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I Have Your Pictures From Osh

One of the photos found in the restaurant
You were there, at the Ala-Too restaurant on Masalieva Street, I believe it's called, in Osh on March 14. That was a month before ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiev came to Osh and attempted, unsuccessfully, to address a crowd and rally support in Kyrgyzstan's second-largest city. It was also a month before I ate there.

There were six of you -- four women and two men, the men wore hats. You look to be Kyrgyz. You were in the back of the restaurant, occupying one of the booths that lined the walls on either side of the large room -- the ones with the curtains one could close to get some sense of privacy. You must have just arrived because your table was clear.

You all looked as if you were having a good time. Two of you (sisters? old friends?) posed for a picture.

I have no idea who you are. But I found your pictures, in the Ala-Too restaurant, two months later when the restaurant looked very different from how it did in your photographs.

The three photos were on a table in one of those booths along the walls, the left wall as one enters, or I should say entered, that room.

The curtains were partially burned, as they were at every booth in the room. Most of the tables had broken glasses and dishes on them, sometimes bits of burned wood. On one sat a half-full bottle of vodka, the outside blackened from smoke.

That is why I was surprised to open the curtain to one booth and find your photographs on the table in perfectly good shape. So many questions. Was one of you there in June when mobs came to the area and started looting and burning? Did you flee, leaving your pictures behind? Or did someone find your purse and decide the photographs weren't worth taking? Did you get out safely? What did you see during those days? Did you come back to the restaurant after I was there hoping to find your pictures?

I thought about this last possibility. I considered that if I left the photographs they would simply be thrown to the ground by one of the looters who were still scouring the ruins and disappear into the inevitable heaps of rubble that needed to be cleared from that restaurant and dozens like it. So I took them, and have kept them since.

But I would be very happy to return your photographs to you.

If anyone looking at this posting recognizes any of these people, please tell them -- I have your pictures from Osh.

-- Bruce Pannier