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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 August 2005, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
Beslan children still tormented
By Ewa Ewart
Producer, Children of Beslan

Laima Torchinova
Every day Laima draws pictures of the attackers before burning them
In the basement of his Beslan home, seven-year-old Chermen is kicking boxes with a surprising energy given his age and his tiny frame.

His face is tense and betrays the turmoil he is feeling.

But when we sit down to talk, he regains his composure. Looking straight into my eyes, he answers my questions with clarity and confidence.

"There is no God. There is only military force. I believe in Russia and in our armed forces.

"That's what I believed in during the terrorist attack."

Chermen is a survivor of last year's attack. On 1 September, pro-Chechen gunmen seized School Number One in Beslan. More than 1,000 adults and children were held inside for three days.

Drawing of gunman by Laima Torchinova
I draw the terrorist and burn them for all the children who died in the school. I want to take vengeance on them
Laima Torchinova

When the siege finally ended, 171 children and more than 200 adults were dead.

A year on, he seems to be coping well. He has started to play his beloved computer games again and he smiles frequently.

But as he recalls those three days in hell, his memories are as vivid as ever and reveal that his pain is unresolved.

"After the first explosion, a terrorist's grenade was hit by a bullet. They all had grenades slung round them. He blew up and his brains hit me in the face. It was horrible. It was fatty and slippery."

During the siege, Chermen's eardrums burst and doctors told him that he would never regain full hearing. He seems resigned to that verdict.

Friends lost

For him, other losses he has suffered are far more significant.

Beslan cemetery
Angry survivors still want officials to answer for what happened

"I was with my best friend Oleg inside the school. When the siege started, we tried to run together but I lost him. Later on I found one of the sleeves of his sweater. I never saw Oleg again. I found out that he had died.

"He was my very best friend and I really miss him. If you could measure it in electricity volts, it would be 9,000 million volts."

A familiar tension reappears on his face.

"I feel pain. And also rage. And since then I want to avenge Oleg's death. If I were president, I would order them to send unarmed terrorists to me and I would, with my bare hands, using a knife, slit their throats."

Chermen Bugunob
I was with my best friend Oleg inside the school. When the siege started, we tried to run together but I lost him
Chermen Bugunob

In a small flat in one of Beslan's characterless compounds, nine-year-old Laima draws a picture. It shows an armed terrorist, his face covered by a mask.

She draws several pictures until she is finally happy with the result. Then she picks it up, tears it to pieces and sets it on fire with matches.

"I draw the terrorist and burn them for all the children who died in the school. I want to take revenge on them for killing those children."


Since her lucky escape, Laima has been engaged in drawing and burning these pictures almost every day.

"It's never enough. It is impossible to get enough revenge. All my life I will have to do it, because of how they held us for three days."

Aerial shot of derelict remains of School Number One
Explosions and fire destroyed the school

Laima was on her own when she was caught up in the siege. As she is telling me her story, she pulled out something from under her blouse.

"I found a little cross on the gym's floor. I kept it on me for all of the three days. It helped me to survive.

"I had a dream that I was running out of the school and I saw a pram. I ran up to it and I saw myself in there. I asked my Mum what it meant, and she said 'You were reborn'.

"I understood that when I escaped from that hell, I was reborn."

Children Of Beslan, produced and directed by Ewa Ewart and Leslie Woodhead, was broadcast on 30 August on BBC Two at 2100BST.

Children who survived the siege tell of their ordeal

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