Half-Naked and Dying on a Sidewalk During a Russian Winter
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Appearances can be … deceiving.
By Svetlana Ovsyannikova
It is really cold in Russia in the wintertime. Especially in February. Could easily be -22F combined with high humidity, which if you ever experience it, you probably wouldn’t forget. Also if you would remember it, you are most likely a tourist. Because, generally, people here … just live.
I was taking my dogs out for a walk in the evening, and since they’re really into chasing cats I’m always a step ahead, trying to see the cats before they see the cats. And just in general, I’m always looking around because it just seems like a good skill to have. But while I was doing so, I noticed a man who I thought was looking for something beneath a balcony. His position on the ground seemed like it would be if you dropped something on the floor and it rolled under the bed: you’re trying to reach it with your butt in the air. I took another quick glance and moved on.
An hour and a half later, my dogs now completely frozen, we took the road back.
And the man was still there. His pose was slightly different, but he was in the same place. At this point, I rushed home to put my dogs away and ran back to the street. It took me two minutes to get to him.
No pants. No boots either. Not even socks. His legs were swollen, partially covered in bruises or scratches, and a couple of his toes were dark blue.
He wore a sweater that was damp with melted snow. No pants. No boots either. Not even socks. His legs were swollen, partially covered in bruises or scratches, and a couple of his toes were dark blue. One was strictly black. The soles of his feet were also blue with black patches. I would say he was in his late 50s, but you never know.
In any case, he was alive. It didn’t look like he had any broken bones, but I asked him if he could move at all. He mumbled something I couldn’t hear, so I got closer and asked again. It seemed like he was passing out at times, but eventually, he said that he could not get up by himself. I told him that I could help him. It took about five minutes to actually get him back on his feet.
I didn’t call for help right away. First of all, he said not to, but let’s face it, the man is drunk and disoriented and he really couldn’t speak for himself. The second and most important thing is that we would have to wait 30 to 40 minutes for someone to come help, best case scenario. Yeah, it’s not America, where cops and ambulances can be there for you within five minutes. You’re going to be dead before they show up here. And honestly, I didn’t feel like we had time to lose.
I’m 5 feet tall and weigh around 100 pounds. But I’m strong and good at carrying heavy things. And he was heavy.
His coordination, given the condition of his legs, was already bad: The man had spent almost two hours outside, half-naked on the cold ground. With a slippery surface and his bare feet, it was twice as hard to move him.
After the third try, he was standing. That’s when I finally called emergency services. His arm was around my shoulder and I didn’t know yet what I would soon find out: He had ‘fallen’ out of a window.
Then he vomited on my boots and said he needed to go home because his wife would be worried. That’s when I realized, the whole time he was laying in the snow, he was 30 feet away from his apartment. So we start to walk toward his main porch, and while we’re doing so he starts to speak. More clearly now.
He was ex-military, served over 25 years, got into a fight with his wife, got drunk and, for whatever reason, stepped out of the window. I asked him if by any chance he was serving in the Air Force. He looked at me for a split second, but right in the eye. Then, after a slight pause, he grinned.
His apartment was on the second floor, and we took the elevator because every step he took was very painful. I saw the pain on his face when he was carefully placing his red feet on the concrete floor, saying that he’s so goddamn happy that he wasn’t on ice anymore.
His door was wide open and the lights were on. There was no wife. No one. But he was home finally.
He said he didn’t know why he did what he did, but I liked the way he put it when he said that he did it because “I felt like it.” We talked about when he was young and strong; about his beloved, who left that evening before he got to the window.
But what stuck with me the most was a simple thought: In our “advanced” culture, where we’re constantly trying to keep up with the rat race and the desire for everything that’s bigger and better, some of us have completely forgotten the heart. And that is really what’s supposed to be getting bigger and better.
So next time you’re passing by a stranger who fell from the sky to the ground in front of your eyes, or maybe was already lying there, shove your shameful comfort zone weirdness up your ass and just help. I promise, maybe not right away, but eventually, it will benefit you, 10 times stronger.
- Svetlana Ovsyannikova, OZY AuthorContact Svetlana Ovsyannikova