Cover fragment of the "Polina Zherebtsova's Diary". Photo:

24 October 2011, 22:00

Unique diary of Chechen War eyewitness presented in Moscow

The Andrei Sakharov Museum and Public Centre has hosted a presentation of the book "Polina Zherebtsova's Diary", telling about the events of 1999-2002 in Grozny during the Second Chechen War, as seen by the teenager.

The "Polina Zherebtsova's Diary" is an eyewitness' report. The author describes the everyday life, interrelations of civilians, militants and militaries, her growing-up, starvation and the injury, which she received when helping her mothers to trade in the marketplace. The diary underwent no literary improvement; when preparing the publication, the author just reduced to the minimum the description of her emotions. Ms Zherebtsova explained that she did it to provide the reader with a chance to form his or her opinion independently.

"I saw the original of her records; and I can confirm that you see a real girl's diary, not a sort of mystification," Svetlana Gannushkina, Chair of the Committee "Civil Assistance", a board member and the head of the Network "Migration and Law" of the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial", said at the presentation, denying the information that the published material was not original, the "Rossiiskaya Gazeta" writes.

"Polina's habitat is her family, where every person is passionate about the arts, poetry, history, journalism and painting. They study the East. One of her grandmothers is an actress. The other one took lessons from Rostislav Plyatt, but later became a painter and decorated blankets and shawls by hand. Polina's grandfather is a Grozny-settled documentary filmmaker," the website "Human Rights in Russia" quotes the rights defender Stanislav Boiko, who wrote the epigraph to the book.

"Publication of this book is a major event," said another rights defender Elena Sannikova. In her opinion, the Chechen military campaign was a crime, which caused damage not only to those who were directly in the combat zone, but to all of us, as the moral devastation of our society was a consequence of the war.

Polina Zherebtsova and her mother were injured in a missile strike on central Grozny on October 21, 1999. Then, most casualties were in the central city marketplace, the republic's maternity hospital and the mosque. According to different sources some 100-120 persons were killed, about 400 more were wounded, many of them subsequently died.

The book has an episode describing how Polina was saved, when she was brought to hospital by a Russian driver of a water carrier on which a Chechen drew a red cross with his blood. Thanks to that sign, the car could pass the checkpoints; and doctors managed to save the girl.

Polina Zherebtsova at presentation of her book at the Academician Sakharov Public Centre, Moscow, October 21, 2011. Photo by Vera Vasilieva,"I don't believe that one's nationality and religion affect the presence or absence of conscience or not," Polina Zherebtsova said at the presentation.

Publication of the diary has become possible thanks to Alexander Solzhenitsyn Public Fund, among other organizations. Polina wrote a letter about herself to Mr Solzhenitsyn in 2006; and he helped her to come to Moscow. Polina's mother lives in a village in the Stavropol Territory in severe living conditions.

Polina is still taking her treatment from the implications of the injury - not all the fragments have been extracted from her legs. She has to go to hospital quite often for long periods; therefore, she permanently faces difficulties at employment. Polina has received no compensation from the state.

"Dedicated to the rulers of modern Russia," reads the epigraph to the "Polina Zherebtsova's Diary". "I want to live in another state, where there is no oil and gas, wars and revolutions. I hope the authorities will read my book and get evolved spiritually," Polina Zherebtsova said at the presentation.

Let us note here that the information about the missile attack on Grozny is officially denied. On June 15, 2007, the Military Prosecutor's Office of the United Grouping of Forces for conducting the counterterrorist operation in the North-Caucasian region of Russia released the results of their check of the events of October 1999. "We have reliably established that on October 21, 1999, a powerful explosion occurred in the illegal warehouse, located in the central market in Grozny, where they sold arms and ammunition to members of illegal armed formations," the materials of the Prosecutor's Office say.

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