Life

Traveling in Siberia during Winter | Experiencing Kindness from a Russian Police Officer in Krasnoyarsk

  Covered with snow, dense forests, and hazy skies, the outskirts of Siberia in January are full of desolation and despair. Looking at the scenery outside the window, I am full of anticipation for the next trip. After a 17-hour train journey, I arrived at the third stop of this Trans-Siberian Railway trip—Krasnoyarsk.
  Here, I experienced a police call in my life.
missing wallet

  In the summer of 2019 I took a train for the first time across the famous Trans-Siberian Railway. When the train was in Krasnoyarsk, it stopped for nearly half an hour. Since the city of Keke was not in the plan at the time, I didn’t get off the bus for sightseeing, but the long stay also made me remember the city.
  In January 2020, I decided to cross the Trans-Siberian Railway for the second time in winter, and Krasnoyarsk, which I regretted not visiting last time, was included in my itinerary. From Irkutsk to Krasnoyarsk, the train passed through the snow-covered forest and crossed the Yenisei River Railway Bridge, and I finally arrived at my destination.
  Since I only intend to stay here temporarily, I did not book a luxury hotel, but chose a youth hostel very close to the train station. In Russia, hostels are the perfect place to travel alone.
  Even the dormitories are fairly quiet, the communal kitchens are well-equipped and the free tea and coffee are often of good quality. If you encounter problems, the enthusiastic front desk will always help you solve your problems. If you are lucky, you will meet a group of like-minded friends to travel by car.
  The good experience in other cities made me book a youth hostel called Alaska very close to the train station without thinking about it. Martha at the front desk is a typical Russian aunt, fat and enthusiastic. After a simple greeting, she led me to the eight-person room I booked.
  Since the other beds were already occupied, I slept in the lower bunk near the door. The 17-hour long drive made me deeply tired, and I fell asleep on the bed, with the coat with the wallet hanging on the head of the bed.
  Winter days in the northern hemisphere are hopelessly short. Around four o’clock in the afternoon, I slowly woke up from the dream, opened my sleepy eyes, and it was already night outside. When I woke up, I found that the wallet hanging in the bedside coat was missing.
  After a carpet search on and off the bed, it was still nowhere to be found. My heart skipped a beat: it’s broken, I lost my wallet.
go to the bureau

  With crappy Russian plus translation software, I told the aunt at the front desk about my situation. The aunt first confirmed my situation through the translation software, and then calmly helped me call the police. “This has never happened since we opened the store.” The calmness of my aunt was in stark contrast to my panic. Having traveled in Russia many times, I have long since let go of the people here.
  Before I traveled to Russia, some seniors told me that in the 1990s, Chinese people often had bags stolen on Russian trains, but my personal experience made me full of trust and goodwill towards Russians. In Irkutsk, beautiful and generous middle school students acted as guides for me for free; in Arkhangelsk, a Kazakh elder brother treated me to drink vodka in the ice and snow; Share food with me.

Street View of Krasnoyarsk, Russia

The front desk of a Russian youth hostel

  In Russia, hostels are the perfect place to travel alone.

  With the loss of my wallet, my fantasy of the Utopia in the North was instantly shattered.
  I sat anxiously on the sofa in the lobby waiting for the police to arrive, while my roommates who lived in the youth hostel inquired about the situation. Some people sympathized with me, and some people told me that I must be optimistic about my own things in Russia.
  After some conversations, I realized that the composition of this youth hostel is particularly complicated. Armenian workers, Uzbek cooks, Georgian taxi drivers live here together. I lost my wallet in a mixed environment, and I can only consider myself unlucky. In helplessness, regret and pain, the police finally came to the scene.
  The local police station sent a total of two police officers. One is a tall, blond-haired Russian policewoman, about 180 centimeters tall, and the other male police officer is not tall, but he looks like a “practice guy” with his tendons all over his body. They first asked about the color and style of my wallet and the time of the crime, and then took photos at the scene to investigate. After that, they asked me to put on my coat and took me to the police car.
  Krasnoyarsk in January is at the lowest temperature of the year, and the temperature in winter is only about minus 30 degrees. Even in the police car, I was still shivering with cold. The male policeman sitting next to me started talking to me.

  For Russian residents in Siberia, eating a few bites of chicken is considered a well-off life.

