The Price of Dreams

All Rights Reserved ©

Chapter Nineteen

THEY RETREATED into the kitchen. ‘We need our ID cards,’ said Ruslan. ‘We’ll be okay as long as we can show we’re not Armenians.’

Tamara went into the bedroom to get them. They put them in their pockets.

‘Do you really think they’ll come inside this building?’ she asked.

Ruslan nodded. ‘Jesus. There are three Armenian families here, no four with the Babayans. What’s going to happen to them?’

‘Oh my God.’

‘Let’s bring them in here, they’ll be safer here than in their own flats.’

Tamara stared at him, her face a picture of pure terror.

‘Come on, Tamara. We can’t just leave them.’

After a moment, she breathed in sharply as if to brace herself, then she nodded her consent.

‘You go and get the Jibotians from the next floor up,’ said Ruslan. ‘You can see their names by the door.’

‘Jibotian?’

‘Yes. I’ll get the Derderians. Don’t make a lot of noise.’

‘It’s probably best if we leave our shoes off.’

‘Good idea.’

They hurried out. Ruslan scampered down the stairs to the ground floor. He ran along to the mailboxes and looked for the Derderians’ name. Flat 2-112, which meant going up the other staircase. He ran up, dashed to their door and knocked as loudly as he dared. After a minute, he saw a shadow in the gap under the door.

‘Comrade Derderian, it’s Ruslan Shanidza here,’ he said in Russian, almost at a whisper. ‘Why don’t you bring your family up to my flat? You’ll be safe there.’

The door opened and Ruslan saw the frightened faces of Mr and Mrs Derderian, a couple in their late thirties.

‘Bless you, comrade.’

‘Be quick, and leave your shoes off. We need to be quiet.’

The Derderians and their two young sons followed Ruslan down the stairs and across to Ruslan’s lift in their socks. Once they were safely in the flat, Ruslan ran upstairs and found Tamara outside the Jibotians’ flat on the fourth floor.

‘They won’t open the door,’ she whispered. ‘I know they’re in there but they won’t open the door.’

‘I’ll try them. Do you know the Babayans’ flat? It’s on the top floor, this side. Ask them which flat the other Armenian family are in. It’s this staircase, I’m sure.’

Tamara nodded and ran up the stairs to the top floor. As she came out of the stairway, she almost jumped out of her skin as she saw figures in the corridor. A young Azeri couple were shepherding some Armenians into their flat.

They all stared at Tamara.

‘Are you Armenian too?’ the Azeri woman whispered in Russian.

‘No,’ Tamara whispered back. ‘I’m Ruslan Shanidza’s wife.’

‘You’re not Armenian?’

‘No, but Ruslan says there are two more Armenian families on this staircase. Have you got both of them?’

‘Yes.’

‘Okay. Good luck.’

The Azeri couple nodded, and Tamara ran down the stairs to find Ruslan still outside the Jibotians’ flat.

‘Won’t they come?’

Ruslan shook his head. ‘What about upstairs?’

‘They’re with an Azeri family.’

‘That’s good.’

‘Come on. They aren’t coming.’

Ruslan looked at her. The noise of the demonstrators was by now terrifying. They had reached the courtyard down below.

‘Come on, for God’s sake.’

Ruslan nodded. ‘Comrade Jibotian, if you change your mind, we’re in 1-302.’

They both ran down the stairs. As they opened the door, Tamara saw Osman watching them from his doorway. She put a finger to her lips to gesture him to keep quiet. Much to her relief, he nodded.

Inside the flat, Mrs Derderian asked, ‘Aren’t they coming?’

‘Two families are with some Azeris upstairs,’ said Ruslan, ‘but the Jibotians wouldn’t open the door.’

‘Do you want us to try?’

‘It’s too late. You have to hide. Stay away from the windows whatever you do.’

‘If they come up to this floor, creep into our bedroom,’ said Tamara. ‘You should be able to squeeze under our bed.’

‘Where’s that big bedspread your sister gave us?’ asked Ruslan. ‘We should put it on the bed.’

Tamara went off to find the bedspread. Ruslan stood near the balcony, careful to stay far enough back not to draw attention to himself, and looked down into the courtyard below. There was a large crowd of young men and teenage boys. Ruslan recognised several faces from the neighbourhood, but the great majority had come from outside. They were no longer chanting slogans but were cheering two men who were standing on the balcony of a second-floor flat in the building opposite. A third man appeared on the balcony with a small armchair in his hands. He threw it off and the crowd cheered and clapped.

