Text size

At 3 A.M. 75-year-old Fiodor Richtikov was dressed and ready for another day of work. "A moment before he was about to leave, I stood in the doorway and begged him to stay home. I had a bad feeling," his widow, Lyubov, said tearfully. "He told me he would work another 10 days and then stay home with me."

On the way to clean the streets of Ariel yesterday, Richtikov and two of his friends were killed in a crash on Highway 6.

On Upper Nazareth's Golan Street, elderly Russian speakers sat on benches outside tenement bloc No. 2. Campaign posters for a mayoral candidate already decorate some porches, 100 days before the election.

"You should have brought an interpreter," the saleswoman at Cohen's mini-market across the street said. Efforts at conversation in broken Hebrew revealed that the tenants had no idea a neighbor had been killed in the horrific accident.

In the small apartment friends and relatives sat with Lyubov. Beside her was her 10-year-old granddaughter Katya, who had come from Ukraine to visit her grandparents, who immigrated eight years ago from Zhytomyr, Ukraine. Katya's mother was to have arrived last night for a visit. "She's coming to have a good time with us, and only when she arrives she'll discover she's come for a funeral. We were so looking forward to this visit," Lyubov said.

Richtikov served as an officer in the Red Army until the age of 45, and later worked in a factory. In Israel he worked as a cleaner. "You have to work. The old-age pension is not enough, even though we lead a modest life," his wife said, without a hint of complaint, only a tone of resignation to a grim reality. "He said a man should work so long as he is healthy and has the strength. He traveled each time to a different community, to wherever the contractor took him, sometimes to Hadera, sometimes to Umm al-Fahm, wherever there's work. The contractor would call and tell him where the job is. He didn't complain."

Richtikov made NIS 90 for a day's work, a relative said, adding, "Who do we turn to now? He died on the way to work. Who is the contractor? Who will compensate the widow?"

The Richtikovs would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary next month, and several relatives were planning to surprise them by arriving from Ukraine.

In a neighborhood on the other side of town, Mary Elhadad spoke of the couple next door who "lived like a pair of lovebirds" - Boris and Helena Arnopolin, who immigrated from Birobidjan four years ago. Boris Arnopolin, 68, also left at 3 A.M. yesterday to clean the streets of Ariel, and never returned. Some family members were reluctant to talk about his job, and seemed concerned that the meager income paid in cash for a hard day's work would cause trouble for them.

Mikhail Grinkov, a friend from Birobidjan, said that Arnopolin had served in the Russian navy. "He's a strong man who isn't afraid of hard work. He has strength. When you have to bring money home you go to work."