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What a perfect place to rekindle friendship bonds. Three weeks might seem like a long time to spend with a friend I have not seen in more than thirty years, but not for me. I could not wait to embark with her on a European sojourn, to see places of our childhood and catch up with our new lives on the opposite sides of the world.

Upon arriving in Paris I was looking for her curvy figure and a long brown hair and there she was, looking still the same. Karolina embraced me and picking my small suitcase rushed me out of the busy airport.

No time for jet leg when there are only two days to show you my city of love and lights,” she winked at me from the front seat of the taxi.

Soon we entered the breezy boulevards of ornate buildings, erected centuries ago as legacies to kings and emperors. The taxi stopped in front of one of them and Karolina happily opened the old wooden door and led me up a narrow staircase: “Come on, our tiny appartment is one on the top under the roof.

Karolina married few years back a Frenchman and she used him as a model for many paintings I saw hanged all around the flat. She led me to the back where was her atelier changed to a guest room.

Do you recognize this painting?” She handed me a small watercolour after she put down my suitcase.

I nodded and touched gently the sitting figure in front of river Volga. It was picture of me from our university years in Russia.

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I thought you don’t want us to talk about Russia,” I whispered cautiously fully aware of the painful memories this place evoked in both of us.

There was silence. I looked around the room and realized that many pictures on the walls painted only recently described our Russian experience. Evocative pictures in dark colours full of shadows and empty spaces.

I want you to have this picture,” she pointed to the watercolour in my hands. When I protested she just chucked it in my suitcase: “No more talk about Russia, just one last question, have you written about our experience like you promised?”

Not yet, Karolina,  I have started to write little bit about what happened before, can not find the right words, I guess, but I am going to, I promise.

She nodded and turned to the window where the views over Paris took my breath away: “What a perfect place you find yourself to live in, I am so happy for you Karolina, all your troubles are over, you are a famous artist now.” I hugged her tightly and wiped the tears rolling slowly down her cheeks.

Next morning Karolina took me to her favourite cafe, where the proprietor happily conversed with me in my recently refreshed high-school French. Karolina just laughed and translated my mispronounced words to him in a perfect French.

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Just wait, when you come over to Australia I will laugh at your English,” I pretended to be angry while tasting delicious crossaints.

Then we strolled the quaint artistic streets of Montmartre and went to see the famous the Arc de Triomphe. The following day I begged Karolina to take me to the Louvre and the last night we spent on the Eiffel Tower, where the laser lights and views were absolutely magical. We never mentioned ‘Russia’ ever again.

As we travelled north by coach to Amsterdam, observing the enormous modern wind farm propellers dwarfing rustic willage church spires and the bullet train flying through verdant fields where cows have grazed for hundreds of years, Karolina took out her drawing pad and a pencil.

Seeing it I started to laugh: “This is how I always remembered  you, drawing everything and all the time..”

She smiled: “I guess we never really change, just wanted to visualise the landscape of those great battles of the past.”

My grandfather used to fight somewhere here in the World War 1, but it looked different back then.” I nodded solemnly.

We arrived in the evening and straight away took to the red light district’s maze of narrow cobblestoned streets and canals mingling with hundreds of raucously intoxicated Brits spilling from bars and coffee shops.

They are so tolerant here of drugs and gay marriage, so different to the Communists we grew up with,” Karolina exclaimed enthusiastically: “ And patient, even the constant battle against the sea is handled calmly and patiently, do you remember Chernobyl, those people…”

No more Russia, Karolina,”  I took her hand in mine and she stopped.

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    “Can you explain to me, why Dutch call these shops ‘coffee shops’ when they don’t sell coffee?” I asked quickly to change subject.

The next day we cruised out of Amsterdam on our ‘Amadeus’. The everyday sights of a family picnicking next to their family bicycle, a fisherman’s net stretching into the still water and the signs indicating distance from the Rhine’s source ended up in Karolina’s drawings. She found herself the comfortable spot near one of the full-length window and the passengers passing by stopped for a peek and a chat.

Did you know that ninety per cent of the 122 on board have not been to Europe and none has seen it from this viewpoint,” shared one of the passengers with Karolina.

Karolina shook her head in disbelief: “My husband’s family comes from Cologne we are passing now, you see these settlements along the Rhine date back to Roman and Celtic times.”

The eyeballs of fellow passengers were like ping-pong balls as they viewed the towering castles of medieval villages on both sides of the river.

They were constructed during the 11th, 12the and 13th centuries to protect the monasteries, many of them were plundered and destroyed by the French armies of Louis XIV.” Karolina explained while cleverly drawing one of the castles.

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But this castle looks like new,” protested one of the passenger.

“It has been lovingly restored and maintained by the German people over the past 200 years, now being used as a hotel.” I chipped in to save Karolina’s reputation.

Karolina smiled at me gratefully and picked up her pencils and when the boat reached the bank we got off to explore the charming walled city of Rothenburg, perched high on the hill above the Tauber Valley.

This is one of Europe’s best-preserved medieval cities,” Karolina climbed up excitedly: “The citizens saved it from destruction by surrender to the Allies in 1945, I hope I manage to sketch it before we cruise away.”

But there was no time as we rushed to visit the former nazi rally grounds in Nuremberg. We looked around the immense proportions of the buildings and grounds and thought about our grand parents having lived through World War II. This was not history for us, not yet.

Later, our spirits were uplifted after meandering down the beautiful Danube Gorge and arriving at the impressive baroque Benedictine monastery of Weltenberg Abbey. Danube was the river of my childhood and it felt like coming home. The sense of awe filled us upon entering the ornately gilded church and then we tasted the dark beer which the monks have brewed since 1050. We just could not stop laughing, it was the first alcohol we both tasted in the age of five, after all, the beer is the national drink where we come from.

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Nostalgia warmed our hearts when we visited the beautiful Austrian city of Salzburg, remembering many wintry young adults’ years spent there immersing ourselves in study of old painters.

The Danube’s Wachau Valley was littered with medieval castles on hilltops surrounded by grapevines and picturesque willages, but most of these castles were in ruins, never been rebuilt after the Ottoman Turks destroyed them. Suddenly, our adventurous spirit and childhood memories took over when we spied a ruined castle on the hilltop in the charming willage of Durnstein and climbed the treacherous path to the top. The magnificent view of the magical Danube river brought back many happy times spent on the castles’ ruins back in our homeland.

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The last few days of our cruise tour we spent in the former eastern bloc cities of Bratislava and Prague. Bratislava was my birthplace and Prague Karolina’s. We had to admit that the sense of pride, humour and optimism of Slovaks and Czechs seemed to rise radiantly above the distasteful hangover of those dark dictatorial decades of communist rule we lived through.

In our last hours together we walked from the 1000-year-old Prague Castle to the Charles Bridge brimming with tourists, traders, musicians and painters.

At least you know where your artistic talent comes from,”  I pointed at hundreds of  the local watercolours for sale.

My mother was an artist,” She murmured.

Really, I don’t remember your mother, just your dad, he used to pick us up in his truck on our way from uni…”

They split up when I was young, dad moved back to Nitra with me, where he grew up and Mum stayed here, but I visited her every holiday for a while.”

We sat outside trendy restaurant near the river Vltava. Small boats moved over the tranquil waters and disturbed the reflection of castes and churches from above. Passers-by seemed more intent on the screens of their mobiles than enjoying the surroundings, while somebody at a nearby table was holding forth on the state of the European economy. Our conversation wandered down various paths, we were suddenly at ease talking about the weighty subjects of life and death. Karolina’s mother, who used to live just few streets away lost her battle with cancer a year ago.

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It’s funny how you can talk yourself out of being happy and just drift away from your family,” Karolina suddenly said: “After our return from Russia I was so depressed, and I think they have been ashamed of me ending up in mental hospital and all that.”

No, they didn’t, I remember your dad visiting you there everyday, I was the one deserting you having my hands full with my first child and all…”

You have been the one so strong and sensible, but I think having already a husband and a baby might help to forget more easily.”

I nodded and patted her hand: “Don’t be so harsh at yourself, you managed well, getting that art scholarship and moving to France and now, look at you…”

She smiled sadly: “Yes, I was happy to run away, but I loved my family and realized that you can have all the paraphernalia of modern life – tablets, mobile phones, whatever, but you still don’t connect with people if you don’t listen to them and share your life with them, and now they are gone.”

I looked at the watch and sighed: “I think it is time for me to go soon, I have just three hours to my flight.”

Karolina nodded and told me  to follow her before she disappeared in the crowd of tourists. I had to hurry not to loose her in the narrow overcrowded streets. Finally I caught up with her in front of the medieval astronomical clock, more than 500 years old.

Here we say good bye, our time is ticking away, you don’t have too much time,” she sqeezed my hand:

Do not forget, our story has to be told.”

 

The Eighties – The University years: ‘Just a Hungarian type of boy’

Ildiko’s family comes from Gyor, an ancient city in the northwest Hungary, just on another side of the Slovakian border. In 1945 the Soviet Army liberated Hungary and Slovakia from Nazi occupation, then outstayed its welcome by 54 years. In that time they managed to divide these two nations by artificial border line often crossing through the middle of a willage. As it happened few Ildiko’s family members ended up on Slovakian side leaving the home and the rest of the family behind.

“I told you that you end up with my brother, I felt it in my bones,” Ildiko winked at me when I pinned the duck’s feather, Robert brought me next to his photo on my wall.

“He said we are going to Gyor this weekend, are you joining us?” I smiled dreamily brushing gently the small photo of Robert in his hunting uniform holding a shot duck victoriously in his hand.

“No way, good luck with all those aunties feeding you langoshe, cause they think you are too skinny and need to eat more, anyway how would you cope, you don’t speak Hungarian?” Ildiko twirled in front of a mirror trying her new skirt.

“No difference to visiting your family here in Slovakia, they speak only Hungarian anyway,” I murmured angrily: “And your mum constantly repeating that Robert will marry Hungarian girl, what does she think?”

“Bibi,” Ildiko rushed to me and got hold of my hands as my eyes filled up with tears: “Do not take notice, my parents still live in Hungary in their minds just like the rest of the willage…”

“I noticed,” I quickly dried my tears, “All the signs are in Hungarian, couldn’t even buy the bread in the shop, I couldn’t understand the shop assistant, one would think I am not in Slovakia any more.”

Ildiko just waved her hand: “This is how it always been, even in primary school we spoke only Hungarian, but what you expect, we are Hungarians after all.”

Robert burst into our room and the floor shook under his strong feet: “We won two – nil,” running to me he picked me up and I sqeeked with delight.

“Cut it out, basketball is all you can talk about,” Ildiko angrily spitted out in our direction: “Heard you take Bibi to Gyor, tell mum I am joining you, will you?”

“So you can sleep around with that ‘skinny skunk’? Robert suddenly put me back on the ground and his dark face darkened even more.

“Not everyone is built to be a big muscle man just like you, anyway he is very gentle and funny, so don’t dare to scare him of.” Ildiko carefully applied a lipstick on her full lips and turned quickly on her high heels to open the door.

“Just don’t get pregnant, will you?” Robert sighed, “I suppose to look after you, and tell that skunk I punch his face when I see him next.”

Ildiko showed her tounge at him before banging the door behind her: “Now, who is talking, Bibi watch out…” We heard her laughing down the corridor until the silence enveloped the room. The other room mates went home for a weekend so this supposed to be our day together but suddenly we felt uncomfortable sitting next to each other on my narrow bed.

“Let’s go to Gyor, pack some clothes for night,” he suddenly jumped up.

“You said the bus goes at 5 in the morning, now is 5 in the afternoon,” I tried to protest but he was already moving out of the door.

“What they say when we turn up there for the night, your mum was not happy at all…” I rushed after him down the broad staircase.

He picked me up taking two steps instead of one, he turned around and brought me back to our room shutting the door tightly behind.

“You are right, the aunties will watch us like hawks,” he smiled showing his strong white teeth and his dark moustache tickled my cheeck.

It was still dark when we left the quiet dormitory, Robert through the window and me through the door. Ildiko didn’t return to her room at all. The dormitory lady was snoring loudly, her knitting needles lying comfortable on her huge belly in the entry hall so I managed to sneak out without being questioned.

I found Robert phoning his mum in the nearby telephone boot. It irritated me not be able to understand what they were talking about, but I heard Ildiko’s name mentioned few times.

“If mum asks, Ildiko is with us, allright ‘kishason’? He smiled and sqeeked my hand when we rushed to the bus stop through the sleepy dusty streets. The morning was breaking up behind the bishop’s castle, that was now occupied by the communist party. The huge red flag was flapping violently in the wind.

“What do you want me to say?” I snapped back, “you know I don’t speak Hungarian.”

He hugged me tightly: “I will teach you and then mum will come around, you will be the best Hungarian girl of them all, ‘kishason’.”

I freed myself from his hug and running towards the bus that just pull in I shouted back: “I am not Hungarian, you are, kishason.”

“I can not be ‘kishason’, silly, it means a pretty girl,” he laughed catching up easily with me.

Sqeezed in between workers travelling to their factories on a border at the back and bumping at each hole on the unkempt road I layed my head on his strong shoulder and whispered: “Describe for me your Gyor, never been in Hungary before.”