People were standing on about a third of the balconies in Ruslan’s field of vision. In some cases, parents had brought their small children out to witness the purging of their Armenian neighbours.

As Ruslan watched, the men disappeared into the flat, and then they and others returned and threw a TV, a sofa, more armchairs, a bookcase and a dining table off the balcony. The crowd below cheered as each object was thrown off.

Ruslan felt Tamara beside him, her hand holding his arm.

‘Don’t let them see you.’

The men carried more objects out onto the balcony and threw them off: clothes, plates, a fridge, more chairs and blankets. Then two of them appeared on the balcony carrying the limp figure of a man. Ruslan vaguely recognised him, though he didn’t think they had ever spoken. His assailants swung him, as if to throw him off, and the crowd began to clap their hands and chant.

‘What are they saying?’ asked Tamara.

‘Throw him off.’

‘Oh, Jesus. Oh no, please.’

The two men swung their hapless victim a few more times, then they nodded to each other and with a great heave threw him off the balcony to an enormous cheer from the courtyard.

Tamara turned round and covered her face with her hands. Ruslan watched the Armenian bounce off the balcony below and then fall down to land awkwardly on his fridge. The crowd applauded ecstatically, as did several people on balconies, including some very young children. A few turned away or sent their children back inside.

‘God that poor man,’ said Ruslan, speaking Ksord-Akhtarian so that the Armenians couldn’t understand. ‘If he’s not already dead, he must have broken his back.’

And then three more men appeared on the balcony, a wardrobe in their hands.

‘Throw it on him, throw it on him,’ yelled the mob.

The men on the balcony obeyed, and the wardrobe crashed down on top of the luckless Armenian. Ruslan couldn’t bear to see any more and turned round. Mrs Derderian was sitting white-faced on the sofa between her trembling sons. Her husband was standing nearby, his eyes darting from the window to Ruslan and Tamara.

‘Keep quiet and you’ll be safe,’ Ruslan whispered.

They all nodded.

It took the mob the best part of an hour to rampage through the first building in the diamond. Furniture, clothes, fridges and personal effects were thrown from three different balconies overlooking the courtyard, but much to his relief, Ruslan didn’t see any more people thrown off. Twice, the mob moved round to watch the destruction of Armenian homes on the other side of the building.

The leaders of the pogrom then turned their attention to the second building, throwing possessions out of three flats to the ecstatic cheers of the crowd below, but once again, no people.

‘I wonder if that means they can’t find the people, or if they just don’t feel like killing them in front of so many witnesses,’ said Tamara, speaking Ksord-Akhtarian.

‘I tell you what I want to know: where are the bloody police? They must know what’s going on.’

He turned round to the Derderians. ‘I think this building’s next. You’d better go and hide under our bed.’

They nodded and silently disappeared into the bedroom.

Soon the ringleaders were inside the building. Then came the muffled noise of the Derderians’ flat being ransacked and everything being thrown off their balcony to loud cheers from the crowd outside. Ruslan and Tamara didn’t dare go near the window. They sat on the sofa clinging grimly onto each other.

Ruslan was terrified of what would happen if the mob realised that they were sheltering Armenians. He couldn’t bear the thought of what they might do to Tamara. He had risked her future once before when he had refused to become a KGB informer, and now he knew he had placed her in even greater danger.

He closed his eyes and prayed silently, ‘Please God, please, she doesn’t deserve it. Please let me get away with it just one more time.’

Eventually, the noise of the pillaging of the Derderians’ flat subsided, and then, moments later, there were loud voices in the corridor outside their own flat.

‘This one – it says Shanidza.’

Ruslan felt Tamara’s body stiffen with fear.

He heard Osman’s voice: ‘What do you want with them? They’re not Armenians.’

‘What about her?’

‘She’s from Ksordia-Akhtaria, same as him.’

‘What are they saying?’ Tamara whispered.

‘They’re going to want to see your ID card.’

There was a loud bang at the door.

‘Open up, Shanidza. We know you’re in there.’

‘I’m coming.’

Ruslan squeezed Tamara and went to the door. He had never been so frightened in his life.

‘What do you want?’ he asked in Azeri.

‘Open up or we’ll fucking smash it open.’

