A 13-year-old girl kidnapped from the Grozny Baptist Church by Islamist Chechen fighters more than three months ago was brought out of Chechnya's war zone last week. Young Anja Hrykin arrived on the doorstep of a Christian family in the neighboring North Ossetian capital of Vladikavkaz a few days after Christmas, escorted by Russian soldiers who had found her in an abandoned Chechen village.The frail teenager, described as so underfed and ill that "she looks like a nine-year-old," had managed to give the soldiers the name and address of Christians from Vladikavkaz who had visited her church regularly in the past."She was in very bad shape," a source who had talked with the Christians in Vladikavkaz told Compass yesterday. "She had been raped many, many times, beaten, and almost starved to death."The child told the Christian family who took her in that she had been forced by her captors to recite the Muslim creed and convert to Islam.After young Anja was taken to the hospital for examination and treatment, medical tests confirmed that she is pregnant."She doesn't want the child, understandably," the source said. "She has no idea who the father is, among all those who misused her. It's a very terrible, traumatic situation."The whereabouts and fate of Anja's mother, who stayed in the confiscated church building in Chechnya's capital of Grozny when Islamist militants took over the premises October 2, remain unknown. The mother, who had become mentally unstable, had been subjected to physical and drug abuse before church members took her and her daughter into their care, housing them in the church.Located in Grozny's Oktyabrsky suburb, the Baptist church was at last report being used by Chechen fighters as a military facility, with prisoners of war housed in the basement.Earlier this week, young Anja was able to travel on to Krasnodar in southern Russia. There she joined 22 other refugees from her church who had fled for resettlement before Russian forces sealed off the Chechen borders in their fall military offensive.All middle-aged or elderly women and children, the church refugees have been transplanted along the Black Sea coast by two Western Christian groups. The sponsors bought property and then renovated a large three-story building into apartments for the destitute Christians, who are still carrying water, washing clothes by hand and nursing the elderly invalids among their number.One of the invalids—the mother of martyred pastor Alexey Sitnikov—died in October, four months after escaping Grozny. Her son had pastored the Grozny church from 1995 until his kidnapping in October 1998. It was months later before it was confirmed that he had been murdered and beheaded.According to visitors to the Krasnodar site in late November, the Grozny church ladies were "incredibly thankful and joyful," despite the fact that living in community was new to all of them."And I heard not a single complaint against either the Chechens or the Russians," one visitor said, although most had suffered mistreatment by both groups. Like other Grozny residents, the church members had been subjected to spiraling violence and severe food shortages ever since the breakaway republic's first punishing war with Russia concluded in 1996. Several of the women said they were forced to pay huge fines to Russian officials when they crossed the border, penalizing them for not leaving Chechnya years ago. They admitted they still feared Russian soldiers coming after them.One woman and her two daughters told of being beaten with iron rods in their Grozny home, and one being raped, by masked Chechen militants who came twice demanding money or gold. "But not all Chechens are like that," one declared. "Our Chechen neighbors helped us.""Their trials have brought them very close to the Lord," the visitor remarked. "They are simple, but so spiritual, with much dignity, and not a single complaint.""These ladies are loving and caring for Anja now," the source said. As they do so, they are praying that God will change her mind about her unborn child.Anja has no identity papers, since Russian minors are not issued passports until age 14. Her father, an alcoholic who beat her and her mother, had abandoned the family long ago, and to her knowledge she has no other living relatives."It's a miracle that she's still alive," the source observed. "But now Anja needs the prayers of God's people around the world, to be truly healed in her soul and spirit."Copyright © 2000 Compass Direct. Used with permission.

Related Elsewhere

See our coverage of the March beheading of Aleksandr Kulakov, pastor of Grozny Baptist Church.