|LIFE ON THE OTHER SIDE|
I came here for Masha. So she’d have a future. But now . . . after the bombing, my life lost meaning. It’s like a huge road with a sign that says, road to nowhere. I don’t know how to go on without her. I can’t come to terms with her absence. Sasha and I sit there at night, and I tell him, You know, I have a feeling she just stepped out and will be back soon.
I live in my world, my family, and I think of Masha. She and I wanted to take a map and just point a finger at random, and go there, provided we had the money.
I wish I had more children. When this happened, I was in the first weeks of pregnancy. But then my body couldn’t cope with the pain. Now I don’t know how I can think of a baby. To bring him up, and every time I see him I would see Masha? How can I bring him up, how will I let him go out for a walk? But I am still hoping I’ll have children, or else my life is over.
I don’t know how I’ll live. The way I am now, people just take me by the hand and lead me. I cannot perceive what’s going on with me. A few weeks ago, I was at a caf? with friends, and a balloon popped nearby. I leaped up like a madwoman; I had a hysterical fit. I didn’t want to go see a psychiatrist, I thought I could cope, I have always considered myself a strong person. But I guess I’ll have to.
It’s hard for me to be outside. I look at every girl, and I see Masha. I can’t cope with this on my own.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I live in today. Friends would call me, Olga, what are you doing on the weekend? I always had something to say. Now I can’t.
I have always been a strong woman, I have always made decisions. I would never leave the house without lipstick on. For Masha, her mother always had to look well-groomed and well-dressed. After she was gone, I felt old, tired, broken. But then I told myself, Olga, get a hold of yourself. I went to the store and bought some attractive, fashionable clothes. Masha would be stunned by the way I look. Maybe with time I’ll recover.
I still don’t believe she’s no longer here. To lose God’s gift — your child . . . I would give my own life so that she would stay alive. But she’s no more, and I still have to live. I’m grieving and depressed all the time. Even my son Sasha says the house is empty without her. We have two things to mourn: one that she is no longer with us, and the other that her life broke off at sixteen. That she would never become a designer, that she wouldn’t be in the Army, that she wouldn’t get married and have children. She used to say to my mother — her grandma — that she wanted to graduate from university and then fall in love with a rich man and marry him. That’s how she was — she wanted it all! Her favorite book was called Everything and Fast.
She was really developed all-round, she wanted to do everything: ride horses, swim with dolphins, continue her art studies, begin music studies. She joined another girl from her class in taekwondo classes, and she was good at it. She wanted to compete internationally. She had many dreams and desires, and she was really becoming an adult lately. She loved animals; she had a cat and a dog, and on her last birthday, she asked me for a snake. Lately she had some parrots, and, I don’t know how, after the funeral, one of them escaped.
I see a doctor, she prescribes me pills that help me hang in there, but I still cry every day. But I meet people who sincerely believe that her soul is alive and remind me of this — the spiritual element — and I remember it, too, and I light the candle, so that she would know she is always remembered. Recently a friend brought an electric candle, and it is always on.
I know I have to go on. Thank God, I have another child, and I have to take care of him. I try to do everything for him. We live on donations right now, and I ordered furniture for his room, I take him to the mall, I give him money to buy things.
I attend every public event — rallies, exhibitions, concerts — related to the Dolphinarium.
A group of parents, including myself, will be filing a suit against the Palestinian Authority for the murder of our children. This is not about the money. I just feel the need to stand up for Anya. I have to do everything for her that’s humanly possible. Our lawyer wants to ask for damages amounting to what our children could have become. Anya was going to be a designer, Irina Nepomnyaschaya a musician, Mariana Medvedenko a computer graphics designer . . . How much they could do if their lives had not been cut so tragically, before their time!
I wanted to continue working as a doctor and even worked at Ikhilov for some time, but after this, I can’t think about work. The Asaf ha-Rofe Hospital agreed to hire me on the trial basis. But my memory has declined, I tire quickly, become absent-minded . . . I am afraid to work as a doctor. A doctor must be dynamic. I used to be a surgeon, I worked at Emergency, treating patients after traumas and accidents. My work will remind me that Anya never made it to Emergency. It’s hard to explain this state of mind. I don’t want to believe it, but I do know that she’s no more. I still see it all in my mind: the Dolphi, the explosion, them falling down, and her face, the way I saw it in Abu Kabir.
