story of how
I got on national TV in
(Taken from my Russia Trip Journals at www.happierabroad.com/RussiaJournals2004.doc)
Update: Winston assaulted by 5 gangsters, and gets on TV news!!!!!
Some of you may think this title is too dramatic to be real and that it is a joke, but it's not. It's fucking serious, I'm sorry to say. It's time for me to write the update that I'm going to hate to write, which will be shocking to read and to some perhaps entertaining as well. Here it goes.
In the last update, I had just left Katya's home in Cherepovets, and Julia and her boyfriend drove me to the internet cafe for the night since no one would let me stay despite their efforts to help me. After they dropped me off at the one I usually went to in their city, I went in but it was sparsely populated. Furthermore, the internet cafe staff told me that the internet packages were sold out and wouldn't be available until morning. (Some internet cafes sell these megabyte packages for you to use that contain a login code) So the staff suggested I go to this other place called Skynet, which was open and would have internet use available. Besides, it was cheaper per hour there too. After calling them to make sure they were open, the staff guy wrote down their address on a piece of paper and told me to take a taxi there. After having some coffee to keep me awake, I left.
Outside, I tried to hail a cab on the street, but there were few of them, and the ones that passed by were full. I had hailed cabs on this street last year, and knew that if I kept at it for a while I'd get one eventually, but I was too impatient so I decided to take the trolleybus which was still running. It was between 8 and 9pm. So I asked some people outside for help, showing them the address. They said just to take any trolleybus going left. So I walked to the next bus stop. Two young seedy looking guys in black leather jackets (almost everyone here wears them now, it's crazy) that were in the internet cafe earlier came to that stop too. Earlier, they offered to show me the way, but I didn't want to walk alone in the dark with them, so I refused and I kept my distance from them. When the trolleybus came, I got in. Inside, I asked the two young seedy guys which stop I get off at, showing them the address. They said the next stop and got off with me. Outside was a path toward a big intersection which was sparsely populated. The two guys in leather jackets told me to go straight and then turn right at the intersection. Shortly after, they went off in a different direction.
When I reached the intersection, I wasn't sure what to do, so I looked for people to ask again. I thought of asking the people up ahead, but they were too far and I was impatient to just get there. Behind me were three young guys walking toward me and arguing about which direction to go. They looked shady and gangster like, so I felt uncomfortable asking them for help, but somehow I felt the urge to anyway against my better instincts. It was like it was part of my destiny to do so...... When I asked one of them where the address was, he motioned to the others to come, and they all united to follow me and show me the way. I didn't like their company and I kept my distance from them, so I hoped I would get there soon and be off these semi-dark streets. (You gotta remember that Cherepovets is not a tourist town at all, but a factory town which is poor and dirty.)
Instead of turning right, they told me to turn left instead. Suspicious, I asked an older guy standing at a door if I was going in the right direction. He confirmed that I was. So I continued. After about two blocks, the three young seedy looking guys told me to turn right into a backstreet behind the building. At first, I said no and demanded to know where it was exactly. One of them pointed to windows at the bottom of the building in front of us, indicating that there were lights and computers in there with people in there at an underground level. And he pointed to the number 28 on the building as well, which was in my address. It looked like an internet cafe all right, so I looked around the front of the building for an entrance, but couldn't find any lighted or clear signs of an entrance. But the guys didn't want to give me time to keep looking. Instead, they said the entrance was in the back of the building and told me to follow them. I did, but kept my distance. For a few seconds, I paused and wondered if it was safe to go behind the building. When I saw that it was fairly lighted back there, and there were a few pedestrians walking through it, I thought it might be reasonably safe to walk through. So I proceeded but slowly. Behind the building, I continued to scan for an entrance. When I saw a doorway above the lighted windows, I moved toward it, but the guys told me it was the wrong way and told me to continue on down the backstreet. It was all too suspicious now, but something in me made me follow them just a bit further. The area they wanted me to go to was unreasonably far from the lighted windows of the internet cafe for the entrance to be there.
After walking a few meters further down with them, I decided I had enough and turned around. Suddenly, I saw the two guys in black leather jackets that were on the trolleybus with me come around the corner to face me in my path back to the main street. HOLY SHIT, I thought. This was looking bad now, and something in my gut feeling told me I was in trouble. When I quicked my pace to walk the other way, one of the guys behind me moved forward and threw a punch at my back. That quickly confirmed my fears that I was in trouble. I couldn't believe I was about to be mugged again. In a state of panic (I didn't want to stand around and fight five guys! Even if I was Bruce Lee, I couldn't do that.) I ran in the direction back to the main street. Deep down, I hoped that the two guys from the trolleybus standing in my path were not part of the group that wanted to mug me, though I knew that hope was probably in vain. And it was. When I was about to pass the two guys, one of them, a tall skinny dark haired guy, moved to grab me, then threw a quick series of kicks and punches at me until I was down on the floor. Then he attempted to pull my backpack away from me. I thought that like the assault in Novgorod, I could hang on to my backpack. But not this time. While I tried, he continued to strike my arms and body until I couldn't hang on to the backpack anymore. Then he wrenched it from me, dealt me a few more blows, and they all ran away. I attempted to get up to see which direction they ran to, but everytime I got up, I fell back down again. I was more injured than I wanted to believe. I felt dizzy in the head like I was half-conscious, and my joints were struck in a way as to prevent me from moving very much. It took me about 15 to 20 seconds to finally crawl back up to turn around, but they were already out of sight. Suddenly, I realized that there was blood all over my face as well, though most of it was stained. I had never been in such a condition before, ever.