Ruslan opened the door a little. There was a crowd of men outside, most of them young, but those at the front a little older. Ruslan only recognised one face, plus Osman and Yasemin, who were by their door, looking on anxiously.

‘We’re not Armenians,’ said Ruslan.

‘We know you’re not, but what about your wife?’

‘She’s Akhtarian.’

‘Prove it.’

Ruslan turned round to Tamara.

‘Show them your ID card.’

She got up from the sofa and walked towards the door, passing her ID card to Ruslan with a trembling hand. He showed it to the ringleaders.

‘Okay,’ they said and began to turn away.

Then one of them turned round. ‘You know the Armenians downstairs?’

‘Yes?’

‘Do you know where they are?’

‘In Armenia if they’ve got any sense.’

The mob liked the sound of this and laughed. ‘Just remember,’ said one of them. ‘This is just between us and them. It’s got nothing to do with you.’

‘I haven’t seen a thing.’

The mob headed off towards the stairs. Ruslan caught Osman’s eye, and for a fleeting moment they exchanged a glance of mutual understanding before disappearing into their respective flats.

Ruslan and Tamara embraced.

‘You okay?’

Tamara nodded. ‘It’s a good job you can speak Azeri. I reckon they’d have just killed us anyway if you didn’t.’

‘I hope to God the Jibotian family have got out.’

A few seconds later came the first crash as the Azeris began to smash open the Jibotians’ door. Five crashes and they were in, and from the screams it was clear that the Jibotians were still there. Ruslan and Tamara stood frozen, holding onto each other as the shouts, screams and crashes continued.

After a few minutes, they could hear a rhythmic chant of ‘Go, go, go, go…’ coming from the mob, followed by a round of applause.

‘They’re raping them,’ said Ruslan.

‘Oh, Jesus.’

‘Their daughter Izabella’s only about sixteen.’

‘Poor girl.’

‘The sons of sluts. Jesus Christ, the sons of sluts.’

The noise of the rape was interminable. On and on it went, resounding throughout the building. Tamara wept as she listened. They counted eight rapes before the mob had satisfied itself, and then came the sound of furniture and other goods being thrown from the Jibotians’ balcony and the ritual of cheers and applause from below. Ruslan wondered if the crowd in the courtyard knew what had happened upstairs, and if their blood lust was so great that they would have applauded that too.

He and Tamara positioned themselves by the side of their balcony window so they were able to see what was thrown out. Once again, furniture, clothes, a TV, books, blankets and a fridge were all sent flying, but no people.

Finally, the Azeri mob ransacked the two flats on the top floor inhabited by Armenians. There were no screams, so at least the people were safe.

‘As long as they don’t search the other flats for them,’ said Tamara.

‘They’ll assume they’ve all done a runner.’

‘I hope so, otherwise we’re in big trouble.’

Ruslan held her tight. He knew he would never forgive himself if anything happened to her.

Eventually, the mob left the building and turned its attentions to the fourth building in the diamond. Tamara crept into the bedroom.

‘You can come out now. But keep quiet, and keep away from the windows.’

The Derderians slowly squeezed out from under the bed, covered in dust and white with fear. They looked like ghosts but were very much alive and smiled as they brushed the dust off each other and crept back into the living-cum-dining room. None of them said a word. They could still hear the baying mob in the courtyard. The danger wasn’t over yet.

After ten minutes, there was a gentle knock on the door. Everybody froze.

‘Who’s that?’

‘Comrade Ruslan, it’s Deniz Kandemir from upstairs,’ said a familiar Azeri voice.

Ruslan nodded at the Armenians, who instantly began to creep back into the bedroom.

‘What do you want?’

‘Is your wife a doctor?’

‘Why?’

‘Could she come and look at the Jibotian family upstairs? They’re in a pretty bad way, especially Ghazi.’

Ruslan looked enquiringly at Tamara and then realised she hadn’t understood.

‘He wants you to go and look at the Jibotians. He says they’re badly hurt.’

‘Do you think it could be a trap?’

‘Deniz is all right. I know him.’

‘Will you come too?’

‘Of course. I’m not letting you out of my sight.’

