Glass Curtain by Thaddeus Hutyra

chapter 26


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Transsiberian train and...the winds of change...

Author:Thaddeus Hutyra


The transsiberian ticket business was so good Tadek Vangard realised he cannot do it alone any more.Steven Mac Dantosch and Melissa Charleroi were rather not interested in,not surprisingly,taking into the account his Australian friend had enough money on his secret account in Switzerland.Whatever to say he was a son of a worldwide renown businessman who ran many enterprises not only in Australia but also in the United States and Europe.It was a drama Interpol was after a son of such a businessman.It was also ironic the father of Steven Mac Dantosch could lure himself to a partnership with someone as Harry Gullivers,a mafia godfather in the United States.Tadek Vangard concentrated himself on the tourist business for the time being for several reasons.Firstly,he wanted to prove to himself he is capable to do some business.Perhaps he could open something bigger and legitimate in the future.Secondly,he wanted to help the western tourists and the tourists from his own country who would have to stay in China for much longer time if the tickets' problem was not solved,without ever getting a chance for buying one.The Chinese travellers would always get ones ahead of the international tourists.Thirdly,he had to do something desperately.China was not the country of his destination and,paradoxically,a country in which another form of communism ran the reality.He earlier escaped from his own country,ran by the communists,and it was unthinkable in his mind to find himself again in a communist country.Yet he was in such a country.What a nightmare was it!If he were not busy he would be “killed” by awareness alone he is still staying in some unwanted land.He has never been in the West,yet he had more western thinking than was the case with the minds of many tourists who arrived from the West.He could test it every day while talking to the international tourists and making friends with them.Primarily he opposed whatever sorts of dogmatic thinking and accepted only the liberal winds which he felt were blowing only from the liberal,western lands.Most of the tourists brought such winds with themselves,usually unknowingly.Tadek Vangard felt it and smelled it in them.He was convinced human beings should be allowed to run their lives the way they wished and no one,absolutely no one could interfere with it.He felt sick when he heard all those dogmatists,one party communist officials or whatever fanatics whose views chained a free spirit of a man in fact.He felt himself staying in a madhouse and its cookoos nest while living in China.Whatever enlightened confrontation with the reality was indeed killing to him.He had only two wishes: to get to the West and a transformation of his country into a liberal one.He knew it will not be easy.The communists with general Wojciech Jaruzelski as their chief were still very powerful.The Solidarity movement headed by enigmatic Lech Walesa was also strong,but not in power.There was a chance the political reality in Poland and other communist countries could change.Surprisingly,it might be possible due to some interesting changes happening in the Soviet Union.Mikhail Gorbachov,the new leader of the Soviet Union began a number of reforms,including a so-called “perestrojka” which could make or breake the system not only in the Soviet Union but also in the rest of the communist bloc.A substantial role had the Polish Pope,John Paul II who was the one who blew a spirit of resistance into the Polish people already during his first pilgrimage to Poland,soon after he became elected as the Pope.He was a hero in his native country and not just any hero but an extraordinary one as president Kennedy in the USA was earlier,or prime minister Margarette Theatcher in Britain,or her predecessor during the second world war,Winston Churchill.His words he said to the nation at a rally in Gdansk on his first pilgrimage to Poland:”May the Holy Ghost come down onto the land,THIS land…”,were like a magic spell.It resulted in a spontaneous creation of a most spectacular freedom movement of all times in Poland,unprecedented in the world,which was called Solidarity Trade Union but in fact just Solidarity,a trademark for resistance against the communists.Tadek Vangard felt there were monumental changes ahead in the communist world which will affect the rest of the world.The winds of change were indeed blowing and the question was what will happen if the communist system will finally fall.It would be simply an omen if one dogmatic system would be changed by another dogmatic one.There was a danger Poland might become a Christian fundemental state,a sort of European Iran,ran by the priests and unfriendly towards the liberal order of Western Europe, after the fall of the communism.It would not be a positive development for a nation which needed free breathing after decades and in fact over a century,since 1795,with brief periods of independence,under a domination of its powerful neighbours,who did everything to bring this nation down.They did not succeed ultimately but it cost the nation heavy price in its martyrdom.In the meantime Tadek Vangard concentrated himself on the tickets’ business and even made a cooperation with some western travel agencies,mainly from the Netherlands.He got soon two friends working for him,partners in fact.One of them was a long-haired Belgishman,Andre van Hove and the other one was a German,Karl Schnultzer.He also employed two Polish students who could practise their English while making some money.The transsiberian train became more and more popular quite fast,to the point