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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.
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…
INTRODUCTION: IN CONTROL AND BARING MY SOUL
Sometimes finding yourself – and coming home-takes you on a circuitous route. For me, writing about past and today, has given me both and I feel right where I should be.
I travel by well known route to my deceased Father’s house. It is hot outside, a scorching Summer day. ‘Today marks 56 days since rain was recorded in Perth, the longest break since 1994. With no let-up in sight, the dry spell is set to enter…’ I turn the radio off once I stopp my car in front of the average red-bricked roof house in the average Perth suburb.
The sizzling over 40C temperatures force me to run for a shade. I quickly open the entry door and sigh with a relief feeling dark coolness of the well known interior. I open the heavy curtains and green, blue and earth tones of wood, cotton and stone pieces of furniture around me makes me feel at home again. I half expect the burly figure of my Father with bigger than life personality appears in a doorway…No, just a sheer white draping, coir rugs and cracked and rusted wood furniture surround me. I deep breathly and try to have a last good look around. It was never my home. I just came for a visit in the past 15 years, I have known my Father…
I was 35 years old, married with two little children when I came to live to Perth on an invitation from my Father I have never known. He greeted us with his characteristic big smile and a stream of stories from his life, which never seemed to dry out. He quickly whisked us to his car and the first few weeks we spent in his house. Without him. He was 57 year old successful small businessman with a busy lifestyle….and his own family to look after.
I decide to leave my memories behind and enter his kitchen in misty ocean huse and neutral grey tones. I look at the kitchen bench and there it is what I come to look for… I grab the big box full of old letters and quickly leave the house. Soon it will be transformed…my Father is dead, but life goes on. The only thing which will remind me of my Father will be memories and this old box.
Later on I stopped the car near the ocean and open one of the yellowish letters. It is dated 1971. I was in my year one class and huge irregular letters clearly reflect my age but not the content of the letter. I start to read and suddenly the memories come back: of my Mother sitting next to me smoking heavily and holding her unfinished glass of Whiskey while dictating me the words I could not understand….
‘ My Dear Father, we still wait for the money you promised to send regularly for my schooling and keep…my Mother has not have enough income to look after me properly…
I need new shoes, my Mother needs new dress, I need…my Mother needs…’
I sigh with a discust and open another letter and another dating 1973, 198o, 1982… the writing changes with the age but the content does not.
Suddenly I find something hard on the bottom of the box, the CD from my stepbrother, which he gave me after the funeral. I pick up the CD and read the title: ‘ Our Father’s life story’. Suddenly my heart feels heavy and I need fresh air. Leaving my car behind I wander to empty beach shimmering in the heat and look on the the water. I loved the way my Father could read the water: the broken surface, the lifting sand, the swirling currents, the drifting food and trailing seaveed. He could look through those breakers and see stories, make stories about different people living near the sea somewhere far away…I always wondered how much truth is in his stories. Somehow I start to understand that my Father with his
blood-curdling stories, loud laugh, travelling misadventures, second-hand tricks, his impatience and rush to be somewhere else, had, in a sense, invented himself. We never had time to really know each other in the past 15 years and we got really close only on his deathbed, however, my Father got through to me and taught me something about resourcefulness and never surrendering the idea of who you are, the way you see yourself.
I always thought that freedom was all about breaking away. As my Grandmother told me when I was leaving my country to re-connect with my Father: ‘ YOU CAN NEVER GET AWAY, BEATA, YOU ONLY FIND YOURSELF SOMEWHERE ELSE.’
Suddenly I see a group of people on the beach in front of me circling a shiny object and an artist working on it. I come close and realize with a surprise that Perth artist is working on ice sculpture. ‘ALL THINGS SAID AND PROMISED’ is written in sand underneath. He barely manages to finish it when it starts to quickly melt away on a 40C summer day in front of our eyes. The sculpture depicts a couple sitting holding hands. It was all ice except for the two hands clasped, which are made of resin and are all that is left when the ice melts away. There is a sudden gasps of surprise among the viewers when the clasped hands fell on the wet sand. The artist Steven Morgana just smiles while saying: ” It took me five hours to make it and look it is gone, just like our human form disappears …”
I left the group behind thinking about the clasped hands on the sand. The CD on my palm is just that, the clasped hands I still held with my deceased Father. It is time to read it and transcript it for you, my readers, to re-discover my Father and through him, me.
