Monday, September 17, 2007

So we have heroin in Pinsk…

This picture is titled:
Smack Jesus
How is that for a morbid yet attention getting title? Yes, we have heroin in Pinsk. If I were to state that one of the things that I liked about the place was that there wasn't a drug problem, it might sound as if I was rewriting my own history, setting myself up as an anti-drug guy, but this is simply not the case. I mean, this was in the mix. I did notice this lack of non-alcoholic substance abuse when I came here. I won't call it innocence because this is insulting to the local self-medicators. I also won't say this because probably, the lack of drugs was a direct result of there not being any money to buy them with. Now, as the president loves to tell us, we are doing a little better and so of course we certainly must have a market for recreational opiates. I guess this is a fine example of that market economy the Europeans so want from us.

The reason this is on my mind is because of a series of events that directly connect to my bike being stolen last spring. To recap a bit, the bike theft itself was perpetrated by two friends of our down-stairs neighbor Vadik, who were at our house for the purposes of finding enough money for two shots. One was Splosh-nose Sergei. Splosh-nose Sergei is a completely evil character from whom I am yet to hear a good word about from anybody. I call him this because he has had his nose smashed in by an admirer. The other was Vadik's toothless hag of a girlfriend- I call her Toothless Hag this for obvious reasons. Vadik had gone away to Moscow until about a year ago when he came back to live in Pinsk with his mother, my good friend Nina. With the exception of some cursory attempts to find legitimate employment, and no one would say that this is an easy task in Pinsk, he has basically been a drunk and a bum ever since.

To recap a bit, the bike theft story started on a Saturday night in May when Splosh-nosed Sergei and the Toothless Hag came to Vadik's house to beg money. Vadik was in jail at this time, which has since been his excuse for not having any responsibility for subsequent events. Splosh-nose and Hag told Nina that they immediately needed 20,000 rubles ($10), ostensibly to pay for a phone card. When Nina refused they threw a rock through her kitchen window. The next night they decided to come back again asking for money but this time when Nina told them to go and get stuffed, they came upstairs and stole my bike.

The next morning whne we found the bike missing, we called the cops straight away. When they came, we explained that there had been two "narkomen" (junkies) here the past two nights and that we knew who they were, where they lived and that they had broken the window the night before when they were refused money for narcotics (A heroin shot cost $5 each). The cops took this information under consideration and filed their report. Over the next several weeks, when the police never seemed to want to bring in Splosh-nosed Sergei, I went to his house to find him myself. I called the cops from his house and asked them to come over but they wouldn't come. Later, after finding him on the street I managed to get him all the way to the police station by slamming his head into the street until a cop came by and took us both in. I was released in 2 minutes and he, unfortunately, was let go in five.

So this is where the situation sat until about a month ago when I found some drunk riding my bike up at the train station. When I saw it, I chased the guy down and pulled the bike out from under him and the two of us went to the police at the station. After we both told our story and the police confirmed via telephone that my story was true, I was let go to continue my trip to Minsk and the bike was held by the police. When I got back from Minsk, I went to the station to take my bike back and found out that during the time just after I had left, the police had asked the alkash about the bike. The alkash told them that the bike was not his, that he had been given it by a friend, and when the police asked which friend, ignoring the other 130,000 people we have in Pinsk, wonder of wonders, the drunk just happened to say that it was Splosh-nosed Sergei. At the moment, I felt as if we had a closed deal, The police however still did not arrest him, something I didn't know until about two weeks ago when I finally got my bike away from them. By way of an answer as to why this was so, the cop in charge of the case informed me that there was not enough evidence to make an arrest. This by the way is the same cop who decided to laugh at me for saying that my bike had some realistic monetary value.

So, all of this said, the reason I am writing this is that as of the moment is that we had last week yet another couple of drug based episodes involving these very same people. I have been to the police several times, they do not seem to be interested in doing anything about this and I am growing very angry over the situation.

The first incident came when the Toothless Hag came over to see Vadik. It has become a general understanding that she is not allowed to be anywhere near Nina's house. On this day though, the hag had come over crying and wanting very desperately to speak with Vadik. But it was Nina who answered the door and she straight away told the hag to go away and slammed the door in her face. I was coming down the stairs at this moment and was reminding the hag that she was not welcome when Vadik opened the door. But rather than telling her to get off, an act we all would have cheered him for, he instead went with her to a dark place under the storage lockers, informing me as he led her away that she was here to see him and not me. I didn't see what they were doing at the lockers, but I had a pretty good idea. This was incident one.

