Boy in Hostage Videotape Recounts How He Survived the Beslan Ordeal
Published: September 14, 2004 (Issue # 1003)
VLADIKAVKAZ - In a terrifying videotape of the Beslan school hostage-taking, Georgy Farniyev, 10, sat near a bomb, his hands behind his head and his face a mask of misery.
He looked certain to die, but survived through luck, self-possession beyond his years and enough grit to pull shrapnel out of his own arm.
On Thursday, Georgy spoke of his ordeal from the back of an ambulance that was about to take him to a plane for Moscow, where he was to get treatment for his injuries.
It was the first day of school when the attack began Sept. 1, and Georgy remembered lining up with his classmates when the gunmen arrived, shooting into the air and herding the parents and children into the gymnasium. He was there with his aunt Irina and 6-year-old cousin, Elbrus, who also survived with injuries.
"They told us to 'sit tight and if you scream we will kill 20 children.' One terrorist had 20 children [of his own] who were killed, and because of that they came to kill us," Georgy said.
There was not much water to drink, and only a few people were allowed to go to the bathroom during the attack, Georgy said.
"Children, women and even men were fainting. They were not giving us water," Georgy said, appearing emotionally numb from his ordeal and his train of thought swerving back and forth as he recounted his experiences.
Some of the terrorists had beards, and one was clean-shaven, and he said the women were wearing what looked like money pouches, "but there was no money, only explosives."
The attackers busied themselves with placing bombs around the gym and hanging explosives from basketball hoops after they first arrived. On the second day, he said the terrorists killed some adults and one girl-shooting one victim before the eyes of the gathered hostages in the gym but taking the others who were killed elsewhere.
On the tape, apparently taken by the attackers, Georgy was sitting close to the side of the gym where some of the explosives were concentrated-which other survivors said would likely have caused his immediate death when they went off in the chaos that ended the standoff last Friday. He said he had been directly on a square-shaped explosive.
"One of the mines was right under us," he said. "There were a lot of explosives, grenades, bombs." But at one point later Georgy was told to move, a move that apparently saved his life.
"When they started to shoot and the bomb went off, it didn't do anything to me, not even a scratch," he said. "There was shooting, grenades, bombs."
Georgy rushed from the gym to a nearby room, then to a cafeteria where he was hit by some shrapnel in his right knee and left upper arm. Fleeing for his life, he limped into a kitchen and hid in a closet.
Georgy pulled the shrapnel from his arm and cleaned it with water, but was unable to pull the shrapnel from his knee.
He said he found a telephone and tried to call for help, but it was broken. Earlier the terrorists had destroyed hostages' cellphones with the butts of their rifles, he said.
As he remained hiding, he said a soldier later approached and asked, "Are there any more Chechens?" "I said 'No,"' Georgy said.
Someone then took his hand, and he was passed out a window and into a rescue vehicle to be taken away, but was separated from his relatives.
Georgy was to be treated for
complications of the knee injury in Moscow.