Писательница-документалист, поэтесса, автор дневников, охватывающих ее детство, отрочество и юность, на которые пришлись три чеченские войны. С 2002 г. стала работать как журналист. Член Союза журналистов России, член ПЕН-клуба. Получила диплом международной премии им. Януша Корчака в Иерусалиме сразу в двух номинациях (рассказ и документальная проза). В 2012 г. получила диплом премии А.Сахарова: “За журналистику как поступок”. С 2013 года живет в Финляндии.
Полина Жеребцова родилась в 1985 году в Грозном и прожила там почти до двадцати лет. Она считает себя космополитом, так как в ее роду множество разных национальностей. Отец Полины умер, когда она была совсем маленькой. Дед Полины по материнской линии, с которым у неё сложились дружеские отношения, Жеребцов Анатолий Павлович, работал в Грозном более 25-ти лет на телевидении журналистом-кинооператором. Бабушка Полины по материнской линии была профессиональной художницей. Дед по отцовской линии был актёром и музыкантом. Бабушка по отцовской линии была профессиональной актрисой.
В 1994 году Полина начинает вести дневники, в которых фиксирует происходящее вокруг нее. Ее дневники охватывают детство, отрочество и юность, на которые пришлись три чеченские войны. Учеба, первая влюбленность, ссоры с родителями – то, что знакомо любому подростку, – соседствовали в жизни Полины с бомбежками, голодом, разрухой и нищетой.
21 октября 1999 года ранена осколками при ракетном ударе по грозненскому Центральному рынку.
С 2002 г. стала работать как журналист. В 2003-2004 годы училась в Школе корреспондентов.
В 2004 году чеченский дневник завершен. Автору 19 лет.
В 2006 год получила диплом международной премии им. Януша Корчака в Иерусалиме сразу в двух номинациях (рассказ и документальная проза). Конкурс “террор и дети”.
С 2007 года в Союзе журналистов России.
В 2010 году закончила в Ставрополе Северо-Кавказский университет по специальности “Общая психология”.
С 2012 года принята в ПЕН-клуб.
В 2012 получила диплом премии А.Сахарова: “За журналистику как поступок”.
В 2013 году получила политическое убежище в Финляндии.
My name is Polina Zherebtsova. I was born in Grozny, Chechnya (20.03.1985).
I have a multiethnic family. My ancestors belonged to different religions. In my home the Torah, the Bible and the Quran stood beside on a same bookshelf. My grandfather’s library consisted of ten thousand books. When the First Chechen War started in in 1994, I was 9 years old. I began keeping a documentary diary. During the war my neighbors died, I fell in love, studied under missile attacks, prayed to different gods.
In 2011 inRussia, there was published only part of my documentary diary (1999-2002); however my husband and I had to leave Russia after threats from the Russian security services, and we asked for political asylum in Finland. The asylum was granted in 2013. Now we live in Europe and remember the time in Russia like it was a nightmare.
I compiled one book from my three volumes of my diary about Chechnya. These are historical materials that were reduced in volume and edited by the author. They cover the years 1994-2004 inChechnya.
These were important years that cover history of ordinary people, mystical dreams, victories and defeats. At that time I was 9 to 19 years old, so it covers childhood, adolescence and youth during a wartime.
The first published book of my diaries (1999-2002) caused a major stir in the world; it was discussed by BBC , Guardian , Reuters, Le Figaro and others.
In 2013 the book was translated into French, ( in 2014 Finnish ). It has also been translated into Slovenian, Lithuanian and, Ukrainian, German.
The Diary of Polina Zherebtsova
( part of the text)
24 September 1999
There was a bit of bombing today. The neighbours didn’t go to work because they are scared but I will go and help Mama at the market. There is a rumour at school that it is going to be closed. Everybody says a war is coming.
You can hear the roar of aircraft. Bombs are being dropped but for now they are far away. In central Grozny at the market I only feel the ground shaking. Nothing worse. I’m staying.
Anyway, where could I go? I will look after myself.
1 October 1999
Bombing yesterday and the day before. Rumours in the market that they have hit No. 7 Hospital. Local radio said 420 people were killed and about 1,000 injured.
The city is filling with rumours. Often the ‘information’ contradicts itself.
Professor Nunayev, a heart specialist we know, warned us in August there was going to be another war but we did not believe him. We stocked up with new goods.
On 6 August we heard that the widow of assassinated President Djohar Dudayev had left Grozny.
I don’t suppose being killed instantly is all that bad. What is horrible is being buried under rubble and dying in agony. I remember Russian old people dying like that in 1994 in the centre of Grozny. There was no machinery to shift the concrete slabs.
20 October 1999
This morning I couldn’t concentrate for a long time or calm down. I had been dreaming about a rock fall in the mountains, a huge avalanche. A lot of people died! I saw huge boulders flying, crushing, destroying. I hid, ran, fell… Small stones struck me painfully.
I woke up terrified and lay for a long time not moving. My arms and legs went numb. I had had more than enough fear in my dream, but then there was heavy shelling in reality. Still, everything is okay.
22 October 1999. Friday
Mama and I have been wounded, on 21 October. My dream has come to pass so unexpectedly and frighteningly. I saw a dead woman sitting at a table, and wounded people hiding in cafes and the stairwells of houses. Men, volunteer rescuers, were lifting casualties and filling cars with them. They gave priority to people who were seriously wounded.