Shocked and still in denial, I murmured "No! Please bring my backpack back. I need it!" My camcorder was in there, as well as two cassettes with priceless footage and a photo camera as well. The cameras were replaceable, but the cassettes and film were not. I guess the footage of Katya's sexy photos that I wanted to show everyone were gone. There were many other valuables in there too. Darn, I thought. I should have taken taxi here instead. The driver would have shown me the real entrance to the internet cafe and drove me right to it. What a stupid decision to walk instead! I saved 50 roubles on taxi fare just to lose all my valuables! Soon, some passerbys came to look at me. Among them was a couple that I saw pass by here just before I was mugged. I pointed to them and told the group that they saw my muggers, but they only shrugged and indicated that they didn't really see them or pay attention earlier. Then a guy from a window above called out to me and offered to call the police militia. I said ok, and he told me to stay put.
Within a few minutes, a police car pulled up. Two militia men got out and came to my aid when they saw me bruised and bloody on my face. I tried my best to tell them what happened, and then I pleaded them for help in getting my backpack back. I was even willing to offer them a reward in money, but I kept silent about it to see what they would do first. After interrogating the group of passerbys about what happened, they told me to get in the backseat of their jeep. After asking me a few more questions, they told me that they would try to help. When they checked my passport to report my identity, I tried to tell them that this morning the police at the train station already filled out a lot of paperwork on me, but I wasn't sure if they understood or not. Immediately, they radioed headquarters and described the objects I lost as well as the 5 muggers. Soon I saw other police jeeps joining up with us to search around. They stopped, coordinated plans, radioed headquarters, and began patroling the streets for the 5 muggers.
Soon, I saw a lot of cops patroling out on the streets. Some were patroling on foot. Others stood around as if stationed at a post or checkpoint. One team even had a dog sniffing the streets, though I didn't know how that would help since I had no drugs in my backpack and I wondered what exactly the dog would sniff for. It looked like every cop in the city was out trying to help me and looking for the 5 muggers. The cops in my jeep drove around to the various checkpoints and stationed cops, checking to see what they found out, radioing everything back to a dispatcher. The cop sitting next to me kept asking me a series of questions about what happened. I tried my best to answer them.
Then they started making stops to interview eyewitnesses that were found who might know something. Some suspects here and there were also apprehended, and when they were, I was driven to the spot to see if I recognized them. However, I only clearly remembered two of the five muggers, which were the two who followed me in the trolleybus. The suspects they had me look at were not of those two, so I couldn't say precisely if they were among the other three or not. I just hoped that my subconscious memory would recognize them if I saw them. Another problem was that the five muggers wore black jackets, and almost every guy here wore black jackets. A few suspects I felt might be among the attackers, but I wasn't completely sure, so I told the police that I felt only 50 percent sure about recognizing them.
Throughout all this, I constantly suggested to the cops in my car that we go to the first internet cafe that I was at, because the staff guy that was there who wrote me the address saw the two muggers that went on the trolleybus with me, and should be able to describe them, possibly identifying them by name too, hopefully. And also, the other youngsters there who were huddling and talking at the time I left might still be there, and among them there might be someone who could identify the two guys who left with me. If so, then we had to move quick before those youngsters started leaving that internet cafe. I told them all this, but they just kept telling me that they understood and that we would go there later. For some reason, driving around to the various checkpoints and looking at the apprehended suspects was more important. But I felt that going to the first internet cafe to identify them was more important at the moment.
Throughout all this, in my mind, I knew that logically the chances of getting my backpack and video camera back were slim. However, I also had a strong calm feeling that I would get them back too. I don't know why. I just didn't feel destined to lose everything here. Still, I was in shock still over being attacked like this, and also realized that my next update to this list would be quite different than I had planned.
At one stop, they found someone who found a little black belt back which was in my backpack. They asked if it was mine. I said yes, and felt a glimmer of hope that perhaps they found a trail. An old man was also there at the spot being interviewed. I surmised that he was an eyewitness who might have seen some of the muggers pass by and drop the belt back. Then he walked around with the patrol teams. When we drove back to the spot where I was ambushed, we walked around to the front of the internet cafe, where I finally saw the correct door to it. There was written the word "Skynet" on a green metal door, but in dim letters that you would have to look closely to see. If only they had a brighter sign or neon lights on it, I thought. Then I would have seen it when I passed it with the muggers and gone in instead! We went inside Skynet and the cops interviewed the staff to see if they saw anything.
Eventually, we drove up to the first internet cafe as I had suggested. Two policemen went inside with me. I walked inside and up to the computer room while the people there looked at me with a bloody bruised face in shock and wonder. In the computer room, I quickly pointed out the staff guy who wrote me the address to the other internet cafe. The cops interrogated him, and he nodded and said a few things, though I couldn't understand it. Later, they pointed me to a little spycam in the corner, and implied that the two guys I mentioned were on tape now, and would be found eventually. I felt a strong sense of excitement and relief, though I tried not to get my hopes up too much in case they would get disappointed. But the cop implied to me that with the camera, they were sure to find the suspects. Then they took me back to the jeep and drove me to the police station.
At the police station, I was led upstairs that contained an office and small detention center. Inside the office, they continued examining my passport, and asking me questions. They told me they needed a translator for me, and asked me if I knew anyone who spoke good English. First, I had them call Julia so she could at least explain why I was here, but her boyfriend answered and said she was sleeping and refused to wake her. It was already about midnight. Then I called my English speaking friend Lyuba, who had sent me an sms to my cell phone asking where I was. When she answered, I told her that boy do I have a story for her. I told her that I was attacked and at the police station, and needed her help. I gave my cell phone to an officer, who talked to her a bit, hung up, and then told me that he was sending someone to pick her up and bring her here. (I hate to say this, but Lyuba's English is so fluent that she even knows words in English that I don't know!) I felt guilty for making her come this late for who knows how long, especially since it was a weeknight and she had school the next day. But I had to cooperate with the police and do what I can. I just hoped this nightmare would be over soon. A medical team was also brought in to clean up and bandage my face.