Robert looked out of the window at a grim, unattractive city with belching chimneys and dirty streets and sighed: “Looks just like here.”

I looked up at him in sheer wonderment: “So what for we go there, what for?”

The old house at end of unkempt street was filled with Robert’s adoring relatives, who hugeed him constantly and pinched my cheecks while offering me unlimitted amount of chocolate. I felt as I didn’t belong listening to their laughs and chatting in a language that was foreign to me. Robert noticed my discomfort and placing his arm confidently around me he started to translate: “The chocolate is from our uncle who ran away to Switzerland after the bloody revolution in 56.”

I nodded: “You mean the one we had in 65, I remember the Russian tanks in front of Grandmum’s house, but is he allowed to visit, cause my father is not allowed to come back..”

Robert shook his head: “He just sent parcels…that’s him and his new family.” Someone from the family handed me a photo of an elderly man with a big scar on his cheeck, a red haired woman and a little girl by his side.

“What’s happened to him?” I pointed it at the scar.

An elderly aunt said something and everyone started to laugh. I looked confused at the laughing aunt and chuckling Robert, then stood up and stormed out of the room.

“Don’t be stupid, we didn’t laugh at you,” he caught up with me down the street turning me forcefuly around so I had to look straight to his eyes: “You are such a sensitive little ‘kishason’, my auntie just called the hated Russians who cut my uncle’s face ‘our Soviet brothers’, do you get it, its their Hungarian nickname, because everyone knows you can’t pick your relatives.”

I stood there sulkily not knowing what to do next: “And they don’t let you to pick me,” I said finally.

“Come with me, I show you something,” he took my arm and pulled me in direction of the glistening water in the distance. We came to the junction of the three rivers where a group of children were competing who throws a pebble further away. We joined them and kept throwing pebbles one after another. Suddenly I felt much better.

Suddenly Robert stopped and pointed at the ruins nearby: “Here in 1944 Gyor’s Jewish population was deported to Auschwitz, of the 4000 men, women and children, only a handful returned, my auntie told me about it, her neighbour was one of them, she said he looked like a ghost and died soon after.”

I closed my ears in exasperation: “Stop it, Robert, stop it, I can’t take it any more, I just want to go back home.”

The dark was already enveloping us when he picked me up and tickled me with his moustache on the cheeck: “It’s okey, ‘kishason’, it’s happened a long time ago, let’s go to the bishop’s residence now,” he put me down and we ran up the cobbled street laughing our hearts out. The rundown monastery was also decorated by a huge red flag but behind it was a beautiful orchard. I could see a juicy peaches beckoning to me from a nearby tree.

“Pick me that one, if you dare,” I pointed at the biggest one further away.

He bowed to me and climbed the forbidding iron railing. He swung himself skillfuly on to the peach tree to pick the chosen one. In a second he kneeled down in front of me holding the round peach as a trophy.

2011 – A pilgrimage to Gyor to reclaim student’s memories

“We should stay in Vienna, Mum,” my teenager daughter looked up at the renovated castle from the 16 century, “I liked that castle where empress Maria Theresa lived much more.”

I opened the city map looking desperately for the street I would know: “It changed so much, here it said it boasts the second largest collection of historic buildings in Hungary, I never knew that, and do you know that Turks lived here in this castle for 150 years?”

“So what,” my daughter slumped her shoulders: “What are we going to do, mum, you said you know someone here…”

I closed the map and nodded: “Okey, I call him then,” I picked up the mobile and soon enough I heard his throaty voice: “Is it you, Bibi, just wait where you are, ‘kishason’.”

Soon enough he rushed towards us down the street, still strong muscle man with little belly and a crown of silver hair and a silver moustache to tickle my cheeck. He hugged me tightly so I felt we separated just yesterday not back over twenty years. He pinched my daughter’s cheeck with a confident smile: “‘kishason’ you look just like your mother used to look, are you sure your father is not Hungarian?”

She looked at me confused, her stare said it all: “Is this man mad or what?” Then he turned to Robert and said in Aussie lingo: “My Dad lives in Australia.”

He bowed politely towards her and said in perfect English: “Beg a pardon, little lady, I love Australians, we have them plenty over here every holiday.”

“Robert, your English is really good,” I applauded him with an honest admiration.

He straighten up and salluted in a Russian style: “Had to prepare for so important visit to our city.”

My daughter looked at me and rolled her eyes: “Can we go to eat somewhere, mum?”

Before she could protest he grabbed her hand and dragged her up the street: “Of course we can, but before that I take you on a tour of this magical city, as I see on your figure you need a little bit of exercise…”

My daughter turned around with a pleading eyes: “Mum, tell him off, mum?”

I had to laugh and shouted after her hurrying to catch up: “It is easier said than done, sweetheart, you don’t know Hungarians.”

We stopped in front of recently uncovered celtic ruins dated back to 500 BC.

“We saw them already in Slovakia,” my daughter murmured struggling to free her hand, but he managed to take her other hand and twirled her around in ‘chardash style’.

“Did your mum tell you how we used to dance whole night, she was a quick learner, I can tell you…”

“Robert, that would be enough,” I said crossly and he stopped in a midstep and holding my daughter around her arms he pointed at ruins again:

“Okey, then, ‘kishason’ you are right, just like in Slovakia, Romans established here an important trading centre. And you would not guess, Gyor was in turn home to Slavs, Lombards and Franks as well until the nomadic Magyars, just like me, settled here in AD 900.” He pumped up his chest and even my daughter chuckled and asked more cheerfully: “How do you know all that?”

“It is my city, where my family was born and now I live, what do you expect?”

“I don’t know anything about Perth,” my daughter said.

“You should,” he nudged her towards the castle: “I have a daughter just like you and she is prouder Hungarian than me.”

“Is your wife Hungarian?” My daughter asked suddenly and I crossed their path: “Stop with those personal questions, it is not polite…”

My daughter looked at me stubbornly: “Why not, he started with up to close and personal, how you danced with him all night.”

I was ready to spank her when he caught my arm: “Bibi, she is right,” and then he turned towards her: “Of course she is, Hungarians were expected to marry only Hungarians, but it is changing now and believe me I am more than happy for that.”

He looked at me with those dark deep eyes and I suddenly felt very uncomfortable: “Maybe it is time to go for lunch.”

“And what about the castle?” He protested but my daughter pulled his arm now for a change: “Been there, seen that, Turks lived there for 150 years.”

“You are clever ‘kishason’ after your mum,” he laughed and let her to pull him towards the Szechenyi Square.

“Robert, it is beautiful,” I stopped in a sudden shock. Whitewashed and painted in soft colours, the freshly renovated baroque buildings enveloped me. The summer concert trio was playing one of the Bartok’s long forgotten melodies on the square’s corner.

“Look mum, a cafe hub, just like home, maybe they have muffins as well,” my daughter ran towards the closest lunch bar without waiting for us.

I wanted to follow her, but he got hold of my arm: “Let her, she is not a kid any more, if she wants she will find us,” and led me toward the starkly beautiful monastery built by the Jesuits in 1634. I breathed the distinctive fragrance of incense and candlewax and looked at him with a question in my eyes.

“I first came here many years ago when the Hungarian regime which was hostile to religion, as you know had let the building fall into disrepair but even in that delapidated state nothing could mar the beauty of it, or at least it was beautiful in my memories…”

We walked around the buildings and reached the orchard.

“One dark night, spurred on by you, I climbed that forbidding iron railing.” When we stopped and touched that fence now, I felt, he was still proud of this students’ adventure.  We both stared deep into orchard when my daughter caught up with us.

“What are you looking at?” She asked impatiently.

None of us replied. Over twenty years later, we were searching for that tree, how could I explain.

We walked slowly beside the fence peering in, and have almost given up when we saw it tucked away in the far corner just close enough to the fence to make the exploit possible. The old tree still bearing fruits, the precisely one peach was still hanging there. Robert looked at me and I shook my head: “It is someone else turn now.”

“I don’t like peaches, do you mum?” My daughter pinched in.

“Oh, she does, believe me,” Robert winked at me and hand in hand we walked back to the square. At the end of it we said goodbye and each of us went their own separate way again.

While my daughter was munching on her blueberry muffin and chatting away about her home back in Australia I was looking back at the orchard and on our old tree. Then I realized I forgot to ask about the Ildiko’s whereabouts. The last postcard I got from her was from Italy, where she lived with some Italian.

Why do women betray their family customs more easily to follow their heart?

It was a poignant end to my tour of rediscovery, the old tree still bearing fruit has outlived our relationship, but I came back to make amends with my past in this beautiful city restored finally to its former glory.

January 2011

1.

Listening to the Violin Concerto in D minor, Pl.47 by Jean Sibelius in the Perth Concert Hall, with my Mum breathing heavily next to me, in January 2011 I realised that this year has a special symbolic meaning for me.

The opening of the concerto is one of the most unmistakable in all music. Over the murmur of muted violins, the soloist enters immediately with an intense and brooding first subject: disaster. At this stage I was not aware of the devastating earthquakes that brings sorrow to New Zealand and Japan will soon disappear in a black tidal wave while world will watch with a horror and awe.

I was watching my Mum, who came to visit me after 20 years of silence and realised that what we talk about are little things, ‘the big things’ stay heavy, unspoken and unresolved for eternity between us. The soloist dominates the stage with his passionate and sad sounds.

Did you know I used to play violin?” My mum suddenly turned to me: ” With your Grandfather we visited every wedding and played a fiddle for a free meal at the table.”

I said nothing but my eyes looked at her, through her thinking: There are so many things I don’t know about you Mum and I will never ask.

“Oh, you don’t care, you never been interested, I mean really interested what I want to say.” She sighed before I had a chance to reply.

The mood of the Adagio is more restrained, but the characteristic intensity remains, as does the poignancy and sense of regret.

The finale is a polonaise in all but name, and a bravura showpiece for the soloist. Sibelius noted, ‘It must be played with absolute mastery. Fast..but no faster that it can be played perfectly.’

How is your life back home?” I ask my Mum leaving the noisy quickly emptying Concert Hall behind.

“What do you think, I don’t live in a rich country like you,” she murmured under her nose waving her hands on the crowded cafe strips and lighted up skyscrapers reaching up to stars: “Rich countries are rich enough but they just grow and consume more and more…”

“You are right there, Mum, we can’t continue with endless consumption, we are already paying for it,” I sighed: “ Do you need me to help you with something, at home?”

“What I want you can’t give me, and what are you giving me is not enough, so cut it out,” Mum snapped at me when we reached our car.

“A dangerous appetite for endless growth, that is exactly what is wrong with our world.” I laughed and reaching the freeway I speeded towards our farm at its end.

February 2011

2.

Here is to Life…” I was singing together with Sherley Horn on the Ipod while driving down to Albany. My Mum was sitting quietly next to me, looking pale and miserable. I turned off the Ipod and glanced at her.

I can’t stand this heat and those your wildflowers give me allergy,” she looked disapprovingly at dusty yellow Christmas bushes growing wildly around the road.

” Lucky you are not here in September when everything is covered in wildflowers, you would not survive then,” I sighed.

I bet you can not wait I am gone,” she turned towards the window sulking.

I turned on the Ipod and Sherley’s words echoed in the car: ” All that is good gets better, here is to life, here is to love, here is to you…dreams to dreamers…”

“Do you like this song, Mum?” I asked to ‘break the ice between us.’

“Not everyone can afford to be a dreamer like you,” my Mum replied after a long pause.

Everyone can, Mum, that is something everyone can do,” I exclaimed passionately: “I dream of better world where we can live in harmony with nature and with each other and no one can take this dream from me, not even you.”

3.

Finally we have reached the town, where settlement of the west began on Christmas Day 1826 with arrival of Major Lockyer in the brig Amity.

Look, Mum, at the real life copy of the Amity,” I pointed at my left while passing through Princess Royal Harbour in sheltered King George Sound.

It looks so small,” she turned her head back unimpressed: “But these hills around look nice and so many churches…”

“That is the Church of St John the Evangelist, consecrated in 1848 and the oldest in WA,” I pointed at left again and then turned towards the closest hill.

We unpacked our bags in a small holiday cottage with a magnificent view of one of the world’s most splendid harbours. Double the size of Sydney Harbour, it made a natural starting point for settling the west of Australia.

I settled in comfortably in one of the chairs on patio and opened my favourite book: ‘The God of Small Things’ by Arundhati Roy.

I know exactly how I want to celebrate my Birthday tomorrow,” I turned to Mum enthusiastically.

“I hope it’s not one of your crazy ideas like parachuting, you send me a picture of,” she exclaimed unimpressed and stretched her swollen ankles while opening the bottle of one of Albany’s famous reds.

I have just re-read the story about the ‘Earth Woman’ and realised she is the same age as me,” I looked at my Mum dreamily: “I just think we should go there, 16 km from Albany, it is where it all started 4 600 million years ago.”

My Mum finished one glass of red and pouring another one she nodded after a long pause : “I liked that old post office with shingled clock tower, we should go there tomorrow and what about window shopping?”

I smiled sadly realising that she didn’t hear one word what I said: “It is the oldest post office in WA and it is a short walk from here you can’t get lost.”

4.

