People who live on a dumping ground are traditionally called the scum of the earth. They are usually blamed for stealing from country houses nearby. And they are accused of committing every deadly sin.
Klondike on the Amur
Some people frown when they hear the word “dump” being mentioned. However, the dump is called differently by others who make pretty money by using other people who sift through the piles of trash. Those others invariably refer to the dump as Klondike.
I am accompanied by Viktor Gavrilov, deputy chief of the police station No3 of the city of Blagoveshchensk. We are going for a trip to the city’s dump. In fact, it is Gavrilov who made all the necessary arrangements for me to see things as they are there.
We arrived in the facility on a busy afternoon. There were lots of people who wanted to speak out. A short guy carrying a heavy bag full of metal parts was the first one we talked to. The man introduced himself as Nikolai. He said he could not complain about his life on a dump. According to him, you can make as mush as 600 rubles a day. Any valuable thing found by workers on the dump should be handed to Lena who is in charge of on-site goods reception. In fact, Nikolai was the first one to mention that mysterious woman. He made it quite clear that you cannot pass over that woman. You will be in trouble if you ignore the rules.
We keep walking across the vast territory of the dump. There are two guys sitting right on a dusty roadside. They apparently had too much of a drink. I ask them how they ended up on a dump. They tell a story about their mean relatives who simply threw them out from their own homes. And the guys had no other way to go. The guys also told me about the dwellings built along the road. Indeed, you can see ramshackle houses any way you look.
They’ll beat you up if you don’t give your finds to Lean
We approach something that resembles a truck’s cab. Well, the cab is used as a kitchen and bedroom at the same time. I have never seen so many flies before. The place really stinks. Lots of things scattered on the floor. Soiled curtains hang above the entry. We meet Galina, the owner of the place. She and her husband live in it.
“We’ve been living on the dump for more than ten years,” says Galina. “My daughter and her husband also live here. We sleep in this thing until the summer ends. Then we move into the dugouts. We’re pretty happy about the life we live, money is okay, Lena sells us all the stuff we need. She also lives here, in a brick house. She can pay you either by foodstuffs or money,” says Galina.
In other words, people buy “all the stuff they need” at Lena’s by paying her with things they collect on the dumping ground. The money is normally spent on cigarettes and booze. The liquor is quite costly here. A bottle of low-quality vodka costs about one hundred rubles. Everybody seems to drink everything here.
They dig for aluminum cans, ferrous and non-ferrous metal, and sometimes find cash, mobile phones, and gold articles in the piles of trash. But nobody can keep a find for his own purposes. Everything should go to Lena the Boss. Rumor has it that she bought out the land and everybody who lives and makes a living here should report to her.
“They’ll surely punish you if they find out you planned to sell your find to somebody else,” says one of the workers. “They’ll beat you up with big clubs,” adds he.
Lena the Boss
Lena turned out to be a middle-aged woman wearing tons of gold jewelry. At first she seemed to be overtly infuriated at our arrival. Then she calmed down and made an introduction to her business. She said that she was Elena Pastukhova, a forewoman of technical department at Chisty Gorod (clean city) JSC. She spoke quite highly of her staff. According to her, she has no problem whatsoever with her workers. They are no bandits, thieves or scammers. There are sixty permanents dwellers on the dump, the rest come and go. Pastukhova said she was the center of gravity for the permanent residents. She claimed to sell them foods and medicine. She even bring them clean water for hygienic purposes. The manager told us that many of her workers had managed to buy homes for themselves near the dump. According to her, those lucky ones filled their homes with such household equipment which is hardly affordable to people who had official employment. Everything is possible if you don’t drink away you money, concluded she.
Pastuckova is concerned about a large number of young homeless children hanging out on the dump. Nobody seems to care about the problem. She repeatedly tried to draw attention of the authorities who are responsible for aiding the homeless children yet all her requests were futile. Medical help for “the insulted and the humiliated” is another sensitive issue. The health officials initially would send an ambulance or admit a sick person to hospital. But things have changed since then. A man with a bad case of gangrene was rushed to hospital about a year ago. But he literally crawled back to the dump one day later. These days many prefer home therapy to hospital treatment. People complain that paramedics simply push them out of the ambulance without rendering any medical help to them. Lena the Boss also revealed a small secret to us. She said that a waste processing plant should be built on location in the near future. Looks like the city dumping ground will soon become an inexhaustible source of income for some people.
Nobody cares for the homeless
The public usually pay little attention to accidents that happen on the dump. Those creatures are hardly human, you know. The bodies found in the trash are mostly thought to be few in numbers and not related to violent crimes. Somebody died from hypothermia on a cold night, the other one drank methyl spirit etc. However, the statistics indicate a different picture. The statistics shows that the homeless are the frequent victims. A woman that looked like a bum was found in the vicinity of the dump in July. The police failed to identify her. But the police found out that she was killed by two criminals, one is 16 years old, the other one is 21 years old. A body of one of the “locals” was found in a forest near the highway in August.
“Do you take any steps to keep the situation in check with regard to the homeless?”
“There’s a regular procedure we carry out twice a year, in the spring and autumn,” says Victor Gavrilov. We visit the dump, gather all the people and take them to a police station. We fingerprint them for identification purposes. The most amazing thing is that only a few of them have no IDs at all. The majority of them have all the right paperwork. Therefore, we can’t detain them for any reason. As by law, those who have no residence permit or registration may spend from thee to fifteen days in a holding cell. There’s no point in imposing fines on those people, they can’t pay them anyway. We tried to locate their relatives but all in vain. Once the detainees walk out the police station, they head back to their dump.
Translated by Guerman Grachev
The Ilyushin 20 (Il-20) military electronic reconnaissance aircraft of the Russian Air Force with 14 servicemen on board that went off radar screens off the coast of Syria was shot down by Syrian air defense systems over the Mediterranean Sea