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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 September 2005, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
Beslan's unending trauma
By Steve Rosenberg
BBC News, Beslan, Russia

In the corridor of the health centre in Beslan, eight children sit waiting their turn to see a psychologist.

Among them is eight-year-old Atamaz. He is sitting with his face buried in his grandmother's dress. Zara tells me about her grandson.

A Beslan teacher is overcome at the grave of one of her pupils
Grief over the massacre is still raw

Atamaz had been a hostage in School Number One, where he saw his father being executed by the gunmen. In a whole year this is the first time Atamaz has come for psychological help.

"My grandson is terrified," says Zara.

"He walks around the house clinging to his mother's skirt. He is too scared to go to the toilet by himself. He gets up in the middle of the night and tries to find a place to hide. Then he cries out 'They are shooting at me, they are shooting!'."

Atamaz is not alone. There are many children and adults in Beslan who are struggling to cope with the consequences of last year's tragedy.

"It may last 10, 20, 30 years," psychologist Alexander Vanger predicts.

"What's more, the next generation may suffer, too, from this psychological trauma."

Consumed by revenge

Alexander is one of Russia's most experienced child psychologists. He is leading a rehabilitation project at the medical centre Atamaz has come to - a project funded by the UK-based Charities Aid Foundation.

Tammik is not interested in his school work any more, he just wants to kill
Tammik's mother
"Many of the people who come here have fears and phobias. They have agoraphobia - a fear of open spaces. They suffer from claustrophobia - a fear of enclosed spaces. They have fear of darkness and a fear of society."

Atamaz is led into a room full of toys, games and former hostages. Together with the psychologists they play a game called 'Back to School' - rolling dice and moving their counters closer to a little school drawn on the edge of the board.

For Atamaz they are his first gentle steps on the road to recovery.

For others who survived the Beslan school siege, it is not fear which dominates their lives, but anger.

"My 15-year-old son Tammik is consumed by thirst for revenge," Larissa Mametoza tells me in the ruins of School Number One.

"Tammik is not interested in his school work any more, he just wants to kill. I thought about sending him to Moscow to study but he said, 'Mum, if I see any Chechens there I will kill them'."

Politics of envy

You can understand the fear, the anger, the hatred, but in Beslan today there is one powerful emotion that defies belief, and that is envy. Envy felt by some of those who were not taken hostage.

They see victims' families receive compensation, cars, humanitarian aid and they begrudge them.

Alexander says he has witnessed conversations in town recently which have shocked him.

He says, "I have even heard one awful statement: 'When they take hostages the next time, I will round up all my relatives to be hostages and then we will receive all these benefits'. So the level of social tension is even higher than immediately after the tragedy".

Such talk prolongs the pain of those who suffered, making it even harder for them to move on.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See the emotional memorial ceremony in Beslan



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