I stood there in a forceful wind looking at the rushing water down, down below. ‘The Gap’. I stood at the end. The rugged piece of rock hanging above the Southern Ocean. The ancient continent of Gondwana was forcefully cracked open and slowly, unimaginably slowly divided into new continents.

I stood there ,at one end of a new continent. I closed my eyes and tried to remember  the story of the Earth Woman:

History is like an old woman. She is 46 years old just now.

It took her over 45 years of her life – 4600 years of our history for ocean to part, continents to form, mountains to rise…

She was just 11 years old when the first single cell, the first organism appeared on Earth…

She was 40 year old when the first animals, the first worms appeared on Earth…

Just 5 months ago in the Earth Woman’s life dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

Just 2 hours ago in the Earth Woman’s life whole civilisation how we know it, the whole contemporary history of human beginnings and life happened…just 2 hours ago…’

I opened my eyes and looked at the unchanging rugged cliffs hanging dangerously low over the gurgling and swirling water below. With a huge crash the mighty wave appeared from nowhere in front of me and disappearing back into the deep crevices below licked the tip of my sneakers before I could blink.

I went back to my holiday cottage and greeted my Mum with a new bottle of the Albany’s famous red. We clinked our glasses while she was telling me all about her successful shopping trip.

Here is to life with no regrets,” I smiled at her thinking about our old women’s lives: “Here is all we have and it will be gone in a blink of an eye.”

“You are just 20 years younger than me and it all went down the gurgle, in a blink of an eye, my miserable life, it is all history now, just wait you see…nothing to look forward to, believe me.” My Mum sighed giving her longest speech of my life and we emptied the bottle in a rush. Just in the case tomorrow will never come and it is our last day on Earth.

I am not old but not young either, ‘but a viable, die-able age’ like Aurndhati Roy would say,” I finished my last glass and gave my Mum a hug. We held each other close and tight. We haven’t done it in the past 20 years and there is no chance of us doing it all again. Not in close future anyway.

What we shared that ‘Birthday night’ was not happiness, not even regret just the understanding that time passes fast and there is no time to heal the old wounds, no time to seek for understanding, no time for anything but love…

Soon we will be history, two old women in the Aurndhati Roy’s History Old House at night, with all the lamps lit and ancestors whispering inside.

To understand the history you have to go inside, but you can’t go in, you have been locked out and when you look inside all you can see are shadows of two women…

When you listen you can’t understand what they are saying…their time is gone…





Still in Slovakia

Two years before departure

The Eighties – The University Years: ‘Just a Gypsy type of girl’

The first rays of a weak grey sun just reached my bed through the iron bars window, when the loud sound of a marching song echoed from the P.A system just above the door.
I opened my eyes and saw two ordered rows of students’ beds with straight grey blankets on. I jumped out of my bed and automatically threw the yesterday clothes on me thinking I am on my summer camp and they call us to raise the red flag and listen to our daily duties.
I rushed out of the door where I banged to a tiny dark girl. Her heavy suitcase full of books spilled on the floor.

“Where are you going, have you seen a ghost in our room or something?” She said annoyingly and bent down to chuck all her stuff back in the suitcase.

I blushed: “I just thought I am back in my primary school’s years, in a holiday camp you know…” I picked one of the books and read the title: “Are you going to study Medicine here?”

She grabbed the book from my hands: “I wish I could, but it is only for you, gadzos (a nickname for non-gypsies),” patting the hardcover gently, she added: “But my boyfriend just starts it now in Bratislava…”

“Are you from Bratislava?” I shouted happily and followed her back to our noisy room: “Me too…”

She chucked the suitcase on the floor and jumped on the wobbly old chair just above the P.A system. She hit the box few times and suddenly there was a silence: “That’s better.”

There was some commotion just outside the door. I peeped outside and saw a fat lady with a huge suitcase entering the next door followed by a seriously looking, middle aged man and two redheads with freckles. “Sweat hearts, I hope you don’t starve here, here are some ‘schnitzels’ for the start and send you more by post next week…” The lady was rattling when I closed the door and we looked at each other.

“I hope you don’t staaarve…” The tiny dark girl mimicked her and we both burst out laughing: “Good that spoiled brats are next door,” she threw me an apple from her bag: “My name is Jarmila, what is yours?”

“But we could have a schnitzel,” I laughed and took a big bite: “Bibi, by the way, nice to meet you.”

She shook her head: “Those types don’t share, anyway, these two top shelves are mine and those are yours,” she opened a tall old wardrobe in the corner and started to pile her books there.
“What about others?” I pointed at four extra empty beds: “And what about sharing?” I laughed.

She chuckled patting gently her precious books: “It’s just a matter of survival, I have seven sisters at home, you know, tall and beautiful, not like me at all,” she sighed: “More lucky with their Fathers I guess…”

“I don’t know my Father,” I said looking out of the window on some old man helping a daughter with a luggage while entering our accommodation.

Jarmila laid an old framed photo of a dark tiny man with a violin on her bedside table:
“Mine is dead, hanged himself before I was born,” she said matter of fact but seeing my shocked expression, she added calmly: “I believe in ghosts, really, he comes to visit me nearly every night.”

“I hope he doesn’t come here,” I shuddered and she just laughed: “Come on, we have only half an hour before our shift starts.”

“It’s good we have a day shift this week,” I added following her out of the door to suddenly crowded corridor full of shrieking and crying girls from every part of Slovakia hugging their family members before their departure.

We looked at each other and I said: “Bet we are the only ones from Bratislava.”

“Why did you leave our capital city full of opportunities?” She looked at me curiously when we entered the corridor filling up with other students in their working clothes.

“There is nothing there for me,” I shrugged my shoulders: “And what about you?”

The factory buses stopped just outside the entry door and students automatically started
to line up orderly, one by one, just as we have been trained to do from the Year One.

When we entered one of the old rusty buses with dusty plastic seats, she turned to me solemnly: “There is everything there for me.”

I looked at her in surprise but she avoided my gaze watching the passing by grey buildings with red flags flying high from our bus window.

“So why then?” I persisted suddenly very curious.

She turned to me with her dark eyes burning like flames: “Because…”

The bus suddenly stopped in front of the run down food processing factory and we all hurried down the steps to be allocated to our places along the factory lines. I end up sorting out tomatoes on a fast moving rubber belt. I looked across the huge dirty factory hall, where the steam from a mash of cooked tomatoes and capsicums rose above the heads of working students. It was the most dangerous job here. Sometimes a minute of absentminded work caused you burns on your hands. I tried to recognize Jarmila’s tiny figure among the group in white plastic aprons filling the jars with a boiling mixture. I was thinking about Mary, who ended up doing jobs like this without any prospect of getting out. What a waste of life.

“Come on, we are not here to daydream, think about your comrades down the lane, you are making their work harder by your laziness,” the factory supervisor stopped besides me and checked the quality of tomatoes I put aside.

I sighed and moved faster. I avoided the stares of students in my group I didn’t know yet.
My feet felt numb already and it was only the start of my first eight hours’ shift. I just wished this month to pass as fast as it could. It was Summer time and outside was beautiful, but not for us…

On our return, approaching the room I heard our new roommates unpacking and getting ready for their first night shift. Jarmila stayed on the reception calling her boyfriend.
I entered with a barely audible: “Hi,” and sat on my bed near the door.

Caroline, a small and round artist from Czech border was the first to speak to me: “How was it?”

I shrugged: “Like any other summer job, just don’t feel like talking, sorry.”

There was an uncomfortable silence, but after a while, girls who have known each other before continued in their preparations and arguments.

“I hate to get dirty,” complained Ildiko with a strong Hungarian accent trying to squeeze her big breasts into one size smaller T-shirt: “Auch,” she screamed suddenly breaking one of her long painted fingernails.

“Maybe you just need to dress comfortable,” Ivana pulled up a pair of oversized jogging pants over her strong muscled legs. She was a captain of our successful volleyball team and behaved accordingly needlessly pulling weights or doing stretching next to her bed.

“Go to UNI gymnasium, we are squeezed here like sardines even without your…hey watch out, I just made my hair,” Lena, a tall bleached blonde from the Ukrainian border tried to pass Ivana, who accidentally hit her while exercising.

“Sorry,” mumbled Ivana, but she didn’t stop: “You better suited to a night club especially with those,” she pointed her head towards Ildiko breathing heavily.

Caroline, who was painting Ildiko’s broken nail looked up: “Who you mean by those?”

Ildiko pulled back her shiny black hair from her eyes and smiled sweetly towards sweating Ivana: “She means those with brains.”

Ivana stopped: “Just because I didn’t need to pass exams to get here and anyway, the only thing you care about are boys, you really don’t need a brain for that.” She picked up her sport jacked and left the room passing me angrily.

Ildiko smiled at me broadly: “She is jealous, because boys like me, anyway they are doing night shifts with us, but…” picking up her jumper she added: “My twin brother will be there as well, it is so annoying.”

They rushed out of the door and suddenly there was a silence. I breathed easily again and stretched comfortably on my bed.

“So what do you think, I just passed them near the entrance?” Jarmila came in and sat on her bed.

I shrugged again: “Don’t know, should come with me and find out.”

“I would be better off, “Jarmila suddenly covered her face with her hands: “His parents disapprove of me and he is so far away…”

I sat next to her patting her shoulder: “But you can call him everyday, can’t you?”

She slowly shook her head: “His Mum said he is not at home.”

I took her hand into mine whispering quietly: ‘There is always tomorrow.”

We joined our roommates for night shifts for the rest of the month. The dusty and dark
factory hall was icy cold during the night expect the line, where girls constantly burnt their fingers. Short breaks we spend in tiny and dirty toilet cubicles full of cobwebs and rattling mice. We smoke cigarettes and shared cheap alcohol with boys from the next door factory hall, who were not afraid to break rules and sneak in.
I found Ildiko’s brother, a tall dark Hungarian boy with a thick brown hair and moustache very handsome but down to earth and pleasant, not like his sister at all. He eyed her disapprovingly when Ildiko flirted with every boy who passed her.

“ Bibi, please take him somewhere, he likes you, I can’t stand his glares any more and he will report everything back home…” She looked at me with a pleading expression on her face.

“ Are you crazy, I don’t even know your brother,” I shook my head and tried to pass her. She followed me down the narrow dark corridor and I speeded up bumping into a kissing couple behind a corner: “Watch where you going.” They shouted angrily behind me.

“I thought you are playmate,” Ildiko caught up with me and spitted the words at me angrily: “But you are ‘sisi’ and boring just like that sickly gypsy.”

“Is Jarmila sick?” I got hold of her arm in panic before she managed to turn back.

“Sick!” She exclaimed angrily: “She sits on this bloody toilet half of our shift and we have to constantly cover up her absence, I am ready to tell our supervisor…”

I rushed back to the crowded toilet cubicle full of smoke and half drunken girls. I saw the back of the last boy climbing out of the toilet window back to their hall. The siren went and the girls washed their mouth and tried hard to groom themselves for the rest of the shift. Suddenly I heard a painful cry from the last toilet cubicle.

“Jarmila, are you there, are you okay?” I banged at the door in panic.

After a while she opened the door and I saw her red burning face. She passed me calmly and washed herself in icy cold water, the only water we had.

I pressed my palm on her forehead in alarm: “You have a fever, you should tell the supervisor, Ildiko told me…”

“That ‘bitch on heat’ can’t keep her mouth shut,” she spitted angrily but suddenly stopped washing her face and clutched her stomach in pain.

“What is it, Jarmila?”

We both stopped talking and quickly moved to a dark corner hearing the footsteps outside.

The supervisor is checking if everyone got back to work.” She whispered to my ear and I nodded.

He passed through the corridor without opening the toilet door and we sighed with a relief.

“We have to go back quickly,” she sighed and opened the door cautiously peeping out.

We hurried through the windy and dark outgrown path towards our factory hall, which loomed in front of us like a huge hungry beast ready to swallow us. The corrugated iron sheets on the roof rattled noisily.

“So what is wrong with you?” I shouted behind her through the whistling wind.

She stopped suddenly facing me: “Just one of those ‘bladder infections’, get them all the time, but…” She pointed a finger at me: “You don’t say a word, I need to finish this bloody university you understand, so I have a degree and then my boyfriend…”

“But Jarmila, you can get worse…”

She waved her hand at me and turned back towards the hall: “Do not worry about me, we have plenty gypsy medicine for everything, just keep your mouth shut.”

I watched her tiny determined figure disappearing in front of me. Breathing on my cold hand for a bit of warm I followed her sheepishly thinking: “ If I will be just like her I  do get through everything, don’t I?”

Jarmila managed to finish our first summer work and all others that followed. She even managed to get her degree and the one with distinction on that matter as she was the brightest in our year. Sadly she never managed to marry her sweetheart or work in her profession. She hanged herself. She was just 25.

But I was lucky enough to share with Jarmila many of our best and worst times during our UNI studies, I visited her home and met her seven beautiful sisters and a head of her family – her Mother.

Jarmila died, but Gypsies believe, that until you die three times, you are not dead. First time you die, when your spirit leaves your body. Second time you die, when your bones or ashes turned to dust. And the third time you die, when your name is forgotten. Jarmila is not dead yet, not for me and for you my dear readers…there is more of Jarmila’s legacy I would like to share with you in my future chapters….hope you follow me and help me to keep her alive just for a little longer.

