Voices from Russia

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Boston and Moscow: A Tale of Two Police Forces

00 police lights


Of all the mayhem that took place last week in Boston, there was an image I willed to stay with me… a photo showing a local police officer in a bulletproof vest, carrying two gallons of milk in a residential area. The caption of the photo, which made the rounds on Facebook over the weekend, read that the officer elected to help a family with small children that was out of milk and stuck at home during the lockdown. As the mother of a small child, I could immediately relate to the horror of being forced to remain at home with an empty fridge. Forget terrorists… the screaming alone would kill you.

As a Moscow resident, I also thought about the image of our own police officers. Several of my Russian friends shared the photo with disdainful comments of their own, messages that amounted to, “Try getting a Moscow cop to do something like THAT during a lockdown. Fat chance”. Of course, one should probably try imposing a lockdown on Moscow and see how that works out (hint: It won’t work out), before one judges. Yet, I understood the sentiment my Russian friends were expressing. In a city like Moscow, authority figures simply can’t appear too caring. It’d go against everything they were taught. It’d make them look soft, possibly vulnerable… and vulnerability is frequently punished.

However, I remembered a story that happened to a former Moscow neighbour of mine a couple of years ago. This story will never go viral on Facebook… and not just because there’s no photographic evidence. Simply put, most people wouldn’t believe it. Yet, as a witness to part of it, I can at least confirm some of the details. This neighbour, an ancient lady of the sort one might describe as “old Soviet intelligentsia”, had a nasty run-in with a member of Moscow’s nouveau riche. He nearly ran her over on a pedestrian crossing in his luxury car, and she injured herself while lunging out of the way. The guy tried to speed off, but ended up losing control of his vehicle and crashing it into a construction fence.

I wasn’t there for the immediate aftermath, but was living in that neighbourhood at the time, and hearing about what had happened, elected to meet her at the police station and walk her home. She didn’t need hospitalisation, but she was badly shaken and, worse still, humiliated by the man who’d nearly run her over. Apparently, he’d screamed at her that it was all her fault, that she was an “old bag” and “too slow”. This may seem shocking, but if you know anything about the Moscow nouveau riche, you wouldn’t be shocked at all. I waited for her from across the street and saw her walk out, shaking, barely able to retain her composure, after giving a statement to the police. There was a little hat with velvet flowers on her head, and the hat alone broke my heart. For an older woman, she’d taken such great pains to always look her best… and here she was, looking fragile and lost, with the hat askew on her gray hair.

As I made my way over to her, an old cop car drove out of the parking lot adjacent to the station, and a policeman inside rolled down his window. He said, “Get in, we’ll drive you home, it’s only a few blocks”. My neighbour asked if I could join, and they nodded, so I got in. On our way back to her building, the two policemen sitting up front consoled this old, lonely woman the best way they knew how. From what I gathered later, they’d witnessed her being berated and humiliated after having been nearly run over by the member of the so-called “elite”… and took umbrage. Therefore, they told stupid jokes, made her laugh, and told her that things would be OK. It was a very short and surreal ride in a Moscow cop car, but I haven’t forgotten it. I haven’t forgotten the officers’ eyes in the rear-view mirror, as they told her that the guy would surely “get his due”.

I never did find out what happened to the guy in question… whether he suffered any consequences, whether he at least had his license suspended, or if he pulled strings and got off scot-free, as people like him frequently do. My neighbour died soon after, when I was away. She had a chronic illness she had taken pains to conceal. Her heirs, who live far away, I didn’t know very well. Nevertheless, I do think about this woman, already in the last weeks of her life, being helped out of that police car and walked all the way to her apartment. I think about those two cops… one older and one younger. They weren’t being heroes that day, but they did act like human beings, which can be heroic in the right kind of context. I hope they’ve continued to act like human beings… and I hope that one day, they too will go viral on Facebook for performing a small act of kindness. If only to remind us that Moscow’s cops can also be kind.