Later, I was taken to a detention area nearby to look at some suspects. When I saw them, I immediately recognized the tall skinny dark haired guy who struck the blows at me and took my backpack!!!!!!!!!!!! I happily and excitedly pointed to him and said "That's him!!!!!! He's the one how attacked me!!!!!" in Russian, using the best body language I could. I was glad that he was caught. Now, hopefully, they could pry information from him about the other attackers and where my stuff was. My chances were looking much better now.
A while later, Lyuba was brought in while I was sitting in the office. When I saw her, I said "Hi Lyuba, I never expected us to meet like this. I feel bad for making you come down here so late." She told me that it was ok, but admitted that she was about to go to sleep, feeling sad and hurt about some personal problem too. When I tried to inquire about it, she would only tell me that her feelings were hurt badly recently. I tried to cheer her up. In spite of the situation, we tried to keep things humorous and lighthearted.
Then the police business began. Lyuba talked to the police and told me that they couldn't be sure that the man I identified was my attacker. I exclaimed "But I already identified him! He's the one!" She said that they weren't sure if my memory was correct or not. I was exasperated by this, and reminded them that I am not just accusing anyone, because with the other suspects earlier, I let them off when I couldn't recognize them. But with this guy, I definitely recognized him as the guy who was with me on the trolleybus and who carried out the final attack on me, stealing the backpack. Therefore, I was not just randomly accusing people. I also recognized the other guy in the detention cell with him as among the other three that led me to the ambush spot behind the internet cafe. I knew it was him because during the walk, he kept constantly pointing ahead and saying "Fwat Fwat!" (There There!)
Then an officer came to me and showed me some floppy disks and a small mini DV camcorder cassette. With a leap of happiness, I immediately recognized them as items from my backpack, and was glad that at least one of the priceless camcorder tapes was found. The other one in the camcorder had only a few minutes of footage in it anyway, which were of Katya dancing to music in her home and showing some more of her sexy photo albums. So even if that wasn't found, I at least got back most of the footage lost. The rest of the items were mostly replaceable, except for two developed rolls of photocamera film and one undeveloped roll taken in St. Petersburg. Still, this was a big relief to me.
Lyuba told me that these items were found in the suspect's pocket, whom I identified as my attacker. I immediately told Lyuba to translate to the police that this camcorder tape could be played so that my voice and image could be viewed, and that also my name could be found in documents contained no the floppy disks, and that all this was concrete proof that he was one of the attackers. Lyuba agreed and told me that they already knew that it constituted proof. The two guys were taken away to another area. Near the office was also a barred cell where some other young guys and even a girl were being held. I thought I recognized one guy, who was even looking at me and laughing, but later I was told that he couldn't be among the attackers because he was here in the cell at the time I was attacked.
Throughout all this, I kept wondering if there was a slight chance that all of this was a setup like the incident in Novgorod, and if the muggers were collaborating with the police in order to ask me for money for the police services later. At this point, I was already too privy to conspiracies here against me that I suspected everything and anything. However, not once was I ever asked to pay a fee or donation for the police's help. I even asked Lyuba about this, and she said she didn't see why I would be asked for a fee or payment to the police for their help. Still, I was curious about how they found my attacker exactly. I tried to inquire about it, but the police seemed too busy to give a detailed response. They just murmured something about finding him on the street. I wondered if he was identified from the video tape in the internet cafe I left, but even if so, I didn't understand how he could be found so quickly from it, and even more so, how the police could find someone to play back the tape so quickly. But I was glad that he was caught anyway.
Next, we were brought to an upper level of the building to speak with an investigator, who was a pretty brown haired serious woman in a nice red outfit. We walked into her office with Russian folk music playing, and sat down. Lyuba told me that she had to fill out a report about this case, and had many questions to ask me. Lyuba would translate between us. First, I was asked questions about me, including all the basics. Then I was asked many detailed questions about the incidents leading up to the attack. I tried to answer as detailed as possible. All of this took a very long time, and coffee was brought in for the investigator and Lyuba too.
Then my attacker was brought into the room, with one of my other bags, a camcorder case, dangling from his shoulder. An office brought the camcorder case to me and asked if it was mine. I said yes, took it, and proceeded to open it up. Normally, I did not keep the video camera in it, only some other items, so I didn't expect the camcorder to be in it. However, when I opened it, the camcorder was in it! Apparently the attacker bundled it up in there while organizing his share of the loot. I leapt with joy that I got the main possession and most expensive stolen item back! I yelled out "Oh thank God!" The other camcorder tape was still inside it too, so I got the second one back too, thank goodness. And thank God the camcorder charger was still there too, without which the camcorder would have been useless. But only one out of the three batteries I had was left. In addition, the photo camera was inside too, so I had the film I currently shot on it. Then Lyuba told me that although these items were found, they would have to remain here in the police station for the night for documentation purposes, and I could pick them up tomorrow. She also told me that this guy I identified who attacked me was the "chief" of the gangsters who surrounded me. I remarked that he should be able to give the names and locations of the rest of them then, so that the rest of my stuff could be brought back.
After a lot more documentation work, waiting around, talking with the assistant police chief about various things including my life and why I'm in Russia, etc. etc. we were finally allowed to go. By then it was about 4 or 5am. It seemed like the night would never be over. Whew. Lyuba and I were driven to where we were going, her to home, and me to the internet cafe I was heading for before the attack. However, we couldn't find it, so I was dropped off at another one that was still open. There, I wrote up the last update on the reunion with Julia and Katya sleepily for a few hours, knowing that the next report would be much more shocking and significant. I tried to get some sleep in my chair, but only got a little.
