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An Accidental Victim, Doomed by Her Bravery

Published: November 12, 2002 (Issue # 819)



  • Romanova was the first person to die.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

MOSCOW - Oct. 23 was Olga Romanova's last day at one store in the L'Etoile perfume chain before moving to a long-awaited job in another. She returned home - an apartment around the corner from the theater where, just hours before, hundreds of people had been taken hostage - at around 1:30 a.m. to face questions from her mother.

"I asked her: 'Where have you been?'" Olga's mother, Antonina, said in a telephone interview. Olga told her about the police cordons outside.

"We sat around for a while, drank some tea. She was saying: 'How is it possible that they are keeping women and children in there?' Then - it was about half past three - she said, 'So, I'll go, maybe I'll get through, maybe I will be able to talk to them, maybe they will at least release the children. I feel sorry for the kids.' I tried to stop her from going: I yelled at her, cried, locked the door. But she left," Antonina Romanova said, ending the interview last week, saying she could not answer any more questions.

Two doctors who were allowed to enter the theater on Oct. 24 carried out the body of the first victim. The next day it was identified as the body of Olga Romanova - a 26-year-old salesperson, who had supported her pensioner parents and disabled brother.

It is unclear how Romanova entered the House of Culture - familiar to her since childhood - as it was surrounded by police, although the cordon was weaker in the early hours of the siege.

She apparently was not the only one who did; at least three others were reported to have gotten through police lines. Lieutenant Colonel Konstantin Vasilyev was missing on the first night of the hostage crisis, and his body, with five bullet wounds, was found in the theater's courtyard after the assault, one of his friends said. A Cossack leader was reported to have approached the theater on Oct. 25 - apparently without permission from the crisis center - prompting hostage takers to begin shooting. Another man got through the security cordon to enter the theater several hours before special forces stormed the building. He said he was looking for his son, who was not found among the hostages. The man was beaten and shot, presumably fatally, according to former hostages, who said the Chechen gunmen accused him of being an FSB agent. Some former hostages said they heard this confirmed by security officials.

Yet Romanova will be remembered as the first victim and the only woman who somehow got in, apparently not realizing the danger.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Aug. 1


Bikers from all around the world will gather to take part in a parade, extreme shows and rock concerts during the International Biker Festival that revs its engines today and runs through Aug. 3 near Olgino Hotel, 4/2 Primorskogo Shosse.


The Peter and Paul Fortress will be turned into an open-air cinema today and tomorrow as part of the 5th International Short and Animation Film Festival. A huge screen across the fortress walls will air short films non-stop with board games, photo sessions and other activities also on offer for visitors. For more information, visit www.opencinemafest.ru



Saturday, Aug. 2


Gatchina Palace Park Museum will host its second annual Night of Light, an impressive audio-visual show across the night sky. Tickets are 600 rubles ($16).


If graphic design is more your thing then check out Illustration Day, where you will be able to visit an exhibition, attend lectures by professionals and even show experts some of your own work. The event starts at noon at Zona Deystvia, 73 Ligovsky Prospekt. The entrance fee is 350 rubles ($10).



Sunday, Aug. 3


History lovers shouldn’t miss the chance to see reenactments of World War I battles in Pushkin at noon. Besides exciting war scenes, visitors can enjoy live music, historical costumes, an equestrian show and a fancy-dress parade starting from the Moscow gates.


Garage Sale, the popular and growing flea market where nothing is priced over 500 rubles ($14.11), starts today at noon in Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt. Be sure to get in early to score a bargain. Entry costs 50 rubles ($1.40)



Monday, Aug. 4


Continue the working week with a calm and steady mind with a free yoga lesson at 7 p.m. in the Bukvoyed store at 23A Vladimirsky Prospekt.



Tuesday, Aug. 5


Visit The Romanov Dynasty doll exhibition today, where more than fifty porcelain dolls depicting Russian rulers, and made by Olina Ventzel, will be on show. The exhibition continues through Aug. 31 in Sheremetyev Palace, 34 Fontanka Naberezhnaya.



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