Day  2. On the Train, Central Russia.

The Teacher

It happened on Christmas Eve, December 25 2002. We are Estonian Lutherans, and each year we celebrate both Christmases: Catholic and Orthodox. For Catholic Christmas we have this tradition to bake an apple pie.That night my ex-husband and I took our sick dog to the vet and were rushing back to Moscow, as we needed to set the table.

We had a premonition. My dad said to us, “Stay, why are you going so late?” Our dog also had an intuition. She wouldn’t let us go for a long time, she was running around in circles, yelping, licking our hands, doing everything possible to block our way out.

The night was falling, it was getting dark, and we set off to Moscow on a curvy road. What happened next, was like in a movie. Bright light, and you wake up in a hospital room. When you open your eyes, everything around you is white and sterile. I had a cat sitting on my chest, he must have woken me up.

It was a big Siberian cat, he was living in hospital’s admissions office; he would admit new patients and accompany doctors during examinations. Nurses told us that his owner was once a patient, but they couldn’t save him, and the cat just stayed to live in the hospital.

My injury was very serious, I was in a state when I couldn’t move at all. When I started to gain my conscience, I realized that we got into head-on accident, and the so-called “street rides”, races of police cars on open roads, were to blame. Right away they started pressuring me to take my claim back. The easiest way to write off the responsibility in an accident is to claim that the other driver was under drug or alcohol influence. And I was the only witness of the accident. That’s why they came and insisted that I make a false claim against my former husband.

These were the times, when a fast-track court expert evaluation was non-existent, when blood test would take forever to come back, and if the witness had claimed that the driver was under drug or alcohol influence, they wouldn’t have even bother to conduct the test in the first place.

We, Russians, stick together. When they came to threaten me in the hospital, grandmas were chasing all New Russians (ed. note,  newly rich business class who made their fortune in the 1990s in post-Soviet Russia) away, they threw crutches into them, said that they could remember Stalin times and would never again sit back and watch injustice happen again. When an investigator called me and started asking, who came to threaten me in the hospital, I started describing a man. And then suddenly, this exact same person turns around and looks at me: he was investigator’s colleague.

They never found the guilty, as their strategy was to deliberately put off the trial and make it long. The court hearings were taking forever, and when the period defined by law passed, they evenutally stoped the trial.

Now I have a strong fear of driving. I tried to pass a driving license exam 15 times, but after finally getting it, I drove from Khimki back to my home, and never sat at the driving wheel again. Up until today, when I pass the spot of the accident, I get panic attacks.