Aftermath the next day
In the early morning, this young guy in the internet cafe came up and befriended me, asking what happened to my face. When I told him I was attacked by young gangsters, he sympathized and said they were bad people, but that he was a good person and would try to help me. I wasn't sure if he had an ulterior motives, or if he was just trying to be nice, but he seemed kind so I socialized with him. He offered to take me to get some coffee, so I went with him. I thought he was going to buy me coffee, because that's what usually happens when someone asks you to coffee, but in actuality he took me to coffee so I could get it for him and me. We went into a supermarket nearby to get it. Obviously, if he couldn't afford 4 roubles for a coffee, it meant that he was broke. And after my experiences, I decided not to trust broke guys who befriend me anymore, so he was put on my red flag list unfortunately. After all, if they are broke and desperate here, with nothing better to do than to join gangs and stay out all night, then I am a walking target for them, and perhaps the only income they can have in their lives now. That to me represented a lot of danger, which I didn't need.
Nevertheless, he wanted to hang around me and take me places, so I agreed as long as we stayed in public places. While I was getting a prepaid minutes card for my cell phone and a charger for it (which among the lost items), two guys that knew my new acquaintance, Yuliy, called out to him. After they spoke a while, the two scruffy looking guys called out to me to come to them. Still traumatized from the attack last night, I was not in the mood to talk to strangers or get close to anyone. So I refused, though I felt bad for being unsociable and impolite. But they insisted, and soon one of them suddenly said to me that we were all going to Yuliy's home now, and then somewhere else later. He told me to go along with them. No way, I told him. Does he really think that I'm going to follow three broke desperate scruffy looking guys into a home in some building, so that I could be a sitting duck behind closed doors, letting them do whatever they wanted to me????!!!!! What do they think I am? Especially after yesterday. Yuliy must have told them by now what happened to me. No way was I going to trust any Russian guys, especially here where there are so many who are broke and have nothing to do but join gangs, attack people, commit crimes, etc. Not my crowd. These guys could easily behind closed doors attack me, incapacitate me, take all my belongings including my wallet, passport, and even put a knife to my throat demanding the pin number to my ATM card. Sheesh. It was horrifying to think about it, but I had to after my experiences here. And plus, I was still psychologically and emotionally traumatized from the attack that I was unable to be physically close to any guy or stranger right now. With every stranger that walked by me, I kept imagining him lunging at me to attack. I just couldn't get it out of my mind. I hope that I wouldn't be like this forever.
I looked at Yuliy, who was standing with the two men, to see if he was wanting me to go with them to his home too, but he just stood and waited for my answer. That was awfully suspicious to me. I told them no way and that it was a stupid idea. Then one of the men walked up to me and said something I didn't understand, asking me for 50 roubles. I thought that maybe they needed it to ride the taxi somewhere. I said no, and asked him why I should give him 50 roubles, that I don't give money to strangers, that I don't even know him, that he's rude to even ask, etc. Then he got mad and asked me for 10 roubles. I still told him no, that we weren't even friends, and that I didn't even like him, so I wanted him to leave me alone. He got angry and started becoming more pushy, getting even closer to me and saying "Just give me 10 roubles! 10 roubles! 10 roubles!" What a rude and scary sight he was. I could easily see him holding a knife to my throat if I had followed them to Yuliy's home, demanding the pin number to my ATM card, while Yuliy in the background smiling with an "We gotcha" look on his face. It was a possibility that I wasn't going to let happen. And it was a bad time for this too, since I was still feeling traumatized from the attack. I had a hard time just walking next to people now. I backed off and walked back inside the cell phone store, uttering that perhaps I ought to call the police.
Inside, I waited for those two friends of Yuliy to leave. I was wondering if I should call the police too. I was just tired of dealing with these kind of people. Eventually, Yuliy came in and apologized, saying that those two men were bad and had left. I walked back outside with him, but I was still paranoid that those two men might pop out at any minute. I had never felt so vulnerable before. I bought Yuliy some pizza and coke, and we went around shopping a bit for a new backpack, to replace some of my lost belongings, jeans and new black shoes too. Since I was tired and drowsy, he kept suggesting that we go to his home where he would let me sleep. He even suggested that we could call for a "working girl" who would come for 400 roubles. To that I told him, "Um it's noon right now, the working girls are asleep now." to which he laughed. He seemed nice, but I wasn't going to take the risk. After all, those two men who were pushy earlier and asking me for money could easily come in and all attack me to get my belongings and money. Why take such an awful risk? He kept telling me that he was a "good guy" and would never attack or ambush me. But I replied to that "Yeah, well you know what? EVERY guy here claims to be a 'good guy', even the bad guys do. So what?" Plus, when I inquired as to how he lived alone and had his own place even though he was completely broke and couldn't even afford 4 roubles, he didn't give me very clear answers, at least not in English, so I didn't trust him.
Instead, we went around to shop for my items. I got some new shoes, new blue jeans (my old ones were brown and stained from the assault and being on the floor), and a little black bag to carry on my shoulder that looked cool. Throughout the day, I tried approaching many girls I liked there, but when they saw my bandaged forehead and black eye, they quickly moved away from me. I suddenly realized that Russian women cared about looks after all. Usually, girls in Cherepovets are super friendly and open to me, and at the very least will socialize and talk to me. But today, none of them would even say hi, which was strange. I guess they were scared off by my bruised face, which sort of represented to them that I was some scumbag who got into fights. It was a bit funny in a way, to see them look at me with a disgusted look, avoiding me like I was some plague to them. They wouldn't even smile or say hi. Sheesh. How shallow, I thought. Unfortunately, my black eye would take about a week to heal, so I guess I was going to have a hard time meeting girls for a while. LOL There was only one girl that we met in a cafe who wasn't turned off by me. After flirting with her, she told me that we could meet when she got off work there at 11pm. I agreed, but knew that I would probably leave town before then, unless the police needed me to stay a while longer or if I could get the rest of my stuff back later.
