Robbed in Russia: Case No. 370708

“On the 5th of May, an unknown third party stole broke into the apartment I was staying at and stole valuables.” That’s the first sentence of a statement I had to sign at a police station today. Well, a translation of the first sentence, which was, of course, written in Russian. I had to go to the station today to verify my statement with a translator because I have the “right to give evidence in my native language.” Or something like that. Really, the story isn’t as exciting as it sounds. My basic statement went something like this:

  • I left for a class field trip to the museum at about 10:00. I thought about taking my money belt, but it was uncomfortable and awkward. I knew I wouldn’t be buying anything and I wouldn’t be gone for very long, so I decided to leave it home. I threw it on my bed as I ran out the door because, like usual, I was running a little late. This becomes important, and slightly ironic, later.
  • I returned home at 2:30. It was the first time that I was able to easily unlock the door with my key (the doors are really different over here, okay?), so I distinctly remember hearing the two clicks as the deadbolts slid back. No one else was home, and I went to my room and got on my computer.
  • At about 2:40, Irina got home, and Anna got home a little after her. Irina came into my room and asked me if I’d been looking through the bookcase in the living room. There was a mess on the floor around it, magazines and random boxes strewn around. I told them it wasn’t me, they said it wasn’t them either, and Irina went to check the valuables and realized that their gold jewelry had been stolen.
  • Irina asked me if they’d taken anything from me, and I went to check my money belt. It was still on the bed where I’d left it, but all the cash was gone: 2,000 rubles and about 100 US dollars. They’d left my credit card, which had been right next to the money, and didn’t take my laptop either, which I had left on the desk. Really, I consider myself lucky that the thief was only looking for untraceable things; it could have been so much worse.

Okay, my actual statement had none of the personal commentary, but that’s the story. It’s rather ironic that we got robbed the one day I left my money belt at home, where I figured it would be safe. After realizing we were robbed, Irina called the police. Over the next few hours, about 8 officers showed up. One dusted the apartment with a black powder looking for fingerprints. One dressed in blue and grey camouflage brought in a German Shepherd to sniff around (I have no idea why). A blonde officer, who I later learned was a Senior Lieutenant, asked the neighbors what had happened. The (somewhat hairy and very pot-bellied) man in apartment 35 answered their persistent knocking in just boxer shorts and said, “Can I have a minute?,” which seems like it’s something that should be (and probably is) in a TV detective/crime show. She asked Irina and Anna several questions while I waited outside on the cement landing and the dusting officer took my fingerprints.

Funny side story: after I’d been fingerprinted and was sitting out on a bench on the stair landing, this crazy old babushka came upstairs. She was wearing a neon yellow headband and a red shirt with cats on it that said “Fun!” She ambled all the way to the top landing and started banging at an apartment and yelling at someone named Svet to open the door. After a few moments of silence, she walked back downstairs, only to return about five minutes later to do the same thing. This happened three or four times, and on the last trip that I saw she sat down beside me and started talking to me. I have absolutely no idea what she was saying (she was a mumbler…but I think I heard the phrase “50 years,” so maybe she was talking about whoever lived in the apartment), so I just sat and smiled and nodded until Irina called me inside.

I had to give my statement to the blonde officer, who didn’t speak English. No one did in fact, which was a problem, since the first person at the scene of the crime most definitely did not speak Russian. With Anna and a dictionary we managed to get a statement out, but the police wanted me to come in today and verify it with a professional translator. (Everything, in fact, was accurate, except that they had assumed that I was single. When I told the blonde officer today that I was married she looked really surprised and said, “Really?! Good job.” Umm, thanks?

Some of my classmates were super excited to hear that I got to go to a Russian police station as a purely innocent person and wanted to know all about it (especially if the translator spoke with an American or British accent [And I just realized that Anna asked me the same question today…curious. Anyway, the accent was definitely American, but our Phonetics professor has a British accent when she speaks English, which is endlessly amusing]). The building was super old, but that’s to be expected. I sat in two chairs while I was there: 1) a hair-covered-blanket-covered chair (I have no idea how to punctuate that. The chair was covered with a blanket that was covered in hair. Make sense?). You could see the wood through the moth-eaten cloth covering the arms, and 2) a folding chair with the back punched out, just a nice metal bar across the top. The walls were painted nicely though, a bright turquoise on the first floor and a light gold on floors 2-4. The officer who questioned me was the same blonde officer from the first day. The translator was a young-looking woman named Kate. She had a dark bob and really lovely amber eyes (which is odd because I almost never notice eye color unless I’m specifically looking for it.

Altogether, I was impressed with the Russian police. They’d already ran comparisons on the fingerprints and identified some that weren’t mine, Anna’a, or Irina’s. They also had cut the lock out of the old door once we got a new one (apparently the whole door was the problem and had to be replaced, not just the lock) to find out how the thief broke in and entered (this was a fun conversation, mostly because the words for “lock” and “castle” are only differentiated by an accent, so I spent a few sentences wondering why we were suddenly talking about castles. [I also accidentally told Anna today that I was glad it was cold because that meant all the squids were dead. But there will be time for amusing Russian language mishaps later; I digress]). I had to sign about twenty things saying that I had been told about the investigation and my rights to remain silent and not testify against myself or my husband and waive the right of a translator and receive about 5,000 rubles if they found the thief and other things. I have no illusions that I will ever see my money again, but I appreciated the effort. I imagine that it’s very similar to the way American police stations are run.

Three interesting/random things I noticed at the police station:

  1. The most Russian thing about the place was a poster on the wall with a picture of Putin. Under it were the words “Putin also wasn’t always the president.” Not a great translation, but basically saying that everyone has to start somewhere; we can’t all be presidents at once. I’m still confused at how the general population sees Putin, but I thought it was interesting.
  2. Opposite the picture of Putin was a picture of a raccoon standing on its hind legs holding a kitten. The caption underneath read “And you’ve lost your little cat!” I think. I’m so confused about this picture. Especially because the kitten may or may not have had a raccoon tail; I couldn’t tell. I wish I had asked about it.
  3. There was a collection of Nesquick bunny stickers on the filing cabinet. A bunch were duplicates. I couldn’t help but notice that three poses had only 1 sticker, one pose had 2  stickers, one pose had 3 stickers, one pose had 4 stickers, and one pose had 5 stickers. 17 stickers all together. I don’t even know what to think about those

Here’s a terrible picture of me outside the police station. Yep, impressive building, I know.