THIS WRITING ABOUT MY PAST SO FAR HAS BEEN ABOUT LEARNING TO PUT MY FOOT DOWN AND JUST DO WHAT I WANT TO DO. IT’S ABOUT REALISING I NEED TO BE IN CONTROL OF MY LIFE IF I WANT TO BE TRULY HAPPY.
Next week I start with my Father’s Life story. Drifting off into my dreamland will be allowed. I let my imagination and creativity take fligth. But I promise to express my Father’s observations and feelings openly and honestly and hopefully, you my readers will sit up and take notice. See you next week.
My First Childhood Memory
So there I was with my Grandmother in the old Grandfather’s house. The fire cracked happily in the old fashioned cooker. There was a knitted picture of a deer in a forest on the wall above the old couch. My Grandmother was quietly peeling a potato on the old wooden table in the middle of the small kitchen. My Great grandmother coughed next door and suddenly shouted at my Grandmother to hurry up and bring her a medicine. My Grandmother sighed and cut a quarter of the potato and with a dollop of butter she pushed it gently into my mouth. Her eyes were so kind but her face stayed sad. She stood up and hurried next door. I jumped off the wooden chair and cautiously opened the door to the small living room, where my Godmother had been writing her homework. She turned around and waved at me to go away. She had the Grandmother’s kind eyes but the Grandfather’s strong lips and I knew she did not want to be disturbed when studying.
I stayed there undecided what to do next, when she sighed and crouched in front of me with a pencil and an old book: “ Look, go to the glassed verandah and trace these letters inside.”
I happy nodded and ran out, when I heard my Godmother shouting after me:
“ Remember do not write on the Grandmother’s kitchen table, you make her cross and do not disturb her either, she has enough troubles with Great Grandmother.”
Passing the Great Grandmother’s quarters I noticed my Grandmother kneeling near her bed and washing her feet, while Great Grandmother keep complaining:
“ Be careful or I will tell my son you want me dead so you inherit this big house…”
I peeped in and looked admiringly on the huge Old Father’s Clock hanging above the ornamental bed with shiny carvings of angels on the posts. I saw my Grandmother’s head slowly turning so I quickly ran out to the glassed verandah. It was raining outside. Through the foggy glass I looked sadly at our muddy backyard where our dog jumped happily. I sat on my wooden stool and started to trace all those magical letters. Some of them I could even read. My Godmother taught me how. Suddenly the verandah’s door opened and my uncle stepped in and gave me a bear hug.
I wanted to shout from a joy but he put a finger on my lip to keep me quiet: “ Hey, do not let Grandmother find out that I am here in those muddy boots or she will ‘skin me alive’.” He winked me and I nodded in agreement. The one thing my Grandmother hated really much was mess and mud particularly.
He opened his old coat and took out the worn out book with bright colored pictures: “ Look what I have, do not tell your Grandmother or Grandfather, they would think I pinched it somewhere, like always.”
I opened the book eagerly and pointed at the letters I could read. He started to read me a story, when Grandmother entered and scoffed him about the dirty gumboots.
That was my first memory from the childhood. I was three years old.
The Perfect Couple
My Father and my Mother, as others from young generation, were lured to the modern comforts and busy lifestyle in the city and they could not wait to work in one of the many factories and institutions there. They finished their compulsory schooling as fast as they could and hungrily entered the ‘big, bad world’, earning money during days and spending them on dancing floor during nights. They came back to their old village just to sleep, catch a new breath and dream about with whom and where to spend next night. My Grandmother was there to cook and clean after them and my Grandfather was there to earn money for family and make family decisions. They laughed on the communist ideals and did not care that everyone earned the same. At least they did not need to work hard or compete with someone. They sat, looking bored and half asleep on the long compulsory communist village meetings dreaming about their boyfriends or girlfriends. It was on one of these meetings that their eyes met across the room. My Father and my Mother decided to get married just after one more long and boring communist meeting.
When my Father came to ask for the hand in marriage of my Mother, the Grandfather happily accepted: “ A perfect timing, she has just finished her schooling and the perfect match between our old traditional family and your new progressive family.”
“ To the progress”, they happily clinked their wine glasses, when the Grandmother entered the room with the pot full of steaming soup.
