Grandfathers, fathers and sons

In the morning train from Brest to Terespol four second-class carriage. In the first two go Belarusians, the rest of the refugees Packed their families in the Quad coupe. Everyone is silent, even the children do not cry. For caked with snow by the window, gradually getting light, it becomes visible border chaos: booths, hung with signs in Russian, car Park, currency exchange.


“This is Europe?” incredulous, asks the girl who goes to Terespol for the first time. Many of her fellow travelers have been there many times before. To request the refugee status is possible only to few, no matter young people or old, woman or man, if he has any family. One, two, three, go you! And the remainder returned to Brest on the return train and keep telling myself: “maybe I will be able to enter before the passport is running out of space for stamps”.




The worn engine of the locomotive is switched to idling, it is hard to beat answers the girl’s question. Yes, it is the gateway to Europe. The composition of short stops near the apron, lined new, but already covered with moss concrete tiles. The guards let the people of the first cars, runs more than an hour. We are allowed to go only after normal passengers pass through security screening.


We stand at the very end of the crowd in the cold concrete corridor that leads to terminal. Women in colorful scarves laughing at the scarves that we tied on his head, and surrounded us with a dense ring, so that the guards do not pay attention to our inept masquerade. The next people in the queue disappear in the spacious hall where the “interview”. Outsiders were not allowed. There we go: the guard will chase us, on seeing our passports.


“You seem lost, he says with a compassionate smile, though a moment ago seemed to be a person who is not able to smile. — I’m sorry you had to stand here with these…” He Osegueda mid-sentence and quickly takes us out of the terminal, bypassing the customs control. My date with a Ukrainian passport will say that I have never seen such a polite Polish border guard.




The return train arrives in Brest for about two days. Painted in bright pink waiting room with massive columns is filled with people who decided not today “to attempt”. It is mostly women. By two o’clock come here, even those who rents an apartment far from the station. They leave husbands (if they have them) and kids to hear the news: who today turned out who came back?

© RIA Novosti, Alexander Yuriev | go to fotoballoon “Courage” memorial complex “Brest fortress-hero”

Some not have to go far: they sleep at the station because they have no money for rent. There are whole families, but mostly single women. Without money in a way no one starts before leaving, they secretly sell their possessions or borrow money from relatives. Train tickets and accommodation in Brest are few, but after a few weeks of savings comes to an end, and to earn there is practically nowhere.


“The guards kicked us, says ASMA. They not only allow us to lie on the benches, have to sleep sitting up. They bring us boiling water, allow to charge phones.” From ASMA pale stress from tight tied on the head scarf face, her thirty years. She has three children, her husband was too, but it was gone, she hoped that he was hiding. It all started with the fact that in their town appeared dealers and began to hunt around schools. The husband of ASMA reported them to the police, because the case concerned in particular his children. But it turned out that to convey not allowed at all.


“We have come, threatened. Only first the husband and then the children. Once when we were away, the eldest son was tied to a chair, scattered at his feet some powder and photographed. Then her husband called the police in the case of possession of drugs. The next day he never came back, I was left alone with the children. But I alone was left. They said they would do to me if I will not tell them where my husband is. But I really don’t know. I spent the whole month sleeping without undressing, and was afraid to leave the house. If I moved to their relatives, the problems would have started them.” And who are they? The drug mafia, “roof”, their police or secret services? Unknown. They didn’t introduce themselves.


“On the Polish border I would say that I have no visa — continues to ASMA. But the Chechens visa in Europe no one gives. The guards asked why I didn’t go to the police. But if she involved in this? I told them that as soon as they and my husband come back I will be back on the first train. We built a new house, almost finished. In Chechnya I was left with all the relatives. But they don’t listen to me: the police documents, not refugee status.”


The war became more brutal


ASMA almost never leaves the “women’s area”. In Brest one side of the waiting room sat women and other men. “Women’s corner” looks at home on the benches are folded piles of gifts from humanitarian organizations (underwear, warm clothes, toys) and split the tea bags. The rosette rises a pile of smartphones: WhatsApp allows you to get news from friends from Europe and overcome boundaries, to contact the family.


“The city should not go. The militia does not touch us while we sit at the station and not striking, says ASMA. — Yes what say our men who are watching us from the opposite side of the hall?”

“Men are problem — butts in the conversation Aishat, which has been in Europe and looks at some things differently. — Go so young at the disco, get drunk, and then all of Brest buzzing that the Chechens — a solid revelers. On the other hand, I’m not surprised. Some burned all bridges behind him, and now sit at this station, as in a trap. In Europe they are not allowed, and if you return home, you will have to push, due to the fact that you tried to escape. And then you just disappear.”