Still in Slovakia
3 years before departure

The Eighties – from the High School to University leaving Bratislava behind


1.

“We are very lucky to live in our great Communist country, where there is nothing…shit everywhere,” shouted George and kicked a huge tin bin overflowing with rubbish in front of his rundown block of flat, where he lived with his aged Mum.

A group of stray’s dogs watched him angrily from the safe distance covered by the blanket of darkness.

“Stop that nonsense, it’s over midnight,” I pulled his sleeve: “Anyway I am not scared,” I pointed towards the silent road: “the tram stop is just around the corner…”

George laughed and put an arm protectively around my shoulders: “No way, look its pitch dark and not a soul around.”

I shook his arm off: “I don’t need your protection, only thing, I need from you is to prepare me for my final Math’s test, but every time we end up on your bed …”

George pretended to play guitar: “I thought you like listening to jazz, did I tell you I am playing now in UNI Club; you have to come to see me…”

I rolled my eyes: “You told me already, but I am not UNI student, they don’t let me in and I will never be because of YOU,” I pointed my finger on his chest and ran away until I reached the deserted and dark tram station. I hid in a corner of a tiny shelter.

Soon George’s bulky and tall figure loomed over me: “When you went with Alex to UNI discos you’ve been what… in the first year of High School?”

I pushed him away: “Alex’s times are over; I just pretended to be UNI student, now I want to be real one.”

“Stop being so difficult, Bibi, I study Math’s at UNI, but I am not a teacher,” he gently touched my hair: “Numbers are just not your strong point but something else is.” He kissed me.

Suddenly an empty light up tram whizzed around us in high speed.

“The last tram today,” I ran out of the shelter and looked behind the disappearing tram:
“What am I going to do?”

“There is only thing we can do,” George bravely started to walk along the long empty road.

I rushed after him suddenly shivering from cold: “Are you crazy, it takes us hours.”

He looked up at the cloudy dark sky with few stars and pulled up the beanie down on his eyes: “Not the most romantic night but it will do, we stop by in a pub on the way and buy something to warm us up on our long journey, we will be okay.” He took my hand and started to sing some of his favorite jazz melodies.

I squeezed his hand tightly suddenly grateful that he is around.

Mary got us together seeing my desperation to improve in Math’s after I dropped from the English on the last minute. Mr. Kustral was kicked out of our school. Renata’s Father apparently complained of his inappropriate behavior towards his daughter. I saw him leaving and he looked at me with the sad eyes of an abandoned puppy that missed his treat but I just averted my eyes. I met him years later when he moved across the street I lived. Early grayed he moved with a caution of a man who doesn’t know right from wrong any more. He never taught again. He waved at me and I ignored him. There was nothing else to talk about.

We stopped in closing in pub with George and bought a bottle of the cheap rum, which we managed to finish before we get to the Danube promenade. City lights dimly reflected on the river’s muddy surface. Suddenly we felt warm and cheerful and we danced all the way down the path lined up with tall trees.

There were few drunkards sleeping on nearby benches and they swore at us. We kept running away from them laughing confident in our youth and strength.

“You know what would I really like to do?” George stopped me and we kissed again: “To be a gynecologist that would be awesome, to see all these women private parts and be paid for it.”

I pulled away from him disgusted: “You are sicko, George, let me be…”

He laughed and took another gulp of alcohol before passing it to me: “Don’t worry, I will be a successful jazz player somewhere in Louisiana, we ran away together and live in open relationship what do you think?”

I took the bottle from his hands: “I am not your girlfriend George, you forgot, you just helping me with Math’s.”

George waved his hand: “Fine, just come for that Sunday lunch my Mum invited you, she is so happy I have finally normal girlfriend, don’t spoil her day.”

“First Mum which likes me,” I added bitterly: “Fine, I’ll be there, but,” I stood in front of him in a threatening pose: “You put your act together and explain me those horrible sums, otherwise…”

He picked me up and put over his shoulder whirling me around: “Otherwise what?”

I shouted at him to let me go and punched him on his back with my fists. He skipped and landed on the grass on the edge of the path. We pretended to wrestle and then he started to kiss me. A faint sound of guitar and gentle singing reached us from the ruin of nearby castle remnants.

“It’s Mary’s catholic youth group, they are meeting secretly somewhere here,” I whispered and waved at him to get of me. We moved towards the sound in the dark parts of alley and found a group of youngsters sitting around a small fire singing about Jesus the rock star. Two seriously looking guitarists with long hairs covering their eyes played a nice catchy tune. Suddenly Mary jumped in front of us and hugged me tightly:

“So you like George after all.” She winked at George who handed her our nearly empty bottle: “We don’t drink here, Georgy, sorry.”

I shrugged: “I need him, that’s for sure.” I moved inside the circle and sat next to her:
“What’s up?”

Mary looked at me seriously: “My Father just came back from Rome, Pope finances catholic uprising in Poland, when it will happen, we will be ready…”

George pushed in and sat between us: “Ready for what?”

Mary put her hand over his mouth: “You are just too loud.”

“Yes, he is,” I nodded suddenly annoyed with him and his boisterous behavior and then turned back to Mary: “It is dangerous, Mary.”

Mary touched her cross and looked at me victoriously: “My Mum protects me from above,” she looked above on the ruined ceiling: “Just yesterday police found our hideout and they chased us out..”

“Secret Unit?” George suddenly blurred out: “I am out of here, need to finish UNI, sorry.” He shook his head and looked at me.

I shook my head disapprovingly at him: “Don’t be woos, George,” then I turned back to Mary: “What’s happened next, did they catch you and took to police station?”

“Most of them they did, but I just ran and got to this dark alley, you know I wanted to hide but then I changed my mind and soon after a broken bottle threw out of there and some swearing and…”

Guitarists started to pack up and nodded at Mary. She turned us: “Sorry guys, we pack up for tonight, but we are prepared for the biggest protestation ever, on Sunday on the main square, you have to join us.”

George stood up and wave at me to leave: “More important meeting to attend to, my Mum’s lunch, do we Bibi?”

I sighed and kissed Mary on her cheek: “See you at school.”

We walked to my block of flats silently. Somehow we sobered up. It was early morning when we climbed the grey dirty staircase to the third floor and rang the bell. My stepfather opened after a little while. He gave me a disapproving look: “It is late, don’t you think so, this is not a hotel,” then noticing George behind he added with disgust: “Not a brothel either.”

George stepped bravely in front of me: “Sorry Mister, hang on, that is not what you think, and I am Bibi’s tutor in Math’s you know…”

My stepfather stepped out of the door and pushed George towards the stairs: “Tutor he, just like all others, get out of here or I call police.”

George took three steps down and was gone. My stepfather went inside without looking at me and before he managed to close the door behind him I squeezed in.

“He is not my lover, I am not like my MUM,” the last word I spitted into his face and he hit me on my face, hard.

“Sooner you are out of here, better.” He said without looking at me and opened the door on their bedroom.

I followed him holding my cheek. I saw that my Mum’s side of bed was not slept in. She was not at home. Again. I talked to him through my clenched teeth: “I am working on it but I don’t get to UNI with my Father’s dissident background…”

“It is not my problem, anyway my friend from the Secret Police knows about your connection with Mary, you can forget about UNI.”

I looked at him in horror: “I don’t want to end up making coffees for some old communist; I am going to Nitra to study…”

He looked me up and down with a pitiful expression on his face: “Study what, without me you wouldn’t be even on High School.”

I got hold of his arm with a pleading expression: “Whatever is there to study, just not maths or science please, you have contacts…”

He shook off my arm as it was a piece of dirt: “Oh, madam is begging now.”

“You will get rid of me, for good.” I said firmly.

He went inside his bedroom and shut the door in my face: “Stop associating with Mary.”

My eyes filled with tears: “She is in the same class, I can’t avoid her.” I added in shaky voice, but I knew what he meant. The schools finishes in three weeks and there would be no need to meet her after that.

“Okay, I stop, do you hear me, and I stop, if you help me get out of here.” I banged his door with my palms until I got tired.  I sat on the floor in front of his door in dark and hated myself for betraying Mary, for becoming someone I didn’t want to be.

2.

It was last day of school before the final exam break. The morning sun tickled me on the cheek when I stretched on the wet school lawn still covered by mildew. The dark school building loomed large and formidable in front of me. I was light headed and somehow full of happiness and laughter.

“One more of these and a gulp of alcohol and you forget about this miserable shit of world we live in,” Emily yawned sleepily next to me and handed me another of her magic tablets. I swallowed it without thinking and drank some white cheap alcohol from the disgusting bottle she passed to me.

“We mixed it just yesterday, it works wonders, I feel like in heaven,” She smiled at me lazily and barely opened her misty eyes: “We are meeting now next to your block of flats in one of the under flats storage rooms. Pity we are running out of tablets.”

The surrounding rose bushes and a path to the main gate swam in front of my eyes. The school building suddenly shined with all colors of rainbow. I giggled happily: “What tablets?”

I heard Emily’s voice coming from a great distance although she sat right next to me: “The one you just had, any with a red triangle on the box, you know antidepressants…”

I giggled again for no reason: “My Mum had a full draw of them, my stepfather’s doctor prescribes it for her all the time, and I don’t why…”

Emily suddenly sat down: “You should pinch some for us; I bet they would not even notice.”

“Whatever,” I managed to reply, my tongue suddenly very heavy in my mouth: “Looks that’s funny,” I giggled crazily and pointed on students’ heads in every window laughing and pointed at us. Soon a shade of principal bulky figure loomed over me and we have been led not very gently to his office. We didn’t dare to protest even in our drunk state.

Once released, we left the school and hoped on the tram to take us home. The tram was unusually empty in these early days’ hours and we luxuriously occupied four seats at the back.

“Why I was so stupid to join you on this lawn,” I sobbed suddenly sober: “Now he will talk to my stepfather and maybe not even let me pass the finals.”

Emily shook her head disapprovingly: “Don’t be silly, our principal is scared of our communist stepfathers and they will do everything to hush, hush this incident,” she stretched confidently over two plastic seats: “At least we have a whole day for ourselves, maybe we find my mate and get a good mix…”

I clutched my stomach suddenly feeling very sick: “I don’t touch this stuff again, Emily.”

Emily shrugged her shoulders: “Whatever, but you bring those tablets tonight, you promised.”

In the evening I took some of the tiny boxes with a bright red triangle on its cover and went to Emily’s hideaway just across the street. I opened the door on the rundown block of flat with broken front door and went down the dark staircase which led to basement.
Few big rats scattered around in the dark. I quickly found the small door at the end and knocked in panic. Someone peered through the tiny crack. I just handed him the boxes and ran out as fast as I could.

I started to study for my exams and decided to leave my unpleasant experience behind, when one evening when I came back from the Math’s tutoring I found police in our flats. Stepfather was pacing up and down the living room, which was in total disarray.

The seriously looking policeman standing next to the open empty draw, where the Mum’s antidepressants used to be asked me: “Do you know something about this?”

I shook my head resolutely. When they left, I helped my stepfather to clean the mess and I said to him: “I gave Emily some of these tablets, I am sorry..”

He looked at me like I was a piece of dirt: “I knew it, what else I could expect of you.”

I suddenly chocked with guilt and embarrassment: “I promise I will never see her again.”

He waved his hand: “I need to change the lock but don’t expect me to give you a key.”

I got hold of his sleeve again: “I don’t want your keys; I want to go to Nitra.”

He sighed with a resignation in his voice: “I talked with a head of Russian University in Nitra on our last Communist meeting.”

I patted his sleeve: “Thank you.”

He shook my hand: “You have to pass your finals and pass the most of entry exams. He checks your results, what you will excel in he enrolls you in.”

“What I have to study for entry exams?”

He shrugged his shoulders: “I don’t know, everything I assume, Russians are good at sport, so expect some races and gymnastics, and also math’s, science…”

“I never pass math’s, not to talk about gymnastics.”

He continued, ignoring my remark: “Russian and Slovak languages and art as well, now it is up to you, don’t bother me with it again,” he turned to leave but added pointing his finger seriously at me:

“The Communist ideology you have to know from back to front because of that shameful act of Father of yours, you know?”

I nodded solemnly.

He left, banging the entry door angrily behind him and I finished cleaning up.

3.

It was just like Emily predicted.

She got through the exam blurting out barely recognizable sentences about our great progress through collectivization, socialization and cooperation with Mother Russia.  When the educational committee announced that Emily passed, she did not miss the opportunity to shout abuses at them: ” I knew it,  you are with my bullshit, I am just too precious for that bore…that stepfather of mine…especially in bed…”

Short after she was sent to  a Mental Institution by her stepfather to cure her mental instability.

Mary, the brightest from us and the only one really prepared for the finals was not allowed to finish High School. Her Father ended up in prison and she

was sent to the countryside to work as a labourer in the local food cooperative because she was branded a class enemy, who sabotaged the idea of building socialism.

Somehow I managed to get through the finals with mostly Bs.

I refused to attend the High School Ball.  Mary and Emily were not be there.  At the night of the ball I was writing a ‘Farewell poem’ for Mary and Emily on our kitchen table when my Stepfather entered

carrying a bag full of homemade sausages and wursts.