She placed the hot pot carefully in the middle of the table and looked crossly at her husband: “ You married your eldest one just last year to the new progressive family and her husband is worse than a devil,” she stopped and crossed herself: “ Punching her so hard that they had to call an ambulance, just yesterday. That is your progress.”
The Grandfather and her next ‘son in Law’ ignored her, clinking their full glasses again and again happily. In two months there were two weddings, one small one in a church to satisfy Grandmother and one big one in the local Communist Council with a big reception afterwards under the big trees in the middle of the village so everyone could come and join in. Everyone was there to eye the handsome, confident groom and beautiful, proud bride and they nodded heads in agreement:
“ They are the perfect couple.”
The parents from both sides competed to make the life for the new couple as comfortable as possible. My Grandfather rented them a new flat in the middle of the city and my Father’s parents filled it with all new furniture and kitchen accessories.
The new mixer broke hitting the wall close to my Father’s head one evening because he forgot to notice my Mother’s new hairstyle. The new black and white TV fell of the new table when they ended up wrestling each other in the middle of their new living room. They quarreled who could have more dates, more admirers, more lovers…
They cheated on each other another two years and just one month after I was born they filled for a divorce.
Before I knew them I have always asked myself, why my parents had to divorce. Once I knew them, I understood straight away.
The perfect couples are ones who fit together as pieces of the puzzle. Both my parents who love to be in the centre of attention, who are used to constant admiration and praise have finally found the ideal partners who are happy to stay in shade and just nod head in agreement.
As modern parents they refused to be bound to constant care for a child and suddenly grandparents sounded like the great idea. The part of the in and out courtroom quarrels were dealing with the concept of the most suitable care for me.
My Father’s parents stated that they will provide the best care as they both worked in the name of progress and according to communist ideals. My Grandfather stated that he has a good position with the State Department Services and he is the member of the Communist Party for so long. My Grandmother just quietly added: “ I am just a housewife, but I have time and I cared for children all my life.”
A PLACE OF BIRTH
‘ All I Really Want To Do’ screamed American girls in tight trousers in the Cher’s pop hit, while American boys in the US navy uniform were leaving for Vietnam.
Peter Seller’s chart hit: ‘ A Hard Days Night’ was sang all over the Britain celebrating the life of former prime minister Sir Winston Churchill who died this year.
‘ The Carnival Is Over’ sang sadly Perth teenagers with the Seekers remembering the last man to be hanged in Western Australia last year, Eric Edgar Cooke, WA’s most notorious serial killer who brought fear to this careless backwater capital city. People locked their door and listened to Sir Robert Menzies revelation on the radio that Australia send 800 soldiers to fight in Vietnam. “ The takeover of South Vietnam would be a direct military threat to Australia and all the countries…” said the Prime Minister.
With the discovery of huge iron ore deposits in WA’s Pilbara region by flying prospector Lang Hancock touched off unprecedented mining development which brought the first Perth boom.
I was just born and I had no idea that I end up in this most isolated capital city forty years later when the Claremont mysterious murders will again bring fear to Perth people. Australian soldiers will be sent again to fight in Iraq and the Prime Minister John Howard would use the Menzies words: “ The takeover of Iraq would stop a direct military threat to Australia and all the countries.” Another unprecedented mining development will bring another Perth boom. The iron magnate Lang Hancock would be long dead but his name will still attract newspaper headings because of the infamous inheritance court fight between his first and second wives.
I was just born to the Soviet Union Eastern block, where tensions and the fear of nuclear war saw the beginning of the Cold War with United States. Both sides kept increasing their military strength and Russia kept building walls and patrolled borders to protect its East from ‘the corrupted West’. Just four years ago Russia built the first infamous Berlin Wall to separate East and West Berlin and prevent refugees from crossing. Many who tried to find the truth about the West, many who tried to flee were shot. I was just born and I had no idea that it takes me thirty years to find out the truth about the West. I realized that the life in the West is not so horrifying like the communists wanted us to believe but also not so glorifying like we wanted to believe. The truth is somewhere in the middle. Maybe it is my time to describe the life in the East during and at the end of the communist regime. My perception of this place, which is also not so horrifying like the West believed but also not so glorifying like the communist wanted us to believe. The truth is also somewhere in the middle.“ Russia maya…” marched Slovak girls in identical blue skirts, white shirts and red scarves, while boys saluted while lifting up the Soviet Union’s red flag on a small square just opposite the window of my Great grandmother’s house. My parents sat with Grandparents, my auntie and uncle in a small kitchen listening to the radio and praising Soviet president Nikita Khrushchev who three years ago stopped the US to start the real nuclear war against us over Cuba. After that there was a short announcement, a little drill what to do in the case of the real chemical or biological warfare.
