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Back to Helsinginkatu 10: Chapter 11 Back to Helsinginkatu 10: Chapter 11
by Thanos Kalamidas
2010-06-29 09:51:47
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11. Alexei and Ferah in Myllypuro

Alexei was everything I was not prepared of. But I suppose my mistake was that knowing Ivan for so long and having met a few more Russians around I was expecting to see something similar, this gentle but strong way they carry themselves around. Well, Alexei was anything but that.

I was waiting Ivan in the corner of the petrol station smoking a cigarette and I didn’t see him till I heard the door opening in front of me and Ivan’s round face looking at me with a big smile from inside an old Toyota car. The smell of cigarette welcomed me inside which made me realize how little I really knew Ivan. Funny but I never thought of him as a smoker. As somebody said to me the other day he hadn’t have a smoker’s face. The hard lines smoke draws to our faces.

A known Russian station in Helsinki was playing Russian rock and we started to meet Alexei with me having no idea where we were going but after going past the East centre and the huge mall realizing that we were going towards Myllypuro the ghetto’s region of Helsinki. Myllypuro is just a kilometre from the east centre but somehow thousands of miles away. Council houses, most built around seventies they carry some kind of misery and poverty from far away. A huge sports’ centre and a covered market it’s what identifies this small community with the addition of a supermarket, a small bank branch and two pubs.

I’ve been a couple of times to one of those pubs the karaoke one and I could write a series of stories of the place or the people I saw in there. Actually if I wasn’t afraid of their reaction I wished many times to take my camera and start photographing them. The portraits of the hopeless. Most of them unemployed having been hit from every side in their life, having lost everything they left what was left to them drown into alcohol. The first time I stepped inside the place I got a bit worrying seen all these faces, stamped from the alcohol with ugly misshapen grimaces. But after a while I got used to their faces and probably they got used to mine and we both saw beyond the wrinkles. In the end of the first time I was in that pub I found my self singing “Let it be” and really meaning it.

And it was the very same karaoke pub we were going. A small old dirty wooden bench where we got our beers, sawdust on the gray concrete floor and the same wooden long benches with the dirty wooden tables. A couple of old pictures on the dirty from the period you could smoke inside walls picturing lakes and forest, a table with two old men obviously drank and another with a Christ-like man. I’m not joking, how we westerns imagine Christ, with light colour long hair, strong blue eyes and a thin beard that was the man who stood to welcome us when Ivan walked his way with me behind him. The white shirt with the long sleeves was completing the Christ-like picture and when he embraced Ivan I could sense the soft way this man was carrying himself.

The two of them spoke in Russian for a bit and then giving me his hand Alexei said, “I speak little English. School English. Yes?” I tried hard not to smile. Ivan had an slight American accent and be living for so long in Finland and hearing this funny Finnish accent when the locals speak English, Alexei’s sounded like he came straight out of one of those sixties and seventies spy films. It was just that Alexei’s voice was soft and gentle. Are you ok? I asked him trying to be nice. We were all had a paint of cheap Finnish beer in front of us the only thing this place served apart from water. Ivan was watching him quiet. “I’m trying” he answered.

“The police gave me a bit of problem but I understand them!” I was not going to mentioned my neighbour. It’s natural from them to ask, I tried to excuse the police having in my mind my friend. “No it is not!” Ivan said angrily, “instead of looking the killer they question Alexei, just because he is Russian.” Calm down Ivan, they are trying to do their job. Ivan didn’t say anything but I could see in his eyes what he was thinking. The truth is that Russians are not exactly fairly treated in this country, old histories that unfortunately are still alive. Alexei didn’t say anything, he seemed really calm. “I knew that this would happen.” He said suddenly.

“You know I could not see us getting old together, I could see something happening to stop the happiness.” Were you happy, Alexei? I asked without even thinking. “Yes, we were very happy. Ferah was really happy all the time!” it was the first time I heard my name and soon I saw her face as well. Alexei had produced a small id photo from his wallet with a very young woman with long black hair and beautiful big black eyes. “This was my Ferah!” and he gave me the photo.

It is one thing to talk about a murder and it is another when the murder takes a name and face. She looked so young it took me a minute to connect things. She looked barely twenty. She was barely twenty. I’m sorry, was the only thing that came out of my mouth and for a bit the three of us sat there quiet.

The old men were getting louder obviously having some kind of disagreement and a woman of unknown age had just entered ordering a paint of beer and looking at us. I don’t know how to ask this but did anybody threaten you? I mean I know it is difficult this union between two …religions and I let my voice slow and him understand what I was trying to say. “Everything was difficult, nobody liked me but she loved me and I loved her!” I tried to get closer because Alexei’s voice had turned into a whisper I could barely hear. “Everybody hated me, I was not Islam.” He added and looked at me. Her family? I asked. Her family, her cousins, her uncles, everybody.” Do you think they did this thing?

“A bum did it, a Sörnäinen alcoholic bum did. But the police is doing nothing. They should arrest them all.” Calm down Alexei, I’m sure they try! Ok this was freaking me out, here was me defending the police? I wanted to laugh but the moment didn’t excuse a laugh, I just nodded and didn’t say anything. Ivan was watching us quiet but I could see that something was in his mind. I decided to ask him later and I turned again to Alexei. Had her family threaten you? “Threaten me? They tried to stop me outside the town-hall the day we were getting marry. Two of her cousins all dress in black came and said that it would be better for Ferah. Not a gun or a knife but I could see that they were dangerous.” And he turned to Ivan putting his hand on his friends hand, “But Ivan was there and everything was fine, he told them something and they left. Ivan was my best man!”

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