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11 Mar, 2009 05:09

Uncaring, indifferent: it adds up to death

Life in big cities can be impersonal, but sometimes turning the other way can mean that tragedies unfold, which assistance or intervention might have prevented.

Thousands in Russia die of heart disease or cancer, but there seems to be another lethal malaise on the rise. When something happens to a stranger, people tend to shrug their shoulders and look the other way.

The eighteen-year-old must have felt alone and heartbroken, with no reason to live as she walked the streets of Moscow. The Muslim teen was forbidden by her family to be with the man she loved and she was facing an arranged marriage.

One evening, she stood on the bridge famous with all couples in Moscow. It’s called "the bridge of love’. Many newlyweds come here on their wedding day for good luck. But neither love or luck were in Ravshana's future.

When she put down her bag and jumped from the bridge into the freezing water many people were nearby, but not a single one tried to help.

Some may say that a forbidden love killed this young beauty. But what really killed her was indifference.

Aleksandr Starostin, head of rescue group of the Russian Red Cross says:

“Most of the time, those passing by just stand and watch…or simply go on their business, and don't stop to help, or even dial the emergency number. There is no culture of helping others in Russia.”

He said Ravshana could have been saved.

“If someone had dialed 112 earlier, rescue groups could have talked her out of jumping. Or simply had the chance to pull her out of the freezing water. But no one did. And so, she died,” Starostin said.

This story is not the only one.

One year ago, a seven-year-old boy clung for his life on a Ferris wheel. The adults below shouted for him to hang on, took out their cell phones and filmed him as he fell to his death.

An equally gruesome story happened in St Petersburg. In the heart of the city, during the midday rush hour, a woman stumbled on the platform and fell between the carriages.

Two girls next to her peeked over the side of the platform and backed off. The train started to move and the woman on the tracks died a horrible death.

There was time to try and save her life but not a soul cried out or tried to stop the train.

Later, the two girls who saw the fall said by the time they realised what had happened, they 'couldn’t be bothered to do anything'.

Why does this happen?

According to Vladimir Fainzilberg, a psychologist, some people “just don't want to get involved with the police, so they ignore accidents like these”.

“And others, well, they have this morbid desire to stay and watch and it doesn't occur to them to call for help,” he said.

To find out people’s reactions, two young men staged robberies in metro carriages. While one pretended to sleep, the other took his wallet, CD player – and sometimes, even his shoes. And none of the passengers said a word.

The stories show that in Russia these days you could be literally dying in the street and you are more likely to be filmed on a cell phone than be given a helping hand.