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19 Mar, 2009 14:19

Cursed for nobleness

Cursed for nobleness

Villagers came to hate a woman who found and then returned $300,000 to its rightful owner.

“Money is evil. And the bigger the money is – the bigger the evil,” Svetlana Bachurina believed long before the economic crisis hit the world.

Two years ago, Svetlana, from the remote village of Anan’ino in the Yaroslavl Region in Central Russia found $300,000 in the snow. What might surprise some is that, instead of keeping it, she found the owner and returned the money.

There was a massive reaction to the story in Russia’s media – from the local newspaper to the major television networks. But in the time that’s elapsed, the noble deed has changed Svetlana’s life for the worse, reports the Moskovsky Komsomolets (MK) newspaper.

A might-have-been millionaire

Svetlana makes a humble living selling her handicraft mice beside the Mouse museum. The mouse is a symbol of the neighbouring town of Myshkin [or the city of the Mouse] – a local tourist destination. Being close to the visitor attraction plays an important role in the income of Anan’ino’s inhabitants. Just like Svetlana, her fellow-villagers are far from rich.

“The demand for our handicrafts has dropped … I’m not sure whether the crisis is to blame or that customers are less active during winter,” Svetlana complains. But she holds firm in her belief that “there is no such thing as a free lunch.”

But surprisingly, her laudable beliefs are being put on trial…

“Since the story came out, they are simply giving me no peace. I even had to abandon my job for a while. Curious people gathered around my counter asking if it was true that I returned $300,000 … And behind my back, my neighbours were saying I was crazy because I didn’t find ‘a better use’ for the money! Even now, the women here mock me when I visit our local shop: ”Look, here’s the might-have-been millionaire!“ Some still refuse to believe I returned every single dollar. Sometimes people pester me with requests to hand over some money. Of course I turn them away, together with those journalists who keep bothering me… I do not think it is the kind of story to trumpet all over the world.”

Her story would probably be forgotten by now, had it not been for the notorious financial crisis. Since then, people’s dislike for Bachurina grew stronger.

“Greedy!”, “Liar!”

The villagers have now split into two camps. One blames Svetlana for not sharing the cash with them, while the other simply refuse to believe the whole story. Among the latter are journalists from the local newspaper and the village administration.

“She is just a liar! She simply wanted to show up in all those talk shows, and get a free ride to Moscow – and that was the reason she made that story up,” said one. “Bachurina was probably drunk when she invented the story but later came to her senses. There is no way she would give such a sum back. She is a greedy woman.”

Others preferred to condemn Svetlana for her noble act: “She is a fool! No one needs her nobleness here, when we are trying to survive! We would find a better use for this money. We would thank her if she shared the money. Now she is not welcome here!”

Bachurina is not happy herself. She says she has never had so many enemies in her entire life.

Her husband is angry: whenever he steps out of their house, his friends are there to mock him. They say he must be stupid to have a stupid wife. Their younger son is baited by his friends, too.

More worryingly, six months ago someone shot dead their dog, Druzhok. It was Bachurina’s favourite pet and the one who found the $300,000 and appears to be a sickening revenge attack on Svetlana.

“Now I doubt myself if I did the right thing when I returned the money. My children have grown up and work is so difficult to find around here. And I have nothing to help them…Want to buy a mouse?”