When Sasha is out, I try to go out, too, and invent for myself things to do. I leave the house in order not to be by myself. After her death I went to Eilat with other victims — she had wanted to go there. Now I visited it in her stead, and brought her the dolphins she loved so much.
My parents said, That’s it — once you get well, we pack up and go. I told them right away, I’m not leaving.
I don’t go to discos — how can I dance, if I can’t walk properly. I can’t say I’m completely ridden of fears, but I really look at people more closely, more carefully.
A lot of plans got disrupted. I wanted to make money for my studies. Now I don’t know if I can — I won’t be able to work the way I used to. I wanted to make a living for myself so as not to depend on my parents. I’ve always been depressed about asking them for money.
I’m sure that the Dolphi won’t be there, the way it was. I spoke to Kirill, the owner, and he said, No way. If they open something, it will be elsewhere, under a different name, at least a year from now.
After all, we’re here on a tourist visa. After what happened, I filed for a permit to stay. My case is pending.
At first, we had one thought only — get him cured as soon as possible. We were very fearful. “We’ll make the money and leave,” I told him. He keeps saying, “This is my country.” Where does so much confidence come from? He’s that kind of boy: I want it and I’ll get it!
Now things have quieted down. I guess it’s natural to get used to things. In wartime, life goes on, too.
Of course, you’re still afraid, you still look around in crowded places, you look at people closely. But one can live.
I can’t come to terms with Zhenya not being here. I feel like I’ll call her — and she’ll come. I feel she’s also in a hospital, in rehab, and can’t leave because her apartment is too small for a wheelchair. I feel like I’ll call her, and she’ll say she can’t go home, and I’ll say, Come to my place, and she will.
I don’t know if I will ever go to a disco. I’m afraid to go out at night. I’m afraid to go to Dolphi. I don’t understand why they’re opening a new disco there. They shouldn’t have a disco there.
I’m dependent on everybody. I can hardly do anything for myself, and that’s the worst. It bothers me a lot, that all the time someone has to be with me — parents, nurses . . .
Of course I heard that there’d be a disco in Dolphi again, but that’s nonsense. The owner doesn’t want it the way it was. I wouldn’t show up there. What if there’s people again, and a bomber comes again?
I’m afraid to ride a bus. Haven’t done it since that day. What if an Arab suicide blows it up, and I’ll get blown up, too?
He is still here with me. He was here, he walked on this ground, and wherever I go, I feel his presence. I want to believe it. I want to know Diaz is around, watching me. I look at his pictures, and he’s smiling as if he were alive.
I used to have dreams, but I don’t remember what they were.
Bella, Daniel’s sister:
He’s still under the psychiatrist’s observation. He is still tormented by nightmares. He has memory gaps, he’s very weak, he seems to fall asleep on the spot. He’s afraid to sleep by himself. If Mama sleeps in the next room, he would play with his PlayStation till five in the morning, and then he goes and wakes her up and asks her to sleep in his room. His latest dream was to be a deejay. He loves music, loves dancing.
Frida, Daniel’s mother:
I got my son back alive — that’s happiness! God gifted him to me!
Sasha Kazachkov, 12, Anya’s brother:
My darling beloved sister!
I’ll always love you!
Ever — ever — ever!
And no, I won’t forget you
Never — never — never!
It pains me all the time
That you’re not with me
I want you to laugh
Live and smile and be happy
But you’re not with me
My dear sister
I live, I work, and I think about Irina.
I was offered an apartment in Bat Yam, but I can’t keep pets there. I’m single. When I’m by myself, at least this dog is a living, breathing creature. But people are helping me to buy an apartment, and I’m looking for one now.
Irina was a very nice girl. She loved her mama and wasn’t afraid to show it. And then, she was very beautiful. She was special, not like others. She was like a sun that everybody is drawn to.
