Groznij. 8 in the morning. Four boys at a suburban bar gather the recklessness kindly offered them by their 21 years of age to take a bus that will get them to Makhachkala.
– Nowadays cases of terrorism have only been witnessed in the mountains…cities are quiet. People say that there’s a police truck every 500 meters.
– Still… you know how it works in these places, the situation changes every few months…especially considering that since ISIS’s quasi-defeat most of the local terrorists previously gone to Syria to fight are now returning back home.
The sun egoistically begins to put pressure, interfering with their talk from the glass window, seducing them into going out, promising another hundred years of youth.
– Listen up guys: we came all the way to here…I took a 48 hours train ride from fucking Moscow, and now I’ll see Daghestan.
The third young man appears to have awaken the fellowship’s rickety will of power. Now the whole discussion seems vague and pointless; eyes grasp watches.
– What’s the time?
– 9:10. We can get the bus departing at 9:30 if we rush.
The whole group decides to escape the bar and its doubts by pouring into the street; the sun is now higher, it paints trees and erases evening’s ghosts. A child on a nearby street enters a library, perhaps in the pursuit of a book, perhaps in the pursuit of his adolescence.
The bus station seems to have been improvised just for the event, as in those unexpected visits from relatives turning into dinners, so the embarassed station timidly displays some rudimental signs along with a few soviet buses. Crowded with people busy doing nothing; like a group of non- speaking extras just casted for a movie. Everyone is moving, no one is going anywhere. Old women frenetically rotate around foreigners in the attempt of selling homemade pumpkin pies.
After one hour of waiting they manage to get on the bus.
The road unwinds as they proceed, proving once again how our non-awareness of a country doesn’t interfere with its existence. Grassland safeguarding the trip on the right side of the road, the opposite lane on the left side. A shirtless man on top of a white horse carrying a huge Syrian banner passes by in opposite direction.
– I guess we crossed the border.
A semi-destroyed sign assures us of our deduction: ‘Дагестан’.
The fear mixed with curiosity draws a numb smile on our face, we embrace every contradiction our eyes encounter along the way and translate it into certainty: this place is like no other we have seen before. Land proudly preceding Jesus’ merciful spasms on the cross and Isaac’s binding. Secret enclosed in its mountains; in the silence of a prison without borders.
Crystal clear rivers run through valleys like children, bringing their stories of long forgotten heroes and days of spring.
We take a taxi to a village located on one of the republic’s highest peaks; snow greets us along the way. Fog jealously blinds sight. To sense the essential beauty of nothingness. What if my eyes were created just now, to denude this mountains of their haze?
The taxi driver is a quiet man, weighting each word carefully.
– I have been doing this job since I was young. It’s been more than 30 years. Now I am old and I get tired easily, roads don’t run that fast anymore. I lost my wife during the war, but I didn’t get married once again.
– I was too old to fall in love again and too young to forget her. Now I only care about Allah.
I have his name on my forehead, he marked me for my devotion. I pray a lot. Do you want
to see it?
And there appeared. The name of his God, vividly carved on his skull. Just one more scar on one of the many violated consciences trying to cut out for themselves a piece of paradise in a land that seems unable to forget its past.
There are 33 different ethnicities in Daghestan, each with a different language to remember the war. Each with the same smile to forgive it.