22 April 2013

Natalia Antonova



Editor’s Note:

Nicky and I had an encounter with an “entitled” nouveau riche similar to the one that happened to the old woman in Moscow. We were pulling out of the Russian store on Central Avenue, and a BMW started rolling down the alleyway that provided access to Central Ave. The driver jumped out of the car, and started to scream at us in Russian and English, and you could tell that they considered themselves “better” than the rest of us, and that “their shit didn’t stink”, as the saying has it. They were thoroughly nasty, but you could tell that they thought themselves “oh-so-superior” to the common herd such as us.

Let’s not be coy. Crapitalism encourages such behaviour. After all, they “earned” what they have… and, we, lazy layabouts, didn’t deserve equal (or even decent) treatment. It’s why I oppose people such as Victor Potapov, James Paffhausen, Alexander Webster, Terrence Mattingly, Rod Dreher, and Freddie M-G… they’re cheerleaders for the Affluent Effluent and “Economic Freedom”. Reflect on this… they’d tack up Our Lord a second time, and they’d back Caiphas to the max. Why? After all, you can’t have working-class rabble-rousers stirring up the envious hoi-polloi, can you? It does make you wonder about the Christianity of certain loud “Christian” sorts, doesn’t it? Oh, yes… there was only ONE “educated” ApostleJudas Iscariot. Think on that one, too… it’s a meaty Lenten meditation (pun intended)…

It won’t last forever… God will NOT be mocked…



Zenit Sez Two Abducted Bishops Released in Syria… Is This Another Red Herring?

01 red-question-mark


The Zenit.org website said that two Orthodox bishops kidnapped by gunmen in Syria‘s northern city of Aleppo were freed. A number of senior diplomats and international officials were involved in negotiations to release the two bishops, including the Greek ambassador to Syria, UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, and representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate. The gunmen snatched the bishops from their car Monday, killing their driver. Mar Gregorios Ibrahim is a bishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Aleppo and Boulos Yazigi is a bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and all the East in the city. The Vatican released a statement after the bishops’ abduction, calling it “a dramatic confirmation of the tragic situation in which the Syrian population and the Christian communities in Syria are living. Pope Francisco is following the events with deep participation and he is praying for the health and the liberation of the two kidnapped bishops”.

24 April 2013



Aleppo Archdiocese Sez No News on Kidnapped Syrian Bishops

00 Syria revolt 17.02.12


On Wednesday, the Antiochian Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo said that it had no news on two Orthodox bishops kidnapped in Syria, a day after a Christian source said that their abductors released the two men. Ghassan Ward, a priest at the archdiocese, told AFP, “We have no new information. We can say that (as far as we know) they haven’t been freed”, he added of Greek Orthodox Bishop Boulos Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Bishop Youhanna Ibrahim.

On Monday, gunmen seized the two bishops from Aleppo, but the French Christian group Oeuvre d’Orient said on Tuesday that their kidnappers had freed them, and they were already at the northern city’s St Elias Cathedral. The Paris-based association, which works to help Middle Eastern Christians, said it was “delighted by the rapid liberation of the two bishops”. However, Ward told AFP on Wednesday that there had been “no contact with them”, adding, “Efforts are continuing” to secure their release. He said, “We’re very worried”.

Syrian state media and church sources reported that kidnappers seized the two men enroute from the Turkish border, when armed men intercepted the car they were in, forcing them out of the vehicle. Sources in both churches said that they believed that the kidnappers were Chechen fighters, who stopped the car in an area outside of Aleppo. An official from the Syriac Orthodox diocese said in a statement posted online, “The news which we’ve received is that an armed group (of) Chechens stopped the car and kidnapped the two bishops whilst the driver was killed”. A source in the Greek Orthodox Church said the kidnappers described themselves as “Chechen jihadists“.

On Tuesday, the Syrian opposition condemned the kidnapping, saying that the rebel Free Syrian Army wasn’t involved and pointed the finger at the Syrian régime. The opposition National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces said, “Efforts… to uncover the identities of the clerics’ kidnappers and to liberate them indicate that the Syrian régime is responsible for the kidnapping, and (the) killing of Bishop Youhanna Ibrahim’s driver”. Christians account for around five percent of Syria’s population, and they’ve become increasingly vulnerable to attack and abductions in the lawlessness that’s engulfed much of the country since March 2011.

24 April 2013

Agence France Presse


Blog at WordPress.com.