I can’t come to terms with her not being here. I want so much to hug her, kiss her. I haven’t had a chance to give her all of my motherly love. I would give everything for her to be here with us. She shouldn’t have left us so early. She should have grown up, become an adult — but for us, she’ll stay forever young. I wish she came to me in my dream so I could see her face.
I don’t like getting up early in the morning, because I know that this is the hour when she would be getting up, getting ready for school, having breakfast. And the feeling that she is not here — it’s killing me. I’m not happy to see the sun shine and hear the birds sing.
Irina dreamed of getting an education and going to England, because she wanted to speak English perfectly. She told me they had summer programs where children stayed with families. She wanted to go to Tel Aviv U. She wanted to join the Army. In her diary, she wrote, “I want badly that there would be peace, happiness, and love all over the world, that everyone be well, that the world prosper, that people love one another.”
Now, life seems to have stopped. We live in the same apartment, and every morning I come to her room, see her enlarged picture and say, Good morning! She seems to be smiling back.
Her room remains exactly the way it was — her books in the bookcase; her toys she loved so much. There’s a lot more pictures of her. And a candle is always lit.
When I feel poorly, I open the wardrobe with her things, and I inhale her body from her things. And I cry. It’s hard on her father; he loved her so much, and he cries all the time. He says he washes the floor in her room with his tears, and he’s right.
We live, we go to work, we see relatives and friends, we attend charity concerts. Socializing with other victims’ relatives is very important to us, because we understand one another like no one else.
I am a strong person by nature, but this grief has broken me down.
Fridays are hard for us. Every first day of the month we go to the memorial at Dolphi and then to the cemetery. It’s a must.
When I see her peaceful face at the cemetery, I feel better, as if we have communicated.
So, we go on, remembering her. She’s always in our hearts and in our memory. As long as our hearts beat and our eyes remain open, we will keep going to the Dolphinarium and her grave.
We also want the people to remember her and other children who died in the bombing — even after we are gone.
We were married for almost four years. We were introduced by friends. I went to school, and Jan was working. We lived well, we had fun and a lot of friends. Jan wanted so much to come here, to get on his own two feet and gain financial independence from his parents. He wanted to provide for us. He said, “I brought you to another country, so I must take care of you and the baby. We’ll be fine.”
I don’t think our life is over, because I still have a daughter. I’ll live for her sake. She constantly asks after her father. She has changed a lot. She used to be very calm, I could leave her with a baby-sitter. But now it is as though she has inherited her father’s energy. She runs wild, even hurting other children in the kindergarten, but the teachers leave her alone. She took it hard, because they loved each other a lot. She was his life. At first, she screamed; now she calmed down a little, but she remembers him a lot. The pain won’t go away. You can’t go back. You have to learn how to go on, for your children and family.
After those events, I got an apartment in Rishon, and moved there with my mother and daughter. Now I continue my studies — I haven’t finished Hebrew school yet. Then I might go to a computer school.
I used to wish we hadn’t come here. But then I thought, If Jan wanted it, if he brought us here, then this is our country. I buried him here. And I and my child will stay here.
Most of the time I spend in the rehab center: they stretch my muscles, and I relearn how to walk. My legs hurt a lot. People can touch me only if they moisten or put cream on their hands. Any dry touch anywhere hurts. It’s electric — as if I’ve been plugged into an outlet.
Galina (her mother):
The doctors say, It’s not serious. With time, the skin will get lighter and heal. But I still think we should go to a plastic surgeon. It’s impossible to leave it like this. She’s only sixteen! But we still have to wait until the nerves on both legs heal.
My life is still filled with her. I go through her pictures and personal items. I haven’t come to terms with her death; I understand she’s dead, but I can’t accept it. It doesn’t fit into my mind. I’m terrified by what’ll happen in five or ten years. I was past thirty when I had her.
I don’t really know if I’m living or just coasting. I heard someone say, Now we look at the world through our children’s eyes. But that’s no comfort. That’s self-deception.
