Moscow, an uneasy city.

Notes from different corners of the world.
Sept. 1 2004 6:42 PM

Dispatch From Moscow

In my Russia, the terrorists are winning.

(Continued from Page 1)

We have moved out of the city—good. Vova will be going to school outside the city—also good. But that means a daily drive on the crowded beltway—bad (lots of people, good terrorist target). If we move back to our city place, we'll hardly have to drive or use public transportation—good. But we'll be right in the center of town, where there are lots of crowds and traffic jams—bad. What's the point? How in the world can one devise an escape when I could simply have been driving home from work today? I can't keep up.

Once Yael was asleep, I got on the phone to my colleagues. The piece I'd been writing all day was now irrelevant, and I was trying to come up with a new cover story. It's difficult with a weekly. Last week, I'd called in favors to make sure I could get someone to the scene of a bus-stop bombing in the south of Moscow (four people injured). The next day I scrapped the resulting piece, because the two simultaneous plane crashes, with over 90 people dead, had overshadowed everything. Now the magazine we put to bed last week wasn't even out yet, and here was another tragedy, already doomed to obsolescence in days or even hours. I can't keep up here either.

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This morning we all drove to Vova's school. It's a small private school located in a guarded, gated community just outside Moscow, and I've never been happier about it. It was probably the only school in the city, or even the country, that didn't have police and security guards posted at the door. If Vova hadn't screamed ecstatically on the drive to school every time we saw a truck full of soldiers, I may even have forgotten about terrorism for a bit.

After about an hour, the festivities at the school were over, and I got in the car to drive to work. Crossing the Moscow River on the outskirts of the city, I saw a battleship docked at the river port, where sightseeing boats usually depart. A few minutes later, the radio news announcer interrupted her report on the aftermath of yesterday's bombing to say that in southern Russia, not far from Chechnya, a school had been seized. One hundred and thirty-two children and an undetermined number of adults were being held hostage. On the way in, the terrorists had shot the school security guards and the policemen posted there for the Day of Knowledge.

Masha Gessen is deputy editor in chief of Bolshoy Gorod, a Moscow weekly.