When it got close to 3pm, I told Yuliy that I had an appointment at the police station, showing him the address and phone number they gave me. Before we parted, he asked me for 50 roubles for his "help" all day. At first, I told him that in the rest of the world, it's very rude to ask for money like that, and that Americans hate it especially. With that, he became moody and walked away, saying that we were finished. But when I crossed the street, he came back and waited while I bought something at the outdoor bazaar. Not wanting to part on bad terms, I gave him the 50 roubles. Then we hugged, and said all is good.
Winston gets on the local media
Then Lyuba called me on my cell phone to ask me if I was coming. I said yes, and was surprised that she was there too, since I wasn't expecting her to be there this time. I took a cab to the police station, showing the address that the staff wrote for me. When I arrived, I walked up to the 4th floor where my appointment was. At the top of the stairs, I saw some people looking at me and smiling, as if anticipating my arrival. What's going on, I wondered. When one of the onlookers brought out a big professional media style video camera, I knew what was going on. They were the media! I was going to be on the news!!!!!! Cool, I thought. Maybe I'll get some interesting exposure, and anyone who knows me knows that I love public exposure. Lyuba came out and greeted me. She was very nicely dressed and in black pantyhose too. She and the media staff walked into the investigator's office we were in the night before.
Inside, I also took out my camcorder and camera to film and shoot what was happening. I was about to be interviewed by these reporters, and I wanted to capture it myself. I told them that I was sort of a journalist too. lol When I told Lyuba that she ought to be glad because she's going to be on TV, she said she wasn't as thrilled about it as I was. But, I told her, at least she could add "professional translator for the police" to her resume now. lol Then the camera was brought to me and turned on. With Lyuba translating, I was asked two questions. 1) Do you still have a good impression of Russia after this incident? and 2) What is your opinion of how the police helped you in this? To the first question, I gave a very politically correct answer. I said that it hasn't destroyed my impression of Russia, because there are good and bad people everywhere, that it's part of life, and that one just has to focus on the good people and not the bad ones. To the second question, I said that the police were very helpful to me, worked very quickly, having every man out working on my case, and that I was very grateful that they got most of my important items back, such as the video camera, cassettes, and camera. I also added that I didn't think that if this happened in America, that the police would have worked this quickly for me, having every man out there searching for the muggers. So it was a compliment to them from me that they were probably faster and more efficient than the American police would have been, which I'm sure the policemen here liked. :)
After that, Lyuba and I filled out some more paperwork to get some stuff back, including a signed statement from me that I wouldn't try to inquire about the results of the verdict of the trial of those muggers. I don't know why. Lyuba said it was all just a lot of bureacracy that had to be done, and that the trial of the muggers may take about two months, though I probably wouldn't have to appear during the trial since they already have my signed statement and story about what happened.
After that, I was given my items back and allowed to leave. I asked if they were still searching for the rest of my stuff, but they simply said it hasn't been found. I was hoping my apprehended attacker would have been interrogated about the location of the rest of my stuff or the location of the other muggers, but it wasn't a subject anyone seemed interested in now, except me. I still had two developed roles of film (which my beloved goddess Elena from Novgorod was on) and one undeveloped roll that were irreplaceable, but I realized I probably wasn't going to get them back. The police got my main items back already, and probably weren't willing to expend the energy to get the rest back. They got their good media exposure with my compliments, so for them, it was probably a shut case. That's how it felt.
I offered to take Lyuba out to eat, but she said she already made other plans. I even offered to give her money for her time and trouble, but she refused it. Outside, some guys picked her up in a car and she said goodbye. I felt bad that we saw each other under such extreme circumstances. Lyuba said that she was told I would be on TV that night at 7:30pm, 9pm, and midnight. She said that I would first be on Cherepovets' local news, and later possibly on national Russian news, but she wasn't sure.
I took a cab to the train station to buy my tickets back to St. Petersburg. I was planning to go to Moscow from here, but I wanted to see that Natasha girl I met before I left with the bandana, to see what would happen next after our nice makeouts, so I decided to head back to St. Petersburg instead. There was no point in staying here longer. The police probably weren't going to try to find the rest of my items, and it looked like the case was closed, so all there was to do was leave out of this hellhole city. After buying my tickets for the 9:50pm train to St. Petersburg that day, I called Katya on the payphone to tell her what happened and see if she wanted to meet since I had some hours to kill. She said yes and was curious to see my bruised face too. So she told me to call her when I got to the big supermarket across from her neighborhood. Throughout that day, I had tried to get a hold of Julia too, but couldn't. I knew she was walking her baby and going to a birthday party, so she had a busy day.
Saying goodbyes to Katya and Julia
At the big supermarket across from Katya's neighborhood, I called her on the payphone, telling her that I would wait for her in the pizza cafe area. She said she'd be over in ten minutes. When she arrived and saw my face, there was no expression on her face about it. Like I told you all before, she is fearless and unimpressionable. When I asked her about it, she just said it was all ok and that my injuries weren't that bad. Next, when I asked if she wanted to have some pizza and coke, she told me that she had no money on her. She did not assume like she always did in the past that I would just pay for everything automatically without question. When I insisted, she said ok but only if I would have to pay for her. This surprised me because she had never asked me permission before asking me to pay for something before. She was now showing a little respect toward me, which I saw as an improvement in her. I agreed to pay for her pizza and coke, saying it was no problem, so we ordered at the counter and sat down. While we sat, I told her highlights of what happened last night and this morning, and that I was going to be on the news today. She would try to see me, she said. However, she finished her meal much earlier than me, and then began rushing me to eat quickly because she was tired and didn't like to wait around for someone to eat. So I guess that aspect of her hasn't changed. Most courteous people do not rush someone to eat quickly in a cafe unless there was some schedule they had to keep, which wasn't the case here. We had plenty of time, about 4 or 5 hours in fact before my train, and she was rushing me out of sheer impatience. I guess some things never change.