I was two months old peacefully sleeping in my cot when the loudspeaker at the nearby lamp-post started regular military marches and patriotic songs.
People stopped working in the vineyards and listened proudly to the anniversary broadcast about our national hero Major Yuri Gagarin, the first man fired into space four years ago. He was fired into orbit in a space ship named Vostok /East/ and circled the earth for about two hours. It was April 13, 1965 and girls in flowery dresses and women in village scarves left the communal fields to join in marches. Children from the village Primary School filled the village square in their identical uniforms happy to miss another day of learning. Teachers shouted the orders and children changed suddenly to the little soldiers and saluted to the rising Soviet Union’s red flag. Men and boys in grey working trousers and blue shirts left work in the nearby train station and the communal field machinery repair hall to hide into the village pub and celebrate the Russian cosmonaut’s successful flight with a pint of a beer, wine and spirit.
There will be quarreling and fights in every house tonight as wives preparing dinners and feeding home livestock will be angry with their late husbands who will retaliate under the influence of alcohol. Tomorrow the wives will be sharing the blue eyes and complaints over the picked fences while husbands leave grudgingly late for work with blank expressions and headaches. I cried that day because of the noise and the disturbance to my routine. I cried as if I knew that drills, loudspeakers, marches, patriotic songs, domestic quarrels and gossips over fences will be part of my childhood for the next five years.
The green house is my house in Australia I live now. My youngest child was born here. There are identical brick houses with a tiled roof all around me, spreading everywhere in fast growing suburbs around the capital city Perth.
I always dreamed to have my own space, where I can raise my family, work and live, feel close to the nature, reflect and
WRITE…My dream came true. I hope my writing, my thoughts and experiences can help you to find out what you really
DREAM ABOUT and if your dreams can come true as well…
I LOVE TO DREAM… I AM DREAM LOVER…I LOVE TO SPREAD MY DREAMS ALL AROUND YOU IN MY STORIES…
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DREAM ABOUT?
Before I start to write chapter two, I would like to hear your opinions, thoughts and experiences about your own childhood, adulthood and how you deal with everyday family and partnership issues. I believe that we can use this new technological tool to our advantage if we learn to share and connect. We can help each other to overcome difficulties and sorrows in our lives and also we can share our bright moments which help us to continue in our struggle with everyday life.
‘Although we know instictively that we are connected to the rhythm of life, our dreams show us how strong our desirees are,
that we need to stay connected, by our minds and out hearts with our surrounding, with other people and with our own desirees to stay true to yourself…to have a truly happy life.’
Whatever is in your mind or heart, share it with me …..NOW IS YOUR TIME…
/ In the past Quarry maker Village built in the 16th Century by the Croatian Quarry makers running for their lives from a Turkish Army.
Now one of the Bratislava fast growing suburbs./
APRIL 20, 2008
A gusty wind rustled the dry leaves around us. We moved with Martin side by side holding the big funeral reef from fresh flowers between us. The huge golden ribbon with decoratively written: ‘ A Sweet Sleep our dear Grandmother’ was wrapped around it. I followed the muddy path between the rows of ancient graves built two centuries ago and recognized one with the three distinctive stone pigeons.
“ This is the grave of our Grandmother’s younger sister who died at the end of the war,” I exclaimed enthusiastically: “ We used to plant fresh flowers on it every Spring.” I looked at the dry earth and a couple of dead leaves on top and sighed: “ It is Spring again.”
Martin nodded: “ She was just seventeen and she is buried there with her girlfriends, their municipal factory, where they worked was bombed.”
“ No those again, even around here,” Basha complained walking behind us.
I looked over the fence on the identical grey blocks of flats which loomed on the right side. People from the million of tiny windows looked down on us like on some puppet procession for their entertainment.
Martin shrugged his shoulders: “ Those flats stand there for so long that I don’t even notice them, I think it’s a little bit creepy to live so close to a graveyard, but hey if someone offers me a place there I take it.”
