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Bus Stop | Iuza Siukaeva, Znauri

Iuza Siukaeva, 83 years old, Znauri

I had three children: two daughters and a son. I have always dreamed of only one thing, so that my children go to universities and get a higher education. 

My son was the eldest, he studied well. He was very capable.

I worked in three places, in the telegraph office, in the cinema, and at the cash register and as a guard. I did think only to educate my children. But what came of all his?

Murat graduated from school in 1980. He immediately entered the institute in Kharkov. When he was drafted into the army, the war in Afghanistan began. They took him there. We had not heard from him for several months. I told my husband to go and find him. He was serving in the Urals.

My husband kept telling Murat that when he finished the institute he would get him a Volga. 

Murat finished his studies and returned from Kharkov in 1991. There was unrest here already. As it happens, after his return, he visited people, saw friends. On February 27, he left with friends towards the village of Okona, it is very close to here. There he disappeared.

I looked for him for a long time. I went everywhere.  There was not a nook or cranny left in Georgia that I had not visited. I myself was jailed twice

I dreamed of at least finding my son's body. He even had a unique mark, in the army he had gotten a tattoo. On one leg was written "They got tired", and on the other "In the Urals." And the number of the unit where he served.

Once I was told that there were also missing people in the Tbilisi mental hospital, I went there too,  but I could not find my son.

Then there were rumors that after the earthquake all the captured Ossetians were taken to Sachkhere. I went there too, but again to no avail. When I was returning, I was caught in the Karelian region. 

We got on the bus and asked if there were Ossetians. They dropped me off the bus and took me to some building. There were two rooms. I was taken to an inner room, but I heard what was being said in the other room. Let her go, what you want from her, she is looking for a son, one man said.  Another replied that I was a spy, I travel and collect information. I was saved by two men, also one of them. They knew my husband, and they recognized me. They helped me escape through the window, put me in a white Niva and drove me towards Agara. The whole time, I thought that they were taking me to kill me. But they took me to the village of Atotsi, which is not far from Znauri. They called two women from the village, Georgians, and told them to escort me to the border. There was no road, we walked through the field. Even today I do not know who these people were. I am still grateful to them. Finally, those two men told me not to come this way anymore, that they would recognize me and probably kill me. 

I returned home. After a while our fellow villager said that there are many prisoners in Sachkhere. Again I got ready for the road, but this time I went through the Kudar pass, from Sinagur not far from Oni. It's very far from here, until I got there, it was pitch black.  I met an old man on the street, I  asked him to put me up for the night. He took me home. His wife baked bread. They welcomed me with such an open heart. I told them why I came here, and what I needed to do in Georgia. This old man said that his sister lives in Sachkhere and that her children are Georgian. But don't think that they are these other kinds of Georgians, I raised them myself. They will go out of their way for you, he told me. On the second day, he took me to Sachkhere to his sister and for 7 days and nights I was with them. Every day her sons got up and took me to different places, looking for my son with me. But our search was again unsuccessful. They brought me back to Tson. I went on my own from there to my house. 

Once a fellow villager came to me, he worked as a bus driver and the Tskhinvali-Vladikavkaz route. He said that they approached him in North Ossetia and said, tell the woman there from Znaur, whose son was missing, Pukhaev, to come to Digora. No addresses were given, no names. I arrived in Vladikavkaz, stayed there with my relatives, and every day I went to Digora and sat there at the bus stop. On the fifth day, a woman came up to me and asked why I was sitting here every day, who I was looking for. I told her what the matter was. She said that her neighbors are refugees from Georgia, and maybe they know your son. She asked them, and it turned out that it was them. The man immediately came for me to the bus stop and took me home himself. I found his wife at home in mourning. She began to talk. She said that her son and my son were in captivity together. Her son managed to escape, but he died two months later, already in North Ossetia. They agreed that whoever could get out would inform the other's family of what had happened. He said that there is a cemetery in Kareli, and there are four unmarked graves, and they say that a guy from the village of Znaur is buried in one. This woman said that her other son lives in Khashuri, is married to a Georgian woman, and that I can go to him and he can help me find this place. I returned home, and again immediately got ready for the road.

Photo: Vladimir Svartsevich / Anastasia Svartsevich from the archives

I arrived in Kareli and went there to the police. I begged them very much, asked them to help me find and bury at least the bones of my son. They took pity, got the archives. It turned out that they had four unknown corpses during that period, and more than a year has passed since the disappearance of my son. They took out photographs and put them in front of me. Three of them were the bodies of men, about 60 years old. One was young, one might even say a teenager. And he had a tattoo on his arm: N. Bekoshvili. This wasn’t my son either. Then these police started asking if my son had any special marks. I said about the tattoo on his leg: "They got tired in the Urals." When one of the policemen heard this, he grabbed his head. He said that such a  description came with information. He called somewhere, they began to ask. All of a sudden, I felt bad and I fainted. I was picked up by an ambulance, I came to my senses in the hospital. On the second day, my daughter came to pick me up. I was very weak, spent 5 days at home, and 5 days later I went to that policeman again and asked him to see the document. He made a copy of that paper for me, it was the conclusion of a forensic expert from Mtskheta. And the document was sent by the prosecutor's office of the city of Mtskheta. I went to Mtskheta to meet with the prosecutor. There was little hope, I am Ossetian, who will meet with me? I thought. The secretary took the paper from me and went to the prosecutor's office. He accepted to see me. Who are you to this man, he asked. I am his mother, I answered.  Where have you been until now? He asked.  He said that they had received this case from the village of Dzevera. The corpse was washed  up by the river Representatives of the police and representatives of the prosecutor's office also went to examine it.

They took me to the cemetery where unknown people were buried. But no one knew exactly where anyone was buried. I got the exhumation allowance. I wasted a lot of time on that. I dug up 16 bodies, but none of them turned out to be Murat. It all cost a lot of money, I would return home, find money, and return back to Kareli. The last time I snuck out so my husband wouldn’t see me, he would not let me go. He said that the main thing is that we know that Murat is in the ground, and now we will have a memorial and stop looking. After that, my youngest daughter saw Murat in a dream. As if he gave her two black dresses with the words: "You will need them soon."

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