After eating as fast as I could, she invited me to her home to hang out before my train left. While we walked to her home, we were talking about gangsters, and she actually said she admired them. She reminded me that she was a gangster type herself, citing as an example the incident we had at Izmailovsky Hotel in Moscow. She basically said, "Winston, do you remember how I grabbed you and demanded you to give me cash during our feud there? Well that was the 'gangster' side of me doing that." What a nice thing to be proud of, I thought. I also realized that I was still traumatized because while walking in her neighborhood, I kept feeling paranoia and anxiety that someone was going to run out and attack me. I couldn't shake the thoughts and images from my head. Even when we went inside the big building to Katya's flat, I kept worrying that some attackers set up by Katya were going to jump out and start beating me.
Inside Katya's home though, I was glad her mom was there, since it meant there was no attack that was going to be set up on me there. I knew that I was being overly paranoid, but I couldn't help it. We looked at the news channels to see if the story on me would come on earlier. Later on, Katya's male friend Tolic called and said that he saw me on the news earlier! Darn, I missed it, I thought. Then when I called Julia, her boyfriend's home told me that she saw me on the news too. Later on, when Julia called me from her friend's home where there was a birthday celebration going on, she told me that she had seen me too. She said that the news reported that me, an American man, was led to a backstreet and ambushed by gangster guys, and that the police helped me get most of my stuff back. Julia said that I was very stupid to follow those guys behind the building like that, and said the following as to why the police helped me so well, "For Cherepovets police, you very interesting, so they try to help you." She concluded by saying "Winston, you very famous in Cherepovets now!" At 7:30 when it was supposed to come on again, we couldn't find it. Finally, Katya's mom flipped channels and finally I saw myself on TV with a bruised face. I quickly got out my camcorder and taped it, but only got a few seconds of it. Darn. Well at least it's better than nothing.
For the next few hours, I hung out at Katya's house watching TV, listening to music, and drinking tea. I realized she was ok after all to have as a friend, at least for now, and was very fun in many ways. I told her about my plans this trip, what was ahead for me, etc. Then I told her my impression of her that I told everyone, that she had a lot of charisma, was fun and interesting, and had a fearlessness that I admired. She confirmed that she was fearless alright, claiming that there was truly nothing that scared her. She just was incapable of feeling the emotion of fear it seemed. I don't know if that was an oddity or something to be admired.
Julia invited me to the birthday party going on at her friend's place, but I said there wasn't a lot of time left and I would just hang out with Katya until I left. Later, Katya's male friend came over. She seemed a bit fond of him to a degree, though she claimed they were only friends. A few times while Katya changed clothes, she told me not to look, but I kept saying "Katya, it's nothing I haven't seen before....." LOL
At around 9pm, I asked to go now. Katya's friend said there was still plenty of time for my 9:50 train, but I told them that every time I left Cherepovets in the past, I was always running behind, rushing, fretting and wondering if I could make it in time, so it would be wise to go early to avoid that again. Katya called for a cab, and then got ready to go to the station to see me off. The three of us went down to get into the cab. As usual, they pulled the common "I don't have any money, so please pay for it" line that they often use with foreigners, regardless of whether they have any money or not. We were also shutting another guy to the station for his trip somewhere too, and he was getting a free ride at my expense.
At the station, I got my stuff from the storage room and paid the fee for the service. Then we waited for my train, which arrived a few minutes later. After I made a final photo with Katya in her movie star jacket, I tried to kiss her goodbye but she adamantly still refused. Sheesh. How prudish of her. I only got a hug from her at least. Then I said goodbye and ran to the train with my luggage. Along the way, while walking to my wagon at the other end, some local militia cops that walked by recognized me. I greeted them, commended them for their help again, and they wished me a good trip. They asked me what happened to the bandage on my head and I told them that I removed it because it wasn't necessary anymore (but the real reason was that it made me look like a dork and I didn't want to look like I just came out of the hospital which approaching the girls here!) After settling in my seat and wagon, the train took off. Katya called me by ringing twice and hanging up. (which is a common routine here by some Russian girls when they want you to pay for the call, by ringing you and hanging up so you could see them on your missed calls list and call back. They've done it to me many times.) I called her back and she said she was just checking to see if all was good. I said yes and that I would miss her. She said she'd miss me too and would write me sometime.
Before I left, she did suggest taking her with me to St. Petersburg (if you saw what Cherepovets was like, you wouldn't blame anyone there for wanting to get out, trust me) but that I would have to pay for her ticket. However, it was more of a joke, and when I thought seriously about it, I realized it wouldn't be worth the trouble. Besides, she said that she wouldn't want to stay in my 6 dollar a night hostel, since she required much more luxurious accomodations. But then again, what would I get out of it anyway? Although I knew that she wouldn't push me to buy her anything anymore, I knew she also wouldn't be giving me anything other than platonic companionship either. Still, it's always fun to walk with her and have guys everywhere staring.
During the train ride, I turned in early, since it would be the first full resting sleep I had in 48 hours! And even though I don't usually sleep well on trains, I dozed off like a baby.
