By Tony Ubani
Before coming to Russia, there had been fears about the upsurge of racist attacks on blacks and Amnesty International worried much with the World Cup that would bring thousands of people from all over the World.
A whole week has been spent in Russia and with Russians and we are still counting without any incident. But it is a case of sleeping with one eye open. Nigerians who are citizens here have also cautioned us on taking risks like walking alone or getting too much involved with the people. I must confess that some of the Russians are warm and lovely and inviting. But the fear of the unknown has always been the stumbling block. Beautiful Russian girls are eager to mix up and even take you home to show up to their parents and friends.
That is where the real trouble starts. Holding hands or rising to the demands of kissing them openly could be deadly. The ladies want to love and be loved but danger lurks in the dark with hate by men and boys who feel threatened. Knives, we were told could be used to stab one who allows his emotion to take the better of part of him. I’ve received a lot of invitations, but the fear of fatal attractions has always extinguished my desires. For the sake of coming back in one piece.
From Moscow(largest city in Russia) to Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Novosibirsk, Novogorod, Chelyabinsk, Krasnodar, Makhachkala, and settling down in St Petersburg. Moscow and St. Petersburg are both culturally rich, historically significant, and the most populous cities in Russia.
Nearly all Russian cities and towns have a lot of historic architectural monuments, such as Russian orthodox churches, cathedrals and monasteries. They are valuable symbols of ancient Russian culture. The most attractive city for foreign tourists is Moscow. There is a lot to see in the capital but the most important place to visit is the Kremlin.
Here visitors can admire beautiful cathedrals, built in the 15th century, visit the Faceted Palace and the Armoury, and get a fantastic view of the city from the top of the Ivan the Great Bell Tower, which is the composition centre of the entire Kremlin. There are quite a lot of other examples of ancient Russian architecture outside the Kremlin, such as St. Bazil’s Cathedral, Novodevichy Convent and Pokrova Church in Fili.
The choice of settling down in St Petersburg was because of its central nature to the venues that the Eagles would play. Besides its beauty and the fact that it’s the second largest city, it is important to us because of the presence of Nigerian restaurants not withstanding their outrageous bills.
But the number of killings recorded in St Petersburg frightens my soul. In January, a 20-year-old skinhead, Aleksandr Koptsev, burst into a Moscow synagogue and stabbed eight people with a hunting knife. In February, a man from Mali was stabbed to death in St. Petersburg. On March 24, a Ghanaian man was beaten up in a St. Petersburg suburb. One day later, a 9-year-old girl of mixed race was beaten and stabbed in the face and neck, also in St. Petersburg.
That is the beautiful city I am in. There has been strict warnings not to hop into any cab on the road. You may not return. The best place to get a cab is to allow the Hotel get them. Those ones are registered and can be traced. Buses are good and safe as well as the trains. But you must be ready to endure a thousand stares boring holes on you.
Cry of hate
With an accreditation badge that dangles on your neck, visitors are easily identified. Journalists wear the accreditation tags while many fans and others wear their Fan IDs.
Even without such IDs, your colour remains the best ID to sort you out from the rest.
We had boarded a speed train from Moscow to Volgograd to be early for the Nigeria’s match against Iceland.
The train shoots forward and speeds through the countryside and we were engaged in lively discussions that would help to kill boredom and reduce the number of hours when a little child that was running around playfully noticed some strange beings. She stopped and starred at us. Then, Peter Edema stretched out his loving arms to the baby and hell was let loose. The baby screamed and ran to her mother.
Now, the baby’s cry has awoken those sleeping and more now focussed on us. As if trying to know what made the baby cry, another baby strayed towards us and yet again let out a piercing cry when Peter stretched his hands. This time, JJ(not the popular footballer), John Joshua warned Peter to keep his hands in one place. After a while, the whole place became silent. The train continued its snake-like movement producing sounds that include the wheels clanking on the tracks, bells ringing and other engine sounds, all of which created an interesting rhythm.
The sounds evoked emotions and I remembered when I travelled from Enugu to Umuahia or Umuahia to Enugu. The sounds of music produced by the train, mentioning towns and villages as it zig-zags through its tracks. Train sounds were the main reasons we boarded trains, then. Sometimes, the sounds could be soft and soothing, most times, it turns loud and commanding. The powerful air horn that serves as warning and also a wake-up for those sleeping or a reminder that it is approaching a sub section.
As the train screeches to another station, new passengers poured in with little babies. Sooner have they settled down than a baby sighted Peter and started crying.