A quite extraordinary story with criminal and political connotations happened to me last week.
While sitting in the evening in one of the cafés, I went away for a while. When I returned, I was sad to see that my backpack with passports, documents, laptop, voice recorder, credit cards and some cash, had vanished without a trace. The café managers told me that they could only show me the security footage in the presence of police, and as it was already late, the entire thing was postponed until the next morning.
There was no hope that my stuff would be returned, so I went home, where I started thinking about the procedure of renewing my documents and restoring my technological equipment. As I am a citizen of Russia, with a fifth-estate and even national-traitorous reputation in my country, my thoughts were far from happy. The document renewal portended to become an extremely difficult quest.
My sad thoughts were interrupted by a call from an unidentified number. The caller, without bothering to introduce himself, announced that he had my backpack together with all of its contents, and that he was ready to return it. The meeting was appointed for the next morning. The caller’s condition was a meeting “without witnesses, you understand.”
Of course, I understood everything, which is why I came to the café (another one) alone. I was curious to see how this would end. As it turned out, not in vain. My interlocutor turned out to be a young man in a cap and a sports outfit, who modestly introduced himself as ‘Tolya.’ The richness and expression of his vocabulary, unfortunately, does not allow the opportunity to quote his statements directly, however, the essence was about as follows.
When he became the happy owner of my backpack (we decided not to discuss the details of the procedure of how it changed hands, out of sensitivity), he immediately familiarized himself with its contents. Tolya admitted that when he found the Russian passport, he felt some Schadenfreude: he had ruined ‘some katsap’s [derogatory term for a Russian citizen in Ukraine]’ evening. However the further immersion into the backpack made him seriously think and reconsider his opinion. The main part here was played by the reading of my work notes and watching the videos. The characteristic that was given to me, in a slightly more polished fashion, was as follows: “I almost immediately understood that you’re an okay guy, pro-Ukrainian, you don’t support the bad, psychologically ill khuylo.” Consultations with his senior associates, who had indisputable authority over my new acquaintance, only served to reassert his opinion that he would have to return the backpack, no matter how hard it would be. Even though he could have sold it, as I found out, “for about three thousand.”
When talking about his motives, Tolya told me that he was never interested in politics, but the recent events in the country made him change his life position and thus correct his modus operandi appropriately. When trying to make me understand the essence, he even gave me a small lecture on the fundamental laws of any activity: “We have our own rules we live by. You, journalists, also have your own, which you live by. Like, you don’t think information is reliable until you verify it with three sources.” (“Oh, if only!” I thought).
As far as I understand, in the current situation, Tolya and his colleagues’ rules include minimizing damage regarding patriotic and pro-Ukrainian people who help the country. I am not too familiar with the history of the issue, however, I assume that the adventure I unwittingly became a part of is, if not unique, then very close to being so. The backpack, out of which, by the way, nothing had disappeared, returned to the owner due to political, moral and patriotic motives.
Probably it is fitting in such cases to say: “Glory to Ukraine!”