Ruslan Tsarni called out to his wife for the letters. Zalina, he said, bring the box.
Since Tsarni stood outside his suburban Maryland home on April 19 before a scrum of journalists and apologized to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings on behalf of his suspect-nephews, calling them “losers,” Americans have been writing in from across the country to offer their support to him, his wife and their six children.
“You may get ‘hate mail,’ so please consider this ‘love mail,’” wrote one person from Colorado Springs, Colorado, in a letter that Tsarni showed a reporter yesterday. “Thank you for your courage in coming forward.”
For Tsarni, the national tragedy of the bombings that killed three people and wounded more than 260 on April 15 has become the personal nadir in a years-long estrangement with his nephews Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and their parents.
Tsarni’s own emotions have taken a roller-coaster of guilt and anger, he said in an interview, fueled by the family’s failure to recognize that Tamerlan’s interest in Islam over the past six years may have crossed into violent radicalism.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed in a confrontation with police chasing the brothers in Watertown, Massachusetts, last week. Dzhokar, 19, accused of using weapons of mass destruction in the Boston bombing, is recovering from wounds in a Boston hospital as authorities probe the brothers’ motives.
Last week, Tsarni told reporters outside his home asking for motives that the brothers are “losers not being able to settle themselves and thereby just hating everybody who did.”
Ruslan Tsarni's estrangement with his brother Anzor’s family began because of tensions between him and Anzor’s wife, Zubeidat Tsarnaev, he said, describing her as overbearing and meddlesome in her children’s lives in a dangerous way.
Since his nephews emerged as the suspects in the attack, Tsarni said, he has thought often about his efforts to bring and maintain family members in the U.S., as well as a failed attempt to encourage Tamerlan to move to Kazakhstan in 2008.
The correspondence he has received from the American public affirmed the love for the U.S. that he professed during his impromptu media appearance last week, he said, and eased some of the shame stirred by a national manhunt for his nephews.
One letter, scratched out in pencil on lined paper, was signed “Emma,” describing herself as a 19-year-old from New Jersey, a non-practicing Christian who felt a sense of compassion for the ethnic Chechens.
“I wish the best for you and your family,” she wrote. “You are victims of this mass tragedy as well. Stay strong, ignore the misconceptions and ignorance.”
Tsarni, who describes himself as a business consultant, says he first came to the U.S. in 1995. He grew up in Tokmak, Kyrgyzstan, and graduated from the Law School of Kyrgyz State University in 1994, he said in a witness statement in a British lawsuit involving a past business associate in the former Soviet Republic south of Kazakhstan. Returning to the U.S. in 2008, he said in his statement, he had become a U.S. citizen and was a legal consultant to a U.S. company contracted under USAID in a program of economic assistance for Kysrgyzstan.
His mother, in her 70s, lives in Kyrgyzstan, he says. In the living room of Tsarnis’ large home that sits on a quiet cul-de-sac about 30 miles from Washington, family photos adorn the walls. The couple’s 4-year-old son is glued to a big-screen television, oblivious to his father’s interview with a reporter. Zalina serves a reporter hot tea in a clear glass cup.
At her husband’s request, she fetches a brown stationery box, kneels on the rug and spreads a stack of letters on the dark leather ottoman. She counts the envelopes -- 21 letters have arrived within the four days after her husband’s impromptu nationally televised press conference.
His older children, girls ages 10, 12 and 13, have read every letter that’s arrived, Tsarni said.
“I made them read them -- these letters -- so they understand who they live among,” he said of the spirit of generosity reflected in the mail. “I said, ‘One day we’ll respond to each of these letters.’”
His children, he said, “are going to live with this for their lives.”
Tsarni believes he will have an opportunity at some point to speak with the surviving nephew, Dzhokhar, facing federal changes that could result in the death penalty if convicted.
“When I have the chance to meet with Dzhokhar, I will show him these letters,” Tsarni said. “All of them.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Margaret Talev in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
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