FROM the Truth in Media's GLOBAL WATCH Report 97/3-4, 26-Mar-97
ST. PETERSBURG, Mar. 24 - Remember the film, "Leaving Las Vegas?" Well, my leaving St. Petersburg was perhaps not as traumatic, but it was fairly dramatic.
The first bit hassle occurred when I tried to check in at about 15:20. I put my bags on the conveyor belt of a baggage X-ray machine.
I couldn't believe my ears. For the first time in my multi-million mile global travel, someone was complaining about me being too early. I wished my wife were here to hear it. She constantly complains how I always go to the airport at the last minute.
I walked out with my three bags. No sooner did I put them down on a bench, the same customs official approached me.
I thought that it was heartening to see a customs officials with a conscience. It seemed as if he wasn't sure about what he had told me, and wanted to make sure that I did not miss my flight in case he was wrong. So I showed him my ticket. But since this was a North American laser-printed ticket stub, I could tell that he was struggling to figure out what was on it. So I pointed to him my flight's departure time.
I figured that kicking up a fuss at this point would not change the 80 years of Soviet-style bureaucracy. I got myself a coffee, and paced the hall for about 25 minutes.
At exactly 16:45, I tried again. This time, another customs officer was on duty. He motioned me to another X-ray machine which was closer to where he was standing.
I handed him the piece of paper which we were given on the Swissair flight into Moscow on Mar. 18. I had declared on it that I had DM6,000 and $2,000 in cash. He looked at the piece of paper and then motioned to another (blonde) customs official to come over.
The two customs officials spoke in hushed up voices for a while. Then the blonde officer told me: "You've got problems."
At this point, I recalled that my daughter (now studying in Moscow) had predicted some sort of trouble as soon as she saw that the Moscow customs officials never stamped my customs declaration form.
He just shrugged, implying that that was my problem.
You want to take from me the DM6,000 and $1,000? (I guessed that I had spent about a $1,000 in Russia)," I asked, sounding ready for a battle, and about ask to speak to his supervisor:
Seeing that I was slow on the uptake, the blonde officer explained that I did not really need to change any DM or US$ into rubles at all.
Well, she didn't...
As I walked over to the bank, the "girl" at the only foreign exchange counter in the international terminal in St. Petersburg could speak only Russian.
"Oh, boy..." I thought, when I realized that. "I am really in for it now."
After endless exchanges - mine in English, hers in Russian - both of us became very exasperated. She wanted the rubles I didn't have. I wanted to keep the DM and US$ I was carrying. Neither of us seemed to get our points across.
Meanwhile, a long line of anxious travelers had formed behind me in front of the bank window; some amused by our conversation; others annoyed by the delay.
Finally, I threw in the towel and walked back to the blonde customs officer.
Once there, he muttered a few words in Russian to the girl. Not many.
Maybe a sentence or two.
I was wondering as I saw him walking away. Indeed, when I faced the same Russian bank lady again, we did not seem to be any further ahead in our conversation than the last time. She kept talking fast and furiously in Russian which I could not understand, except for the word rubles.
Finally, a passenger next in line behind me must have taken pity upon me.
The Russian just shrugged and smiled.
I counted out DM170 - all the Deutsch Marks I had in my wallet (the rest of the money was hidden elsewhere). I was hoping this would be enough.
She looked at me disapprovingly.
"But I still have a few rubles," I just remembered. I threw into the bank window hole all the rubles I had.
That seemed to have pacified her.
She proceeded to type something on official-looking forms for about 10 minutes. The Russian customers behind me were getting restless. They tried to get her to take their (presumably quicker) business ahead of mine. She just ignored them.
Eventually, she handed me four forms. One for exchanging DM6,000 into rubles; another one for changing the rubles back into DM; one for exchanging $2,000 into rubles; and another on for changing the rubles back into dollars again.
As she handed me the papers, she crossed her arms across her chest, as if saying, "I'm sorry." Judging by the expression on her face, I believe she was.
I took the paperwork and just shook my head. Given that the U.S. dollar exchange rate was about 5,750 rubles, there were some incredibly large numbers printed on the forms.
As I then went to fill out my NEW customs declaration form, the dark-haired customs officer approached me. "What flight are you on?" he inquired.
"Another hustler with a conscience?" I surmised. It seemed as if he also wanted to make sure I did not miss my flight.
When I put my bags through the 'FILMSAFE' X-ray machine again, I asked the dark-haired customs officer if everything was okay this time.
It made me feel sick. This city (St. Petersburg-Leningrad) endured 872 days of the merciless German siege during WW II, paying an incredible human toll for its eventual freedom. And now this Russian customs officer was speaking to me in German!?
That made me more angry than the scam I had just endured. I didn't mind being taken advantage of. After all, I was the stupid one who didn't insist on my customs declaration form being stamped in Moscow. But I did mind a Russian officer speaking to me in German!
I picked up my papers and left, tears welling up in my eyes.
Now I WAS angry. Not at the customs officer. I was angry at us - the West. We are the ones who have made Russia the worst of the two worlds. We have imported into Russia the greed and selfishness from the West. But we never removed from Russia the communist bureaucracy which exploits, rather than protects, its people.
So Russia is now like a two-headed dragon. One head from the West; the other from the East. Each mean as hell to the ordinary people.
The greedy customs officers in St. Petersburg are the mere thorns in a wreath of thorns which the NWO had placed around Russia's neck. As such, they are also the victims, along with millions of other common folk in Russia.
When the Swissair flight took off from the St. Petersburg Pulkovo airport, my eyes were moist again. I blew a kiss to the snowy country I was leaving behind. It was not her fault that she was so backward. Anymore than it is a fault of an NWO invalid that he/she is so disabled. Especially if the invalid were a war veteran.
I vowed to return. With a few more Russian words in my vocabulary.
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