Canstar Community News - ONLINE EDITION

Russian adventure not likely to be forgotten

  • Print

In 1993, my husband John and I were robbed while working in the Russian town of Anapa on the Black Sea. We were working as teachers for counsellors at a camp. It seems so long ago that I sometimes wonder, "Did it really happen?"

It was my birthday, June 13, and we had decided to go to town and celebrate in a restaurant.

This was highly unusual. Ordinary Russians cannot afford  a restaurant meal. But we rejoiced in our secluded booth, and we may have been too noisy. The next booth of diners probably decided that we were wealthy and checked us out with a view to robbing us.

Later that night my husband woke me, and pointed to an open screen door, which we had securely latched the night before. It was odd, for I usually wake up first. Our host speculated that the thieves had probably sprayed ether into the air. If we had awakened during the robbery, we were told that they might have killed us.

All of our possessions were gone: my husband’s wallet, his medications, our MasterCard, our passports, our visas, our rubles, more than 300 Deutsch marks (gifted to us from a home church friend) and our plane tickets. My husband even his only pair of shoes stolen. For some reason they did not take our laptop computer.

They did not take my suitcase, full of clothes, which was under the bed. The room was only large enough for two single beds and no closet. My green birthday sweater was still hanging on the back corner of my bed. But my little case for toothbrush and paste, a larger Ukranian-decorated  case for makeup from my daughter-in-law and my attache-case (from my father-in-law) filled with expensive Moeck Blockfloeten (recorders) and a miniature cassette-player with student Russian and Ukrainian recorded songs were all gone.

The authorities were very embarrassed by all this, and took numerous fingerprints trying to help. But how to fly home now? At the airport we were walked right on to the plane, outside the building, and no one was allowed to sit in the first six rows except us!

The first stop  was of course, Moscow, where Canadian Russian-born friends helped us. They were getting ready to come home to Canada, too, and needed passports and visas too. They showed us the lineup and we were ushered right to the front of the line, while they, as Russians, had to take their place at the end. I thought that was really unfortunate, another example of discrepancies in the Russian system.

MasterCard in Moscow proved very helpful, and we had nearly everything ready, except for the visas. At the airport we were standing there alone without them, and it was 10 minutes prior to boarding time. Suddenly a handsome, blue-uniformed man spoke to us in English. (I remembered seeing the gold epaulettes on his jacket).

"I am a Russian consul. I understand you have no visas," he said. "Just a minute."

In no time he was back, handed us visas, and we passed them to the airport official who promptly stamped them, and shoved them into the pile with the others, and we boarded. In St. Petersburg we had a few more skirmishes, but that’s another story.

When we got home to Canada, and talked about our adventure, our Russian friend who had helped us said: "There is no such a person as a Russian consul. That must have been an angel."

We were sent a clipping from their newspaper about us, and one line went something like this: "Klassens will never again want to visit our ‘oozhasnieh’ (terrible) country!"

But we did go back: 1994 (in summer), ’95, ’96, and ’97, making sure that at night, we locked not only our screen doors, but the outer doors as well.

Bertha Klassen is a North Kildonan-based writer.
Neighbourhood Forum is a readers’ column. If you live in The Herald area and would like to contribute to this column, contact jim.timlick@canstarnews.com.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

Readers' Choice Awards

Best Of Winnipeg Readers Survey

See the results of the 2014 Canstar Community News Best of Winnipeg Readers' Survey.

View Results

This Just In Twitter bird

Poll

Have you had difficulty adjusting to the new, lower speed limits in school zones?

View Results