took place on every
operating table until the next morning. "We prayed without
end," they said later. And a miracle occurred: every child
was saved that first day. Only over the next three days did three
of them die of serious injuries.
Dr Vladimir Khabalov
said: "When the children began arriving, seven or eight surgeon
brigades went to work on the operating tables. This was horrible.
The sight of these tortured children, dying of thirst, their wounds,
their screams... The mothers who almost went insane from fear for
"The first few
hours we were numb, we only prayed. Later, we doctors hoped that
someday this would fade from memory, that this kind of thing would
never happen again. None of us, not even the most senior doctors,
who it had seemed had seen everything, could never recall anything
like this. We yearn to forget this forever."Berlin, Thursday,
Deacon Andrei received
the final confirmation that the surgical equipment requested by
the Ossetian doctors was purchased and was being prepared for shipment
by the Director of the Fund for Aid for Children, Ditmar Roller
and his group. Now only one unresolved issue remained: where could
they get a plane? While Mr Roller was working how to ship everything
via air, Deacon Andrei contacted the Federal Chancellor's office.
The matter was decided quickly, with no red tape: the FRG would
pay for the delivery. As a result, by Friday morning, the shipment
was paid for.
Munich, Friday, September
On Friday evening, the
loading of the plane, an AN-26 transport from Russia, began at the
freight terminal of Franz Josef Strauss Airport in Munich.
That evening, His Grace
Bishop Agapit of Stuttgart arrived. Together with Deacon Andrei
and in the presence of the members of the Fund for Aid for Children
and the Russian pilots, he read a short prayer for the children
of Beslan and sprinkled the plane with holy water.
After this, Vladyka
Agapit and Deacon Andrei, along with the representatives of the
Fund went to have a graciously-offered dinner at the home of the
Warden of the Munich parish, Vadim A Esikovsky and his wife Maria.
Munich, Saturday, September 11 (the day of the Beheading of St John
Members of the Fund
returned home, while Deacon Andrei went to the airport, where the
shipment is inspected once again and the Russian pilots complete
their pre-flight preparations.
At 5 pm, the weather
maps are examined. The flight was to last 8 hours with a stopover
in Kishinev for refueling.
Deacon Andrei set up
a metal cot with a blanket amidst the shipment, since there were
not seats on the transport plane. At 6 pm, the flight departed from
Munich for its destination: the Beslan Airport of Vladikavkaz in
the Northern Caucasus.
Ossetia, Saturday, September
11, 5:30 pm (local time)
At Beslan Airport, the
plane was greeted by a delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Protopriest Vladimir Samoilenko, a Dean under His Grace Bishop Feofan
of Stavropol and Vladikavkaz, and two priests from that city were
waiting on the tarmac. The plane was immediately surrounded by customs
agents, border security, the Ministry of Emergency Affairs and the
police. The Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Internal Affairs
of the Republic of Northern Ossetia/Alania, Soslan Ivanovich Sikoeff
(a relative of Deacon Andrei Sikoeff), was in charge of operative
The medical equipment
was delivered without delay to the Ossetian Republic's Children's
Clinic of Vladikavkaz. While the soldiers unloaded the heavy containers
by hand, the necessary documents were filled out and the receipts
made out for the humanitarian aid, since according to existing laws,
such donations are accepted only by the Ministry of Emergency Affairs.
Afterwards, a car sped
off to the Clinic, which is under heavy security. The Chief Physician,
Dr Djanaev, meets the clergymen. He briefly reports on the situation
in the hospital and discusses the next steps with his colleagues.
The medical equipment was then unloaded and distributed as needed.
Dr Djanaev described
the actual situation in the hospital to Deacon Andrei. On Saturday
night, when the humanitarian aid arrived from Germany, the hospital
had over 130 injured children and several mothers. The number of
the littlest patients changed constantly. There were instances of
relapses. Yet the situation stabilized compared with the first day
of the catastrophe. The first of the children have already been
released to go home. Many of the most seriously injured children
were sent to clinics in Moscow or Rostov-on-the-Don. Surgeons and
doctors prepared for further operations.