Aishat fled to France in the late 1990s, when Chechnya broke out the second war (1999 – 2009). She along with her husband and children were able to obtain refugee status and settle in Paris. But her husband began to steal, most likely, out of boredom, because the work he was paid well. After his “actions” he was off beating his wife. Fortunately, in France there are special telephone lines that allow women to get rid of such subjects.


“I divorced my husband, but in the house where I lived, such things are not approved. I didn’t believe that anything will change — says Aishat. When the war ended and the children grew up, I began to think about the return. If you can find in Chechnya with a new husband? The decision came when I was told about the death of my mother. I thought I would bury her, and the money accumulated will try to open in Grozny some shop”.


But it turned out that in Grozny without the right connections would not open even a vegetable stall. Everything has changed: in the city centre rose exclusive high-rise, in which the common man won’t even let. From Aishat had no ties, so she had to share with some people of their earnings. It was not too bad, but it started coming Kadyrov and ask questions about her husband, who during the war fought on the side of the separatists. In Chechnya today of people to blackmail, they can be accused of terrorist activities.


“Honestly, if I knew where he was, I would’ve issued it, and vengeful tells Aishat. But they didn’t believe that we got divorced because I haven’t changed my name, but French papers they do not recognize. Worst of all, they had my address in France and began to threaten that they will do something bad to my daughter. Better, perhaps, when it comes to the mafia. Person pick up, but remain the chances that he will return, even without fingers or nose. Kadyrov’s people are never left alone anyone. So I again got on the train, first in Moscow and then to Brest. On the border told me that once I went back to Chechnya, then, the war there ended. And I explained to them that no, and that she became even more violent than before. After all, if the Chechens fought the Russian, and now everyone is fighting with everyone. No one can be trusted”.


Aishat tried to enter in Terespol already 32 times. Now she makes these attempts less, so as not to anger the guards. How to approach them is not clear: the money they take, and sympathy in them not a drop. Children draw smiling people in uniform, and they don’t even look at their pictures.


The idea with the pictures was invented by the Marina was a Russian teacher from Warsaw. She regularly arrives in Brest and working with children: singing songs with them Chechen and teaches them Polish. The kids love her, and women have the opportunity to earn money: they sew dolls. The dolls go to Warsaw, where volunteers sell them to their friends.


Not all women with station know Russian: those who own, and those that are younger not always. They are too few went to school or never studied. Know how to sew everything. “Now there’s a fashion to get married at the age of 14, explains Aishat. — Before, women wanted to live in his pleasure, and now everyone wants to have children. Or wants their family”.


Comrade Dumbass


“We learn Polish with the songs, explains Marina from Warsaw. — Most children like “Chałupy welcome to” (hit of the 1980-ies, dedicated to the resort on the Baltic sea, approx. lane), but I suggest they sing “Through the desert heat fled on a donkey”. I explained to the mothers that Christ, too, was a refugee, and maybe we will be able to reach the hearts of the poles.”

Marina knows the whole Brest. She leads the children from the station to the cinema and zoo, and while it was warm, they went to ride the carousel. At first Marina everywhere responded that nothing is for nothing, so she went to the city administration.


“Comrade Stupid, these kids need help, I say, — Marina tells. — He said that he was very sorry, but there’s nothing he can do about it, because they do not have Belarusian citizenship. Then I went to the cinema and said, without going into details, comrade Dumbass like destinies of the children from the station. Immediately found the opportunity to make a discount: I buy ten tickets, and the movie includes all. According to the same scheme failed to cope with the zoo Director, the owner of carousels and games room “Jungle””.


“Stupid” is in Russian “stupid man”, and Revile, such a name, Marina, it sounds like strong language, which can be used to ask the question “why not?”.


Magic card


“Come on Marina, you still have Maria, she is also from Warsaw, lists Aishat. I heard Maria distributes such cards, which is easier to cross the border. The Belarusians are coming, too: gifts for children, warm clothes. And some just to talk, to learn how to live in Russia. After all, until recently we were citizens of the same state.”


Maria from Warsaw, that is Kseniak Maria (Maria Książak) from the Polish centre for rehabilitation of torture victims — a psychologist. Based on conversations with the remaining in Brest Chechens she prepares psychological reports. The guards can’t ignore them or at least do not want to take personal responsibility for it.


“I was able to help approximately one hundred refugees, but hundreds more waiting for our help, says Kseniak. — People who have been tortured can’t pass inspection where it happened to them. It would have ended next “interrogation” of such a person or doctor, who would dare to see him. A few months later on the body of victims have no visible signs: wounds heal, the marks of torture shock, which is often used in Chechnya disappear. Therefore, it is important to find these people as early as possible when they come to Brest to document all traces of torture.”