“ I remember our village finishing here,” I sighed: “ We used to go with Grandmother to visit her old Mum just where the first of the flats stand. It was white washed cottage and there were green woods and rolling hills with vineyards all around us.”
Suddenly we stopped in the middle of the graveyard. There stood a little whitewashed house. I could see Grandmother’s coffin inside and people sitting at the back praying and whaling.
I saw my Mum’s lonely figure walking up to us, fixing her decorative scarf holding her grey hair tight in a fashionable way.
“ I hope you will remember to stand next to me,” she muttered approaching: “ I don’t want to look like I have no one.
I nodded and we entered the morgue.
“ Hey, and what about the Grandfather, is he not coming?” Mum stopped me again next to the coffin.
“ No, he does not feel strong enough to come,” Martin answered quietly and we laid the reef gently on the floor.
I looked up and my Grandmother was there. Her motionless face looked like carved from wax but lost the worried look I remembered so much.
“ It does not look like her,” I gasped.
“ It was not her for a long time,” my cousin Vera stood next to me and patted my arm: “ Once you loose the sense of who you are and where you belong, there is no much left to confine you.”
I was thinking about her words when I noticed my mum’s stern look from the corner and I turned to join her. There was my daughter standing just behind
me, I squeezed her hand gratefully and beckoned her to follow me.
I stumbled across the stone floor and the crying old lady in a simple grey coat stood from the nearby chair and got hold of my arm.
“ Thank you, auntie Olga,” I muttered and gave her a quick hug. When I looked over her shoulder I saw her three daughters with their husbands and children I could not recognize, sitting in the next row.
Two of my older cousins with whom I used to play in my old Grandmother’s house nodded in recognition and continued in series of funeral pray I forgot long time ago.
I supported my head on the cold wall next to my Mother and sadly looked around. There was my family. My Godmother and her family, standing motionlessly on the right side of the wall, ignored the rest of the family and supporting each other.
Me, my daughter and my mother stood on the left side of the wall, looking confused and lost. Except of course… my mother.
“ Look at this Gypsy girlfriend of Martin, she has the same scarf in her hair like me, it’s a new style, you know?” She followed my gaze and whispered in my ear proudly.
“ Look at my auntie Olga family,” I whispered in her ear and nodded towards the chairs in the middle, where her big family sat confidently spread out: “ They somehow look at ease in this dreadful place if I don’t mention their loud crying and whaling.”
“ They just brought one little bunch of flowers for Nan’s funeral, imagine that, all of them together,” my Mum exclaimed victoriously: “ Olga told me that they don’t have enough money, nonsense,” my Mum shook her head: “ Andrea’s husband manages the Mercedes firm here, Andrea was always clever don’t you think, but anyway I bought her a proper reef and I am the one without money…”
I closed my eyes and suddenly I noticed that my Mum stopped talking. I looked at her in surprise.
She gave me one of her sideway look and added quietly: “ One more thing for you to know, it is your auntie Olga’s job to cry and recite prays on funerals for money so of course she knows how to do it properly…”
I turned away from my Mum’s whispering and starred at my sitting cousins. They have been like sisters to me.
Finally, my eldest cousin Andrea stood up from the chair and approached me. She sobbed when she gave me a hug and I suddenly felt that it was all pretensions.
I am not going to play your game, my dear cousin, I thought to myself and smiled at her sweetly: “ There is nothing to cry about, she did not have a happy life but at least long one.”
She looked at me in surprise and dubbed the corners of her eyes quickly with a tissue: “ It looks like you forgot what is expected of you here,” she supported her head on the wall next to mine and asked me with a twinkle in her eyes: “ Do you really have everything so easy in Australia that you forgot to cry even at funerals?”
I smiled at her and shook my head in disbelief. After a while I whispered to her ear: “ Do you remember our uncle’s funeral, we have been about twelve.”
“ You were twelve, I was eleven,” she whispered cheekily back and I recognized my old rival from my childhood: “ Always older and always prepared to win.”
“ And you outwitting me in the last moment,” I nudged her: “ But you sacrificed your younger sister, “ I nodded towards Ingrid approaching us:
“ And she was the one who took our blame and Grandmother punished her. ‘’I remember kneeling the corner for hours,” said Ingrid and then gave me a big hug: “But at least you kneeled next to me and gave me your supper, because you felt guilty.”