He was surprisingly cheerful and put a long stick of Hungarian salami, hunted after delicacy in Bratislava, in front of my nose: ” Smell, you see, everyone needs me, as a Communist leader I am irreplacable, each member of working class competes with each other to give me gifts, because without me,” he patted proudly his chest: “They can’t do anything, even think…”

I pushed the salami away and continued in my writing.

He stood there looking at my tears rolling down my cheeks: ” Stop that useless dreaming of yours and those your writings about nothing,” taking the paper from my hand and tearing it to pieces he continued: ” Our country need practical people, physically strong, hard workers and with clear and logical mind, you can choose…”

“Give me back my poem, you have no right.” I shouted but he slapped me.

“I have all rights to choose were you end up, you know that…”

I nodded: “I like to write, it’s not a crime.”

He looked at a few words I have written on a torn piece of paper: “Your writing shows how unstable you are emotionally, that is not what we want, poems about our Communist progress, something useful to cheer our working class,yes, but this is useless…” My stepfather whispered threatenly into my ear: “Useless people end up just like your friends, do you want to follow their path?”

I shook my head: “I don’t meet them anymore.”

My stepfather victorously hanged his new meat trophies above the kitchen sink and without looking at me just said: “Stop useless dreaming and start working.”

I had never met Mary and Emily again.

Entry exam was a hurdle, especially math’s and gymnastics, which I barely passed. I memorised by rote learning all that ideological bullshit and repeated it continuosly, just little bit more coherently than Emily. It did not make any sense but fortunatelly it was enough. Surprisingly I was good in running and swimming races, languages and Art. They enrolled me in their swimming team to represent the univesity on local races and that was it.

“You just have to do everything opposite, do you,” mumbled George disapprovingly, when I told him the exciting news about me studying at UNI in Nitra: “Every one rushes to come to study here and you are going to hide in some little town in the middle of nowhere…”

I gave him a farewell kiss: “Come on, George, just move on and send my best wishes to your Mum.”

I packed my suitcase and left for Nitra without looking back. When I get off the bus under the hill dotted with tiny houses, I smiled to myself.  I stood In front of a grey tall building with a sing: ‘Russian UNI accommodation – for girls’.  It was early in term 1 and the old grey accommodation keeper looked at me curiously from behind the desk:

“You are keen to start; no one else is here yet.”

I smiled broadly: “Yes, I am.”

She chuckled: “Wait when you start to work in the local preserve factory,” she crossed her chest mockingly: “Night shifts are for years ones especially, you loose your smile.”

I shifted the weight from leg to another: “I thought we will do just holiday’s jobs on communist farms, picking potatoes or grapes like on High School.”

“At UNI you work in factories for a month before each term starts. You lucky to stay in Nitra, some of you are moved to nearby villages and town and have to live in factories’ sheds.”

She led me though a long grey dark corridor with doors on each side. Rattling with big keys for a while we entered the dormitory with a big bathroom in the middle fitted with a shower corner, toilet and four enamels washing basins uniformed grey and white. Around the bathroom were four doors to the bedrooms with fours beds along the grey walls.

I was allocated a bed, tiny bedside table and two shelves in one of them.

“ No posters on walls, no rearrangement of room…” she kept informing me while I looked out of the window locked with iron bars on the empty and desolated square in the middle of the grey building.

She pointed at the bars: “They have been fitted in just this holiday to prevent boys from the next door’s accommodation to climb in.”

I sighted and spent my first night in ghostly empty UNI accommodation dreading what to expect tomorrow.

But there is always tomorow and I promised myself to stop useless dreaming and start ‘working on my future’. What else is there to do?

Still in Slovakia
4 years before departure

The Eighties – the last year of High School in Bratislava (special HS for girls, that is)

1.

‘We are very lucky to live in our great Communist country, where there is no poverty and everyone is the same…’ our Economic teacher read loudly the news from the latest meeting of our leading Communist Party members.

Suddenly the classroom door opened and our principal entered. We all stood up in anticipation. I glanced at Emily still sitting at the last desk ignoring all the sudden commotion. She suddenly looked up at me with her glassy, dopy eyes and I knew she had taken drugs. Again.

All other girls stood tall and confident in their up to date outfits bought in the west by their important Fathers, who as our Communist leaders had been allowed to travel. There had been only three girls in clothes made in the Communist Eastern Europe: Emily, Mary and me.

The middle aged principal in his red shiny jacket looked sternly at us, while he spoke in his cold and informative tone: “One of your classmates was involved in a car accident this weekend. She survived but unfortunately her mother and brother died. Now, her Father, who was a driver is still in a police custody, serving him well, as we all know he is also a political dissident…well, take care of your classmate, when she comes back and show her that our Communist Ideals are the only ones she can trust.”

With these words our principal left our classroom. Our Economic teacher bowed towards the closing doors in respect and continued in his monotone and well rehearsed voice:  ‘Our ruling working party look after all our needs and we all have to work hard to show our gratitude and respect towards our great and loved Communist leaders…’

Renata, sitting next to me, whose Father was the manager of the local meat processing factory and respected Communist Party member, whispered to my ear: “Poor saint Mary.”

“She is not saint, she is catholic, but you don’t know what that means.” I hissed back.

She opened the expensive French nail polish under our desk and started to paint her long well manicured nails: “Well, I don’t suppose to know, do I?”

I looked at her annoyingly but she decided to continue: “ All religions are forbidden, anyway just old people believe in that nonsense, because they don’t know anything about science and progress…”

“ Cut it out,” I hissed back too loudly as our Economic teacher looked up at me stopping in mid sentence: “ You again, just as well, I will have a talk with your stepfather, such respected and highly regarded Party official, being on your place I would be grateful to be at school at all and not on factory line, where you belong.”

Renata pulled her tongue at me and continued with her nail polishing under our desk.

“ Bitch, “ I said under my breath, when suddenly the door on our classroom opened again and Mary in black mourning outfit entered. Her tiny cross on a golden chain around her neck shined brightly in defiance.

2.

On our Recess break we stood silently with Mary in the crowded corridor in front of our classroom while passing by students joked around us and chased each other.

“ How are you?” I asked stupidly not knowing what to say while I looked in her dark sad blue eyes.

She avoided my eyes and said resolutely pressing her thin lips together: “Fine, I don’t want to talk about it, ok?”

I nodded solemnly and looked around for some inspiration when I noticed our new English teacher fresh from UNI. I waved at him with badly hidden familiarity.

“Hello, girls,” he stopped by looking shy and uncertain, then he took Mary’s both hands into his: “ I am so sorry for what happened to you.”

Mary shyly smiled and withdrawn her hands: “Thank you, Mr. Kustral.”

He suddenly smiled at me: “I am taking the late bus home today, we can meet again in our café to continue in English lessons, what do you think, Bibi?”

Mary looked up at me with a concern in her eyes but I nodded eagerly: “Yes, Mr. Kustral, I will be there straight after school, do you have those new magazines about Lady Di wedding from London?”

He winked at me and then turned back to Mary: “ You should enroll in my English classes as well, Mary, drop Maths, I know that awful Mrs Novakova gives you hard time, you will do much better at final exams with English, believe me.”

Mary looked down confused and nodded: “Thank you, Mr. Kustral, I will think about it.”

When he left, I looked at Mary victoriously: “ Isn’t he cool and his wife gives him so hard time, you know she just fusses about that newborn baby of theirs and doesn’t pay attention to him at all…”

Mary looked me up and down harshly: “I see, I just wonder what your boyfriend would think about it when he comes on leave from his Army duties.”

I took Mary’s hands into mine and looked at her apologetically: “It’s not like that, Mary, I really want to learn English and travel, you know like we always talked about…imagine they let him to go to London to improve in English for a whole WEEK…”

“ I don’t remember YOU to be so keen on English when we had that old teacher, we used to skip the classes all the time, I don’t know how on earth you want to pass finals, I can’t for sure, just remember some words from Beatles song, my brother used to listen to, my brother….” Her eyes filled in with tears.

I embraced her: “Mary, it will be all fine.”

“ I am fine,” she pushed me aside and brushed her tears away: “ Anyway how do you plan to pass English finals with your poor knowledge as I don’t believe he actually teaches you English, you know…”

“ Mary, honest there is nothing between us, we just kissed OK?” I lifted my arms up in self-defense: “ Anyway,  Mr. Kustral told me, I just need to pretend that I speak English, while they all sitting there, none of the teachers speak English, except him, you see.”

Suddenly Emily bumped into Mary laughing: “Come on, girl, I have something for you to cheer up after your AWFUL EXP..ppp..” She kept laughing when she staggered along the corridor towards the toilet while we followed her. Mary looked at me alarmingly: “I think she is doped again, what we are going to do?”

Entering toilets some of the girls, washing hands there, looked at Emily suspiciously when she laughingly entered one of the cubicles. We quickly pushed her inside and followed shutting the door tightly behind us. There was not enough space for all three of us, so Mary, the shortest from us, stood up on the toilet seat.

“Look, what I have for you,” Emily said victoriously pulling out a bottle of cheap rum out of her pullover. Her glassy eyes shined madly at us. She laughed at our shocked expression and gulped the quarter of the liquid down her throat in a second.

“You mad, Emily,” Mary took the bottle and holding it high above her head so Emily could not reach it, continued: “Where did you get it anyway, they check everything now, they are so scared of drugs more than political opposition…”

Emily laughed madly: “Did you notice our new cleaner at school, very cute guy, he let me get in through the back window when I am late…just for little favors.”

Mary sat down on the toilet seat holding the bottle tightly in her hands: “What is happening to you girls, don’t you believe in love, I mean real love?”

I took the bottle from Mary’s hands, took few gulps and look dreamily on Emily’s long shiny raven hair, which got loose from her lucky band and spilled on her shoulders: “ I love my boyfriend,” I smiled to myself: “ You will be my bride maids in two years time when he finishes his army duty. I will be the wife of an architect and have two not three kids and..”

“ I love myyy boyfrienddd…” copied me Emily laughingly and took the bottle from my hands. Before she put it into her mouth, she looked at me: “ His parents disapprove of you…Your family is not good for theeem…fuck your boyfriend, fuck you, fuck them…I am sick…”

Without a warning Emily spewed straight into a middle of their cubicle.

“Yuck, it is really gross Emily,” I shouted and opened quickly the cubicle door.

The toilet was empty and quiet. Mary helped Emily washed her face and her pullover, while I opened the toilet door and checked the empty corridor outside.

“I think, the typing lesson has started already, we are in trouble girls,” I hissed at them.

Emily looked at her wet pullover and growled: “This stupid High School for girls…you know where we end up when we finish…on a back sofa of some ancient Communist leader who will fondle your breasts,” she moved in front of mirror in slow sexy movement: “ That will be part of your personal secretary duties, girls…”

“Shut up, Emily,” Mary looked at her crossly: “ Just because yours and Bibi’s mum ended up like that…and anyway I don’t see you finishing any time soon, not in your state of mind.”

I waved at them from the door before entering the corridor: “Come on girls, the air is clear, we just say that Emily got sick and it is true anyway.”

Mary got hold of Emily, who tried to walk in straight line towards the door: “ They send me home like always and Mum’s boyfriend will fuck me, good on you girls…” she kept shouting so Mary covered her mouth with her hand: “ Shut up, you stupid girl,  otherwise none of us finish this bloody school.”

The unfinished bottle of rum stayed behind next to the Emily’s spews but I calmed myself thinking about the cleaner coming after us and destroying all the evidence of our and his misconduct.

We quietly entered the typing room, where the girls sitting in rows in front of typewriters typed fast words, which stern looking teacher in old fashioned glasses barked at them.  Once noticing us, the teacher stop barking and the girls stop typing. Before I managed to say something, Emily started laughing madly. She was sent home just like she predicted.

“I hope that ‘old fart’ stepfather of hers will not be at home,” Mary whispered into my ear.

“Maybe she will be lucky, he will have a meeting and she can dope herself even more,” I shrugged my shoulders.

I sat with Mary at the back row and started typing as fast as I could. This High School sucks, I thought, but what else I can do?

3.

When we opened the front glass door of our School, the strong icy wind swept us of our feet and grey leaves, pieces of paper and dusty residues passed our faces and got tangled in my hair. I pulled the jacket tightly around me and covered my face with a scarf. I looked behind on the square, grey building of our school, so identical to all other building on a busy street.

“The same miserable weather all year around,” Mary sighed pulling her beanie down on her ears: “I don’t know if it is Summer or Autumn any more.”

I let a noisy old tram passed us and then followed her on our bus stop already full of students from our school: “ You know for sure, it is not Winter time, as the roads will be full of grey slush…yak, hate that.”

Mr. Kustral passed us getting hold of my arm for a while: “Will wait for you Bibi, don’t take long.”

I nodded and smiled. Mary looked at me disapprovingly and shrugged her shoulders.

“I saw that, Bibi,” Renata caught up with us and pointed on Mr. Kustral waiting alone on the further end of the bus stop to be away from the noisy crowd of students.

“He is cute, is he?” I smiled at her sweetly and she returned my smile.

“I saw you yesterday at your café, I know where you meet,” she whispered into my ear and hurried away before I could say anything else.