Now I am mostly concerned with taking care of Marina’s memory. I collect all the articles, tapes — everything related to her memory. My own life makes no sense; I lost it with my daughter. At first, I said I didn’t want to live. But life goes on, and my son says, You’ve got me! But a son is a son, and a daughter is a daughter. All the plans I made, all my dreams and thoughts — all involved her. She was much younger than my son. Now, I live for today, and I don’t know what tomorrow’ll bring.
People say time heals. Nothing of the kind. This wound will never heal. My Raya was my only child and the meaning of my life.
For Raya and me, Israel was not just a springboard as it is for some. We came here to stay. She quickly learned Hebrew, she helped her friends, she dreamed of a brilliant future . . . She was going to be a tour guide.
I have brought her up alone since she was two. She was not an outgoing girl; she mostly stayed at home. When we came to Israel, she was only eight. She was growing up very modest and quiet, which is an oddity in Israel. People would even tell me she should be more assertive. And I never thought she would die such a terrible death, at the tender age of fifteen . . .
I moved into a new apartment, but it doesn’t help much. Children give you strength and meaning of life. A house without children is empty. I bought dolls on purpose: Raya loved them. I calm myself by knitting hats and dresses for the dolls . . . I constantly feel her presence next to me. This gives me the strength to go on.
I’m dreaming of having another child. Of course, I’m already thirty-nine, but I can’t imagine a life without children. I have to compliment Israel: they do everything for the children.
I can’t find energy for living. I don’t go anywhere. I only leave the house on errands, otherwise I don’t want to. I feel as though it’s not me, as if it’s not happening to me, as if my body exists separately from me. As though I was flying some place. Yes, I do have an older son. Of course, I love him. He is my firstborn, and I have invested a lot of energy in him. But the younger one, that’s different.
I’ll never come to terms with this grief. No one can replace Roman. I was proud of him. He was a talented boy. He was loved at work and at school. He had so many plans: to work, to earn money, to buy a car. He temped at a dental lab. They wanted to hire him permanently. His birthday is December 1. On that unlucky day, he was exactly twenty years and six months old. After college, he was to be drafted. When he went to work, I was constantly afraid. I told him, You’re going through Jaffa, and there’s so many Arabs there. It always made me nervous, and I was so relieved he was about to graduate.
I have no idea how to live on without my son. I don’t know how others get over it. I never thought this would happen to me. I don’t even know what will happen tomorrow — nor in a thousand years.
At first, we didn’t plan to come back to Israel. And then we ran into big problems — life is very hard in Ukraine. Everything reminded me of my son. And we decided to come back. We thought if we came back, things would be easier, less memories of him, but it turned out not so — here, everything reminds me of him, too. We still can’t come to terms with the loss — that we’ll never hug him again. He wanted to be a lawyer, and was working to save money for law school.
Now we are just hoping that our daughter will get married and have a baby. Maybe grandchildren will bring us relief.
At first, after this happened, my head was empty; I couldn’t think about anything. Two weeks after the funeral someone suggested computer school. At first, I agreed, but a day before it started, I called and pulled out. I said I couldn’t — nothing came into my head. I was in a fog, I couldn’t think straight. I kept waiting for the girls to come in. They used to go hiking or to a camp, they would stay over at their girlfriends’, we were used to their staying away for two or three days. At first, we didn’t even feel that they were gone. We waited for them to come in with their backpacks, smiling and tired, ask Grandma to feed them, and everything will be fine.
I still can’t get used to it. But life goes on.
I study Hebrew and computers; soon I’ll be taking driving lessons — I want to buy a car, it will be easier to go to the cemetery. At work, they promised to give me a loan.
After Ilya’s funeral, I didn’t eat anything for two and a half weeks. I lost twenty pounds. I just drank water and smoked. Friends visited me all the time. When I started walking, they would pick me up with a car. For a month and a half, I was gone from the house. Mama lost me. She kept calling me. I would tell her I was coming and then would stay over at my friends’. Then Kirill told me, “Anya, friends are friends, and a mother is a mother. She is having as hard a time as you are.” Then I came back home.