© AFP 2017, Sergei GaponЧеченские refugees in the train Terespol Polish from Belarusian Brest

Maria together with other psychologists and doctors from your Center conducts trainings for Border service. “Among the guards there are competent and helpful people, they often just lack basic knowledge. They know little about Chechnya, torture, and worst of all, I don’t want to know. On our last lectures in Terespol the majority of the students left, without waiting until the end. While foreigners continue to complain about inhuman treatment. Recently I was talking with a woman “unwrapped” at the border, and on the same day she had a miscarriage. The Border guard service is easy to professional burnout. Some staff members forbid themselves to feel emotions, they are drunk on power and bullying people. Professor Philip Zimbardo (Philip Zimbardo) studied how people change, getting the role of “guard”. Without appropriate help, they get used to the role of “bad” and begins to abuse power. In addition, the Polish Minister of justice Mariusz Blashak (Mariusz Błaszczak) said on television that in Chechnya there is no war, demanding not to allow the Chechens. But the war is not the only occasion on which a person may request to grant him refugee status” — says Maria.


The Minister said one more thing: refugees in Brest is an attempt “to create a new migration route for the influx of Muslims in Europe.” “New?— laughs Aishat. And as I was driving in the 1990s? Ask the boys, they always tell you: “When the war started, my father escaped via Brest. When I began to push Kadyrov, I was running through the Brest. Don’t know what the future will bring, but perhaps my son will have to be here””.


For the girl Kadyrovites


I catch the envious looks from the “men’s area” and go to the guys. Women sew and share rumors, they always someone comes, they are noisy and fun. Men do, but not burning to pour out his heart. Problems with the authorities or the mafia is for them a sign of weakness and humiliation, and not, as for women, the history of which can be shared with sympathetic listeners. However, the men at the station less. Those who still have some money left for the rent, out of the house, only if you want to get on the morning train or to look after his wife.


You never know who your interlocutor, — explains Ruslan is a journalist who came to Brest with a large family. — All say that on the station there are Kadyrov’s men and scare people that get them even in Europe. As long as the power remains with Putin, Kadyrov alternatives will not. Torture became common in Chechnya phenomenon. May punish for sloppy statements, for the sins of the family or the fight on the side of former President Dudayev who fought Russia. And, of course, for extremism: real and imagined”.


The men nod, they gradually become less inhibited and begin to tell you how I got here. In their stories you repeat the same motifs: one has become the object of blood revenge for his cousin, the other was engaged in business on the wrong street, the third fell in love with a girl Kadyrovites. Some are fleeing from poverty (in Moscow, they say, they are considered third-class citizens) or go for the unavailable in Chechnya treatment for yourself or your loved ones. Those who are younger often fleeing conscription into the army: they don’t want to go to Ukraine or to Syria.


“In this atmosphere, the youth is adjacent to the radical currents: it is a form of protest against the regime of Kadyrov. There are, too: they believed in the promises of the Islamists, and then got scared and ran away from them. Of course they will not mention it by word and will only tell the persecution to which it was subjected. In Europe, all know, they have their own agents, as a result, we all suspected of involvement in terrorism.”


Men make plans, guided by the rumors: “the best time to travel to Germany, there I saw in YouTube, refugees get an apartment and the earth.” Apartment possible, and with refugee status to Chechen problems can occur. “But I more want to stay in Poland, there to obtain papers and permission to work”. So, only work for Chechens here a little. “And we have relatives in Europe, we want to go to them.” They do not know that under the Dublin Convention for the departure from Poland they may be deported. They are generally not familiar with the law on asylum, do not understand their rights and responsibilities. “Does that surprise you?— snorts Ruslan. We have never lived in the country in which compliance with any laws.”


I’m not gonna lie


Yet there is a Ramzan — elegant and talkative middle-aged man. At first everyone thought that it is an agent of Kadyrov, because he came alone, without family, and not the border is not asked to grant him asylum, and told his strange story. He ran in the “men’s corner” a long time, and now he has all believe.


Ramzan, he says, was born in Kazakhstan, where Stalin had deported the Chechens. Home, to Chechnya, he went to the end of the 1960s, after the woman. He studied engineering in Novosibirsk until the collapse of the Soviet Union he worked as a foreman at the construction site, having to have five children. In the war he, fortunately, did not take from-for age. He was trying, like everyone else, to do business, but finished him off with bribes. Things went smoothly in the 2000s, when his friend took out a loan and started in Moscow construction. Together they have designed exclusive penthouses: Ramzan prepared the documentation and provided the supply of materials. “But in 2014, sanctions were imposed, everything collapsed because the company had credit in the savings Bank, says Ramzan. — At the same time my cousin was having trouble with the mafia. In the end one night he was killed, and his body was dumped at the apartment. Opening the door in the morning, his son head was smashed dead father. Adam could not come: he dropped out of school all day to sitting at home. For some time he lived in his family after his father was tight with money. A few months later he went to the “forest brothers””.


