Baiev’s chronicle of medical life in wartime is full of incident—tragic, touching, and repeatedly traumatic:  his own life was threatened repeatedly by Russians who suspected him and Chechens who resented him for treating Russians.  Members of his extended family were killed and his father’s home was destroyed.  He straddled other boundaries:  trained in Russia, he fully appreciated how modern medicine may bring relief not available even in the hands of the most respected traditional healers, but he mentions traditional ways with the reverence of a good son of devout Muslims.  His perspective is both thoughtfully nationalistic and international.

Finally coming to the States where he couldn’t at first practice the medicine he had honed to exceptional versatility under fire, he lives with a mix of gratitude for the privilege of safety and a longing for the people he served, whose suffering was his daily work for years that might for most of us have seemed nearly unlivable.  Before writing the book, he struggled with his own post-traumatic stress, and continues to testify to the futility of force as a way of settling disputes.  Medicine is his diplomacy as well as his gift to his own people, and the Hippocratic Oath a commitment that sustained him in the midst of ethical complexities unlike any one would be likely to face in peacetime practice.



For Westerners who know little about the lasting tensions and horrific violence in Chechnya in the 90s, this memoir bears valuable witness.  The violence of Russia's response to Chechnya's declaration of independence caused suffering on a scale that was underreported by the American press.  Like other wartime memoirs, this one not only serves as an eloquent protest against war but a reminder of the ways a medical calling binds practitioners to something beyond nationalism.  It is a gripping story, told candidly and humbly from a point of view not often heard in the American mainstream.           


Walker and Company

Place Published

New York



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