I spent three months with Chechen refugees in their "Sputnik" refugee camp in Ingushetia, and documented their daily life and struggle in photographs. I lived in tent number 21, block 4 with a Chechen family who left their home at the beginning of the war in September 1999. The "Sputnik" Refugee Camp is situated near the town of Sleptsovskaya and it shelters over 7,000 refugees in tents that accommodate from 10 to 15 people, and in some cases, even more.

Originally, at the beginning of winter, the tents were heated with wood. The NGO foundations (humanitarian aid agencies) sometimes brought it to us, however, most of the time we had to knock down trees in a little grove by the nearby brook. It was a hard work that took several hours. Later on, gas was brought to us and, consequently, we had a lot more free time.

The women have been kept busy: they cook, they clean up, and they take care of children. However, there hasn't been any work for the men. The most of the time they wandered around, played cross-words or gathered together to drink a cup of tea or talked about politics.

In the beginning, there was school for only the youngest children. Later on, classes were arranged for those up to 12 years old. I spent a whole day at the school - it was very cold inside with only a little stove that failed to heat such a big tent.

The refugees are organized in blocks - a block has approximately 200 refugees. Every block had an administrator who had a list of his or her refugees. They knew how many small children, adults and old people live in his block. These "komendanti" received humanitarian aid for every soul living in his block. Our "komandant", Amnet, distributed food every day in front of her tent, to be sure that no one was cheated. Loaves of bread have been delivered every day, and we were given sugar, flour, oil, rice and occasionally pasta. Frozen chicken was a rare treat. If there was meat, everybody dried pieces of it by hanging them like clothes on clothesline.

The closest water supply was a hydrant located 200 meters from our tent. There were three of them. The water had to be collected in buckets several times a day. For young people hydrant was a meeting place.

Mud was the big enemy in the camp .It was everywhere. Though it may appear a little crazy, people have tried to keep their shoes clean and well polished. If you are in a refugee camp with little to do, you take care of such things.

The second enemy were the toilets. They stank and there were 40 of them - forty wooden boxes for 7 000 people. In winter when was snowing the children made toboggans from its doors.

In December 1999 people began returning to Chechnya. However, they often came back to the refugee camp when they found that their homes were destroyed, and they had no place to live. They also shared terrible stories from those who had stayed in Chechnya. Sometimes they brought corpses of their dead relatives back to the camp.

This refugee camp "Sputnik" is still in operation. At the beginning of May, there were still over 5 000 people living there. At the beginning of June the situation got worse in Chechnya and its capital. The war is still on and more tent are needed in the refugee camp "SPUTNIK".

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