Bitch, I thought to myself and forgot about her. An old bus, already full of passangers stopped further away from us and students pushed each other to get in, but just a few managed to squeeze inside. I saw Mr. Kustral near the door before they closed shut. He waved at me and I waved back.

“Maybe we should walk to the previous bus stop, otherwise we never get in, what do you think?” Mary shivered in her thin black mourning coat.

“Don’t really feel like walking and anyway it is raining now,” I pointed at the grey cloudy sky from where a myriad of raindrops started to fall. A tiny group of students managed to squeeze in to the old weathered bus stop shelter while the rest of us stood there covering our heads with our school bags.

Suddenly a shiny motorbike stopped in front of me and a well groomed man in his thirties winked at me: “Hi, Bibi want a ride?”

“Gosh , that’s the guy from the modeling agency, do you know him Bibi?” someone shouted behind me, but I just stood there staring at him, knowing vaguely that I saw him somewhere before.

He started his motorbike again and shouted at Bibi: “Come on, your last chance, I am all wet, your Mum said you like motorbikes, so hop on.” I blushed suddenly, realizing where I saw him before. In my Mum’s bedroom, where else, I cursed myself for my stupidity. I quickly nodded before he could reveal anything else in front of my curious classmates and sat behind him while cheering went on.

“Sorry, Mary, I have to go, see you tomorrow,” I waved to Mary, who just sighed with resignation and started to walk towards the previous bus stop.

“So, how do you like it here?” He asked me jovially while checking the whiteness of his teeth on the back of the spoon sitting in a high class café in the middle of the city.

I looked at him suspiciously enjoying a piece of my favorite cake he ordered me. What else he knows about me, I wondered while eating, but I asked him loudly: “Does Mum know about this?”

“Me and you Mum plan to move together, she is finally ready to leave that old fart of hers behind.” He smiled at me broadly: “Anyway, my name is Benjamin, Benjo for short.”

“Yep,” that was my turn to smile: “Heard this before…my Mum has plenty lovers, you are not the only one, you know.”

Benjo kept smiling apparently unmoved by my rude answer: “But you have only one boyfriend, who loves you dearly, am I mistaken?”

“How do you know about him?” I asked suddenly feeling uneasy: “Why did you find me?”

Benjo started sipping his cocktail enjoying my confusion: “Anyway, I wanted to thank you that you saved my back, when my wife,” he grimaced, whispering to my ear: “Tell you secret, she is also an old fart with a big bag of money…”

I moved away from him: “I am not interested in your secret, I don’t understand why my Mum likes you…anyway there was not the first wife who came to look for her cheating husband,” I looked at him importantly: “So you can say I have experience to cover my Mum’s back, not yours in this matter…”

Benjo started to laugh: “Good on your sharp girl, we are just too similar…”

“We are not,” I protested loudly.

“Not you, silly bunny, you just little confused girl,” he carefully patted his shiny hair: “Me and your Mum, just too bloody similar…”

I sat up feeling insulted: “I will be eighteen soon, I am not little girl anymore and I plan to marry…”

He pulled his arms up in self-defense looking at me mockingly: “Of course, young lady and I assume the broom will be the young lad who disturbed me and your Mum last night in the middle of …you know what…”

I looked up at him in horror and he enjoyed it enormously: “Nice looking lad, I have to say, looking so serious in his captain uniform, must be 26 years old am I right?”

“It was not him, my boyfriend is in Hungary on a military campaign and Mum said nothing about it last night …”

Benjo shrugged his shoulders: “Your Mum was totally drunk when I left; I bet your stepfather was not happy when he came home…”

It was my turn to shrug my shoulders: “Don’t know have not seen him.”

Benjo stood up and picked up his helmet: “Have to go, need a change for bus?”

I shook my head and picked up my bag leaving the café without looking back.
4.

“Don’t look at me like that,” my Mum said annoyingly stretching in her bed in her silky nightgown holding a white cloth on her forehead: “ I have a headache and don’t remember what happened yesterday, just go, go and leave me in peace.” she waved with her hand and closed her eyes.

I kept standing there so she opened her eyes again and shouted angrily: “Get out, will you?”

I turned around to leave when I heard her continuing more calmly: “Wish you would be more normal like other girls and stopped fussing about one stupid boy like there is no one else in the world.”

“What other girls, Mum?” I turned back to her, but her eyes stayed closed, so I continued: “Mary and Emily…”

She suddenly sat up looking at me angrily: “You are not allowed to see those…those…one religious maniac and another a junkie?”

“They are not…” I tried to protest weakly but she ignored me continuing in her monologue:  “Look at your classmate Renata, so classy girl and her Father is such an important man, she called yesterday, we had a nice chat and she said you are now involved with your English teacher?”

“I am not,” I protested more strongly now, but Mum waved her hand: “I really don’t care my dear, if it helps with your school result, go for it, that is what I said to that boyfriend of yours as well, so there, I remembered, are you happy now?”

My face turned white with the suppressed anger and I looked at her with all the rage I could muster: “I just had a date with that stupid lover of yours on that shiny motorbike who checks his reflection in every mirror he passes, the most awful lover I ever met in my life.” With my last words out of my chest I stormed out of her bedroom, down the corridor and out of the flat leaving all doors opened behind me. My Mum followed me mad with rage. I heard her insults when I ran down the stairs in our block of flats.

“I know you didn’t, you stupid girl, you just want to insult me…just like your Father, stupid, mad and envious…yes envious and treacherous…a snake on my chest…get out of my house…”

5.

It was midnight when I finally reached the long distance bus station. I caught the last bus leaving for Nitra, the little town in the Western Slovakia. I was relieved to leave the smoke and pollution of the capital city, of my home city behind.

It took us nearly two hours to get there. I could not sleep so I watched the lights in windows of towns and villages we passed by and wished to belong somewhere. Have my own place, to be part of a family, to be welcomed and loved and felt wanted and needed…I dosed off when I felt someone hands touching my tights. I opened my eyes to see a stranger sitting next to me. When he saw I woke up he changed seats. I shivered and decided not to look in his direction. There were only us two left on the bus.

When we reached our destination I let the stranger to leave first and then I moved towards an empty bus station. Few people shivered in the early morning chill on the hard seats. I took one of them and waited for the morning to come. I was too scared to close my eyes.

Suddenly I heard the first regular buses to start their town routes and tried to remember the number of the bus I took with my boyfriend when we went to visit his family, only one time in our three years together. When I hopped on the bus I desperately looked for some familiar landmarks to show me the way. My boyfriend so often talked about his hometown that I learnt some names of the streets. I admired an ancient church leaning majestically on a hill in front of us, a shiny river slivering through the town dotted by green tall trees…there were so many trees. I suddenly knew why he loves this town so much.
The old bus slowly moved upon the hilly road towards tiny houses littering the hillside like matchboxes. One of these houses belonged to my boyfriend’s family. I just need to look for the distinguished blue roof he talked about. Here it is. I hopped off the bus on the next station and cautiously entered the tiny front garden. The door bell ranged and a tall silver haired woman with kind grey eyes of my boyfriend opened the front door. She recognized me straight away as I stood there suddenly speechless.

“He is not here, my dear,” she said gently looking at me with a silent resignation in those grey eyes, I remembered so much: “Come in, I see you need to talk.”

I nodded suddenly feeling empty and lost. I followed her through a tiny corridor to a comfortable living room with a fireplace, which I vaguely remembered. She sat on a comfortable sofa and patted a place next to her: “Come on, sit down, I will not bite you, would you like some tea or coffee?”

I shook my head and kept my eyes on a beautifully decorated but worn out carpet. I was lost for words but my hostess seemed not to mind as she continued gently with her chatter: “As well, that no one is at home, we need some quiet time, do we?”

I did not respond and she continued: “Do you remember when you came here with Alex, it was three years ago, was it?”

I nodded again thinking what I am doing here.

“The time just flies and you have been barely fifteen, did you?” She chuckled: “And Alex was twenty three and so madly in love…wanted to get married straight away…my silly Alex always rushing without thinking…”

I slowly stood up: “I better go.”

She gently pulled me down: “ Please stay, believe me, I am happy that you met, you and  Alex and shared something special, something that no one can take from you…you both will be better people for that experience.”

Two big tears rolled down my cheeks and I did not bother to wipe them: “I love him so much.”

She smiled at me sadly: “I know you do and he did you as well,” she gently stroked my cheeks wiping my tears with her hand: “The first love is just like that, full of pain and suffering and learning to love …again.”

“If he leaves me now, I kill myself,” I burst out suddenly, but she gently shook her head and hugged me tightly: “No, you don’t”.

She kept hugging me and talking to me in a quiet reassuring voice: “These past three years Alex was so unhappy, always coming home sad and angry because of another disagreement and another fight with you?”

“ We split up so many times,” I agreed smiling through my tears: “ But we always patched up, I just sometimes didn’t know what he expect from me…I just wanted to hang out with friends, to have a fun and he was so serious, more like my Dad..” I stopped suddenly confused: “I don’t know about that Dad stuff, I really never knew my Dad, but I mean…”

She nodded in agreement: “He is just too old for you my dear, I told him so, but he wouldn’t listen.”

“He is not,” I shook my head stubbornly: “He loves me and I love him and…”

“And the last year he promised to let you go…somehow he never managed to keep that promise, until…”

I looked up in expectation and she continued cautiously: “After he finished his Architect degree and came back to get ready for his compulsory two years’ stint with the army, he was very upset with you and took another girl for a ride around Nitra, well he was drunk and hit a tree ..”

“Was he injured, he never told me that,” I jumped in and she smiled at me patiently.

“He was fine, just few scratches, but the girl ended up in a hospital with a broken spine.”

I shook in a horror: “I never knew…if I knew I would…”

She hugged me again: “I think he wanted to tell you yesterday, when he was looking for you, anyway, the girl is learning to walk again and Alex fell in love with her…”

I looked at her in disbelief: “Fell in love with her?”

She nodded and patted my back gently: “They plan to marry once he comes back from the army.”

I started to cry feeling a pity for myself: “I was not good enough for him anyway, my Mum with her loose morals, my Dad somewhere overseas hiding from Communists…”

She shook her head: “No my dear, I don’t care who you are or where you come from, the only thing I care about is my son and your love nearly destroyed him…it was not real love, my dear, real love does not destroy, real love creates and brings life…if you really love him, you let him go…”

I was ready, I left my boyfriend and I left his little house on a hillside but I was not ready to leave his hometown. I needed something to hold on. It was as he after his departure passed his love for his hometown on me. I walked around the river under those tall green trees and felt suddenly at home. At the end of the tree line there was entry to University.
I will come to study here, I said to myself, not knowing what type of University it is. It did not matter to me neither my average grades. I had a dream and I knew I do everything in my power to make it true. I lost my love but I have found my town and no one will take that love from me.

Me and my favourite dog

To My Mum, the best drama queen, who loved to play the role of Greek tragedy heroine….from Her Daughter, a dreamer lost in clouds, who failed to be the ‘Beauty queen’ she wanted her to be…

The first impression of my Mum I remember is a sweet, exotic perfume enveloping her voluptuous figure clothed in fashionable sexy dress revealing her beautiful breasts and long neck lost in a mane of thick, shiny black hair. Her piercing blue eyes checked hungrily the ever growing crowd of admirers; among them I was lost, fighting for her attention side by side with them shouting: ‘ Get lost, all of you, it is my Mum, not yours”.

They called her ‘Sophia Loren of the Eastern Europe’, but she was not actress, not even the artist if you don’t count ‘the art of seduce and lovemaking’. My worn out Grandmother, exhausted from raising four demanding daughters, continued to cook, clean and wash for us, while closing her eyes and praying to God. My Grandfather, an important man within Communist Party, had eyes only for her. She was his most beautiful daughter, his ‘jewel’ in his crown, with his good looks and clever, calculative mind. She knew, just like him, what she wanted and always get it at the end.
There was just one sour grape in his mouth, her brief romantic encounter with my Father, who left her broken hearted and with a child.

I looked forward to spend a holiday with her, when I could be released from strict religious upbringing of my Grandmother and trusted into the wild nights full of partying and dancing in another seaside resort of her choice. Grandfather would pay, he wanted her to find a rich, respectable husband and make whole family well off for rest of our days. My Mother spend whole days preparing herself for another ‘hunting night’. She was magician with grooming, facial and hair styles.

She tried to use her clever fingers on my long blonde hair looking into my pale blue eyes: “You are just too much like your Father, no contrast, too meek…”

“She is just 5 years old cute little girl, what do you want from her?” One of her girlfriends picked me up.

But my Mother grabbed me and pulled me down: “Cut it out, do not play cute Nanny, you are here just because of money you earned from company of men admiring me.”

Her girlfriend turned her back to us knowing that arguing with my Mother would just bring another of her violent outburst, but her last hateful look said it all: “Everything is about you and your good looks.”

My mother looked down at me with a mixture of annoyance and  despair: “ You just remind me of your Father so much, I hate him more that you will ever know…” suddenly she kneeled to me and start to cry ruining her makeup.

