UFA, Russia — One was a star student, her report card full of perfect grades. One was like a kid brother to all his classmates, loving to argue to prove his point. Another was ill, but nonetheless studied Spanish to prepare for a school trip to the Mediterranean coast.
That trip ended in a fiery death for them and 42 other schoolchildren from Russia's republic of Bashkortostan when their plane collided with a cargo jet over Germany.
Grieving teachers gathered pictures and report cards Wednesday of their lost students. Parents collected grimmer details of their lost children to help investigators identify the remains: blood types and dental histories.
Two people from each family will travel to the accident site Thursday on a flight paid for by the regional government, on a Bashkirian Airlines Tu-154 jet — the same type as the one that crashed into a Boeing cargo plane operated by DHL on Monday night.
Bashkortostan Prime Minister Rafail Baidavletov warned the families at a meeting Wednesday evening that they won't be able to do much more than see the accident site before returning Thursday night.
"Don't think that you will find the bodies of your children there," Baidavletov told a group of sobbing parents, referring to the severe damage caused by the collision. He said German authorities will be responsible for repatriating any bodies found.
Their voices breaking, the parents asked whether a mullah, a Muslim prayer leader, would be available at the crash site and whether they would be able to buy flowers in Germany. Bashkortostan is a largely Muslim region.
Meanwhile, teachers at the Gymnasium No. 3 school in the center of Bashkortostan's capital, Ufa, looked over school files, old class photos and pictures of holiday celebrations with girls in satin pink dresses dancing to mark World War II Victory Day.
Seven of the dead students had attended the school, one of a few elite institutions in the region where all pupils study English and either German or French, along with choosing specialties in either humanities, math or science.
One of the school's brightest was Karina Urazlina, 16, who would have entered her final year Sept. 1. Principal Leilya Sharafutdinova went through a file on her desk of Karina's numerous award certificates and her latest report card — filled with rows of fives, the highest grade. Karina had specialized in chemistry and was the best student in the subject, teachers said.
On a videotape of another student's presentation, the dark-haired Karina sat in the front row and applauded enthusiastically. She had won an award in a science competition for a report called "Ozone and its influence on the environment."
"She wanted to solve the problem in her own way," said Sharafutdinova. Karina also worked with UNESCO, the U.N.'s cultural and educational arm that was also involved with the students' trip to Spain, and won an international science competition on a previous trip to Bulgaria.
Her brother, Ruslan Urazlin, 14, was also on the ill-fated plane. A year younger than the rest of the children in his grade, Ruslan was like the kid brother to everyone with his boyish ways, said his math teacher Lilia Satayeva.
In photographs, the skinnier and shorter Ruslan was always smiling. In one he modestly spoke into a microphone held by another student at a ceremony marking completion of ninth grade. Despite his smaller size, Satayeva said Ruslan liked to start debates with his fellow students.
"He just liked to prove something," she said. "It was of no importance how, he just liked to do things in his own way."
Less outgoing was Sofia Fedotova, 15, who had been forced by illness to miss many classes and was struggling to keep up, said her English teacher Lidiya Gafurova. Sofia had problems with her back, making her unable to sit for long periods in class, and hoped the sun and sea in Spain would be good for her health, Gafurova said.
She had started learning Spanish in addition to English and French in eager anticipation of the trip, the teacher said.
"A lot of people dance or do sports, but for Sofia there wasn't time for that," said Gafurova. "All attention was paid to studying."
At the parents' meeting, Alexander Safchuk sat motionless, having lost not only his two children — 12-year-old Vladislav and 13-year-old Veronika — but also his wife, Irina, who was an escort for the trip.
His brother, Vladimir, sitting next to him for support, said Alexander would go to Germany with his remaining son, Viktor, 22, "to have some kind of memory" of his loss.
Another parent, Alfiya Kakhanova, wept she remembered her 12-year-old daughter Alina.
"I don't feel like a mother anymore," she said, lamenting that she had sent her child on the trip. "I feel like I've lost my heart."
— Arizona Daily Sun