The endoscopic and surgical
equipment arriving with the humanitarian aid from Germany will give
the doctors the possibility of avoiding the extensive dissections
of the cavities of the peritoneum and the chest in the children.
If complications arise, the surgeons will not have a backup set
of equipment for each such surgical procedure. This way, the main
disadvantages of such technology will be avoided.
Dr Djanaev said: "A
five-year-old boy was told by the terrorists to remove his baptismal
cross. He removed it and clenched it in his fist. When the surgeons
placed him on the table, they opened his fist, which he held tight
for two days, only with a great deal of difficulty. The boy was
The next morning, the
priests of Vladikavkaz, Fr Vladimir Samoilenko and Fr Konstantin
Dzoev, headed to Beslan with Deacon Andrei.
All of Ossetia is in
The small city of Beslan
(population 35,000), lies as though under a burial shroud. In comparison
with the number of Ossetians—this is a small nation, with no more
than a half a million people. As a result of the Beslan tragedy,
the Ossetians lost one person for every thousand. If one were to
compare this ratio with the population of Germany, that would mean
the loss of 80,000 lives, including men, women and children.
Ossetia is mourning
over its children.
In Beslan, the parish
of St George the Great Martyr held a divine liturgy. In his sermon,
Fr Vladimir spoke also of the life of St Alexander Nevsky, who through
his maternal grandmother had Ossetian blood, and called upon the
faithful to follow his example of uncompromising faith.
After the service, the
clergymen went with the parish rector, Fr Sergei Mal'tsev, to the
George, age 10: "I
wanted to go with my mama to the first day of school. But as we
reached the door, she remembered that we had forgotten to pray to
my saint. We went home and prayed before his icon. So that's why
we were late for the first-day celebration by two minutes. When
we arrived, there was shooting. We ran awayÉmany of my friends were
killed. Two friends are in a hospital in Moscow." Beslan, Sunday,
The municipal school's
gymnasium was the site of the tragedy. People in black were standing
in the courtyard or walking along the sides of the building, their
faces frozen like stone. The gym was indescribable. There were flowers
everywhere, candles, bottles of water as a reminder of the childrens'
suffering, stuffed animals among them. Small icons were attached
to the walls. The demolished gymnasium bore traces of gunshots,
grenade damage and explosions. It was terrifying to walk upon the
floor, covered with a thin layer of cinder and ash. Among them were
floorboards soaked with blood.
Deacon Andrei Sikoeff:
"First I looked underfoot, because I sense that I am treading
on blood and parts of human bodies. But this was only black rubbish,
wooden rails. Then I raised my eyes. The gymnasium is smaller than
I expected. Twelve hundred people—it is difficult to imagine! Immediately
I recalled the gas chambers of Auschwitz, about the same size, the
victims crammed together. Death, coldly calculated. The mockery
of children. The merciless demons, executioners and murderersÉ Children
crying, prayers, screamsÉ And it seems that the suffering of the
children grips you with its icy breath. This is a place of death,
the gates of hell, Passion Week, Golgotha. And this paralyzing fear
passed only when we began the Orthodox funeral singing."
Many facts surrounding
this terrorist act are still unknown, for reasons of further actions.
Some testimony is being withheld from publication. Terrorist raped
women, girls and boys. This was confirmed by Fr Sergei Mal'tsev.
He visited the victims and spoke to doctors in the gynecological
But these rumors have
already spread throughout the population.
"We want to avenge
the dead," say some men in the gymnasium.
Marat, age 11, said
to his parents after a serious operation on his gunshot wounds:
"Papa, why are
you crying? I am Ossetian, I am a man." (Later he decided to
be baptized. His parents learned of this only the evening after.
He proudly shows the cross he was given on television.)
