One year after regaining her freedom, a young Christian girl kidnapped at age 13 by Chechen fighters in Grozny is still adjusting to a more normal life in southern Russia.

"After five years," a source told Compass, "she is going to school again and doing passably well." With the Chechen capital of Grozny a virtual war zone most of her life, she had not attended school since age nine.

Now 14, Anja Hrykin was captured during the confiscation of the Grozny Baptist Church on October 2 last year by Muslim militants, who abused her repeatedly and nearly starved her to death over the next three months. A few days after Christmas, she was brought to the home of Christians in neighboring North Ossetia by Russian soldiers, who said they found the girl alone in an abandoned Chechen village.

After medical care, the girl was able to travel in January to a safe house in Krasnodar, near the Black Sea coast of southern Russia, where a small group of Christian refugees from Chechnya have been resettled semi-permanently. She has since had opportunity to receive some trauma counseling.

Most of the Krasnodar residents are middle-aged or elderly women, and their numbers have fluctuated, as a few ventured back to Grozny to see if indeed the war was over, as Russian authorities insisted. Some have since returned, reporting their homes in ruins, almost no food or drinkable water to be found and a volatile insecurity on the streets, particularly at night. Another seven elderly Christians are reportedly trying to transfer out of Chechnya to Krasnodar in January.

Last May, Anja's mother, Nadezhda, also managed to come across the Chechnya border to Vladikavkaz, where she was found and brought to the Krasnodar center. The whereabouts of Anja's father, an alcoholic who had beaten both Anja and her mother before he abandoned them some years ago, is unknown.

Already unstable from physical and drug abuse, the girl's mother had remained in Grozny throughout the months of severe bombing and street fighting between Chechen militants and the Russian army. She had reportedly lived on the streets, surviving on handouts of food while searching throughout the bomb-blasted city in vain for her daughter.

Several months after being reunited with her daughter, Nadezhda wanted to take her and return with her to Grozny to live. A Christian couple who have become Anja's de facto guardians persuaded the mother to abandon her idea.

According to recent visitors to the Krasnodar safe house, the mother's mental and emotional condition has further degenerated this fall.

"She is in such an unpredictable state that she needs constant surveillance, as well as psychiatric care," the source said. "Recently she went out swimming in the river, at night, and it's already winter there!"

An application is now being processed for Nadezhda's admission into a nearby center for professional psychiatric care, pending an available opening in January.

"Anja's relations with her mother are not very good right now," the source said. "So it appears it might be better for them to be separated from each other for awhile." Those ministering to the mother and daughter said they were praying for both to experience deep spiritual healing now that they are freed from "the dreadful worries of the past," when they were separated without knowing the whereabouts or condition of the other.

Despite the disappearance of the organized Baptist, Adventist, and Orthodox congregations and their church buildings in Grozny, local sources confirm that at least two home groups of local believers are meeting quietly in the bombed-out capital, with other known handfuls scattered in various villages as well. At least a quarter of a million Chechens fled the war zone during the last 10-month offensive, most of them still housed in makeshift refugee tents across the border in Ingushetia.

Related Elsewhere

Be sure to read last year's "Kidnapped Girl from Grozny Church Found | Refugees from Chechnya take in abused child."

Other Christianity Today coverage of Chechnya includes:

Saving Bodies, Rescuing Souls | Chechen Muslims find Salvationist care has compassionate accent. (April 24, 2000)

Moscow's Patriarch Accuses West of Double Standards Over Chechnya | Critics silent on Chechen crimes, says head of the Russian Orthodox Church. (Jan 15, 2000)

As Moscow continues attacks, churches speak out for Chechen civilians | Ecumenical organizations plead to Russian Orthodox Church 'to do everything in your authority.' (Nov. 19, 1999)