I got a letter from Paris yesterday. I know some people in Paris, but I haven't been in touch with any of them for years. I turned the envelope over, expecting to see a familiar name, but didn't. Instead I saw "Dmitri Shostakovich" with an address on the rue Beaubourg, just a few buildings down from the Pompidou Center (I looked it up on Google.)
The first thing I thought was, uhhh, Dmitri Shostakovich is dead. Waaaay dead. Who's pulling my leg?
Then, I opened the envelope. There was a handwritten sheet in Russian, with instructions to mail the letter to me, noting me as "Manager of Charitable Orthodox Projects" ("orthodox" as in Russian Orthodox Church) and giving the website address for my former place of employment. Below that, my home address, several e-mail addresses for me, including one I haven't had for at least 7 or 8 years, and one badly mangled (noting my ISP as "compost.net" which is pretty funny.)
Then, finally, I saw the reason for this strangeness - the name of a terribly annoying Russian interpreter with whom I used to work. A couple of years ago, this man has handed off my contact information to friends in Russia who are desperate for grant money to maintain Russian monuments. I feel bad, but I'm not in a position to help these folks. I've told the interpreter this time and again, but he is clueless. Also, I want to know how these folks got an e-mail address for me that ceased to be YEARS before I met the interpreter. And when did I become a "orthodox" charity agent???
With this was a four page, typed proposal in Russian, begging me to find several million dollars to rebuild and restore the town of Pavlovsk, a royal retreat outside of St. Petersburg. This is not the first time I've received this request. In fact, this is the fifth time I've received this request. Each time, I've told these folks "Sorry, cannot do pro bono work at this time."
I'm baffled by how odd this has become, though. Letters are now coming from Russians in France? If this dude is a Shostakovich, living in a very tony part of Paris, why isn't he funding the reconstruction of Pavlovsk? And there are SO many wealthy Russians, both in country and expatriate now - why aren't they looking to them for cash???
Arrrrrg. I will have to respond yet again. And I HATE typing in Russian.