From the Mouths of Chechen Babes

LETTERS TO YELTSIN

THE following are excerpts from letters by Chechen schoolchildren to Russian President Boris Yeltsin. They were collected last week by officials overseeing the outpouring of refugees from the besieged republic.

``Our Dear President!

We are scared to go to school. Next to our school you can hear artillery fire. The windows are shaking. We can't hear our teachers. Yeltsin, we don't want war.''

-T. H. Khodzhiyeva, sixth class

``I am writing to you with one request: Stop the war. I want to live and grow up under a free sky. We still have our whole lives ahead of us. Let us breathe the fresh air of freedom.''

-Sixth-class boy

``It's better to die standing, than to live on your knees. Boris Nikolayevich [Yeltsin], put your grandchildren in my place, who at any minute is waiting for Russian soldiers to start shooting, for the bombs and the helicopters. Feel the fear of a 13-year-old girl, who until now only knew such words as `motherland,' `mother,' and `goodness.' Can you allow our relatives, our old people, and children to be killed before our eyes? I beg you, don't do it.''

-Zarema Bamatcheriyeva

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