“ And I ate it all in the end,” Andrea laughed victoriously, but quickly put a hand across her mouth noticing the astonished looks around. She then whispered in my ear with a satisfaction: “ I ate hers and your supper as well because she was too scared of me to refuse to give it to me.”
“ You did not,” I looked at her horrified.
“ Yes, she did,” Ingrid smiled sadly: “ Anyway it was just a couple of boiled potatoes with a dollop of butter and it was a long time ago, think about Grandma now.”
“ She nearly fell into our uncle’s grave, remember, she was so sad that her son died.” Andrea whispered again: “Can you imagine, we are in his age now, it’s scary.” She shivered.
The priest came and blessed the coffin before it was carried away.
We joined the procession which slowly moved towards the oldest part of the graveyard.
“ Where are we going, our uncle’s grave is in opposite direction, their names are carved there already…” Andrea followed me mumbling.
“ Not their names, just our family surname,” Ingrid caught up with us:
“ That’s mean any of us can be buried there.”
“ No, thank you, “ Andrea spit it out and looked around horrified:
“ These graves are here from the end of the 19 century, she can’t be…”
The procession stopped in front of the big hole next to the carved stoned family gravestone with ‘ Mazurkovich’ written on it.”
“ It’s Grandad’s family, he decided for her, like always,” Andrea said annoyed.
“ I bet she wanted to be buried with her son, she always mentioned it,” Ingrid added sheepishly.
Andrea turned to her in surprise: “ And when was the last time you talked to her in the last fifteen years?”
Ingrid started to cry: “ I was there more than you were.”
Andrea just waved at us and moved closer to the grave. I saw my Mum standing there too and suddenly I realized she asked me to be close to her. Andrea turned to me with a victorious glare and put the arms around my Mum’s shoulders. I looked at Ingrid. She just shrugged and I knew what she wanted to say to me. It is Andrea like always, what you have expected.
I clinched my teeth and suddenly realized it was a replay of our childhood.
I turned around as to leave and there was my daughter standing close to me. She squeezed my hand and I knew I was all right. We watched Grandmother’s coffin disappearing in a big hole. Together we threw a handful of soft moist soil on top of the Grandmother’s coffin. The burial was over.
“Why?” I asked my Godmother who stayed behind arranging the flowers on the freshly covered grave when everyone else moved away.
“The old family feud, I think,” she shrugged: “ You know that Grandfather and your uncle never went along, he was not even allowed to visit Grandma when he was around.”
“ But the Grandma wanted to be with her son, he had no right to do it.”
“ I was surprised when he told me, but he paid for her funeral and it was his wish.” She looked at me and sighed: “ His conscience is not clear towards his son, do you blame him he does not want to lay in the same grave with him?”
“ And what about Grandma?” I shouted suddenly and saw some of the leaving people turning around in a surprise. My Mother was standing just few paces away and looked at me with annoyance.
My Godmother noticed her too and smiled at me: “ You better go, Your Mother is waiting.
When she saw I was not moving she tapped me gently on a shoulder and whispered: “ Your Mother hates me enough without your interference so I better be moving.” Before she left I heard her last words: “ Your Grandma forgave your Grandfather everything, she forgave him long time ago.”
I stood there dumb folded when finally my daughter approached me and pointed at my Mother.
“ I see you are doing it by purpose,” my Mum muttered through her clenched teeth when I approached her.
I did not answer and we left the graveyard in icy silence. The wind blew heavily and dark clouds gathered all around us. I shuddered in sudden discomfort. My Mother sped up across the street without looking at us.
“ Better to follow her,” I beckoned to my daughter and we crossed the busy street together.
We looked at each other in disbelief when she opened the door of the small cozy café, but gratefully went inside to avoid the icy wind.
I sat there drinking hot tea looking across at the deserted graveyard, where I spent so much time in my childhood with Grandmother looking after graves.
“ I wonder who will look after her grave now?” I wondered loudly.
My Mum gave me one of her annoyed look and pushed the big chocolate cake in front of me: “ You know it will not be you, you can not wait to leave so why bother, my dear?” She spitted the last words and looked at me victoriously: “ Can you?”
I turned my head away. When I looked up my Mother changed her expression and with the sweetest smile possible pushed the cake closer to me: “ Eat my dear, you look terrible,” she patted my arm gently: “ Better you take example from your daughter, it’s look like she has more sense than you.”
I looked at my daughter. She rolled her eyes and continued eating her cake.
