$6,000 in cash returned to Russian pair


Antonina Berest and her husband, Iosif Tsitlik, have their $6,000 back, thanks to a Loyola College graduate student who found the Russian couple's cash in the North Baltimore neighborhood where they lost it a week ago.

On her way home from Loyola, Laurie O'Connell found Mrs. Berest's handbag containing the money in Homeland Avenue near North Charles Street the evening of April 5.

Though Mrs. Berest thought she might have dropped the handbag on a sidewalk in Homeland, she actually had left it on the roof of her husband's car as the two were preparing to leave the Paddington Road house they had just cleaned.

The bag contained no identification, only the money.

The couple, who emigrated to the United States in 1993, work as housekeepers. They had been saving the money for a new car to replace a 10-year-old one.

The couple's dilemma was first reported in The Sun in Dan Rodricks' "This Just In" column yesterday morning.

Ms. O'Connell, 31, of Overlea, a graduate student in psychology who works as a researcher/interviewer at the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Women's Center, read the article and contacted the columnist.

He put her in touch with Mrs. Berest and Mr. Tsitlik. In Russia, she worked as a teacher and he was a dentist.

The Russian couple live in Owings Mills, and Ms. O'Connell returned the money to them at their apartment last night.

The two women embraced and cried. "Thank you for your honesty," Mrs. Berest said.

Mr. Tsitlik gave Ms. O'Connell six red roses. Mrs. Berest gave her a tea cozy in the form of a Russian folk doll.

Last Wednesday, Mrs. Berest had the $6,000 with her because the couple planned on going to a car dealer immediately after cleaning the house in Homeland.

When they drove away, the handbag was still on the roof of the car and eventually slid off.

Minutes later, Ms. O'Connell drove past that spot -- which is not far from Loyola -- saw the bag and retrieved it.

Astonished at the amount, Ms. O'Connell said she had two thoughts: find a secure place to keep the money and try to find the owner.

"I had put it in my safe deposit box," Ms. O'Connell explained. "I planned to check the newspapers for notices that someone had lost it."

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