It all began unexpectedly at about five in the evening. We had packed up the goods which were left over in two bags. One was mine the other Mama’s. Then we met Kusum with a child and stood and talked. Suddenly a bright flash lit up the sky which was still light. A loud bang followed. In fright we rushed back behind our counter and squatted down between the iron stalls. There was no other shelter nearby. An explosion! Then another! It sounded as if the same thing was exploding over and over again. We ran, losing our goods, into the courtyard of House of Fashion. That is in the very centre of Grozny, in Rosa Luxemburg Street.
While I was running an enormous piece of shrapnel, like an echo from one of the explosions, whistled by very close. It split not me but time, like warm water which has drained away, and I was left standing in a dry channel, immediately realising that neither Mama nor anybody else could save me from death if I shouted for help.
Death and me – just the two of us were linked together in this world and there was nothing that could come between us and shield me.
Everything became comical and unnecessary, belongings, bags, and all sorts of valuables. I realised that there was nothing at all I could I take with me to that place.
I felt a heavy blow and time returned together with fiery sparks which the shrapnel cut out of the brick wall of a house next to my head. Some little metallic jaws tore at my legs but I kept running by inertia. A few steps further on I fell and somebody picked me up.
We threw ourselves into the entrance of a residential block, but instead of an inner door there was a grille. We ran out into a courtyard in a state of shock and flung ourselves into the entrance of another house nearby, where a shop called “The Fisherman” used to be. When I squeezed into a corner and tried to sit down, I felt a piercing pain in my legs. Into this same entrance Mama and Kusum pushed a Chechen girl whose knee was torn to pieces. For the first time I saw that bone inside is white. She was in shock and only saying, “It hurts! It hurts!”
There were women and children in the entrance hall. Mama said she had a hole in the pocket of her coat and her hip was stinging. Another piece of shrapnel had hit her pocket. When the men looked into our stairwell everybody shouted that first they had to take the girl with the injured leg. She had lost a lot of blood. She looked between 17 and 20. They took her off.
Some more volunteer rescuers looked into the entry. They were young boys, and among them was Aladdin. They decided to take me to be bandaged in the pharmacy on Victory Avenue (the old bread shop). Aladdin carried me in his arms and whispered, “Don’t cry, my princess! Don’t be afraid. You’ll get help!”
They led Mama behind and didn’t even forget our bags of goods. They stayed calm in all the commotion. We passed through the courtyard of House of Fashion. I had lived there once with my mother and journalist grandfather. When I was being dragged away during the shelling I saw three dead people. They were lying apart from each other and somebody had covered them with cardboard. One was a woman, one a man, and who the third one was I couldn’t really tell but I think it was a child.
They took us to the pharmacy and a woman I didn’t know drew the shrapnel out of Mama’s hip. They only bandaged my legs because one fragment was deep inside and it would have been too painful to take the others out. Aladdin was kind to me, stroking my hair and gnawing at a bun. They decided we should go home because the hospitals were overflowing with wounded people. It is mainly old people, women and children who trade in the market. There are not many men there, practically none.
We were actually quite far from the epicentre, almost three blocks away. How many were killed? Some people we didn’t know at all took us back home in their car. I was partly deaf in both ears, there was a loud ringing, and I was half fainting. Everything was swaying around me. The people in the car said it was concussion. I heard somebody say several times, “Do Polinka good and receive good, do Polinka evil and receive evil.”
I think it is part of a prayer which should really be:
Do a modicum of good and receive good,
Do a modicum of evil and receive evil.
In Russian the word is ‘pylinka’ but my ears were ringing and what I heard in my semi-delirium was my name, ‘Polinka’.
In the morning the pain in my legs was worse.
I took painkillers and a sedative but the pain got worse and worse. I had just dozed off when our cat, smelling blood through the bandages, crawled under the blanket and sank its teeth into my right leg. It was dreadful. I beat her off with my fists. As soon as we had had breakfast, Mama went to ask the neighbours to take me to the doctors. The people upstairs agreed and we went in their Zhiguli-6 to No. 9 Hospital. That is our central hospital.
The doctors told us immediately, “You need an X-ray but it isn’t working. The electricity has been cut off and the generator disappeared during the commotion”. They sent me to the operating theatre anyway. It was on the ground floor and dark and dirty. A striped tomcat was strolling around. It rubbed itself against the legs of a chair and purred. Tearful people were standing by the open doors. There was blood everywhere, shreds of clothing, sheets of some kind. People were running about looking for their relatives and friends. Less severely injured people had been queueing to see the doctor since yesterday, sitting on chairs and the floor. Stifled groaning was coming from the relatives of people who had died in the hospital. A Chechen woman was wailing dreadfully. Her children had been killed. A middle-aged woman begged for money to pay for an operation and medicine for her son and somebody gave it to her.
The doctor who examined me was tired. He could hardly stand. He told us that during the night the electricity had been cut off several times in the middle of operations. They had operated on dozens of people and many had died. A young German reporter in spectacles and a check shirt was asking how many people had been wounded, how many had died in the night, and what were the main kinds of wounds? He asked me if I was frightened.
The doctor gave him the figures and said that in the confusion they had not registered everybody. That was why there was such a muddle and many people could not find those they were looking for. I did not memorise all the facts so I can’t write them down.
They forgot to give me an anaesthetic when they were investigating the wound and I screamed. I was ashamed of making so much noise. The doctor realised what he had done and gave me an injection. Mama had bought all the medicine and hypodermic syringes which were needed at the hospital kiosk. They gave me a tetanus injection. They looked for shrapnel but did not find it. “Without an X-ray there is nothing we can do. We will just mangle your leg to no purpose,” the doctors kept saying. “You will have to find somewhere they can X-ray it.” They removed only small pieces.
By this time Mama had a plaster on her hip. She could walk. We bought painkillers, a lot of bandages, surgical pads and disinfectant.