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“Before the War, I had Toys” – Children of Grozny

Submitted by on Monday, 6 July 2009.    2,731 views No Comment
“Before the War, I had Toys” – Children of Grozny

“Leave town or be exterminated along with the guerrillas” – ultimatum given to the people of Grozny by Russian commanders at the start of both Chechen wars.

Grozny – November 2000
Met some young inhabitants of Grozny who suffered during the “anti-terrorist” war: children who witnessed the bombing of the city, children who saw the killing of their neighbours, children who lost their parents, children who lost their homes and their toys. These children show where they used to live; they speak about what happened to them and the things they like.

“Before the War, I had Toys”

-Children of Grozny-


Khava Shamayeva (3 years old)
Lives at: Kalinin Poselok, Radishcheva 6/2 Grozny.

In late 2000 Khava couldn’t speak or walk properly for her age. She suffers from severe pyschological trauma. Originally, doctors suggested that Khava should simply be loved and not given any challenges she might not manage. However, today Khava runs and is able to speak a few words. Her pyschological condition might be associated with a bad burn she received on her hand when she was three months old. Khava live her 24 years old relative Raisa. Khava’s mother left her when she was three months old and her father died in 1999. Today, Khava and Raisa live in the ruins of what was once their cozy home.

rustan and tamerlan

Brothers Aktulayev, Rustan (9 years old) and Tamerlan (10 years old)
Used to live at: Kalinin Poselok, Darwina 23, Grozny.

Tamerlan:”When the war began, our uncle drove us out of town. Planes were flying and bombing us. When they bombed to mosque, the bomb hit our house too.”

Rustan: “Before the war, I had toys. I used to have my own room in our three-story house. I left all my toys in my room and they all burned.

I wish i had a biycle and I love my mum the most.”


Malika Kantayeva (8 years old)
Used tol ive at: Kalinin Poselok, Baumana 12/30, Grozny.

“A Zemlya-Zemlya (Ground to Ground missilse) fell on our house. This happened a lot time ago (1999). The soldiers sent the bomb and it fell on us. Before the war, we lived here. I lived with my mum and grandma, my sister, two brothers, and my aunt. My aunt doesn’t walk, she is an invalid. Mum was at home when the bomb struck. She was cleaning to house. My brother and I were playing on the street. I can barely remember what happened.  We were screaming but I think we wanted run home when it hit. There was shrapnel flying everywhere. Grandma was hit by six pieces. We took out three bits, but three stayed in. One of our neighbour was sitting in his car. The bomb cut his head off.”


Deni Kantayev (4 years old)
Used tol ive at: Kalinin Poselok, Baumana 12/30 Grozny (Malika’s younger brother).

“I also remember when the bomb exploded. I was out on the street. I wanted to hide in the house under our bath, but i didn’t make it. Shrapnel hit grandma. After that i lived in different cellars. It was scary inside. When I’ll be an adult, i would like to be a podvalschik – a person who repairs cellars. Today, cellars are very important and necessary for pople because they protect them against flying shrapnel.”

said khassan

Said-Khassan Daudov (6 years old)
Lives at: Kalinin Poselok, Turgenyeva 4, Grozny.

“I live in my house, but the house is destroyed. A bomb fell on our neighbour’s house. I don’t know who did it. I only know that it dropped from a plane. There is a check post not far from our house. I hear shooting and explosions during the night. Everything trembles in the house. It is the Russian soldiers who shoot.”


Khazbulat Bazayev (7 years old)
Used to live at: 4th Mikrorayon, Iyoseliani 13, Apartment 15, Grozny.

“I used to live in this apartment, but it has been destroyed. The soldiers destroyed it. No, not Chechens, but ‘the soldiers’. I have done nothing to them – I swear. I had a lot of toys, but soldiers broke them. Also my toy car and a teddy bear.”


Seda Shamsadova (7 years old)
Lives at: Kalinin Poselok, Baumana 53, Grozny.

“We took al my toys to the village so that they wouldn’t be burned or taken by the during the search operations. The search operations (Zachistki)? That is the check-up civilians by armed and masked soldiers. The soldiers are looking for weapons and money.

At night they shoot, but it is hard to tell what they are shooting at.”

savakh and liza

Savakh (2 years old) and Liza (4 years old) Shamsadov
They live at: Kalinin Poselok, Baumana 60/24, Grozny.

“I love my mum the most of all, my dad and snickers. I might also like the sea, but i have never seen it. I haven’t seen my fahter for a long time, because he died when a bomb hit our ‘poselok’. I remember it very well. He and his friend were in the car. He wanted to take our things and clothes to the village. His friend’s head was blown off.”


Ilias Mazayev (10 years old)
Lives at: Kalinin Poselok, Michurina 100, Grozny.

“Half our home is destroyed. The second half survived the bombing and my two brothers, grandma, my sister, my mum and I live in it. Mum can’t walk and grandma at 70 years old. They destroyed our house during the big war, when an enormous bomb hit in. They are stil shooting, but this is a small war. If there will be a big war, it will be worse. Luckily, they haven’t hit us yet, though my brother was wounded once in his land.”


Markha Ibragimova (8 years old)
Used tol ive at: Kalinin Poselok, Grozny.

“Our apartment is destroyed. Drug addicts and the soldiers destroyed it – not only ours, but they destroyed many apartments. The soldiers still shooting during the night and in the morning. Where? This I don’t know. I just hearing the shooting. Sometimes bullets hit our backyard, but so far, at least for several weeks, nobody has been killed. When they shoot I am always afraid that it will hit our home. Mum is afraid too, but my father isn’t.”


Aza Bakhayeva (10 years old)
Used to live at: Kalinin Poselok, Zhukovskaya 161, Grozny.

“The war started because of fight between the Russian soldiers and the Wahabi muslims. The wahabis are very bad people, the Russians bad too. My father wasn’t wahhabi, but the Russian soldiers killed him. I am afraid, because they shoot so much.”

emma and david

Emma (11 years old) and David Naumkin (10 years old)
Used tol ive at: Oktyabrskiy rayon, Grozny.

Emma: “Today, we live in a boarding house. A bomb destroyed our house. I don’t know who did it. Probably the war, I guess. The soldiers were fighting and shooting… an done missile hit our house. The war is over, however they are stil shooting. They shoot from the check posts. I have few dolls today. I used to have lots of the, but they got lost.”

David is Emma’s cousin. He speaks very little, and when he does he often slurs his words.

dzhabrail zalina and zarina

Dzhabrail (2 years old), Zalina (11 years old) and Zarina (9 years old) Ibragimova
Lived at: Staroprumyslovski rayon, Zhigulgovskaya 12, Grozny.

The history of these three children is not clear. No one knows exactly what happened to them and to their closest relativs during the war. Everything here is conjecture. The girls’ idea about their parents’ death is confused. Dzhabrail is too small to remember. It is possible that he is a cousin rather than their brother. All three live under terrible conditions in a bombed out apartment building that is empty except one other family.

Iva Zimova

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