I patted her shiny hair who formed a perfect helmet on her head: “ I love you Mummy, do not cry…”

Her face changed suddenly to form angry grimace, which spoiled her beautiful face and stood up leaving my hand to pat empty space: “Love does not exist.” She ran wildly around the room throwing half empty bottles of champagne and perfume around shouting: “ Love does not exist, do you hear me?”

But Mum did not give up on me and gave me training how to attract suitable men to her table, where she sat surrounded by her girlfriends smoking a long cigarette. She eyed the nearby tables full of men looking at her hungrily and pointed to one. It was a signal for me to skip there, make a little twirl, ask for a lighter and sit at a knee of a closest man and ask them over. Deal was done. We ended up in their hotel room where we spend the night. I ended up in cubicle where they made me spare bed. Once I could not sleep as they had been more noisy than usual. I opened the door and saw women lying everywhere and men jumping on them, I shouted: “Where are you Mummy, why this man jumps like a deer?”
They all stopped what had been doing and started to laugh. My half naked Mum appeared from somewhere and hit me across the face: “Go back and close the door.”

“ No,” I shouted back: “ I don’t like it there.” Mum wanted to hit me again but the man,who jumped like a deer pushed her aside and picked me up: “ She is just a little girl, shouldn’t be here anyway, I have daughter just like her at home…”

“ Leave her, ” my Mum grabbed me and pulled me down dragging me back to my cubicle: “ You stay here until the morning.” She said in her icy voice.”

“ Stay with me,” I started to cry touching her hand: “ You are not his mum, you are mine.”

“ You are nuisance,” she sighed annoyingly shaking my hand and lighting her cigarette.

The anger suddenly rose in me and I grabbed the cigarette from her hand and burnt it into her beautiful smooth arm. She screamed from pain and stood up surprised: “You little bitch, just like your Father, should put you in that orphanage and not listen to your simple minded Granny…”

“ To meek for you , hey?” Laughed her girlfriend: “ I would watch out being on your place…when she grows up…”

Next night I was locked in our hotel room, and a night after that. After a while Mum stopped taking me on her holidays. Instead she picked me up from my Grandmother for our regular Sunday afternoons in the city. We walked and stopped in cafeterias for a piece of cake. She was very sweet to me and I cherish these memories. She felt very vulnerable and lonely in spite of huge amount of admirers who followed her everywhere.

I always looked forward to her visits. If she failed to come I had to accompany my Grandmother to the Catholic Sunday Mass and ask for forgiveness for my sins, as I was disobedient and wild child. My poor Grandmother had to visit the principal often due to complaint about my extravagant behaviour /giving my classmates lecture in lovemaking and showing them inappropriate pictures, fighting with boys, refusing to talk to teachers, running away from school…/
I was ten years old and start to be aware of my body image. I was tall and developed too early. I started to realize of bad image my Mother had in our neighborhood. Many boys in my classroom knew that their Fathers cheated with her on their Mothers.

There was one of the Mum’s admirers I liked very much. He was an artist and he taught me how to draw, we knew him for ages and they had the most violent fights with my Mother. Every time Mum left him for another man, I wrote to him and draw him pictures and begged him to come back. He always did. When I was eleven years old he changed towards to me and I started to feel uncomfortable in his presence. He started to pick me up from school and I used to hide in the basement watching his shiny shoes pacing impatiently outside wishing he would go…He never did and I eventually came out of school. He started to draw nudes of me and started to use my body, eventually I told my Mother. It was at this time I realized she cares about me and she would do anything to protect me against another such experience.

She used all her willpower and her high profile contacts to get the man charged and imprisoned. When I was 18 years old he was released and kept looking for me. At this time my Mother had been married for six years to elder, conservative Communist leader and I was living with them. I would not call their marriage successful as she was not able to leave other men alone and brought heartbreak and ridicule upon this well respected man however she informed him about my mental scars and asked him to leave me alone.
Although living under one roof we never get close. We orbited around my Mother as two lonely stars waiting for her sunshine which never came.


One day she packed up and left. Me and my Stepfather stood in our empty flat not knowing what to do next. Then the telephone rang and my Mother asked me to come and live with her and her new lover. I shook my head and said loudly that I am staying with my Stepfather and put the receiver down. He looked at me strangely and said: “Thank you.”

I shook my shoulders: “ I don’t think I have done any favour to you, you should get rid of her anyway.”

I caught his cold eyes and he slapped me hard across the face: “ Don’t talk about your Mother like this, she loves you and she will come back, she always does.”

I looked at him with all hatred I could muster: “ She comes back when her lover kicks her out but does she love me, does she love you, does she love anyone?”

I packed my bags eventually and move out to live my own life. I left the note for my Mum: ‘ I hate you Mum. I always wanted only you. I wanted so much to be loved by you but I don’t need it any more as you are not able to love. And I hate you for that Mum.’

I cut my hair short and wore loose clothes. Many thought of me being a young man in my teenager’s years due to my height. In times when my figure could not be covered I was followed by ‘hungry eyes’ of men as I inherited my Mum’s physical features, except my face which still reminds her of my Father. She desperately tried to raise me to her status, to be a ‘men’s siren, to use and then discard them, let them wait for my last order and then in the last minute change my mind and order something else… but I lost interest in the outside gifts and shallow empty life. I remembered the shame I felt when my classmates talked about my Mother, I never wanted my children experience that.
I stopped wearing any jewelry even my wedding ring or revealing clothes. I usually wore makeup just in presence of my Mother to somehow please her…
More I started to focus on my inside creative side…further I moved from my Mother’s cold, calculative, business world. I have found my refuge in my artworks. It was the place she could not follow me, she had no power over me and we argued every time we met.

The cards turned over on our table. The day I stopped yearning for her love, presence or just plain acceptance of me, who I am….she tried to reach out…


My daughter had been born and she adored her, buying her expensive presents, grooming her and trying to make her picture perfect beautiful, the daughter she never had. She also disapproved of the choice of my husband…a poor student with no connections, no prospects, no future and she tried to do everything in her power to drift us apart. My daughter was spoiled rotten and my husband was getting colder…I expected another child and I lost it. Then I got pregnant again with a boy.

“ I hate boys, I don’t want you to have more children. Look at you, just children and housework, you end up like you simple minded Grandmother and your husband finds
another woman, I think he has another already anyway, I saw him and her…just yesterday…” My Mum started again and I closed my ears, but I could still hear her:
“ You with your figure, should be a model, and look at you wasting your gifts on this nobody, raising his children, which take your beauty away and dreaming about what?”

The Velvet Revolution came and Communism fell apart. The migrants were coming back in rows to visit their long lost homeland and my Father was among them. I recognized him straight away. I had his face. He embraced me like his long lost daughter and invited me, my husband and my children to live in his adopted homeland of 20 years: ‘Australia’.

I packed my bags again and decide to leave, again, but this time, far, far away where my Mum could not reach me. The week before our departure I came to my recently passed away stepfather’s flat and found my Mum dusting the expensive paintings she inherited.

“ This is what I always wanted,” she said: “ Age comfortably surrounded by expensive stuff and to be well of for the rest of my life.”
I nodded reading myself for her violent outburst once she acknowledges my departure:
“ Your Father would be proud of you, if he had not die cursing you for not coming to his bedside…”

My Mum shook with a hidden anger and her piercing blue eyes followed me around the room: “ He decided to die in my sister’s house and I hate her, so it was his choice, anyway it is my decision and you have no right to judge me for it…anyway I came to see him when he decided to give me the biggest part of the inheritance.”

“ Yes, Mum,” I sighed already cursing myself for bringing up Family matters: “ I just came to let you that I am leaving. I am going to live in Australia. My Father invited me and I want to finally know him and…”

“ I know,” she said calmly and continued to dust the expensive statue from Egypt.

“ You know?” I gasped.

She looked at me: “ He called me before he first time visited you. I refused to talk to him or give him your address but he found it anyway,” Mum shook her shoulders: “ At least he does something for you, go for it, you and your kids will be better off there than here.”

“ Are you serious, you don’t mind?” I hugged her suddenly feeling very guilty. I closely looked at her carefully painted face and neat hairstyle and suddenly realized how quickly she aged. I could feel her fragile bones under her see-through blouse.

She suddenly shook again with frustration: “ Get off me, you know I don’t believe in this sentimental stuff, it makes you weak.” She suddenly turned her back on me and I managed to catch a tear coming down her cheek: “ Go, I was never cut to be a good Mum, make a good life for yourself…”

I started to cry: “ Thank you, Mum.” But she waved at me to go.

When I was leaving I heard her to say: “ Stop dreaming girl, your perfect world of true love, trust and I don’t know what bullshit you have in your head does not exist, earlier you found out, better for you…”


I took out a piece of paper and wrote down: ‘ I LOVE YOU MUM, I always did, but I had no chance to tell you and now I know you love me too for who I am. Your only daughter, who will be soon very far away but always close to you in her dreams.’

Road less travelled” It is your bloody choice,” Jessie Blackburn said to me and these few words changed my attitude towards life.

He lives at the end of an 80 km stretch of dirt rad, tucked away up the north of South Australia and he lives under a rainbow – with a flurry of clucking chooks, two scruffy dogs

and a sleepy cat.  Jessie is the owner and operator of the Never Seen service station, providing fuel, refreshments and a welcoming smile to weary travellers, just like me.

He is the survivor of the 2009 bushfire, which wiped out all houses in the area – including his own. Jessie chose to rebuild on the ash and among the chared eucalypts.

” I knew it was coming,” he said about the roaring bushfire, that caught him by surprise, despite his years spent fighting fires: ” I just didn’t expect it to be that bad – the terrible wind, the noise and intenese light were like bombardment,” Jessie added, filling the kettle for a cuppa.

” What a collection you have here,” I tried to change the gloomy subject looking out through the window at the cluttered yard.

” It’s just a bit of mess really,” he smiles shyly: ” It’s all new since the fire. It gives tourists something to think about.”

I walked out cautiously with a hot cup of tea in my hands looking at an eclectic collection of everything from old card to rusty signs and love worn toys. Jessie followed closely behind and picked one of the toy tenderly: ” This belonged to my neihbour’s son.  They left straight after. There were balls of fire,  our houses were all gone in an hour.”

” It must hard to start again,” I sighed unhappily. I just wanted to enjoy my holiday, I left my own troubles at home, why on earth I had to listen to someone’s else instead.  I quickened my pace to come inside to pay for my tea and move on.

” It was hard, for a while, looking at it. But what else do you do?” Jessie caught up with me easily and let me in: ” Others left, I organised to have a new house trucked up from Down Ridge, about 20 km away.” When he moved back around the counter, he eyed me with a twinkle in his eyes: ” You wouldn’t let the blackened bushland muscle you out of your home of 23 years, would you?”

” I don’t know,” I was taken back by his question, although I could see in his eyes that he asked it many tourists before and enjoyed our confused expressions enourmosly. ” It must be lonely, I bet.” I answered finally.

” Not with you travellers stopping by to stretch your legs and wander around my outdoor gallery,” he chuckled and pointed at his thick, grey, dreadlocked ponytail-secured with rubber band: ” Look, what one Englishman taught me, I don’t need to comb or cut my loose hair any more, what an invention for a looner like me.”

I smiled suddenly embarrassed by my previous thought and he was quick to notice my expression as he continued: ” I bet you city folk are often more lonely than me here, you stick to yourself or your own demographic,  just tell me, do you have any friends in my age?”

I quickly shook my head and he laughed: ” You see and here you don’t get to choose who you interact with. You don’t necessarily like everybody, but you get along. You simply need anyone, a person like me or you, just passing by, to survive.”

Then he asked me to pick some trinkets from his pre-loved odds and ends collection and I eagerly picked his neighbour’s boy toy. I wanted to pay but he just waved his hand:

” Just leave something you don’t need any more behind, maybe someone else passing by will find use for it.”

On the way back to my car I spotted a couple of wallabies feeding on branches in the distance and Jessie pointed at them: ” The morning after, I went walking around the blackened earth and there were wallabies feeding on new green leaves shooting out quickly after the fire.”

He paused and I was ready to jump into my car when I heard him to continue: ” That was a real lift – just seeing them. From their point of view, the fire was just a glitch, one thing ends so another can start, you know, it is your bloody choice how you look at and live your life.”

I waved from the starting car and he waved back shouting: ” What’s the point to blame someone, something for your misfortunates, just move on and live your bloody life…”

If it wasn’t for Jessie, Never Seen would be just another corner on the road to nowhere…it taught me that you never know what waits for you just behind the corner and one more thing, I know it is time to leave my parents’ ghosts in a closet, where they belong. I can not releave or change the past, the blackened earth are full of new sprouted leaves. Life goes on.

Many people just like me dream about the romance of trains and the joys of long-distance train journeys. Well, when you are sitting in the same seat after 24 hours staring glassy-eyed out the window at flat nothingness for hour after hour, the Indian Pacific can be anything but romantic. Monotonously steady movement makes you sleepy. Suddenly there is a slight grab, the airbrakes.  The train  glides to a complete stop.

” Why did we stop, did we hit something, do you know?”  A woman in her thirties, sitting opposite to me, asked her partner who just shook his head and kept reading his newspaper.

She looked at me and I turned my gaze back to the window. Our sudden stop happened to be smack in the middle of Australia, in the middle of the longest straight stretch of rail in the world.

