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A Groundswell of Sympathy and Donations


Published: September 8, 2004

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Foreign Aid

As might be expected, planeloads of foreign aid for the relief effort after the school siege in Beslan, Russia, have been sent in, but the scale of the horror seems to have evoked an unusual outpouring of sympathy.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations have been channeled by Russian émigrés, Orthodox churches and Christian evangelicals in the United States. Flowers are piling up outside the Russian Consulate in New York. People have lined up outside the Russian Embassy in Washington to sign a condolence book. About 150,000 people on Monday night snaked under torchlight and candles through Rome. Children carried banners reading: "Children with the Children of Beslan. They will not murder our future."

International leaders continued to express sympathy four days after the explosions and shootings at the school. Pope John Paul II sent condolences, saying he hoped the "spiral of hatred and violence" would not prevail. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy expressed "horror and pain."

Tony Blair, the British prime minister, said yesterday that the killing of children brought terrorism to an "even more depraved level," adding: "We stand in complete solidarity with Russia and the Russian people in saying these people will not prevail."

The deaths of so many people in such a spectacular way has been compared to another September morning horror.

"The terror act in Beslan is Russia's Sept. 11th," read a headline across an online solicitor of relief funds, the International Foundation for Terror Act Victims,

Letters on also evoked the attacks of Sept. 11. One letter writer expressing sympathy said he was a former New York City firefighter who survived 9/11. Another recalled the killings on "two peaceful, beautiful September mornings."

"It's something that shocks the nation and the world in same way Sept. 11 did," said Andrew Mogilyansky, a Russian-émigré businessman who helped set up the site and its charity after the attack on a Moscow theater in 2002. "Russia is standing still, awestruck and horrified, and the whole world should as well," he said. "It's not just another terrorist event. It's Sept. 11."

Mr. Mogilyansky said yesterday that his charity was bringing in about $10,000 an hour, collecting at least $300,000 by late afternoon.

An evangelical organization, Russian Ministries, which helps establish Christian churches in the former Soviet Union, and has offices in Wheaton, Ill., said it has raised $18,000 for the Beslan relief effort. Its president, Anita Deyneka, said the ministry had a center 10 miles from Beslan. About 40 children who attended its summer camps had been among the hostages, she said.

"I received calls with people weeping," she said. "Others wanted to send teddy bears. I think our own experience with terrorism and the fact this was targeted at children have touched the hearts of people in America."

The Orthodox Church in America is preparing its own appeal for funds, to be presented at its 700 churches, missions and institutions in North America, said a spokesman, the Very Rev. John Matusiak. "There's a real groundswell," he said.

Scores of people have made donations through the Russian Consulate and Russian Embassy, although officials could not provide figures. "It's useless to count the money," said an embassy spokesman, Yevgeniy Khorishko. "It's not the point, how much money. It's the reaction of the Americans."

The United States, France and Italy have sent medical and other supplies. Doctors Without Borders sent physicians, and international agencies like Unicef, the World Health Organization and the Red Cross were also making appeals or providing assistance.

Jason Horowitz contributed reporting from Rome for this article.

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