Mama and I fight sometimes to tears. But I understand her. She is tormented, too. She loved Ilya, too. Now life goes on. On the surface, things are back to normal. But inside, I’m not doing well without Ilya. I have new friends — those who survived the bombing. It is easier for me to be with them; easier to laugh, easier to cry. From time to time, we have trips organized for us, and we go together.
I visit Ilya’s mother. To talk to her, to be at his home, in his room; to touch the things he loved — it’s like being with him.
Ilya was not just my boyfriend and the man I loved; he was also my best friend. We told each other absolutely everything. Yes, we had fights, but we always made up.
I remember how we met, two weeks after I came here. I was outside, feeling real bad. I was sitting and crying. Roman came up to me. He was so cheerful. In the year and a half, I never saw him without a smile. Not even smiling — he was always laughing. Roman came up to me because, as I said before, he was really into girls. And started joking with me. And so I joined their group, and Ilya walked me home.
Then I was leafing through my phone book, and I saw I had three Ilyas in it. I didn’t know who was who. I called and got “that” one. I asked if he had recognized me. Who’s this, he asked. Anya, I said. A moment of silence. He hadn’t really expected me to call him. And then we were inseparable for a year and a half. We fought, we made up — there’s no family without fighting. We were planning to get married and rent an apartment. I realized that he was exactly the man I needed. And he realized it for himself, too.
I trusted him with everything. I knew he would never betray me.
I always wanted to become a vet. I love cats and dogs! When I came to this country, I changed my mind and decided to become a designer or a computer graphic artist. But now I’m studying to be a bookkeeper . . .
Mariana was a favorite daughter. I knew I should not single her out, and my wife scolded me, but I couldn’t help it. She was the most steadfast, the most focused. She knew how to set objectives for herself and achieve them. She wanted to study and get a trade. Younger kids don’t have that. Lately, she became closer to Sonya, took her out for walks, had long conversations with her. I think if this hadn’t happened, she would’ve influenced Sonya and forced her to go to school.
I don’t know what happens next. We make no plans. I don’t make long-term forecasts; I’m afraid to jinx them. What happens now in Israel inspires little hope for the future. We have to bring up the children. My wife and I don’t need anything for ourselves. I can’t get any pleasure out of life right now. I’m burnt inside. Empty.
I have children. But I have no joy.
I knew Mariana and Anya very well. They were good friends and always hung out together. I often sat next to Mariana at school; we talked about everything. Often, about life and psychology. We had been going out for about a month. I loved her.
We had fun together. We went to school dances together. We liked dancing there. She danced gorgeously. She liked slow dancing, and so did I. When I danced with her, it made me dizzy to look into her eyes.
I kissed her only once. She feared it for some reason. Only when we danced for the last time . . . She pressed herself against me. And that was the only time and the last time.
On May 29, I saw her alive for the last time. She was in a hurry, and we didn’t even have time to talk. I didn’t know she went to that disco. She didn’t like places like that. She spent most of her time at home — studying studying studying.
A friend of mine called me that night to tell me that Anya Kazachkova and Mariana Medvedenko had been killed.
I just fell down when I heard that. I was in a state of shock. I couldn’t get up. I couldn’t imagine never seeing her — them — again.
I didn’t see a single flaw in her. When you love someone, you love her as she is. I loved Mariana exactly the way she was.
I still can’t work. Suddenly, they diagnosed me with every sickness in the book. A pinched nerve, dislocated disks . . . I was told this is all neurological.
I can’t get used to his being gone. The very thought makes my legs and arms tremble, and my head stops working. Since birth, he was my best friend. The closest person, period.
Sergei was four when my first husband died. I stayed unmarried for seven years, alone with him. You can’t replace that. Never. All I can do is look at his pictures and hear his voice on the voice mail. They gave me his cell phone at the hospital. I still use it. His voice is on the voice mail: “This is Sergei. I’m not here, call back later.”
When I make a call from his phone, a picture of two intertwined hearts comes up — his heart and mine. I even had his gravestone made in the shape of a heart.
Unlike me, my husband and he wanted to stay here, but there was no chance. Who would let us stay here? On what grounds? Sergei used to say he would serve either in the Army or the police, in order to be useful to Israel.
