Bordering on fun September 27, 2005Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Ah, now this brings back many a fond memory of travelling in and out of the former Soviet Union. I’ve actually commented on this before – sorry to self-reference – but the trading types mentioned in the BBC feature remind me so much of the women I would always meet on these journeys. I only crossed the Polish-Belarusian border once (and it takes bloody hours because of the different track gauge) on a train journey that took me all the way from St. Petersburg to Bialystok (24 hours). My neighbours in the carriage were two trader women – yes, going all the way from St. P. to Poland to flog their wares and make a (dis)honest crust, so the BBC person could have done even better than find someone from Hrodna – it’s not f***ing* called Grodno – just across the border – and a younger damsel who took far more of an interest in me, amazingly, when my exoticness became known. As with all those lovely long Russian train journeys, as DJ Lukeski should be able to attest to, we were soon best friends and yakking like nobody’s business. But, anyway, the trader women. Yes, they too talked – and this was back in 2000 – of how the border was getting harder to cross and that on every trip they risked losing their wares at the border. Presumably, the border guards/customs mostly turned a blind eye, but, on occasion, the whole lot would be seized and their journey would have been in vain. But, on the whole, it must have been worth it for them to still do it.
Their wares were fairly boring – clothes – in comparison to the traders who did the even more regular – and much more accessible – smuggle-shuttle between St. Petersburg and Helsinki. This journey only takes 8 hours or so by bus and the people doing it seem absolute regulars. One woman I chatted to told me she did it a couple of times a week. And this was strictly a booze cruise. These Russians would stuff as much booze and fags into whatever receptacle they could carry and, similarly to the Belarusian-Polish border, hope for the best from the officials on the Finnish-Russian border. The journey was timed perfectly. The bus would set off at night in party atmosphere. All these people knew each other and would proceed to get slaughtered in the bus and then pester all the non-trading types to ask if we’d sneak some stuff across the border for them too. And when the bus arrived in Helsinki the next morning, all the alcoholic Finns would be queueing up for their next dose of cheap booze and fags. The price difference between Russia and Finland is, not surprisingly, enormous and there was good money to be made. One of the drunk, lechy women doing the trading told me she’d given her daughter a good life on the proceeds and was putting her through uni, before moving away, as she saw me become ever less interested in her booze-fuelled bollocks, to administer fellatio to the man sitting on the other side of her.
Yes, it’s all go when it comes to borders…
(* the *** stand for uck)