Scary headline, right? In general, it was. This happened two years ago in the northwestern suburb of Mitino, which is known for being very safe and family friendly. In writing this, I don’t wish to scare anybody off of Moscow, but I feel like writing about this brief incident is removing a semi-repressed memory off of my shoulders.
Two years ago, I was walking home from the store, and these two guys approached me. This in and of itself wasn’t that unusual, as sometimes people ask you for a lighter or directions. However, what should have tipped me off to their intentions was that the homeless guy standing in the doorway of the supermarket was trying to get my attention. I’m pretty sure that these guys were immigrants or something, because they spoke with what I presumed was a heavy accent. They asked for me for money, and I think it was because their car broke down/had some trouble. As with this whole situation, I cannot be sure because not only was my Russian fairly mediocre (it still is, sadly), but they kinda mumbled something. My response was to respond back in Russian and then English that I didn’t understand them, but that fell on deaf ears. Normally I’d just walk away due to the unwanted soliciation, but one of the guys grabbed my arm to ensure that I couldn’t; I also had quite a few things in my bag, and my backpack was also weighing me down even if I did choose to make a break for it. By this point, I was getting pretty scared. Not helping things was the other guy making the universally understood sign of your neck being slit, lest you not oblige. To this day, I’m very thankful that I kept spare change in my pocket, so I was able to give them something. This was enough for them, and they let me go, which culminated in me sprinting off to home, locking the door, and texting my flatmate to be very careful on the way home. And you know what the kicker was? I gave them the equivalent of thirty cents. Thirty measly cents. It remains unclear how desparate they were, but getting stabbed and/or killed for that amount wasn’t worth resisting.
In the end, that was it. Looking back on it I was extremely fortunate that nothing escalated further, because it was so unexpected. Although, the one comedic aspect to this was how both of the guys were wearing identical clothing. Like, the same brand, same color, etc. I also kicked my pace up a notch or two when passing by that store when, so it was a shot of motivation. Seriously though, based on what I’ve experienced so far in Moscow as well as what my fellow expats have to say, this is an outlier on a very rare degree. My time in Mitino was nothing short of spectacular (save for the commutes into the city), and this should not be held against it. Finally, I’d like to conclude this post with a moral: as with most cities and their surrounding districts, being aware of your surroundings is absolutely vital. Even if you think you’re safe, double checking never, ever hurts. Do that, and you’ll be fine.