He didn’t forget Ukraine, either. He said, I’d be both here and there.
If I have another child, I won’t call him Sergei. For me, there’ll always be only one Sergei who will serve as a role model for my future child. If I have him, I’ll always talk to him about his older brother. I’m not too superstitious, but to preserve his name I must know I have only one Sergei.
I’m not sure I’ll have another one. But living just for yourself is a terrible thought — understanding that no one really needs you; that no one will call you Mama.
I was saved by a book called Conversations with Vanga the Prophetess. I read it about three times; even pages started falling out. I realized there’s another world — another life. That communication with the deceased is possible. That’s what I believe in; that’s what keeps me going.
But I have never come to terms with his death. For me, it’s impossible. No matter how I could forgive everybody and everything in my heart, to come to terms with his death would be a mortal sin. I’d rather think of it as a long wait and hope for a future meeting. As if he went away.
We came here to live; we have made friends. We were thinking of sending our child to France. That is, live a normal life.
Now we live at the hospital.
The day of the bombing was the day the life stopped.
My wife is much stronger than I am. I had moments when I was ready to give up. I had thoughts, she should have died rather than go through this ordeal. It’s terrifying to think of the things she went through. She had no veins left, and they poured three liters of solution into her, she was in pain but she couldn’t resist any more — she just cried. She was not crying in bursts — just had tears flowing. It was terrible to look at.
Now I look at her and see her getting better, and I hope that things will be well. Whatever she has become, she is ours. And we will do everything for her to get even better.
She started saying certain words. She tries to stand up with our help. On weekends we take her home, but I don’t know how long she’ll have to stay in this rehab center — maybe a year, maybe a year and a half. She still has a long, hard rehab ahead of her. She has already had three eye surgeries, but she can’t see with her left one anyway. And the doctors aren’t promising anything yet.
After what happened, I couldn’t stay in this apartment. We had to move. I live, but I still don’t believe what happened. I don’t believe she’s gone. I’m still waiting for her to come back. It seems to me she’ll come back any minute.
Ludi Castaneda, Catrin’s mother, visits Alena all the time, brings her presents. The other day she brought her a watch with two dolphins. She says she saw it and couldn’t help buying it. I feel it’s hard for her to see Alena; she cries all the time as she remembers her daughter. But what can we do? How can we help? It’s not our fault that our daughter has survived, and hers has not.
She has a little son, three and a half years old, someone told him in the kindergarten, or else he thought of it himself, that it’s his fault that his sister got killed. He says he doesn’t want to live and wants to join her in Heaven. That’s a great tragedy . . .
I hope I can — I must — learn to live again. Because the life I have now —
Even if I have some genuine feeling — like listening to classical music, for example — I immediately berate myself: how can I enjoy it when she’s gone? Petya screams at night, jumps up, tries to run off somewhere . . .
I went to see a psychologist. She said I had a classic case of depression and I had to snap out of it because it often ends up in a suicide. All the policemen, she said, who were around the site of the bombing are still getting help.
I go on living. But I’m not well. Recently friends in America sent me a videotape they had shot here in Israel last year. Of course, Yulia is in it, too. I can’t bear to see it. She dreamed of going to America, and we wanted to send her there for vacation. It didn’t work out . . .
I quit my job. I had worked as a nurse at a retirement home for eleven years. But I couldn’t stay there. I kept looking at the old people and thinking how unfair it was that they were so old and yet alive, while my daughter was so young and dead. I was even angry at them despite understanding that it was not their fault. I realized I had to leave.
Now I decided to continue my education and take care of my family. I took driving lessons, so that I could go visit Dolphinarium or the cemetery whenever I feel I need to. I started studying English, just for myself, just to get my head working. I visit a psychologist — for practical purposes, so that after a visit I could go to the Dolphinarium and spend some time on the site where they died. I clean it, bring fresh flowers, light candles, talk with other victims’ parents. I didn’t know them before, but now we are like a big family, sharing a common grief, and we understand one another.