Ruslan and Tamara went out into the corridor, locking their door behind them. They followed Deniz up the stairs and into the Jibotians’ devastated flat. What hadn’t been thrown from the balcony was strewn all over the floor. In one corner was Deniz’s wife Serin, comforting the Jibotians’ twelve year-old son. In another lay Mr Jibotian, doubled up in a foetal position, clutching his abdomen. His wife and daughter were kneeling beside him. Their faces and throats were bruised and their clothes were torn. It was obvious that both had been raped.

‘They stabbed him,’ Mrs Jibotian said, pointing at her husband.

‘Where?’

‘In the stomach.’

Tamara knelt down by him. She felt his pulse by his Adam’s apple and quickly checked his breathing. His pulse was high, his breathing rapid and shallow. His skin was pale, cold and clammy.

‘What’s his name?’

‘Ghazi.’

‘Hello, Ghazi,’ she said in Russian. ‘My name’s Tamara Dadianova. I’m a doctor. I just want to look at your abdomen. Can you roll onto your back for me? Come on please Ghazi.’

Tamara gently lifted up his legs and rolled him onto his back.

‘Ghazi, can you move your hands for me, please? I need to examine your wound.’

She looked up at Deniz: ‘Can you get me three pillows and two blankets?’

‘Okay.’

‘Ruslan, can you bring my first aid kit?’

Tamara moved Ghazi’s hands out of the way. He had been stabbed in his lower left abdomen. She opened his shirt and trousers and saw the puncture wound clearly, but there was no evisceration. There was a lot of blood on his clothes, but in terms of external bleeding, the situation wasn’t catastrophic.

‘Did you see the knife? What kind was it?’

‘I don’t know, maybe a flick knife,’ said Mrs Jibotian.

‘How long was it?’

She held up her fingers twelve centimetres apart.

‘Ghazi, can you hear me?’ Tamara asked.

His eyes flickered and he looked at her.

‘Ghazi, I’m a doctor. You’ve been stabbed but you’ll be all right. Your wife and children are here. They’ve all survived. Mrs Jibotian, Izabella and you too,’ she said, looking at the Jibotians’ son. ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know your name.’

‘Martin.’

‘Martin. Please can you all come and let him see you so he knows you’re alive. Keep talking to him, try to reassure him and keep him conscious.’

Martin crawled over to his father. The boy had a bloody nose and mouth but seemed to be able to move quite normally.

Deniz returned with three pillows and two blankets. Tamara gently placed one pillow under Ghazi’s head and two pillows and a rolled-up blanket under his legs.

‘Is he going to be all right?’ asked his wife.

Tamara said nothing, she was busy looking all over his body for evidence of other wounds. There was bruising on his face and some external bleeding around his mouth and his right ear.

‘There aren’t any major veins or arteries down there, and his internal organs haven’t eviscerated: they’re still inside. But your husband’s gone into shock so there must be some internal bleeding.’

By now, Ruslan had returned with Tamara’s first aid kit.

‘Ghazi, I’m going to put a sterile dressing on your wound and a bandage to hold it in place. Can you hear me?’

Ghazi moaned slightly.

Tamara placed a gauze pad on his wound, then deftly wrapped a bandage around his abdomen and tied it up. She looked at his wife and placed a hand on her arm.

‘He’s going to be all right. We have to take him to a hospital, but he’ll be fine once he gets there. I’d like to examine you and Izabella and Martin to see if you need to go to the hospital too. Is that okay?’

‘Yes.’

‘Izabella?’

The girl looked at her mother and nodded.

Tamara spoke to Serin: ‘Can I examine the women in your bedroom?’

‘Of course.’

‘Would you like me to examine you separately or together?’

Izabella spoke to her mother pleadingly in Armenian.

‘Together.’

‘Martin,’ said Tamara. ‘I need you to be really brave, okay? Stay here and talk to your father. You have to reassure him, tell him everything’s fine, you’re all going to be fine. Now I’ll put this blanket on him because he’s quite cold, but can you stroke his forehead and take the blanket off if he gets hot. Can you do that for me?’

Martin nodded.

‘Good boy.’

With some difficulty, Izabella and her mother stood up and hobbled out of the flat, supported by Tamara and Serin. Ruslan and Deniz surveyed the debris.

‘It makes you pretty sick, doesn’t it?’ said Ruslan.

‘It makes me ashamed,’ said Deniz. ‘Today I’m just so ashamed to be an Azeri.’

The mob outside cheered as its heroes appeared on yet another balcony in the next building.

‘How are we going to get him past that lot out there?’ asked Ruslan.

‘I could take him in my car.’

