21 September 2008

The Oath

Sometimes after you visit a a place it sears itself into your brain. You pay attention to what happens in that particular place more than you did before. That often happens to me with books, too.

The book that seared Chechnya in my mind was The Oath: A Surgeon Under Fire. The title sounds a bit made-for-TV-movie like but the story is anything but. It's written by Khassan Baiev and is his story.

Baiev was formerly a cosmetic surgeon. He becomes a traveling doctor of sorts when the Russians enter Chechnya to fight Muslim separatists. Baiev took his Hippocratic oath very seriously so he treated whoever showed up whether it be a child caught in the cross fire or a Chechen separatist leader. His working conditions -- his home, bombed out hospitals, etc. -- were horrifying. That anyone survived is a miracle. Along the way he reminds you of what these now-decimated areas were like before they were destroyed by the Russian/Chechen conflict.

Being non-sectarian gets him in a lot of trouble. Both sides hate him. With the help of several human rights organizations he eventually flees with his family to the U.S., away from the from the fighters, but also those caught in the middle who need him so desperately. They are now without someone who, despite the danger to himself, takes his devotion to people first.

1 comment:

~moe~ said...

This is horrible, but I didn't read this post yet because all I can hear in my head is Renee Zellweger saying, "Chechnya" in Bridget Jones Diary. :) Sorry. I will read this soon when I can get that thought out of my head!