Borders drawn with a ruler, and half as close to Berlin as to Moscow

“South of Mamonovo, a miles-long line of motor vehicles stretches down to the Polish border. Many drivers arrive the previous evening and spend the night in their car, in order to get past the frontier as early as possible after the frontier checkpoint opens in the morning. Those who are in a particular hurry can acquire a spot further forward in the line by paying off the ‘baldies,’ a sobriquet for the local mafia. Andrei, a young Russian from Kaliningrad, willingly relates why he and most of the others in line drive to Poland and back several times each week. He has 50 cartons of cigarettes and 70 liters of gasoline stashed somewhere in his VW, and just on the other side of the border he can get rid of his wares at a handsome profit. On a normal day, he says, he earns 50 ‘baksy’ (Russian slang for dollars), a considerable sum by local standards.”

Posted August 4, 2001

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