‘Yes, but how do we get him to your car? Those bastards will tear him to pieces.’

’Do you know Muallim Duran on the ground floor? He’s always been a good friend of theirs. If we can get him into his flat without the mob noticing, we can pass him out of the kitchen window and into my car.’

‘We’ll need some kind of stretcher to carry him.’

A voice spoke from the doorway: ‘I’ve got a stepladder, you can use that.’

They turned and saw Osman.

‘Yes,’ said Ruslan. ‘We can tie him to that. It won’t be very comfortable but it’ll do.’

Deniz’s wife Serin returned with Izabella, who spoke to her brother in Armenian. He got up and went next door, while Izabella knelt down next to her father and began to speak to him gently, stroking his hair.

After a few minutes, Tamara returned. She took Ruslan, Deniz, Serin and Osman to one side.

‘Ghazi has to get to a hospital urgently or he might die. He’s already in shock, and I’ve got no way of knowing how much internal bleeding there is.’

‘What about the others?’

‘I don’t know. I would have thought trying to get them to hospital would probably be more dangerous than keeping them here. I think Martin’s okay. Both of the women are haemorrhaging slightly, but it doesn’t look too bad. They’ll probably be all right for a day or two, as long as they see a doctor after that.’

‘We think we know how to get him out of the building,’ said Ruslan. He explained the plan and Tamara agreed to it.

She told them to put some blankets on the ladder to soften it, with cushions under his head and his knees. ‘And if you have to take him down the stairs, keep him as level as possible but with his head lower than his feet if need be.’

Osman went to get his stepladder, and Serin went downstairs to check the coast was clear and sound out Muallim Duran.

‘Will you come with us?’ Tamara asked Ruslan.

‘What? There’s no way you’re going.’

‘Of course I am.’

‘Tamara, everybody thinks you’re Armenian. Haven’t you noticed?’

‘But I’m not. He’s my patient and I’m not leaving him.’

‘Tamara!’

‘No, Ruslan. I’m going, and I want you to come with me.’

He looked at her in complete exasperation. For a moment, she reminded him of Nina, but then again, she had always been able to put her foot down when she wanted to.

Soon they had tied Ghazi to Osman’s ladder. His wife and children kissed him and said their goodbyes, and then Ruslan, Deniz and Osman carried him to the stairs and down to Duran’s flat. Deniz walked through the mob in the courtyard and out into the street. He got his car and pulled up outside Duran’s kitchen window. There was nobody in sight. Ruslan and Duran passed Ghazi through the window, then Tamara clambered out and they got into the car, Ruslan in the front, Tamara perched on the back seat next to Ghazi’s raised legs.

Deniz drove fast towards the nearest hospital. Here and there they saw groups of young men carrying televisions, video recorders and other looted items. In other places, they saw piles of furniture and other belongings that had been thrown out of flats. Ruslan thought he saw one dead body but said nothing to the others. To his relief, nobody seemed very interested in them.

As they approached the hospital, they saw their first sign of the police, who stopped them at a roadblock.

‘We’re taking him to the hospital. He’s been stabbed.’

‘Okay.’

Deniz pulled up outside the entrance. Ruslan and Tamara got out of the car and ran inside, to be met by a scene of absolute chaos. There were scores of injured Armenians, their distraught relatives arguing with the staff.

Tamara ran up to a senior nurse. ‘Hi, I’m a doctor. I’ve got an abdominal stab wound in the car outside. He’s in severe shock.’

The nurse nodded, and within minutes Ghazi had been loaded onto a stretcher and taken inside.

‘I’m going to stay here and help,’ said Tamara.

‘Okay, I’ll wait for you.’

‘There’s no point. I’ll be here for ages. And the police are here, so I’ll be safe.’

‘But…’

‘No, you go home with Deniz. You’ll be more use back there looking after the Derderians.’

Reluctantly, Ruslan nodded. They kissed four times and said goodbye, but then as Ruslan turned away, Tamara caught his arm. ‘I gave my old name, I’m sorry.’

‘Pardon?’

‘When I introduced myself to Ghazi, I said my name was Tamara Dadianova.’

‘It doesn’t matter.’

‘It does to me. I’m sorry.’

Ruslan smiled. ‘You know, when I saw you in action, I could see what a brilliant doctor you are.’

‘Well you wouldn’t want me to be crap, would you?’

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.