there were still not enough tickets.He has been trying,therefore,to make a cooperation also with the Chinese travel agencies,including the governmental CITS tourist office.Tourists travelled mostly on the so-called hard sleepers,second class ones with four beds in every compartment.Popular were also the so-called soft sleepers,the ones with two beds only in every compartment.The Deluxe class was placed on the Chinese train,managed by the Chinese personel and going through inner Mongolia and Mongolia,the seperate country,while the Russian train,ran only by the Russians,went through Manchuria.Up from the Bajkal Lake,the deepest one in the world and Irkutsk,the biggest town in the vicinity of the lake,the route was the same for both trains.The food in the carriages where was placed a restaurant was tremendously cheap and the tourists spent there usually no more than approximately five rubels a day what equalled just one US dollar.Taking into the account tourists had usually a hundred of rubels,the Soviet currency units,changed at a black market rate of five rubels for one dollar,they felt themselves like millionaires on the tanssiberian train or just "transsib" as they used to say.During the six days and six nights of travel and in case of those who went to Budapest in Hungary even seven days and seven nights,they usually made many friendships and some of them were lasting even their entire lives.This was one of the magics of the transsiberian train.The other magic of the transsiberian train,perhaps even the biggest,was what happened at every railway station the transsib stoped: the western tourists jumped off their carriages,talked to the local people who were curious immenselly what was happenning in the West,bought many things from poor sellers who tried to sell things they made with their own hands.This was the case in Ulan Bataar,the capiatl of Mongolia,in Irkutsk,Novosybirsk and Swierdlowsk in Siberia and even in Moscow.The western,liberal winds were indeed blowing then in all those places.Who knows,perhaps all this international tourists on the legendary transsiberian train had as big an influence in bringing an end to the communist system as the leaders of the Western world,the Pope and Mikhail Gorbachov had.The Polish tourists benefited a lot from cooperation with Tadek Vangard.They gave him rubels,the Soviet currency,they earned earlier in the Soviet Union,for selling many goods and got from him US dollars for which they could buy many goods in China and Macao,and indirectly also in Hong Kong which they could then sell profitably again in the Soviet Union or in Poland and other countries of the communist bloc.The Russians still faced a regime when it came to the international travels.Very few of them could do it. One day a very nice event was awaiting Tadek Vangard.It was already an evening and he went to the restaurant “Golden Dragon”,the most popular one among western tourists who lived in Qiao Yuan Hotel and the nearby budget hotels.His friends Steven Mac Dantosch,Melissa Charleroi,Andre van Hove with his girlfriend,Jenny and Karl Schnultzer and his girlfriend,Anne have already been there.
-“Tadek,come here to us!”-They greeted him enthusiastically.They dined together,talked a lot,laughed a lot too and chatted with many other tourists who changed themselves constantly,some coming in,some going out.At some point new people entered the restaurant and Tadek Vangard looked at them with curiosity.He instantly jumped off his chair and sprinted to them.Soon everyone in his pack knew his two brothers,Marek and Robert,and also his sister,Dorota,arrived in.Marek Vangard was with his new girlfriend,Maria Bartosz,whom Tadek Vangard saw for the first time.When he went out of Poland his brother had another girlfriend,Anna Hajec.He was curious what happened with Anna but asked no question about it,knowing it could be interpreted a wrong way by his new girlfriend.Both,his sister,Dorota Starcz,who was already married and had a three years old daughter,Paulina,and Maria Bartosz,the girlfriend of his older brother,Marek Vangard,were beauties.If he would compare them by choosing from the Greek goddesses,he would say Dorota Starcz,his sister,was Afrodyta and Maria Bartosz was Artemida.They were very natural beauties,both blond-haired,tall rather and thin.Marek Vangard was dark-haired as Tadek Vangard was.Their youngest brother,Robert,was blond-haired,energetic and able to make new friends the fastest way.He already acomplished many friends at the table.He was married to Barbara and had two children with her,Szymon and Tomek.Husband of Dorota Starcz,Mirek,stayed at home in Katowice,a town in the south-western part of Poland.Someone had to look after their three years old daughter while her mother,Dorota Starcz,was away over ten thousand kilometers.Tadek Vangard seemed to have forgotten about his business and stayed mostly at the side of his sister and two brothers asking them a lot of questions.He wanted to know everything from them,about them and the rest of their family.
-“Marek…Robert…I did not expect you here…”-Tadek Vangard said at one point.
His brothers laughed heartily.
-“Oh,Tadek,we wanted to make a surprise to you…Above all to see you…You have greetings from our mother and father,and from Bolek…”- Robert Vangard said.Bolek’s real name was in fact Wolfgang and he was born to polonised German father and Polish mother but felt himself a Polishman at his heart and soul.He was the husband to their mother,Emilia Barton,already some years after she divorced from their father,Jozef,twenty years older than she was.
-“Is everything good with them?”- Tadek Vangard asked.
-“You know,Tadek,how is it.Once good,the other time bad…Just life.The up and downs,you know.”
