Human cost of terror: a life less lived

Blasts and terror attacks from around the world are often shown on TV these days. But shedding tears over victims suffering on the other side of the screen can never provide a true picture of the fate of those whose lives have been broken by terror.

They say that lightning never strikes twice, but there is one man who knows that is not true. Russian Sergey Oziev has lived through the nightmare of North Caucasus terrorism, not once, but twice.

Until September 2004, the 46-year-old says, he had everything he wanted in life – a loving family, two sons and a job he enjoyed. But, in a flash, that life was gone.

His wife and eldest son were burnt to death on the third and final day of the infamous Beslan school siege.

“I still can’t talk about those three days. We didn’t eat, didn’t sleep, we just waited. The entire city was gripped by fear. My two sons and my wife were hostages,” Sergey recalls.

“I should have gone to the identification of my son but I couldn’t. I told my brother to look at his left foot as he had a birthmark there. That’s how we knew it was him.”

His second son was shot in the leg while trying to escape, but managed to crawl out of the flames alive. But Sergey can never forget the horror of those days. After the siege, Sergey was granted disability status due to post traumatic depression and he has been unable to work since.

Then, six years after the Beslan tragedy, he received injuries to his eyes and legs in a bombing in North Ossetia’s capital, Vladikavkaz, on September 9, 2010.

The terror attack on the city’s bustling central market killed 19 people and left around 240 injured. That morning, fate put Sergey right in the middle of this powerful blast.

“I felt like I was flying. Then I heard a loud crash, I was lying on the ground. I tried to get up but I couldn’t. I saw five or six bodies next to me, all of them women,” Sergey says, describing the first minutes after the deadly 30-40 kilogram TNT bomb went off.

After the second terror act Sergey fell victim to, several shards of shrapnel were removed from his legs. He was taken to Moscow for an operation to save his eyesight. After that, he spent several weeks in hospital as part of a rehabilitation program.

Nearly everyone these days is familiar with terror acts, but only from news reports. That is as close as most people ever get, and Sergey wishes he was one of them.

“You call this life? I don’t. I live 30 per cent of the time. I get over one depression and then fall back into the next,” he says.

Sergey’s life was ripped apart through no fault of his own, and now he only prays he will find the strength to rebuild it.