I think it safe to say that no one knows for sure how the women of Dadi Yurt met their end.
On the morning of September 5, 1819, Russian forces under the command of General Aleksey Petrovich Yermolov laid siege to the little Chechen village.
The mountaineer side, by most estimates, was not much more than a hundred or two, man, woman, and child. On the Russian side, by any reasonable account, there came thousands.
In Chechyna, they say that all are “Free and equal like wolves.”
Whether or not this is the case, I cannot say, but it is certainly true that it is a saying.
After an initial encounter from which some of the mountaineers fell, a Russian messenger came. The people of Dadi Yurt were to surrender, kneel down to the Tsar’s crown. Kiss his hand.
The reply, however, was a simple “No.”
“We seek no quarter,” the reply said.
The artillery continued, the shells fell.
The men dropped like men are supposed to in times of war. They fought and they died. There one minute; gone the next.
But, in the village of Dadi Yurt some forty-six women were.
They watched the men as they died. And I imagine that, as they watched, they couldn’t help but feel their own mortality striking hammers across their breasts, beating heavily, bursting open their chests.
Some say that, upon their husbands’ deaths, they slit their throats with their men’s daggers, which every Chechen man is known to carry.
Some say that, seeing defeat, they threw themselves onto Russian bayonets and knifes.
Some say that, in fits of despair, they soared like harried eagles from the high stone walls into burning buildings below, their long white dresses afire, turning them into some sort of strange dragons clawing furiously within a pit of nothingness.
Some say that the husbands themselves slayed their wives and children, rather than let them be raped and butchered by the unscrupulous invader, who, even upon sending one into death, still couldn’t quite get it right, who couldn’t quite master the slice.
And even yet, some say that they were taken captive but, minds full of dread and hearts loathe with hate, jumped to their demise, clinging like death to their Russian captors as they, Chechen, Russian, and all, descended the gorge that runs like a lion into the River Terek.
However they went, the fact remains that they went.
I’m not sure what way I prefer they had went, the Chechen women, though I am decidedly stuck between the River Terek and the slitting of throats. Why, I do not know for sure, but, if one is going to die, it might as well be on her own terms.
Even today, Chechen men may only cry once in their lives and this at their mother’s death.
But I wonder how many hid, somewhere in the shadows, somewhere behind the public cobblestone walls of towns all across that brief republic, on the day they heard the fate of those maidens, wives, and widows of Dadi Yurt…
And wept as they said a silent prayer for the Chechen women.