As part of its investigation into the Boston Marathon bombings, the FBI has interviewed a number of Chechens in the area who might have known the Tsarnaev brothers, the accused perpetrators who grew up in the United States after their family immigrated a decade ago.
At a picnic with friends, Maryam Baieva and her brother Islam talked about coming to the Boston area as refugees from their native Chechnya more than a decade ago.
They are about the same age as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who along with his older brother Tamerlan, is accused of the terrorist bombings at the Boston Marathon that killed three people and wounded more than 250 others.
Both Maryam and Islam were interviewed by the FBI, but Maryam says she only knew Dzhokhar for a brief time back when she was in second grade.
“He was a normal kid. He is a very smart kid. He would help me with my math homework all the time and he would tease me about me not knowing my math correctly, but he is a smart kid," she said.
Islam Baiev says he did not know the brothers at all and was stunned to learn that fellow Chechens stand accused of committing such horrific violence.
“My first initial reaction was, 'Please do not be a Muslim. And not only was it a Muslim, it was a Chechen, so I was really shocked and [it] disappointed me. I felt a little embarrassed," he said.
Maryam speculated that because the Tsarnaev brothers never lived in Chechnya during the war, as her family had, they likely did not appreciate the safety and support they received in America.
“In Chechnya thousands and thousands of people have gotten killed. We've seen buildings exploding. We have seen a lot of destruction. But the kid that has never stepped a foot there, never seen that, I do not know what he was thinking. Me and my brother, we feel very lucky to be in America, to be away from that," she said.
Since moving to the Boston area, Maryam and Islam say they have been embraced by the community and grateful for the opportunity to live normal lives.