Incident two came a few days later when Egor told us that that there were two narkomen actually shooting up right there on our stairway when he had left for school in the morning. Egor has a pretty strong constitution but nevertheless this is not the sort of thing wants presented to a 12-year-old as one of life's endless possibilities. I went to Nina with this and told her that it very well seems that Vadik is starting to sell heroin. In order for our corridor to be thought of as a safe place to shoot up, the supply would have had to have been somewhere very nearby. We all already understood Vadik's choice of friends. It was starting to seem as though it was becoming an inevitable situation. Nine though rejected the thought; Vadik was her son and she didn't believe he was capable of such a thing.

Incident two came on Nina's next working night. Nina works several nights a week at a local hotel and takes Egr, her grandson and my English student with her. The next morning Tanya called me to the freshly cleaned stairwell and pointed out that there were three syringes, all with fresh clotted blood just under the plunger, lying together on the landing. When Nina got back from work I showed them to her. Again, this had nothing to do with her Vadik.

"Yes," she said, "Vadik is a drunk and he is lazy and sometimes very stupid, but he is no heroin dealer."

I told her I was going to the cops. She said if I did that our friendship was over. I went to the cops anyway. This by the way was the trip when I found out that they still had not moved on Splosh-nosed Sergei, there was still, according to the cop, not enough evidence. I asked how this was possible when the guy who I found riding the bike told us that Splosh-nosed Sergie was the guy who had given him the bike.

"This is only your word that he said this." said the cop.

"No, you don't understand. He didn't say it to me; he said it to the cop at the train station. I wasn't even in the room when he said it." I noticed the cop's face drop when I told him this. Had he even spoken to the police at the train station? I went on for a bit in not-so-perfect Russian about how we seemed to be having a growing heroin problem in and around our house, how the people who were involved were causing an amazing amount of grief in our lives, that the connection to the theft of the bike had to be rather obvious and that some real police involvement in a rather turbulent situation was genuinely called for. He told me they were doing all they could do.

After going to the police, I had it out with Nina. Vadik was using her house as a heroin kiosk every time she went to work, the incidents of having narkomen using our home to shoot up was becoming more and more frequent and that she needed to tell her son to get the hell out of our house at the least for Egr's sake. I was told not so politely that she would not go against her son.

(By the way, as of the moment I am writing these words (10:08pm), Nina is yelling at Vadik who is sitting on the bench getting drunk with two "friends")

That very night, directly after Nina went off to work, Vadik held an all night party, a real blowout, for all of his wino/narko friends. They kept it up until the police finally answered my call at 5:00am and came to tell them to knock it off. I actually had to call twice to get them to come. The second time, the cop on the phone asked a very interesting question. He asked me if it would make me happy if they started an action against Sergei. The word he used was priyatna. I asked him if he was kidding me. When the cops finally did show up they handed Sergei a summons, came to my door to take my statement and the next day I received in the mail a notice that an official reprimand for being a social disturbance had been given to Vadik. Should he repeat his action, which was not particularly specific, a larger action would be leveled against him. This last week, things have been relatively quiet.

But my real question is this: With the obvious connection to drug use and theft and with what really ought to be thought of as a closed deal, why haven't the cops moved on Splosh-nosed Sergie? If I am starting to get a little paranoid, maybe this is understandable but really, are the police protecting him? That word "priyatna" has also been sticking in my mind as being pretty personal. What does my "happiness" have to do with anything? Was Vadik's reprimand a gift to me? Are they placating me by throwing me a crumb rather than actually getting the narcotics and their corresponding grief out of our house? To me it seems as though they are popping a pill for the symptom but not lifting a finger to fight for a cure. I am not satisfied.

As an American, I have seen many, many, many people get tied up in drugs. Some handle it better than others but it hasn't been here so much in Belarus and believe me, I have been happy for it. I mean, it was one of the things I liked about the place that it wasn't here. I mean, it was so tame that as of only three years ago several people had pot growing wild in their yards. It was only even over the last couple of years that the police started to tell people to cut it down. But heroin is something different. Heroin is big business and I am seeing these episodes from our corridor as a sign of a much bigger problem. In the last BHTimes there is an article about a heroin bust at the Polish/Ukrainian border. To me what is going on around our house is just a further example. And I mean really, Vadik doesn't work; where did he get enough money to finance an all night party? And lately, I see him urgently scurrying around town, visiting with the skells and the winos. The man has business.

When Tolic was kind enough to throw himself under that train, half of our useless bum problem disappeared. I guess nature hates a vacuum because Vadik seems hell-bent on picking up the slack. Maybe it is me and my bad reputation from Poland, but I want to know why my asking the police to address a narcotic problem goes so unheeded. Yea, I like bikes and I took exception offence to mine being stolen, but I assure you that I take unlimited offence to my friend Egr's house smelling like a bar when he and grandma come home from a night's work. I take great offence to people shooting smack three meters from my front door. This has got to stop. I do not want this around my home.

More soon…