Ossetians are a peaceful
people. You will never hear from them sermons of hatred. But Ossetians
are not only militant but experienced in battle. In 1910, there
were 2,350 officers within a population of 13,000. The Orthodox
Ossetian Cavalry Guard Division fought their way from the Caucasus
to Berlin. The terrorist attacks by the Ingush upon Ossetia in the
1990's was quickly and decisively crushed by the Ossetians.
Today, after Beslan,
the Ossetian courage and fighting spirit have no goals, they have
no visible enemy. The impression of the most profound evil, inhuman,
demonic war against the spirit of Orthodoxy, against the Russian
Church, against their Ossetian children. "Revenge? Upon whom?"
ask the women.
And the faithful, the
Orthodox Christians of Ossetia, see this tragedy first and foremost
as a religious attack, a tribulation. Russian priests call for humility
and repentance. They remind everyone of their own history, and also
of the apostasy of many Ossetians from Orthodoxy, of the destruction
of almost all the churches in Ossetia during the godless Soviet
The believing Ossetians
say: "God did not abandon us. God was in Beslan, hundreds of
lives were thus saved." Again and again they tell of miracles.
Elena, 36 years old,
a parishioner of Beslan: "When they began to take hostages,
we women in the parish immediately tried to find out the names of
the children we knew and who were connected with our parish, or
came to lessons on the Law of God. And we prayed day and night with
the priests for their salvation and for the salvation of their friends.
First of all we asked the intercession of St George the Great Martyr.
I did not want to tell you this before, because I wanted to make
sure first. And I just made my last phone call: all the children
on our list, every single one for whom we prayed, is alive!"
The mood in Ossetia
is tense. The traditional forty-day mourning period continues. The
Ossetians are convinced that this assault was financed from Chechnya,
and that the cohorts in this evil deed were from Ingushetia. The
terrorists had phone contact with Saudi Arabia, and before the beginning
of the bloody battle, they bid farewell to their contacts there.
Ossetians are convinced that the terrorists were in contact with
Ingush and Chechen political figures.
People ask visitors
from abroad what they should do. They want the guilty parties to
be punished, they seek justice. And now much depends upon how correctly
and successfully the Russian government acts, how effectively the
civil and military organs battle terrorists, whether Putin will
root out corrupt generals from the Russian Army and thereby end
the war in Chechnya. For this is still a corrupt military, strengthened
during Yeltsin's era, along with the multitude of politicians in
the Caucasus region who pump out billions of dollars every year
from the state budget.
This is why the Ossetians
are carefully following the statements made by the Putin administration.
Ossetians are loyal to Russia. They support Putin's fundamental
reforms. But if these reforms have no effect, it may prove fatal
to the Caucasus.
The population thanks
the humanitarians from Germany time and time again. They are shaken
and surprised at the readiness to help them. They are strengthened
by the sense that they are not alone in suffering. Many are driven
to tears by the fact that their Orthodox brethren from the Russian
Orthodox Church Outside of Russia are with them in prayer and in
Suffering from shock
are not only the victims but their relatives and friends, they are
traumatized and often cannot bring themselves to speak on what had
happened. Even if the psychologists from Moscow along with the Vladikavkaz
doctors work with them, even if the government of Russia reports
on the building of a therapeutic center for the victims of the terrorist
act, thousands of people are still in need of help.
The plan of Russian
Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Fund for Aid for Children
is to create a church conference, rehabilitation and social center
in Ossetia, was met with jubilant approval by all. Concrete proposals
and inquiries have now been presented. The spiritual wounds of the
children heal very slowly, and maybe they will never close up completely.
To help them is to also help their brothers and sisters, their school
friends, the parents, relatives, teachers, in short, to help every
survivor who yet lost their closest and dearest.
The work in Ossetia
is only beginning.
Eternal memory for the
dead children of Beslant! St George the Great Martyr, Intercessor
of the Ossetians, pray to God for us!