Rita Plotnikova and Midea MitrophanovaPhotos: L.Diambekova, Z.Dzheriev and V.Melnik from the Russian Red Cross Society
To come to the Russian Red Cross rehabilitation centre for the first time in the two years that she spent at home or in hospitals was not an easy decision for Natasha Satsoeva, age 29. Natasha, mother of three, suffered a terrible injury during the school siege in Beslan in September 2004 which left most of her body paralysed. “I was afraid to appear in society, but Larisa, my visiting nurse, helped me overcome my fears and now I do not regret it,” she said at the meeting organized by the Russian Red Cross in its rehabilitation centre in Beslan.
Of 500 disabled people living in Beslan, 200 are survivors of the hostage crisis in School no.1 in September 2004 and 173 of them have been beneficiaries of the Russian Red Cross psychosocial services. “This year we put more emphasis on social involvement,” says Zarina Kantemirova, head of the visiting nurses service in the Red Cross centre. “Some people were living in complete isolation and with this event, we wanted to bring them back into the community.”
“It was a very important step in the Russian Red Cross work,” says Ella Eloeva, Russian Red Cross programme manager in Beslan. “By involving former hostages in social activities we restore their resilience as well as strengthen the entire community. In this way we address both the psychological and social problems of the people”.
Red Cross psychologists started the meeting with a game that helped to break the ice and bring the 35 participants closer together in the big auditorium. “If such events are organized more often,” said Evgenia, “our life will be different. We will not feel isolated. We want to be part of this world and have a full life. We need each other and we thank the Red Cross for this unique initiative!”
As a measure of its success, the event, which was planned for just one hour, developed into a four-hour communication and a real performance. Arthur Galachiev, 15, left his wheelchair to demonstrate an exciting break-dance. “I do not like it when people show me pity,” he said. “I want to go in for sports, I want to dance and be active in this world, just like everybody else!” he said.
Albert Beppiev, 30, sang a beautiful song. He also told the audience: “We, the invalids, need such events – they bring us support and inspire us to be active.” Guests from the rehabilitation centre in Vladikavkaz, capital of North Ossetia, showed a movie on the life of invalids that was followed by a discussion. It was a very touching dialogue between those who have been living with disabilities since their childhood and those who were disabled two years ago. “Here I found answers to questions that tortured me for the two years as I have been bound to my wheelchair,” said Diana Murtazova, age 16.
A real surprise was an exhibition of small presents created by children in the Russian Red Cross summer camp and presented by Tatyana Shpotova, a colleague from the UNICEF programme in Beslan. She explained how you can create wonderful works of art despite your disabilities.
“It was a real pleasure to watch how participants were exchanging addresses and plans for the future. Nobody wanted to leave – and that was the best reward for us,” remarked Ella Eloeva, one of the organizers of the event.
Since January 2006, in addition to the international psychosocial support programme, the Russian Red Cross is implementing two other programmes for the affected population: medical and social rehabilitation in rest homes and sanatoriums, and additional education for children with disabilities who cannot attend classes on a permanent basis.
Together with the centre of ecological education, supported by UNICEF, the Russian Red Cross is planning a special artistic programme for children with limited abilities. “Nobody did such programmes here before,” remarked psychologist Oxana Tanklaeva. “I want to cry out loud to these people ‘You are NOT forgotten!’.