Our house is quiet now; it is especially sad on Fridays and Saturdays. No one fights over anything, no one laughs, and we hardly go anywhere on these days.
Sveta is my only hope for the future now. We’ll wait for her grandchildren. That’s all we got left.
I’m in bad shape without my sister. Life is boring without her. I don’t feel like wearing all these clothes we used to fight over. If I could ask her for one thing, it would be, Please come back. I don’t want anything else. But I know it’s impossible.
How she cried when I left for the Army and was away for two weeks. She called me every day and cried. And now she has left me alone for the rest of my life. How could she do that!
Sometimes I think it’s a good thing that she’s died and can’t see what’s going on in this idiotic world. I talk to her often. I believe she can hear me. I love Mom and Dad, but they’re adults, and they don’t understand things the way Yulia did. We shared every thought. All my life was linked to her. She was not just my kid sister; she was my best girlfriend. I remember how we would sit together on the terrace, our legs dangling between the bars, and watched the clouds, all of different shapes, and tried to figure out what this or that one looked like.
Saturday morning we would cook breakfast for Mom sometimes, macaroni or rice. Mom was tired after a week of working, she tried to sleep late, but we would wake her up — Breakfast! And she would drag her feet to the table, her eyes half-closed, all because we had worked so hard.
I want to be an accountant, and Yulia wanted to be a pediatrician. She loved little children, liked playing with them and taking care of them, and they loved her back.
We used to dream of the future, and I told her she would be the best aunt in the world, and she would say — you’ll be the best aunt in the world! We dreamed of driving our children to malls and going to Kapulski Caf? . . .
When I have a daughter, I’ll definitely call her Yael, after my sister. Not the firstborn — you can’t do that — but the second one. And I’ll be telling my children what a great aunt they would have had. I’ll tell my children about my dear sister just the way she was — laughing, sunny, beautiful.
I still haven’t come to terms with Simona’s death. I get up every morning and think it’s not true. So far, I don’t see a future for myself. Outwardly, I try to cope, but inside it’s pretty tough. I just don’t have a purpose yet — whom I should live for. I try to load myself up with things to do, to have as little spare time as possible, not to be at home, alone with myself. At work, I don’t want people to see and know what’s going on inside me. It all comes out at home in the evening. Weakness and tears — that’s only when no one can see me.
I’m not afraid of death at all; I no longer have a sense of danger. But I take care of my health, because I’m afraid of ending up an invalid in my old age. I go to the gym, meditate — do what’s needed.
Simona’s friends call me almost every day, and visit me on Fridays. I cook them dinner, which gives me a great deal of pleasure, and then we go visit Rita [Abramova] at the hospital. That is, we used to go — she’s been discharged already.
Recently was my birthday — they came with flowers and presents. It was nice. On the one hand, it’s hard; on the other, I see them as an extension of Simona.
Simona loved traveling, and, despite our limited means, we tried to show her the world. In her short life, she had managed to visit England, Greece, Turkey, Kenya, Denmark, Switzerland, and Lithuania, where she was born. In Kenya, she felt so sorry for little beggar boys; she cried when we ran out of candy to give them. She was a kind-hearted girl, always spending time on her friends, on doing things together.
Also, she was very much drawn to the elderly. She just couldn’t pass them up, and would listen to them for hours. She must have had a premonition she would never become one.
Whatever I do, she’s always with me. In our family, I was a Yiddische mama, spending time with her, teaching her things. That’s why I can’t get used to or come to terms with the loss. Every time I walk down the street, I suddenly see a girl with a hair color like Simona’s or wearing a sweater like the one she had —
I have been divorced for six years and wouldn’t even think about another woman until Simona got married. She was the Woman in My Life.
Now, of course, I’m thinking about it — in order not to be alone. It’s tough, though I try not to show it. But another child . . . No, Simona was the only one.
Irina, Simona’s mother:
It’s not good if people feel sorry for you all the time — people get tired of it, no matter how kind they are. It’s hard for me to see Simona’s friends.
When I talk to my daughter at her grave, I tell her, I’ll just stay here a little longer and then I’ll join you. This is what keeps me together and calms me down. What will come later — I don’t know.
