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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

Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at today’s Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nation’s premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the city’s elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolan’s latest film “Mommy” at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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