Tuesday, March 15, 2005

My parents got robbed Feb. 23, and I kept meaning to write about it but with all the Kravchenko and Maskhadov news, it was really hard to focus on something personal.

I call my parents once or twice a week (the phone bills are enormous but nowhere near as bad as when I lived in the States). So after mama and I had spent about an hour chatting the morning of Feb. 23, she quickly got dressed and ran out to Bessarabka Market to pick up that really good cottage cheese (tvorog) that one village woman brings her every Wednesday. Since the market is across the street, mama got back home pretty soon, within half an hour or so.

There are two locks on our door; the upper one kept getting stuck for over a year and I kept telling my parents to change it - because it looked suspicious, as if someone had been trying to break in, and it was also a pain in the ass to use it, especially when in a hurry. But in our family, things are never done quickly.

First, mama found the lower lock unlocked - she thought that maybe my father was already home. Then she realized that the upper one was totally messed up and she knew right away what had happened. She should have locked the lower lock, thus preventing the robbers from getting out - in case they were still inside - and then she should've called the police. But she couldn't think too clearly that very instant, so she opened the door and went in.

Two guys dressed in black were in my room, shuffling through the bookshelves, and, within seconds, they started moving towards the door, past my mama, hiding their faces. One was short, the other tall, both quite athletic but skinny. She didn't see their faces, but met the eyes of one of the guys.

"They were like two black cats, swift, making no sound as they rushed away," she told me.

She stepped aside, shocked, mesmerized, and they didn't touch her. Seconds after they were gone, she recovered and ran after them downstairs, yelling, "Thieves! Thieves!"

But she stopped after one flight of stairs, realizing that she was on her own with the two of them and that they'd be waiting for her by the exit and would make her shut up somehow, would do anything to prevent her from running after them all the way to Khreshchatik, screaming and all. So she turned and went back to the apartment.

The first thing she checked for were the cats, our two precious black cats. They were okay. Kosya Koskin, the blind one, loves to greet the guests, so he was sitting in the middle of the room, probably thinking that we were having a party. The young cat, Nur, was hiding.

After locating the cats, mama decided to see if anything had been stolen: her watch was gone, her cell phone, papa's cheap digital camera and a broken video camera, and a tiny amount of family gold - a couple of beautiful, old Orthodox crosses, mama's wedding ring, and a 1900 golden 5-ruble coin with Tsar Nickolay II on it, our only treasure in the Soviet times, which my grandmother gave mama for her 30th birthday and my mama gave me on mine last year. And the money: cash that was laid aside to pay for the remont that we're in the middle of right now - cash for remodelling the bathroom, something my mother had been planning to accomplish since last October, but kept getting interrupted, first by the Orange Revolution, then by flu...

The remont aspect is my favorite in this story: I almost sympathize with the robbers. They must've spent quite a while observing mama's daily routine (except for Wednesdays, she goes to another market, by metro, and is never back home so soon); they must've spent quite a while fiddling with the upper lock; they must've decided to rob our place because we'd just installed two new plastic windows, and they must've been imagining our place to be orderly and well-packed.

And boy, were they in for a huge disappointment! The mess in our apartment is unbelievable right now. There are mounds of stuff stored in my parent's room and as much lying around in my room, most of it waiting to be thrown away, old and useless. All the books gradually being moved from the hallway and my room into my parents' room... I don't have the energy to describe what it looks like right now - but the robbers must've thought they weren't the first ones to attempt robbing our place...

Seriously, though, it's good that we had all that cash lying in the open - they didn't have problems finding it and they left with no hard feelings. Otherwise, God forbid, they could've hurt mama. It's also good that she didn't see their faces.

Mama did call the police, the police arrived, asked lots of questions that mama didn't know the answers to (like, how much does your cell phone cost, etc.), and no one really expects them to solve the case, not because it's not that big of a deal but because this is how things work in this part of the world.

I was very shocked by it all. My parents are shocked, too. But it's good that it ended well. It's good that the guys were probably professional thieves, for whom it's a matter of honor not to hurt anyone, especially a woman. God, I'm so glad the assholes didn't touch my mother.

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