I picked my spoon, when my mobile rang. My Mother smiled at me and touched my hand: “ It is you favorite one, is it?” She let my hand go and started her cake: “ You see, I remember.”
I looked at the number. I missed the call. It was Martin.
I tasted the first bite when the mobile rang again. I quickly grabbed it and ran outside.
“ Quickly come to our house,” Martin said to me gravely.
“ Martin, what’s happened, is it Grandfather?”
“ Come, please,” he repeated gravely.
“ But I have to bring my Mother with me, you know?” I mumbled.
“ Just bring her along.” He said finally and hanged the phone.
I came slowly inside and said quietly: “ I think Grandfather is dead.”
“ That’s bizarre,” my Mum shook her head and continued eating her cake: “ I am sure you misunderstood, finish your cake and we will talk about it.”
“ I am going there,” I picked up my bag
My Mother pushed her plate annoyingly: “ And what about me, you know they don’t want me there?’
I looked her in the eyes and said quietly: “ We are all going, you have been called too, it is your Father and my Grandfather.”
“ You think, I don’t know that,” she replied annoyed avoiding my stare.
MY GRANDPARENTS RAISED ME AND TAUGHT ME RESPECT. THEY TAUGHT ME MY RIGHTS AND MY OBLIGATIONS.
I KNEW MY RIGHTS IN VERY YOUNG AGE HOWEVER I WAS TOLD THAT EVERYONE ELSE HAS EXACTLY THE SAME RIGHTS
WHIGH DESERVE EXACTLY THE SAME RESPECT. I LEARNT LATER IN LIFE THAT NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN
OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS. RESPECT IS THE FOUNDATION OF ANY RELATIONSHIP. UNFORTUNATELY; MODERN
LIVING HAS INTRODUCED STANDARDS FOR US TO USE TO DETERMINE WHICH PEOPLE DESERVE OUR RESPECT. I BELIEVE
WE SHOULD SHOW OUR RESPECT TO EVERYONE. JUST LIKE MY GRANDPARENTS DID.
SOMETIMES IT IS HARD. SOMETIMES WE FOUND PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT WORTHY OF OUR RESPECT; PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT ABLE TO BUILD LOVING AND TRUSTING RELATIONSHIPS BECAUSE THEY DO NOT TRUST AND RESPECT OTHERS.
I REALIZED THAT I CAN NOT MAKE CHANGES IN OTHERS BUT I CAN MAKE CHANGES IN MYSELF; TO FORGET AND FORGIVE;
TO STRIVE TO BE BETTER HUMAN BEING; TO EMPATHIZE AND SHOW RESPECT JUST LIKE MY GRANDPARENTS DID.
The castle of Devin is situated in the territory of the capital of the Slovak Republic, Bratislava. Protected by a mountain massif from the north and irrigated by two river, it was providing suitable conditions for the life of people since the 6th century B.C. In the 3d centuries B.C. Celts were coming from the upper flow of the river Rhine /today Germany/. The Celtic settlement at Devin was destroyed in the third decades of A.C. by German troops that were occupying Western Slovakia. At the end of the 1st century B.C., the Roman shifted the border of their empire to the middle flow of teh Danube river. Around the year 400, the location was settled by groups of Quads and withing the following decades, Devin had become home to separate groups of various tribes-Goths, Vandals, Gepids, Alans, Heruls, Rugis, Longobards. In the middle of the 5th century the first Slavs started to penetrating in to Devin territory. In the beginning of the 7th century, the Danubian Slavs established the first Slavic political formation – a military tribal union known as Samo’s Empire. Establishment of the hillfort over the confluence of the Danube and Morava river followed. Its dominant component was a massive rocky cliff towering above the river flows. Its northern slope created natural terraces providing suitable conditions for dwelling. The Devin Castle became a significant place for our Slavic ancestors for a long period of time and it’s signifiance in Slovak patriotism as a symbol of statehood and a holder of cultural tradition is visible today.