-“But…Are they in a good health?”
-“Of course! Don’t worry.”
-“Tadek,you haven’t changed yourself.How many years we didn’t see you? Seven years?… Eight years?…”- Marek Vangard asked his brother.
-“Already eight years.”- Tadek Vangard answered and heaved a sigh.He made sure Maria Bartosz the girlfriend of his older brother did not hear what he intended to ask just now.
-“Marek,what happened with Anna?”- He asked. His brother shrugged his shoulders.
-“With Anna?…She cheated on me.She played a girlfriend while in fact she knew someone else.A pilot.She emigrated to Canada with him.”
-“You had to feel unhappy…”
-“I got over it and am happy now…with Maria…I couldn’t have a better girlfriend.I think we’ll get married.”
They all stayed in the restaurant till nearly at midnight.Robert drank definitely too much beer.He was already drunken.
-“Tadek,there are problems with Robert…”- Dorota Starcz,his sister,said to him at one point.-“He likes alcohol too much.”
-“I just see it,Dorota.”- He answered and for the first time this evening began to feel himself sad.He always felt himself devastated if something went wrong in his family.Because there were no free hotel rooms available in their hotel this night,Dorota Starcz and Maria Bartosz slept the rest of the night in the room of Melissa Charleroi while Marek and Robert slept in the Tadek Vangard's room.They had a wonderfull week together with themselves which they shared on talking and talking to each other,trying to make up for the lost time,that several years they did not see each other.The second week Tadek Vangard’s sister and brothers travelled to Shanghai and a few other Chinese towns,and also to Badaling where they could see the Great Wall.The third week they did shopping and bought mainly silk kimonos and some other clothes from silk what was actually fashinable in their country.This way they could make additional money.Marek Vangard helped him with selling tickets and changing money on behalf of some Polish tourists as well as western tourists who were happy to buy rubels,the Soviet currency, before they were due to depart on the trannsiberian train.Robert Vangard stayed definitely too much in the Chinese restaurants and while he made a lot of new friendships he also drank many bottles of Chinese beer a day.Tadek Vangard was concerned with it.
-“Robert,why do you drink so much beer? What do you see in it?”-He asked him once.
-“Tadek,you really want to know the truth?… Well,the Chinese beer is the best one in the world!...Except,of course,of our own Polish beer! There is no a better beer as Full Zywiec or Full Okocim!”- Robert Vangard joked.
The truth,however,was different.His youngest brother was a house painter by profession and in this communist times in their country people liked to treat those who worked for them with…alcohol,hoping to pay less for their job.They made his brother an alkoholist.All the family fought for his soul and adviced him non stop not to drink alcohol.
His sister,Dorota Starcz and Maria Bartosz usually spent time together with Melissa Charleroi and they were soon very closed friends.Melissa Charleroi looked already older than just a few months earlier,was taller and as strikingly beautiful.They changed restaurants every evening,so to give a memorable impression to each other.Dorota Starcz had problems with eating with chopsticks but after a while even she learned how to use them.Finally,the day of their departure came.Tadek Vangard bid farewell to his sister and brothers.They expressed their wishes to see each other rather sooner than later.Dorota Starcz had tears in her eyes.
-“Tadek,do not forget about us.”- His brothers and sister asked him.
-“And you about me.Pass greetings to our mother and father from me…And to the rest of our family…”
-“Perhaps our fate and the fate of our family will be better,and we will be able to meet each other more often…”-Dorota Starcz expressed her desire.She still had tears in her eyes.
-“Don’t cry,Dorota.You will see everything will be better.I feel the winds of change are coming.”-Tadek Vangard answered her.
-“May they blow so strongly as to change the fate of our country…”- Robert Vangard expressed his deep wish which was the same in the minds of everyone among them.
Tadek Vangard’s brothers and sister,and Maria Bartosz got inside their carriage but when the train began to move they stood in the windows and waved a farewell to their brother,the only one in their family left in a faraway country.
The windows were opened.They still waved goodbye until the train was already so far as diseappearring on the horizon.
A tear dropped out of Tadek Vangard’s eye and sank into the ground.Whatever to say he was rather happy his sister and brothers just enjoyed a travel by the legendary transsiberian train and were able to expierence a friendship with all the other travellers united in feeling themselves the ones who brought the winds of change to the places through which the transsiberian train travelled ,from Inner Mongolia,via Mongolia,Siberia to Moscow.They had only one wish:may the winds of change bring the western,liberal order…Only then the mission of the legendary transsiberian train would be fulfilled…They kept their fingers crossed...May the winds of change are so powerfull as to cause a collapse of the communist bloc and the Iron Curtain as a conseguence!...God,may the winds of change do their magics...
To be continued…
Author: Thaddeus Hutyra,e-mail address: or:
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