I tried to spot something interesting outside but I had not seen anything, in fact anything alive on this lunar landscape in five hours.The woman opposite looked worried and tried to open the window.

” The forecast is for 44C outside.” I smiled at her. ” It is good that the air-conditioning here never misses a beat”.

Perhaps because of the torpor of doing and seeing nothing for hours, looking out from my comfortable seat at this hostile environment I didn’t share her worries, I didn’t feel any sense of possible doom. But if somehow I was left behind out there…

Soon the train started to move slowly again through the middle of the Nullarbor Plain and we both signed with a relief.

” I am travelling from Perth to Sydney to visit my daughter,” I smiled again on the woman: ” My name is Beata.”

” Hi, Penny, nice to meet you, we are just…” She looked at her partner who kept reading his paper without paying any attention to us: ” travelling together.”

” A nice start of holiday,” I nodded: ” I always wanted to try this, I had some time to spare and don’t like flying, just this economy ‘sit-up’ class is…”

She stretched comfortably her slender figure across her seat: ” Not so bad.”

I tried to stretch my long legs under her seat: ” Not so bad if you are short.”

We both laughed.  Her partner stood up and went outside without saying a word. She watched him to leave with a sad expression: ” Are you married?” She asked me suddenly.

I nodded surprised with her following question she shoot at me straight away: ” What would you do if your husband was unfaithful?”

” Infidelity is not a black and white issue.” I answered diplomatically thinking about my parents: ” Once the cheating is discovered, the decision whether to stay or go is rarely a clear cut or easy one, at least it shouldn’t be, in my opinion anyway.”

” I want to make everything all right but I am so angry you know after so many months of uncertainty I learnt the truth about my husband’s affair just a day before this trip we planned so long…”  Her eyes filled with tears and I sat next to her and patted her arm.

Her husband entered the compartment putting his mobile back into his pocket: ” Did you call her, again, you promised not to do it?” Penny shouted at him from her seat and I quickly moved back to my seat and concentrated at the empty landscape outside.

” You behave silly,” he waved his hand and sat down to read his papers again but she took it from his hand and spatted at him.

” You scam, you cheater.”

He stood up and cleaning his face with a tissue left the compartment again.

The train stopped. I peered outside. A tiny railway station and associated buildings shimmered in a heat and dust. ‘ Tiny and historic town Cook has nothing in common with seafarers and is named after the sixth prime minister of Australia, Joseph Cook,’ there is the familiar ding-dong from the speakers and anouncement about our place of stop is delivered: ‘ Cook was established in 1917 firstly to service the railway construction workers, then as a part of Tea and Sugar Train suplying isolated communities between Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta. At its peak Cook was a thriving community of 300 people now there are four people living here in splending isolation. You can visit their souvenir shop outside.. 1 hour stopover’

” It is time to explore,” I gently shook Penny who nodded solemnly and followed me throughout the carriage like a lamb for slaughter. When we stepped outside, the heat was overhelming but also our mighty long train looked impressive from outside.

“I have no saliva left and my nostrils are burning.” I complained.

” It is just too damn hot.” Penny finally woke up from her depressive mood and nudged me towards the station platform. It’s long, nondescript and locked up. And Penny’s husband was standing there as well. At least, it was shady.

” This is boring and uncomfortable,” he muttered under his nose: ” Your dream holiday is it?”

” It is adventure,” Penny suddenly sprang back to life: ” We are in some isolated ghost town in the middle of a remote and unforgiving land what is the name ?”

” Look a perfect house for you,” Penny’s husband pointed at a rusty corrugated iron structure resembling a large dunny except for the bars and bolts.

” Bastard,” I heard her hissing into his face but I turned around and started to walk towards the end of the platform.  It is their marriage and not my problem, I thought.

There were some passangers licking icecream under a large shady tree. Penny caught up with me rattling with anger: ” He told me that life with me is routine and boring.”

” So leave him,” I bursted out exhausted and angry to be unvoluntarilly  dragged into other people affairs.

” He will go back to Sarah, the other woman,” she spitted on dust in front of her feet: ” he said he felt renewed and virile with her, bastard.”

” So, get rid of him, it will be your gain and her loss.”

I noticed the entry into the tiny souvenir shop and without waiting for Penny’s reply I stepped inside. Two older local women were arranging stuffed koalas on a dusty bench with a bored look on their faces. One of them looked up: ” Coming for icecream?”

I quickly nodded and put few coins on the counter while the woman picked a slushy from a freezing box: ” Not too much choice here.”

” It’s fine, thanks.” I grabbed it and headed for the door. Penny was waiting there for me.

” Wants some?” I pointed at slushy. She shook her head.

” It is time to return to our carriage.”  I pointed outside at people quickly boarding the long train.

She shook her head again.  ” Thanks for everything.” She hugged me: ” I just asked to be handed my luggage here.”

I stopped in an open doorway shocked, but she had already joined the women picking up stuffed kangaroos from a box: ” Can I stay here to wait for a train back? She asked and continued: ” I have just left my husband after being together for eight years. Things weren’t good for a long time and I felt awful in myself from all of the ways he would put me down…”

” Good on you.” Women nodded and continued to unwrap kangaroos.

” It was hard for me to do it, but I finally got the courage to leave. I have a little daughter back in Perth…”

” Close the door, the heat is real, like a furnace it sears through, our airconditioning just broke down.” The woman nodded at me from a counter seeing me standing there without going in or out. I quickly left shutting door behind me.

The Indian Pacific clickity clacked over the Nullarbor . I am on my way again. But the seat opposite me is empty. Penny’s husband picked up his mobile again: ” Sarah, I am so excited…”

What have I done? I thought to myself thought I felt the warm embrace and I knew Penny’s face will remain with me for ages.  Then she will disapear from my memory and will be replaced by other face – my Mum. Was she also changing a situation that was obviously toxic for her and my Father. It is easy to become acclimatised to a bad relationship and feel as though this is normal The cost of that, however can be your self-esteem. We can subconsiously feel as though we are not fully worthy of a respectful and loving relationship, so we don’t expect that to be present in our lives. How many of us are unconsciously do so. Was my Mum’s decision the right one ? She had allowed herself to find someone who treated her well.

I know that life can be really difficlult to cope with and make sense of a times. We can all experience moments of distress, or sadness or anger. This can have a devastating impact on our own lives, as well as those of our family, partner and children.  We can sometimes feel very fragile in our ability to cope and change, but it is possible. Identifying issues honestly, taking responsibility, not lying blame, finding more effective solutions and maintaining goodwill towards ourselves and each other…that what my Mum should do next, this is what she she should do long time ago.

My Father and his best friend

James and Vivian met on a dating site, in an old hotel in Bratislava.Vivian was 18 years old and James was 19 years old.  Tall, blonde, blue eyed, tanned and well formed, they both bathed in adoring eyes of their secret admirers and took all the physical advantages of their youth, healthy upbringing and lucky inheritance for granted.

Vivian’s description was:  ” I’m not a time waster so here it is:  I am very good looking therefore my sisters hate me, my Mother even does not like me, on one understand me, the world is such unhappy place to live in.”

James’ was: ” I’m warm, intelligent, funny and very handsome guy.  I have very good relationship with my sibblings and my Mother adores me. I have so many friends. The world is such happy place to live in.”

Each was attracted to the other’s candour. Their parents thought that it was a match made in heaven and prepared a lavish wedding.  The young couple moved to their new fully equiped flat in the middle of the city.  Piles of expensive wedding presents piled their new rooms.  The couple was in love,  their daughter was born and everyone blessed this happy and blissful marriage.

They have been together just for two years. Then the marriage fell appart leaving just the metal taste in their mouths and hate for the rest of their lives. They changed the wedding vow, they hated each other until death fell them apart.

Here was the problem.

James was the eternal optimist, Vivian the eternal pessimist. Vivian was a nurse in a childrens’ hospital, stuck in a job with crying little ones, unfriendly staff and an abusive head sister. James had just finished a contract position in telecomunication. He hadn’t found another contract yet but was sure there was a job just around the corner. He had so many dreams to fullfil and so many plans for his successful future.  ‘Life was his oyster’ and there was nothing in his way to a bright and prosperous future. And soon enough, there was another job for him, he was the youngest supervisor in a new built factory surrounded by hundreds of workers, mostly young females.

He thought Vivian was unsuccessful because she was so negative.  Vivian thought James was successful because he was just lucky and it was not fair. She put herself down and admitted that she could not totally let James into her heart because she didn’t believe that he could really love her.

James tried to be understanding about Valerie’s work situation, but if he gave her suggestions on how to present herself more positively, she said he was judging her.  James also felt his love was never fully received or acknowledged. While James was optimistic, he was also stressed about being a parent and responsibilities it brought on him.  Vivian felt she was already stressed about her own situation and felt that their child was just another burden.  She wanted to know what he expected from her. James said he needed her to reassure him that he would always have her in his life regardless of  what happened.  She said: ” You don’t need me behind you with your optimism and luck …”

James felt that if Vivian kept telling him how worthless their relationship was, she would finally convince him and the relationship would be over.  What Vivian was trying to protect herself from was impossible.It was too late.  She was already too far. James left her for another woman, a young chick, one of his factory girls.  She was devastated.  She would never surrender and let him in.  She was happy now that she never did.  She was ready for a revenge, a sweet revenge that would fill her life.  She went out to look for a boyfriend and not just one.

Half a century later I was standing on the same spot where the old hotel in Bratislava, the place of their first randevouz stood.  The world moved on, there was a new shiny skycraper towering over the lapidating building waiting to be demolished.  Looking at the sad remnants of the forgotten past I wondered if Vivian thought that by withholding love, or not allowing James’ love in, she could save herself from the devastation she would feel if he left her.  The life taught her that she couldn’t.

The life moved on, but they could not.  Hate without end.  James died prematurelly surrounded by his big family and many friends. In his dying days he felt ‘the metal taste of unfullfiled first love and long life hate’. He wanted to make amends but it was too late.  Vivian never spoke to him again.  She said he was already dead for her years and years back.

Vivian live alone, without any family or friends. That was how she plans to run her life until her last breath: with her arms crossed and her head high, always prepared for a fight, waiting for the blow to come from any side.

Vivian knows now that rejection is going to hurt just as much if she thrust her face into the wind and said, ” OKAY, I AM GOING FOR IT !”

She still does not know not hate and revenge but forgiveness and love bring happiness and trust back into her life.

It is too late for James to find out that everyone should acknowledge their mistakes and there is never too late to apologize and look for forgiveness, but it can be too late to leave it until your last breath. Everyone should pay their debts on time.

It is too late for James to find out  that no wrongoing will be forgotten and there will be time in your life when it comes back to haunt you. Do not count on your luck.

I am standing in the middle of a bustling old street in Bratislava and think about my parents.

I LOVE MY PARENTS.

I AM NOT HERE TO JUDGE THEM.

I AM NOT HERE TO FEEL SORRY FOR THEM.

I AM HERE BECAUSE OF THEM.

I AM CONTENT AND HAPPY BECAUSE I WAS ABLE TO LEARN FROM THEIR EXPERIENCE. There is no bigger gift they could give me. If they only knew…

WELCOME TO MY DREAMLAND…where truth and fiction blends…

where my past, present and future blend into a kaleidoskop of images. When I write, I take the basic ingredients of my characters from those images in my head. Some have a bit of me in them and others are not much like me at all. The places are real but my characters are fictional as I have to respect privacy of all the people I met in my life. There is a true link in every one of them...a thin thread of truth which binds us all together...people of my dreams from the past, I love so much...

THE SONG OF VICTORIES AND DEFEATS or WHO AM I AND WHERE DO I COME FROM?
My ancestors, the Western Slavs lived about 500 AD in the Samo's Empire (an agricultural-pastoral community. Their first state was the Great Moravian Empire in the 9th Century, where the agriculture was the basis of the economy. The coming of the Magyars and the annexation of Slovakia into the Hungarian state in the course of the 10th and 11th century slowed down of the Slovak development because part of the population was conquered and part fled to the infertile Northern districts. From the 13th to the 18th centuries in time of great oppression, serfdom, natural catastrophes 9fire, droughts, flood) or wars, occupations, raids by Tartars and Turks decline occurs and return to hunting and food gathering. The 18th century brought the enlightened reforms of Maria Theresia and Joseph II, the development of education, culture and rise of agricultural production followed. Serfdom was abolished in the middle of 19th century. The break up of the Monarchy and the creation of the Czechoslovakia followed in the beginning of the 20th century. Following two World Wars brought stagnation and depression. Before the First World War the rearing of sheep was very important and the soft sheep cheese was valued throughout the world. After the Second World War the greatest challenge was collectivization and socialization, especially in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s. The introduction of mass collectivization in Slovakia was a very radical intervention causing deep, difficult to heal wounds in the body of Slovak nation. There was an effort to liquidate the independent peasant who owned his soil. Entry into a united farming cooperative was compulsory and who sabotaged the idea of building socialism was declared a class enemy and shot. It was a deep intervention not only into ownership, but also into the psychology of people and the moral sphere. To scare people even more, the Russian tanks followed... It was time, when I was born....I write about some of my experiences ....although not in order......good reading,love from Beata

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