I constantly have a feeling she stands behind me and sees everything I do — I say — I think. This is not a metaphor, I really feel this way. Every thought I have in my head is connected to her. I can’t say I don’t forget about her for one moment. I just remember her all the time. I only leave the home to go to work. I feel as if I were leaving her alone and sick. Like, your child is sick, but you have to go to work. You go, but your heart is still at home.
I never fainted. On Saturday, when we identified her body, they called an ambulance for me, and my blood pressure went up. But I didn’t have a fit, nor bang my head on the wall. I keep on living. Maybe I’m made of stone — I don’t know . . . The only thing I tell everybody is: if, God forbid, something happens to me, if I die, I don’t want anyone to cry for me. Because I won’t feel any worse than I do now. If God sends me death, it would be the best way out.
I don’t have a hope. My child was put in the grave and covered with rocks before my own eyes. My child is no more, and no one would ever bring her back. How shall I live? For what? The only reason I stay alive is that I’m afraid of sin. That is, not even the sin itself, but the consequences. Because I’m still hoping to meet with her. And if I take my own life, there’ll be no hope. I’ll live alone, as long as God measured out for me; I’ll preserve her memory, and — that’s all.
Even if they rebuild Dolphi, I won’t go there, because it’s a grave. You can’t dance and have fun at a place where so many children — whose life was barely starting — have died.
I will go dancing, but not there. I’ll only go there to light a candle and leave some flowers in their memory. In general, I really want to go to a disco, but I won’t, because my parents will be worried and stay awake all night long.
Physically, something broke in me. I always think only of our children. What did they feel in that horrible moment — pain? Fear? I don’t know. That’s why I’m restless. Maybe he was in pain; maybe he didn’t even have a moment to think about it.
I live on, but can you call it life? It’s so hard to distract myself, even though I have relatives — acquaintances — friends. But I don’t know how I can handle this, because I can’t come to terms with his absence. I felt him so closely. He didn’t have to tell me anything, but I could tell by his eyes that he had had a fight with his girlfriend, or something had happened at work. We were so close. He would say, Mama, how come you understand me so well? How did you know this?
We made plans together, but now — everything has come to a stop. I have the younger son. We won’t be around forever, so I thought Ilya would take care of him. I felt secure about the baby’s future. Now, there is no future. Of course, I understand that we must dedicate every effort to bringing up the second son. Giving him love, affection, attention — but the other half is missing.
We came here on November 18, 1992, from the town of Kentau. We came for the sake of our youngest, who is very sick.
I have to thank the doctors who did a lot to make the child whole again. We didn’t come for the big bucks or for an extra half pound of salami. We came because we needed treatment for our child.
Now . . . now we have two places that we visit regularly: the memorial on the site of the bombing and our son’s grave. Where can we go? How can we leave him? We’re staying here for good.
After what happened, I had a thought about leaving. Now I’m in the hospital; I don’t go out and encounter reality. But when I get out — I’m terrified to think that I’d want to go out for a walk, and will be afraid. Not so much for myself as for my friends and family. You never know where it will happen — perhaps right where you stand.
A few days ago friends drove me to the Tel Aviv promenade. First of all, I kept looking at people around — who’s there and what he’s carrying. When we were midway through, where the crowd is the biggest, suddenly someone shouted about a suspicious object, so they closed down half the promenade. And that was while I was in a wheelchair — where will I be able to go after I’m discharged? Maybe I’m not a great optimist, but I think that eventually people will start leaving, in order not to endanger their own lives and those of their families.
Even if they rebuild the disco, I’ll never go back. And if one of my friends does, I’ll never speak to him or her again. They took me there a few days ago in my wheelchair — that was my first time back. I saw bloodstains on the ground; they had never managed to wash them off. I saw kids our age who were walking to the disco next door and stepped on these stains.
It’s not as if this place should be holy, and no one should go there, but it’s like a slap in the face, because these stains are all that’s left from the twenty-one people who died there. I was standing there and thinking, This puddle of blood is perhaps all that’s left of Simona.