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Syrian captive

About the book, life and war of Ankhar Kochnevaya

Ankhar is an unusual woman. Adventurer, in a good sense of the word. These were more common in English society than in Russia. She lived for several years in Moscow. Now she lives in Lebanon. In the interval there was Syria, which is her book “153” devoted to.

She spent in captivity with the Syrian rebels 153 days, and her book – a diary of captivity, and the events that preceded and followed the captivity. The story is unusual – Ankhar was in Syria in 2011, at the very beginning of the civil war, long before the appearance of Russian soldiers there. She spoke, though not wonderful, in Arabic.

Mother of Ankhar came to a Soviet country from Palestine, from Nablus, grew up, married in Odessa, and Ankhar was born and raised in Odessa. She started learning Arabic those years, at the Institute of Asian and African countries. She was engaged in tourism. She drove a group of tourists to the Middle East, from Egypt to Jordan, and in 2011 settled in Damascus.

In those early years of conflict, Ankhar was almost the only Russian voice from Syria. She wrote daily in LJ, everyone read it, she was super popular – up to half a million views. Her posts were very harsh – the rebels were only called “rats”.

“Here’s another dead rat,” she informed happily. That is, some people attempt to distance themselves, declare about some kind of neutrality, she did not. Ankhar was just as convinced a fan of Bashar Assad as her contemporaries in the Donbas, who cheered for the Donbass Republic and the LNR. But the Syrian authorities did not reciprocate with her. They did not understand why freelancers are needed, and even more so – bloggers.


She failed to break into journalism, despite her abilities, diligence, perseverance. It is not so easy for an expatriate living in a foreign country to fit into the journalism in his homeland. Although, it would seem, journalism is an uncomplicated craft, everyone can write, but it’s very difficult to get through in it. And so – to come and become a correspondent – there were such things, but very rarely. Despite their efforts, Ankhar remained somewhere on the edge of the profession. She managed to earn additionally as an interpreter or ;”fixer” from groups of journalists and reporters, and she continued to write.

Then she had a sharp conflict with Marat Musin, Nesmyan (El Murid) and their company ANNA-news. Musin died six days after the publication of this book, so we do not know his reaction. According to her, Anna-news took the materials of the Syrian TV, re-sounded, clapped its tag, gave out for its own and mastered impressive budgets – both from the Russians and from the Syrian state. And since Syrian officials participated in all this, Anhar quickly fell under their blow. She was revoked visa, and her position became just awful.

Shortly thereafter, she was abducted – how hundreds and thousands of journalists, translators, foreigners were abducted in Syria. They seized it in October 2012 on the way from Homs to Damascus, and were taken away. In his book Anhar tells in detail how she was handed over from hand to hand, how she was wanted to be shot, how she managed to avoid death and violence. She was fearless in captivity, as in freedom, and it helped her – a person who is not afraid, it is more difficult to humiliate or kill.

The people who seized her belonged to the Syrian Free Army, but in fact they were disunited groups of local militiamen, without a single effective command. She was mistaken for a Russian spy, or for an interpreter from Russian officers, and they marched her for an incredible amount of ransom, which, of course, no one would have collected and given. After all, Anhar was a typical free-lance, a freelancer whose fate does not bother anyone.

Perhaps the Russian or Syrian authorities would have helped her to save herself, but her long hater  Marat Musin, she had sharp conflicts, spread the rumor that she was not at all captive, but left for Israel, where she rests with her Jewish relatives (“She’s from Odessa!”) , and the demands of foreclosure are her own machinations. This reception was a success – people are always more willing to believe the bad. She tried to protest, but Musin also took advantage of this (“, She’s a well-known agent of Mossad!”).

They did not search for it and did not help in the Russian Foreign Ministry: they said that Ankhar was a Ukrainian citizen, let the Ukrainians care. Neither the Russian, nor the Ukrainian embassy in Damascus, nor the Syrian embassy in Moscow wanted to deal with her business. In general, the ambassadors and consuls are not imprisoned for the help of adventurers, even worthy.

So no one saved her. Ankhar was heavily imprisoned – days without food, without heat, without light, without the opportunity to wash, among the peasants who look at her as a possible source – either entertainment or profit. She was not allowed to walk, and her legs were barely worn. From time to time, they were going to cut her throat.

Exchange for the prisoners did not take place – mainly because its captors could not decide what they were want. That exchange for captive insurgents, then for a mountain of dollars. But the requirements were simpler and more sane than the opponents of Anhar. Her enemies continued to write: “The lady (Ankhar) is in comfortable conditions, she traveled freely to Ukraine, she had already visited Turkey, and the ransom requirements – this is wiring for money. ”


Only the talent for communicating with people allowed Ankhar to survive. In the book is a story about how she managed to persuade Ammar, the leader of the rebels, to save her life and take care of her – and to protect her from all the others who wanted to kill her or “run around in circles”. This, perhaps, the main thing in the book is that Ankhar managed to see the humanity of her captors and enemies. If before captivity they were “rats” to her, at the end of the book she regrets that these wonderful guys went wrong, they made a mistake, and they turned out to be someone in the grave, someone in the exile.

“Sometimes I see the same dream. A shining café lights on the waterfront. A cheerful company sitting in a cafe. Among us there is Ammar, who orders me an ice cream with cream. As if there were not these terrible seven bloody years. As if all are alive. And around – a beautiful, strong and prosperous Syria.

“Finally, she managed to escape. Six months later, she was not so closely followed, and she went out early in the morning and went wherever her eyes looked. I went into the village, which was not under Damascus, and not under the militants – the autonomous Syrian “Malinovka”. There she was pitied and forwarded to the “big land”, to the territory under the control of the authorities. Anhar was saved, but there is no happy end. She was not extended a visa in Syria – she was in conflict with different officials and experts. She had to go to Lebanon, and live there on the very edge of poverty and homelessness, among Syrian refugees. Her husband, who was with her in Russia, swam away – although he defended her and fought for her release. She had a Syrian husband – but he fled to Europe, forgetting about Ankhar. With Russia, she also does not get along all right: the staff of the Foreign Ministry are extremely angry with her. The sad fate of the five-edged nut in the land of the hex nuts. Ankhar wants to return to Damascus, not to Moscow, but it does not work for her either. An interesting, sad book, but it is not yet evening.»

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