I guess the moral of this story is: BE EXTRA CAREFUL in small cities outside Moscow and St. Petersburg. There, many people are completely broke and have nothing to do but join gangs, rob people, commit crimes, etc. and are nothing but trouble. You can see it in their depraved behavior and vibes. You feel that if they could and had the opportunity to attack or kill you for your money, they would. You know, recently I read in the news here in the St. Petersburg Times that a Vietnamese student here was recently stabbed to death by 18 skinheads who did so for racist reasons. Although I am much more lucky than him, it's a warning sign to you all, especially minorities, to be extra careful when coming here, and trusting no one you meet unless you know them very very well! Next time, I'll be riding cabs around small cities at night instead of walking around. After being assaulted twice in small cities, that's what I gotta do. I've also been recommended by people on my list not to befriend Russian guys here or guys who are broke and desperate either, because undoubtedly they will try to use you or take advantage of you. It's almost inevitable.
As of now, it's been a few days but I'm still a bit traumatized from the attack and have trouble walking close to strangers in public. I still get flashbacks from it and worry that people who pass by me are suddenly going to lunge and attack me. I don't know much about the normal psychological after-effects of being attacked and beaten with many blows the way I was, but I imagine this is probably common, especially if this was your first time. I just hope that I return to normal and that these effects aren't long lasting on me, because I don't want to walk around with irrational fears and paranoia constantly in me. Anyone know how long it is supposed to take to heal emotionally from this? Right now, I'm in St. Petersburg which is a reasonably safe area, but I still suffer a bit of trauma and anxiety out in public. When a guy approaches me or walks close, I seem to panic and quickly walk out of his path, which I didn't usually do before.
Anyway, I will say bye for now. I hope you all learn something from this horrible update, which I didn't like writing but had to. I'm sure some of you would like seeing photos of my bruised face, which I took to show you all someday, but I'm not sure if it's a good idea or not now.
By the way, I wanted to also say that during my visits with Julia and Katya, I was treated with much more respect than before. Not once did they try to use me or take advantage of me, and never even showed such an intention. So my impression of them has improved a lot.
I don't know, perhaps all these events and assaults that happened to me after I left Moscow are a sign from the cosmos that I should have stayed there, worked those two jobs, and not left. Wish me luck. I just hope it doesn't run out, cause I sure hope to make it out of all this alive too.
Glad to be alive,
Update: Winston on national Russian TV yesterday!
You won’t believe this, but yesterday I was on national Russian TV! I didn’t expect the broadcast of my story in Cherepovets to go nationwide! I first found out about it by sms to my cell phone sent to me by a girl in St. Petersburg, telling me that she saw me on TV today, and hopes that I will be more careful next time. Then when I got back to my American friend Armen’s place (who is on my list and knows about my adventures), he told me he just saw me on the news too and taped it on his camcorder. Then this morning when I called Katya to arrange my visit to her city of Volgograd, she also said that she saw me on TV just last night. The funny thing is that she said she almost never watches TV, but last night for some reason she felt an inclination to turn it on, and when she did, she suddenly saw my face on TV and was shocked. Then earlier this evening, when Armen and I asked two girls for directions, one of them looked at me and said in Russian “Oh I remember you! I saw you on TV!”
So apparently, my story has been broadcast at least in St. Petersburg and Volgograd. Most likely, it was broadcast nationwide. I didn’t understand why the story of my mugging in Cherepovets, a relatively unknown and uninteresting city, was so interesting for it to go nationwide.
However, I found some clues tonight as to why it was broadcast. After copying the footage from Armen’s camcorder to mine of the broadcast (we didn’t get all of it, but we got a lot of it, it was pretty long), Armen, who understands a lot of Russian due to his Armenian background, explained to me what the broadcast said. Then later, when my friend Alina picked us up in her car, I showed her the broadcast from my camcorder, and she burst out laughing harder than I ever seen her laugh. After she finally stopped laughing, she explained to me what was said in the broadcast.
Apparently, a lot that was said about my story was completely fabricated, and deliberately too, to make the story more interesting. It was also riddled with errors too. I didn’t know that the Russian media engages in complete and outright fabrication like that. First, it stated that I came to Cherepovets looking for a wife, and that I had my fiancee. (The police staff knew full well why I came to Cherepovets. It was explained to them many times and in detail. I said that I came to visit some friends, and give a video cassette to my ex-girlfriend and her friend of our memories last year.) The funny part is that the broadcast’s headlines were “He was on his way to see his ‘love’ but instead he found criminals!” Somehow that was too amusing to everyone. The newscaster even said that while walking out of the internet cafe, I was headed to meet my fiancee, and then when I saw those thugs, I asked them “Where’s my love?” and in response, they robbed me and beat me. The police knew that that’s not what happened at all, they knew exactly that I was going from one internet cafe to another, which was explained to them in precise detail, but they told it that way to make it funny to a Russian audience.
Near the end, the newscaster said that since I found a lady at the police station to be beautiful, that now I will be looking for reasons to visit the police station more often. That was based on a partial truth though, since I did say that two of the ladies, including the investigator who typed up my story, were very “kraseeva” (beautiful). But it was a strange thing for a professional media to say though.
Another thing I didn’t understand was, in the last eight days here in St. Petersburg, 3 minority students were attacked my racist gangs (mostly skinheads), and one of them, a Vietnamese student, was even killed. So why did the TV cover my story but not those other attacks? Alina said that mine was more funny, because I am an American here looking for love rather than some student walking home from school, hence the headline “He came to see his love, but instead he found criminals.” Alina further said that since Russian people have very little to smile about, the news media likes to give them funny stories like this, even if they are fabricated.
