|Communal Living in Russia: Audio|
|The story of a long-time resident about how a drug-dealing neighbor stole money.|
|Basic Facts and Background|
Where: A large communal apartment in a prestigious neighborhood in the historical center of St. Petersburg. About 20 people live in the apartment.
Who: S.A., born in 1934 and living in this apartment since 1944, making her the longest-term resident. She lives with her husband and son. Stasik, a drug-dealing neighbor about 20 years old. Ilya, an anthropologist doing the interviewing; he lives in this building, but in a different apartment.
What: See also a different part of this conversation, where there is a discussion about drugs in general and about this same young man.
|Translation of the Russian Transcript|
S.A.: Well, I had a normal kind of relationship with him, we got along fine. And then he came in here and stole from my husband. I told you, right?
S.A.: We were in the country, we have a house near Pskov and he [her husband] came to pick up his holiday pay.
Ilya: Oh yes, I remember that story...
S.A.: So he went into the bathroom and put down his wallet, with the money in it, in our room. Now Stasik used to come in to our room to ask for a cigarette. There'd be a knock on the door: how about a cigarette? All the time. So. I just thought that... that he was coming to ask for a cigarette and suddenly, the temptation... it was too much for him... and then, afterwards, the way I saw it, psychologically... well, you see. But it was a terrible shock. And even worse, we had to spend the rest of the year paying back money we had to borrow.
Ilya: But this wasn't the first time he had stolen something, was it?
S.A.: In terms of money, yes. He would take things and not give them back. But that's another story... As for... He sold all his mother's things. He even sold the refrigerator.
Ilya: Why do you say that everyone was afraid of him? Because he... Did he do anything really awful?
S.A.: No, no, he's very considerate, actually.
Ilya: No, but his friends, who would visit him.
S.A.: Well... he just told everyone, my friends are gangsters. And that was that. I don't know, he never said anything to me. But another, you know, neighbor, a third one, and a fourth one, were threatened by him. As soon as someone would start saying something... In general, he wouldn't have bothered anyone, if it weren't for those groups of men who were showing up all the time, you understand.
Ilya: Yes, and if they hadn't been vomiting right here on the staircase.
S.A.: The staircase is one thing, but when six of them are standing by the telephone in their dirty boots, you understand, in the apartment, and then, they look frightening. There were decent-looking ones, and there were awful ones.
Ilya: So he was selling drugs?
S.A.: I couldn't say. But since people came to see him, maybe he was some kind of middleman.
Ilya: Yes there's something about they way they talk... I hear the conversations because I live next to the entrance. They come and complain that again he didn't cut them right, that he did something wrong. So he cuts them and sells them.
S.A.: So, you see, you're lucky, but I didn't hear that. Except a neighbor heard him bring someone into the bathroom and give him a shot. You know he's got some, what is it, medical training, after school he started going to a medical college. So, you know, I heard him say something, something like you leave a little of that for me, you know, blankety blank. But personally I can't say he did anything. The only thing was they once brought a little boy here, the police came. What really kills me is that they take children, you know, and they ruin them. And these scary cops came in, you know, in bullet-proof vests, and they had this child with them. He pointed right to Stasik's door. Apparently they had caught him, this boy, with drugs.
Ilya: Really. And what happened. Though besides...
S.A.: He got out of it, as usual! That is, he's a very... slippery character.