He was a local history teacher celebrating his birthday in Russia: “I had a great day until I got arrested”
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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — We can’t call it a trend but we think we’ve uncovered some scary stories involving local people prompted by the arrest in Russia of American basketball player Brittany Griner.
Two weeks ago, prominent DWI lawyer Ed Fiandach told us about his arrest in Soviet Russia in 1990.
After that story aired, a retired teacher told News10NBC the KGB did the same thing to him in the same year.
And then he got out an old Kodak carousel slide projector to take us back.
“This is the entry into the Kremlin,” Dick Fisher said as he clicked through his slides from 30 years ago.
For Fisher, going to Soviet Russia was the trip of a lifetime.
He was a history teacher in Avon and was part of a group of teachers touring the old communist block. Fisher says he asked a lot of questions and took copious notes and that’s probably what got him in trouble moments after a photo of him in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow’s most famous church.
“That picture was taken in 1990. It was my 51st birthday. It was the 4th of July and I had a great day until I got arrested,” he said.
Fisher says he was grabbed off the streets near Red Square.
“I had four undercover cops take me down a back alley,” he said. “I thought they were robbing me. So I start giving them stuff out of my duffle bag thinking just don’t kill me.”
Fisher says he was questioned for about 30 minutes and released. But then, back with his friends, two men, one in an expensive-looking suit and another in an army uniform, came up and took his mug shot.
“And I thought ‘oh my God, what’s happening now?'”
That was it.
Or so he thought.
The journey back to America went through Prague, Czechoslovakia and as Fisher waited to get on his flight home, he was arrested again.
“Two guys with AK-47s and held me for, I don’t know, it seemed like four hours but probably only 45 minutes,” he said. “And all I could envision is this plane taking off for America and me heading for some gulag.”
Fisher contacted me after he saw my story with attorney Fiandach who was touring Russia the same year Fisher was there.
Fiandach says the Russian police showed up at his hotel room.
“My late wife knocks on the door and said the police are here for you,” Fiandach said. “And I said ‘what do they want?’ And she said ‘they want you!’”
Fiandach says he was interrogated for four hours. He says the Russians thought he was a spy because of a late night conversation he had at his hotel bar with a man who turned out to be a Soviet space engineer.
Click here to watch the full story of Fiandach’s arrest
Brean: “The one thing you and Ed Fiandach have in common is that you used to tell these stories as a joke.”
Fisher: “Oh, it’s a huge joke with my friends.”
Brean: “But now?”
Fisher: “But now, after this Brittany Griner thing it’s really come back and hit me and I realize that if they really wanted me all they had to do is slip something in my duffle bag and I could be there for years.
Griner is serving nine years in a Russian prison for having a trace amount of drugs.
“It just shows how blessed we are that we have rights in this country,” Fisher said. “We’re very lucky in this country.”
Fisher and Fiandach talked on the phone last week and traded stories about their arrests. They now believe the mandatory tour guides who were with them in Russia were either KGB or required to report to the KGB every night.
Fisher says for the past 30 years, he’s been uneasy leaving the United States.