Another funny thing is that they showed my friend and translator Lyuba next to me, but didn’t say who she was, and the program insinuated that I had a fiancee in Cherepovets, so the audience would naturally assume that Lyuba was my fiancee! Lol Armen joked today that she might be in danger now because the skinheads might target her for having relations with an Asian man! Lol
Anyway, I can’t help but hope that something good will come out of this. Heck, maybe some girl who sees me on TV and likes me may ask the TV station for my contact information, and maybe I’ll find my soulmate here through that way. Lol
Finally, I just wanted to say that for those of you who are seriously worried about my safety and telling me to leave Russia, I have some good news (no I’m not leaving Russia). I’ve called my people in Volgograd and Sochi, my next cities, and made arrangements to arrive there soon. They told me that in their cities, there aren’t skinheads who attack foreigners and minorities, and that people aren’t usually attacked or mugged on the street like that, so I will be much safer there than in Moscow or St. Petersburg. Therefore, when I arrive there, I will be in much safer territory.
But anyhow, I do want to speed things up on this trip, but every time I am about to leave, I meet a girl I like who seems to like me, so I stay longer to see what will happen. Now though, I am even thinking of not teaching English in Izhevsk, and instead just visiting there for two weeks the girls I know and who have expressed interest in me, then returning to Moscow to continue the journalism career there. I don’t know. Perhaps that would speed things up. Also, my friend Conrad suggested that I may have better luck in Uzbekistan because the women there have more Asian features, and the country is much more safe. Armen confirmed all this too, having been there before, and also claimed that the people there were much more kind and generous than in Russia, and the women there much sweeter and easier to get along with too. So that is another idea to keep in mind. Heck, maybe I should go to Uzbekistan, and then to China from there. Who knows. I sure don’t.
Anyhow, bye for now. I’ll update you on the rest later. I just wonder now how many more people I meet will recognize me from TV.
Internet poster saw me on NTV, cowardice, bravery
Posted: Mon Oct 25, 2004 12:34 pm Post subject:
Earth to earth, ash to ash and trash to trash.
You do not even understand how disgusted you were in Russia even by your pimps and prostitutes.
In my opinion those who robbed just punished you for your greed, lust, stupidity and personal filth.
"At least I do not rob" -- you'd better rob then commit all your "endevours".
In my opnion, any robber is more respectable then you. At least they live dangerous and manly life.
The only useful lesson from your experience for forein travelers is ...
This is another perspective of Russian mentality that nobody has highlighted here so far: many Russians have a very active categorization of people as cowards/non-cowards. Admitting to be a coward is a great shame for an ordinary Russian. Which is probobly why the cowards among them even lack the decent currage to admit to their cowardice. ”ow28” here has the same pathetic way of thinking: he classifies brave people as cowards and cowards as brave. This in order to reckon himself, who is a true coward, as brave. But how ”dangerous and manly” is it actually for five guys to attack a single boy? And if somebody likes to live truely dangerously, like Winston does, then he is a coward! But to normal people anywhere other than Russia, Winston’s adventures in Novgorod, Vyborg and Cherepovets are clear evidence to his bravery. His essays made for very entertaining reading, and I think Winston should seriously consider to do a movie script based on his adventures. It would sure be a winner here in Russia. He’s already famous here after the Cherepovets assault has been translated severel times on different channels. I saw him on NTV, which is Russian national television, Oktober 21st.
It was on at least more than once. Winston was said to be in Russia looking for a wife, with a Russian vocabulary limited to 3 words: женщина, любовь and свадба. He was said to have been addressing the five gangsters to ask for an internet cafe, with a camera dangling around his neck, and told them that he was here to find a wife. They did not understand him, so they took his stuff and got away. After he got his stuff back, he found excuses for returning to the police station without any need, because he liked one of the female detectives there.
For those who saw this report, it will probably be in their memory for quite some time, much because of it’s absurdity and irony. No matter what, it must be very good PR for Winston.
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Joined: 30 Jul 2004
Posted: Mon Oct 25, 2004 5:09 pm Post subject: Fine line
There is fine line between Bravery and stupidity.
brav·er·y [ br?yv?ree, br?yvree ]
great courage: extreme courage in the face of danger or difficulty, or an example of extreme courage
stu·pid·i·ty [ stoo p?dd?tee ] (plural stu·pid·i·ties)
1. lack of intelligence: lack of intelligence, perception, or common sense
2. rashness or thoughtlessness: extremely rash or thoughtless behavior
Some of Winston's actions I would say are brave like fighting off the attacker in Novgorod, but trusting Vadim and the "private police" was stupid. Spending all the money on Katya and looking for unprotect sex with a prostitute is extremely stupid. Travelling across Russia without know any language or culture is brave.
Thomas, you write really well, but there is no rational thought behind your argument. Winston is over in Russia for beautiful women that he would not dare approach in USA and writing about a sense of adventure in foreign land. I think most people problem from Russia is not his actions, but his labelling the whole country based his bad interactions. He has met some nice people, but he brings up the negative aspects of everything he sees. Not only is he insulting these people who says greedy or wahtever, but he is insulting their friends and family. Of course they are angry with him.
Winston's story in "Volga Region News" Newspaper
I've been informed by someone on my list that my story in Cherepovets was recently reported in the Volga Region newspaper in Russian. Here is a link below to the online version of it from an email I received about it.
"Winston- your story was in the Russian Newspaper "Volga Region News". They claim the guy who beat you was just a kid. Anyhow, if you want a paper version of your story, here it is:
Here is my exact translation:
"In cheropovetz young people beat an American citizen and tore his video camera and photocamera from him.
They robbed a citizen of the USA in Cheropovetz. Young people ripped a videocamera and photocamera from the foriegner. The militzia said that the 30 year old american came to the city of metal workers (or maybe metalurgists?) as a guest to his friends. Near 10 at night he went out into the street to find an internet kafe.
The foriegner asked passerby young people the way. They led him around a corner and beat him, taking his apparatus. The american didnt lose conciousness and went to the miltzia right away. The robbers were caught. However, only one was held a guilty- a 17 year old boy. The rest turned out to be only witnessess of the robbery."