It is Islamist militants. In his native region of Ramzan “forest brothers” live exchange: they collect wild garlic, and grandmother brings them food. “Why grandmothers this leek, I don’t know, they sell it on the market at the price of grass — reflects Ramzan. But what else in the village to do?”. One day, when Adam apparently took the wire he was shot the secret services.

© RIA Novosti Igor Mikhalev | go to photobacteria residents of Chechnya receive the bread and other food

Ramzan found his body on the forest road. When he returned my son home, “they” were waiting for. The son demanded that he spoke about the militants, but he doesn’t do stuff like: he’s 40, he had a family and children. Wife fell into the historian. In the end, taking Adam’s mother and the younger children, she went to Germany. The refugee status it there is still not received.


“They, fortunately, all is well, — said Ramzan. — Youngest daughter just wish. She still goes to school, she was bullied, called black and thick. Now I often call her”. Ramzan was not going to go to any Europe. If the wife rested, let him go, but he hoped that still formed and they can safely return to Chechnya. Stalin was kicked out of his parents, and will be a real shame to leave on their own. When his family fled, he went to the mountains to distant relatives and, perhaps, Kadyrov’s men forgot about it or lost track of him.


“Unfortunately, I started having heart problems. When I managed to finally find the doctor, he said that I have a hidden heart defect, so it may soon stop. Maybe tomorrow, maybe in a few months. Wife wanted me to come, but she would have lost chances of obtaining status, it would have to remain in Chechnya, can be, without me. So I went on the road. I don’t want to stay in Europe, I explain at the border, let me just say goodbye, to see them. I tried several times to get a visa but I have not given”.


“Why don’t you tell us that you are persecuted, don’t ask for international protection?” — I ask. “Because I want to go only for two weeks and to come back, I don’t want any social assistance,” he replies. “Once you were born in Kazakhstan, you could buy yourself some documents confirming that you have Polish or German roots,” wakes me Polish savvy. “I didn’t cheat in the Soviet Union, did not cheat during wars, were not deceived when they came over to Adam, and won’t do it now. I lived in different places: in Kazakhstan, in Siberia, in Moscow, but I couldn’t imagine that man on the border 40 times to say what you want to say goodbye to his family, and he did not falter in the face of a single muscle”.


Terespol does not believe in tears


It is clear that not all the passengers of the train in Terespol can qualify for refugee status. No such chance for those who flee from poverty, poor health care system or wants to reunite with his family. Ramzan “for a while” too, no one will be admitted.


Meanwhile, according to Polish and international law, the Declaration on the granting of international protection may be submitted by any interested person, the review of documents should be handled by the Office for foreigners. Now decisions about their fate are Border guards that allow you to apply one or two families a day.


The refugee problem from There is the “interview”. The stories of foreigners, the guards would not allow them to speak and demand to respond only to specific short questions. Do you intend to work in Poland? You have stated the problems with the mafia, to the competent authorities? If you’re not claimed so you’re an economic migrant.


On the “interview” not allowed journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders. According to the Polish law, a person obtains the right to the representative after filing of application on receiving refugee status, according to the European — from the moment when he will declare such desire. The sole organisation allowed to see this procedure, it was the Bureau of the Commissioner for human rights. “It should be noted that the conversation on the border it takes no more than two minutes and takes place in a not very friendly atmosphere, — said the representative of the Bureau Subco John (Joanna Subko). — Of the twenty families who are told that they have been harassed, missed only two.”


From the report of the Association for legal intervention, it follows that problems in Sochi began long ago, but they have not acquired such a scale, and the intervention of NGO representatives usually gave result. That all changed at the turn of 2015 and 2016, when the number of people applying for refugee status has increased dramatically (in the same period, the Russian “memorial” stated that in Chechnya, cases of illegal detention of citizens). In 2016, the Chechens took 7 000 applications, 85 000 (that’s four times more than in 2015) the entry was denied.


Aishat was right in saying that in the Brest was visited by fathers and grandfathers. Since 1990-ies international protection in Poland received more 80 thousand Chechens, most of whom arrived in Brest. An estimated 7,000 remain in our country until now.


For many years Poland was one of the few countries in which the Chechens were able to obtain asylum. Other States have prioritized relations with Russia. Now these people can no longer count on Poland: against refugees configured the ruling party “law and Justice”, while Germany and France require to make the border in Brest more airtight. This is due to the fact that many Chechens go through our country to their families in the West and are living there illegally, because if they apply again, they will face deportation.


The Brest gate is closed more and more tightly, and the statements of the interior Ministry of the intention to amend the aliens act, the Chechens do not portend anything good. But if Russia’s position in the international arena would be strengthened; assistance will be nowhere to wait.