  ”What are you doing in Russia?”
  ”Travel.”
  ”So what do you do next?”
  ”I don’t know.”
  ”Can I still get my wallet back? I have dollars in my wallet. It’s easy to find. Or do you know any habitual offenders in the neighborhood?”
  ”It’s hard to say.” The police officer told me helplessly. Then he said to me “you will have 5000 rubles”.
  I thought to myself, maybe 5,000 rubles is the Russian government’s compensation for foreign tourists. Although 5,000 rubles is insignificant to me, it also warms me, who is somehow penniless, in this cold moment.
  Soon, we came to the police station. In an office on the second floor. The blond policewoman started taking notes on me. Obviously my Russian level is not enough to support this transcript, and Russians whose English level is generally broken can’t understand too much English. In this way, a moment later, a Chinese student was called by the police station to act as an interpreter.
  The content of the transcript is very simple, nothing more than describing the experience of losing the wallet to the police. After finishing the transcript, I asked the policewoman when I could get the 5,000 rubles. The translator first asked me: “Is this unlikely? Who did you hear from?”

  Then the interpreter told the policewoman, who also looked at me in surprise: Who told you? I told them it was the beefy male officer who told me. So they took me to the male police officer.
  Although I didn’t fully understand their conversation, I knew through the surprised mouth of the policewoman that 5,000 rubles was the male police officer’s “benevolent act”. He also took the initiative to add my contact information, and only then did I know the name of this kind police officer was Adil.
minority enthusiasm

  After the symbolic transcript, the interpreter and I were sent away by the police station. The translator told me not to have any illusions about the Russian police station. He was pulled here at night just to help his compatriots, and he had no hope of getting subsidies from the police station.

Darbent Castle, Republic of Dagestan, Russia

  The reputation of the Russian police is not that good. The phenomenon of random fines by the Moscow airport police even alarmed Putin. Due to historical reasons, there are legal problems in many regions of Russia. Different states and union republics within the federation also have different laws and regulations. There was once a Chinese who was fined “unnecessarily” by the Russian police for walking on the street in the middle of the night, and this punishment is legally enforceable. Given the “glorious history” of the Russian police, the translator’s advice not to get my hopes up was reasonable.
  The anxiety of losing my wallet, the curiosity of entering and leaving the Russian police station, and the fear of unknown itinerary made me spend a restless night. The next day, I found Officer Adil according to the address. Today’s weather is not too cold, minus 15 degrees in winter can be regarded as a hot day in Siberia. Police officer Adil was waiting for me downstairs in slippers and a T-shirt.
  As soon as we met Adil, he handed me 5,000 rubles. In Russia, 5,000 rubles is the largest denomination note. Adil told me: “I wish you all the best in the future. My salary is only so much, and I can’t give you more.” For a city whose average monthly salary is around 30,000 rubles, 5,000 rubles is not a small sum. numbers. Seeing that it was still early, Adil invited me upstairs to his house to have breakfast and share stories with each other.
  Russia is a society with severe urban-rural and regional differentiation. People rush to seek gold in Moscow and St. Petersburg, while people in smaller cities try to find opportunities in regional centers like Kazan and Yekaterinburg. The “border residents” in the Caucasus, Primorsky Krai, and former Soviet republics are trying to get out of the mountains and into the cities.
  Chefs from Azerbaijan are working in Vladivostok; workers from Kazakhstan are repairing ships in the cold wind of Murmansk; in a taxi in Moscow, drivers from the Chechen Republic will talk to you about their hometown. Adil is a mountain man who walked into the city from the Caucasus.
  His hometown is in the Republic of Dagestan, Russia, which is a union republic located in the Caucasus region of Russia and on the west coast of the Caspian Sea. He ended up staying in the big Siberian city by going to school and finding a job fighting for “justice,” as his name suggests (Adil is Arabic for “justice”).
  He enthusiastically showed me the carpets and honey in his hometown, and at the same time let me taste the special desserts there. In Russia, the police work is not so hard, Adil also has time to prepare breakfast for me. Breakfast is not important in Russian food culture, a few biscuits and a cup of coffee are the norm. For Russian residents in Siberia, eating a few bites of chicken is considered a well-off life. And Adil prepared chicken soup and bread for me, such a breakfast is a feast in Russia. At the dinner table, we talked about each other’s experiences and sent blessings to each other. Seeing that it was getting late, with a full stomach and 5,000 rubles in cash, I said goodbye to this kind Russian policeman.
  In January, Krasnoyarsk was covered with snow, and my wallet was left in Siberia. I only had 5,000 rubles in cash with me, and deep down in my heart was a deeper understanding of Russia. The winter offensive continues, the next stop is Novosibirsk.

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