Chapter-8: They May Come Back and Kill Us for Entertainment

August 7, 1996

Grozny, Chechnya 

By Indradyumna Swami

6:20 a.m. The night was relatively peaceful. Some devotees say that there were a few explosions, but luckily I didn’t hear anything and had a deep sleep.

7:25 a.m. Took a bath and applied my tilaka carefully. Water is limited now, so each of us has only one bucket to wash clothes and bathe ourselves.

9:00 a.m. I chanted japa in the temple room. I found myself taking shelter of the holy names. Our situation here is practically hopeless. We are surrounded by fighting soldiers on all sides. Somehow it’s easy to call out to Krsna the way a young child cries for its mother. Completed twelve rounds.

10:00 a.m. Bad news again. We were told that the hospital where Andrei was admitted was totally destroyed by missiles from Russian helicopters last night. Yesterday, Yoginatha visited him and brought him beads and prasadam. He said that Andrei, although in pain, looked cheerful and was accepting that everything was happening by Krsna’s will. But now the hospital is completely finished.

We ventured outside and saw that the area where the hospital was is simply a mass of bricks, cement, glass…and bodies. Just yesterday people were moving around there, talking, working, and thinking. Now it’s a horrible picture.

We couldn’t find Andrei among the dead bodies. So there is some hope that he somehow survived and was evacuated elsewhere: rakhe Krsna mare ke mare Krsna rakhe ke. (‘If Lord Krsna protects a person, who can kill him? And if Krsna desires to kill someone, who can protect him?’)

12:00 p.m. Back at the temple we sang prayers together and had Srimad-Bhagavatam class. No one has to be encouraged to come to class here. It’s a real shelter for us.

Sergey came back from the farm where we are hiding the van. He intelligently let the air out of the tires and took a few parts from the engine so that no one could take the van. Now we are all together again, except for Andrei.

1:00 p.m. The fighting in our neighborhood is increasing. We took prasadam in the corridor because bullets are coming in the rooms through broken windows and ricocheting off the walls. Now when we move somewhere inside the building, we have to crawl on our stomachs.

3:10 p.m. I was lying on the floor of the temple room listening to a bhajan tape of Srila Gurudeva, but I fell asleep. I was exhausted.

5.30 p.m. Tried to chant japa. To chant attentively is more important to me now, but I managed to concentrate on only a few rounds. Some of us talked prajalpa about military topics. It’s hard not to discuss those things in this situation. Shooting outside is still very fierce. Only God knows when all this hell is going to stop.

7:50 p.m. I was reading from the Second Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam when the electricity cut off. So I took a bath in the darkness again.

8:50 p.m. Two Chechen fighters came into the school. One of them was just a boy of about 13. He was carrying an AK-47. They started to look for something to eat. Not finding anything, they took Anila’s Walkman and Kalikrit’s wrist watch. When Kalikrit tried to resist them, they hit him. They also took my shoes.

When they started to leave, I followed them and tried to explain that what they had done was not right. I started to explain the law of karma, but when I mentioned the name of Allah, they became furious.

The young boy pointed his machine gun at my chest. “You want me to shoot you?” he shouted. The eyes of a religious fanatic stared me in the face. I started to chant Hare Krsna in my mind. He hesitated and didn’t pull the trigger.

His friend said, “Hey Musa, either kill him or let’s go. We’ve got no time.” The boy took his gun away from my chest and walked away: rakhe Krsna mare ke mare Krsna rakhe ke. (‘If Lord Krsna protects a person, who can kill him? And if Krsna desires to kill someone, who can protect him?’)

I ran back into the school and leaned against the wall, breathing heavily. I thought, “I made Krsna serve me by risking without any need.”

10:00 p.m. This evening we all discussed that we should be very careful not to upset the rebels. Immediately the fear of death again appeared in my heart. If the Chechens are not pleased with us, they may come back at any moment and kill us, simply for the sake of entertainment.

After the meeting, I started to chant japa again. The only way I can keep my mind clear of all anxieties and fear is to chant. We held another meeting later in complete darkness, but after thirty minutes we were chanting Nrsimha prayers because missiles started exploding all around the school. I looked outside (a risky thing to do) and saw that a broken gas pipe nearby was burning furiously due to leaking gas. We decided to leave the school tomorrow morning. It is simply too dangerous to remain. We have to go somewhere else.