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Book and Media Reviews
August 1, 2007

Grief of My Heart: Memoirs of a Chechen Surgeon

Author Affiliations

Book and Media Reviews Section Editor: John L. Zeller, MD, PhD, Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2007;298(5):569-573. doi:10.1001/jama.298.5.572

Grief of My Heart is not an easy book to read. The senseless violence, the loss of human dignity and life, after a while become mind-numbing. But it is an important book that introduces us to the numerous characters involved in the ongoing saga of death and destruction in Chechnya. At its core, it is the story of ordinary people doing extraordinary things in desperate times.

Dr Khassan Baiev, who was born in Chechnya and educated in Russia, was busy with his private surgical practice when the first Chechen war broke out in 1994, transforming him into a frontline trauma surgeon. Over the next few years, working underground, he treated countless individuals, regardless of political or religious affiliation, in some of the most challenging situations imaginable. By 2000, he was the only surgeon for nearly 80 000 residents around Grozny. His experience, both personal and professional, during the war clearly transformed his life. In this book, he shares some of these experiences in a narrative that is rich in detail, providing an inspiring account of people facing enormous tragedies with honor, dignity, and courage.