I WAS BORN IN SLOVAKIA TO CROATIAN MIGRANTS WHO SETTLED NOT FAR FROM DEVIN IN A STONE BREAKING MINE IN THE 15th CENTURY. AROUND THIS TIME A SIGNIFICANT ARISTOCRATIC FAMILY COMING FROM CROATIA – ‘ LORDS OF GARA’ SETTLED IN DEVIN’S CASTLE TOO. Members of their family as well as mine came from the location of Gara /today’s Gorje near Vukovar/. I ask myself, am I Slovak or Croat, am I descendant of a poor stone-breaker or a lost child of Lord of Gara? I would never know, but that is the magic of this ancient place, which was crisscrossed by a myriad of nationalities throughout the history, captured and occupied by various kings and heads of states, however won over at last by Slovak patriots. A tiny speck in a heart of Europe. Slovakia and it’s entry point – the castle of Devin.
APRIL 19, 2008
/ Charles Village inhabited in Stone Age by hunters and gatherers,
in the 14th Century Hungarian King Charles gave this land to the village-mayor Jacob who founded here large vineyards. The old historic part was destructed in 1960 due to the construction of new Bratislava out-of –town residential area./
Basha sighed with a relief when the taxi driver turned onto the one of the bridges and we crossed Danube river to reach the old historical centre of the city on the other side.
“ Look at this old church under the castle, is there a golden crown on the top?” She pointed the old St Martin’s Church, which the communist left to stand on the side of their cement bridge as the lonely reminder of old royal era.
I sighed slightly: “ In the 16th century when the Austrian and Hungarian kingdoms joined together to fight Turks, Bratislava became their crowned city. Ten kings have been crowned in the church you mentioned.”
Basha turned to me in a surprise: “ How do you know all of this?”
I shrugged the shoulders: “ I grew up on the stories about the Austro-Hungarian kings and their lords and knights building hundreds stone castles in our country.”
The Taxi driver turned to us with bored look: “ Where do you want to go exactly?”
I said the destination and he turned sharply to the left passing skillfully full transport buses and slowly moving old red trams.
I pointed at the tram shuffling along her path and ringing at every stop: “ I used to travel on this one every morning to the school, it took me ages.”
“ My family used to own a big vineyard there on the hill,” the old taxi driver said
suddenly pointing on the hill covered in grey identical blocks of flats: “ Before the communists took it and housed us in those ones. I live in one in the middle.”
“ Not them again,” Basha closed her eyes when grey buildings appeared again in front of us: “ I thought we just left them behind.”
I looked at her crossly and moved closely to the driver: “ My stepfather’s father used to own a big vineyard here too. Malik his name.”
The taxi driver scratched his head: “ My father would know, but that name rings the bell.”
I looked out of the window and then mentioned: “ My stepfather was managing the district hospital nearby.”
“ Vlado,” The driver banged his head: “ My father used to go to school with him, good chap, your stepfather,” he turned and winked at me:
“ A clever doctor, a big communist too, but good one, just not very lucky with women, I heard, how is he?”
I turned back to the window and whispered: “ He passed away two years ago.”
“ Sorry to hear that,” he coughed uncomfortably: “ My father was very grateful to him to the end, ” he wiped his eyes and stepped on the accelerator harder: “ He died of cancer, lung cancer, my pop, drinking and smoking too much I bet, but Vlado always found a bed for him in his hospital.
“ What is he talking about, I don’t understand?” Basha whispered to me in English, but before I could answer I saw driver’s suspicious eyes in the mirror.
“ But we always brought a live chicken, a half of the pig or a bag of home made sausages or bacon to your stepfather, mind you, to show our gratitude…”
“ I remember,” I whispered: “ His tiny storing room always looked like some ‘butcher’ shop, I remember my Mum complaining about it.”
The taxi driver suddenly slowed down in the back road full of parking cars with endless rows of the identical grey flats on both sides: “ It is here somewhere as I remember,” he mumbled avoiding cautiously rows of over spilling rubbish bins:
“ That mother of yours, some great lady, always with her nose up looking down at poor working class, I bet she is well off now…”
“ It’s here, thank you,” I pushed 50 crowns into his hand and rushed out.
He went out and opened the rear. Pulling my big suitcase out of the car he continued: “ Every one knows that communists on the top managed to fill their pockets with government money before it fell down.”
I nodded and took the suitcase. He counted the notes and waved his hand.
I pulled the suitcase behind me and entered another chipped glassed door. But I remembered this cramped dark hall with its tiny wooden lift so well.
I have spent five years in this place but still gave me a feeling of unease.
“ What was it all about?” I looked at my daughter who stood there confused and called the lift down: “ Never mind, we are coming to see your Grandmother.”